Prophetic Words from Herbert Hoover in 1934
Revolution in government is a hard term to define. Too often we use it colloquially for normal change. Any definition of revolution in democracies implies something more than the peaceful fruition of their philosophies and ideals matured by honest discussion and submitted to the ballot. It means some violent wrench in the whole philosophy of a people - a wrench from their ideas and ideals which sprang their institutions and their form of government. In many democratic states it has meant the imposition of a new philosophy, changed ideas and ideals without their open submission to the people, and often without the people recognizing its approach until is has become a reality. And not a few of these recent revolutions have been stimulated by ambitious men preying upon the suffering of humanity for personal power.
An analysis of these foreign revolutions away from democracy reveals different sequences and methods in different countries, but they have a common pattern varying only in degree of violence of action. Their mild form is the breaking down of the confidence in existing institutions by defamation, their violent form is overthrow of these institutions through seizure or suppression. They vary between the initial winning of elections through promises not intended of fulfillment, and the direct "postponement" or abolition of elections. They gently secure the amiable surrender of the independence of legislative bodies by the delegation of their powers for "emergency's sake" or else these bodies are harshly reorganized or adjourned. They encroach by evasion and subtle intimidation of judicial independence or they suppress the courts. In combating criticism their methods range between manipulation of the agencies of public information and the suppression of free speech and free press. These revolutions often enough continue old governmental forms for appearance's sake, but they all move forward to destruction of Liberty by the growth of disguised or open dictatorship.
None of the whole gamut of these new social ideas can be imposed without play upon fear or intimidation. They cannot be imposed nor can they be administered except through the harsh curbing of freedom, for some men always resist the reduction of their liberties.
Thus the scene of the tragedy of Liberty the world over must be suffering and discontent among the people. The drama moves swiftly in a torrent of words in which real purposes are disguised in portrayals of Utopia; idealism without realism; slogans, phrases and statements destructive to confidence in existing institutions; demands for violent action against slowly curable ills; unfair representation that sporadic wickedness is the system itself; searing prejudice against the former order; dismay and panic in the economic organization which feeds on its own despair. Emotions rise above reason. The man on horseback, ascending triumphantly to office on the steps of constitutional process, demands and threatens the parliament into the delegation of its sacred power. Then follows consolidation of authority through powerful propaganda in the pay of the state to transform the mentality of the people. Resentment of criticism, denunciation of all oppositions, moral terrorization, all follow in sequence. The last scene is the suppression of freedom. Liberty dies by the water from her own well - free speech - poisoned by untruth.
In the Epilogue the dreams of those who saw Utopia are shattered and the people find they are marching back toward the Middle Ages - as regimented men.
~ Herbert Hoover, The Challenge to Liberty (1934), pp. 14-17.