Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Risk Assessment

When a risk assessment is undertaken it has two basic elements. Firstly, its necessary to determine the likelihood of some harm arising. Secondly, its necessary to determine the degree of the harm that might be caused. The risk is the one multiplied by the other. In that way, even some activity, that might only have a low chance of causing harm, might be considered dangerous, and to be avoided, if that harm results in death.

Considering the state authorised murder, of a person only accused of drug smuggling, by the Chinese State, my Risk Assessment would tell me to stay well away from China. There is no reason for me to believe there would be any reason to be accused of any crime, but not long ago, people were being executed by the Chinese Stalinists for "thought crimes", and I'm quite sure that, were they able to determine my thoughts, the Stalinists would certainly find them objectionable. Of course, its not just China I would avoid for that reason. I have no more reason to have any confidence in the tender mercies of the Capitalist state in the US than in the Stalinist state in China. After all, not only do they engage in the same state sanctioned murder, but a look, at those so put to death, shows a preponderance of black people who are executed, which suggests that the system that carried out these murders is somewhat biased.

Trotsky argued that there were conditions under which the death penalty was acceptable. He was referring to exceptional conditions such as War or Civil War, where consideration of a wider harm, that might be caused, had to be considered. As Marxists, we are not Pacifists, at either an individual or a collective level, but we are only reluctantly not Pacifists. We are not opponents of pacifism on the basis of being in favour of violence for the sake of violence, nor because we believe that it is the best, quickest, or easiest means of achieving our aims, certainly not because we believe it to be the only way of achieving our aims. On the contrary, the fundamental condition for achieving Socialism is that the working class are committed to it in their vast majority - that the Battle of Democracy has been won in Marx's terms - and you can never force people to actually agree with you through violence. We are opponents of pacifism only because we know from history and from experience that, however peaceably we went about it, the Capitalists, and their State, will not simply allow us to transform society into Socialism. They will resist, and have resisted, even the most tentative steps in that direction that challenged their wealth and power. They even considered a military coup against Harold Wilson's government!

In normal times socialists have to favour peaceful means of achieving their aims, and we have to stand against the use of violence by others to achieve theirs. That is why it is necessary to stand against the Death Penalty.

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