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Chapter August 4 and Its Consequences. Chapter The Feudal Rights Remain. Chapter Declaration of the Rights of Man. Chapter The Fifth and Sixth of October Chapter Delays in the Abolition of the Feudal Rights. Chapter Feudal Legislation in Chapter Arrest of the Revolution in Chapter The Legislative Assembly — Reaction in — Chapter The Twentieth of June Chapter The Interregnum — The Betrayals. Chapter The September Days. Chapter The Trial of the King. Chapter Attempts of the Girondins to Stop the Revolution.

Chapter Causes of the Rising on May Chapter The Insurrection of May 31 and June 2. Chapter The Lands Restored to the Communes. Chapter Final Abolition of the Feudal Rights. Chapter The National Estates. Chapter The Exhaustion of the Revolutionary Spirit. Chapter The Communist Movement. Chapter The End of the Communist Movement. Chapter The Suppression of the Sections. Chapter Struggle Against the Hebertists.

Chapter Fall of the Hebertists — Danton Executed. Chapter Robespierre and His Group. Chapter The Terror. Chapter The 9 th Thermidor — Triumph of Reaction. Chapter Conclusion. Its importance lies in two premises: the design of a revolutionary development that is different and more significant than that usually suggested by bourgeois historians, and the individuation of the first symptoms of the current of thought and action which, a century later, was to take the name of anarchism.

We are able to draw a series of observations of great relevance to our political work today from these two premises. It should not be forgotten that research on events of the past, and in particular on the French Revolution, is relevant in so far as it acts as a starting point from which to explore a number of revolutionary problems belonging to the present. The documentation is often incomplete, partly because he was unable to gain access to the French archives and had to work on the British Museum collection.

The most recent studies by Lefebvre, Mathiez, Soboul and others have examined the archives and repaired many of the oversights of the historians of the preceding generation. But this new generation, with the exception of Guerin and a few lesser-known writers, have made their interpretation according to strict Marxist observance — when they do not go so far as a Stalinist view with its unrestrained exaltation of Jacobinism. However, this is not the most important problem. Throughout, the interpretation is tied to popular action in the course of the revolutionary events. This action is seen as something continuous, nor as something that first saw the light with the beginning of the French Revolution.

There had already been symptoms of what was later to become the great tempest, in the riots and unorganised revolts. In fact it is possible to go back in time indefinitely from these revolts: in this way the whole of the history of mankind becomes the history of the struggle and rebellion against authority. Kropotkin lays great stress on the existence of both enlightenment ideas and popular action.

He tries to amalgamate these two components, considered predominant, with an analysis of the economic and social conditions at the beginning of the revolution. But, apart from the presence of certain ideas among the popular masses, what strikes us most today is the existence of a democratic, self-managed organisation of the base that worked very well until it was killed by bourgeois power.

As happened again later during the Russian Revolution, lack of collective maturity concerning objectives gave a free hand to the more prepared and more conscious minorities, following its initial strongly popular imprint. Reactionary historians have tried to underestimate the value of this attempt at direct democracy, but without success cf. Cochin, La Revolution et la libre pensee , Paris The same has been done, for other reasons, by the Marxist historians cf.

Soboul, La Rivoluzione francese. The state of the economy and social relations at the time the French Revolution broke out was such that the bourgeoisie were easily able to get the upper hand. They responded immediately with great class solidity when confronted with the egalitarian solicitations of the people, oppressing them in order to guarantee their own class freedom. The existence pf this party has been denied; the incredulous in good faith must now declare themselves convinced. I shall prove today: a that this party of anarchists has dominated and dominates almost all the deliberations of the Convention and the operations of the executive Council; and b that this party has been and still is the sole cause of all the evils, both internal and external, that are afflicting France.

Brissot starts off from the principle, so dear to the Stalinists of today, that with the people supreme after the killing of the king, they can no longer want revolution as they would be making a revolution against themselves. So those who support the need for its continuation are counter-revolutionaries for the same reason as they were revolutionaries yesterday.

It was Varlet who was to be the most coherent revolutionary theoretician of the time, capable of seeing the danger that opened up in the face of popular conquests: that of being instrumentalised by a military legislative and bureaucratic minority. In a series of pamphlets written under the imminence of events he illustrates the anarchist principal of the self-managed and libertarian popular revolution.

The most important is that published in , after Thermidor. The two pamphlets are identical in content. They are an anarchist classic in the true sense of the word.


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For every reason, government and revolution are incompatible, unless people do not want to build a durable basis of insurrectional power against themselves, which it would be absurd to believe. To reflect on this problem means, in essence, to ask oneself what is to be done, today, in the face of the responsibilities that await us? This is where we must now focus our attention. In P. In fact, all revolutionaries have studied this grandiose event in depth.

Bakunin was to return to it time and time again cf Kaminski, Bakounine , Paris Rocker has described the influence of the old Jacobins on Liebknecht cf. Rocker, Johann Most, Berlin, , page The passages of Marx and Engels on the subject are too well known to need quoting. Let us not overlook the ever-forgotten Stirner who makes an interesting distinction between Third Estate and mass in the French Revolution.

This constant interest has sparked off a debate between authoritarians and anti-authoritarians, just as Jacobins and anti-Jacobins Hebertistes, enrages, anarchists, etc. The disagreement is not merely theoretical, it is about the very essence of the revolutionary discourse. The origins of the authoritarianism of Marxism and Leninism can thus be traced to the Jacobin tendency in the French Revolution.

The interpretation of the Revolution as a mass event, but directed in a disciplined way by a minority of professional revolutionaries; organisation of the post-revolutionary State; the creation of new power structures; all that is typical of the authoritarians who exalt the Jacobins of , not realising that the interests followed were exactly those of the bourgeoisie.

The Marxists, for example, recognise the fact that the Jacobins were bourgeois and that their ideal was exactly that of the bourgeoisie, but they — especially Lenin — cannot avoid praising their methods because they were useful to the immediate aims of the revolution. Now, if the Jacobins were the bourgeois revolutionaries of , their methods cannot be neatly separated from their ideals.

