Why Did U.S. White Leftists Renounced Violence Against People in the 1970?

(2016) “A Bloodless Guerrilla Warfare: Why U.S. White Leftists Renounced Violence Against People During the 1970s,” Terrorism and Political Violence, 28, no 5: 928–949  Full text: falciola_2016_terrorism and political violence

Between 1968 and the late 1970s, a significant number of U.S. white leftist groups escalated their protest to armed struggle. After experimenting briefly with violence, they opted for low-intensity armed propaganda that targeted property and avoided hurting people. By contrast, European leftist groups and anti-colonial organizations in the U.S. made extensive use of antipersonnel violence. Why did U.S. leftists eschew attacks against civilians? Scholarship does not explain this case, as it focuses either on the internal dynamics of a single group or on structural variables. Conversely, this article addresses this question through a historical reconstruction and a multilevel analysis. The research identifies the critique and ensuing de-solidarization by the radical milieu as the main factor accounting for the restraint of violence. This article demonstrates that the radical milieu censored and isolated armed groups as soon as they escalated and began to endanger human lives. Therefore, in order to safeguard the solidarity pact with their constituencies, violent fringes moderated their repertoires of action. This article employs primary sources and original interviews with militants to support this claim and to assess the relevance of three concurrent factors: the trauma generated by the “townhouse incident,” the deterrence by law enforcement, and the militants’ socio-economic background.

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