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Topic 3

Consider this statement:

No matter how oppressive a government, violent revolution is never justified.

Write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks. Explain what you think the above statement means. Describe a specific situation in which violent revolution might be justified. Discuss what you think determines whether or not violent revolution is justified.

Essay VII Essay VIII Essay IX Essay X


Essay VII (Score = 6)

The familiar idiom, "He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword", is echoed in any statement that condemns violence. It is a very simple principle based on a very logical argument. Violence invites more of the same. If a government is overthrown by violent means, then a precedent has been set and there is nothing stopping others from doing the same again. Therefore, revolutionary governments topple almost as quickly as they rise or else they become as oppressive as that which they fought to replace. These cycles make no sense to a large number of people and thus, there are many who prescribe to a similar line of thought. Often, these people dream of changing the world around them only by example and quiet protest.

However, time and again, this seemingly laudable course of action is forgone in favour of the quick, simpler, more violent situations to problems. It cannot be argued that Vladmir Lenin was not a thinking man, and yet it was he who invited the masses to take part in what he correctly forsaw as a "bloody revolution". His reasons were complex, and not without regret. Basically, Lenin saw no hope of change, not only in the near future of the Russian proletariat, but ever. The ruling minority was too firmly entrenched and counting on the fear instilled in the people to help maintain rule. Worse than this, at the time Lenin could find no other way to appeal to the government via quiet protest, as this would fall upon deaf ears. Furthermore, Lenin needed a device to spur the masses to action. Faced with the long-term suffering and perhaps extinction of so many, he essentially forced a confrontation through violence. Although there are differing opinions as to the success of the Russian Revolution, there is no doubt in the minds of many oppressed peoples that quiet revolution can only go so far. Essentially, then, violence justifies itself in the minds of the masses when they become overburdened with layer upon layer of mistreatment.

Many have theorized that the confrontation between royalty and subjects brought about by Lenin would have happened eventually in any case. It is also argued that it could have happened in a more peaceful manner; faced with the possibility of massive genocide, could any ruling faction resist to the people's demands? The ideal, of course, is when rulers are quick to realize that oppression denies fundamental humanity to many. In practice, this is often not the case. If the rulers are human themselves, they are subject to greed and corruption. Thus, violent revolutions do occur. Whether or not they are justified (in terms of democratic thinking) depends on whether some form of oppression is lifted from the masses as a net result. Whether or not violent revolutions will be successful or not depends more on the quality of the new government installed. However, in terms of absolute right and wrong, one is forced to return to the initial premise and state that it only sets the stage for a renewal of violence.

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Score Explanation for Essay VII (Score = 6)

This paper is clear and well-focused, presenting a thorough analysis of the central idea, expressed by the writer as "Violence invites more of the same." The paper moves logically from one paragraph to the next, sustained by an effective organization and fluent prose. The writer offers both concrete details (the Russian Revolution) and an abstract discussion of the nature of violence in political struggles. Though there are minor lapses in language control (for example, "prescribe to" instead of "subscribe to"), the argument is cohesive and the writer generally uses appropriate words and phrases to convey ideas. Given the time limitations for the Writing Sample, the paper is impressive.

In addition to stating a concise thesis, the writer explains the topic statement and begins to explore its implications in the opening paragraph. The writer suggests that the use of violence to force change sets a precedent, noting that "revolutionary governments topple almost as quickly as they rise." People who view "these cycles" as senseless are those who support change "only by example and quiet protest." Thus, the writer explains the logic behind the topic statement.

The first sentence of the second paragraph serves as a lucid and effective transition to a description of a specific situation in which violent revolution might have been justified. The writer then provides extensive detail and analysis of Lenin's thinking and role in the Russian Revolution. This section of the paper provides a deliberate and reasoned reflection on the "bloody revolution." The writer explores the issue by alternating between factual detail and analysis. To conclude, the writer states that "violence justifies itself in the minds of the masses when the (sic) become overburdened with layer upon layer of mistreatment." Throughout this paragraph, the writer uses words and phrases ("laudable," "entrenched," "extinction of so many," "overburdened,") effectively. The choices are deliberate (such as the repetition of the phrase "quiet revolution" in the middle of this paragraph to contrast with the similar phrase in the first paragraph) and indicate a strong control of language.

The last paragraph is a discussion of the terms by which the success of a violent revolution may be judged. The paragraph completes a process of reasoning that began with the opening sentences of the paper. The sentences vary in structure and progress logically throughout the paragraph. The final sentence, ". . .one is forced to return to the initial premise and state that it only sets the stage for renewal of violence,' brings the paper to a conclusion and reinforces the central idea.

