Maxims for Revolutionaries

Posted in Uncategorized by @honestcharlie on April 19, 2011

It is noteworthy that most of these are still valid and apply. They are still ahead of their time (late 19th and early 20th Century).

Project Gutenberg‘s Maxims for Revolutionists, by George Bernard Shaw

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Title: Maxims for Revolutionists

Author: George Bernard Shaw


Produced by Russell Bell

Maxims for Revolutionists


George Bernard Shaw



Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their
tastes may not be the same.

Never resist temptation: prove all things: hold fast that which is good.

Do not love your neighbor as yourself. If you are on good terms with
yourself it is an impertinence: if on bad, an injury.

The golden rule is that there are no golden rules.


The art of government is the organization of idolatry.

The bureaucracy consists of functionaries; the aristocracy, of idols;
the democracy, of idolaters.

The populace cannot understand the bureaucracy: it can only worship the
national idols.

The savage bows down to idols of wood and stone: the civilized man to
idols of flesh and blood.

A limited monarchy is a device for combining the inertia of a wooden
idol with the credibility of a flesh and blood one.

When the wooden idol does not answer the peasant’s prayer, he beats it:
when the flesh and blood idol does not satisfy the civilized man, he
cuts its head off.

He who slays a king and he who dies for him are alike idolaters.


Kings are not born: they are made by artificial hallucination. When the
process is interrupted by adversity at a critical age, as in the case of
Charles II, the subject becomes sane and never completely recovers his

The Court is the servant’s hall of the sovereign.

Vulgarity in a king flatters the majority of the nation.

The flunkeyism propagated by the throne is the price we pay for its
political convenience.


If the lesser mind could measure the greater as a foot-rule can measure
a pyramid, there would be finality in universal suffrage. As it is, the
political problem remains unsolved.

Democracy substitutes election by the incompetent many for appointment
by the corrupt few.

Democratic republics can no more dispense with national idols than
monarchies with public functionaries.

Government presents only one problem: the discovery of a trustworthy
anthropometric method.


Excess of insularity makes a Briton an Imperialist.

Excess of local self-assertion makes a colonist an Imperialist.

A colonial Imperialist is one who raises colonial troops, equips a
colonial squadron, claims a Federal Parliament sending its measures to
the Throne instead of to the Colonial Office, and, being finally brought
by this means into insoluble conflict with the insular British
Imperialist, “cuts the painter” and breaks up the Empire.


He who confuses political liberty with freedom and political equality
with similarity has never thought for five minutes about either.

Nothing can be unconditional: consequently nothing can be free.

Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.

The duke inquires contemptuously whether his gamekeeper is the equal of
the Astronomer Royal; but he insists that they shall both be hanged
equally if they murder him.

The notion that the colonel need be a better man than the private is as
confused as the notion that the keystone need be stronger than the
coping stone.

Where equality is undisputed, so also is subordination.

Equality is fundamental in every department of social organization.

The relation of superior to inferior excludes good manners.


When a man teaches something he does not know to somebody else who has
no aptitude for it, and gives him a certificate of proficiency, the
latter has completed the education of a gentleman.

A fool’s brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition,
and art into pedantry. Hence University education.

The best brought-up children are those who have seen their parents as
they are. Hypocrisy is not the parent’s first duty.

The vilest abortionist is he who attempts to mould a child’s character.

At the University every great treatise is postponed until its author
attains impartial judgment and perfect knowledge. If a horse could wait
as long for its shoes and would pay for them in advance, our blacksmiths
would all be college dons.

He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.

A learned man is an idler who kills time with study. Beware of his
false knowledge: it is more dangerous than ignorance.

Activity is the only road to knowledge.

Every fool believes what his teachers tell him, and calls his credulity
science or morality as confidently as his father called it divine

No man fully capable of his own language ever masters another.

No man can be a pure specialist without being in the strict sense an

Do not give your children moral and religious instruction unless you are
quite sure they will not take it too seriously. Better be the mother of
Henri Quatre and Nell Gwynne than of Robespierre and Queen Mary Tudor.


Marriage is popular because it combines the maximum of temptation with
the maximum of opportunity.

