Violence and progressivism wouldn’t, on the surface, seem to go together. Progressivism ranges from explicitly pacifist, in the case of the Quakers, to generally frowning on violence. Aggressive, militant progressivism had its brief day, in the English Civil War, but after losing power took a more indirect approach.
Although progressives avoid violence themselves, they don’t mind it when others use it and it suits their purposes. You see this in the early Victorian period. In “A Tale of Two Cities” Dickens portrays the French Revolution as an unfortunate but inevitable explosion of violence created by the cruel oppression of the people by the aristocracy. Reaction by northern abolitionists and progressives to the Nat Turner uprising and massacre of whites was that it was a more or less justified response to slavery. The reaction to the John Brown raid was similar, or more positive.
The idea of cathartic violence as the inevitable and socially and spiritually cleansing response to oppression was codified by Lincoln, implicitly in the Gettysburg Address and more explicitly in his Second Inaugural Address. The idea faded with Reconstruction but came back with the communist promotion of black civil rights in the early 20th century and the wider civil rights movement and worldwide communist revolution later in the 20th century.
The idea remains with us as the leftist response to crime by groups they classify as oppressed-blacks and Hispanics obviously, but even women. Since these groups are good and could only engage in violence if seriously provoked, violence on their part serves as a signal that some oppression must be remedied, on the individual level as well as the social level. Thus criminal proceedings against a black criminal will conclude with what can be done to help him, rehabilitation being an important part of the sentencing procedure in progressive justice systems. The criminal justice system in the US is infused with a sense of regret that it is necessary at all.
The original form of violence among humans is pagan violence. Pagan violence doesn’t have any moral content, it is simply a matter of dominating and avoiding being dominated. One set of humans might be championed by one god, others by another. The gods themselves aren’t even moral.
A later form is righteous violence, as seen in the Old Testament, and also in the Koran. In this case God instructs people to attack and destroy other people who have offended him. The victims must be totally dominated, either killed or enslaved. The victims reaction to this is of little importance since if not killed they will be rendered totally powerless.
The cathartic violence of progressives has an element of righteous violence, but since progressive society contains no formal state of slavery this element has to be small. Progressive society depends on a generally accepted consensus. People either agree, or are going to agree, by the means of various sanctions and by propaganda.
So the cathartic violence of progressivism requires its victims to accept the justice and goodness of the violence against them. They are supposed to be joyfully reconciled with their victimizer in accepting their suffering and the greater moral status of the victimizer.
This is crazy. Pagan violence and righteous violence will create victims who will be angry and want revenge but who will be unable to get it and whose feelings will be of no importance. Creating a pool of victims who are supposed to accept their status with at least equanimity is simply not possible in the realm of human psychology.
Progressives are outraged at this pool of uncooperative victims. This outrage leads to the mass dehumanization that is characteristic of all kinds of progressivism. It is deeply immoral to refuse to accept this status, and so these victims must lose their status as humans- which is of course how righteous violence controls its victims. Communism starts with propaganda and ends with endless political oppression and murder, progressivism creates more and more non-persons- in the last few years to include anyone who believes in traditional sexual morality.
The concept of cathartic violence is stupid, but more troublesome is its immorality and vacuity. The concept of pacifism is wrong, but at least contains the insight that violence will tend to lead to more violence. Any violent act or system of violent acts must contain in its intent some kind of stable solution that is better than the status quo. And it must recognize that violence has a serious deleterious effect on the person engaging in the violence. Violence can never be cathartic, this is a gross intellectual, moral and spiritual error.
Some kind of reconciliation is crucial for positive human existence; even progressives sometimes make bogus attempts at it, as when a communist revolution and mass murder aren’t going to happen- as in South Africa- or have been attempted and failed- as in Central America. But in almost all cases, progressivism is wedded to the idea of cathartic violence.