Hanna Arendt, Sur la violence et les grèves étudiantes

The extreme form of power is All against One, the extreme form of violence is One against all. And this latter is never possible without instruments. To claim, as if often done, that a tiny unarmed minority has successfully, by means of violence – shouting, kicking up a row, et cetera – disrupted large lecture classes whose overwhelming majority had voted for normal instruction procedures is therefore very misleading. (In a recent case at some German university there was even one lonely “dissenter” among several hundred students who could claim such a strange victory.) What actually happens in such cases is something much more serious: the majority clearly refuses to use its power and overpower the disrupters; the academic processes break down because no one is willing to raise more than a voting finger for the status quo. What the universities are up against is the “immense negative unity” of which Stephen Spender speaks in another context. All of which proves only that a minority can have a much greater potential power than one would expect by counting noses in public-opinion polls. The merely onlooking majority, amused by the spectacle of a shouting match between student and professor, is in fact already the latent ally of the minority.

Hanna Arendt (1969), On Violence, p. 238, in Violence in War and Peace: an Anthology, 2008. Oxford. Blackwell Pusblishing (mes italiques)

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