Marriage is the only legal contract which abrogates as between the
parties all the laws that safeguard the particular relation to which it

The essential function of marriage is the continuance of the race, as
stated in the Book of Common Prayer.

The accidental function of marriage is the gratification of the
amoristic sentiment of mankind.

The artificial sterilization of marriage makes it possible for marriage
to fulfill its accidental function whilst neglecting its essential one.

The most revolutionary invention of the XIX century was the artificial
sterilization of marriage.

Any marriage system which condemns a majority of the population to
celibacy will be violently wrecked on the pretext that it outrages

Polygamy, when tried under modern democratic conditions, as by the
Mormons, is wrecked by the revolt of the mass of inferior men who are
condemned to celibacy by it; for the maternal instinct leads a woman to
prefer a tenth share in a first rate man to the exclusive possession of
a third rate one. Polyandry has not been tried under these conditions.

The minimum of national celibacy (ascertained by dividing the number of
males in the community by the number of females, and taking the quotient
as the number of wives or husbands permitted to each person) is secured
in England (where the quotient is 1) by the institution of monogamy.

The modern sentimental term for the national minimum of celibacy is

Marriage, or any other form of promiscuous amoristic monogamy, is fatal
to large States because it puts its ban on the deliberate breeding of
man as a political animal.


All scoundrelism is summed up in the phrase “Que Messieurs les Assassins

The man who has graduated from the flogging block at Eton to the bench
from which he sentences the garotter to be flogged is the same social
product as the garotter who has been kicked by his father and cuffed by
his mother until he has grown strong enough to throttle and rob the rich
citizen whose money he desires.

Imprisonment is as irrevocable as death.

Criminals do not die by the hands of the law. They die by the hands of
other men.

The assassin Czolgosz made President McKinley a hero by assassinating
him. The United States of America made Czolgosz a hero by the same

Assassination on the scaffold is the worst form of assassination,
because there it is invested with the approval of society.

It is the deed that teaches, not the name we give it. Murder and
capital punishment are not opposites that cancel one another, but
similars that breed their kind.

Crime is only the retail department of what, in wholesale, we call penal

When a man wants to murder a tiger he calls it sport: when the tiger
wants to murder him he calls it ferocity. The distinction between Crime
and Justice is no greater.

Whilst we have prisons it matters little which of us occupy the cells.

The most anxious man in a prison is the governor.

It is not necessary to replace a guillotined criminal: it is necessary
to replace a guillotined social system.


Titles distinguish the mediocre, embarrass the superior, and are
disgraced by the inferior.

Great men refuse titles because they are jealous of them.


There are no perfectly honorable men; but every true man has one main
point of honor and a few minor ones.

You cannot believe in honor until you have achieved it. Better keep
yourself clean and bright: you are the window through which you must see
the world.

Your word can never be as good as your bond, because your memory can
never be as trustworthy as your honor.


Property, said Proudhon, is theft. This is the only perfect truism that
has been uttered on the subject.


When domestic servants are treated as human beings it is not worth while
to keep them.

The relation of master and servant is advantageous only to masters who
do not scruple to abuse their authority, and to servants who do not
scruple to abuse their trust.

The perfect servant, when his master makes humane advances to him, feels
that his existence is threatened, and hastens to change his place.

Masters and servants are both tyrannical; but the masters are the more
dependent of the two.

A man enjoys what he uses, not what his servants use.

Man is the only animal which esteems itself rich in proportion to the
number and voracity of its parasites.

Ladies and gentlemen are permitted to have friends in the kennel, but
not in the kitchen.

Domestic servants, by making spoiled children of their masters, are
forced to intimidate them in order to be able to live with them.

In a slave state, the slaves rule: in Mayfair, the tradesman rules.


If you strike a child, take care that you strike it in anger, even at
the risk of maiming it for life. A blow in cold blood neither can nor
should be forgiven.

If you beat children for pleasure, avow your object frankly, and play
the game according to the rules, as a foxhunter does; and you will do
comparatively little harm. No foxhunter is such a cad as to pretend
that he hunts the fox to teach it not to steal chickens, or that he
suffers more acutely than the fox at the death. Remember that even in
childbeating there is the sportsman’s way and the cad’s way.


Beware of the man whose god is in the skies.

