It is an often quoted saying that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter but there can be distinct differences between Freedom fighters or Liberation movements and Terrorist organisations. Many Terrorist groups start off as Liberation movements but faced with little success often succumb to using violence for political ends until acts of violence become their sole method of struggle. Liberation movements take many forms ranging from non violent struggles, strikes and demonstrations to full scale civil war. They are mostly large scale with large numbers of supporters while terrorists rarely have much popular support, their leaders are well known political figures whose views are well known and often well publicized while Terrorist leaders by their very nature are secretative and shadowy figures often hiding out in other countries as with Osuma Bin Laden.Liberation movements are often regarded as being prepared to negotiate for their demands and are seen as legitimate political protestors, if not by their own governments then by the international community, while Terrorists are universally condemned and are regarded as criminals. Liberation movements try to keep the moral high ground while Terrorists are quick to use illegal sources of money such as drug trafficking and money from organised crime as with the Colombian M-19 or the Shinning Path of Peru. Liberation movements generally need three factors to develop. Firstly their needs to be oppression of some kind in their country be it real or largely imagined, this gives the liberators a cause to fight for. Secondly the liberation movement needs an ideology a system of beliefs that helps them plan their struggle in a coherent manner and allows them to gain converts to their cause. Finally they need leadership and organisation to coordinate their efforts, successful Liberation movements have always had a strong leader who becomes the public face of the movement such as Gandhi in India.
How to cite this article: Dugdale-Pointon, T. (22 January 2001), Liberation Movements, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/concepts_liberation.html