The Politics of “Lesser Evil”: Historical Reflections

Part of the Marx, Engels, and Marxisms book series (MAENMA)


The “lesser evil” is an aspect of all strategic thinking, but frequently takes the form of deliberation, by revolutionaries, on when to offer conditional support to an arm of the ruling class and when to focus exclusively on building up their own forces. This dilemma already confronted Marx and Engels. It again faced the Russian revolutionary leadership, both before and after their accession to power. In constitutional regimes, “lesser evil” calculations are central to electoral activity. Finally, the question arises of how one can move from the Lesser Evil to the Greater Good. The lesser-evil argument has recently been used to defend capitalist regimes by ascribing an agenda of terrorism to any force that would challenge them.

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© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Liberal Arts DepartmentBerklee College of MusicBostonUSA

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