What a man believes may be ascertained, not from his creed, but from the
assumptions on which he habitually acts.


No specific virtue or vice in a man implies the existence of any other
specific virtue or vice in him, however closely the imagination may
associate them.

Virtue consists, not in abstaining from vice, but in not desiring it.

Self-denial is not a virtue: it is only the effect of prudence on

Obedience simulates subordination as fear of the police simulates

Disobedience, the rarest and most courageous of the virtues, is seldom
distinguished from neglect, the laziest and commonest of the vices.

Vice is waste of life. Poverty, obedience, and celibacy are the
canonical vices.

Economy is the art of making the most of life.

The love of economy is the root of all virtue.


The love of fairplay is a spectator’s virtue, not a principal’s.


Greatness is only one of the sensations of littleness.

In heaven an angel is nobody in particular.

Greatness is the secular name for Divinity: both mean simply what lies
beyond us.

If a great man could make us understand him, we should hang him.

We admit that when the divinity we worshipped made itself visible and
comprehensible we crucified it.

To a mathematician the eleventh means only a single unit: to the bushman
who cannot count further than his ten fingers it is an incalculable

The difference between the shallowest routineer and the deepest thinker
appears, to the latter, trifling; to the former, infinite.

In a stupid nation the man of genius becomes a god: everybody worships
him and nobody does his will.


Happiness and Beauty are by-products.

Folly is the direct pursuit of Happiness and Beauty.

Riches and Art are spurious receipts for the production of Happiness and

He who desires a lifetime of happiness with a beautiful woman desires to
enjoy the taste of wine by keeping his mouth always full of it.

The most intolerable pain is produced by prolonging the keenest

The man with toothache thinks everyone happy whose teeth are sound. The
poverty stricken man makes the same mistake about the rich man.

The more a man possesses over and above what he uses, the more careworn
he becomes.

The tyranny that forbids you to make the road with pick and shovel is
worse than that which prevents you from lolling along it in a carriage
and pair.

In an ugly and unhappy world the richest man can purchase nothing but
ugliness and unhappiness.

In his efforts to escape from ugliness and unhappiness the rich man
intensifies both. Every new yard of West End creates a new acre of East

The XIX century was the Age of Faith in Fine Art. The results are
before us.


The fatal reservation of the gentleman is that he sacrifices everything
to his honor except his gentility.

A gentleman of our days is one who has money enough to do what every
fool would do if he could afford it: that is, consume without producing.

The true diagnostic of modern gentility is parasitism.

No elaboration of physical or moral accomplishment can atone for the sin
of parasitism.

A modern gentleman is necessarily the enemy of his country. Even in war
he does not fight to defend it, but to prevent his power of preying on
it from passing to a foreigner. Such combatants are patriots in the
same sense as two dogs fighting for a bone are lovers of animals.

The North American Indian was a type of the sportsman warrior gentleman.
The Periclean Athenian was a type of the intellectually and artistically
cultivated gentleman. Both were political failures. The modern
gentleman, without the hardihood of the one or the culture of the other,
has the appetite of both put together. He will not succeed where they

He who believes in education, criminal law, and sport, needs only
property to make him a perfect modern gentleman.


Moderation is never applauded for its own sake.

A moderately honest man with a moderately faithful wife, moderate
drinkers both, in a moderately healthy house: that is the true middle
class unit.


The unconscious self is the real genius. Your breathing goes wrong the
moment your conscious self meddles with it.

Except during the nine months before he draws his first breath, no man
manages his affairs as well as a tree does.


The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one
persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all
progress depends on the unreasonable man.

The man who listens to Reason is lost: Reason enslaves all whose minds
are not strong enough to master her.


Decency is Indecency’s Conspiracy of Silence.


Men are wise in proportion, not to their experience, but to their
capacity for experience.

If we could learn from mere experience, the stones of London would be
wiser than its wisest men.


Those whom we called brutes had their revenge when Darwin shewed us that
they are our cousins.

The thieves had their revenge when Marx convicted the bourgeoisie of


Hell is paved with good intentions, not with bad ones.

All men mean well.


The Master of Arts, by proving that no man has any natural rights,
compels himself to take his own for granted.

The right to live is abused whenever it is not constantly challenged.