Their ideal was to eliminate any attempt at emancipation by the masses and to conquer power through a restricted elite of technicians and bureaucrats. If revolutionaries of today are struggling for a proletarian revolution they certainly cannot embrace the bourgeois ideal, on this they are all agreed. Authoritarianism, under whatever form it presents itself, always remains a strictly bourgeois phenomenon. Once they develop in an authoritarian way with recourse to the terroristic methods of the old Jacobinism, even struggles in the name of the proletariat can do no other than rebuild a new dominant class, different to the old bourgeoisie in name, but identical in substance and intent.

The lessons that reach us from the Russian Revolution cannot be forgotten. Historical experience shows us precisely the contrary. In all the decisive moments of the French Revolution the true initiative of action arose directly from the people. It is in this creative activity of the masses that the whole secret of the revolution resides today. What happened in France in March is being repeated today in Russia. For the first time in history, the classical process of revolutionary involution prepared and brought about by authoritarianism can be seen clearly.

The other great example was to be the Russian Revolution.

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The Jacobins themselves were divided within their own organisation on this problem: whether to see the revolutionary capacity as springing from the base or to see it as something issuing from above. The revolution is always an event that emerges from a contrast: in the absence of contrast there would be no revolution, but the harmonious, idyllic development of a perfect society which would continually reconstitute itself differently, but always remain the same in its own perfection.

The main contrast is the economic one, a contrast which in the period of maximum development of capitalism assumes such macroscopic characteristics that lead some analysts to declare it to be the only one worth considering because it is able to condition the whole of reality.

In fact the revolution, although based on the economic contrast between exploited and exploiter, is too complex to be enclosed within a dogmatic formula. During its maturation it can be interpreted with the help of history and past experience, but only up to a point its realisation brings with it so many modifications, so many new aspects, so many explosions of creativity, that those assigned to the work do not always manage to understand it in its full importance. That is why the study of revolutions of the past, and in particular the French Revolution, is of great importance, even although it cannot be considered a methodological study aimed at finding the best revolutionary systems in order to use them as such.

Every event has its own historical dimension, presents itself in its own peculiar way, in other words, is unrepeatable. And revolutions do not escape this rule. For their part, Marx and Engels remained undecided between the one interpretation and the other concerning the meaning and value of the French Revolution.

In fact, the concept of dictatorship is something estranged from the masses in their spontaneous movement of revendication and struggle, and from the creative advances of a new social organisation. Dictatorship by whom? And over what? Certainly not by the mass and not over themselves! That would not make sense. The idea of dictatorship of the proletariat is of purely bourgeois origin, and has nothing to do with socialism.

Freie Arbeiterstimme , New York, 15 May In fact, and particularly in the Leninist elaboration which is far more clear on this point, the dictatorship of the proletariat becomes a dictatorship not exercised by the proletariat — which would happen in the contradiction mentioned above — but a dictatorship by the party in the name of the proletariat. One sees clearly here how the Jacobin and bourgeois idea of revolutionary organisation that must take power and manage it reappears. But power comes to be assumed, not over the old bosses, but also over the proletariat themselves and their spontaneous organisations of struggle, whenever the latter try to propose their autonomous and independent management.

Dictatorship in the name of the proletariat can become a dictatorship over the proletariat at any moment whatsoever. This is how concentration and forced labour camps are opened. It is the way socialism is transformed into a tragic farce. The sans-culottes discovered direct democracy spontaneously, having as a basis their clubs and area groups, something absolutely different to everything that had been theorised and realised before. The concept of spontaneity and creativity was born, even with all the limitations that made the easy victory of the authoritarian bourgeoisie possible.

This is why we say the Great Revolution was not only the cradle of bourgeois parliamentarian democracy but was also the cradle of proletarian direct democracy, even though the times and the level of cohesion and consciousness of the workers were not mature enough for those seeds to be fully brought to fruition. It is an alibi that does not hold. In fact this was done in order to kill the internal dynamism of the revolution, to deny any creative possibility to popular initiative and lay the foundation for the future centralised State.

The more one studies the French Revolution the clearer it is how incomplete is the history of that great epoch, how many gaps in it remain to be filled, how many points demand elucidation. How could it be otherwise? The Great Revolution, that set all Europe astir, that overthrew everything, and began the task of universal reconstruction in the course of a few years, was the working of cosmic forces dissolving and re-creating a world.

And if in the writings of the historians who deal with that period and especially of Michelet, we admire the immense work they have accomplished in disentangling and co-ordinating the innumerable facts of the various parallel movements that made up the Revolution, we realise at the same time the vastness of the work which still remains to be done. The investigations made during the past thirty years by the school of historical research represented by M. They have shed a flood of light upont the acts of the Revolution, on its political aspects, and on the struggles for supremacy that took place between the various parties.

But the study of the economic side of the Revolution is still before us, and this study, as M. Aulard rightly says, demands an entire lifetime. Yet without this study the history of the period remains incomplete and inmany points wholly incomprehensible. In fact, a long series of totally new problems presents itself to the historian as soon as he turns his attention to the economic side of the revolu-tiohary upheaval. It was with the intention of throwing some light upon these economic problems that I began in to make separate studies of the earliest revolutionary stirrings among the peasants; the peasant risings in ; the struggles for and against the feudal laws; the real causes of the movement of May 31, and so on.

Unfortunately I was not able to make any researches in the National Archives of France, and my studies have, therefore, been confined to the collections of printed matter in the British Museum, which are, however, in themselves exceedingly rich. Believing that it would not be easy for the reader to ap-preciate the bearing of separate studied of this kind without a general view of the whole development of the Revolution understood in the light of these studies, I soon found it necessary to write a more or less consecutive account of the chief events of the Revolution. This method of studying separatly the various parts of the work accomplished by the Revolution has necessarily its own drawbacks: it sometimes entails repetition.

All who know the history of the Revolution will understand how difficult it is to avoid errors in facts when one tries to trace the development of its impassioned struggles. I shall, therefore, be extremely grateful to those who will be good enough to point out any mistakes I may have made. And I wish to express here my sincerest gratitude to my friends, James Guillaume and Ernest Nys, who have had the kindness to read my manuscript and help me in this work with their knowledge and their criticisms.

Main causes of Great Revolution — Previous risings — Union of middle classes and people necessary — Importance of part played by people. Two great currents prepared and made the Great French Revolution.


