“Under which King’ Besonian?”
“My God!” cried Gudrun. “But wouldn’t it be wonderful, if all England did suddenly go off like a display of fireworks.”
“It couldn’t,” said Ursula. “They are all too damp, the powder is damp in them.”
“I’m not so sure of that,” said Gerald.
“Nor I,” said Birkin. “When the English realy begin to go off, en masse, it’ll be time to shut your ears and run.”
“They never will,” said Ursula.
“We’ll see,” he replied.
—Women in Love
the word “revolution” is like a bell which makes some salivate approval or disapproval according to the conditioned response. After looking at the title of the last chapter of Out of Apathy some said: “Revolution: Apocalyptic, Marxist pipe-dream, opiate of the intellectuals, nostalgia for Chartism, utopian rhetoric, etc.” Others said: “Revolution? I go for that—down with the lot, Bomb, Establishment, mass media, Shell building and all—roll on the day!”
In the published discussion (as well as in readers’ letters and Club meetings) many interesting lines have been followed up. But for most readers it is clear that this concept suggests (at best) a very remote contingency, (at worst) an exercise in scholasticism. My suggestion that “in one sense, we are now constantly living on the edge of a revolutionary situation” was either shrugged or laughed off.
And yet this seems to me to be the crux of the argument. I don’t mean that we are living on the edge of a situation which will suddenly disclose itself in some dramatic manner so that everyone will recognise it to be revolutionary. Nor do I mean that we are bound to enter an early crisis which will only admit of a revolutionary solution—Hanson’s “Judgment Day” argument, while relevant to Grossman’s present position seems to me to be irrelevant to the theme of Out of Apathy. We might easily miss “our” revolution just as we missed it in 1945.
I accept Charles Taylor’s criticism that at the end of the essay I sketched in the possible consequences of a British withdrawal from NATO with such brevity that it gave rise to the notion of cataclysmic crisis in a new form. Yet I did not intend to suggest that if we succeed in disentangling Britain from NATO we will thereby trick the British people into an unforeseen situation with an inescapable revolutionary outcome. It is because the Cold War is the greatest effective cause of apathy, inhibiting or distorting all forms of social growth, and because NATO is the fulcrum of Western capitalist power, that the British people will be unable to extricate themselves from this context without developing a popular struggle which will at the same time generate pressures in a hundred other directions, and awaken the political consciousness of the nation.