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The Logic of a Social Revolution

1. What is “a social revolution”? A social revolution is not limited to the times of the civil war. It is a much wider and deeper phenomenon. Wider – in the time scale. Deeper – for it occurs not only in the political and economic arenas, but in all aspects of social production and human relations in general.

2. First, as to the overall shape of a revolution. It is a spiral vortex, analogous to that shape shown by the spiral galaxies. This we view as a general form of movement in the Universe.

3. In the material “arm” of this spiral, we observe a general spread of techniques that implicitly mean a negation of the old social order. Such were the new techniques of working the steel, the spread of gunpowder and guns, the printing press, the improved methods of navigation, better methods of land communications and transportation, etc. These methods imply a negation of feudal mode of small-scale production, a separate boundary between each and every region of a country, and a feudal lord in the form of a knight as the all-powerful armed force.

A knight is replaced by a gun

4. In the intellectual sphere, we see a dissolution of the old framework of thinking and living, i.e. the Christian religion, in general, and specifically: Catholicism. Instead, numerous smaller sects are formed, some of which are quite rebellious and even practice communism, e.g. Anabaptists. Some sects chose the road of emigration rather than facing the corrupt old regime, e.g. Puritans.

A monumental single form of a world view is dissolved and replaced by numerous alternatives, smaller in size but more vigorous

5. Dissolution of the monolithic spiritual doctrine is accompanied by disappointment which traditional way of seeking knowledge brings. In the transitional era, this was disappointment with Aristotle and the scholastics, and replacement of this by appeal to the actual experience, i.e. empiricism, which was a revolutionary doctrine for its times. Imagine: debunking the traditional ways of schooling and seeking knowledge today by something completely outside the existing system of schools and universities! Nevertheless, this is what must be done, as we approach the whole of knowledge, rather than its small morsels presented by each and separate disunited sciences.

Traditional methods of learning are replaced by radically new methods, all of which investigate the actual experience and unite them under some "plastic" new form, e.g. art

6. In the arm of “human relations”, we witness a withdrawal from participation in social life even on the part of the elite and the middle classes, as this is plagued with corruption, danger to life and property, demeaning of human beings. The old decaying social order leaves no room for breathing, is full of lies, and all active and honest life proceeds underground.

7. True revolutionaries, in such times, are seen as hellish figures, holding commerce with the devil himself. They cannot live within the old framework, and hence break loose, make fun of the old world in its totality, bring down the icons and the holy symbols and institutions. They are the Faustus of Marlowe, the Hamlet of Shakespeare, the Iconoclast of Milton, the Idiot of Dostoevsky, the Appasionata of Beethoven. These figures must either escape from the world, or perish at the hands of the old society.

Underground art then and now.

Someone said that stage I of revolution is the struggle for minds and hearts of the population, between the opposite camps. Actually, it is much more. It is looking for an alternative. It is understanding the process of development - revolution, and understanding where we fit into this picture, understanding the "immediate" tasks before us. Stage I of revolution can be called "the search for Truth", in the sense of the Harvard motto: "The Truth is Grand".

8. Let us proceed to describe the political stages of a social revolution. These are:

- A birth of a new, rising social class, which is at first under the tutelage of the old ruling class, but gradually acquires self-confidence and social power to start competing for power with the powers that be. It’s important to remember that the very meaning of “what is power” changes with time. Power can mean raw physical force, as embodied by a knight, or power can be financial power, as embodied by the City.

- It’s important to notice that every social revolution is usually preceded by an unpopular war, which the regime loses. This undermines the “ancient regime”, its ability to defend itself.

- Competition for power in a state results in a state of dual power, i.e. a need to resolve who is “the ultimate power”? This is the end of a peaceful stage in a revolution, the end of the first “continuum” that precedes the social revolution in a narrow sense.

- The next stage is an explosion, resulting from contradiction between the old and the new power. This is the state of a civil war in which two armies are formed and clash.

It is curious that in earlier revolutions, the moment of uprising is almost not felt. In 1642 the closest that we come to an uprising is the attempt of Charles I to arrest the 5 revolutionary leaders of Parliament, after which the people arms themselves against him. Meanwhile, "the Glorious Revolution" of 1688 was a very carefully planned action, prepared at least in two countries simultaneously. Similarly in the Russian revolution: the uprisings of 1905 were more or less spontaneous, while the October 1917 uprising was a well-planned action. Hence, a generalization: as revolutions develop, uprising become more organized, more secretive and better planned.

