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Far-Left and far-Right types of violent repertoires in Switzerland, 1970-1995.

Carole Villiger
Université de Lausanne
Carole Villiger
Université de Lausanne
Open Panel

Abstract

When we speak of rioting, insurrectionary, collective action or violent protest, we tend to think that such events did not take place in Switzerland, a country that is often perceived as a haven of peace, democratic tradition, political stability and economic prosperity. Such a stereotypical vision of harmony is probably one of the reasons why we consider that violent protest simply did not exist in Switzerland. And yet a cursory analysis of the contemporary press undermines this a priori assumption: between 1970 and 1995 there were significant violent protest in Switzerland directed at property and, more rarely, at people in the name of politics. In this paper, I will focus on the violent repertoires. Media discourse tended to attribute to the far-Left. In spite of this, between 1970 and 1995, collective violence was committed by both far-Left and far-Right as well as by the separatist and anti-separatist movements in Canton Jura. The first aim of this contribution is to analyze the variations in their pattern of action as well as the ways in which they have legitimized their repertoires. How and why did they choose and justify violent actions? And what was the political meaning of such acts? In order to answer these questions, I have used data from the media (both press and television), documents produced by militant groups (notably internal texts, leaflets and brochures) and former activists’ testimonies. This first point of query will enable to introduce a further question : the use of different concepts such as “far-Left”, “far-Right or “political violence”, for exemple. When and why were they used? What was their relevance? Do they convey implicit ideological values? The aim of this paper is to think about the place of the different violent repertoires in a consensual democracy such as Switzerland by considering the different discourses on it: that of the former activists and that of the medias. And to question some concepts that are generally used for the violent protest’ analysis.