Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Auden #19, Πολιτικά #2

De Tocqueville stands out as one of the noblest examples of an attitude which may be called the Counter-Revolution. This must not be confused with Reaction, which refuses to recognize the just element in the Revolution and wishes to regard it as a simple rebellion. The Counter-Revolutionary has no wish to return to the condition which preceded the outbreak of revolution; he wishes rather to save the revolution from failure through the inevitable over-emphasis and over simplification of the revolutionary party.

The central issue of the world revolution at present in progress is the right of every human body to the food, light, housing, medical attention, and so forth necessary for health. Its symbols are the naked anonymous baby and the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The body knows nothing of freedom, only of necessities, and these are the same for all bodies. Hence the tendency of the revolutionary party in concentrating on this one goal to deny all liberty and all minority rights. In so far as we are bodies, we are or ought to be revolutionaries; in so far, however, as we are also souls and minds, we are ought to be counter- revolutionaries, and in our struggle, the books of De Tocqueville belong, together with Thucydides, the Seventh Epistle of Plato, and the plays of Shakespeare, in the small group of the indispensable.

Review of The Recollections of Alexis de Tocqueville, in The Nation (April 8, 1950)