Revolutions are paradigm shifts in which a radical transformation takes place in a cultural field or in a society in general. They often generate a confrontation because of the contradictions they overcome, but they also make progress more likely.

In this article you will find a selection of phrases of revolution that capture in words the ideas and the conception of the world associated with the revolutionary change of different stages of history, by the hand of important historical figures such as John F. Kennedy, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Lenin, Kemal Ataturk or Karl Marx, among others.

Phrases of Revolution and the Struggle for Progress

In the collection of phrases about the revolution that you will find in the following lines, no specific order has been established in accordance with any particular criterion. All of them can lead to a reflection on how the social and economic context transforms our way of thinking and vice versa.

1. Better to die fighting for freedom than to be a prisoner every day of your life. (Bob Marley)

One of Bob Marley’s most memorable phrases, referring to the necessity of insubordination and nonobedience in cases where there are injustices.

2. The revolution is not an apple that falls when it’s rotten. You have to make it fall. (Che Guevara)

Against the deterministic vision of revolutionary change: it won’t just happen unless people actively move to bring it about.

3. A revolution is an idea taken up by bayonets. (Napoleon Bonaparte)

Napoleon, against the idealistic idea that radical changes in society come about through the simple exchange of ideas.

4. Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. (John F. Kennedy)

The more a set of needs is oppressed and the more rights are prevented from being exercised, the more clearly violent revolutions are facilitated.

5. A revolution is not a bed of roses. A revolution is a struggle between the past and the future. (Fidel Castro)

Fidel Castro talks about the confrontations inherent in revolutions.

6. When the dictatorship is a fact, the revolution becomes a right. (Victor Hugo)

These radical changes can be understood as a rejection of an entire system that, although it is well established and can be considered “normal”, is unfair and harmful to the majority.

7. You can kill a revolutionary but you can never kill the revolution. (Fred Hampton)

Hampton distinguishes between individuals and contexts that drive revolutionary change.

8. It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees. (Emiliano Zapata)

A revolutionary phrase that has become a classic.

9. The greatest and most powerful revolutions often begin very quietly, hidden in the shadows. (Richelle Mead)

About the paradoxical nature of radical changes when they are in their initial stage.

10. A man’s first duty is to think for himself. (José Martí)

Not relying on the approval of others and looking beyond the limitations of one culture need not be a purely individualistic act; it can also end up benefiting everyone.

11. The only way to support a revolution is to make your own. (Abbie Hoffman)

Individual wills are also reflected in the revolutions.

12. You don’t change things by fighting the existing reality. You change something by building a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. (Buckminster Fuller)

Simply destroying doesn’t have to bring something new.

13. Sometimes you have to take a gun to put a gun down. (Malcolm X)

A reflection that characterizes the rejection of unconditional nonviolence by this Malcolm X.

14. Poverty is the father of revolution and crime. (Aristotle)

Poverty creates confrontation, according to the Greek philosopher.

15. The sin of silence when they should have protested makes men cowards. (Abraham Lincoln)

Irresponsibilities do not only come through action, they also come through non-action when it is time to act.

16. Any revolution seems impossible at the beginning and, after its occurrence, it was inevitable. (Bill Ayers)

These changes also affect our historical perspective.

17. Declining societies are of no use to visionaries. (Anaïs Nin)

An interesting aphorism about progress.

18. The end could justify the means as long as there is something to justify the end. (Leon Trotsky)

If the goal does not hold, there is no discussion about the sacrifices necessary to achieve it.

19. The revolution never goes backwards. (William Henry Steward)

Another interesting aphorism about change.

20. Revolution is not something fixed from an ideology, nor something from a particular decade. It is a perpetual process embedded in the human spirit. (Abbie Hoffman)

Hoffman sees revolution as something inherent in the historical development of societies .

21. There is no such thing as a non-violent revolution. (Malcolm X)

Another of Malcolm X’s phrases about the revolution.

22. The most heroic language in the world is revolution. (Eugene V. Debs)

About the tendency to transform by investing great efforts in it.

23. If you want to rebel, rebel from within the system. That’s much more powerful than rebelling from the outside. (Marie Lu)

An opinion regarding the classic inside-out distinction when talking about human organizational systems.

24. The revolution introduced me to art, and in turn, art introduced me to the revolution. (Albert Einstein)

A personal reflection by this brilliant scientist.

25. Every generation needs a new revolution. (Thomas Jefferson)

Every generation brings with it new ways of living and interpreting reality.

26. There is no end; the revolutions are infinite. (Yevgeny Zamyatin)

Another opinion in the line of those who see the revolutionary as a fact that is part of the essence of history.

27. You can’t buy the revolution. You can’t make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It’s either in your spirit or it’s nowhere. (Ursula K. Le Guin)

About the involvement needed to drive revolutionary processes.

28. Until victory always. (Ernesto Guevara)

One of the most well-known revolutionary cries, although based on a mistake, originally said “Until victory. Always, homeland or death.” Fidel Castro read it by changing the punctuation.

29. We have no right to think that freedom can be won without a fight. (Che Guevera)

Ideological errors can harm people.

30. We have in our power to start the world over again. (Thomas Paine)

About the ultimate goal of the revolutionaries.

