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What's the difference between a terrorist and a revolutionary?

Arnox

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It's often said that one man's terrorist is another man's revolutionary, but I heavily dislike this saying as it implies that there's no real difference between the two. There is. Or at very least, there should be. It is a very common tactic for a government to label any undesirables as terrorists, and while sometimes they aren't actually wrong, the term gets passed around way too lightly. Ok then, so what's the difference?

It's actually quite simple. A terrorist attacks civilian targets as well as military. A revolutionary attacks ONLY military targets and will never harm innocents. They fight for their country and not for greed, power, or any material gain. There is one caveat in that a revolutionary may attack a civilian if a civilian voluntarily makes themselves a combatant, although even then, it's questionable. The proper revolutionary will have to make a judgement call if they find themselves in such an awful situation.

Since a revolutionary is no longer answering to the regular law of the land, they, ironically, must be held to an even higher standard than the regular military of that country. They must ALWAYS keep control of themselves, no matter what is shouted at them. No matter how hated they may be, they hold to their values and they do not ever compromise them. They have to be willing to sacrifice themselves if ever necessary and, at the end of the day, the true revolutionary still serves the people of that country, even if they directly oppose and fight against its government.

A revolutionary will try to end a war as quickly as possible. They know that conflict is insanely destructive and should never be unecessarily prolonged. They do not wish for destruction of a country. They wish to remove a problem. Once the problem is removed, they will also return power back to the people as quickly as possible.

This is a rather short essay, but it's also an incredibly important one. To lump terrorists and revolutionaries together is to greatly and unjustly besmirch the honor of those who would sacrifice for a better tomorrow. That is all.
 
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Vendor-Lazarus

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As pure terms, those differences are very true, and poignant.

However, there have been terrorists who've been called revolutionaries and freedom fighters by other countries, press, and similar.
South America provides some examples of that. As does the middle-eastern groups to a degree.

While it's important to make the distinction between the terms, it's also equally important to call out subversions of it.
 

Arnox

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Rock Holdings Inc. owns dictionary.com
Rely on better references instead of the first search result
Fine. Which great source do you recommend? Although I'd argue it's irrelevant anyway as most people just use google.com or dictionary.com for word definitions.
 

gaijinkaiju

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This is one of those things where there's nuance and it's not just a black and white answer, it's more of a grey area. A terrorist might view themselves and their actions as revolutionary, whilst a revolutionary might use terrorist tactics to help their revolution.

Alternatively, it depends what country it takes place in. Someone tries to overthrow government here, Terrorist. Someone tries the same overseas, Revolutionary.
 

gaijinkaiju

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If a revolutionary harms innocents, they are not a revolutionary no matter how noble their ideals. They're a terrorist.
What if the act of the revolution brings harm to innocents then? Mao was a revolutionary and he ended up killing milllions of innocents, would that make him a terrorist then?
 

Arnox

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What if the act of the revolution brings harm to innocents then? Mao was a revolutionary and he ended up killing milllions of innocents, would that make him a terrorist then?
Depends, but it's also pretty hard to "accidentally" kill millions of innocents. Just looking at the White Terror alone, Zedong ordered the massacre of thousands of non-combatants just because they were communists. I'd say that's a pretty fucking terrorist thing to do.
 

Vendor-Lazarus

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I think terrorists need to act alone or in a small group, without backup and within "enemy territory".
 

gaijinkaiju

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Depends, but it's also pretty hard to "accidentally" kill millions of innocents. Just looking at the White Terror alone, Zedong ordered the massacre of thousands of non-combatants just because they were communists. I'd say that's a pretty fucking terrorist thing to do.
It'd be a lot easier to look up "white terror" if the same thing hadn't happened ten times in different countries.
Back to the topic though; I was more referring to the Great Leap Forward, that resulted in famine and mass-starvation once the revolutionaries (Zedong and the CCP) came to power.
The White Terror sounds less like terrorism or revolution, but more like a dictator trying to maintain control by suppressing opposing political views/beliefs.

I'd also like to point out that even Wikipedia refers to revolutionaries as groups that can carry out acts of terrorism. Like I said earlier, I think it's a grey line between the two.

Also after some more reading, the White Terror falls under the term "Revolutionary Terror" specifically as act of reactionary terror used to suppress revolutions, and the White Terror itself seems to have been carried out against communists (Zedong and the CCP) by the rival party (Led by Chiang Kai-shek, himself a revolutionary) not by Zedong. My opinion on it still stands though.
 
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