Revolutionary Quotes

Bonanno, Alfredo M.

“Revolutionary organisations cannot grow quantitatively. If they do, that being in the logic of power, the difference between revolutionaries and reformists becomes no more than a question of semantics, something that power does not fear.” (Why A Vanguard? (Avanguardia, perche?) from Movimento e progetto rivoluzionaria, Edizioni Anarchismo, 1977)

Franklin, Benjamin

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” (Reply to the Governor, 1755)

“Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power.” (Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1738)

Gandhi, Mahatma

Gandhi at the Salt March“I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence. I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should, in a cowardly manner, become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonour. But I believe that nonviolence is infinitely superior to violence, forgiveness is more manly than punishment.”

“It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence.” (Non Violence in Peace and War)

“I have been repeating over and over again that he who cannot protect himself or his nearest and dearest or their honour by non-violently facing death may and ought to do so by violently dealing with the oppressor. He who can do neither of the two is a burden. He has no business to be the head of a family. He must either hide himself, or must rest content to live for ever in helplessness and be prepared to crawl like a worm at the bidding of a bully.” (The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi)

“Whilst I may not actually help anyone to retaliate, I must not let a coward seek shelter behind nonviolence so-called. Not knowing the stuff of which nonviolence is made, many have honestly believed that running away from danger every time was a virtue compared to offering resistance, especially when it was fraught with danger to one’s life. As a teacher of nonviolence I must, so far as it is possible for me, guard against such an unmanly belief.”

“Self-defense…is the only honourable course where there is unreadiness for self-immolation.”

“Though violence is not lawful, when it is offered in self-defense or for the defense of the defenseless, it is an act of bravery far better than cowardly submission. The latter befits neither man nor woman. Under violence, there are many stages and varieties of bravery. Every man must judge this for himself. No other person can or has the right.”

Goldman, Emma

“The political superstition is still holding sway over the hearts and minds of the masses, but the true lovers of liberty will have no more to do with it. Instead, they believe with Stirner that man has as much liberty as he is willing to take. Anarchism therefore stands for direct action, the open defiance of, and resistance to, all laws and restrictions, economic, social, and moral. But defiance and resistance are illegal. Therein lies the salvation of man. Everything illegal necessitates integrity, self-reliance and courage.” (Anarchism and Other Essays, 1910)

“If not for the direct action of a John Brown and his comrades, America would still trade in the flesh of the black man.” (Anarchism and Other Essays, 1910)

“Direct action against the authority in the shop, direct action against the authority of the law, direct action against the invasive, meddlesome authority of our moral code, is the logical, consistent method of Anarchism. Will it not lead to a revolution? Indeed, it will. No real social change has ever come without a revolution. People are either not familiar with their history, or they have not yet learned that revolution is but thought carried into action.” (Anarchism and Other Essays, 1910)

Grant, Ulysses S.

“The right of revolution is an inherent one. When people are oppressed by their government, it is a natural right they enjoy to relieve themselves of the oppression, if they are strong enough, either by withdrawal from it, or by overthrowing it and substituting a government more acceptable. But any people or part of a people who resort to this remedy, stake their lives, their property, and every claim for protection given by citizenship — on the issue. Victory, or the conditions imposed by the conqueror — must be the result.” (Personal Memoirs, 1885)

Jefferson, Thomas

“We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.”

“Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched.” (Resolutions, 1803)

“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others.”

“The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all.”

“What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?”

“When the government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.”

“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”

“Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add “within the limits of the law,” because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual.”

“The British ministry have so long hired their gazetteers to repeat and model into every form lies about our being in anarchy, that the world has at length believed them, the English nation has believed them, the ministers themselves have come to believe them, & what is more wonderful, we have believed them ourselves. Yet where does this anarchy exist? Where did it ever exist, except in the single instance of Massachusetts? And can history produce an instance of a rebellion so honourably conducted? I say nothing of it’s motives. They were founded in ignorance, not wickedness. God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, & always, well informed. The past which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive; if they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. We have had 13 states independent 11 years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century & a half for each state. What country before ever existed a century & half without a rebellion? & What country can preserve it’s liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is its natural manure. (Letter to William Stephens Smith on the Whiskey Rebellion. 13 November, 1787)

“Most bad government has grown out of too much government.”

“Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others?”

“If there is one principle more deeply rooted in the mind of every American, it is that we should have nothing to do with conquest.”

“Every citizen should be a soldier. This was the case with the Greeks and Romans, and must be that of every free state.”

Kropotkin, Peter

“Of all parties I now see only one party- The Anarchist- which respects human life, and loudly insists upon the abolition of capital punishment, prison torture and punishment of man by man altogether.” (The White Jesus)

Magón, Ricardo Flores

“I can also tell in whose hands I am. Do these hands tremble? There can be no doubt: these are the hands of a military officer. Is it a firm pulse? I say without vacillating: “these are the hands of a liberator.” (The Rifle. see in context here.)

Mandela, Nelson

“At the meeting I argued that the state had given us no alternative to violence. I said it was wrong and immoral to subject our people to armed attacks by the state without offering them some kind of alternative. I mentioned again that people on their own had taken up arms. Violence would begin whether we initiated it or not. Would it not be better to guide this violence ourselves, according to principles where we saved lives by attacking symbols of oppression, and not people? If we did not take the lead now, I said, we would soon be latecomers and followers to a movement we did not control.”

“I must deal immediately and at some length with the question of violence. Some of the things so far told to the Court are true and some are untrue. I do not, however, deny that I planned sabotage. I did not plan it in a spirit of recklessness, nor because I have any love of violence. I planned it as a result of a calm and sober assessment of the political situation that had arisen after many years of tyranny, exploitation, and oppression of my people by the Whites.”

