9.6.2 Political Dissidents

Political dissidents can attempt to impose their views on everybody else; they must be resisted by legal or political means.

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, as in the BBC’s description of the Baader-Meinhof gang in 1970’s Germany, 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 a recent example – although The Economist has since published an article entitled Terrorism in Spain: The war is over.

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 political dissidents, and negotiations have broken down, it can try to impose coercion.  This is best carried out by using the law, 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).  That was the route to resolving the problems in Northern Ireland, when the IRA was persuaded that it was more likely to achieve its objectives by political means: the Good Friday Agreement.



This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/962.htm.