Quotations on Revolution 

"It is an observation of one of the profoundest inquiries into human affairs that a revolution of government is the strongest proof that can be given by a people, of their virtue and good sense." 

John Adams 

"In the abstract theory of our government the obedience of the citizen is not due to an unconstitutional law: he may lawfully resist its execution." 

John Quincy Adams 

"The firebrand revolutionary freedom fighter is the first to destroy the rights and even the lives of the next generation of rebels." 

Saul Alinsky
Playboy "Interview" (March, 1972) 

"History is like a relay race of revolutions; the torch of idealism is carried by one group of revolutionaries until it too becomes an establishment, and then the torch is snatched up and carried on the next leg of the race by a new generation of revolutionaries. The cycle goes on and on, and along the way the values of humanism and social justice the rebels champion take shape and change and are slowly implemented in the minds of all men even as their advocates falter and succumb to the materialistic decadence of the prevailing status quo." 

Saul Alinsky
Playboy "Interview" (March, 1972)  

"During revolutions green plants don't get enough water." 

Anonymous Chilean gardener (1973) 

"A revolution is not a spectacle! There are no spectators! Everyone participates whether they know it or not." 

Anonymous
Late 1960s, New Left 

"History shows that freedom is born in pain. A price must be set on tyranny and the tyrants must pay the price." 

Anonymous
From the Greek Underground (1971) 

"Revolution that, like Saturn, devours its own children has deviated from its proper path." 

Anonymous 

"Revolutionaries should all be shot before they shoot the unrevolutionaries." 

Anonymous student 

"Revolutionary activity without serious study, planning and thought has a tendency to become counterrevolutionary." 

Anonymous 

"We do not know what kind of society we would replace this one with, but this one must be destroyed. To find out what kind of society will come out of this destruction, we must go through the experience of the revolution. Perhaps we will discover that we must remain in a constant state of revolution." 

Anonymous 

"When you have a revolution cooking on the stove make sure you have a revolutionist for a chef." 

Anonymous 

"If we do not soon bestir ourselves for a bloody revolution, we cannot leave anything to our children but poverty and slavery." 

Die Arbeiter Zeitung (1886)
Chicago Labor Party 

"Inferiors revolt in order that they may be equal, and equals that they may be superior." 

Aristotle 

"Revolutions are not about trifles, but they spring from trifles." 

Aristotle 

"Revolution to me would mean people recognizing the sanctity of life, and that's revolution that has never happened. There have been lots of revolutions-people throwing over the government and taking other people's property. But all the good that comes out of a violent revolution comes in spite of the violence." 

Joan Baez
"Thoughts on a Sunday Afternoon"
Evergreen Review (June 1971) 

"Revolutions are not made either by individuals or by secret societies. They come automatically, in a measure; the power of things, the current of and facts, produces them. They are long preparing in the depth of the obscure the masses-then they break out suddenly, not seldom on apparently slight occasion.” 

Mikhail Bakunin 

"Do you know of any revolution, even a scientific one, that has taken place without bloodshed? No despot is ever going to give up his throne because you ask him to give it up, or because you beg him to go away. The final word is always an act of war.”

Mehdi Bazargan
Prime Minister of Iran
September 17, 1979 

"Revolutions aren't wedding invitations, you know, and they're not suited for impatient people." 

Mehdi Bazargan
Prime Minister of Iran
September 17, 1979 

"In the kind of disintegrated atmosphere that arises after a revolution, any idea can materialize and any excess can happen. That doesn't mean, however, that these things must also become crystallized and permanent." 

Mehdi Bazargan
Prime Minister of Iran
September 17, 1979 

"You say you want a revolution,/Well you know,/We all want to change the world." 

Beatles (1968) 

"It is an illusion to think you can have a revolution without prisons." 

Ahmed Ben Bella
Algerian President (1963) 

 

 

"Boredom has more to do with modern political revolution than justice has. In 1917, that boring Lenin who wrote so many boring pamphlets and letters on organizational questions was, briefly, all passion, all radiant interest. The Russian revolution promised mankind a permanently interesting life. When Trotsky spoke of permanent revolution he really meant permanent interest. In the early days the revolution was a work of inspiration. Workers, peasants, soldiers were in a state of excitement and poetry. When this short brilliant phase ended, what came next? The most boring society in history." 

Saul Bellow
Humboldt's Gift (1976) 

"The mark of inhuman treatment of humans is ... the mark of a beast, whether its insignia is the military or the movement. ... The revolution will be no better and no more truthful and no more populist and no more attractive than those who brought it into being." 

Father Daniel Berrigan August, 1970 

"The right of revolt belongs to any people who can save its soul in no other way. Once the hope of reform perishes in the heart of any brave people, the desperate condition of revolution sets in." 

Bluntschli 

"The expression 'law and order' is used by those in power, not by us, as a false slogan to justify their abuses. We are not interested in their law or their order, but only with justice." 

Simon Bolivar 

"Every great revolution has destroyed the State apparatus which it found. After much vacillation and experimentation, every revolution has set another apparatus in its place, in most cases of quite a different character from the one destroyed; for the changes in the state order which a revolution produces are no less important than the changes in the social order." 

