An intermittently Liberal anthology compiled by Jonathan Calder

Monday, May 12, 2003  

Against revolution
There is a situational logic to revolutions. Disparate groups unite to overthrow an existing regime, but once they have succeeded in doing so the cause that brought them togther has gone, and they then fight one another to fill the power vacuum that they themselves have created. These internecine struggles, usually savage, among erstwhile allies perpetuate the revolutionary breakdown of society far beyond the overthrow of the old regime, and delay the establishment of a new order.

The population at large begins to feel threatened by undending social chaos, and in these circumstances a strong man who can bring the warring factions to heel and impose order comes forward and meets with widespread support, or at least acquiescence. Thus a revolution carried out in the name of civil liberties, or equality, or to bring a tyranny to and end, will itself end by putting into a Cromwell, a Napoleoan or a Stalin.

All revolutions are uncontrollable, and all revolutions are betrayed. It is in their nature that these things should be so. This fact makes belief in violent revolution as a means of changing society not only irrational and delusory but profoundly immoral.

Bryan Magee Confessions of a Philosopher (1997)

posted by Jonathan Calder | 10:21 pm