By Heidi Burgess and Guy Burgess October 19, 2022
We received two responses to our Crane Brinton essay that we thought we worth sharing. One was from Barney Jordaan:
Your last edition of your blog made me think of this quote Joseph Conrad’s Under Western Eyes:
The last thing I want to tell you is this: in a real revolution – not a simple dynastic change or a mere reform of institutions – … the best characters do not come to the front. A violent revolution falls into the hands of narrow-minded fanatics and tyrannical hypocrites at first. Afterwards comes the turn of all the pretentious intellectual failures of the time. Such are the chiefs and the leaders. You will notice that I have left out the mere rogues. The scrupulous and the just, the noble, humane, and devoted natures; the unselfish and the intelligent may begin a movement – but it passes away from them. They are not the leaders of a revolution. They are its victims: the victims of disgust, of disenchantment – often of remorse. Hopes grotesquely betrayed, ideals caricatured – that is the definition of revolutionary success. There have been in every revolution hearts broken by such successes.
The other was from Peter Adler:
This got me thinking about THE REBEL by A. Camus who talked about the roots of rebellion and some of the consequences and excesses that usually ensue in 1951. Camus’s writings figure prominently in the civil war novel!
The "civil war novel" to which he refers is the one he wrote us about in August 2022 and shared excerpts from.
Clearly, the pitfalls of revolution, and the folly of pursuing such without having alternative in mind, if not partially in place, has been noticed by more people than Crane Brinton. It is time advocates of revolutionary change on both the Right and the Left notice this pitfall too and start envisioning changes that would bring about that would create a democracy in which everyone (not just their own side) would want to live.