Franz Borkenau 

"Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards. They did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty." 

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis (1927) 

"I consider myself neither legally nor morally bound to obey laws made by a body in which I have no representation. Do not deceive yourselves into believing that penalties will deter men from the course they believe is right." 

H. Rap Brown (1967) 

"The only politics relevant to black people is the politics of revolution. The politics of culture is not in itself revolution .... People can get so hooked up in their culture and their egos, so inflated about being black that they have no desire to fight." 

H. Rap Brown 

"Women as a class have never subjugated another group; we have never marched off to wars of conquest in the name of the fatherland. We have never been involved in a decision to annex the territory of a neighboring country, or to fight for foreign markets on distant shores. Those are the games men play, not us. We see it differently. We want to be neither oppressors nor oppressed. The women's revolution is the final revolution of them all." 

Susan Brownmiller "Sisterhood Is Powerful"
The New York Times Magazine
(March 15, 1970) 

"A revolution is justified only when it rises unconsciously from the soil rather than being conjured up." 

Jacob Burckhardt 

"The Americans have made a discovery, or think they have made one, that we mean to oppress them. We have made a discovery, or think we have made one, that they intend to rise in rebellion against us ... we know not how to advance; they know not how to retreat ... some party must give way." 

Edmund Burke (1769) 

"All the great heralds of revolution have incited men, not to destroy the old, but to establish the new." 

C. D. Burns
The Principles of Revolution 

"A revolution is dead when it has no friends in the outside world." 

Amilcar Cabral (1966) 

"A revolution is not always a source of evil and tears, just as fire does not always produce devastation." 

Luis Cabrera (1917) 

"A revolution means the use of force to destroy an unsatisfactory system and the employment of force and intelligence to built the new system." 

Luis Cabrera (1916) 

"When a system of work is right, but we fail to obtain results from our efforts for lack of efficiency, the task of the reformer consists in improving that system. But when a system is radically wrong, we must abandon that system and find a better one." 

Luis Cabrera (1916) 

"All modern revolutions have ended in a reinforcement of state power." 

Albert Camus 

"Every revolutionary ends by becoming either an oppressor or a heretic." 

Albert Camus 

"Freedom ... is the motivating principle of all revolutions." 

Albert Camus
The Rebel (1962) 

"If revolution seeks to correct social injustice, its first act, when power is seized, should be to guarantee a certain freedom in the midst of its efforts to establish a new justice-otherwise the creation of a new and equally intolerable tyranny becomes inevitable." 

Albert Camus 

"A revolution is ... a struggling, working beehive of men who, though filled with good intentions, lack experience, lack knowledge, lack training. And suddenly, there is thrust on the shoulders of these men the task of making the nation move forward, administering everything. " 

Fidel Castro (1966) 

"A 'revolution' is an ambiguous entity. In any single 'revolution' there may in fact be one, two, or several, each treading on the heels of the one before and kicking viciously at the one behind." 

David Caute 

"No man has ever seen a revolution. Mobs pouring through the palaces, blood pouring down the gutters, the guillotine lifted higher than the throne, a prison in ruins, a people in arms-these things are not revolution, but the results of revolution .... You cannot see a revolution; you can only see that there is a revolution. And there never has been in the history of the world a real revolution, brutally active and decisive, which was not preceded by unrest and new dogmas in the region of invisible things. All revolutions began by being abstract. Most revolutions began by being quite pedantically abstract." 

G. K. Chesterton
Selected Essays 

"An oppressed people are authorized, whenever they can, to rise and break their fetters." 

Henry Clay (1818) 

"The influence of the Enlightenment cannot be disregarded in any history of the French Revolution; but the revolutionaries did not set their course by its light in the beginning, nor did they steer the ship of state into the haven of the Enlightenment in the end." 

Alfred Cobban 

"The Revolution was, in the words of Albert Schweitzer, 'a fall of snow on blossoming trees.'"

 Alfred Cobban 

"The word revolutionary can be applied only to revolutions which have liberty as their object." 

Marquis de Condorcet
Sur Le Sens Du Mot Revolutionnaire (1793) 

"However good the outcome, any revolution is a serious crisis, disturbing men's consciences, shattering inward security, and jeopardizing every commitment made by the state." 

Friedrich Dahlmann (c. 1848) 

"Nothing is so loved by tyrants as obedient subjects. Nothing so soon destroys freedom as cowardly and servile acquiescence. Men will never have any more liberty than they demand and are ready to fight to take and preserve." 

Clarence Darrow (1932) 

"For a revolutionary, failure is a springboard. As a source of theory it is richer than victory: it accumulates experience and knowledge." 

Regis Debray
Revolution in the Revolution? (1967) 

"Full opportunity for full development is the unalienable right of all. He who denies it is a tyrant, he who does not demand it is a coward; he who is indifferent to it is a slave; he who does not desire it is dead. The earth for all the people! That is the demand." 

Eugene V. Debs (1904) 

"The most heroic word in all languages is—REVOLUTION!” 

