Albert Camus, in The Revolted Man, addresses the question of the difference between revolt and revolution.
For Albert Camus, the revolution aims to “transform the world” (from Marx, leads to conquer the totality of the world) while the revolt aims to “change the life” (from Rimbaud, leads to conquer the unity of the life). This dual position wanted to be reconciled by the surrealists.
The revolutionary wishes to change the organization of the society.
For the revolted, it is necessary to lean on humanistic values.
Moreover, the revolt is the first movement of the being when it is taken in the absurdity.
The first and the only evidence that is given to me, inside the absurd experience, is the revolt
This conception of revolt, as the first reaction to the world, is to be clearly distinguished from revolution, especially in the historical context.
This passage from the book of TheRevolted Man is enlightening on the difference between revolution and revolt:
In III. Historical Revolt:
In theory, the word revolution retains the meaning it has in astronomy. It is a movement that comes full circle, that passes from one government to another after a complete translation. A change of property regime without a corresponding change of government is not a revolution, but a reform. There is no economic revolution, whether its means are bloody or peaceful, that does not at the same time appear political. The revolution, by this, is already distinguished from the movement of revolt. The famous word: “No, sire, it is not a revolt, it is a revolution” emphasizes this essential difference. It means exactly “it is the certainty of a new government”. The movement of revolt, at the beginning, turns short. It is only a testimony without coherence. The revolution begins on the contrary from the idea. Precisely, it is the insertion of the idea in the historical experience while the revolt is only the movement that leads from the individual experience to the idea. While the history, even collective, of a revolt movement, is always that of a commitment without issue in the facts, of an obscure protest that does not engage neither systems nor reasons, a revolution is an attempt to model the act on an idea, to shape the world in a theoretical framework. This is why revolt kills men, whereas revolution destroys both men and principles
On the political level, it is also interesting to note that Albert Camus sees in the most recent revolutions a systematic reinforcement of the State. Under the title State terrorism and irrational terror, he explains thus:“All modern revolutions have resulted in a strengthening of the state. 1789 brings Napoleon, 1848 Napoleon III, 1917 Stalin, the Italian troubles of the 1920s Mussolini, the Weimar Republic Hitler.” (although he later acknowledges that the fascist revolutions of the 20th “do not deserve the title of revolution“.
While the ideals on which the revolutions were based were laudable, it was the increasing presence of the state that undermined those ideals.