Joseph Conrad, who had seen a revolution or two, put it this way:
‘A violent revolution falls into the hands of narrow-minded fanatics and of tyrannical hypocrites at first. Afterwards comes the turn of all the pretentious intellectual failures of the time … The scrupulous and the just, the noble, humane and devoted natures, the unselfish and the intelligent may begin a movement—but it passes away from them. They are not the leaders of a revolution. They are its victims—the victims of disgust, disenchantment—often of remorse. Hopes grotesquely betrayed, ideals caricatured—that is the definition of revolutionary success.’
Liberal democracy, for all of its enormous and inherent flaws, is not a thing to be discarded lightly. The only alternative so far, in modern society, is fascism—and I see lots of fascists at both ends of the political spectrum, lots of would-be commissars and commandants, who would be happy to step into the vacuum. We’ve been here before, between the world wars. Economic crisis, political stalemate: despair at liberal democracy is exactly what they brought on, and fascism, too often, was precisely the result. The hazy dream, the purifying fire: not these again, not these.