I. Pre-revolution “symptoms:” • A. Transfer of allegiance of intellectuals. • Fr. Rev.- early on: societies de pensee; , magazines, journals, pamphlets criticizing Fr. gov’t and the Queen. Put society and gov’t to test of philosophes. • Amer. Rev. –Merchant committees precursors of Committees of Correspondence • B. Class divisions and antagonisms. • Class barriers are seen as against the “natural order.” • “Both the French and Russian middle classes hated, and envied, and felt morally superior to their aristocracies” (58). • C. Government has serious financial problems/bankruptcy. • France, Russia, England on the eve of American Rev, Iran. • D. Abortive reform attempts raise and dash people’s hopes. • Feeling of being wronged by the government. • Failed reform attempts like the many in France with Necker, Brienne, and other finance ministers, as well as those in Russia in 1905, and in Iran in 1978, make government appear even weaker and ineffective.
II. Takeover and rule of the Moderates • A. Moderates take over after the king, Tsar, Shah, ruler is toppled. • These are the “richer, better known, and higher placed old opposition to the government, and it is only to be expected that they should take over from that government” (22). (Lafayette, Mirabeau, Kerensky, the Egyptian Army officers). • Faced with all of the problems of the old regime gov’t, but with little power.
II. Rule of the Moderates (continued) • B. “Dual Sovereignty” exists toward the end of the rule of the moderates, between institutions created by the extremists, like the Jacobin Club of the French Rev. and the Soviets of the Russian Rev. • Better organized and disciplined, the extremists begin to control some events. • Moderates become more and more associated with the old regime and are discredited. • Radicals say that moderates are trying to stop the revolution. • The necessity for a strong centralized government to run the war is one of the reasons . . .the moderates failed” (144).
III. Accession of the Extremists A. Extremists are “few and are fanatically devoted to their cause” (155). B. Highly disciplined, almost like a fanatical religion, they are willing to impose strong central rule to save the revolution. Examples are the Jacobins of the French Revolution, the Bolsheviks of the Russian Revolution, the Fedayeen and Mujahideen of the Iranian Revolution.
IV. Reign of Terror and Virtue • A. Not long after the extremists take over, there is usually a Reign of Terror and Virtue. • Sometimes, as in France and Russia, this is at least, in part, explained by “the concentration of power in government of national defense made necessary by the fact of war”(144). • Constitutional rights are put aside. • Government becomes highly centralized in a form of dictatorship, such as that of the Committee of Public Safety and Robespierre or All Russian Central Executive Committee. • Extraordinary courts, revolutionary tribunals, surveillance committees spy on the people.
Reign of Terror and Virtue Continued • B. An attempt to create a heaven on earth, a “new age,” a new “man.” • “Religious enthusiasm, organization, ritual, and ideas appear inextricably bound up with economic and political aims, with a program to change things, institutions, laws, not just to convert the people” (186). • No room to be lukewarm. • Traditional vices- prostitution, gambling, alcoholism rooted out to create virtuous society. • Names of streets, people, and places changed to reflect revolutionary enthusiasm. • Thousands are imprisoned/guillotined/shot for not sharing their “vision” • Quoting V. Vergniaud, “The revolutoin like Saturn, devours its children” (121).
V. Thermidorian Reaction • A. Pressures of foreign and civil war subside. • B. “Human beings can go only so far and so long under the stimulus of an ideal, Social systems composed of human beings can endure for a limited time the concerted attempt to bring a heaven to earth, which we call the Reign of Terror and Virtue” (203). • B. Thermidor comes “naturally. . .as calm after a storm, as convalescence after fever, as the snapping-back of a stretched band” (203). • Robespierre himself is guillotined on 10 Thermidor (July 28, 1794).
Thermidorian Reaction (continued) Thermidor usually brings an amnesty of former moderates and the death or persecution of the most ardent revolutionaries. A strong man like a Napoleon often comes to power to bring order to the chaos, and the revolution becomes much more moderate again. In some cases, like the French Revolution, there is even an eventual restoration of a constitutional monarch.
Accomplishments of revolutions A. The most serious abuses/inefficiencies of the old regime are eliminated. B. The government, at least for awhile, is somewhat immune to new revolution. C. Governments become more efficient and centralized. D. New groups are usually able to enter the ruling class. E. There is a tradition of successful revolution.