There is none. Jean-François Revel, writing in Without Marx or Jesus:

Jean-François Revel

Jean-François Revel

When the state becomes no more than a device for preserving the state, then it matters little what its origins were.  It is, in any case, totalitarian, and therefore reactionary.  It is a mistake to think that Stalinism is a betrayal of Leninism.  Neither Lenin, if he had lived, nor Trotsky, if he had remained in power, would have acted any differently from Stalin.  All of their writings, all of their actions, and all of their speeches between 1917 and 1924, reflect the practice and the theory of a thoroughly Stalin-style dictatorship.  They began in January 1918 by dissolving, with the help of the army, the Constituent Assembly set up by elections – elections in which the Bolsheviks had received only one quarter of the votes.  From that moment, as Rosa Luxemburg has pointed out so well in The Russian Revolution, Lenin and Trotsky began from the principle that they knew the minds of the people better than did the people themselves.  As Lenin remarked at the Tenth Party Congress, held in March 1921, the Party “alone is capable of grouping, educating, and organizing the avant-garde of the proletariat and of all the working classes – that avant-garde being the only force able to offer opposition to the inevitable oscillations of the petit-bourgeoisie.”  And Trotsky, on the same occasion, added that “the Party is compelled to maintain the dictatorship, regardless of temporary wavering, and even regardless of the transitory hesitations of the working class”

Politics And Pipe Dreams

On April 22, 2010, in Culture, Politics, by marc

Jean-François Revel in 1999; Photo by Elsa Dorfman

Still working my way through the early chapters of Without Marx or Jesus, and I must say I found the following passage to be sort of charmingly obvious and yet instructive:

The function of politics is to react to real situations, and not to line up realistic situations, side by side and on a footing of equality, with pipe dreams.  If a waiter asks you to choose between spaghetti and potatoes, explaining that there is nothing else on the menu, there is no point in saying that you prefer caviar.  The question is, spaghetti or potatoes; and nothing else.  In politics as in the kitchen, one may dream of circumstances in which the fare offered would be more palatable; but to dream is not to act in accordance with a given reality.  To act is to make a decision in conformity with reality, and not according to nonexistent alternatives.  Reality, no doubt, is often only imperfectly satisfying; but, at a given moment, we must sometimes learn to accept and live with such imperfection.  Later, we may be able to evoke the vision of a different alternative; that is, we can convert a preferred alternative into a concrete choice.  But the prospect of a valid course of action for the future does not relieve us of the responsibility of making a choice with respect to reality as it exists at present.  If we are faced with two hypotheses both of which may be realized in practice, and if we refrain from comparing them to hypotheses which have no chance of being verified in the immediate future, we automatically limit ourselves to considering the respective advantages and disadvantages of the concrete solutions which really exist.  For, politically speaking, to make a decision because of, or in favor of, something which will never happen, is the same as making no decision at all.  IN other words, a realistic political solution always has concomitant disadvantages.  Therefore, if we reject every solution which has disadvantages, we are soon left with no solutions.

A bit wordy, perhaps, but a point well worth bearing in mind for those of us who engage in the dreadful world of politics.

Without Marx or Jesus by Jean-François Revel

Without Marx or Jesus by Jean-François Revel

In light of the fact that Jean-François Revel’s Last Exit to Utopia turned out to be the most fantastic political book I’ve read in a very long time, and the first book that I read cover-to-cover without interruption from another book since forever, I decided to see if I could pick up one of Revel’s earlier works to explore his thought a bit more.  Thanks to Amazon Marketplace, I now have a copy of  1970′s Without Marx or Jesus: The New American Revolution has Begun, in which Revel argued – very much against the current of the times – that the only nation in which true revolution could occur anymore was the United States.  I’m still waiting to figure out what he means by the title, but I do see that the anti-totalitarianism that marked Utopia is very much present in this earlier book.  A sample:

For the past fifty years, every road seems to have led to increased socialism.  Every road, that is, except the socialist road.  And the reason is obvious.  The purpose of the second world revolution is to create real equality among men, and to give men the political means to decide for themselves on the great matters affecting their destiny.  Therefore, the concentration of all power – political, economic, military, technological, judicial, constitutional, cultural, and informational – in the hands of an oligarchy, or even, in certain cases (Stalin, Tito, Castro), of an autocracy must be the method least likely to lead to such a revolution.  And, in fact, what happens under these oligarchies and autocracies is that the oligarchs and the autocrats become more and more entrenched in their positions of power, and the solutions that society expects from them are more and more rarely forthcoming.  For, unfortunately, the qualities necessary to acquire power (even heroically) and to exercise power (even ineffectively) are not the same as the qualities necessary to resolve the problems of modern society.  The result is that, as authority increases, competence decreases. And since no amount of criticism seems able to halt either the increase of the former or the decrease of the latter, society is becoming more and more dominated and less and less governed.  In such a predicament, the question of whether one social system is better or worse than another becomes a matter of purely academic interest.

It strikes me as I type that paragraph that the bolded section could be a commentary on the problems in the American political system in the 21st century.  We have politicians who are fantastic campaigners, skilled in the art of “retail politics,” but who lack the principles and the experience and the restraint that would allow them to become actual effective leaders.  Not to mention that the people often fail to recognize this fact, at least until it is far too late.  Hence – Barack Obama.