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Revolution and Counter-Revolution

PART I:
THE REVOLUTION

Chapter VII: The Essence of the Revolution

LETTER A- A+

Having rapidly described the crisis of the Christian West, we will now analyze it.

1. The Revolution Par Excellence
As already stated, this critical process we have been considering is a revolution.

A. Meaning of the Word Revolution
By Revolution we mean a movement that aims to destroy a legitimate power or order and replace it with an illegitimate power or state of things. (We have purposely not said "order of things.")

B. Bloody and Unbloody Revolution
In this sense, strictly speaking, a revolution may be bloodless. The one we are considering developed and continues to develop by all kinds of means. Some of these are bloody, others are not. For instance, this century´s two world wars, from the standpoint of their deepest consequences, are chapters of it, and among the bloodiest. On the other hand, the increasingly socialist legislation in all or almost all countries today is a most important and bloodless progress of the Revolution.

C. The Amplitude of the Revolution
Although the Revolution has often overthrown legitimate authorities and replaced them with rulers lacking any title of legitimacy, it would be a mistake to think this is all there is to the Revolution. Its chief objective is not the destruction of certain rights of persons or families. It desires far more than that. It wants to destroy a whole legitimate order of things and replace it with an illegitimate situation. And "order of things" does not say it all. It is a vision of the universe and a way of being of man that the Revolution seeks to abolish with the intention of replacing them with radically contrary counterparts.

D. The Revolution Par Excellence
In this sense, one understands that this is not just a revolution; it is the Revolution.

E. The Destruction of the Order Par Excellence
Indeed, the order of things being destroyed is medieval Christendom. Now, medieval Christendom was not just any order, or merely one of many possible orders. It was the realization, in the circumstances inherent to the times and places, of the only authentic order among men, namely, Christian civilization.

In his encyclical Immortale Dei, Leo XIII described medieval Christendom in these terms:


There was a time when the philosophy of the Gospel governed the states. In that epoch, the influence of Christian wisdom and its divine virtue permeated the laws, institutions, and customs of the peoples, all categories and all relations of civil society. Then the religion instituted by Jesus Christ, solidly established in the degree of dignity due to it, flourished everywhere thanks to the favor of princes and the legitimate protection of magistrates. Then the Priesthood and the Empire were united in a happy concord and by the friendly interchange of good offices. So organized, civil society gave fruits superior to all expectations, whose memory subsists and will subsist, registered as it is in innumerable documents that no artifice of the adversaries can destroy or obscure.18


Having begun in the fifteenth century, the destruction of the disposition of men and things according to the doctrine of the Church, the teacher of Revelation and Natural Law, is almost complete today. This disposition of men and things is order par excellence. What is being implanted is the exact opposite of this. Therefore, it is the Revolution par excellence.

Indubitably, the present Revolution had precursors and prefigures. For example, Arius and Mohammed were prefigures of Luther. Also, in different epochs, utopians dreamed of days very much like those of the Revolution. Finally, on several occasions, peoples or groups tried to establish a state of things analogous to the chimeras of the Revolution.

But all these dreams and prefigures are little or nothing in comparison to the Revolution in whose process we live. By its radicality, by its universality, by its potency, the Revolution has penetrated so deep and is reaching so far that it stands unmatched in history. Many thoughtful souls are wondering if we have not in fact reached the times of the Anti-Christ. Indeed, to judge from the words of Pope John XXIII, it would seem they are not distant.

We tell you furthermore that in this terrible hour, when the spirit of evil seeks every means to destroy the kingdom of God, we must exert ourselves to the utmost to defend it, if you do not wish to see your city lying in immensely greater ruins than those left by the earthquake of fifty years ago. How much more difficult it would be then to raise up the souls, once they had been separated from the Church or enslaved to the false ideologies of our times!19

2. Revolution and Legitimacy

A. Legitimacy Par Excellence
In general, the concept of legitimacy is focused on only in the context of dynasties and governments. Though heeding the teachings of Leo XIII in the encyclical Au milieu des sollicitudes, one cannot ignore the question of dynastic or governmental legitimacy, for it is an extremely grave moral matter that upright consciences must consider with all attention.

However, the concept of legitimacy applies to other problems as well.

There is a higher legitimacy, characteristic of every order of things in which the Royalty of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the model and source of legitimacy for all royalties and earthly powers, is effectuated. To fight for legitimate rulers is an obligation, indeed a grave one. Yet it is necessary to see the legitimacy of those in authority not only as a good, excellent per se, but also as a means to an even higher good, namely, the legitimacy of the entire social order, of all human institutions and ambiences, which is achieved through the disposition of all things according to the doctrine of the Church.