The paper demonstrates a high degree of proficiency in organizing and communicating ideas. The major ideas are substantially developed and their implications fully explored. The writer's control of language contributes significantly to this well-integrated response.

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Essay VIII (Score = 4)

"No matter how oppressive a government, violent revolution is never justified." This statement can be argued when the term government is understood to mean a legislative and judicial body which is concerned with carrying out the daily business of running a society. Oppression is a subjective term. What one member of society might describe as oppressive may be beneficial to another member of the same society. In imposing stricter taxes for foreign goods, the government is attempting to protect the industries and jobs of its citizens. One man wishing to buy foreign goods may view the situation as oppressive while a factory worker within the society finds the policy fair. Violent overthrow of the government due to its oppressive policies is not always clear-cut. This is certainly evident in the previous example. Therefore, to insure continued success in its day to day business of government, the governing body should never succumb to coup d'ettas for reform.

History has given numerous examples of justifiable and violent reform movements. The coup in Haiti in 1986 was considered justifiable. The ruling family of Duvaliers no longer cared about the governing of its society members. Every reasonable attempt at reform was snuffed out by secret police. When attempts to change government policies and societal conditions are no longer permitted by the entrenched few within the government, society members have the unalienable right to demand a return of government's powers into their hands.

When determining what guidelines should be used to decide when violent revolution is justifiable, one must be careful to delineate between governmental policies which do not agree with the individual and policies which do not agree with the whole body of the governed. Attempts at reform must always work from within the governing body. When the government fails to listen to its constituents, the people must resort to their right to reestablish a "people's" government.

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Score Explanation for Essay VIII (Score = 4)

This paper shows clarity of thought, presents a central idea (the perception of whether or not a government is oppressive depends on the perspective of individual citizens), and adequately supports this central idea with specific and relevant examples. The writer recognizes some complexity in the issue and responds appropriately to each of the three writing tasks. Despite some lapses in word choice and sentence structure, the writing displays a command of the language.

In the first paragraph, the writer makes an attempt to define one of the key critical terms by stating that "government is understood to mean a legislative and judicial body which is concerned with carrying out the daily business of running a society." An attempt is also made to define the term "oppression." The writer provides a hypothetical example (the notion of an import tax) to illustrate that what is oppressive to one member of society (a consumer wishing to purchase foreign goods) is "fair" to another citizen (the factory worker whose job is protected). In this manner, the writer accomplishes the first writing task. In addition, the writer handles the complexity of the issue by noting that the need for a "violent overthrow...is not always clear-cut." This conclusion provides some analysis of the issue and summarizes the ideas presented.

The second paragraph presents a contrasting scenario, a specific situation in which "violent reform" is justifiable. Instead of using a hypothetical example, the writer chooses to describe the background of an actual event, the 1986 Haitian coup. The writer explains that the nation's rulers, the Duvaliers, "no longer cared about" governing and had resisted "every reasonable attempt at reform." The last sentence of the paragraph indicates the conditions within a society that must exist before violent reform is justified. Although the paragraph is brief, each sentence expresses a new idea and moves the writer's argument forward.

In the final paragraph, the writer expands somewhat on the criteria established in the previous paragraph, noting that one must distinguish between policies "which do not agree with the individual and policies which do not agree with the whole body of the governed." There is not much additional development in this paragraph, but the ideas presented are consistent with the ideas and examples presented earlier. The paper's focus remains constant.

Occasionally, imprecise word choice or awkward sentence construction makes the argument hard to follow. For example, the word "delineate" is used when the writer should use "differentiate." This lack of precision also can be seen in some of the sentences, such as "Violent overthrow of the government due to its oppressive policies is not always clear-cut."

To receive a higher score, the paper would have to include additional support and analysis of the central idea and exhibit a stronger command of the language. The treatment of the rhetorical assignment is coherent, however, and demonstrates a degree of proficiency at expressing the writer's ideas about the topic.

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Essay IX (Score = 2)

Violent revolution is just that -- violent. Even under oppressive government it is not justified. Oppression is no excuse to cause countless deaths and injuries. If a government is oppressive and revolution is necessary then other means besides violence should be employed. The end does not justify the means.

However, if a government becomes so oppressive that it tries to silence those against it by violence than a violent revolution may be justified. If, for example, the government is committing mass murders, such as what seems to be happening right now in Iraq against the Kurds, then the only way to stop that violence is violence. If its government is causing deaths to occur among the people then a violent revolution might be called for.

Violent revolution, in my opinion, can only be justified under extreme oppressive conditions. It is justified if its government causes people's death either by murder or by such things as starvation. Under these types of conditions, when the government has absolutely no regard for the well being of its people, violent revolution may be the only option the people have for freeing themselves.

