The French Revolution : Liberty, Equality...Conspiracy?

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posted on Jan, 30 2014 @ 02:29 PM
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Ahh, the French Revolution! Power to the people! The ultimate symbol of triumph over tyranny. A milestone of the emancipation of man, where peasants rose up against their monarchical oppressor, laying the foundations of democracy. A valiant struggle for human rights and the ideals of the Enlightenment. Brave young men, dressed up in beggar rags, the flame of passion burning in their eyes, running fearlessly over barricades and gunfire...well, you get the picture.

Sounds familiar? Probably so, because that's the mainstream depiction of the event. That's the one presented in fiction and non-fiction alike, with remarkable consistency. Just open a history book and chances are you will find a description not unlike the one above, that is to say, highly idealized. Indeed, it seems whenever the French Revolution is approached, it is always through the lens of idealism. It sort of stuck this way, I guess. Even serious encyclopedic works often give up their (nominal) objectivity and start lauding the heroic nature of the revolt, and the purity of its aims. Critical analyses of this event are quite rare, and often focus on one particular aspect instead of the whole narrative (like, say, denounce this particular trial for being rigged, instead of asking why they were rigging trials in the first place). I've looked around for an alternative view to test my suspicions, but so far I've found very little. Which is why I now create this thread.

Reading on the subject, I've always had the impression that there was something fishy with the French Revolution. The feeling that something was off, that the closer you looked at the details, the less they seemed to fit the narrative. I couldn't put my finger on it. Perhaps it was the perceived media bias? Perhaps it was the cartoonish way it is recuperated as a symbol in modern politics? Perhaps it was the sectarian attitude of the revolutionaries? Perhaps it was the kangaroo courts and other irregularities? Perhaps it was the unsavory and often bloody actions committed in its wake, or because said actions were incompatible with the stated ideals? Probably a bit of all that. I began to form a different image of the French Revolution in my mind, one with much less polish. I don't know how this will be received, but I'm still willing to present my ideas. You be the judge.

So, in the spirit of Melville's Cetology, as no better man advances to take this matter in hand, I hereupon offer my own poor assertions :

1) Far from being a spontaneous popular revolt, the French Revolution was a carefully planned coup, orchestrated at lenght by the men who would later be known as the Jacobin Club. It could accurately be defined as a conspiracy.
2) The French Revolution was conceived, prepared, and carried out mostly by the Parisian bourgeoisie (i.e. the rich urban elite, the merchant class, bankers, lawyers, ect.), not by the general populace. The low-wage urban workers only played an accessory role (as cheap manpower, more or less). The rural majority of France played no role at all, had no say in the matter, and were in fact subject to severe repression.
3) Eons away from being a work of fraternal humanism, French republicanism was a violently nationalistic affair right from the start, with thinly-veiled goals of hegemony and conquest. Not to mention, it declared open war on the country's ethnolinguistic minorites (a task completed by later republics using vast assimilation campaigns).
4) It did not establish democracy in any shape or form. The initial new government was a junta with unlimited powers. After a coup, it became an arbitrary, senate-style directorate. After yet another coup, it became an empire (talk about historical homage, eh...). All with the common goal of establishing a centralised power structure for the urban elite, who were the real concern all along.
5) The aptly-named Reign of Terror, aside from being a most disturbing and sanguinary episode, was not an involuntary excess to be blamed on paranoia. The revolutionaries knew full well what they were doing. The aristocracy being out, things swiftly devolved into a king-of-the-hill struggle for domination among the victors, with horrible results.
6) The revolutionaries engaged in enough word-twisting and manipulation to make Stalin red with envy. On many occasions, sophistry was used to legitimize bloodbaths (I'd even venture to say genocide, but that would be rude, wouldn't it?)
7) The current image of the French Revolution, the one descibed in my first paragraph, was forged much later by a wave of unabashed propaganda writers, Victor Hugo being the most well-known.
8) All in all, what the French Revolution heralded was the transition from a traditional, aristocratic elite to an urban, bourgeois elite. The middle class toppling the upper class, then becoming the new upper class. It never ceased to be a question of class, equality was never in the program.
9) Rather than a milestone of emancipation, the French Revolution was an important step in the rise of TPTB. This is why it was glorified to this extent, and still is today.