Eugene V. Debs (1907) 

"That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these ends [i.e., life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its power in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." 

from The Declaration of Independence (1776) 

"The future of the world depends so much on the American New Left. Nowhere are the social contradictions deeper, and nowhere does a rebel have a greater opportunity to demonstrate the firmness of his convictions than here." 

Vladimir Dedijer to Jean-Paul Sartre
The New York Times (February 4, 1971) 

"A despot, be he the best of men, commits a crime by governing according to his own sweet will. He is a good shepherd who reduces his subjects to the level of animals." 

Denis Diderot 

"Every revolution, and every war, creates illusions and is conducted in the name of unrealizable ideals." 

Milovan Djilas 

"There is a political feudalism where a dynasty has the trappings of a parliamentary system but manipulates it for the benefit of the ruling class Revolution in the twentieth century means rebellion against another kind of feudalism economic feudalism ... and the United States should promote democratic revolution against these conditions of economic feudalism." 

US Supreme Court Justice William Douglas 

"Like Saturn, the Revolution devours its children." 

Jacques Mallet du Pan
Considerations sur la nature de la Revolution (Brussels, 1793) 

"The Revolution, by its destructive nature, brings inevitably in its train, a military Republic." 

Jacques Mallet du Pan
Considerations sur la nature de la Revolution (Brussels, 1793) 

"Revolution is an outrageous and wicked attack upon the people of all countries still more than on their governments, it is much more of a conspiracy against the rights of nations, than in favor of the rights of men." 

Jacques Mallet du Pan
Considerations sur la nature de la Revolution (Brussels, 1793) 

"Every revolution was first a thought in one man's mind." 

Ralph Waldo Emerson 

"A revolution is a pure phenomenon of nature, which is led more accordingly to physical laws than according to the rules which in ordinary times determine the development of society." 

Friedrich Engels (1851)

"The times of the superstition which attributed revolution to the ill will of a few agitators have long passed away. Everyone knows nowadays that wherever there is a revolutionary convulsion, there must be some social want in the background which is prevented by outworn institutions from satisfying itself." 

Friedrich Engels 

"They set up the courts; they set up the police; they set up the army; they set. up an educational system; they set up the newspaper; they set up all the apparatus to brainwash and to keep in subjugation.... No people in this world have ever achieved independence and freedom through the ballot or having it legislated to them. (They) got their freedom through struggle and through revolution." 

William Epton (1964) 

"In Nicaragua, an entire people is fighting for its independence. I would condemn revolutionary violence if I thought that a non-violent way existed." 

Rev. Miguel D'Escoto (1979) 

"The idealists who make a revolution are bound to be disappointed.... For at best their victory never dawns on the shining new world they had dreamed of, cleansed of all meanness. Instead it dawns on a familiar, workaday place, still in need of groceries and sewage disposal. The revolutionary state, under whatever political label, has to be run not by violent romantics but by experts of marketing, sanitary engineering, and the management of bureaucracies. For the Byrons among us, this discovery is a fate worse than death." 

John Fischer
Natural Enemies

A SEMI-REVOLUTION 

I advocate a semi-revolution.
The trouble with a total revolution
(Ask any reputable Rosicrucian)
Is that it brings the same class up on top.
Executives of skillful execution
Will therefore plan to go half-way and stop.
Yes, revolutions are the only salves.
But they're one thing that should be done by halves. 

Robert Frost 

"A true is almost always violent and usually it is extremely violent. Its essence is destruction of the social fabric and institutions of a society, and an attempt, not necessarily successful, to create a new society with a new social fabric and new institutions." 

J. W. Fulbright (1966) 

"No revolution can ever succeed as a factor of liberation unless the MEANS used to further it be identical in spirit and tendency with the purposes to be achieved." 

Emma Goldman
My Further Disillusionment in Russia
(1924) 

"Revolutions come only when a 'boiling point' has been reached, when man has so altered the structures of his communal life that the future becomes radically open. Such periods are never quiet, nor do they automatically produce good." 

W. Fred Graham
The Constructive Revolutionary: John Calvin (1971) 

"True revolutionaries—those who wish to humanize life by freeing captives, healing the ill, opening blind eyes, and bringing justice to society-know that history discloses how men make their own future." 

W. Fred Graham
The Constructive Revolutionary: John Calvin (1971) 

"The right of Revolution is an inherent one. When people are oppressed by their government, it is a natural right they enjoy to relieve themselves of the oppression if they are strong enough, either by withdrawing from it, or by overthrowing it and substituting a government more acceptable."

U. S. Grant 

"Each guerrilla [revolutionist] must be ready to die, not to defend an ideal but to transform it into a reality."

Che Guevara 

"In the arduous profession of the revolutionary, death is a frequent occurrence." 

Che Guevara 

"It indeed seems doubtful whether revolutionaries can revolutionize their own country. The fateful effects of a revolution are usually felt elsewhere. The French Revolution altered France relatively little but it created Germany. Similarly, the fateful effects of the Russian Revolution will be a United Europe and a new China." 

