Do communists turn conservative?
November 30, 2009 3:43 AM   Subscribe

"Anyone who was not a communist|socialist at 20 has missed half the point of life, and anyone who is still a communist|socialist at 40 has missed the other half." Who famously said this (or something very similar...)?

I've heard variations on this wording, but the basic concept was that your role in society is to be a revolutionary firebrand (or at least to try to get things changed|moving|cleaned up) when you're young, and when you're maturer you should have realised it's worth while trying to conserve what's worth keeping.

I believe it was put in this pithy format by some famous personality in the early C20th (like maybe Bertrand Russell or GB Shaw).

Has anybody got the original quote?
posted by aqsakal to Society & Culture (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
This quotation is frequently but mistakenly attributed to Churchill. It is anyway unlikely that Churchill would subscribe to this philosophy: He was a swashbuckling soldier at 20, and a Conservative member of Parliament at 25. A couple of years later he switched to the Liberal Party (which was not liberal in the modern sense), and later went back to the Conservatives.

The phrase originated with Francois Guisot (1787-1874): "Not to be a republican at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head." It was revived by French Premier Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929): "Not to be a socialist at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head."


From here, via here.

Confirmed by the Yale Book of Quotations.
posted by The Michael The at 3:54 AM on November 30, 2009


"Not to be a republican at 20 is proof of want of heart; to be one at 30 is proof of want of head. " - Fran├žois Guizot.
posted by jdfan at 3:55 AM on November 30, 2009


"Not to be a republican at 20 is proof of want of heart; to be one at 30 is proof of want of head" It's from Fran├žois Guizot, but it's been attributed to Churchill, Shaw, von Bismarck and others.
posted by mochapickle at 3:56 AM on November 30, 2009


The earliest version that mentions both socialism and the age of *40* that I can find is Aristide Briand: "The man who is not a socialist at twenty has no heart, but if he is still a socialist at forty he has no head."
posted by larkspur at 3:57 AM on November 30, 2009


Also, note that Guisot/Guizot's "republican" is in the French revolutionary sense, i.e. the French Republic vs. the monarchy, and has nothing to do with modern US politics. It should go without saying, but...
posted by The Michael The at 3:57 AM on November 30, 2009


More on it here.
posted by jon1270 at 3:58 AM on November 30, 2009


yeah, I had a co-worker once who said "if you're under 30 and a republican you have no heart, and if you're over 30 and a democrat you have no brain" ...so that's at least one modern variant
posted by pete_22 at 4:02 AM on November 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Wow! You guys rock. Many thanks for swift, detailed replies. I'm checking out all your links.
posted by aqsakal at 4:07 AM on November 30, 2009


Somewhat, indirectly and conversely, previously. I personally like the anarchist addition: "If by the time you're 60 you are not an anarchist, you have neither a heart nor a brain."
posted by webhund at 7:37 AM on November 30, 2009


I also like the Libertarian Corollary: If you're not a Libertarian at 18, GOOGLE RON PAUL.
posted by mkultra at 11:16 AM on November 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


On revisiting, special thanks to webhund: your link is full of fun, and I'm ashamed my MeFi research didn't find it. I agree that the anarchist addition really rounds it off.
posted by aqsakal at 1:19 PM on November 30, 2009


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