It was the question Luke asked of Yoda in Return of the Jedi and it’s something I have been mulling over recently. I think, at first glance (and this isn’t just because I am a slight Sith-sympathiser!) I would have to say yes it is – despite Yoda’s vehement protests.
I mean let’s look at this objectively, although we don’t have a definite canon of Sith history any more, we know that at some point down the line, whether by Darth Bane or otherwise, the Rule of Two was created, meaning that there should only ever be two Sith – a master and an apprentice. ‘One to embody the power, the other to crave it’. Fast forward a few thousand years to Darth Sideous and the newly christened Darth Vader. Between the two of them they were able to bring down the entire Jedi Order, from the younglings all the way up to the entire Council itself. The handful of Jedi who were able to survive, Yoda, Obi-Wan and Ahsoka, were shadows of their former selves and unable to inflict any measurable damage against Sidious and Vader from that point on. Harsh I know, but true.
Even when you look at Luke’s triumph over the Dark Lords in Return of the Jedi, you could argue that actually it wasn’t the strength of Luke’s light side of the force that won the day there, it was Vader’s lack of dark side. Had Vader truly fallen to the dark side, then he probably would have been able to beat Luke in a fight. The fact of the matter is the handful of times that they have ever fought, Vader has held back every time. Luke with all his skills and discipline would not have been a match for Vader’s overwhelming dark side power. He actually was only able to really hurt when he gave in to a fit of rage, goaded by the Emperor.
Bearing in mind it was Vader, not Luke, who took down Sideous – I’m not convinced that Luke would have been able to beat Palpatine in a straight fighter either – especially since neither Ben nor Yoda ever bothered to teach the poor guy that you can block force lightning with your lightsaber! I mean come on, what chance did Luke have?!
Now we fast forward to TFA, once again the galaxy has been reduced to a minuscule amount of Jedi – literally just Luke and Rey due to, once again, the Dark Side of the force in Kylo Ren. Ever since Order 66, the light side of the force has never been able to recover. Now we could argue perhaps that the Rule of Two should also apply to the Jedi. So if there are only two Sith then do we really need an entire Jedi Order which spans across the entire galaxy? Maybe not. Maybe Vader brought balance to the force by killing all the Jedi, and Luke was tipping the balance by trying to form a Jedi academy.
So, in principle, as a matter of brute strength, yes I do believe the dark side is stronger. However there is so much more to the force then simply skills with a lightsaber or the ability and will to dominate your opponents. You could argue that in fact it was the light side of the force which gave Vader the strength and conviction to overthrow his master and save his son. Perhaps that is the true way of the light side of the force. It’s more about an inner strength and faith in your own choices. Perhaps Luke, in choosing not to fight in that moment, demonstrated a greater understanding of the force than his father ever did.
Some people say that love doesn't belong in Star Wars, that it has no place in a universe of X-Wings and TIE Fighters and Jedi and Sith. Yet I would argue that love is the backbone of Star Wars, it was the downfall of Anakin Skywalker - that jealous and greedy love - and it was the champion of Luke, that kind and patient love of a son to his father. To me, love is the light side of the force. In the end, it was Luke's love and thus, his faith in the light side of the force, that triumphed over evil that day, rather than any 'crude matter'. Perhaps the Jedi really should have been encouraged to love, as Anakin declared so brazenly in Attack of the Clones, for love breeds compassion.
This brings me to, I believe, the answer to Luke’s question to Yoda back in the swamps of Dagobah. “Is the dark side stronger?” I think the answer can be found in the final pages of Matthew Stover’s Revenge of the Sith novelisation - "The dark is generous and it is patient and it always wins - but in the heart of its strength lies its weakness: one lone candle is enough to hold it back. Love is more than a candle. Love can ignite the stars". Yes the dark side has won time and time again, and it will continue to do so. But as long as we have people like Obi-Wan, Luke, and Rey, the lone candles who are willing to burn against the darkness, the light side will always be stronger.