What would you say is the most you will tolerate before the French Revolution seems like an appropriate course of action? Does your personal French Revolution cutoff happen before or after a close friend or family member is robbed, raped, kidnapped, or murdered by royalty? Does your personal French Revolution cutoff happen before or after the level of oppression makes the French Revolution impossible?
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.
The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution.
No less insidious is the cry for 'revolution,' at a time when not even the germs of new institutions exist, let alone the moral and political consciousness that could lead to a basic modification of social life. If there will be a 'revolution' in America today, it will no doubt be a move towards some variety of fascism. We must guard against the kind of revolutionary rhetoric that would have had Karl Marx burn down the British Museum because it was merely part of a repressive society. It would be criminal to overlook the serious flaws and inadequacies in our institutions, or to fail to utilize the substantial degree of freedom that most of us enjoy, within the framework of these flawed institutions, to modify them or even replace them by a better social order. One who pays some attention to history will not be surprised if those who cry most loudly that we must smash and destroy are later found among the administrators of some new system of repression."American Power and the New Mandarins" (1969)
One can throw away a chair and destroy a pane of glass; but those are idle talkers and credulous idolaters of words who regard the state as such a thing or as a fetish that one can smash in order to destroy it. The state is a condition, a certain relationship between human beings, a mode of behavior; we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently toward one another. One day it will be realized that Socialism is not the invention of anything new, but the discovery of something actually present, of something that has grown.... We are the state, and we shall continue to be the state until we have created the institutions that form a real community and society of men.
You don’t know what order with freedom means! You only know what revolt against oppression is! You don’t know that the rod, discipline, violence, the state and government can only be sustained because of you and because of your lack of socially creative powers that develop order within liberty!
Can I ever write,
a poem, to both recite -
the song of my heart, and to recount -
the epic of my might?
Can I ever compose such verse,
in this solid dark, in this dominant night?
For I happen to be -
a heap of cold, discarded ash -
concealing the seeds of all revolts -
I happen to be
A peaceful sea -
carrying the roars of all storms -
underneath its quiet sight.
I am a frozen lake -
hiding the flames of all faiths -
beneath its lifeless face.
Can I ever write -
Can I ever compose such verse?"Nocturnal" (1955)
Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy.