…A comparison of two famous acts of terrorism underscores the difference, and at the same time illuminates its nature. The first case is that of Vera Zasulich, an idealistic young Russian socialist who, in January, 1878, shot and seriously wounded General Fedor Trepov, the St. Petersburg prefect of police. The mechanism of the crime was simple. Though she had already been sentenced to exile for earlier contacts with the student underground, and would later become a prominent figure in revlutionary circles, Vera Zasulich panned and executed the deed without accomplices. Evidently a no-nonsense sort of young woman, she solicited an interview with the prefect, drew a revolver as she walked into his office, and opened fire.
Her motive, as explained in court, was equally straightforward, and as rationally thought out as the motive for any murderous violence can be. Trepov was known to be particularly brutal and ruthless. Recently he had outraged the moral susceptibilities of Russian liberals and revolutionaries- and, indeed, of most civilized Russians- by having a prisoner flogged a hundred lashes for failing to stand up in his presence during a tour of inspection.
Moreover, the victim, a student, had been a political prisoner, and though the knout was frequently used on common criminals, “politicals” had so far been spared this barbarity. Vera Zasulich had felt that such a grave offense to human dignity cried out for punishment; since no legal redress was possible under the czarist despotism, she took the law into her own hands.
The jury, sharing her indignation, promptly acquitted her, and her revolutionary admirers later managed to get her out of the country before the police could seize her on some new pretext. The remarkable and unforeseen display of civic courage on the part of the St,. Petersburg jurors, incidentally so infuriated the czarist authorities that Alexander II was led to sign a fateful decree abolishing jury trials for terrorists and subversives throughout Russia.
The moral climate of this incident is so exotic from the twenty-first-century point of view that a contemporary reader may feel inclined to ask, where is the terrorism? Although Vera Zasulich no doubt hoped her assault on Trepov would give other Russian officials food for reflection, it would be exaggeration to accuse her of trying to terrorize them, or anyone. The terrorist, if any, was the uniformed bully she shot at. ( to be continued)…
(see link at end)…In 1881 Marx wrote a letter to Vera Zasulich, an important Russian follower, that addresses the question of theory and prediction when it comes to thinking about the future course of history. In particular, he denies that his theories have determinate predictive implications for the development of capitalism or socialism in Russia….
The issue is an important one: did Marx think of his body of knowledge as constituting a general predictive theory? And the letter clearly implies that he did not.
The letter is interesting in several respects. First, it explicitly rejects the notion that Marx’s economic and historical theories are suited to the task of identifying the necessary or inevitable course of historical development. It summarily dismisses the idea of a necessary sequence of modes of production. Instead, Marx shows himself to recognize the contingency that exists in historical development, as well as the degree to which history creates new conditions in its course that influence future developments.
The other important feature of the letter is its substantive analysis of the material characteristics of the Russian peasant commune, and the potential that this social form has for constituting the material core of an alternative route to socialism in Russia. As the letter makes clear, Marx thinks tha
e social relations associated with the peasant commune provide a possible social foundation for a modern socialist economy; and this would be an economy that was not “post-capitalist” but nonetheless technologically and socially advanced. Read More:http://understandingsociety.blogspot.ca/2010/04/marx-on-russia.html