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  4. One of them, the current of ideas, concerning the political reorganisation of States, came from the middle classes; the other, the current of action, came from the people, both peasants. And when these two currents met and joined in the endeavour to realise an aim. The eighteenth-century philosophers had long been sapping the foundations of the law-and-order societies of that period, wherein political power, as well as an immense share of the wealth belonged to the aristocracy and the clergy, whilst the mass of the people were nothing but beasts of burden to the ruling classes.

    By proclaiming the sovereignty of reason; by preaching trust in human nature — corrupted, they declared, by the institutions that had reduced man to servitude, but, nevertheless, certain to regain all its qualities when it had reconqured liberty — they had opened up new vistas to mankind. This alone, however, would not have sufficed to cause the outbreak of the Revolution. There was still the stage of passing from theory to action, from the conception of an ideal to putting it into practice.

    And the most important point in the study of the history of that period is to bring into relief the circumstances that made it possible for the French nation at a given moment to enter on the realisation of the ideal — to attempt this passage from theory to action. On the other hand, long before , France had already entered upon an insurrectionary period.

    The accession of Louis XVI. These lasted up to ; and then came a period of comparative quiet. But after , and still more after , the peasant insurrections broke out again with renewed vigour. Famine had been the chief source of the earlier disturbances, and the lack of bread always remained one of the principal causes of the risings.

    But it was chiefly disinclination on the part of the peasants to pay the feudal taxes which now spurred them to revolt. The outbreaks went on increasing in number up to , and in that year they became general in the east, north-east and south-east of France. In this way the disaggregation of the body social came about.

    A jacquerie is not, however, a revolution, even when it takes such terrible forms as did the rising of the Russian peasants in under the banner of Pougatchoff. A revolution is infinitely more than a series of insurrections in town and country.

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    It is more than a simple struggle between parties, however sanguinary; more than mere street-fighting, and much more than a mere change of government, such as was made in France in and A revolution is a swift overthrow, in a few years, of institutions which have takencenturies to root in the soil, and seem so fixed and immovable that even the most ardent reformers hardly dare to attack them in their writings.

    It is the fall, the crumbling away in a brief period, of all that up to that time composed the essence of social, religious, political and economic life in a nation. It means the subversion of acquired ideas and of accepted notions concerning each of the complex institutions and relations of the human herd.

    In short, it is the birth of completely new ideas concerning the manifold links in citizenship — conceptions which soon become realities, and then begin to spread among the neighbouring nations, convulsing the world and giving to the succeeding age its watchword, its problems, its science, its lines of economic, political and moral development.

    To arrive at a result of this importance, and for a movement to assume the proportions of a revolution, as happened in England between and , and in France between and , it is not enough that a movement of ideas, no matter how profound it may be, should manifest itself among the educated classes; it is not enough that disturbances, however many or great, should take place in the very heart of the people. The revolutionary action coming from the people must coincide with a movement of revolutionary thought coming from the educated classes.

    There must be a union of the two. That is why the French Revolution, like the English Revolution of the preceding century, happened at the moment when the middle classes, having drunk deep at the sources of current philosophy, became conscious of their rights, and conceived a new scheme of political organisation. Strong in their knowledge and eager for the task, they felt themselves quite capable of seizing the government by snatching it from a palace aristocracy which, by its incapacity, frivolity and debauchery, was bringing the kingdom to utter ruin. But the middle and educated classes could not have done anything alone, if, consequent on a complete chain of circumstances, the mass of the peasants had not also been stirred, and, by a series of constant insurrections lasting for four years, given tothe dissatisfied among the middle classes the possibility of combating both King and Court, of upsetting old institutions and changing the political constitution of the kingdom.

    The history of this double movement remains still to be written. The history of the great French Revolution has been told and re-told many times, from the point of view of as many different parties; but up to the present the historians have confined themselves to the political history, the history of the triumph of the middle classes over the Court party and the defenders of the institutions of the old monarchy.

    Thus we know very well the principles which dominated the Revolution and were translated into its legislative work. We have been enraptured by the great thoughts it flung to the world, thoughts which civilised countries tried to put into practice during the nineteenth century. The Parliamentary history of the Revolution, its wars, its policy and its diplomacy, has been studied and set forth in all its details. But the popular history of the Revolution remains still to be told.

    The part played by the people of the country places and towns in the Revolution has never been studied and narrated in its entirety. Of the two currents which made the Revolution, the current of thought is known; but the other, the current of popular action , has not even been sketched. Modern States — Influence of English and American Revolutions on French Revolution — Condition and aims of middle classes — Centralisation of authority — Attitude towards peasants — Influence of eighteenth-century philosophy. To understand fully the idea which inspired the middle classes in we must consider it in the light of its results — the modern States.

    The structure of the law-and-order States which we see in Europe at present was only outlined at the end of the eighteenth century. The system of centralised authority, now in full working order, had not then attained either the perfection or uniformity it possesses to-day. However, long before the Revolution had by its mutterings given warning of its approach, the French middle classes the Third Estate had already developed a conception of the political edifice which should be erected on the ruins of feudal royalty. It is highly probable that the English Revolution had helped the French middle class towards a comprehension of the part they would be called on to play in the government of society.

    And it is certain that the revolution in America stimulated the energies of the middle-class revolutionaries. That is why, long before the Revolution broke out, the idea of a State, centralised and well-ordered, governed by the classes holding property in lands or in factories, or by members of the learned professions, was already forecast and described in a great number of books and pamphlets from which the men of action during the Revolution afterwards drew their inspiration and their logical force. Thus it came to pass that the French middle classes in , at the moment of entering upon the revolutionary period, knew quite well what they wanted.

    They were certainly not republicans are they republicans even to-day? But they no longer wanted the King to have arbitrary powers, they refused to be ruled by the princes or by the Court, and they did not recognise the right of the nobility to seize on all the best places in the Government, though they were only capable of plundering the State as they had plundered their vast properties without adding anything to their value.

    The middle classes wereperhaps republican in sentiment, and desired republican simplicity of manners, as in the growing republic of America; but they desired, above all things, government by the propertied classes. They included to free thought without being Atheists, but they by no means disliked the Catholic form of religion. What they detested most was the Church, with its hierarchy and its bishops, who made common cause with the princes, and its priests who had become the obedient tools of the nobility.

