Grand Objectives and Grand Strategy

A Terrible Beauty Has Been Born

By Bob Avakian

Revolutionary Worker #1142, March 10, 2002, posted at

The RW is currently running this series of excerpts from an unpublished work by RCP Chairman Bob Avakian, "Great Objectives and Grand Strategy." Although written over a year ago, this work -- and these excerpts in particular -- contain much that is very relevant to the current crisis and war. This is the 16th excerpt.

In thinking about the experience of proletarian revolutions so far, we can draw once again from William Butler Yeats, this time from his poem "Easter 1916," commemorating the failed--that is, brutally suppressed--uprising in Ireland and its heroes. In particular, the following lines from that poem hold great relevance for the present situation: "All changed, changed utterly/A terrible beauty is born."

That, I believe, is what we've experienced with the first great wave of the proletarian revolution: a terrible beauty has been born. And that "terrible beauty" has different expressions. It was a beauty that was terrible to the ruling classes, in the same way that, in reference to the Paris Commune, and in particular the role of women in it, a bourgeois commented that, if France were a whole nation of women, what a terrible nation it would be! The first successful proletarian revolutions and their achievements, so beautiful to the class-conscious proletariat and other revolutionary masses, were terrible to the bourgeoisie and all reactionaries in that way. But this was also a "terrible beauty" in the sense that it was a beautiful new thing representing the future, but it was still marked by the vestiges and scars of the past and was still capable of being turned into its opposite.

All in all, with revolutionary sweep we can say that yes, indeed, a "terrible beauty" has been born, even if its life has temporarily been snuffed out. Our challenge now, with regard to this first great wave of proletarian-socialist revolutions and its defeat by the forces of reaction, is to sum it up correctly and in a sweeping way on the basis of dialectical materialism, and in this way boldly put forward our revolutionary optimism and imbue the masses with this.

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