When is armed struggle against the state justified?

I’m curious what you all think are the necessary criteria to justify individuals or groups of individuals in a society taking up arms against the state. Many current nations states (including the one I live in) were born of armed struggle against the state. What does a government have to do or fail to do that would justify an individual using violence against representatives of the state with the goal of replacing the government or eliminating the state?

When you reach bottom and are facing death, that’s usually a good time. If the government has failed to live up to it’s end of the social contract, and refuse to do so when asked nicely, that’s also an appropriate time. If you can get a majority of people on your side, that will also help give you some extra “legitimacy”.

How do you know when you’ve reached the bottom?

This quote might offer some direction:

(Bolding mine.)

You’ve reached bottom when you are near death. Any lower, and you’d be dead.

Ok, so how do you know when you’re near death? :slight_smile:

IMO, violence against other people is never justifiable. Having said that, *disruptive actions against the State of other sorts are just fine, as soon as the State starts
a) killing people (yes, *any *killing of people, this includes execution.)
b) jailing people without open due process of sensible, equally-applied laws (so drug possession laws, for instance, are not sensible nor equally-applied, whereas murder and robbery laws generally are)
c) unilaterally changes the law such as to make a) or b) easier for it to do.
d) is non-representative (see monarchy, dictatorship, apartheid South Africa, Confederate America).

  • public protest, tax withholding, conscription refusal, etc…

It goes without saying that, by that list, if I were an American I’d be hitting the streets already.

What if those disruptive actions prove ineffectual and those who undertake them wind up in jail or worse?

By that list, you’d have been hitting the streets continuously since 1776 :slight_smile:

A difficult question. The first thought that comes to mind is that violence against the state is justified when pursuing change through peaceful means puts your life in danger.

Others keep doing them. No-one is effective struggling alone. Gandhi or Mandela could be jailed, Biko could be killed, their movements went on.

Pretty much, yes. Capital punishment would be the biggie for me, any state that practices it is, IMO, a criminal state.

You have to have a just cause. You have to have exhausted any reasonable alternatives. Your actions have to be proportionate to the change you are trying to achieve. And you have to have a reasonable expectation that your actions will further your cause.


Tired of that being trotted out.

Make no mistake, it is great writing and in general a compelling notion.

The problem is:

Who decides?

The answer to the OP is simple:

Armed struggle against the state is justified when enough people will rise up against it and overthrow the government.

Yes, you can say that there is a repressive government and some small group fights.

Thing is one side’s freedom fighters is the other side’s terrorists.

At the end of the day the victor writes the history books.

Bottom line is the question is too broad. Citing the Declaration of Independence tells you nothing (despite awesome writing) except the motivations of those guys at that time. I agree with their sentiments but there are people on this board who would disagree with me as to when we need to overthrow the government and we aren’t all that radical.

Case by case basis and history will sort it out.

So are you saying it’s like having the Mandate of Heaven? That’s the Chinese theory - the right of a government to rule is based on it having the Mandate of Heaven. And the sign that a government has the Mandate of Heaven is that it’s in power. If it gets overthrown that’s proof that it lost the Mandate of Heaven. And the new government now has the Mandate of Heaven - as proven by the fact that it was able to overthrow the old government and it’s now in power.

The answer is never. Treason never prospers. (What’s the reason?)

Violence against a democratic government is never justified.

A.K.A.: The victors write the history books.

Except when the democracy is thwarted which is provably happening in the US now.

(I not not calling for a revolution…just saying)

Who is thwarting democracy in the United States, and how?

Armed struggle is only moral if all legal peaceful methods have been tried. After that, I have no idea. Can you start to fight if the legal methods work, but not in your favor? Beats me.