    The middle classes of understood that the moment had arrived in France, as it had arrived one hundred and forty years before in England, when the Third Estate was to seize the power falling from the hands of royalty, and they knew what they meant to do with it. Their ideal was to give France a constitution modelled upon the English constitution, and to reduce the King to the part of a mere enregistering scribe, with sometimes the power of a casting-vote, but chiefly to act as the symbol of national unity.

    As to the real authority, that was to be vested in a Parliament, in which an educated middle class, which would represent the active and thinking part of the nation, should predominate. At the same time, their ideal was to abolish all the local powers which at that time constituted so many autonomous units the State.

    They meant to concentrate all governtental power in the hands of a central executive authority, strictly controlled by the Parliament, but also strictly obeyed in the State, and combining every department taxes, law courts, police, army, schools, civic control, general direction of commerce and industry — everything. By the side of this political concentration, they intended to proclaim complete freedom in commercial transactions, and at the same time to give free rein to industrial enterprise for the exploitation of all sort of natural wealth, as well as of the workers, who henceforth would be delivered up defenceless to any one who might employ them.

    All this was to be kept under the strict control of the State, which would favour the enrichment of the individual and the accumulation of large fortunes — two conditions to which greatimportance was necessarily attached by the middle classes, seeing that the States General itself had been convoked to ward off the financial ruin of the State. On economic matters, the men of action belonging to the Third Estate held ideas no less precise. The French middle classes had studied Turgot and Adam Smith, the creators of political economy.

    They knew that the theories of those writers had already been applied in England, and they envied their middle-class neighbours across the Channel their powerful economic organisation, just as they envied them their political power. They dreamed of an appropriation of the land by the middle classes, both upper and lower, and of the revenue they would draw from the soil, which had hitherto lain unproductive in the hands of the nobility and the clergy.

    In this they were supported by the lower middle class settled in the country, who had become a power in the villages, even before the Revolution increased their number. They foresaw the rapid development of trade and the production of merchandise on a large scale by the help of machinery; they looked forward to a foreign trade with distant lands, and the exportation of manufactured goods across the seas to markets that would be opened in the East, to huge enterprises and colossal fortunes.

    But before all this could be realised they knew the ties that the peasant to his village must be broken. It was necessary that he should be free to leave his hut, and even that he should be forced to leave it, so that he might be impelled towards the towns in search of work. Then, in changing masters, he would bring gold to trade, instead of paying to the landlords all sorts of rents, tithes and taxes, which certainly pressed very heavily upon him, but which after all were not very profitable for the masters.

    And finally, the finances of the State had to had put in order; taxation would be simplified, and, at the same time, a bigger revenue obtained. In short, what they wanted was what economists have called freedom of industry and commerce, but which really meant the relieving of industry from the harassing and repressive supervision of the State, and the giving to it full liberty to exploit the worker, who was still to be deprived of his freedom.

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    Therewere to be no guilds, no trade societies; neither trade wardens nor master craftsmen; nothing which might in any way check the exploitation of the wage-earner. There was no longer to be any State supervision which might hamper the manufacturer. There were to be no duties on home industries, no prohibitive laws. For all the transactions of the employers, there was to be complete freedom, and for the workers a strict prohibition against combinations of any sort.

    Laisser faire for the one; complete denial of the right to combine for the others. Such was the two-fold scheme devised by the middle classes. Therefore when the time came for its realisation, the middle classes, strengthened by their knowledge, the clearness of their views and their business habits, without hesitating over their scheme as a whole or at any detail of it, set to work to make it become law. And this they did with a consistent and intelligent energy quite impossible to the masses of the people, because by them no ideal had been planned and elaborated which could have been opposed to the scheme of the gentlemen of the Third Estate.

    It would certainly be unjust to say that the middle classes were actuated only by purely selfish motives. If that had been the case they would never have succeeded in their task. In great changes a certain amount of idealism is always necessary to success. The best representatives of the Third Estate had, indeed, drunk from that sublime fount, the eighteenth-century philosophy, which was the source of all the great ideas that have arisen since. The eminently scientific spirit of this philosophy; its profoundly moral character, moral even when it mocked at conventional morality; its trust in the intelligence, strength and greatness of the free man when he lives among his equals; its hatred of despotic institutions — were all accepted by the revolutionists of that time.

    Whence would they have drawn otherwise the powers of conviction and the devotion of which they gave such proofs in the struggle? It must also be owned that even among those who worked hardest to realise the programme enriching the middle classes, there were some who seriously believed that the enrichment of the individual would be thebest means of enriching the nation as a whole. Had not the best economists, with Adam Smith at their head, persuasively preached this view? But however lofty were the abstract ideas of liberty, equality and free progress that inspired the sincere men among the middle classes of — it is by their practical programme, by the application of their theories, that we must judge them.

    Into what deeds shall the abstract idea be translated in actual life? By that alone can we find its true measure. And we shall see presently what terrible struggles were evolved in when one of the revolutionary parties wished to go further than this programme. The people, too, had felt to a certain extent the influence of the current philosophy. By a thousand indirect channels the great principles of liberty and enfranchisement had filtered down to the villages and the suburbs of the large towns. Respect for royalty and aristocracy was passing away.

    Ideas of equality were penetrating to the very lowest ranks. Gleams of revolt flashed through many minds. The hope of an approaching change throbbed in the hearts of the humblest. The question whether the movement which preceded the Revolution, and the Revolution itself, contained any element of Socialism has been recently discussed. But it is impossible to read the works of the pre-Revolutionary writers without being struck by the fact that they are imbued with ideas which are the very essence of modern Socialism.

    Manufacturing production on a large scale was in its infancy, so that land was at that time the main form of capital and the chief instrument for exploiting human labour, while the factory was hardly developed at all. It was natural, therefore, that the thoughts of the philosophers, and later on the thoughts of the revolutionists, should turn towards communal possession of the land. While among the educated middle classes the ideas of emancipation had taken the form of a complete programme for political and economic organisation, these ideas were presented to the people only in the form of vague aspirations.

    Often they were mere negations. Those who addressed the people did not try to embody the concrete form in which their desiderata could be realised. It is even probable that they avoided being precise. It would only chill their revolutionary ardour. All they want is the strength to attack and to march to the assault of the old institutions. Later on we shall see what can be done for them.

