21 AUGUST 1982, Page 18

Propaganda by deed

Sir: Patrick Desmond (14 August) says that Menachem Begin is 'a terrorist' in 'the classic European sense of one who believes in "the propaganda of the deed" '. This is a common misunderstanding.

The original phrase `la propagande par le fait' — generally translated as 'propaganda by deed' — which was invented by anar- chists in southern Europe during the 1870s had nothing to do with terrorism. It meant political activity which was more than mere `propaganda by word' but less than full- scale revolution, and it was used to cover such things as strikes and demonstrations,

riots and risings, which were thought of as forms of symbolic action intended to at- tract useful publicity rather than direct ac- tion expected to achieve lasting success. This might involve the deliberate assassins- tion of guilty individuals, but not the in-

discriminate attack on innocent bystanders which is the essential mark of terrorism. To describe what is happening in Lebanon as propaganda by deed is to misuse a useful term.

Nicolas Walter

88 Islington High Street, London NI