B. Catholic Culture and Civilization
Therefore, the ideal of the Counter-Revolution is to restore and promote Catholic culture and civilization. This theme would not be sufficiently enunciated if it did not contain a definition of what we understand by Catholic culture and Catholic civilization. We realize that the terms civilization and culture are used in many different senses. Obviously, it is not our intention here to take a position on a question of terminology. We limit ourselves to using these words as relatively precise labels to indicate certain realities. We are more concerned with providing a sound idea of these realities than with debating terminology.

A soul in the state of grace possesses all virtues to a greater or lesser degree. Illuminated by faith, it has the elements to form the only true vision of the universe.

The fundamental element of Catholic culture is the vision of the universe elaborated according to the doctrine of the Church. This culture includes not only the learning, that is, the possession of the information needed for such an elaboration, but also the analysis and coordination of this information according to Catholic doctrine. This culture is not restricted to the theological, philosophical, or scientific field, but encompasses the breadth of human knowledge; it is reflected in the arts and implies the affirmation of values that permeate all aspects of life.

Catholic civilization is the structuring of all human relations, of all human institutions, and of the State itself according to the doctrine of the Church.

C. The Sacral Character of Catholic Civilization
It is implicit that such an order of things is fundamentally sacral, and entails the recognition of all the powers of the Holy Church, particularly those of the Supreme Pontiff: a direct power over spiritual things, and an indirect power over temporal things whenever they have to do with the salvation of souls.

Indeed, the purpose of society and of the State is virtuous life in common. Now, the virtues man is called to practice are the Christian virtues, and the first of these is the love of God. Society and the State have, then, a sacral purpose.20

Undoubtedly, it is the Church that possesses the proper means to promote the salvation of souls, but society and the State have instrumental means for the same end, that is, means which, set in motion by a higher agent, produce an effect superior to themselves.

D. Culture and Civilization Par Excellence
From the foregoing it is easy to infer that Catholic culture and civilization are the culture and civilization par excellence. It must be noted that they cannot exist save in Catholic peoples. Indeed, even though man may know the principles of Natural Law by his own reason, a people without the Magisterium of the Church cannot durably preserve the knowledge of all of them.21 For this reason, a people that does not profess the true religion cannot durably practice all the Commandments.22 Given these conditions, and since there can be no Christian order without the knowledge and observance of the Law of God, civilization and culture par excellence are only possible within the fold of the Holy Church. Indeed, as Saint Pius X stated, civilization

is all the more true, all the more lasting, all the more fecund in precious fruits, the more purely Christian it is; it is all the more decadent, to the great misfortune of society, the farther it withdraws from the Christian ideal. Thus, by the intrinsic nature of things, the Church becomes also in fact the guardian and protector of Christian Civilization.23

E. Illegitimacy Par Excellence
If this is what order and legitimacy are, one easily sees what the Revolution is, for it is the opposite of that order. It is disorder and illegitimacy par excellence.

3. Pride and Sensuality and the
Metaphysical Values of the Revolution

Two notions conceived as metaphysical values express well the spirit of the Revolution: absolute equality, complete liberty. And there are two passions that most serve it: pride and sensuality.

In referring to passions, we must explain in what sense we use the word in this work. For the sake of brevity, adhering to the usage of various authors on spiritual matters, whenever we speak of the passions as promoters of the Revolution, we are referring to disordered passions. And, in keeping with everyday language, we include among the disordered passions all impulses toward sin existing in man as a consequence of the triple concupiscence, namely, that of the flesh, the eyes, and the pride of life.24

A. Pride and Egalitarianism
The proud person, subject to another´s authority, hates first of all the particular yoke that weighs upon him.

In a second stage, the proud man hates all authority in general and all yokes, and, even more, the very principle of authority considered in the abstract.

Because he hates all authority, he also hates superiority of any kind. And in all this there is a true hatred for God.25

This hatred for any inequality has gone so far as to drive high-ranking persons to risk and even lose their positions just to avoid accepting the superiority of somebody else.

There is more. In a height of virulence, pride could lead a person to fight for anarchy and to refuse the supreme power were it offered to him. This is because the simple existence of that power implicitly attests to the principle of authority, to which every man as such? the proud included can be subject.

Pride, then, can lead to the most radical and complete egalitarianism.

