The Snake That Bites its Own Tail

by Israel Centeno    /  June 4, 2012  / No comments

The true revolutionary vs. the revolutionary in power

Ouroboros

Image: AnonMoos, Creative Commons

The no-nonsense revolutionary considers himself to be the destroyer of order. A revolution, according to Trotsky, is a devastating and voracious idea. It doesn’t try to shift paradigms; it seeks to destroy them.

However, once in power, the revolutionary becomes something different: He is a conservative agent of the “newly imposed order.”

  1. Night Watch, a column by Israel Centeno
  2. From his lonely watch post Albert Camus asked who among us has not experienced exile yet still managed to preserve a spark of fire in their soul. “We’re all alone,” Natalia Sedova cried in exile on hearing of her husband Leon Trotsky’s affair with Frida Kahlo. In his novel Night Watch, Stephen Koch follows the incestuous love affair of David and Harriet, wealthy siblings watching the world from their solitary exile. Koch’s writing, Camus’s theories, and Trotsky’s affair all come back to exile and lead me to reflect on the human condition. From my own vantage point, my Night Watch, I will reflect on my questions of exile, writing, and the human condition.
  3. Israel Centeno
  4. Israel Centeno was born in 1958 in Caracas, Venezuela, and currently lives in Pittsburgh as a Writer-in-Residence with City of Asylum/Pittsburgh. He writes both novels and short stories, and also works as an editor and professor of literature. He has published nine books in Venezuela and three in Spain.

Revolutionary order is a contradiction that can only be resolved by way of totalitarian requisition.

Once the moment of inspiration has passed, the revolution embodies the leader, or the leader embodies it, much like God embodied his only-begotten son. Contrary to popular belief, revolution is not transcendent; it is contingent. It adopts the slogan of equality as its own and sacrifices its liberalism in order to establish a watchful and inquisitive theology.

This gives rise to the supreme revolutionary; other than him, no revolutionary can exist.

This incarnation of the revolution seeks to maintain the revolution, to eliminate, to fight, to devastate. It retains power and prevents everything that came before it from having any influence. All power is conservative. Consequently, the revolution becomes the subjective will of the leader, consubstantiated in the group; whoever leads it governs its permanence and perpetuity.

The leader requisitions everything in the name of the revolution. The revolution is the people, the party, the central committee, the politburo, the public assemblies, the cabinet: It is a combination of everything. The whole disappears right away and the leader, the only-begotten Son, remains.

Prosperity and comfort create individual well-being, and individual well-being is a bourgeois or petit-bourgeois deviation, to use a convenient label. These deviations establish the order that embodies the revolution and the power of the undisputed leader. As a result, perpetual sacrifice and penitent modesty are consecrated and presented as an offering to equality, where “some are more equal than others.”

Thinking differently is not revolutionary; it is “selfish” and reasserts individuality. Individuality creates diversity and egoism, putting the masses’ unquestionable empathy with their leader at risk. The only revolutionary egoism is the egoism of the revolution; the only individuality is the collective, as it is embodied by the undisputed leader of the process.

Revolution is insatiable. Incapable of feeling satisfaction or gratification, it always wants more, because Utopia is always just a stone’s throw away from reality.

To appear to be confronting a poor government when confronting a revolutionary government is neither a mistake nor naivety: It is part of the revolution. This is because revolutions are driven by the reaction to them; if there were no reaction, the revolution would create one by any means necessary. It cannot live without this polarising element.

Translation: Kelly V. Harrison

About the Author

Israel Centeno was born in 1958 in Caracas, Venezuela, and currently lives in Pittsburgh as a Writer-in-Residence with City of Asylum/Pittsburgh. He writes both novels and short stories, and also works as an editor and professor of literature. He has published nine books in Venezuela and three in Spain.

View all articles by Israel Centeno

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