The State Is the Enemy: Part 4 of a Deep Dive into Jacques Ellul's "Autopsy of Revolution"
We like to think of "the left" as the enemy. But the left is not the real problem. They are more symptom, than cause. The real problem is the fact of the state and the reasons why it exists.
In part one of this series, we discussed how the first revolutions, as an outgrowth of revolt, were reactionary, in that they were a rejection of “history.” With the coming of Hegel and Marx in the aftermath of the French and American revolutions, a shift occurs. Both of these authors, argues Ellul, used the French revolution in particular as a window through which to understand history itself. In the process of revolution, they saw the unfolding, the generation of history. The principle features of Marxism were absorbed into understanding revolutionary theory. Two principle ideas emerge. One is the concept of the “objective situation” in which one must properly identify the objective, observable forces at play. Once identified, and they are in play, revolution becomes something that “must” happen. This lends the veneer of “science” to the whole project of studying revolution. Secondly, the revolutionary process is seen as largely automatic. Revolution is the product of “history.” Thus history becomes revolutionary.
“Thus, the aim of revolution was no longer to affect social or political change, but to establish the rule of history.”
No longer was revolution the process of institutionalizing the freedoms won in the revolt against the unbearable situation of history; rather, revolution becomes the means by which history unfolds towards its inevitable end. This is the Marxist soteriology, broadly speaking. Whether it is economic or cultural Marxism, the revolutionary actions are about moving history towards its utopian end. The force of history itself is salvific.
No longer could populist revolts be tolerated.
“For revolution to prevail, at this stage reason must rule. Irrationality must be barred, and therefore revolt, with its spontaneous and profoundly human character, must be put down.”
One only has to look to the hints of populist revolt that resulted in the election of Donald Trump. This offense against history had to be put down. Trump must be stopped, lest the populist energy which drove his political ascent gain real momentum and stop the movement of history itself, ending human progress. This is why there is such existential angst from the regime in regards to populism today. It carries with it the older energies of revolt, of the rejection of history. But because history has now taken on a soteriological importance, to stand athwart history and say “no more” is to reject the salvation of mankind. Thus anything which does not act in lock step with revolutionary history must be seen as counterrevolutionary and reactionary.
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