When the topic of revolution comes up, the question of violence and its role in revolution always lingers in the background. When we think of revolutionaries, our minds are filled with images of Che Guevara, George Washington, Gandhi, and the like. While the aims of their respective revolutions differ greatly, every man or woman implicated in revolutionary activity has hopes of bringing into existence a better, more free society. Likewise, those individuals must ask themselves, in each circumstance, if violence is necessary to accomplish the goals of the revolution. Furthermore, does the end justify the means? Revolutionaries like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. felt that a peaceful revolution was the only one worth having; their means were an intrinsic part of the new society they wished to build. For them, adhering to the peaceful tenets of their religions was absolutely necessary in demonstrating how one was to conduct his or herself after their goals were accomplished. One couldn’t expect harmony to arise out of chaos.
King and Gandhi’s highly principled versions of revolution have their opposites in the revolutionary activities of people like Malcolm X and Che Guevara. Their aspirations were so important to them that they were willing to actualize their hope for a better society “by any means necessary,” as Malcolm X once put it. Violence was a necessary evil; the systems these revolutionaries and myriad others throughout history sought to destroy were so entrenched that the only way to replace them was by destroying everything and starting anew.
Where does Blake stand? If he supported both the American and French Revolutions, two considerably bloody conflicts that cost the lives of many a fellow Brit, we may safely assume that Blake had little problem with armed conflict if the ends justified the means. Blake also adhered to the apocalyptic millenian doctrine that supposed the earth to be already in a state of deterioration in preparation for the return of Christ. For him, this violence could have been seen as God’s work, hearkening back to the warrior God of the Old Testament. The New Jerusalem, it seems, can only come about through the crucible. Thoughts?