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Jack Houston’s Editorials in the OBU Bulletin: 13 December 1919

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Every revolution has character all its own, yet every revolution has points in common with all the rest. We are now taking about political revolutions. There are revolutions other than political revolutions. There are physical revolutions of matter about a centre; there are revolutions in dress, in fashions, in habits, in manners and customs; there are revolutions in science, in religion and philosophy. The world is not static; the world is dynamic, therefore, all experience is of a revolutionary nature.

But to get back to the point of departure, the political revolution. Most people are scared stiff at the mention of a political revolution. Yet there is no need for worry. Contrary to general ideas, revolutions are not made. Like Topsy, they just grow and the growth of a revolution is not visible, or perceptible. The person who thinks he is producing a revolution is a fool; is like the fly on the wheel that imagines that it is turning the wheel, because it does not understand the mechanical powers.

The student of the social sciences knows, in a general way, the mechanics of revolution, but he knows also that the social forces are so complex that no student is able to measure the rate or intensity of the social processes. He is usually as much surprised as any one when the social convulsion happens, and is utterly unable to predict the direction or the extent of the movement. Up till the outbreak of the war writers were still writing about the French revolution. It is not our present purpose to discuss past revolutions, to point out the similar features or their differences, but rather to refer shortly to the general trend and cause of revolutions, in other words, to describe their mechanics.

First, there is an industrial revolution. This is invariably caused by more efficient system of production displacing an inferior system. The cause is an improvement of technology of a people, through the discovery of new tools, processes or machines, thus making human labor more efficient and more productive for men, in making their living together. Then comes a long, long time when men are being habituated to the changes brought about in human relations by the new system of production. Slowly and gradually men come to apprehend the lack of social control built up and suited to a previous system of production and long looked upon as just and right, authentic and authoritative. These institutions are now perceived to be fetters of production.

Principles are merely habits of thought. Each method of production developed its typical principles or methods of viewing or apprehending phenomenon [sic]. The feudal system of production with the lord ever in evidence, regarded society as authoritative and its scaffolding of status as the will of God. Under the handicraft system of production, it was necessary that one should do as he liked with his own, so that production and the commerce that grew with handicraft production developed new principles, and with Pym, Hampden and Cromwell in the limelight, asserted the right to manage their own business by depriving Charles I of his head. For a long time after machine production had replaced handicraft production the principle (habits of thought) of handicraft production has prevailed but today in ever greater and greater numbers men with new principles are challenging those of the handicraft line. It is a clash of principles. As soon as these new principles become pervasive to such an extent that a large majority of people possess the machine culture, the revolution will take place. How and when no man knows.

The students of social science find only two alternatives. Such a people will perish through strife and struggle or will, through revolution, not necessarily through violence, alter their institutions to harmonize with the new culture, or principles or habits of thought. The men who stand in the way of revolution are always a menace to peace and order, and the onward progress of the human race.

Page revised: 28 July 2013

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