This radical and metaphysical egalitarianism has various aspects.


a. Equality between men and God. Pantheism, immanentism, and all esoteric forms of religion aim to place God and men on an equal footing and to invest the latter with divine properties. An atheist is an egalitarian who, to avoid the absurdity of affirming that man is God, commits the absurdity of declaring that God does not exist. Secularism is a form of atheism and, therefore, of egalitarianism. It affirms that it is impossible to be certain of the existence of God and, consequently, that man should act in the temporal realm as if God did not exist; in other words, he should act like a person who has dethroned God.

b. Equality in the ecclesiastical realm: the suppression of a priesthood endowed with the power of Orders, magisterium, and government, or at least of a priesthood with hierarchical degrees.

c. Equality among the different religions. All religious discrimination is to be disdained because it violates the fundamental equality of men. Therefore, the different religions must receive a rigorously equal treatment. To claim that only one religion is true to the exclusion of the others amounts to affirming superiority, contradicting evangelical meekness, and acting impolitically, since it closes the hearts of men against it.

d. Equality in the political realm: the elimination or at least the lessening of the inequality between the rulers and the ruled. Power comes not from God but from the masses; they command and the government must obey. Monarchy and aristocracy are to be proscribed as intrinsically evil regimes because they are antiegalitarian. Only democracy is legitimate, just, and evangelical.26

e. Equality in the structure of society: the suppression of classes, especially those perpetuated by heredity, and the extirpation of all aristocratic influence upon the direction of society and upon the general tone of culture and customs. The natural hierarchy constituted by the superiority of intellectual over manual work will disappear through the overcoming of the distinction between them.

f. The abolition of the intermediate bodies between the individual and the State, as well as of the privileges inherent in every social body. No matter how much the Revolution hates the absolutism of kings, it hates intermediate bodies and the medieval organic monarchies even more. This is because monarchic absolutism tends to put all subjects, even those of the highest standing, at a level of reciprocal equality in a lower station that foreshadows the annihilation of the individual and the anonymity that have reached their apex in the great urban concentrations of socialist societies. Among the intermediate groups to be abolished, the family ranks first. Until it manages to wipe it out, the Revolution tries to lower it, mutilate it, and vilify it in every way.

g. Economic equality. No one owns anything; everything belongs to the collectivity. Private property is abolished along with each person´s right to the full fruits of his toil and to the choice of his profession.

h. Equality in the exterior aspects of existence. Variety easily leads to inequality of status. Therefore, variety in dress, housing, furniture, habits, and so on, is reduced as much as possible.

i. Equality of souls. Propaganda standardizes, so to speak, all souls, taking away their peculiarities and almost their own life. Even the psychological and attitudinaldifferences between the sexes tend to diminish as much as possible. Because of this, the people, essentially a great family of different but harmonious souls united by what is common to them, disappears. And the masses, with their great empty, collective, and enslaved soul, arise.27

j. Equality in all social relations: between grown-ups and youngsters, employers and employees, teachers and students, husband and wife, parents and children, etc.

k. Equality in the international order. The State is constituted by an independent people exercising full dominion over a territory. Sovereignty is, therefore, in public law, the image of property. Once we admit the idea of a people, whose characteristics distinguish it from other peoples, and the idea of sovereignty, we are perforce in the presence of inequalities: of capacity, virtue, number, and others. Once the idea of territory is admitted, we have quantitative and qualitative inequality among the various territorial spaces. This is why the Revolution, which is fundamentally egalitarian, dreams of merging all races, all peoples, and all states into a single race, people, and state.28

l. Equality among the different parts of the country. For the same reasons, and by analogous means, the Revolution tends to do away with any wholesome regionalism - whether political, cultural, or other - within countries today.

m. Egalitarianism and hatred for God. Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches29 that the diversity of creatures and their hierarchical gradation are good in themselves, for thus the perfections of the Creator shine more resplendently throughout creation. He says further that Providence instituted inequality among the angels30 as well as among men, both in the terrestrial Paradise and in this land of exile.31 For this reason, a universe of equal creatures would be a world in which the resemblance between creatures and the Creator would have been eliminated as much as possible. To hate in principle all inequality is, then, to place oneself metaphysically against the best elements of resemblance between the Creator and creation. It is to hate God.

n. The limits of inequality. Of course, one cannot conclude from this doctrinal explanation that inequality is always and necessarily a good.

All men are equal by nature and different only in their accidents. The rights they derive from the mere fact of being human are equal for all: the right to life, honor, sufficient living conditions (and therefore the right to work), property, the setting up of a family, and, above all, the knowledge and practice of the true religion. The inequalities that threaten these rights are contrary to the order of Providence. However, within these limits, the inequalities that arise from accidents such as virtue, talent, beauty, strength, family, tradition, and so forth, are just and according to the order of the universe.32

B. Sensuality and Liberalism
Along with the pride that breeds all egalitarianism, sensuality in the broader sense of the term is the cause of liberalism. It is in these sad depths that one finds the junction between these two metaphysical principles of the Revolution, namely, equality and liberty, which are mutually contradictory from so many points of view.