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Score Explanation for Essay IX (Score = 2)

This paper, though clearly written, leaves the major ideas underdeveloped. A single specific example appears in the second paragraph, and several general references are presented elsewhere ("countless deaths," "murder," "starvation"), but there is little elaboration of the central ideas of the paper. Although the essay addresses each of the required writing tasks in a separate paragraph, there is little integration or connection between the paragraphs.

The first paragraph explains the topic statement by declaring that "even under oppressive government" violent revolution "is not justified." The writer declares that "oppression is no excuse to cause countless deaths" because "other means" are available. The last sentence of the paragraph, though a cliche, effectively sums up the ideas expressed to this point.

The writer shifts focus and argues in the next two paragraphs that under certain circumstances ("extreme oppressive conditions") violent revolution is justified. The idea that a murderous government invites overthrow is briefly illustrated in the example of Kurds being murdered in Iraq. This idea, however, is simply repeated without much further development. For example, the following phrases in the second and third paragraphs restate the same idea: "If the government is committing mass murders..."; "If the government is causing deaths to occur..."; and ". . . if its government causes people's death either by murder or by such things as starvation." These phrases help to define some criteria determining whether or not violent revolution is justified (the third writing task), but no new information is offered. There is no attempt to deal with the complexity of the topic.

The writer moves smoothly from one sentence to another in each paragraph, often using transitional words or phrases to link the sentences ("however," "for example," "under these types of conditions"). The reader has no trouble following the writer's ideas, except when the focus abruptly changes after the first paragraph.

The paper could, however, be improved by a more thorough and complete examination of the issue. While the writer offers brief definitions of the critical terms ("Violent revolution is just that--violent."), more explanation and discussion of the important concepts (violent revolution, oppressive government, justified actions) would have been helpful. In short, for this paper to receive a higher score, additional elaboration of ideas would be necessary.

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Essay X (Score = 1)

Any type of violence means breaking the law and therefore cannot be justified. It is not justifiable to break the laws. If everyone broke laws rioting would result. People who support violence not only break laws, but they refuse to face the consequences of breaking the law. Thus, their actions cannot be justified. It is not right to break laws and not face the consequences. If you are going to break the laws you must be prepared to face the consequences, even if this means death!

Governing bodies should not commit violence because they should not violate the laws of the country. If they break laws, they set bad examples for the people of the country.

I believe violent revolution cannot be justified unless the group breaking the laws faces up to the consequences. Their are many ways to promote one's view besides breaking the law. Peaceful demonstrations can easily be used to bring about change.

Such things as sit ins, strikes, and marches can be used to make one's point without breaking the law. These things are not illegal.

Governing bodies will pay attention to peaceful forms of protest and may even do things to make changes without any type of violence being committed.

I believe violence is illegal!

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Score Explanation for Essay X (Score = 1)

This paper discusses violence and the belief that lawbreakers should "face the consequences of breaking the law;" it mentions "violent revolution" but fails to address any of the three writing tasks clearly. While the essay contains references to violent revolution and the assertion that violence "cannot be justified", the writing does not demonstrate an adequate understanding of the rhetorical assignment. In addition, ideas are expressed without being clarified or connected to other ideas. The presentation is neither clear nor logical.

Variations on the phrase "breaking the law" appear many times in this essay. In the first paragraph this idea is not developed or extended beyond the concept that people who break the law should "face the consequences." In the second paragraph, the writer indicates that if "governing bodies" break the laws "they set bad examples for the people." The third paragraph seems to suggest that violent revolution might be justified if "the group breaking the laws faces up to the consequences." The references to people, governing bodies, and groups are vague and somewhat confusing. The only connection between the paragraphs is the repetition of the phrase "breaking the law."

In the third paragraph, the writer proposes "peaceful demonstrations" as a solution or alternative for revolutionaries who desire change. The writer extends this idea briefly in the next paragraph. The contrast drawn between violent, or illegal, action and legal actions (demonstrations, strikes, marches) is one of the few clearly presented ideas.

Nowhere in the paper does the writer address the nature of oppressive government, one of the key critical terms in the topic statement. This omission prevents the writer from exploring one of the possible nuances of the issue: that the qualities exhibited by a particular government may dictate the need for violent revolution. A definition of oppressive government might have allowed for a more elaborated argument.

The writing in this paper demonstrates correct use of language, and there is some evidence of sentence variety. Overall, however, the ideas in the paper remain virtually undeveloped and poorly connected. To achieve a higher score, the writer would need to address the tasks in the rhetorical assignment, establish a clear thesis, and present an argument with more examples and less repetition.

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