    Are there not many Socialists and Anarchists who act still in the same way? In their hurry to push on to the day of revolt they treat as soporific theorising every attempt to throw some light on what ought to be the aim of the Revolution. It must be said, also, that the ignorance of the writers — city men and bookmen for the most part — counted for much in this. Thus, in the whole of that gathering of learned or experienced business men who composed the National Assembly — lawyers, journalists, tradesmen, and so forth — there were only two or three legal members who had studied the feudal laws, and we know there were among them but very few representatives of the peasants who were familiar by personal experience with the needs of village life.

    For these reasons the ideas of the masses were expressed chiefly by simple negations. Down with the tithes! Hang the aristocrats! Who were to be the heirs of the guillotined nobles? This want of clearness in the mind of the people as to what they should hope from the Revolution left its imprint on the whole movement. While the middle classes were marching with firm and decided steps towards the establishment of their political power in a State which they were trying to mould, according to their preconceived ideas, the people were hesitating.

    In the towns, especially, they did not seem to know how to turn to their own advantage the power they had conquered. And later, when ideas concerning agrarian laws and the equalising of incomes began to take definite form, they ran foul of a mass of property prejudices, with which even those sincerely devoted to the cause of the people were imbued.

    A similar conflict was evoked by the conceptions of the political organisation of the State. We see it chiefly in theantagonism which arose between the governmental prejudices of the democrats of that time and the ideas that dawned in the hearts of the people as to political decentralisation, and the prominent place which the people wished their municipalities to take both in the division of the large towns and in the village assemblies.

    This was the starting-point of the whole series of fierce contests which broke out in the Convention. Thence, too, arose the indefiniteness of the results obtained by the Revolution for the great mass of the people in all directions, except in the recovery of part of the land from the lords, lay and clerical, and the freeing of all land from the feudal taxes it formerly had to pay. First of all, the hatred felt by the poor for the whole of the idle, lazy, perverted aristocracy who ruled them, while black misery reigned in the villages and in the dark lanes of the great towns.

    Next, hatred towards the clergy, who by sympathy belonged more to the aristocracy than to the people who fed them. Hatred for the feudal system and its exactions, which kept the labourer in a state of servitude to the landowners long after personal serfdom had ceased to exist. Lastly, the despair of the peasant who in those years of scarcity saw land lying uncultivated in the hands of the lord, or serving merely as a pleasure-ground for the nobility while famine pressed hard on the villages.

    It was all this hatred, coming to a head after long years as the selfishness of the rich became more and more apparent in the course of the eighteenth century. And it was this need of land — this land hunger, the cry of the starving in revolt against the lord who refused them access to it — that awoke the spirit of revolt ever since Without those risings, without that disorganisation of authority in the provinces which resulted in never-ceasing jacqueries , shout that promptitude of the people of Paris and other towns in taking up arms, and in marching against the strongholds of royalty whenever an appeal to the people was made by the revolutionaries, the middle classes would certainly not have accomplished anything.

    Condition of people previous to — Wanton luxury of aristocrats — Poverty of majority of peasants — Rise and importance of well-to-do peasant class. It would be waste of time to describe here at any length the condition of the peasants in the country and of the poorer classes in the towns on the eve of All the historians who have written about the great French Revolution have devoted eloquent pages to this subject.

    The people groaned under the burden of taxes levied by the State, rents and contributions paid to the lord, tithes collected by the clergy, as well as under the forced labour exacted by all three. Entire populations were reduced to beggary and wandered on the roads to the number of five, ten or twenty thousand men, women and children in every province; in , one million one hundred thousand persons were officially declared to be beggars. In the villages famine had become chronic; its intervals were short, and it decimated entire provinces. Peasants were flocking in hundreds and thousands from their own neighbourhood, in the hope, soon undeceived, of finding better conditions elsewhere.

    At the same time, the number of the poor in the towns increased every year, and it was quite usual for food to run short. As the municipalities could not replenish the markets, bread riots, always followed by massacres, became a persistent feature in the everyday life of the kingdom. On the other hand might be seen the superfine aristocrat of the eighteenth century squandering immense fortunes — hundreds of thousands and millions of francs a year — in unbridled and absurd luxury.

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    To-day a Taine can go into raptures over the life they led because he knows it only from a distance, a hundred years away, and through books; but, in reality, they hid under their dancing-master manners roisterous dissipations and the crudest sensuality; they were without interest, without thought, without even the simplest human feeling.

    Consequently, boredom was always tapping at the doors of the rich, boredom at the Court of Versailles, boredom in their chateaux; and they tried in vain to evade it by the most futile and the most childish means. Those extremes of luxury and misery with which life abounded in the eighteenth century have been admirably depicted by every historian of the Great Revolution. But one feature remains to be added, the importance of which stands out especially when we study the condition of the peasants at this moment in Russia on the eve of the great Russian Revolution. The misery of the great mass of French peasants was undoubtedly frightful.

    It had increased by leaps end bounds, ever since the reign of Louis XIV. What helped to make the exactions of the nobility unendurable was that a great number of them, when ruined, hilling their poverty under a show of luxury, resorted in desperation to the extortion of even the least of those rents and payments in kind, which only custom had established. They treated the peasants, through the intermediary of their stewards, with the rigour of mere brokers.

    Impoverishment turned the nobility, in their relations with their ex-serfs, into middle-class money-grubbers, incapable, however, of finding any other source of revenue than the exploitation of ancient privileges, relics of the feudal age. But though the historians are right in depicting the condition of the peasants in very dark colours, it would be a mistake to impeach the Veracity of those who, like Tocqueville, mention some amelioration in the conditions of the country during those very years preceding the Revolution.

    The fact is, that a double phenomenon became apparent in the villages at that time: the impoverishment of the great mass of the peasants and the bettering of the condition of a few among them. This may be seen to-day in Russia since the abolition of serfdom. The great mass of the peasants grew poorer. Year after year their livelihood became more and more precarious: the least drought resulted in scarcity and famine. But a new class of peasant, a little better off and with ambitions, was forming at the same time, especially in districts where aristocratic estates were disintegrating rapidly.