Eric Hoffer
The New York Times Magazine
(April 25, 1971) 

“We are usually told that revolutions are set in motion to realize radical changes. Actually, it is drastic change which sets the stage for revolution. The revolutionary mood and temper are generated by the irritations, difficulties, hungers, and frustrations inherent in the realization of drastic change. Where things have not changed at all, there is the least likelihood of revolution." 

Eric Hoffer
The Ordeal of Change (1964) 

"Revolution is the point which individual psychology connects itself to universal history. Because of this the study of objective factors alone can never yield a knowledge of when or how revolutionary transformations take place." 

Said of Georges Sorel in
Radicalism and the Revolt Against Reason by Irving L. Horowitz. 

"In the grave is the corpse, the idea lives." 

Victor Hugo 

"Revolution is the larva of civilization." 

Victor Hugo 

"As the sun never rises from the west, so no revolution past or present has ever come from the upper class." 

Kita Ikki (1906) 

"Revolution is not the outcome of the fires of battle, but a war of ideas.... So no matter how much blood is spilled or how many corpses pile up, if the same system of thought continues it is called a war and is not a revolution.”

Kita Ikki (1906) 

"Revolution means the death of an old society and the birth of a new society." 

Kita Ikki (1906) 

“We cannot ignore the fact that our own government originated in revolution, and is legitimate only if overthrow by force can sometimes be justified. That circumstances sometimes justify it is not Communist doctrine, but an old American belief. The men who led the struggle forcibly to overthrow lawfully constituted British authority found moral support by asserting a natural law under which their revolution was justified, and they bravely proclaimed their belief in the document basic to our freedom. Such sentiments have also been given ardent and rather extravagant expression by Americans of undoubted patriotism. " 

Supreme Court Justice
Robert Houghwout Jackson (1950) 

"The stream of revolution, once started, could not be confined within narrow banks, but spread abroad upon the land." 

J. Franklin Jameson
The American Revolution Considered as a Social Movement (1926) 

"Uprisings are to be answered by reform, by attacking the 'disease' that lies behind them rather than by suppressing its 'Symptoms.'" 

John Jay (October 27,1786) 

"The generation which commences a revolution rarely completes it." 

Thomas Jefferson 

"God forbid we should be twenty years without a rebellion. What country can preserve its liberties if the rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?" 

Thomas Jefferson, Letter to General William S. Smith
(November 13, 1787) 

"God is just and his justice cannot sleep forever." 

Thomas Jefferson
Notes on Virginia (1782) 

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is their natural manure." . 

Thomas Jefferson (1787) 

"We can't have education without revolution. We have tried peace education for 1,900 years and it has failed. Let us try revolution and see what it will do now." 

Helen Keller (1916) 

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." 

John E Kennedy 

“[The Iranian Revolution] is revolution that took place in a country that was eaten alive like a field of wheat infested with locusts. We are at the beginning of our road. What do you expect of a child that is six months old, born in a field filled with locusts after 2,500 years of bad harvests and 50 years of poisonous harvests. That past cannot be wiped out in a few months, not even in a few years. We need time.” 

Ayato'llah Rehu'llah Khomeini
September 12,1979 

"If exasperation often drives men to revolt, it is always hope, the hope of victory, which makes revolution."

Peter Kropotkin
The Spirit of Revolt (1880) 

"Revolutionary propaganda selects symbols which are calculated to detach the affections of the masses from the existing symbols of authority, to attach these affections to challenging symbols, and to direct hostilities toward existing symbols of authority. This is infinitely more complex than the psychological problem of war propaganda, since in war the destructive of the community are drained along familiar channels. Most of those who have a hand in revolution must face a crisis of conscience. Constituted authority perpetuates itself by shaping the consciences of those who are born within its sphere of control. Hence the great revolutions are in defiance of emotions which have been directed by teachers, guardians, and parents along 'accredited' channels of expression. Revolutions are ruptures of conscience." 

Harold D. Lasswell
World Politics and Personal Insecurity (1965) 

"A revolution occurs when the upper class cannot and the lower class will not continue the old system." 

V. I. Lenin 

“For a revolution to break out it is not enough for the 'lower classes to refuse' to live in the old way; it is necessary also that the 'upper classes should be unable' to live in the old way." 

V. I. Lenin 

“The key question of every revolution is undoubtedly the question of state power. Which class holds power decides everything." 

V. I. Lenin
One of the Fundamental Questions of the Revolution 

“Revolution is impossible without a national crisis affecting both the exploited and the exploiters. " 

V. I. Lenin
Left-Wing Communism, An Infantile Disorder (1920) 

"Revolutions are festivals of the oppressed and the exploited." 

V. I. Lenin
Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution (1905) 

"Without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement." 

V. I. Lenin
What Is To Be Done (1902) 

"You have convinced us that equality and justice were inviolable concepts, and we must have taken you seriously." 

Weldon Levine (student)
Harvard Law School Commencement (1969) 

"Any people anywhere being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable and sacred right, a right we hope and believe is to liberate the world." 

Abraham Lincoln (1848) 

"If by the mere force of numbers a majority should deprive a minority of any clearly written constitutional rights, it might, in a moral point of view, justify revolution—certainly would if such a right were a vital one." 

Abraham Lincoln (1861) 

"This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember, or overthrow it." 