Now, I fear illustrating all this, let alone proving it, will be a monumental task. I barely know where to begin, and I might have bit more than I could chew. Just gathering the facts and arranging my thoughts will take some time, so I won't be able to do this in one go. I'll just post my observations little by little, update it when I can. Also, I realize I'm not very qualified for this job, and my credibility is limited. If someone with better qualifications wants to help, he/she is welcome. This is not just a panel for me to post stuff, it is your thread as well. But for now, I'll try my hand at the task...

edit on 30-1-2014 by Cathcart because: image




posted on Jan, 30 2014 @ 02:36 PM
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Since we must begin somewhere, we might as well begin with a banker...



Jacques Necker (1732–1804)


(born Sept. 30, 1732, Geneva, Switz.—died April 9, 1804, Coppet) Swiss-born French financier and director-general of finance under Louis XVI. He became a banker in Paris, and, after becoming wealthy from speculating during the Seven Years' War, he was appointed minister of Geneva in Paris (1768). He retired from banking in 1772 and became France's director-general of finance in 1777. Despite his cautious reforms, he was forced to resign in 1781 over opposition to his scheme to help finance the American Revolution. He was recalled in 1788 to rescue the almost bankrupt France, and he proposed financial and political reforms that included a limited constitutional monarchy. Opposition from the royal court led to Necker's dismissal on July 11, 1789, an event that provoked the storming of the Bastille. After serving again briefly (1789–90), he retired to Geneva. Germaine de Staël was his daughter.


Source


This man played a central role in the events leading to the French Revolution. His dismissal in 1789 was arguably what kickstarted the movement, since it was interpreted as a direct attack on the National Assembly, to whom he was sympathetic. His reforms, among others, included tax reductions, establishment of provincial assemblies, usage of high interest rates, and loans to finance French involvement in the American Revolution.

Unfortunately, this last measure proved to be problematic. To raise the necessary loans, Necker published a document called the Compte rendu au roi, a public record of France's strong financial position (it claimed that ordinary revenues in France were exceeding expenditure by over 10 million livres). This boosted confidence among the lenders, and he was able to raise the funds. However, the statistics of the Compte rendu were incorrect : the report misrepresented the country's real deficit. France was already in a financial crisis, and participation in the American Revolution pushed it on the brink of disaster. Thus, poor managing of finances by the rulers led to civil unrest, and eventually to the French Revolution.

Is it just me, or is someone pulling our leg here?

There is absolutely, positively no way Necker didn’t foresee what was coming. There's no way this was a simple error. Given his experience as a banker, his position, and his control over France's wealth, he was aware more than anyone else of France's dire debt problems. He knew France couldn't afford to invest any longer in foreign wars. You can't just blame it on incompetence, he couldn't possibly be that blind. He knew perfectly well the consequences of this measure. Deliberately, with lucidity, he made a decision that would push France to ruin. What's more, the loan system made the king personal debtor to a large number of citizens, exponentially increasing his unpopularity, for obvious reasons.

And then there's also the Compte rendu itself. More than just a report, it was meant to be an educational piece, a work of vulgarization, if you will. This was actually a first. Previously, finances was a fairly specialized affair, those outside the profession had little knowledge or concern about it. Isn't it funny that the first work of economic vulgarization just happened to be a piece of disinfo?

I won't pull any punch here : I accuse Jacques Necker of purposefully doing his best to sink the French economy, deliberately aiming to cause civil unrest and insatisfaction, in order to facilitate a regime change. I accuse him of being a saboteur, a mole hired by the partisans of revolution to prepare the ground for their plan. Furthermore, I say that his dismissal in 1789 was not a petty affront to the National Assembly, but rather the result of his shameless lies and manipulations. The king finally caught wind of what was happening, and became extremely distrustful of Necker (with good reasons). I'd even venture to say the king suspected that a political coup was imminent, and that's why he stationned soldiers around Paris.

Here's more food for thought : Jacques Necker was married to Suzanne Curchod, who was known for hosting a prestigious salon, visited notably by people such as Diderot and the encyclopedists, l'Abbé de Mably, Bernardin de St. Pierre (affiliated to the Cercle Social)...in short, men who influenced or advocated the French Revolution. Another coincidence?



posted on Jan, 30 2014 @ 02:59 PM
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Superior post. Rare these days. I'm following with great interest. Bumpity for now, this promises to be a great ride.


