March/April 2009
Volume 30, Number 2



Time to storm the barricades, fire up the printing press, and practice your speechmaking. In this edition of Who Said It?, politicians, philosophers, and writers opine about the perils of revolution. Comfortable shoes for the protest march highly recommended.


1. “A great revolution is never the fault of the people, but of the government.”


A. Jean-Jacques Rousseau
B. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
C. John Locke
D. Martin Heidegger


2. “A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.”


A. Winston Churchill
B. Joseph Stalin
C. Leon Trotsky
D. Mao Zedong


3. “Every revolutionary ends by becoming either an oppressor or a heretic.”


A. Jean-Paul Sartre
B. Theodor Adorno
C. Albert Camus
D. Jacques Derrida


4. “In every revolution there intrude, at the side of its true agents, men of a different stamp; some of them survivors of and devotees to past revolutions, without insight into the present movement, but preserving popular influence by their known honesty and courage, or by the sheer force of tradition; others mere brawlers, who, by dint of repeating year after year the same set of stereotyped declamations against the government of the day, have sneaked into the reputation of revolutionists of the first water. They are an unavoidable evil: with time they are shaken off.”


A. Vladimir Lenin
B. Karl Marx
C. Adolf Hitler
D. Oswald Mosley


5. “I have been ever of opinion that revolutions are not to be evaded.”


A. Benjamin Disraeli
B. Thomas Carlyle
C. Napoleon Bonaparte
D. John Stuart Mill


6. “For in a revolution, as in novel, the most difficult part to invent is the end.”


A. Joseph Conrad
B. Ernest Hemingway
C. Alexis de Tocqueville
D. Baron de Montesquieu


7. “No revolution can ever succeed as a factor of liberation unless the MEANS used to further it be identical in spirit and tendency with the PURPOSES to be achieved. Revolution is the negation of the existing, a violent protest against man’s inhumanity to man with all the thousand and one slaveries it involves. It is the destroyer of dominant values upon which a complex system of injustice, oppression, and wrong has been built up by ignorance and brutality. It is the herald of NEW VALUES, ushering in a transformation of the basic relations of man to man, and of man to society.”


A. Mikhail Bakunin
B. Maximilien Robespierre
C. Alexander Berkman
D. Emma Goldman


8. “In this Revolution no plans have been written for retreat. Those who will not get into step will find that the parade has passed them by.”


A. John F. Kennedy
B. Malcolm X
C. Martin Luther King Jr.
D. Robert Kennedy


9. “And generally it should be remembered that those who have secured power to the state, whether private citizens, or magistrates, or tribes, or any other part or section of the state, are apt to cause revolutions. For either envy of their greatness draws others into rebellion, or they themselves, in their pride of superiority are unwilling to remain on a level with others.”


A. Seneca
B. Aristotle
C. Socrates
D. Niccolò Machiavelli


10. “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.”


A. Joseph Conrad
B. Graham Green
C. Ian Fleming
D. Ernest Hemingway



1. B.—From Johann Peter Eckermann’s Conversations with Goethe (1836-1848). Eckermann met Johann Wolfgang von Goethe when the German literary giant was seventy-four. Over the next nine years, Eckermann served as archivist, editor, and friend, faithfully recording their conversations and creating an intimate account of Goethe’s views on other writers, art, politics, love, and more. Eckermann did for Goethe what Boswell did for Johnson.


2. D. From Mao Zedong’s “Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan” (1927). In the report, Mao predicted hundreds of millions of Chinese peasants would soon “rise like a tornado or a tempest” and overthrow the conservative Beijing government. Mao led the Communist revolution establishing the People’s Republic of China in 1949. The quote gained popularity in the West when Little Red Book, a collection of Mao’s writings, was translated in the 1970s.


3. C. From Albert Camus’s The Rebel (1951). In this work of philosophy, Camus analyzed the history and people behind rebellions and revolutions in Western Europe. According to Camus, feelings of injustice frequently provide the impetus for revolution. He also cautioned that a revolutionary government can become more tyrannical than the one it vanquished as it pursues its version of utopia. The book’s rejection of Communism upset many of his fellow writers, including Jean-Paul Sartre.


4. B. From Karl Marx’s The Civil War in France (1872). The speech, which chronicles the lessons of the Franco-Prussian War and celebrates the Paris Commune, the short-lived seizure of the French government by the working class in 1871, was published in multiple translations. Marx later acknowledged that the experiences of the Paris Commune showed that workers could not simply seize and use existing state machinery, a tactic he endorsed in The Communist Manifesto.


5. A. From Benjamin Disraeli’s Coningsby, or, The New Generation (1844). After Disraeli, novelist and young Tory on the rise, enthusiastically campaigned for the Conservative party in Britain, he was denied a seat in the Cabinet by Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel. Annoyed at the rebuff, Disraeli took his revenge in Coningsby, which flays Peel while advocating a more progressive brand of Conservatism. Disraeli went on to become prime minister.


6. C. From The Recollections of Alexis de Tocqueville (1893). Tocqueville kept a private journal about his experiences drafting a new constitution for the Second French Republic, following the February 1848 Revolution. Although famous for Democracy in America and his other writings, he never intended for his very personal account to be published during his lifetime. Four decades after his death, his wife and friend oversaw publication of the journal.


7. D. From Emma Goldman’s My Disillusionment with Russia (1923). As an anarchist, Goldman originally viewed the Russian Revolution as a positive development. After being deported from the United States. for her political activities, Goldman immigrated to Russia, where she discovered first hand that Lenin’s tyrannical government trampled free speech and the rights of workers. Goldman left Russia after two years and wrote about her experience for Joseph Pulitzer’s newspapers; the articles later became a book.


8. C. From Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Why We Can’t Wait (1964). In 1963, King put America on notice that the civil rights issue would not go away, starting with a two-month campaign in Birmingham, Alabama, in the spring and the March on Washington in August. Why We Can’t Wait offers King’s account of events in Birmingham, an overview of the history of the struggle for civil rights, and a blueprint for bringing about equality for African Americans.


9. B. From Aristotle’s Politics (Book V). In Book V of his masterpiece of political philosophy, Aristotle discusses constitutional change, revolutions, and the instability of tyrannies. He argues that democracies are toppled by revolution when popular leaders engage in wanton behavior, while oligarchies succumb to revolution when leaders treat the populace unfairly.


10. A. From Joseph Conrad’s Under Western Eyes (1911). The novel tells a tale of a student in St. Petersburg, Russia, who is faced with the dilemma of whether or not to turn over to the authorities a friend who has assassinated a government official. A deep strain of cynicism about revolutionary ideals pervades the book. Conrad is generally thought to have written the novel as a counterpoint to Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, which he loathed.

Published in: on June 12, 2009 at 7:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

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