    The village middle classes, the well-to-do peasants, came into being, and as the Revolution drew near these furnished the first speakers against feudal rights, and demanded their abolition. It was this class which, during the four or five years the Revolution lasted, most firmly insisted that these feudal rights should be abolished without compensation, and that the estates of the royalist nobles should be confiscated and sold in small parcels. It was this class too, which was most bitter, in , against les cidevants , the dispossessed nobles, the ex-landlords.

    Traces of this awakening are evident, for since the accession of Louis XVI. It may be said, therefore, that if despair and misery impelled the people to riot, it was the hope of obtaining some relief that incited them to revolt. Like every other revolution, that of was inspired by the hope of attaining certain important results. Reforms at beginning of reign of Louis XVI. As is usual in every new reign, that of Louis XVI.

    Two months after his accession Louis XVI. He even supported him at first against the violent opposition that Turgot, as an economist, a parsimonious middle-class man and an enemy of the effete aristocracy, was bound to meet with from the Court party.

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    Free trade in corn was proclaimed in September , [2] and statute labour was abolished in , as well as the old and corporations and guilds in the towns, which were no longer of use except to keep up a kind of industrial aristocracy, and by these measures hopes of reform were awakened among the people. The poor rejoiced to see the breaking down of the toll-gates, which had been put up all over France, and prevented the free circulation of corn, salt and other objects of prime necessity.

    For them it meant the first breach in the odious privileges of the landowners; while the peasants who were better off rejoiced to see the joint liability of the taxpayers abolished. With this end in view, Turgot had even prepared a scheme of provincial assemblies, to be followed later on by representative government for all France in which the propertied classes would have been called upon to constitute a parliament. Louis XVI.

    Necker, who understood very well the wishes of his master, and tried to bring his autocratic ideas into some accord with the requirements of finance, attempted to manoeuvre by proposing the introduction of provincial assemblies only and relegating the possibility of a national representation to the distant future. But he, too, was met by a formal refusal on the part of the King. Far from being the careless, inoffensive, good-natured person, interested only in hunting, that they wished to represent him, Louis XVI.

    The weapon used by Louis XVI. Only fear made him yield, and, using always the same weapons, deceit and hypocrisy, he resisted not only up to , but even up to the last moment, to the very foot of tile scaffold. At any rate, in , at a time when it was already evident to all minds of more or less perspicacity, as it was to Turgot and Necker, that the absolute power of the King had had its day, and that the hour had come for replacing it by some kind of national representation, Louis XVI. He convened the provincial assemblies of the provinces of Berri and Haute-Guienne and But in face of the opposition shown by the privileged classes, the plan of extending these assemblies to the other provinces was abandoned, and Necker was dismissed in The revolution in America had, meanwhile, helped also to awaken minds, and to inspire them with a breath of liberty and republican democracy.

    On July 4, , the English colonies in North America had proclaimed their independence,and the new United States were recognised by France in , which led to a war with England that lasted until There is, in fact, no doubt that the revolt of the English colonies and the constitution of the United States exercised a far-reaching influence in France, and helped powerfully in arousing the revolutionary spirit. We know, too, that the Declaration of Rights, drawn up by the young American States influenced the French Revolutionists profoundly, and was taken by them as a model for their declaration.

    But it is nevertheless certain that this war was also the beginning of those terrible wars which England soon waged against France, and the coalitions which she organised against the Republic. As soon as England recovered from her defeats and felt that France was weakened by internal struggles, she used every means, open and secret, to bring about the wars which we shall see waged relentlessly from till All these causes of the Great Revolution must be clearly indicated, for like every event of primordial importance, it was the result of many causes, converging at a given moment, and creating the men who in their turn contributed to strengthen the effect of those causes.

    But it must be understood that in spite of the events which prepared the Revolution, and in spite of all the intelligence and ambitions of the middle classes, those ever-prudent people would have gone on a long time waiting for a change if the people had not hastened matters. The popular revolts, growing and increasing in number and assuming proportions quite unforeseen, were the new elements which gave the middle class the power of attack they themselves did not possess. The people had patiently endured misery and oppression under Louis XV. A continuous series of riots broke out between and These were the riots of hunger that had been repressed until then only by force.

    The harvest of had been bad, and bread was scarce. Accordingly rioting broke out in April At Dijon the people took possession of the houses of the monopolists, destroyed their furniture and smashed up their flour-mills. Louis XVI, wanted to go out on the balcony of the palace to speak to them, to tell them that he would reduce the price of bread; but Turgot, like a true economist, opposed this.

    The reduction in the price of bread was not made. And from that time also began the placards insulting the King and his ministers which were pasted up at Versailles, containing threats to execute the King the day after his coronation, and even to exterminate the whole of the royal family if bread remained at the same price. Forged governmental edicts, too, began to be circulated through the country. One of them asserted that the State Council had reduced the price of wheat to twelve livres francs the measure.

    These riots were of course suppressed, but they had farreaching consequences. Strife was let loose among the variousparties. Some of these accused the minister, while others spoke of a plot of the princes against the King, or made fun of the royal authority. Concessions to the people, never dreamed of before, were openly discussed; public works were set on foot; taxes on milling were abolished, and this measure led the people of Rouen to declare that all manorial dues had been abolished, so that they rose in July to protest against ever paying them again.

    The malcontents evidently lost no time and profited by the occasion to extend the popular risings. We have not the necessary documents for giving a full account of the popular insurrections during the reign of Louis XVI. But, according to the printed documents, it would appear also that there was a decrease in the rioting in the years to , the American war having perhaps something to do with this.

    However, in and , the riots recommenced, and from that time went on increasing until the Revolution. Three of the leaders were hanged, others were sent to penal servitude, but the disorders broke out afresh, as soon as the closing of the parlements Courts of Justice furnished them with a newpretext. From that moment, up to the Revolution, Lyons became a hotbed of revolt, and in it was the rioters of who were chosen as electors.

    Sometimes these risings had a religious character; sometimes they were to resist military enlistment — every levy of soldiers led to a riot, says Turgot; or it might be the salt tax against which the people rebelled, or the exactions of the tithes. But revolts went on without intermission, and it was the east, south-east and north-east — future hotbeds of the Revolution — that these revolts broke out in the greatest number. But the parlements had shown opposition to the Court, that was enough; and when emissaries of the middle classes sought popular support for rioting, they were given it willingly, because it was a way of demonstrating against the Court and the rich.

