9.6.2 Political Dissidents

(This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3 book contents.  An archived copy of this page is held at http://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/962.htm)

People won’t always agree with their government, or with other groups, or with the views of the majority of the population – but political differences have to be resolved by negotiation rather than conflict.  In many cases a refusal to negotiate has caused disruption and loss of life:

  • Active anarchists or political dissidents, like the Baader-Meinhof gang in 1970’s Germany,[1] may try to overthrow governance which is acceptable to everybody else.
  • Nationalists, whose leaders have convinced them that their identity is threatened (, might feel justified in using violence in what they feel to be a battle for survival. ETA, in Spain’s Basque region, was an example – although that struggle has now officially ended.[2]

Negotiation might be impossible with any such group.  And they represent a wider danger if they try to overturn agreements reached by others.

If a society’s stability is threatened by a few intransigent people, and negotiations have broken down, it can try to impose coercion.  This is best carried out by using the Legal Dimension of governance, which is designed for that purpose but which depends upon a degree of acceptability for it to be effective (5.4.3).  It is more likely to be able to retain control if there are relatively few intransigent individuals.

It is possible to reduce the level of support for groups which want to overthrow society, by persuading most people that they have a better chance of achieving their objectives by negotiation – working within the existing framework of governance (6.8.4).  And, in an inclusive political system, nobody should be able to say with good reason that they have been unjustly treated.



[1] A BBC article on the Baader-Meinhof gang was published on 12 February 2007, and was still available in April 2018 from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/6314559.stm.

[2] On 29 October 2011, The Economist published an article entitled Terrorism in Spain: The war is over; it was available in April 2018 at http://www.economist.com/node/21534821.