Revolutionary governments often keep the rhetoric, but most quickly drop the revolution.
Consider North Korea, which was created as a communist country dedicated to eradicating class differences. They have kept the ideological language of communism, but quickly morphed into a society defined by a rigid class structure with a ruling family that claims power with a logic more akin to the divine right of kings than as the vanguard of the proletariat. Instead of advancing towards a communist utopia they regressed to a government recognizable to feudal Europe.
Similarly, the Soviet Union preached a world wide class struggle and the destruction of nation states. But when threatened by Hitler, Stalin quickly set that aside and urged his people to fight for Mother Russia in the Great Patriotic War.
That’s understandable, because communism is built on lies and failed economics. But it’s not just communist governments that abandon their ideals to maintain power. At the turn of the Eighteenth Century, Haiti was embroiled in the first successful slave revolt in the modern world. The liberated slaves outlawed slavery and massacred their former masters. Then the leaders of the revolt, former slaves themselves, quickly reintroduced slavery under a different name.
The French Revolution’s ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity turned into the Great Terror and dictatorship in just a few years.
Time after time, revolutionary zeal was set aside in the name of preserving power. I don’t know about North Korea’s Kims, but I have no doubt the leaders of the Soviet, Haitian, and French revolutions truly believed in the ideals they fought for. Some were evil (communism) and some were noble (anti-slavery, liberty), but when push came to shove, power trumped them all.
So what does this say about our American Revolution?