- The main requirement for victory in civil war is a victory of “extreme” party over the moderate party, inside the revolutionary camp. Victory over the army of the king, if Presbyterians were to remain in command, would be impossible. Independents had to suppress this party, in order to fight the king decisively.

- In the course of a civil war, the armies undergo development. While the army of the old regime gets further decomposed through corruption of the regime, its marauding character and clashes between particular interests of the high officers, the revolutionary army improves. A “New Model Army” is formed, distinguished by high ideological motivation and discipline of its warriors. The cavalry of Cromwell defeated the cavalry of Prince Rupert because it had "religious" people in it.

- A very important “nuance” is that a social revolution attempts to unite several heretofore-disunited states. The English revolution attempted to unite the English and the Dutch republics. The Russian revolution was reaching for the socialist Hungary, in 1918. Yugoslavia and Albania also attempted a union after their social revolutions, which took place in the course of liberation from the Nazis during WWII. In a word, a social revolution attempts to break down political boundaries between states of similar social nature.

- After victory over army of counterrevolution, there is recess of revolution, called "Thermidor" by Trotsky. Here we see suppression of the extreme revolutionary currents, e.g. levelers in the army and diggers in society. Power assumes the shape of a personal dictatorship of one of former revolutionary leaders. This dictatorship has a centrist character, as he struggles both against the right and the left.

- Period of centrist dictatorship, through a coup d’état, leads to Restoration. During this period, the state apparatus does not change radically. Many of the people who were in power before continue to be in power. Very few are repressed. There is a shift to the right in politics, but the social nature of this regime is not radically different.

- Gradually, in the course of Restoration of the old decayed society, one part of state apparatus shifts more and more to "the left", while another part attempts to take the Restoration process to its logical conclusion, i.e. restoring the rule of the class, which the revolution has overthrown. However, this is not acceptable to the classes that lead in material production. Hence, a political revolution is prepared which destroys the reactionary elite. This political revolution can take a variety of forms. These are: (1) An external invasion, (2) an internal conspiracy, (3) a popular rebellion. The last moment is becoming more pronounced in time.

- A result of this “negation of Restoration” is a confirmation of the regime established by the original social revolution, power shifting to the moderate section of the revolutionary.

9. Inside the Restoration regime, the progressive humanistic minds prefer retirement, as they did during the corrupt era preceding the social revolution. They use the retirement to create their “grand poems”. However, in natural sciences we observe the beginning of the movement that is preparing the ground for later – much later – achievements in material production.

Robert Boyle (left) published his principal work "The Skeptical Chemist" in 1661, just as the period of Restoration began. Boyle is principally known today for "Boyle's Law", which established an relationship between volume and pressure of a gas. Robert Hooke (center) was a royalist since college. He is a multidimensional person, having studied and experimented with springs, mechanical joints, etc. He is best known today for his studies of the microscopic world, with the help of a microscope. His principal work, "Micrographia" was published in 1665, 5 years after the beginning of Restoration. Issac Newton (right) published his main work ("Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy") in 1687, 1 year before "the Glorious Revolution". He also constructed a new kind of telescope, one we use today. He studied the nature of light and planetary motions. Alas! he was not understood by his students at Cambridge.

10. Negation of Restoration opens the society to new social relations, initially established by the social revolution. In bourgeois revolutions, these new social relations mean the dominance of private property. These more progressive institutes lead to further revolution in material and intellectual production. The agricultural revolution means the use of scientific methods in agriculture, a theme still important today. Population increases. People obtain better education. Preconditions are created for an Industrial revolution, i.e. production with the help of machines.

The first drawing shows a thresher, already a kind of a primitive machine. The second painting is called Iron and Coal, 1855–60, by William Bell Scot. It tillustrates the central place of coal and iron working in the industrial revolution and the heavy engineering projects they made possible.

11. As society is freed politically and socially, a simultaneous liberation of human beings from the old morality takes place. People start expressing themselves more free in a sexual manner, for example by dropping off their clothes and practicing alternative sexual and human relationships.

12. Thus, a social revolution is a very long drawn-out process, stretching over centuries. It is much more than political revolutions and counter-revolutions. It is a breakdown of the old social system and simultaneous appearance of the new one. The process proceeds not in one direction, unilaterally, but back and forth, with opposite tendencies locked in struggle, producing a kind of “Brownian movement”, if viewed up close. However, if viewed from a sufficiently long distance, a social revolution is a slow movement forward, like that of a galaxy. The purpose of a social revolution is liberation of humanity from its internal shackles and simultaneous development of pre-conditions for its material well-being. 


- end of essay on the English revolution -



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