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- The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution.
- Hannah Arendt The New Yorker (12 September 1970)
- Revolutionaries do not make revolutions! The revolutionaries are those who know when power is lying in the street and when they can pick it up. Armed uprising by itself has never yet led to revolution.
- Revolutions hew the past to pieces and cast it into a cauldron, but what has emerged is the old Aeson with a new visage.
- Sri Aurobindo, Thoughts and Aphorisms, Karma (1913)
- Whatever plans we may make, we shall find quite useless when the time for action comes. Revolutions are always full of surprises, and whoever thinks he can play chess with a revolution will soon find how terrible is the grasp of God and how insignificant the human reason before the whirlwind of His breath. That man only is likely to dominate the chances of a Revolution, who makes no plans but preserves his heart pure for the will of God to declare itself. The great rule of life is to have no schemes but one unalterable purpose. If the will is fixed on the purpose it sets itself to accomplish, then circumstances will suggest the right course; but the schemer finds himself always tripped up by the unexpected.
- Revolution requires extensive and widespread destruction, a fecund and renovating destruction, since in this way and only this way are new worlds born
- Mikhail Bakunin, Statism and Anarchy (1873)
- The peoples' revolution ... will arrange its revolutionary organisation from the bottom up and from the periphery to the centre, in keeping with the principle of liberty.
- Mikhail Bakunin, Program and Object of the Secret Revolutionary Organisation of the International Brotherhood (1868)
- It is time to apply to the mystique of revolution the same critical intelligence that has been applied to the mystique of war.
- Giovanni Baldelli, Social Anarchism (1971)
- Everything is being televised so you won't be able to tell where the Revolution is. "Who's revolting? Well, I don't know, what's on the other channel?"
- Morally, it is wrong to suppose the source of evil is outside oneself, that one is a vessel of holiness running over with virtue. Such a disposition is the best soil for a hateful and cruel fanaticism. It is as wrong to impute every wickedness to Jews, Freemansons, "intellectuals," as it is to blame all crimes on the bourgeoisie, the nobility, and the powers that were. No; the root of evil is in me as well, and I must take my share of the responsibility and the blame. That was true before the revolution and it is true still.
- Nikolai Berdyaev, The End of Our Time (1919), p. 128
- I realized that the only purpose to revolution is to be able to love who you want, how you want, when you want and where you want.
- A revolution is an idea which has found its bayonets.
- Napoleon Bonaparte. Journal of International Affairs, By Columbia University. School of International Affairs, 1976, pg 94
- The first duty of society is to give each of its members the possibility of fulfilling his destiny. When it becomes incapable of performing this duty it must be transformed.
- Alexis Carrel, Reflections on Life
- Revolution: Political movement which gets many people´s hopes up, let´s even more people down, makes almost everybody uncomfortable, and a few, extraordinarily rich. It is widely held in high regard.
- Adolfo Bioy Casares, Descanso de caminantes (2001)
- A revolution is not a trail of roses.… A revolution is a fight to the death between the future and the past.
- There are seasons, in human affairs, of inward and outward revolution, when new depths seem to be broken up in the soul, when new wants are unfolded in multitudes, and a new and undefined good is thirsted for. There are periods when...to dare, is the highest wisdom.
- William Ellery Channing, The Union (1829)
- An oppressed people are authorized, whenever they can, to rise and break their fetters.
- Revolution is a city flower; it does not flourish in the country.
- Robertson Davies, Murther and Walking Spirits (1991), part II, section 19
- The most heroic word in all languages is REVOLUTION.
- This means we must subject the machine—technology—to control and cease despoiling the earth and filling people with goodies merely to make money. The search of the young today is more specific than the ancient search for the Holy Grail. The search of the youth today is for ways and means to make the machine—and the vast bureaucracy of the corporation state and of government that runs that machine—the servant of man.
That is the revolution that is coming.
That revolution—now that the people hold the residual powers of government—need not be a repetition of 1776. It could be a revolution in the nature of an explosive political regeneration. It depends on how wise the Establishment is. If, with its stockpile of arms, it resolves to suppress the dissenters, America will face, I fear, an awful ordeal.
- William O. Douglas, Points of Rebellion (1970), p. 96–97
- We must realize that today's Establishment is the new George III. Whether it will continue to adhere to his tactics, we do not know. If it does, the redress, honored in tradition, is also revolution.
