Political Violence and Terror

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Any kind of political based violence is subversive for democracy, but it is also one of the responsibilities of a democracy not to marginalise groups in society to such a degree that they feel that the use of violence is acceptable.

Since the formation of the modern state, five groups in particular have used violence as a political weapon: anarchists, socialists, radical right-wing groups, national independence movements and Islamists.


The first attacks by anarchists were in the 1880s; for example, the Russian Czar Alexander II was murdered by anarchists in 1881. At the beginning of the 20th century, anarchists carried out several bomb attacks in both Europe and the USA. It was also a young anarchist who shot the Austrian crown prince in Sarajevo in 1914, thereby starting World War I.

Whereas totalitarian ideologies and religions want total control over everybody and everything, anarchists don't want control over anybody or anything. They want free individuals to live side by side and only interact with each other from their innate good consciences and common understandings based on the social nature of human beings.

If we were born without any desires, if there were no conflicts of interest and if there were never any accidents which caused conflicts to break out, then anarchy would be a beautiful idea. But since it is part of human nature to think of one's own needs before those of others, we have to regulate each another’s behaviour. This is no different from traffic regulations; we could easily decide that there should be no traffic rules and everybody could drive according to their own conscience, but that would not benefit movement or security. In the conflict with democracy, the anarchist has always been just as violent and hostile as every other non-democrat.


In the 1970s, Germany and Italy were plagued by terror groups of different kinds of socialist and communist persuasion; for instance, the Bader-Meinhof group, Rote Arme Fraktion and the Red Brigades.

In Denmark, the so-called Blekinggade Gang committed crimes with the purpose of supporting terrorist groups.

The extreme right

On the extreme right, there are different kinds of neo-Nazis, skinheads and Fascist sympathizers that have committed violence, vandalism and terror against various minorities.

In 1992, the extreme right was most likely behind a bomb in Denmark against the organization 'International Socialist' and their office in Copenhagen. The bomb took a young man's life.

In Malmö in Sweden, extremists have more than once tried to burn down a mosque.

In Hungary, Roma are among those who have been subjected to violence by right-wing radical groups.

In various other parts of Europe, many Jewish cemeteries have been vandalised and gravestones defaced with swastikas.

National independence movements

In Northern Ireland and Spain, the IRA and the Basque separatist group ETA respectively have been fighting for secession and national independence through the use of numerous bombings. An interesting feature common to both the IRA and the Basque separatist movement is that they have only around 50% support among their own people, so there is another 50% whose opinion the separatists do not acknowledge.


Totalitarian Islamic terrorism is a new phenomenon, both in the Middle East and Europe. The first Arab terrorism in Europe was political, not religious. It was during the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972, when Arab terrorists kidnapped 11 Israeli athletes whom they later murdered. This was followed by a series of aircraft hijackings and, over the years, this terror has increasingly been conducted in the name of Islam. With the shift to suicide bombs, there is no doubt that religion has become a determining factor in terrorism; martyrdom requires the religious concept of reward in the afterlife.

Denmark was hit by terror attacks on 22 July 1985, when a bomb in front of the U.S. airline North West Orient in Copenhagen killed one and injured 25. A bomb at a synagogue only caused material damage. Four Palestinians linked to Islamic Jihad were behind the bombings.

The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001 was orchestrated by the Islamist group al-Qaeda, which later took responsibility for the attack. In this context, it is interesting that the attack was so violent that it came to influence both American domestic and foreign policy in a non-democratic direction. In the USA, this meant increased surveillance and a series of laws which limited personal freedom, and outside the USA, it led to two wars, one of which had no UN mandate and was against international law.

Next chapter: Violent Gangs, Mafias and Private Militias