Political movements have for a long time been characterized by various aspects, ranging from peaceful movements to terrorism and even genocide. As human beings struggle to make civilizations, governments and laws, it is quite true that there are always some aspects which bring in controversies, leading to revolutions or terrorism. In the modern world, there are several nations affected by these political and social situations, and one only has to look at the situations in Egypt, the Middle East and Tunisia.
Although defining terrorism may seem to be quite obvious, the distinction between revolutionary movements and terrorism is quite difficult, especially if one considers the aspects leading to each of these phenomena. For the purposes of discussion, it is arguable that the distinction between the two terms is possible if one considers the situations surrounding the phenomenon, while in literal terms, there is only a thin line between the two.
A revolutionary movement, as it stands, could be defined as a political uprising against a political and government system, aimed at improving the socioeconomic and political system of that particular community. The movements take various forms including strikes, mass movements, and in most cases, lawbreaking and violence are quite common. The obvious difference with terrorism is that in the latter, the actions are absolutely violent and directed not only to the government or regime, but also to noncombatants and every other person or organization considered by the terrorists as their ‘enemy’.
Considering where each of these actions took place, one is in a better position to understand the thin difference between them. Beginning with the September 11, 2001 bombings of the world trade center and the pentagon in the United States of America, it is evident that these actions seem to be directed against the whole system of the ‘enemy’. In this case, terrorists were not interested in replacing the regime in the United States of America, but their interest was to demonstrate to America and the entire world that its presence in the Middle East and Arab world in general was not accepted at all and Americans should leave for good. In addition, it is believed that terrorist actions are used to make the ‘enemy’ suffer for their interests in the foreign nation. However, this is not always the case. Terrorism also takes the form of one or more group against the regime, the people or an organization. Considering the situation in Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan, the Niger delta and Israel, it is evident that terrorist actions are usually local or regional, and directed towards a section of the community or the regime. For instance, in Afghanistan and Iraq, terrorists always target the government and public places, with an aim of making the regime weaker and weaker and finally yield to what the terrorists demand. On the contrary, terrorism in Niger delta in Nigeria takes the form of terrorists against foreign commercial agencies and companies such as the British Petroleum and other oil mining corporations. The demand is that the revenue obtained from the mining activities be shared equally between the corporation, the national government and the regional government (in this case the terrorists themselves). In Somalia, however, terrorism is directed towards any party that appears to render support to the ‘enemy’, in this case the government. The target includes foreign forces such as the United Nations and African Union troops.
On the contrary, revolutionary movements in most cases involve mass actions against the government. The use of people power is the key. In most cases, the use of weapons, killings and guerrilla attacks are not applied, rather the people use mass demonstrations, strikes, blocking public service and transport, hunger strikes, economic sabotage and to some extent attacking government troops. Considering the English revolutionary movement as one of the earliest form of revolutionary uprising, it is evident that the people are always involved, and in large masses. It is also evident that the interest here is to establish a relatively different social, economic, political and sometimes religious system, given that the people feel that the currents systems do not satisfy their needs. The English people led revolutionary movements directed against the monarchy and the then parliamentary system, where the people demanded an end to political monarchy and parliamentary dictatorship. It was quite successful, and acts as an inspiration to the modern societies.
The current situation in Egypt and Tunisia is an indication that revolutionary movements are quite effective than terrorism, and are accepted worldwide as a method for demanding human rights and good governance. In Tunisia, for instance, the people have used strikes, economic sabotage and mass media to overthrow the government of Ben Ali. In what appears to be an Arab revolution, the Hosni Mubarak regime in Egypt has been overthrown in the Tunisia way, and it appears the same may happen in other Arab and non-Arab nations.
In conclusion, terrorism and revolutionary movements are related in that they are directed against a certain group of people, power or regime and the aim is to demand for some rights or obligations in the way the society is run. In contrast, revolutionary movements are quite unique in that the key aspect is the people mass power against the government, while terrorism could be directed towards the people and the government. In addition, acts of terrorism are perceived illegal and inhuman, while most societies readily accept and associate themselves with revolutionary movements. The key issue is who, why and to whom the actions are directed.