Because every revolution, movement, or uprising needs its manifesto, many figures outlined their visions in artistic or political texts. These radical movements caused a stir, others a howl, and eventually became nothing but fading sounds. Here are ten incendiary manifestos whose revolutionary claims never actually came into being.
10 The Revolutionary Catechism
The most radical document of its age, The Revolutionary Catechism was crafted by Russian anarchist and nihilist Sergey Nechayev in 1869. One member of Nechayev’s group of radicals once described him as a
real revolutionist, a peasant who had preserved all the serf’s hatred against his masters.
The manifesto, co-written with Mikhail Bakunin, reveals Nechayev’s radical politics, demanding the total destruction of the Tsarist regime, the old autocratic hierarchy, and, extensively, of the whole society at large.
The text portrays the revolutionary man as a defector from society, with the only goal of bringing about revolution at any cost. In his obsessive pursuit of total demolition, he must not have “any sympathy for this world” and “must hate everyone and everything in it with an equal hatred”, except, of course, for those as fanatically rampant as himself.
Although Nechayev was convicted for the murder of a student and ended up as the Tsar’s special prisoner, he continued his political career until his death in 1882. While the demands of the revolutionary program never materialized, they provided the inspiration for Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s political novel Demons published in 1872, which depicts the political chaos of the 19th century Russia.
9 THE QUEER NATION MANIFESTO
Queer Nation is an LGBT organization founded in March 1990 in New York by HIV/AIDS activists. One of its accomplishments was reclaiming the term queer which has come to define many things. Queer also sneaked from the streets into the academia and mopped the floor with identity politics and the “normal” – or at least tried to.
In June 1990, inflammatory leaflets which embodied the radical political stance of the Queer Nation were being distributed at the New York Pride March. In an angry, in-your-face tone, the manifesto pinpoints the revolution that queers are about to bring:
How can I tell you. How can I convince you, brother, sister that your life is in danger: that everyday you wake up alive, relatively happy, and a functioning human being, you are committing a rebellious act. You as an alive and functioning queer are a revolutionary.
Throughout the anonymous queer confessions, the “I hate straights” line is almost everywhere. In its plea against straight conduct, the text indicates that the “main diving line” between queers and straights is “procreation … and that magic word – Family”. In terms of child rearing, the queer community feels “punished, insulted, cut off, both damned if we try and damned if we abstain”. And here’s one other thing they have to say about reproduction:
It’s as if the propagation of the species is such a fragile directive that without enforcing it as if it were an agenda, humankind would melt back into the primeval ooze.
Could then queer be the perfect antidote for overpopulation?
8 RIOT GRRRL MANIFESTO
The in-your-face politics that queers adopted extend to the Riot Grrrl Movement, which demanded “riots, not diets”. Riot Grrrl is an underground feminist hardcore punk movement that started in the 1990s by Bikini Kill lead singer Kathleen Hanna. In her youth, she had to work as a stripper in order to pay for her education, which led to her future feminist quests. Continue reading