Thoughts and quotes about revolution

What Is revolution?

I found this definition on the internet: “a forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system”.

Are revolutions good or bad?

Young people very often believe that all revolutions are good and often sacrifice their lives for a transfer of power from one group of people to another.

However, I don’t know any revolution that was good for majority of population of any country. I do know that in many countries revolutions brought mass murders of innocent people.

Below are some quotes about revolution.


Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.

George Orwell

When one makes a Revolution, one cannot mark time; one must always go forward – or go back. He who now talks about the ‘freedom of the press’ goes backward, and halts our headlong course towards Socialism.

Vladimir Lenin

You cannot make a revolution with silk gloves.

Joseph Stalin

Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy.

Franz Kafka

A reform is a correction of abuses; a revolution is a transfer of power.

Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton

20 thoughts on “Thoughts and quotes about revolution

  1. I’m a simple soul. I live in a country re-born 225 years ago at the hands of a bloody revolution. It is at the heart of everything here – every man has the right to buy fresh bread so the baguette is subsidised – a baker sells it for a price much lower than the cost of making it and then when he submits his tax return and his ‘baguette return’ and is paid back the difference. The other revolution that has always fascinated me is the Russian. Not the fact of it which was surely inevitable at some point but the intriguing mystery of a country that seemed to manage to go through a dreadful, brutal revolution only to achieve a Totalitariarist regime which in effect was a version of Imperialism. As I say – am a simple soul but perhaps a smarter person can explain what the point was….

    • If you have in mind French revolution of 1789 it was short lived. During the revolution different fractions fought for power. Then Napoleon grabbed it.
      In Russia (I lived there) small group of people promised land to peasants (majority of population) and wonderful life to workers. After they got power they eliminated millions of peasants and workers plus everyone close in this small group who could be a rival.

  2. The American Revolution was ultimately good. The revolt of the ancient Romans agsinst their kings. However sime revolutions are, as you say, meanjngless to the bulk. Such is life ☺

    • American Revolution was unique. “The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.” John Quincy Adams
      What particular revolt of Romans against their king you have in mind (time and positive results)?

      • Alas, responding from my phone which is not the best tool but all i gave while traveling on train. ☺ The Roman Republic came about after Tarquin the Proud was deposed. This lead to greater freedoms for at least the next few layers if roman society, and the creation of a partially representative senate with voting etc. Centuries later the emperors would arise and destroy the Republic, but for a whike it was good. ☺

        • Greg, I do believe that the revolt was good for few top layers of Roman society. But in any totalitarian country there are always people who enjoy better conditions of life for TOTAL loyalty to a dictator or a ruling group.

          • True. But that revolt started a series of events that led to plebeian involvement in Roman government and then that conceptually melded with ideals coming from Greece to form the principles upon which modern democracy would later be based. And this, though very long term, was beneficial to all common folks ☺

            • Greg, I am talking in this post only about “a forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system” and short term results of it. Maybe in some future Arab Spring will bring something positive. What we know is that many young people sacrificed their lives for democracy and did not get it.

  3. American revolution, sexual revolution, Haitian revolution, Indian Revolutions (both against British and the US), the Arab Spring, the feminist revolution, the revolt of labor unions, the civil rights movement/revolution ….

    • Randy, this post is only about “a forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system”. “Sexual revolution” or “the feminist revolution” and some others have nothing what to do with this post.

  4. I suspect there are revolutions and revolutions. Women winning the right to vote was a revolution. When does reform become a revolution? Enough small reforms can change the world significantly.It seems to me that the strength of the American Revolution was that it created a situation where change was possible without revolution, or put another way, an opportunity for a continuing revolution. –Curt

    • Curt, in this post I gave a definition of revolution and appropriate quotes. Sure, there are other definitions as there are like is oral sex equal sex or is armed insurgency equal terrorism. According to definition in the post, “women winning right to vote” was not a revolution. Reforms are not “forcible overthrow” and are also not revolutions. Revolutions and mass murders always go together.

  5. I remember once a history teacher telling me one of the greatest differences between the French revolution and the American was the people who influenced it.
    When America claimed independence from England it was by the magistrates, legislatures, and other such men of authority, (Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams etc). These men had authority derived from the people to govern them and protect them, that included by their own government of England.
    In the French revolution it was a bloody mess, the men of reason and council, such as Lafayette, were thrown out by the mobs when they took power. The French commoners, overwhelmingly angry at their oppressions of the years, asserted a control that lead to such things as, “The reign of terror.” and Napoleon’s rise to power.

    So here is my American Dream view of revolutions, as a general rule of thumb they are bad if guided by mobs and rabble, it being too easy for evil men to gain influence in such a time. However, when guided by the magistrates, (ie a congressmen), and those men adhere to a just and moral code, it can be for the better. The more I study history though the less I see this being the normative of revolutions.

  6. Hullo JF
    I respect your intentions to keep the discussions in this post aligned with the definition of revolution you supplied.
    Me? I prefer multiple revolutions that are Evolutions – rEvolutions that move slowly and steadily and take into account many, many peoples needs and move progressively towards more positive outcomes for more people.
    These styles of rEvolutions are worth ‘fighting’ for (via peaceful and respectful means), in the sense that we cannot sit back in our armchairs and expect everything to become better while we do nothing.
    ❤ Shirley

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