Wrong in one respect Robespierre was not the first mass murderer in the name of ideology, not by a long shot. However, before him, most of these types graduated towards religious ideology: Oliver Cromwell, Torquemada, and, of course, Mohammed. Robespierre was probably the first to secularize the genre.
It's hard to dislike Napoleon all that much since so many of the ideals he wanted Europe to adapt were and remain worthwhile.
Swim across the channel for a look backwards at anarchy as a bloody tool.
" Negotiation with such people can succeed only if we have overwhelming force on our side and have shown ourselves unsqueamish about using it."
The American attitude toward the French Revolution has been generally favorablenaturally enough for a nation itself born in revolution.
My undergraduate degree was in history - and I know of NO reputable historian or author who puts this idea forward. Those who don't read history get their ideas about it from The Scarlet Pimpernel and A Tale of Two Cities. The American attitude towards the French Revolution is essentially English (not surprising given our heritage) -- d$#n Frogs can't do anything right.
In fact socialism, the beginnings of which are in part found in the French Revolution, does tend to lead to murder and sometimes mass murder. It does this for the simple reason that socialism requires that all citizens must work toward a common goal. Apparently it's not much of a leap to just get rid of the ones who aren't working toward that common goal.
Robespierre could be called the first modern ideological extremist. Napoleon could be called the first modern dictator. One produced the other, setting a model that influenced others from Marx to Mao.
[W]e must exterminate all our enemies with the law in our handsCan't you just hear Howard Dean saying these things?
the Declaration of Rights offers no safeguard to conspirators
the suspicions of enlightened patriotism might offer a better guide than formal rules of evidence.
Even if he had been innocent he had to be condemned if his death could be useful.
People are always telling judges to take care to save the innocent; I tell them . . . to beware of saving the guilty.
Any divergence between individual and general interest indicates the individuals immorality and irrationality. If any individual fails to see that his true interests are the same as the general interest, he must be forced to act as if he did see it, for his own good.
The rub: people work out what their axiomatic ideals are; those who diverge from those ideals are enemies thereof, and must be converted (in truth or in act) or eliminated. By denying any time to rationally discuss differences, and deeming accused divergence from ideals enough to warrant death, tyrants can rapidly mobilize the rabble against the opposition. The rabble, not understanding why but being satisfied by noble-sounding incomprehensible explainations, and being fearful of being the next accused and next beheaded, race each other in a stampede to support the tyrant and destroy the opposition. Note that a disarmed opposition, of course, cannot survive being on the wrong end of this stampede.
Today we see Islamofacists, radical Leftists, and Mexifornia secessionists trying to whip up their stampedes. Beware the day a real leader emerges among them, and begins their reign of terror. Remember that all such revolutions, once ignited, moved fast. BLOAT.
I have read somewhere that the political designations left and right originated in French Revolution times. The left being the "progressives" advancing their form of proto-socialism, the right being the conservatives. And has been the same ever since. Both sides physically sitting on the left or right in their parlimentary sessions.
Hence, the prototype. It has been the same ever since. My take on this: the Democrats follow the ideals of the French Revolution, anti-God, anti-Bible, anti-religion, hedonistic, mob/union goonism, anarchy, long haired hippyism, government tyranny, collectivism. The Republicans, the ideals of the American Revolution.
The Democrats have very little in common with the American ideal. They have the donkey for their symbol. In their donkey I see all the things I listed above.
I know lots of seemingly decent people, myself among them, who would just question whether the horrors really were horrors. "Call no man decent until he is dead."
I'm not sure ideology and ideologue are useful categories for what the author is trying to describe and prevent.
Wow. This is a great post and thread.
As I read of the horrors, it reminded me of the great wisdom of our nation's Founders, particularly in their framing of the Second Amendment.
but Robespierre has a good claim to being the firstI dunno. Seems to me Savonarola beat him to it.
Wikipedia has a pretty good biography of Robespierre.
Apparently, Robespierre was executed by guillotine, face up.
An ideology is a worldview that makes sense of prevailing political conditions and suggests ways of improving them. Typical ideologies include among their elements a metaphysical outlook that provides a Gods-eye view of the world, a theory about human nature, a system of values whose realization will supposedly ensure human well-being, an explanation of why the actual state of affairs falls short of perfection, and a set of policies intended to close the gap between the actual and ideal. This last componentcommitment to a political program and its implementationis what distinguishes ideologies from religious, personal, aesthetic, or philosophical systems of belief. Ideologies aim to transform society. Other systems of belief do not involve such a commitment; if they do, they become ideological.I'm thinking this one through to find a distinction between the French and American revolutions based upon it. What I can find is this:
...and a set of policies intended to close the gap between the actual and ideal.The American Revolution is based not upon an inconsistency between the actual and the ideal but upon the most ideal actuality. The American view starts with the ideal, and moves from there to the practical. The ideal is God's view. The practical is man's best attempt to make good upon it.
Big, big difference.
One of the great tragedies of modern history is that the template for violent political revolution is the French rather than the American revolution.
The French Revolution, with its Terror and guillotines and mass executions and Committees of Public Safety, is the father of what later came to be called genocide.
In contrast, the American Revolution--in a country where a full third of the population had Tory sympathies--is remarkable in its lack of Terror. The symbols of twentieth-century revolutions, with their Chekas and up-against-the-wall rhetoric, are all very familiar to students of the French Revolution.
Without the war, it would have been harder to mobilize the mob and paint the remaining aristocrats as enemies of the nation. Thanks to the war, the Jacobins could turn a questionable ideology into a matter or national survival.
In an atmosphere of rationing and inflation, it was also easy to direct popular anger against black marketeers and supposed war profiteers. Anyone who lived better than others could be painted as taking bread out of the mouths of children.
Plus ca change, plus le meme chose.