EVERY revolution in its moment of triumph creates a vacuum. When victory is attained the mass passions that won it begin to flatten out. After running an abnormally high temperature, the masses start running an abnormally low one. Under many disguises the counter-revolutionary desire for normal quiet, for a juste milieu, begins to appear. In this anticlimax the revolution reaches its end.
Such was the pattern of the French Revolution of 1789; and since then every full-fledged revolution was supposed necessarily to follow it. This year is the hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary of the Grande Révolution. A generation ago a jubilee article would have prophesied that any great future revolution would follow the accepted pattern. Meanwhile, however, the classical methods and course of revolution have changed. We see today that the new ones are as different from the old as our modern wars are different from those of Alexander or of Moltke.
The years 1789-1794 furnish the model of the primitive type of revolution. What happened then was merely a fragment of the modern revolution -- the dramatic, explosive, self-destructive stage inherent in all revolutions, primitive or modern. The three great revolutions of our day have been described over and over again. But too little thought has been given to the essential traits common to all three. The fact is that our age has had the doubtful honor of creating the type of full-grown revolution for the first time in history. These modern revolutions possess much longer breath. The energies of earlier revolutions were spent after the institutions, persons and symbols against which they had been invoked had been overturned and replaced. But the mass movements of today cut much deeper. Their programs are much more ambitious. And their prophets demand much longer periods -- longer than their own lifetimes -- to put them into effect.
Therefore after the first subjective and passionate stage there begins in modern revolutions an objective and bureaucratic stage. In fact, no word is more characteristic of contemporary
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