An open access publication of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences
Winter 2007

The Ultras of moral revolution

Translated by Elzbieta Matynia
Adam Michnik
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Adam Michnik is editor-in-chief of “Gazeta Wyborcza,” Poland's leading daily newspaper. He founded the paper in 1989 to support the independent trade union Solidarity during the first free elections in the history of the Communist bloc. Michnik has published numerous books, including “Letters from Prison and Other Essays” (1985), “The Church and the Left” (1993), and “Letters from Freedom: Post–Cold War Realities and Perspectives” (1998).

We need a moral revolution!1  

Do we really need one?

But of course! Replied an ultrarevolutionary, a Jacobin.

But of course! Replied an ultrareactionary, a partisan of the Counterrevolution.

Radicals, adherents of extreme solutions, Ultras of all the colors of the rainbow, have a need for revolutionary upheavals, because only upheavals that turn the world upside down allow them to fulfill their dream of a great cleansing.


The Jacobin, the revolutionary Ultra, says:

We need a moral revolution because we are surrounded by ‘souls of mud’– reactionaries, hidden royalists, petty individuals, one-day patriots–who are conspiring against our revolutionary government. We need a moral revolution because vice is spreading. Reactionary newspapers are sowing lies; so one has to force them into silence. Corruption is spreading; so we must look carefully at the rich. “I regard wealth,” said Robespierre, “not only as the price of crimes, but as a punishment for them; I want to be poor, so as not to be unfortunate.” France is surrounded by traitors– those poisonous insects sowing shamelessness, deceit, meanness. It is they who caused the collapse of a state and society functioning according to one system of values, discovered in 1789, with rules that allowed us to maintain a dignity and a brotherhood founded upon the need to do good. We need a moral revolution today, now that we have a chance to leave the crisis of nonmemory and the curse of a fresh start. We need a cleansing, a capacity to do good for the Revolution. It also means a recognition of one’s own errors–one’s fatal tolerance for ‘moderates,’ for the forgiving and the temperate. . . .

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  • 1For Professor Barbara Skarga, with a deep bow. This article was first published in Polish in Gazeta Wyborcza, April 15, 2005.