31. There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen. (Vladimir Ilich Lenin)

An apparent paradox.

32. Every revolution was first a thought in a man’s mind. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

This is an idealistic vision of the revolution.

33. The seed of the revolution is repression. (Woodrow Wilson)

Contrary to what might be expected, oppression feeds disobedience.

34. You can’t make a revolution with kid gloves. (Joseph Stalin)

One of Stalin’s most memorable phrases.

35. Art is plagiarism or revolution. (Paul Gauguin)

A very radical dichotomy.

36. The revolution has always been in the hands of the young. The young always inherit the revolution. (Huey Newton)

A fundamental distinction by age strata, although very debatable.

37. It is not the insurrection of ignorance that is dangerous, but the revolt of intelligence. (James Russell Lowell)

The intellectual fields, sometimes, can act as a simple defence of the status quo and of what has always been done.

38. Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy. (Franz Kafka)

A pessimistic metaphor about revolutions.

39. While they fight separately, they are defeated together. (Tacitus)

About the need for collective organization.

40. A revolution is born as a social entity within the oppressive society. (Paulo Freire)

The revolution seen as a process of gestation.

41. Ask for a job. If you don’t get a job, ask for bread. If you are not given work or bread, take the bread. (Emma Goldman.)

Goldman questions the idea that the present social organization has to be defended just because it is.

42. Give me time and I’ll give you a revolution. (Alexander McQueen)

Another of the aphorisms that assimilate revolutions to the advance of history.

43. Revolutions begin with the word and end with the sword. (Jean Paul Marat)

A sequential view of revolutionary changes.

44. If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution. (Emma Goldman)

A personal reflection that has become a very common propaganda slogan especially in feminist circles .

45. Political power is simply the organized power of one class to oppress another. (Karl Marx)

Marx had a conception of social organization as different forms that class struggle takes.

46. Revolution means democracy in today’s world, not the enslavement of peoples to the corrupt and degrading horrors of totalitarianism. (Ronald Reagan)

Reagan was trying to portray revolutionary processes outside the United States as processes of social corruption that should be stopped.

47. It is impossible to predict the timing and progress of the revolution. It is governed by its own mysterious wars. (Vladimir Lenin)

Every revolution is unique.

48. The revolution is a dictatorship of the exploited against the exploiters. (Fidel Castro)

Castro questioned whether all dictatorships were the same.

49. You can imprison a revolutionary, but you cannot imprison the revolution. (Huey Newton)

It is not possible to isolate political change by isolating people.

50. Revolution is the festival of the oppressed. (Germaine Greer)

A place where those who have been subjugated have the opportunity to free themselves .

51. The revolution taking place in your head, no one will see it. (Gil ScottHeron)

If ideas are not externalized, there is no point in rebelling.

52. Rebellion against tyrants is obedience to God. (Thomas Jefferson)

A paradox based on religious thought.

53. The worst enemy of the revolution is the bourgeoisie that many revolutionaries carry within them. (Mao Tse Tung)

Mao talks about the contradictions within the revolutionaries.

54. We fight against misery but at the same time we fight against alienation. (Che Guevara)

A double struggle.

55. A revolution is impossible without a revolutionary situation; moreover, not every revolutionary situation leads to revolution. (Vladimir Lenin)

Before the revolution, certain situations need to occur.

56. Philosophers have confined themselves to interpreting the world in different ways; the point is to transform it. (Karl Marx)

The philosophy seen as a tool for change.

57. Without revolutionary theory, there can be no revolutionary movement. (Vladimir Ilyich Lenin)

The actions need a coherent way to see the problem and to propose other options .

58. You cannot make a revolution to establish democracy. You must have a democracy to have a revolution. (G. K. Chesterton)

According to this point of view, the revolution arises from a democratic process.

59. Revelation can be more dangerous than revolution. (Vladimir Nabokov)

There are changes of conception that precipitate change in themselves.

60. The French Revolution taught us the rights of man. (Thomas Sankara)

About a qualitative change in history.

61. Revolutions occur at dead ends. (Bertolt Brecht)

When there are no more options left, it breaks with the system.

62. A reform is a correction of abuses, a revolution is a transfer of power. (Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton)

About the qualitative change that comes with the revolution.

63. The truth is always revolutionary. (Vladimir Lenin)

A much-remembered aphorism.

64. Those who are inclined to compromise can never make a revolution. (Kemal Ataturk)

This is one of the phrases about the revolution that talks about blind obedience.

65. He who kneels before the accomplished fact is unable to face the future. (Trotsky)

Trotsky saw conformity with the present reality as a trap that leads us not to see the new coming.

66. Those who are not capable of defending old positions will never succeed in conquering the new ones. (Trotsky)

Progress seen as an accumulation of goals.

67. We cannot have a revolution that does not involve and free women. (John Lennon)

On the need to cover different areas of inequality.

68. There cannot be a total revolution but a permanent revolution. Like love, it is the fundamental joy of life. (Max Ernst)

New ways of further progress will be found each time.

69. Revolutions are not made by giblets, but are born by giblets. (Aristotle)

A spark can engender transformation.

70. To impute the revolution to men is to impute the tide to the waves. (Victor Hugo)

This phrase of revolution speaks of this change as something systemic linked not to the individual but to the collective.