- William O. Douglas, Points of Rebellion (1970), p. 95
- The only real revolution is in the enlightenment of the mind and the improvement of character, the only real emancipation is individual, and the only real revolutionaries are philosophers and saints.
- The two great conceptual revolutions of twentieth-century science, the overturning of classical physics by Werner Heisenberg and the overturning of the foundations of mathematics by Kurt Gödel, occurred within six years of each other within the narrow boundaries of German-speaking Europe. ...A study of the historical background of German intellectual life in the 1920s reveals strong links between them. Physicists and mathematicians were exposed simultaneously to external influences that pushed them along parallel paths. ...Two people who came early and strongly under the influence of Spengler's philosophy were the mathematician Hermann Weyl and the physicist Erwin Schrödinger. ...Weyle and Schrödinger agreed with Spengler that the coming revolution would sweep away the principle of physical causality. The erstwhile revolutionaries David Hilbert and Albert Einstein found themselves in the unaccustomed role of defenders of the status quo, Hilbert defending the primacy of formal logic in the foundations of mathematics, Einstein defending the primacy of causality in physics. In the short run, Hilbert and Einstein were defeated and the Spenglerian ideology of revolution triumphed, both in physics and in mathematics. Heisenberg discovered the true limits of causality in atomic processes, and Gödel discovered the limits of formal deduction and proof in mathematics. And, as often happens in the history of intellectual revolutions, the achievement of revolutionary goals destroyed the revolutionary ideology that gave them birth. The visions of Spengler, having served their purpose, rapidly became irrelevant.
- Freeman Dyson, The Scientist As Rebel (2006)
- Every revolution was first a thought in one man's mind; and when the same thought occurs to another man, it is the key to that era.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series, 1841
- Every change in the social order, every revolution in property relations, is the necessary consequence of the creation of new forces of production which no longer fit into the old property relations.
- The colonized subject thus discovers that his life, his breathing and his heartbeats are the same as the colonist's. He discovers that the skin of a colonist is not worth more than the "native's." In other words, his world receives a fundamental jolt. The colonized's revolutionary new assurance stems from this. If, in fact, my life is worth as much as the colonist's, his look can no longer strike fear into me or nail me to the spot and his voice can no longer petrify me. I am no longer uneasy in his presence. In reality, to hell with him. Not only does his presence no longer bother me, but I am already preparing to waylay him in such a way that soon he will have no other solution but to flee.
- Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (1963), p. 10
- The succeessful revolutionary is a statesman, the unsuccessful one a criminal.
- Erich Fromm Escape from Freedom, 1941
- A non-violent revolution is not a program of seizure of power. It is a program of transformation of relationships, ending in a peaceful transfer of power.
- Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-violence in Peace and War, 1948
- [W]hat is happening is what left-wing revolutions do tend to produce, whether they’re talking about the Russian Revolution or the French Revolution, and that is students – the next generation of revolutionaries – become not only more radical than their radical professors, but they turn on them so the revolution tends to consume its own. So now people who think of themselves of impeccably left-wing will say something that offends some group of radicalized students – perhaps students that they themselves helped to radicalize – and suddenly they are the ones under fire for not conforming sufficiently to the contemporary orthodoxy.
- A great revolution is never the fault of the people, but of the government.
- Goethe, Conversations with Goethe, 1824
- The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it drop.
- Che Guevara. "Che Guevara: Revolutionary & Icon", by Trisha Ziff, Abrams Image, 2006, p. 69
- In a revolution, one triumphs or dies (if it is a true revolution).
- At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality. Perhaps it is one of the great dramas of the leader that he or she must combine a passionate spirit with a cold intelligence and make painful decisions without flinching. Our vanguard revolutionaries must idealize this love of the people, of the most sacred causes, and make it one and indivisible. They cannot descend, with small doses of daily affection, to the level where ordinary people put their love into practice.
The leaders of the revolution have children just beginning to talk, who are not learning to call their fathers by name; wives, from whom they have to be separated as part of the general sacrifice of their lives to bring the revolution to its fulfilment; the circle of their friends is limited strictly to the number of fellow revolutionists. There is no life outside of the revolution.
In these circumstances one must have a great deal of humanity and a strong sense of justice and truth in order not to fall into extreme dogmatism and cold scholasticism, into isolation from the masses. We must strive every day so that this love of living humanity will be transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force.
