Daniel Bensaïd: “Revolutions: Great and Still and Silent”

‘According to Merleau-Ponty, revolutions are “true as movements” and “false as regimes.” According to Mannheim, the institutional order is never anything but the “baleful residue” of Utopian hope. For Badiou, Thermidor indicates the end of the event, as sudden and miraculous as its inrush, a “betrayal of fidelity” rather than a social and historical reaction. … From Marx to Trotsky, the paradoxical formula of “revolution in permanence” indicates the problematic knot between event and history, between rupture and continuity, between the moment of action and the duration of the process. … In fact everything depends on the way the concept of revolution is articulated with historicity. In a genetic perspective, “permanent revolution” may very well be merely the false nose of a secular faith in guaranteed progress. … But “permanent revolution” may also assume a meaning contrary to the mechanical stageism (illustrated in sinister fashion in the Stalinist scriptures by the dreary chronology of modes of production): a performative and strategic meaning. It thus expresses the hypothetical and conditional link between a revolution circumscribed within a determinate space-time, and its spatial (“world revolution”) and temporal (it “necessarily develops over decades”) extension. The revolutionary transformation of the world then assumes the dimension of a “continual internal struggle” of the constituent power against its Thermidorian petrifaction.’