The role of force in history
The role of force in social transformations is far smaller than one would anticipate. Force has played a transforming role during qualitative leaps in social processes where conservative obstacles had to be confronted.
The final stage in the history of civilisation based on class society is the age of capitalist civilisation. The most significant phenomenon that emerges in this period of disintegration is the fact that there occur scientific-technological revolutions of such impact that they literally invalidate the use of force in social transformation, with the exception of legitimate self defence. Let us not forget that throughout history, force has, in the service of the politics of the rulers and exploiters, not played much of a part beyond wreaking havoc. Due to the fears that derive from the theftlike character of property, the ruling class has been clutching at force as their greatest safeguard; they cherished and praised it, and felt that violence should be the subject of exaggerated stories of heroism. As a matter of fact, the gods that did not know force in the earliest mythologies, assumed in the due course of the history of class society, especially throughout the feudal ages, attributes related to the punishment and condemnation of their creatures.
The role of force in social transformations is far smaller than one would anticipate. Force has played a transforming role during qualitative leaps in social processes where conservative obstacles had to be confronted. Although such acts of violence helped with short-term ends and qualitative leaps, in due course they had to be transcended and so they were. But the major part of the force used throughout history in its permanence caused destruction and ruin in the form of conquests, invasions, plunder and the like, though under the guise of divine orders. The suggestion that if a participant in such ventures died he would become a martyr, and if wounded be rewarded as a veteran with a share of the booty, is part and parcel of the malediction inherent in historiography. If we regard the history written from such perspective as a cursed history, then a true history needs to be written which would champion the oppressed of humanity as the genuine heroes of conscience and labour.
Ignorance is one of the decisive factors leading to violence. The more practical experience and science defeat ignorance the clearer the meaninglessness of violence becomes. In the history of humanity, force has largely been the product of the lack of development of science and its practice. The theory [advocated by Frederick Engels] that force is the midwife of a newly emerging society should be understood correctly: The task of a midwife during the birth process is to reduce the mother’s pain and assist with a healthy birth. However, the nature of the force used in history has always been that of restraining the already born healthy children, i.e. human beings, and depriving them of opportunities to a free development, and at times destroying them. This, then, had nothing to do with midwifery, but was akin to the function of the executioner or at the mildest the gaoler keeping people in captivity. The highly excessive and merciless use of force in history superseded the natural evolution of society, and stretched it beyond its limits.
Modern democracy takes society’s transformation in accordance with natural evolution as its base, and relies on the awareness that this is based on powerful scientific-technological foundations. Having said that, this does not necessarily mean that democracy is a compromise between revolutionary and counter-revolutionary force. In fact, it would be entirely wrong to think so. Democracy is essentially not a compromise with force or a situation of conceeding to those who wield it. On the contrary, democracy is based on the removal of violence from the social agenda. This has nothing to do with submission. Quite the contrary, this ambition is an expression of the belief that real emancipative development can only take place in the absence of force. In that respect, modern democracy calls for the auto-criticism of all kinds of civilisational entities that are based on force. Democracy is a regime of a radical self-criticism. This stance against violence is not tactical, nor even strategic, but a principled one. [...] This principle embodies a deep philosophical foundation and as such does not primarily refer to political or administrative strategy and tactics, but regards these as practical necessities. [...] Peace should not be understood as submission to force, since on the contrary it emphasises the removal of force from society. It is based on the firm belief in a society without wars in a civilised world.