- Excerpts from the two paragraphs above have sometimes been quoted in abbreviated form: At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality... We must strive every day so that this love of living humanity will be transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force.
- Variant translation: One must have a large dose of humanity, a large dose of a sense of justice and truth in order to avoid dogmatic extremes, cold scholasticism, or an isolation from the masses. We must strive every day so that this love of living humanity is transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force.
- Che Guevara, Man and Socialism in Cuba (1965), A letter to Carlos Quijano, editor of Marcha a radical weekly published in Montevideo, Uruguay; published as "From Algiers, for Marcha : The Cuban Revolution Today" (12 March 1965); also published in Verde Olivo, the magazine of the Cuban armed forces "Socialism and Man in Cuba" - Variant translation by Margarita Zimmermann
- State authority can never be an end in itself; for, if that were so, any kind of tyranny would be inviolable and sacred. If a government uses the instruments of power in its hands for the purpose of leading a people to ruin, then rebellion is not only the right but also the duty of every individual citizen.
- Revolution is an art that I pursue rather than a goal I expect to achieve. Nor is this a source of dismay; a lost cause can be as spiritually satisfying as a victory.
- Robert A. Heinlein, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966)
- When hopes and dreams are loose in the street, it is well for the timid to lock doors, shutter windows and lie low until the wrath has passed.
- Eric Hoffer, The True Believer, 1951
- We used to think that revolutions are the cause of change. Actually it is the other way around: change prepares the ground for revolution.
- Eric Hoffer, The Temper of Our Time, 1967
- The first duty of a revolutionist is to get away with it. The second duty is to eat breakfast. I ain't going.
- Abbie Hoffman, spoken to police immediately prior to his 1968 arrest in Chicago; quoted in Marty Jezer's biography of him, "Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel"
- The notion of capturing positions of power, whether it be governmental power or more dispersed positions of power in society, misses the point that the aim of the revolution is to dissolve relations of power, to create a society based on the mutual recognition of people's dignity. What has failed is the notion that revolution means capturing power in order to abolish power. What is now on the agenda is the much more demanding notion of a direct attack on power relations. The only way in which revolution can now be imagined is not as the conquest of power but as the dissolution of power.
- John Holloway, Change the World Without Taking Power (2002)
- Would you realize what Revolution is, call it Progress; and would you realize what Progress is, call it Tomorrow.
- One should never put on one's best trousers to go out to battle for freedom and truth.
- Revolutionary change means the seizure of all that is held by the 1 percent, and the transference of these holdings into the hands of the remaining 99 percent. If the 1 percent are simply replaced by another 1 percent, revolutionary change has not taken place.
- George L. Jackson, Blood in My Eye (1971), p. 9
- The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.
- If this avenue [of democratic political revolution] be shut to the call of sufferance, it will make itself heard through that of force, and we shall go on, as other nations are doing, in the endless circle of oppression, rebellion, reformation.
- Thomas Jefferson, quoted in The American Revolution of 1800: How Thomas Jefferson Rescued Democracy from Tyranny and Faction—And What This Means Today by Dan Sisson and Thom Hartmann (2014), p. 215
- For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
- Perhaps a revolution can overthrow autocratic despotism and profiteering or power-grabbing oppression, but it can never truly reform a manner of thinking; instead, new prejudices, just like the old ones they replace, will serve as a leash for the great unthinking mass.
- Immanuel Kant, What Is Enlightenment
- The great revolution in the history of man, past, present and future, is the revolution of those determined to be free.
- John F. Kennedy: "Message to Chairman Khrushchev Concerning the Meaning of Events in Cuba," April 18, 1961. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project
- Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.
- John F. Kennedy, Address on the first Anniversary of the Alliance for Progress (March 13, 1962); in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1962, p. 223
- A great change is at hand, and our task, our obligation, is to make that revolution, that change, peaceful and constructive for all.
- A revolution is coming — a revolution which will be peaceful if we are wise enough; compassionate if we care enough; successful if we are fortunate enough — But a revolution which is coming whether we will it or not. We can affect its character; we cannot alter its inevitability.
- Robert Kennedy, Speech in the United States Senate (9 May 1966)
- You cannot buy the Revolution. You cannot make the Revolution. You can only be the Revolution. It is in your spirit or it is nowhere.
