Some Myths about Revolution

Much of what you believe about revolution is wrong. Even widely read and well-educated people misunderstand revolution because they believe popular myths about revolution.

We cannot understand revolution because popular culture, literature, and popular history are full of myths about revolution. These myths are popular because they are simple, easily understood, and entertaining. Yet, they are wrong.

Identifying and dispelling popular myths about revolution is essential to understanding history. Such an understanding could be vital in today’s world as many nations, including the United States, face the possibility of revolution.

Popular myths about revolution include:

1. Revolutions only come from the Left

This myth is popular because leftists successfully ignore and delegitimize right-wing revolutions. Additionally, right wingers often deny their revolutions. Instead, right-wing revolutionaries love to claim they are restoring traditional society while destroying the nation.

History, however, is full of right-wing revolutions. For example, the Spanish Civil War, the Chilean Coup of 1973, the Iranian Revolution of 1979, and the establishment of the French Third Republic.

 For instance, the Chilean Coup of 1973 was a revolution because the coup’s leader, Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte, tried to restructure society. In particular, Pinochet forced a radical new ideology, extreme neoliberalism, on Chile.

Moreover, the Chilean Neoliberal Revolution began with a Reign of Terror reminiscent of Communism or the French Revolution. Pinochet herded enemies into a soccer stadium and shot them. Just as Fidel Castro did during the Cuban Revolution. Similarly, there was a Caravan of Death in Chile, reminiscent of the Infernal Columns in the Vendee during the French Revolution.

 The Ayatollah Khomeini, one of the most conservative people on Earth, led Iran’s Revolution. Khomeini, like Spain’s Generalissimo Francisco Franco, claimed he was restoring traditional society and protecting religion from modernity.

Hence, Revolutions as Americans learned on 6 January 2021, can come from the Right. Indeed, America had one failed Right Wing Revolution, the Civil War, which was an attempt to force the Slave Power’s sick ideology on all of American society.

Generally, people call a violent outbreak a revolution when they sympathize with the revolutionaries’ cause or ideology. Hence, you have the Russian Revolution and the Spanish Civil War. Moreover, the Left has a habit of only calling Leftists Revolutionaries. Thus, Lenin is a revolutionary while Hitler is a reactionary. Yet Hitler’s goal was a total transformation of German society and Europe.

History shows the Right is just as capable of Revolutionary Violence as the Left. Moreover, right-wing intellectuals are just as likely to admire and glorify bloodthirsty dictators and terrorists as their left-wing brethren.

For example, the great economist Milton Friedman’s bromance with General Pinochet. Friedman’s admiration of Pinochet resembles H. G. Wells’ admiration and friendship with Joseph Stalin. In both cases, an intellectual giant glorified a murderous thug as a hero.

2. Revolutions only come from the people or the working class

The truth is people from all classes participate in revolutions. Indeed, history shows revolutionary leaders often come from the upper classes.

For example, most of the American Founding Fathers, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, were part of Virginia’s slave owning gentry. Similarly, many of the French Revolutionary Leaders; including Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, Lafayette, and Napoleon, were noblemen.

Similarly, Lenin came from an upper class Russian family, and there is some evidence of noble blood in his family tree. In contrast, Stalin, Mao and Ho Chi Minh came from middle-class backgrounds, and Castro from a landowning family.

In fact, finding revolutionaries from a working class background is tough.

3. Revolutions are Revolts of the People

In reality, most revolutions are coups or insurrections that replace one ruling class or dictator with another.

For example, the Russian Revolution replaced the Czarist aristocracy with the Communist Party. Indeed, many historians view the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 as a coup carried out by mercenaries hired by Lenin with German money. The images of mobs storming the Winter Palace were propaganda created by Lenin after the revolution.

Similarly, the French Revolution replaced the monarchy with a regime run by middle class lawyers and renegade noblemen. Notably, the French Revolution began with the Estates General of 1789.

The Estates General was a legislative body that transformed itself into a sort of permanent Constitutional Convention or National Assembly. The Estates General’s leaders were middle-and upper-class attorneys and clergy who did not represent the people. Indeed, between 1792 and 1796, the Assembly, soon rebranded as the Directory, waged War on the People of France through the Vendee and the Reign of Terror.

One problem here is that all revolutionaries claim to represent the people. Hence, all revolutionary propaganda claims all the people support the revolution and participate in it.

However, most revolutionaries never ask the people if they want the revolution. Instead, most revolutionaries delude themselves into thinking that anybody who rejects or criticizes the revolution is an enemy. Hence, destroying the revolution’s enemies is the work of the people.

4. Revolutions are about Justice

A popular school of mythology that dates to the French Revolutions claims revolutions are about justice. The myth is the virtuous people rising and destroying their evil oppressors.

History, however, shows revolutions are about anything but justice. Instead, most revolutions end in revenge and retribution. For example, Lenin’s Red Terror, the slaughter of any enemies of the Bolsheviks, real or imagined.

Similarly, Franco’s victory in the Spanish Civil War led to the White Terror. The purpose of the Terror Blanco was the same as the Red Terror: kill or frighten any potential enemy of the regime.

Instead of justice, the real motivation of most revolutions is often fear. For example, Lenin, Pinochet, and Franco were killing their enemies before the enemies killed them. In right-wing and left-wing revolutionary states, fear of enemies becomes the government’s prime motivation.

Franco and Pinochet were killing supposed Communists, while Lenin killed anybody who was not a Bolshevik. In Revolutionary France, the killing began with royalists, continued with moderates, and eventually ended with the slaughter of the radicals or Jacobins.

The hysterical fear often drives revolutions to turn on their own. One of the earliest events in Germany’s Nazi Revolution was the Night of the Long Knives, in which the Nazi SS killed its rivals in the SA, or Brownshirts. In the Soviet Union, the killing of party leaders continued until after Stalin’s death in 1953, almost 36 years after the Revolution.

History shows revolutions usually create the opposite of justice. Terror, torture, and wanton killing without trial rather than justice.

In the final analysis, many of the popular notions about revolution are fantasy. Those who desire revolution need to be careful what they wish for.