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Waging a Just Revolution: Just War Criteria in the Context of Oppression


In 1983 the US Catholic bishops noted that “insufficient analytical attention has been given to the moral issues of revolutionary warfare.” Decades later systematic analysis of armed revolutionary resistance remains a lacuna within theological scholarship on war and peacemaking. While nonviolence is always preferable, traditional just war criteria can and should be revised to provide guidelines for ethical, armed, revolutionary resistance. Examining the just war criteria of legitimate authority, last resort, and proportionality not from the perspective of society’s dominant classes but from that of the oppressed begins to yield a theory of just revolution. When properly met, revised understandings of the just war criteria allow for limited armed resistance as a moral response to severe repression.