EDIT: If it's not too late and you're not working from a phone or android pad, I respectfully suggest spacing your numbered items as they are fascinating and will make reading easier.
edit on 30-1-2014 by The GUT because: (no reason given)



posted on Jan, 30 2014 @ 03:00 PM
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Cathcart

Ahh, the French Revolution! Power to the people!


That should be Power to the "French!"

If you're not French, then freedom, equality and brotherhood are incredibly hard to come by if one lives in France. Many of them fear anything and everyone not French.

Xenophobia at it's finest.


edit on 30/1/2014 by nerbot because: stuff



posted on Jan, 30 2014 @ 03:28 PM
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I see what you are saying about Necker, and it seems to make sense. Do you think the financial support for the American Revolution, then, was only about crashing the system or was their some concatenate and larger plan?



posted on Jan, 30 2014 @ 05:05 PM
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Thank for your post on this fascinating subject.

I like to explore history through biography, and it seems to me that one of the most incredible lives during this specific era (and there are many) is the life of the French politician and statesman Talleyrand. Although he was partially crippled by a deformed foot, he was very instrumental in the Bourbon Court during the regime of Louis XVI before the French revolution, all during the French Revolution, except when he had to leave the country for a while and hang out in the States to stay alive, and was Napoleon's closest confident after the revolution. And yet he managed to survive the whole era his head intact! Then he even served the restored Bourbon king before dying at the very ripe old age of 84. I highly recommend reading this individual's life story to get an inside view on how the French revolution was lived.


Charles_Maurice_de_Talleyrand-Périgord



posted on Jan, 30 2014 @ 05:30 PM
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nerbot
If you're not French, then freedom, equality and brotherhood are incredibly hard to come by if one lives in France. Many of them fear anything and everyone not French.

Xenophobia at it's finest.

Very true, sadly...

French revolution spirit is far far away for now here in France. We live in a country where the fear of the unknown is more than ever present and where all the great things that followed the Revolution fall in pieces, slowly but constantly.

Then as a consequence of the general withdrawal and feebleness, France is actually losing masterpieces such as:
- Industry (steel industries, fashioning...)
- Prestigious symbols (wine-making properties, car factories...) are sold off to China or to Dubai (Our best soccer club...)
- French savoir-faire disappear in the general indifference (the last luxurious piano factory closed their doors last year for example)

...and so on... (the list is huge)

France haven't done yet its real revolution that should simply consist to deeply reform its heavy institutions and to take the turn of the actual modern civilization way of life.
Consequently, French brain emigrate in countries where the freedom of work and make money is not a taboo subject; I really don't blame them for that.

I'm usually an optimistic guy but, frankly, I don't see how things could evolve in a positive way the years to come. A new revolution here is absolutely unlikely...

...And let's not talk about the fact that we are the laughing stock of everyone around the world with our President...





Oh! and great thread, of course, thanks for the reminder.

edit on 30-1-2014 by elevenaugust because: spelling
edit on 30-1-2014 by elevenaugust because: (no reason given)



posted on Jan, 30 2014 @ 05:36 PM
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reply to post by Cathcart
 


Brilliant thread!

Do you see parallels with todays issues?

Just askin'



posted on Jan, 30 2014 @ 08:28 PM
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reply to post by The GUT
 


There might have been more to it, but then we'd have to enter more abstract speculation. The purpose of breaking the Ancien Régime's back, however, seems so evident that I was shocked to learn it wasn't the mainstream view. So I'm inclined towards this.



posted on Jan, 30 2014 @ 08:38 PM
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reply to post by beezzer
 


Yes, it is relevant to today's issues, we live in a bourgeois-ruled world after all. Concerning the Necker story...well, let's just say I suspect some nations might have made purposefully bad decisions, in order to impose strangling austerity measures later on...austerity's great for pushing stuff on people.



posted on Jan, 30 2014 @ 11:31 PM
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A great read so far, Kudos to you!

Being a fan of Dickens, and having read A Tale of Two Cities
long ago, I have yearned for more. Anticipating a great thread!

bts



posted on Jan, 31 2014 @ 07:13 AM
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Yes, interesting thread. Now if I can find time to fit it in. I always remember that the Fuhrer called Napoleon "that short legged Corsican adventurer". After Stalingrad, as one might expect, the situation reversed he became a great admirer. After the war while in prison, General Walter Warlimont-who spoke English and French-said in his book that he was allowed to read a book about the French Revolution-he never said which book that was. Which book do you suppose he was talking about?



posted on Jan, 31 2014 @ 07:25 AM
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reply to post by elevenaugust
 


Oh god, you had to mention that clown of a president! Quelle honte!

