You say you want a revolution


“Making revolution is not a crime!” This catchy turn of phrase is often attributed to Jian Qing, otherwise known as Madame Mao, otherwise known as one of the notorious Gang of Four – the group of former Chinese leaders who stood trial in 1980 for launching the devastating and discredited Cultural Revolution in China.

I’ve always found this quotation very unsettling. Not that it is always wrong; it is just that it is pretty clearly not always right. On the surface, these words seem like the perfect battle cry for the downtrodden to stand firm against oppression. But at a closer look, this philosophy comes with some bold assumptions. The statement would seem to allow any would-be revolutionary to operate without hindrance of any particular legal code – so long as their actions occur within the course of making revolution. But what is a revolution – and what is a crime? The quote appears to leave such things to the eye of the beholder.