Cool, Calm, Scientific Revolutionaries In Spectacles

Tyranny Unmasked, Garet Garrett

In the naive American mind the word revolution had never grown up. The meaning of it had not changed since horse-and-buggy days, when Oliver Wendell Holmes said: “Revolutions are not made by men in spectacles.” It called up scenes from Carlyle and Victor Hugo, or it meant killing the Czar with a bomb, as he may have deserved for oppressing his people. Definitely, it meant the overthrow of government by force; and nothing like that would happen. We had passed a law against it.

Well, certainly nothing like that was going to happen here. That it probably could not happen, and that everybody was sure it couldn’t made everything easier for what did happen.

Revolution in the modern case is no longer an uncouth business. The ancient demagogic art, like every other art, has, as we say, advanced. It has become in fact a science—the science of political dynamics. and your scientific revolutionary in spectacles regards force in a cold, impartial manner. It may or may not be necessary. If not, so much the better; to employ it wantonly, or for the love of it, when it is not necessary is vulgar, unintelligent, wasteful. Destruction is not the aim. The more you destroy the less there is to take over. Always the single end in view is a transfer of power.

Outside of the Communist party and its aura of radical intellectuals few Americans seemed to know that revolution had become a department of knowledge, with a philosophy and a doctorate of its own, a language, a great body of experimental data, schools of method, textbooks, and manuals—and this was revolution regarded not as an act of heroic redress in a particular situation, but revolution as a means to power in the abstract case.


Source: Garet Garrett. The People’s Pottage, 1953, p. 10-11. Later republished (1993) as Burden of Empire: America’s Road from Self-Rule to Servitude. Garet Garret was born in 1878 in Pana, Illinois. An accomplished journalist and financial expert by his thirties, he was a member of the editorial board of the New York Times, executive editor of the New York Tribune, and chief editorial writer for the Saturday Evening Post.

Tyranny Unmasked is compiled and edited (with occasional commentary) by The Moral Liberal, Editor In Chief, Steve Farrell.

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