Paul Berman: “The Counterrevolution”

“We have lived through the age of modern revolution, and during these last months we have entered the age of counterrevolution, and this is true all over the world. The modern revolution got underway half a century ago and, for a long while, seemed hard to define. Its center was in the wealthier and democratic countries, but in those places, the revolutionaries indulged in an old and amusing tradition of insurrectionary behavior, originally identified by Karl Marx, which was to cloak themselves theatrically in the costumes of other times and places. The revolutionaries were, in reality, university students and other young people of the middle or later 1960s. But they presented themselves as members of the workers’ soviet in Petrograd in 1917, or perhaps as figures from a Chinese poster. Or they presented themselves as Algerian insurgents from the years after World War II, or as Cuban guerrillas of the 1950s. Perhaps they were hippies, in which case they were Apaches with headbands or yogis from India. And the costumes made it hard to see what they were doing.  And yet, together with their more soberly dressed allies, they were, in fact, bringing about the revolution—not the revolution of their crazy dreams, but something authentic, even so, and authentically up-to-date. It was the liberal revolution. … The liberal revolution lasted 50 years before the undercurrents of counterrevolution began to sweep it away.”