Flags and stars to the OP! I think the subject is worth analyzing at this time, especially with Americans growing discontent, and thoughts of revolution... it might be time to look at how revolutions happened in the past and elsewhere. Ask ourselves what worked and what didn't, what were the long and short term effects, etc.
My knowledge of the subject is very limited, so I appreciate the history lesson.

I personally am very impressed with their sense of solidarity, which is honorable and serves them well now. Whether the myth is true or not (about the revolution) I suspect it still served to knit that sense of solidarity and awareness of the force in numbers over the years.
edit on 31-1-2014 by Bluesma because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 1 2014 @ 12:03 PM
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I don't know where you went to school, but I was never told that the French revolution was such an amazing success story.

It was a very significant event in history, but far more of a cautionary tale than one of success.

I think this like puts it into perspective.

www.history.com...


A watershed event in modern European history, the French Revolution began in 1789 and ended in the late 1790s with the ascent of Napoleon Bonaparte. During this period, French citizens razed and redesigned their country’s political landscape, uprooting centuries-old institutions such as absolute monarchy and the feudal system. Like the American Revolution before it, the French Revolution was influenced by Enlightenment ideals, particularly the concepts of popular sovereignty and inalienable rights. Although it failed to achieve all of its goals and at times degenerated into a chaotic bloodbath, the movement played a critical role in shaping modern nations by showing the world the power inherent in the will of the people.


Human evolution tends to move in ebbs and flows, good and bad things developing at the same time.



posted on Feb, 1 2014 @ 01:26 PM
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Very, very good piece. I look forward to your updates.



posted on Feb, 2 2014 @ 03:17 AM
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Interesting thread! S&F!
The French Revolution is a cautionary tale.People talk about the need for revolution but never consider what can happen if things turn out like the Reign of Terror. Necker's time as minster of fiance is interesting when looking at the build up to the revolution.I have to say it's interesting to hear from some French posters on this I hope it continues.



posted on Feb, 2 2014 @ 05:40 AM
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Interesting thread! S&F! The French Revolution is a cautionary tale.People talk about the need for revolution but never consider what can happen if things turn out like the Reign of Terror


Good point. I never learned French or was there for any extended time. People say it's the most interesting country in all of Europe and (since I can't travel anymore) I look forward to updates. I have always wondered if the Reign of Terror was a means to an end or just an unexpected offshoot of simply trying to hard at revolution and suffering from not having a long term plan.



posted on Feb, 2 2014 @ 06:15 AM
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That's a refreshing look at history here, full of conspiracies and i wouldn't be surprised this bankster Necker was the kickstarter.
I always felt we're fed half-truths in history books



posted on Feb, 3 2014 @ 02:45 AM
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spooky24



Interesting thread! S&F! The French Revolution is a cautionary tale.People talk about the need for revolution but never consider what can happen if things turn out like the Reign of Terror


Good point. I never learned French or was there for any extended time. People say it's the most interesting country in all of Europe and (since I can't travel anymore) I look forward to updates. I have always wondered if the Reign of Terror was a means to an end or just an unexpected offshoot of simply trying to hard at revolution and suffering from not having a long term plan.
I have always looked at it as being a bit of both you had opportunists at every turn and poor planing which lead to the Reign of Terror.The French Revolutionaries fell victim to all of them.



posted on Feb, 3 2014 @ 02:58 AM
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poet1b

I don't know where you went to school, but I was never told that the French revolution was such an amazing success story.

It was a very significant event in history, but far more of a cautionary tale than one of success.



It is a cautionary tale in the US. In France, it is still considered a heroic example of the people overcoming abusive power; it is held in collective memory as a reminder that the people have huge power at their disposal when needed. The chaotic savagery of unfurling such power is just considered the price to pay.

Images from Hiroshima and Nagasaki never detered us from continuing to stand behind atomic weapons either! It just happens to kill innocent children at the same time as the enemies soldiers- it cannot be well controlled that way- too bad.
That is how the french see their revolution.

It is remembering that power that makes them stop up the whole country when they protest (and get what they want).
I personally wish I could see my own native people have a sense of that power once in a while, and use it. Any sort of myth that would stir that awareness would be good in my book.
edit on 3-2-2014 by Bluesma because: (no reason given)





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