    In the June of the Paris parlement had made itself very popular by refusing a grant of money to the Court. The law of the country was that the edicts of the King should be registered by the parlement , and the Paris parlement unhesitatingly registered certain edicts concerning the corn trade, the convocation of provincial assemblies and statute labour. The parlement protested, and so won the sympathy of the middle classes and the people. There were crowds round the Courts at every sitting; clerks, curious idlers and common men collected there to applaud the members.

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    Given its non-appearance and especially the lack of any important precursory sign of its approach, it was evident for Bordiga that the generalisation of the CMP in Russia and Asia was a revolutionary phenomenon, as Marx had stated in for the development of capital in Europe. However, if one considers now that the Russian revolution has, by definition, only been able to give rise to the CMP, the characteristics of present Russian society must be described again as well as those of the ruling class. If the questions unfailingly re-emerge, it is because the analysis had not basically regained the essential point of capital's development and it had not described the most recent tendencies.

    That is why Bordiga had to return to Marx so as to describe the Russian phenomenon. For it is only through the destruction of constant capital, above all the fixed part, that it can free the new production process where capital can again satisfy its greed for surplus labour. Here again he relied on Marx's analysis in Capital :.

    In the Whirlpool of mercantile anarchy ; the Russian revolution was over. He also refuted the Stalinist thesis of the law of value persisting under socialism, a refutation repeated several times after. Each time Bordiga was obliged to return to Marx's work to resume the integral study of the critique of political economy. The statement that the Russian revolution was over left a question undecided. How was it that the proletariat could perform a bourgeois revolution? Bordiga accused Lenin of being the great bourgeois, Stalin, the romantic revolutionary. October , was it not at all proletarian?

    It was then that Bordiga drafted a series of articles studying the earliest origins of the Russian revolution. He insisted on the conclusion already drawn by the KAPD in the revolution was a double, proletarian and bourgeois, revolution. Since the former had been reabsorbed that had already been partly affirmed in and the second had largely flourished.

    The proletariat has thus realised the bourgeois revolution:. But the umbilical cord linking the PCI militants to the Russian revolution was difficult for them to break and, for them, all these explanations had not clarified enough the 'enigma'. They called for the subject to be exhausted somehow. Thus the reader can gain an idea of the way in which the work presented was born. One should note that the majority of the themes were treated in a fragmentary fashion in articles and, besides, there was a continual exchange between the explanations of Russian society and the clarification of the critique of political economy.

    There is the constant theme of the dictatorship of the proletariat which could have directed the development of the productive forces in immense Russia. That is why what interested Bordiga was the nature of the state, not only because he did not delude himself on the fact that the state could avoid being determined by the economic and social structure. He knew very well that, in Russia, from a certain moment, the social forces would inevitably have to eliminate the proletarian state unsupported by a revolution in the West.

    But he did not go into the economic domain, but into the political field in order to find the involution of the revolution.

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    It was only when the state had become definitely capitalist that he really preoccupied himself with the economic and social structure, for now one had to understand how the forces which will have to struggle for the future communist revolution will be born and orientate themselves.

    It is revealing that it was at the time of the Twentieth Congress, the time that he stated that Russia had confessed to its integration into the capitalist camp, that he gave his prediction of the communist revolution for Bordiga's writings on the USSR after are not very interesting. They are only an illustration of what he had stated and explained in earlier texts.

    Besides, what was virulently repeated was the axiom: one did not construct communism, one only destroyed the obstacles to its development. He would have had to have made an exhaustive analysis of the development of the CMP to make a fundamental contribution. Now this was in spite of several essential remarks, possibly points of departure for fruitful research too 'physiocratic' because it considered the mass of production and its growth rhythms.

    In , after the failure of Khruschev's economic measures, his sacking and the satisfaction of the kolkhozians' demands, Bordiga remarked:. Unfortunately this diagnosis was used in an immediate and polemical fashion to show that, unlike what Khruschev had trumpeted, the USSR could not catch up with the USA. One should have asked the question: are there not geo-social areas where the CMP cannot develop and, if it did, would that not be at the cost of immense difficulties so that even the positive side that there had been in the West would be obliterated in these areas?

    But this implied the adoption of a critical attitude to the Bolsheviks' actions. Now Bordiga was not up to asking such a question. He always maintained the Leninist presuppositions and followed them through to their conclusions. One can say that, somehow, the Russian revolution ended as a political phenomenon with him, a phenomenon having to master the economic forces in the direction of developing to socialism.

    It is useful to know Bordiga's other works so as really to understand his position on Russia. We shall summarise them briefly. Bordiga was fundamentally anti-democratic and anti-innovating, i. What is essential is the reference to a class defining itself by the mode of production it aims to create.

    The method by which it has to realise this creation is its programme. The fundamental lines of the programme for the proletarian class were established from They are: the proletariat must constitute itself as a class, thus as a party. Then it must make itself the state to destroy all classes, thus itself, and allow the development of communism cf.

    The Fundamentals of Revolutionary Communism , The party is thus seen on the one hand as part of the class, as the prefiguration of communist society, "the projection into the present of the social man of tomorrow" cf. Marxism, seen not only as the theory of the revolution, but as the theory of the counter-revolution, can resist, and this consists in maintaining the entire programme of the class. Thus the formal party to which Bordiga belonged could see itself as the intermediary between the preceding phase, when the proletariat was constituted as a class, and the coming phase, when the revolution would rise anonymously, setting the whole class in motion.

    Bordiga admitted that the formal party could disappear, that is, that it could come about that there would no longer be any revolutionaries defending the class programme after a certain time, but the party must be reborn after a "distant but enlightening future" by following the dynamic present in capitalist society and the fact of the absolute necessity of communism for the species.

    What therefore is basic in the phase of recession i. So one can maintain the line of the future in the despicable present, so resisting the counter-revolution by the rejection of all democratic formulae and all stray impulses to innovate. This implies a structural anti-activism because one can only intervene in 'periods ripe with history' of humanity.

