More on the Revolutionary Mentality

As an addition to my August 13 article, here are some other traits that define the revolutionary mentality:

1. A revolutionary does not understand injustice and evil as factors inherent in the human condition that can be attenuated but not eliminated, but rather as temporary anomalies created by a segment of humanity—the bourgeoisie, the Jews, Christians, etc.—which can be identified and punished, thereby extirpating the root of evil.

2. The guilty segment of mankind spreads evil and sin by exercising a power—economic, political, military, and cultural. Hence, it must be eliminated by means of a superior power, the revolutionary power, deliberately created to achieve this purpose.

3. Evil power dominates society as a whole, molding it after the image and likeness of its own interests, ends, and purposes. The eradication of evil must therefore take on the form of a radical restructuring of the entire social order. Nothing can remain untouched. The revolutionary power, like the Biblical God, “makes all things new.” There are no limits to the range and depth of revolutionary action. It can reach even the victims of a previous situation of oppression by accusing them of having become so used to evil that they have become its accomplices, thus requiring purifying punishment to the same or greater extent than the old power elite.

4. Though brought about by a specific segment of the human race, evil has spread everywhere so thoroughly that it has become difficult to conceive of life without it. Therefore, the new society of order, justice, and peace can be imagined only in very broad outlines, so different will it be from everything that has existed thus far. Revolutionaries therefore have no obligation—not even the possibility—to explain in plain details the plan for the new society, let alone to prove its viability or demonstrate, in terms of cost vs. benefit, the advantages of the transformation. These are given as fundamental premises, so that the demand for proof is automatically impugned as a subterfuge for avoiding change and condemned ipso facto as an element to be eliminated. The revolution is its own foundation and cannot be questioned from the outside.

5. Though known only as a very general vague image, the future society puts itself above all human judgment and itself becomes the fundamental premise of all values, all judgment, all reasoning. An immediate consequence of this is that the future, which cannot be conceived of rationally, can be known only via its image in the current revolutionary action, which in its turn, for this very reason, removes itself from all human judgment, except from that of revolutionary leaders who incarnate and personify that action. But even these people may represent it imperfectly, by virtue of their being children of the old society and of their carrying within themselves, at least partially, the germs of the ancient evil. The prophetic and intellectual authority of revolutionary leaders is therefore provisional and only lasts as long as they have the material power to secure it. The capacity of leader of nations towards a beatific future is therefore uncertain and revocable, depending on the irregularities of the revolutionary pathway. The crimes and mistakes of a fallen leader, not imputable to the future society, nor to the revolutionary process as such, nor to the revolutionary movement as a whole, can therefore only be explained as a residual effect of the condemned past: a revolutionary, by definition, sins only by not being sufficiently revolutionary.

Olavo de Carvalho is the President of The Inter-American Institute and Distinguished Senior Fellow in Philosophy, Political Science, and the Humanities.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute. This article was originally published in the Brazilian newspaper Diário do Comércio on October 10, 2007 and translated from the Portuguese by Alessandro Cota.

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