Abraham Lincoln
First Inaugural Address (1861) 

"The last recourse against wrongful and unauthorized force is opposition to it." 

John Locke
Two Treatises on Government 

"History shows that no master class is ever willing to let go without a quarrel." 

Jack London (1923) 

"Unless you go out among the masses to study, analyse and judge their traditions and customs, setting up standards for keeping or doing away with them, and finding and finding a way of making a careful selection, any reform whatsoever will be crushed under the dead weight of tradition. " 

Lu Hsun
On Custom and Reform (1930) 

"A true revolutionary can see farther than other men, as in the case of Mr. Lenin, who looks upon tradition and custom as part of 'culture' and that to change them will be very hard. But to my mind unless these are changed the revolution can last no longer than a sandcastle." 

Lu Hsun
On Custom and Reform (1930) 

"I suppose that writers in this centre of the revolution like to claim that literature plays a big part in revolution. It can be used, for instance, as propaganda to encourage, spur on, speed up and accomplish revolution. But to my mind, such writing lacks vigour, for few good works have been written to order; they flow naturally from a man's heart with no regard for their possible effect." 

Lu Hsun
Literature of a Revolutionary Period (1927) 

"For revolution we need revolutionaries, but revolutionary literature can wait, for only when revolutionaries start writing can there be revolutionary literature. So to my mind it is revolution which plays a big part in literature." 

Lu Hsun
Literature of a Revolutionary Period (1927) 

"Those who once had power want to go back to the past. Those in power now want to remain as they are. Those who have not yet had power want reforms." 

Lu Hsun
Odd Fancies (1927) 

"If the peasant is in open rebellion, then he is outside the law of God.... Therefore; let everyone who can, smite, slay, and stab [the peasants], secretly or openly, remembering that nothing can be more poisonous, hurtful, or devilish than a rebel. It is just as when one must kill a mad dog; if you don't strike him, he will strike you, and the whole land with you." 

Martin Luther
Against the Thievish, Murderous Hordes of Peasants (1525) 

"One cannot argue reasonably with a rebel. ... One must answer him with the fist so that blood flows from his nose." 

Martin Luther
Against the Thievish, Murderous Hordes of Peasants (1525) 

"Revolutions are like earthquakes. They are tragic, they cannot be predicted, they do not require justification, they cannot really be organized. Revolutions occur when they occur. They are not caused by conspiracies but... by the indifference and inhumanity and inflexibility of existing institutions." 

David McReynolds
The New York Times Magazine (May 1970) 

"We deplore the outrages which accompany revolutions but the more violent the outrages, the more assured we feel that a revolution was necessary. The violence of these outrages will always be proportioned to the ferocity and ignorance of the people; and the ferocity and ignorance of the people will be proportionate to the oppression and degradation under which they have been accustomed to live." 

Thomas Babington Macaulay 

"Liberalism, indiscipline the easy life are incompatible with the revolution. They are subtle means through which the enemy infiltrates our ranks. Our fight is a fight for the creation of the new man, of a new mentality. Whoever wants to grow fruit trees must constantly struggle to get rid of the pests." 

Samora Machel 

President of Mozambique (1977) 

"You don't have a revolution in which you love your enemy. And you don't have a revolution in which you are begging the system of exploitation to integrate you into it." 

Malcolm X (1964) 

"A revolution is not the same as inviting people to dinner, or writing an essay, or painting a picture... it cannot be anything so refined, so calm, and gentle ....A revolution is an act of violence whereby one class overthrows another." 

Mao Tse-tung (1927) 

"China's ... people have two remarkable peculiarities; they are, first of all, poor, and secondly blank. That may seem to be a bad thing, but it is really a good thing. Poor people want change, want to do things, want revolution. A blank sheet of paper has no blotches, and so the newest and most beautiful words can be written on it" 

Mao Tse-tung (1958) 

"Humanity left to its own does not necessarily re-establish capitalism, but it does reestablish inequality." 

Mao Tse-tung (1965) 

"If there were no contradictions and no struggle, there would be no world, no progress, no life, and there would be nothing at all." 

Mao Tse-tung
On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People (1957) 

"Marxism consists of a thousand truths but they all boil down to one sentence: It is right to rebel." 

Mao Tse-tung 

"Once class struggle is grasped, miracles are possible." 

Mao Tse-tung (1965) 

"Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. Our principle is the Party commands the gun; the gun shall never be allowed to command the Party.” 

Mao Tse-tung (1938) 

“Revolution and children have to be trained if they are to be properly brought up." 

Mao Tse-tung (1965) 

"There is no such thing as abstract Marxism, but only concrete Marism. What we call concrete Marxism is Marxism that has taken on a national form.” 

Mao Tse-tung (1942) 

"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it." 

Karl Marx
Theses on Feuerbach (1845) 

"Revolutions are the locomotives of history." 

Karl Marx
The Class Struggle in France, 1848-50 

"The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living. And just when they seem engaged in revolutionizing themselves and in creating something that has never yet existed ... they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, and borrow from them names, battle cries and costumes, to present the new scene of world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language.”

