Comment: Revolution IS the hell of it.

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Revolution IS the hell of it.

Anarchist David Friedman has written a brilliant article bearing this title; read it free here, down on page 78 of the pdf.

He makes several good points about the human response to cataclysmic events like revolution or collapse:

The case against violent revolution, for an anarchist, is simple. Government exists, ultimately, because most people believe that it performs necessary functions. The most fundamental of all these functions is protection against violence and disorder. When people view anarchy as the ultimate evil, it is not because they are concerned about mail not being delivered or streets not being cleaned. They are afraid of theft, murder, and rape, riot and arson.

The greater these fears, the greater the degree of government tyranny which people will tolerate, even support. Civil disorder leads to more government, not less. It may topple one government, but it creates a situation in which people desire another and stronger. Hitler's regime followed the chaos of the Weimar years. Russian communism is a second example, a lesson for which the anarchists of Kronstadt paid dear. Napoleon is a third. Yet many radicals, and some anarchists, talk and act as though civil disruption were the road to freedom.

For those radicals whose vision of freedom is a new government run by themselves, revolution is not a totally unreasonable strategy, although they may be overly optimistic in thinking that they are the ones who will end up on top. For those of us whose enemy is not the government but government itself, it is a strategy of suicide. Yet it is a strategy some anarchists advocate. What are their arguments?

One is that civil disorder is educational. A government threatened by insurrection becomes more and more tyrannical, revealing itself to the populace in its true colors. The populace, thus radicalized, rises and abolishes the government.

Experimentally, the truth of this argument —- that revolution leads to repression and repression to freedom -— is demonstrated by the thriving anarchist communities now occupying the territories once ruled by the oppressive governments of Russia, China, and the German Reich.

Another, more unworthy, argument for revolution is simple opportunism. There is going to be a revolution whether we like it or not; one must be on one side of the barricades or the other. If a libertarian does not support the revolution, he has only himself to blame if he witnesses its triumph from an exalted position— intermediate between a lamp post and the street. Even if he escapes such a fate, he can hardly expect to influence the policy of the revolutionaries if he has not helped to make the revolution.

Even on its own terms this argument is unconvincing. Successful revolutionaries do occasionally end up in positions of power, but they seem more likely, on the historical record, to end up dead, courtesy of their comrades.

Recommended reading: The Most Dangerous Superstition by Larken Rose