In my childhood I demurred to the description of a certain young lady as
“the pretty Miss So and So.” My aunt rebuked me by saying “Remember
always that the least plain sister is the family beauty.”

No age or condition is without its heroes. The least incapable general
in a nation is its Cæsar, the least imbecile statesman its Solon, the
least confused thinker its Socrates, the least commonplace poet its


Charity is the most mischievous sort of pruriency.

Those who minister to poverty and disease are accomplices in the two
worst of all the crimes.

He who gives money he has not earned is generous with other people’s

Every genuinely benevolent person loathes almsgiving and mendicity.


Life levels all men: death reveals the eminent.


Mutiny Acts are needed only by officers who command without authority.
Divine right needs no whip.


Home is the girl’s prison and the woman’s workhouse.


Civilization is a disease produced by the practice of building societies
with rotten material.

Those who admire modern civilization usually identify it with the steam
engine and the electric telegraph.

Those who understand the steam engine and the electric telegraph spend
their lives in trying to replace them with something better.

The imagination cannot conceive a viler criminal than he who should
build another London like the present one, nor a greater benefactor than
he who should destroy it.


The most popular method of distributing wealth is the method of the
roulette table.

The roulette table pays nobody except him that keeps it. Nevertheless a
passion for gaming is common, though a passion for keeping roulette
tables is unknown.

Gambling promises the poor what Property performs for the rich: that is
why the bishops dare not denounce it fundamentally.


Do not waste your time on Social Questions. What is the matter with the
poor is Poverty: what is the matter with the rich is Uselessness.


We are told that when Jehovah created the world he saw that it was good.
What would he say now?

The conversion of a savage to Christianity is the conversion of
Christianity to savagery.

No man dares say so much of what he thinks as to appear to himself an

Mens sana in corpore sano is a foolish saying. The sound body is a
product of the sound mind.

Decadence can find agents only when it wears the mask of progress.

In moments of progress the noble succeed, because things are going their
way: in moments of decadence the base succeed for the same reason: hence
the world is never without the exhilaration of contemporary success.

The reformer for whom the world is not good enough finds himself
shoulder to shoulder with him that is not good enough for the world.

Every man over forty is a scoundrel.

Youth, which is forgiven everything, forgives itself nothing: age, which
forgives itself everything, is forgiven nothing.

When we learn to sing that Britons never will be masters we shall make
an end of slavery.

Do not mistake your objection to defeat for an objection to fighting,
your objection to being a slave for an objection to slavery, your
objection to not being as rich as your neighbor for an objection to
poverty. The cowardly, the insubordinate, and the envious share your

Take care to get what you like or you will be forced to like what you
get. Where there is no ventilation fresh air is declared unwholesome.
Where there is no religion hypocrisy becomes good taste. Where there is
no knowledge ignorance calls itself science.

If the wicked flourish and the fittest survive, Nature must be the God
of rascals.

If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how
incapable must Man be of learning from experience!

Compassion is the fellow-feeling of the unsound.

Those who understand evil pardon it: those who resent it destroy it.

Acquired notions of propriety are stronger than natural instincts. It
is easier to recruit for monasteries and convents than to induce an Arab
woman to uncover her mouth in public, or a British officer to walk
through Bond Street in a golfing cap on an afternoon in May.

It is dangerous to be sincere unless you are also stupid.

The Chinese tame fowls by clipping their wings, and women by deforming
their feet. A petticoat round the ankles serves equally well.

Political Economy and Social Economy are amusing intellectual games; but
Vital Economy is the Philosopher Stone.

When a heretic wishes to avoid martyrdom he speaks of “Orthodoxy, True
and False” and demonstrates that the True is his heresy.

Beware of the man who does not return your blow: he neither forgives you
nor allows you to forgive yourself.

If you injure your neighbor, better not do it by halves.

Sentimentality is the error of supposing that quarter can be given or
taken in moral conflicts.

Two starving men cannot be twice as hungry as one; but two rascals can
be ten times as vicious as one.

Make your cross your crutch; but when you see another man do it, beware
of him.


Self-sacrifice enables us to sacrifice other people without blushing.

If you begin by sacrificing yourself to those you love, you will end by
hating those to whom you have sacrificed yourself.


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