No book captures so passionately the effervescent anxiety of revolutionary action better than Hari Kunzru, My Revolutions,* a book I just discovered by chance. Should be required reading for any student of revolution of any period. It is one of those books you have to put down now and then, simply to make the experience last longer.
Consider the passage below, which relates the thoughts of an underground group of young activists during the build-up to their most radical phase. It begins with a reproach against violence, and ends with … well, you’ll see.
Q: Your gesture is infantile. The revolution will be led by the working class. A terrorist is just a liberal with a bomb, arrogantly presuming to lead the way.
Rubbish. You’re covering up your cowardice with quotations. Change is imminent. It’s happening around the world. The slightest pressure will tip the balance in our favor.
One spark, a thousand fires burning.
We were so impatient. We wanted the time to be now. Of the core group, only Matthias and Helen remained seriously troubled by what we’d done. We were supposed to be protesting against war. Surely a peaceful gesture would have been better? I accused them of fetishizing nonviolence, telling them they’d just internalized the state’s distinction between legitimate protest and criminality. Leo and I were censured for our individualism, but the logic of confrontation did its work. By the end of the meeting, everyone was in agreement. We would go further.
*Hari Kunzru, My Revolutions (New York: Plume / Penguin, 2009), 173-74.