- Ce n'est pas une révolte, c'est une révolution.
- 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, a most sacred right — a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people that can may revolutionize and make their own of so much of the territory as they inhabit.
- Abraham Lincoln, Speech in the United States House of Representatives (January 12, 1848)
- This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or exercise their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.
- Revolution is not a dinner party, nor an essay, nor a painting, nor a piece of embroidery; it cannot be advanced softly, gradually, carefully, considerately, respectfully, politely, plainly, and modestly. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.
- Mao Zedong, as quoted in "Che Guevara: Revolutionary & Icon" (2006) by Trisha Ziff, p. 66
- Revolutions are usually a matter of people picking up the power of a state in disintegration, a government that has lost the will to enforce its laws.
- The first lesson a revolutionary must learn is that he is a doomed man. Unless he understands this, he does not grasp the essential meaning of his life.
- Huey Newton, Revolutionary Suicide (1973)
- The real division is not between conservatives and revolutionaries but between authoritarians and libertarians.
- George Orwell, in a letter to Malcolm Muggeridge (4 December 1948), published in Malcolm Muggeridge : A Life (1980) by Ian Hunter
- Most anarchists believe the coming change can only come through a revolution, because the possessing class will not allow a peaceful change to take place; still we are willing to work for peace at any price, except at the price of liberty.
- Lucy Parsons, in The Principles of Anarchism
- Everywhere revolutions are painful yet fruitful gestations of a people: they shed blood but create light, they eliminate men but elaborate ideas.
- Manuel Gonzalez Prada, Horas de lucha (1908)
- Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.
- George Orwell, in 1984
- There is a revolution coming. It will not be like revolutions of the past. It will originate with the individual and with culture, and it will change the political structure only as its final act. It will not require violence to succeed, and it cannot be successfully resisted by violence. It is now spreading with amazing rapidity, and already our laws, institutions and social structure are changing in consequence. It promises a higher reason, a more human community, and a new and liberated individual. Its ultimate creation will be a new and enduring wholeness and beauty — a renewed relationship of man to himself, to other men, to society, to nature, and to the land.
This is the revolution of the new generation.
- A revolution is sometimes necessary, but if revolutions become habitual the country in which they take place is going down-hill.
- Theodore Roosevelt, The Strenuous Life: Essays and Addresses, (1910)
- The Revolution will not be televised. The Revolution will be no rerun, brothers. The Revolution — will be live.
- O God! that one might read the book of fate,
And see the revolutions of the times
Make mountains level, and the continent
Weary of solid firmness, melt itself
Into the sea!
- Many of the world's troubles are not due just to Russia or communism. They would be with us in any event because we live in an era of revolution—the revolution of rising expectations. In Asia, the masses now count for something. Tomorrow, they will count for more. And, for better or for worse, the future belongs to those who understand the hopes and fears of masses in ferment. The new nations want independence, including the inalienable able right to make their own mistakes. The people want respect — and something to eat every day. And they want something better for their children.
- Adlai Stevenson, in the concluding article in a series about his five-month trip around the world, in The Papers of Adlai E. Stevenson (1974), vol. 5, p. 411; first published in Look (22 September 1953), p. 46
- Seditiosissimus quisque ignavus.
- The most seditious is the most cowardly.
- Tacitus, Annales (AD 117), IV. 34
Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations
- Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 672-73.
- Revolutions are not about trifles, but spring from trifles.
- Aristotle, Politics, Book VII, Chapter IV
- A reform is a correction of abuses; a revolution is a transfer of power.
- Edward Bulwer-Lytton, speech in the House of Commons, on the Reform Bill (1866)
- Voulez-vous donc qu'on vous fasse des révolutions à l'eau-rose?
- Je suis le signet qui marque la page où la révolution s'est arrêtée; mais quand je serai mort, elle tournera le feuillet et reprendra sa marche.
- I am the signet which marks the page where the revolution has been stopped; but when I die it will turn the page and resume its course.
- Napoleon I, to Count Molé
- 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 laid far back.
- Wendell Phillips, speech on public opinion (28 January 1852)
- Revolutions never go backward.
- Wendell Phillips, speech on progress (17 February 1861)
- I know and all the world knows, that revolutions never go backwards.
- William H. Seward, speech on the "Irrepressible Conflict" (October 1858)