Terrorism vs Revolution- 11/2

In Figner’s Memoirs of a Revolutionist, she describes the organization “The Will of the People”. She describes them as an organization fighting against the oppression of the Russian people, but they were not easily swayed to their side. She is confused by the public’s reaction, “All the stranger was the title of terrorist organization which it later acquired. The public gave it that name because of the external aspect of its activity, the one characteristic which caught their attention. Terror for its own sake was never the aim of the party. It was a weapon of protection, self-defense… the assassination of the Tsar came under this head as one detail.” (pg. 75)

She did not view the violence that they committed as terrorist in nature, even though she admitted that they used terror in order to get what they want politically. By viewing it as a tool to win freedom for the Russian people, she is able to justify the violence that the organization committed. But she doesn’t understand why the public did not share these same views, even though they were fighting for their rights. All the public really saw about The Will of the People was their violent acts, and that overshadowed their message about freedom for the people.

Should they have tried a different method to enter into the public sphere? Were these acts at all effective in spreading their message, or was it ultimately counterproductive? Do you think that they had to resort to violent acts because the government was so oppressive?

One Reply to “Terrorism vs Revolution- 11/2”

  1. One thing that became clear to me after reading Vera Figner’s Memoirs of a Revolutionist and having discussion in class is that there is a disconnect between the organization The Will of the People and the actual will of the people. I think you have identified one of those disconnects. The lengths taken by the revolutionaries are justified to Figner and her own because they have officially declared war against “the existing government” and in that way their acts of violence are legitimized because they fall under political warfare (Figner, 73). This is why Figner has a problem with the terrorist label that some have given them, arguing against the idea that they are using violence “for its own sake” (75). I think this connects to the larger failure of the revolutionaries to successfully win the support of the people that they are claiming to represent and fight for.

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