Karl Marx
The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852) 

"Late capitalist society is the richest and technically most advanced society in history. It offers—or should offer—the greatest and most realistic possibilities for a pacified and liberated human existence. And at the same time it is the society which very effectively suppresses these possibilities of pacification and liberation. Today this suppression totally controls society as a whole and, therefore, can be abolished only by a radical transformation of the structure of this society."

Herbert Marcuse (1971) 

"Today, it [i.e., revolution] merits celebrating, not merely by pious cliches, but by sustained effort to achieve deeper understanding of what are celebrating—the right of revolution as as the last resort in the endless pursuit of happiness.” 

Alpheus Mason
Los Angeles Times
(July 4,1976) 

"Revolutions can no more be made without bringing suffering to many people than wars can be fought without sacrificing lives. But at least, revolution is a mechanism by which tyranny, corruption and injustice are overthrown—almost the only mechanism known to modern man in the underdeveloped two-thirds of the world." 

Herbert L. Matthews
Fidel Castro (1969) 

"We revolutionaries aren't just chasing a scarlet flag. What we pursue is an awakening of liberty, old or new. It is the ancient communes of France; it is 1793; it is June 1848; it is 1871. Most especially it is the next revolution, which is advancing under this dawn. Revenge is the Revolution, which will sow liberty and peace over the entire earth." 

Louise Michel 

"Revolution [is] the advent of law, the resurrection of human rights and the revival of justice."

 Jules Michelet
Histoire de la Revolution trenceise 

"Wherever one goes in this civilized world, one always finds the same set-up. The little man, the man who does the dirty work, the producer is of no importance, receives no consideration and is always being asked to make the greatest sacrifice. Yet everything depends on this forgotten man. Not a wheel could turn without his support and co-operation. It is this man, whose number is legion, who has no voice in world affairs ... he knows that he has been robbed and cheated from time immemorial. He is suffocated with all this bitter knowledge. He waits and waits hoping that time will alter things. And slowly he realizes that time alters nothing. That with time things only grow worse. One day, he will decide to act. 'Wait!' he will be told. 'Wait just a little longer.' But he will refuse to wait another second." 

Henry Miller (1947) 

"A revolution is an historical process which leads not to the gates of paradise but to a world similar to the one we know except that many of the things in it, including the psyche itself, have changed." 

Jules Monnerot
Sociology of Communism 

"All revolutions begin with the land. Men are born on the earth, every man has his one spot, it is his birthright, and men must claim their portion of the earth in brotherhood and harmony." 

James Ahmed
in Guerrillas (1975)
by V. S. Naipaul 

"Revolutions are not made; they occur. Discontent with government there always is; still, even when grievous and well-founded, it seldom engenders revolution till the moral bases of government have rotted away: the feeling of community between the masses and their rulers, and in the rulers a consciousness of their right and capacity to rule." 

Sir Lewis Namier
Vanished Supremacies (1962) 

"A revolution can be neither made nor stopped. The only thing that can be done is ... to give it a direction ... go along with the opinions of the masses and with events.... What the people want is almost never what the people say. Their will and needs ought to be found not ... in the people's mouth as [much as] in the ruler's heart." 

Napoleon 

"The process of revolution, the process of change, the new struggling against the old to produce some synthesis, does not necessarily have to be a destructive thing." 

Huey Newton (1971) 

"[It is] far less dangerous to the Freedom of a State [to allow] the laws to be trampled upon, by the licence among the rabble ... than to dispense with their force by an act of power." 

New York Journal Supplement
(January 4, 1770) 

"It is not hunger that makes revolutions but the fact that the people's appetite was growing en mangeant—in the process of eating." 

Nietzsche 

"Revolutions do not take place in velvet boxes. They never have. It is only the poets who make them lovely." 

Carl Oglesby (1965) 

"As revolutions have begun, it is natural to expect that other revolutions will follow." 

Thomas Paine (1791) 

"We have it in our power to begin the world over again...." 

Thomas Paine 

"When they hear someone posit the greatness of revolution, as something that is supposed to enable one to speak openly and think daringly, they are impelled to pronounce such a view practically counterrevolutionary." 

Boris Pasternak (1936) 

"Bloodshed is a cleansing and sanctifying thing, and the nation which regards it as the final horror has lost its manhood. There are many things more horrible than bloodshed, and slavery is one of them." 

Padriac Peace
Irish Nationalist 

"Insurrection of thought always precedes insurrection of arms." 

Wendell Phillips (1859) 

“Revolution is the only thing, the only power, that ever worked out freedom for any people. The powers that have ruled long, and learned to love ruling, will never give up thatprerogative till they find they must, till they see the certainty of overthrow and destruction If they do not! ... To plant—to revolutionize—those are the twin stars that have ruled our pathway. What have we then to dread in the word Revolution—we, the children of rebels! We were born to be rebels—it runs in the blood.” 

Wendell Phillips (1848) 

"Revolutions are not made; they come. A revolution is as natural a growth as an oak. It comes out of the past. Its foundations are far back." 

Wendell Phillips 

"In revolution, hope and horror go hand in hand." 

