Engels on anti-authoritarianism and revolution

“Why do the anti-authoritarians not confine themselves to crying out against political authority, the state? All Socialists are agreed that the political state, and with it political authority, will disappear as a result of the coming social revolution, that is, that public functions will lose their political character and will be transformed into the simple administrative functions of watching over the true interests of society. But the anti-authoritarians demand that the political state be abolished at one stroke, even before the social conditions that gave birth to it have been destroyed. They demand that the first act of the social revolution shall be the abolition of authority. Have these gentlemen ever seen a revolution? A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is the act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other part by means of rifles, bayonets and cannon — authoritarian means, if such there be at all; and if the victorious party does not want to have fought in vain, it must maintain this rule by means of the terror which its arms inspire in the reactionists. Would the Paris Commune have lasted a single day if it had not made use of this authority of the armed people against the bourgeois? Should we not, on the contrary, reproach it for not having used it freely enough?”

– Frederick Engels, “On Authority” (1872)

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One Response to Engels on anti-authoritarianism and revolution

  1. Wouldn’t it nice if we could just have an election and vote out the bourgeoisie? Wouldn’t it be nice if the capitalist rulers would simply agree to let workers take over? It sure would. But real life does not work that way. That’s why there are revolutions. We don’t get to vote on a better world, we make a better world (or at least try to make a better world). Funny thing is, the only rulers who have voluntarily relinquished power are the communist parties of the Soviet bloc. I haven’t seen any capitalists do so.

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