a. The hierarchy in the soul. God, Who imprinted a hierarchical mark on all visible and invisible creation, did the same on the human soul. The intelligence should guide the will, and the latter should govern the sensibility. As a consequence of Original Sin, a constant friction exists within man between the sensible appetites and the will guided by the reason: "I see another law in my members, which fights against the law of my mind."33

But the will, even though a sovereign reduced to governing subjects ever attempting to rebel, has the means to always prevail . . . provided it does not resist the grace of God.34

b. Egalitarianism in the soul. The revolutionary process aims to achieve a general leveling, but frequently it has been no more than a usurpation of the ruling function by those who ought to obey. Once this process is transposed to the relations among the powers of the soul, it leads to the lamentable tyranny of the unrestrained passions over a weak and ruined will and a darkened intelligence, and especially to the dominion of a raging sensuality over the sentiments of modesty and shame.

When the Revolution proclaims absolute liberty as a metaphysical principle, it does so only to justify the free course of the worst passions and the most pernicious errors.

c. Egalitarianism and liberalism. This inversion - right to think, feel, and do everything the unrestrained passions demand - is the essence of liberalism. This is clearly shown in the more exacerbated forms of the liberal doctrine. On analyzing them, one perceives that liberalism is not interested in freedom for what is good. It is solely interested in freedom for evil. When in power, it easily, and even joyfully, restricts the freedom of the good as much as possible. But in many ways, it protects, favors, and promotes freedom for evil. In this it shows itself to be opposed to Catholic civilization, which gives its full support and total freedom to what is good and restrains evil as much as possible.

Now, this freedom for evil is precisely freedom for man as long as he is "revolutionary" in his interior, that is, as long as he consents to the tyranny of the passions over his intelligence and will.

Thus liberalism and egalitarianism are fruits of the same tree.

Incidentally, pride, in breeding hatred against any kind of authority,35 induces a clearly liberal attitude. And, in this regard, it must be considered an active factor of liberalism. However, when the Revolution realized that liberty would result in inequality if men, being unequal in their aptitudes and their use of them, were left free, out of hatred for inequality it decided to sacrifice liberty. This gave rise to its socialist phase, which is but a stage in the process. The Revolution´s ultimate aim is to establish a state of things wherein complete liberty and complete equality would coexist.

Thus, historically, the socialist movement is a mere refinement of the liberal movement. What leads an authentic liberal to accept socialism is precisely that under it a thousand good or at least innocent things are tyrannically forbidden, while the methodical satisfaction (sometimes with a show of austerity) of the worst and most violent passions, such as envy, laziness, and lust, is favored. On the other hand, the liberal perceives that the broadening of authority in the socialist regime is no more than a means within the logic of the system for attaining the so intensely desired goal of final anarchy.

The clashes between certain naive or backward liberals and the socialists are, therefore, mere superficial incidents in the revolutionary process. They are harmless misunderstandings that disturb neither the profound logic of the Revolution nor its inexorable march in a direction that, when one sees things clearly, is simultaneously socialist and liberal.

d. The rock-and-roll generation. The revolutionary process in souls, as herein described, produced in the most recent generations, and especially in adolescents of our days who hypnotize themselves with rock and roll, a frame of mind characterized by the spontaneity of the primary reactions, without the control of the intelligence or the effective participation of the will, and by the predominance of fantasy and feelings over the methodical analysis of reality. All this is fruit, in large measure, of a pedagogy that virtually eliminates the role of logic and the true formation of the will.

e. Egalitarianism, liberalism, and anarchism. In accordance with the preceding items, the effervescence of the disordered passions arouses, on the one hand, hatred for any restraint and any law, and, on the other, hatred for any inequality. This effervescence thus leads to the utopian conception of Marxist anarchism, in which an evolved humanity, living in a society without classes or government, could enjoy perfect order and the most complete liberty, from which no inequality would arise. As can be seen, this ideal is simultaneously the most liberal and the most egalitarian imaginable.

Indeed, the anarchic utopia of Marxism is a state of things in which the human personality, having reached a high degree of progress, would be able to develop freely in a society with neither state nor government.

In this society - which would live in complete order despite not having a government - economic production would be organized and highly developed, and the distinction between intellectual and manual labor would be a thing of the past. A selective process, not yet determined, would place the direction of the economy in the hands of the most capable, without resulting in the formation of classes.

These would be the only and insignificant remnants of inequality. But, since this anarchic communist society is not the final term of history, it seems legitimate to suppose that these remnants would be abolished in a later evolution.


Introducing Historical Insight on the Contemporary Crisis

Revolution and Counter-Revolution
by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

Originally published as Revolução e Contra-Revolução, in Catolicismo, April 1959 (Parts I and II) and January 1977 (Part III)

First Digital Edition
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American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property is a registered name of The Foundation for a Christian Civilization, Inc.

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ISBN 1-877905-27-5
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