Marx, Karl

“The whole proletariat must be armed at once with muskets, rifles, cannon and ammunition, and the revival of the old-style citizens’ militia, directed against the workers, must be opposed.”

“Under no pretext should arms and ammunition be surrendered; any attempt to disarm the workers must be frustrated, by force if necessary.”

“There are no circumstances imaginable, not even victory, under which the proletariat should give up its possession of arms.”

Nietzsche, Frederich

“State is the name of the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly it tells lies too; and this lie crawls out of its mouth: “I, the state, am the people.” That is a lie! It was creators who created peoples and hung a faith and a love over them: thus they served life.” (Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None)

Orwell, George

George Orwell with Rifle“During the first two months of the war it was the Anarchists more than anyone else who had saved the situation, and much later than this the Anarchist militia, in spite of their indiscipline, were notoriously the best fighters among the purely Spanish forces.”

“If I had understood the situation a bit better I should probably have joined the Anarchists.” (Collected Essays; Vol 1 page 289)

“When I joined the militia I had promised myself to kill one Fascist — after all, if each of us killed one they would soon be extinct.” (Homage to Catalonia, 1938)

Paine, Thomas

“The power which hath endeavoured to subdue us, is of all others, the most improper to defend us.” (Common Sense, 1776)

“These proceedings may at first seem strange and difficult, but like all other steps which we have already passed over, will in a little time become familiar and agreeable: and until an independence is declared, the Continent will feel itself like a man who continues putting off some unpleasant business from day to day, yet knows it must be done, hates to set about it, wishes it over, and is continually haunted with the thoughts of its necessity.” (Common Sense, 1776)

“Where is our redress? – No going to law with nations; cannon are the barristers of crowns; and the sword, not of justice, but of war, decides the suit.” (Common Sense, 1776)

“Let them call me rebel, I feel no concern from it.” (The American Crisis, 1776)

Rothbard, Murray

“The libertarian sees the State as a giant gang of organized criminals, who live off the theft called “taxation” and use the proceeds to kill, enslave, and generally push people around. Therefore, any property in the hands of the State is in the hands of thieves, and should be liberated as quickly as possible. Any person or group who liberates such property, who confiscates or appropriates it from the State, is performing a virtuous act and a signal service to the cause of liberty.” (Confiscation and the Homestead Principle, 1969)

Tacitus

“The more corrupt the state, the more laws.”

Thoreau, Henry David

Henry David Thoreau“I heartily accept the motto — “That government is best which governs least”; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe — “That government is best which governs not at all”; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.” (Civil Disobedience, 1849)

“It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right.” (Civil Disobedience, 1849)

“The objections which have been brought against a standing army, and they are many and weighty, and deserve to prevail, may also at last be brought against a standing government. The standing army is only an arm of the standing government. The government itself, which is only the mode which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it.” (Civil Disobedience, 1849)

“This American government — what is it but a tradition, though a recent one, endeavoring to transmit itself unimpaired to posterity, but each instant losing some of its integrity? It has not the vitality and force of a single living man; for a single man can bend it to his will.” (Civil Disobedience, 1849)

“Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice.” (Civil Disobedience, 1849)

“Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.” (Civil Disobedience, 1849)

“If a thousand men were not to pay their tax-bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood. This is, in fact, the definition of a peaceable revolution, if any such is possible.” (Civil Disobedience, 1849)

“Thus the State never intentionally confronts a man’s sense, intellectual or moral, but only his body, his senses. It is not armed with superior wit or honesty, but with superior physical strength. I was not born to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion.” (Civil Disobedience, 1849)

“I saw that the State was half-witted, that it was timid as a lone woman with her silver spoons, and that it did not know its friends from its foes, and I lost all my remaining respect for it, and pitied it.” (Civil Disobedience, 1849)

“If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go: perchance it will wear smooth — certainly the machine will wear out. If the injustice has a spring, or a pulley, or a rope, or a crank, exclusively for itself, then perhaps you may consider whether the remedy will not be worse than the evil; but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law.” (Civil Disobedience, 1849)

“All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable. But almost all say that such is not the case now. But such was the case, they think, in the Revolution Of ’75. If one were to tell me that this was a bad government because it taxed certain foreign commodities brought to its ports, it is most probable that I should not make an ado about it, for I can do without them. All machines have their friction; and possibly this does enough good to counterbalance the evil. At any rate, it is a great evil to make a stir about it. But wen the friction comes to have its machine, and oppression and robbery are organized, I say, let us not have such a machine any longer.” (Civil Disobedience, 1849)

“In other words, when a sixth of the population of a nation which has undertaken to be the refuge of liberty are slaves, and a whole country is unjustly overrun and conquered by a foreign army, and subjected to military law, I think that it is not too soon for honest men to rebel and revolutionize. What makes this duty the more urgent is the fact that the country so overrun is not our own, but ours is the invading army.” (Civil Disobedience, 1849)

Tolstoy, Leo

“Even if the absence of government really did mean anarchy in a negative, disorderly sense – which is from from being the case – even then, no anarchical disorder could be worse than the position to which government has led humanity.”

Tubman, Harriet

“I freed thousands of slaves. I could have freed thousands more, if they had known they were slaves.” (Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience)

Wilson, Robert Anton

“There is no governor anywhere. You are all absolutely free. There is no restraint that cannot be escaped. If anybody could go into dhyana at will, nobody could be controlled – by fear of prison, by fear of whips or electroshock, by fear of death, even. All existing society is based on keeping those fears alive, to control the masses. Ten people who know would be more dangerous than a million armed anarchists.”

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