As proven by the French Revolution, today’s revolutionaries are tomorrow’s reactionaries — or victims.
Everyone seems busy these days looking for historical parallels for our current events. Jonathan Turley, law professor at George Washing School of Law, has an article at The Hill that seeks--successfully, I think--to find lessons from the French Revolution--Can this American version of the French Revolution bring change? The obvious answer is, Yes, but the next question is, What kind of change?
The lesson from the French Revolution, one we're relearning already, is simply: The center cannot hold. A "moderate" revolution will quickly be overtaken by radicals seeking a vehicle for their own purposes--and woe to those left behind by the radical shift to new extremes! The interesting thing is that the Dems appear eager to own all this. They're riding a tiger but don't seem to realize it.
A few excerpts:
Welcome to the modern French Revolution. The tragic killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis resulted in an important focus on race relations and justice in this country. However, it is being lost to an emerging radicalism that challenges people to prove their faith by endorsing farce. Across the country, political leaders and commentators are outdoing each other to demonstrate fealty to this new order, attacking core institutions and values. A growing radical element is fighting to out-shout each other as leaders of a careening movement, with politicians joining calls to “defund the police” and commentators calling for censorship. Moderate voices seem to be fading with the escalating demands that leaders denounce the values that define them.
Take those calls to “defund the police.” Once the mantra of only the most extreme elements in society, it has been picked up by elected leaders. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) has said that defunding all police should not “be brushed aside.” Brian Fallon, former public affairs director at the Justice Department and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign press secretary, has declared support for the movement.
Many politicians seem eager not to be left alone in the ideological center amid this rapid shift to the far left. Democratic socialist and New York state senator Julia Salazar expressed her delight: “To see legislators who aren’t even necessarily on the left supporting [defunding or decreasing the police budget] ... feels a little bit surreal.”
That surreal feeling is likely even more pronounced among looting victims whose stores are left unprotected while politicians and experts excuse such crimes entirely. Socialist Seattle council member Tammy Morales dismissed concerns about looting, insisting that “what I don’t want to hear is for our constituents to be told to be civil, not to be reactionary, to be told looting doesn’t solve anything.” ...
History suggests, however, that such demonstrations may not be enough. As proven by the French Revolution, today’s revolutionaries are tomorrow’s reactionaries — or victims. Pierre Robespierre led that revolution’s “Reign of Terror” until he was guillotined as one of its last victims, and Marat’s farcical scenes ended with his own stabbing in a bathtub in retaliation for his bloody excesses. It is a cycle repeated in revolutions throughout history: When the music stops, fewer and fewer chairs can be found by those who readily embraced extreme measures.
That is why many of our leaders should consider the words of Abbe Sieyes, a Catholic clergyman and author of the French Revolution’s manifesto, “What Is The Third Estate?” When asked what he had done during the revolution, he simply responded, “I survived.”