J. H. Plumb 

"Of all political ideas, perhaps the most dangerous is the wish to make people perfect and happy. The attempt to realize heaven on earth has always produced a hell.” 

Karl Popper (1971) 

"A revolution is, in the moral sphere, an act of sovereign justice that results from the force of circumstances. Consequently it is its own justification." 

P. J. Proudhon
General Idea of Revolution in the 19th Century (1851) 

"One cannot stem the tide of revolution .... The more you repress it, the more you are tightening its spring, and the more irresistible you are making its action." 

P. J. Proudhon
General Idea of Revolution in the 19th Century (1851) 

"A revolution is when the masses make the revolution. The popular revolution. But even when a revolution is brought up by others in the name of the masses, it is revolution because it is the expression of what the masses want. I mean, it is popular revolution because it has the support of the people and expresses the will of the masses." 

Col. Muammar el-Qadhafi
Revolutionary Muslim leader of Libya, November 23, 1979 

"No revolution was ever spearheaded by wriggling, chanting drug addicts who are boastfully antirational, who have no program to offer, yet propose to take over a nation of 200 million, and who spend their time manufacturing grievances, since they cannot tap any authentic source of popular discontent." 

Ayn Rand (1970) 

"... society, like a great river, usually meanders slowly across the gently sloping plains of change, quickening for a brisker flow in response to shifts in basic technology and to special crises, such as wars.... Only very occasionally do the streams of social change go plunging over a great waterfall of revolution. Such drastic changes occur when the underlying realities of society grow too remote from an overly rigid social system and bring a widespread alienation and despair." 

Edwin O. Reischauer
"Expanding the Limits of History"
Saturday Review (May 29, 1976) 

"Nothing has been accomplished so long as anything remains to be accomplished." 

Maximilien Robespierre 

"Revolution is liberty's war against its enemies." 

Maximilien Robespierre (1793) 

"Revolution is the war waged by liberty against its enemies.... The revolutionary government has to summon extraordinary activity to its aid precisely because it is at war." 

Maximilien Robespierre
Speech to the National Convention
(December 25,1793) 

"Being a revolutionary is like being in love. The characteristic of people in love is that they do not believe that anybody else in their lifetime has also been in love. So they do not learn from other people's mistakes and repeat all the same errors." 

Paul N. Rosenstein Rodan
The New York Times
(June 16, 1974) 

"[Revolutions] do not break out until the old state of affairs is already ended, until the old order of things has died and is no longer believed in by its own beneficiaries." 

Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy
Out of Revolution 

"We assume that revolutions happen because they are planned. But this supposition is without foundation in reality. Announced revolutions do not happen .... A revolution must overwhelm us as other passions do." 

Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy
Out of Revolution

"There is nowhere so much talk of liberty as in a state where it has ceased to exist." 

J. J. Rousseau 

"Revolution is not what you believe, what organization you belong to, or who you vote for—it's what you do all day, how you live." 

Jerry Rubin
Do It! (1970) 

"There is nothing more common than to confound the terms of the American Revolution with those of the late American War. The American War is over but this is far from being the case with the American Revolution. On the contrary, nothing but the first act of the great drama is closed." 

Benjamin Rush (1787) 

"Those who make revolution by half measures are only digging a grave for themselves."

Saint-Just 

"The word 'revolution' can only apply to revolutions whose goal is liberty." 

Saint-Just (1791) 

"The recent revolution would not have reached this point had the people had bread. And the people would have forgotten freedom and the hope of freedom if they had been able to forget their stomachs." 

Friedrich Schulz
Uber Paris and die Pariser 

"America and other countries of the advanced capitalist world are in revolution. Revolutions do not begin with the thunderclap of a seizure of power—that is their culmination. They start with attacks on the moral-political order and the traditional hierarchy of class statuses. They succeed when the power structure, beset by its own irresolvable contradictions, can no longer perform legitimately and effectively." 

Franz Schurmann
"System, Contradictions, and Revolution in America" in R. Aya and N. Miller
(eds.) The New American Revolution (1971) 

"Revolutions are profoundly influenced by the character of ruling classes." 

Franz Schurmann 

"The only true law is that which leads to freedom." 

Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1970) 

"It is not for the revolutionaries to sit in the doorways of their houses waiting for the corpse of imperialism to be carried by.... It is the duty of every revolutionary to make the revolution." 

Second Declaration of Havana
February, 1962 

"Give absolute power ... to a tightly disciplined clique of professional revolutionaries who claim to possess the final scientific truth about human society, who regard men and women as clay to be moulded to the purposes of history, and who have consciously abandoned ... all absolutes and moral standards, and you can get only one result—totalitarianism." 

Hugh Seton-Watson
Encounter (April 1954) 

"The revolution is not disposed either to pity or to bury its dead." 

Joseph Stalin 

"With the assumption of temporal power, the Revolution, like the Church, enters into a state of sin." 

I FStone (1967) 

"The most awe-inspiring lesson of the French Revolution is not that men with their deliberating reason can make a revolution, but that revolution plays havoc with men." 