    Then one must throw oneself headlong into the battle and not to give in at the first shock, not abandon the party as soon as the enemy has gained a certain advantage. This was the meaning of the reflections on the debate of One should have resisted, the world proletariat organised by the Communist International should have faced capitalism while awaiting the opening of the fresh revolutionary cycle.

    But once this was abandoned, one had to some extent to pass through purgatory and then await the counter-revolution to complete its tasks. Bordiga thought that this was realised in Hence the proclamation of a new revolutionary cycle culminating in One had to restore marxism, negated by the Stalinists, one more time during the period of waiting, without ever losing sight of the immediate movements of the class, in order to see how far they shake the implacable dictatorship of capital.

    But this has to be done without illusions. Thus he stated that there would not be a revolution after the Second World War the fascist nations had lost the war, but fascism had won , that the Third World War was not imminent, the cold war only being a form of peace. Therefore there could not be a revolution after a short maturation as those who believed in an imminent third conflict inevitably giving rise to a revolution afterwards held. The Berlin movement was not the start of a new revolutionary cycle. Nor too was the Hungarian uprising, because both were the work of multi-class movements while the proletariat could only win by organising autonomously, in struggling for its own ends.

    Nevertheless, it is evident that all this belongs to the past and many ask what importance does it have? What importance in not flattering Yugoslavia as a new socialist country? Of not having repeated the same operation for Cuba, China, or having not stated that the centre of the revolution was, nonetheless, in the countries of the so-called third world? In fact, what use is it when all the world is now convinced of the opposite? It is because, in fact, he had a foresight of a certain future of society that Bordiga was able to have a well determined behaviour allowing him to escape the revolutionary masquerade of the post-war period led by Trotskyist and similar groups.

    His coherence lay there, a theory is not useful if it does not afford a foresight. Now one cannot foresee without any certainty. Bordiga disagreed with the Bolsheviks several times over the question of democracy. He was an abstentionist, rejecting all participation in parliament, all democratic mechanisms.

    One had to define tactics rigorously in relation to the conditions of clearly defined struggles in the historical phases when the proletariat intervened, Similarly he rejected the theory of state capitalism and considered the theory of imperialism to be completely insufficient etc. Despite that, we have already repeated, he never broke with Lenin because he was, for Bordiga, the theoretician of the dictatorship of the proletariat coherent with Marx and that he was capable of applying it in a huge country.

    On the other hand, the whole development of the anti-colonial revolutions reinforced the correctness of the Leninist position for him. Hence the birth of the uncritical apologia for the Bolsheviks and, so doing, he defended the Italian left and himself against accusations of anarchism, ultraleftism, passivity etc.

    But this is only a particular aspect of Bordiga's work. What is essential, what characterises him, makes him entrancing, living, is what was indicated in Bordiga: la passion du communisme ; his certainty of the revolution, communism, displayed prophetically. Humanity advanced by revolutionary leaps up to communism, according to him. This evolution was the work of millions feeling their way and, sometimes, leaping enlightened by huge revolutionary explosions. The two bands insult each other from opposite banks, while fully agreed that the river should remain in its channel.

    But the immense flood of human history also has its irresistible and menacing swellings and sometimes, rounding a meander, it floods over the dykes, drowning the miserable bands in the impulsive and irresistible inundation of the revolution which overthrows all old forms and gives society a new face. The battilocchio is a person who draws attention and simultaneously shows his complete vacuity. We have discussed this question elsewhere and we have tried to define the historical importance of Bordiga cf. The translations in the first two are often inexact, not purely on the level of translation, which is often a matter of appreciation, but because the translators often thought that they had to remove what did not suit them and to add what they wanted to Bordiga's texts.

    To avoid many notes, the reader is advised that the themes discussed in this study, often simply alluded to, have been treated more or less exhaustively in Invariance. Russia et rivoluzione nella teoria marxista in il programma comunista no. We talk of a theoretical attitude because it is not a question of separating theory from practice.

    One must always tend to have a global activity with all human manifestations integrated. Lezioni della contra-rivoluzione Naples meeting, September Edizioni il programma comunista no. The Platform of the Left was adopted at a national conference of the extreme left in Berlin 2. First published in Prometeo no. La Russia sovietica dalla rivoluzione all'oggi in Prometeo serie II, no. Proprieta e capitale in Prometeo serie II Struttura Economica e Sociale della Russia d'Oggi in il programma comunista no.

    Old member of the Italian left, still living. He was a communist deputy before the Second World War. During that war he actively defended the thesis of the transformation of the imperialist war into a class war and was one of the main founders of the Internationalist Communist Party in Bordiga did not participate in it, he was not in agreement over the opportunity of creating such a party. His various disagreements with Bordiga, especially over the Russian question and the perspectives of the development of the workers' movement after the war, were one of the reasons for the split of One part of the party was to become the International Communist Party with Bordiga , the other kept the old name with Damen and continues to publish the paper Battaglia comunista and the review Prometeo.

    Damen has written a small book Amadeo Bordiga Validita e limiti d'una esperienza epi, Milan, Bussole impazzite Compasses struck with madness in Battaglia comunista no. Capital Vol. I Penguin, Harmondsworth, p. Omicidio dei morti in Battaglia comunista no. The citation is from Capital Vol. La dottrina del diavolo in corp o in Battaglia comunista no. The final citation is from Goethe's Faust and is correctly translated as "as if its body were by love possessed" as in Fowkes' edition.

    We have changed the citation only to maintain coherence with Bordiga's title and the citation translation of the Italian edition of Capital. Dialogato con Stalin ed. Prometeo, Milan, Fiorite primavere del capitale Flowering spring of capital in il programma comunista no. Malenkov-Stalin: toppa non tappa Malenkov-Stalin : patchwork not a stage in il programma comunista no.

    L'orso e il suo grande romanzo in il programma comunista no. Meeting at Genoa in il programma comunista no. I fattori di razza e nazione nella teoria marxista Factors of race and nation in marxist theory in il programma comunista nos. La questione agraria The Agrarian Question in ibid. Involuzione Russe ; ' Terra e liberta ' Russian involutions ; ' Land and liberty ' in il programma comunista no. L'invarianza storico di marxismo The historical invariance of marxism in Sul filo del tempo p. Piena e rotta della civilita borghese Filling and Bursting of bourgeois civilization in Battaglia comunista no.