J. L. Talmon
Political Messianism 

"Revolution is for society what a passionate love is for the individual; those who experience it are marked forever, separated from their own past and from the rest of mankind. Some writers have captured the ecstasy of love; hardly any have rekindled the soul-purging fires of revolution. The writer of genius lives, for the most part, in a private world; it is not surprising that he deals usually with private passions. There have been some good observers of revolution—the best of them ... observe from outside; it is like reading about the love-affair of the man next door.... Revolution calls in question the foundations of social life; it can be grasped only by one who has experienced it and yet possesses the detachment of a political psychologist." 

A. J. R Taylor
From Napoleon to Lenin 

"All men recognize the right of revolution, that is the right to refuse allegiance and to resist the government where its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable." 

Henry D. Thoreau (1849) 

"Revolutions ... occurred and always will occur so long as human nature remains the same." 

Thucydides
History of the Peloponnesian War

"Experience teaches us that, generally speaking, the most perilous moment for a bad government is when it seeks to mend its ways." 

Alexis de Tocqueville 

"I am weary of seeing the shore in each successive mirage [of each revolution since 1789], and I often ask myself whether the terra firma we are seeking does really exist, and whether we are doomed to rove upon the seas for ever."

The Recollections of Alexis de Tocqueville 

"In a revolution, as in a novel, the most difficult part to invent is the end." 

Alexis de Tocqueville 

"Our revolutionaries had the same fondness for broad generalizations, cut and dried legislative systems, and a pedantic symmetry; the same contempt for hard facts; the same taste for reshaping institutions on novel, ingenious, original lines; the same desire to reconstruct the entire constitution according to the rules of logic and a preconceived system instead of trying to rectify its faulty parts. The result was nothing short of disastrous.” 

Alexis de Tocqueville 

"We can see how it was that a successful revolution could tear down the whole social structure almost in the twinkling of an eye." 

Alexis de Tocqueville 

"The duty of every Catholic is to be a revolutionary, the duty of every revolutionary is to make the revolution. The Catholic who is not a revolutionary is living in mortal sin." 

Camilo Torres 

"Revolutions have always in history been followed by counterrevolutions. Counterrevolutions have always thrown society back, but never as far back as the starting point of the revolution." 

Leon Trotsky
Diary (1926) 

"Every successful revolution puts on in time the robes of the tyrant it has deposed." 

Barbara Tuchman 

"Novus Ordo Seclorum" (1776) ("A New Order of the Ages [is Born]") 

Vergil
Back of U.S. dollar (American Revolution as beginning of a world revolution) 

"Never will twenty folio volumes bring about a revolution. Little books are the ones to fear, the pocket-size, portable ones that sell [cheaply]. If the Gospels had been [expensive], the Christian religion could never have been established." 

Voltaire (1765) 

"Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of a brave resistance, or the most abject submission. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or to die." 

George Washington
August, 1776 

"... kid's culture is one of respect for human life and a deep belief in peace. We have learned though that to be honest we must live outside the law, to be free we must fight." 

The Weatherman Underground
(January 1971) 

"Our revolution (1776-1783) has ended the need for revolution forever." 

General William C. Westmoreland to The Daughters of the American Revolution (April 20, 1970) 

A TOTAL REVOLUTION
(An Answer for Robert Frost

I advocate a total revolution.
The trouble with a semi-revolution,
It's likely to be slow as evolution.
Who wants to spend the ages in collusion
With Compromise, Complacence and Confusion?
As for the same class coming up on top
That's wholecloth from the propaganda shop;
The old saw says there's loads of room on top,
That's where the poor should really plan to stop.
And speaking of those people called the "haves",
Who own the whole cow and must have the calves
 (And plant the wounds so they can sell the salves)
They won't be stopped by doing things by halves.
I say that for a permanent solution
There's nothing like a total revolution!
P.S. And need I add by way of a conclusion
I wouldn't dream to ask a Rosicrucian. 

Oscar Williams 

"The great virtue of revolutions is that they create the circumstances in which a society's problems can be solved." 

William Appleman Williams
The Contours of American History (1961) 

"We have forgotten the very principle of our origin if we have forgotten how to object, how to resist, how to agitate, how to pull down and build up, even to the extent of revolutionary practices, if it is necessary to readjust matters." 

Woodrow Wilson 

"A time of revolution ... is the season of free liberty. Alas! The obstinacy and perversion of men is such that she is too often obliged to borrow the very arms of despotism to overthrow him, and in order to reign in peace must establish herself by violence. She deplores such stern necessity, but the safety of the people, her supreme law, is her consolation ... But is this a sufficient reason to reprobate a convulsion from which is to spring a fairer order of things?" 

William Wordsworth
A Letter to the Bishop of Llandaff (February 1793) 

"We were not born violent. We do not enjoy killing people. We just want peace and freedom. But our daily lives are violent. The country is violent. The enemy leaves us no choice. Either we sit saying ‘ay bendito’ as our nation dies, or we stand up, organize, prepare for the revolution we know is coming." 

Young Lords Party 

“Revolution in its full sense cannot be achieved by force of arms. It must be prepared in the minds and behavior of men, even before institutions have radically changed. It is not an act, but a process." 

Howard Zinn
"The Art of Revolution" (1970)