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The Eighteenth Brumaire of George W. Bush

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  • mandreox
    Ruth Scurr has written a thoughtful biography: Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution. Obvious highpoints of her narrative--such as the storming
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 29, 2007
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      Ruth Scurr has written a thoughtful biography: Fatal Purity:
      Robespierre and the French Revolution. Obvious highpoints of her
      narrative--such as the storming of the Bastille, the assassination of
      Marat, the strange fates of Condorcet, Mirabeau and Lafayette, and the
      executions by guillotine of Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Madame
      Roland, Georges Danton and finally her protagonist--pass, as in a
      meditation. It's a serious book.

      The French Revolution was serious but, nevertheless, crazy. After
      Trudeau converted Canada to the metric system, my English Canadian
      relatives complained for decades about metric madness. I myself love
      the French Revolutionary Calendar (FRC). Hey kids, what time is it?
      It's 8 Pluviose. Karl Marx famously used the FRC in "The Eighteenth
      Brumaire of Louis Napoleon" to make fun of Louis Napoleon: "history
      repeats itself," Marx says, "first as tragedy, then comedy."

      More importantly, the French Revolution discredited European feudalism
      and its divine right of kings, then paved the way for government by
      law and the ballot, and the rights of the individual. It was all in
      all a massive swirling progressive event. But a few passages in
      Scurr's book make you shiver over the process. For instance, she says
      Robespierre--

      invented a new official category of criminal: enemies of the people,
      "those who, in any manner and no matter with what mask they have
      concealed themselves, have sought to thwart the progress of the
      Revolution and prevent the strengthening of the RepublicÂ…."

      Robespierre recommended that the Tribunal should now accept "moral
      proofs" against accused persons, who were no longer to be allowed
      advocatesÂ….

      Enemies of the people included anyone seeking to re-establish the
      monarchy, discredit the [constitutional] Convention, betray the
      Republic, communicate with foreign enemies, interfere with food
      provision, shelter conspirators, speak ill of patriotism, suborn
      officials, mislead the people, spread false news, insult morality,
      deprave the public conscience, steal public property, abuse public
      office, or plot against the liberty, unity and security of the state.
      The punishment for all these crimes was death. (page 328)

      Robespierre as head of the Committee of Public Safety was powerful,
      absolutely powerful, but, the French believed at first, incorruptible.

      French support for the American Revolution bankrupted France.
      We, too, live in troubled times. Louis XVI was the wrong king at the
      wrong time, just as George Bush is the wrong president for this time.
      His war in Iraq is bankrupting America. Is he an enemy of the people,
      an enemy of God or just an enemy of reason? If we're lucky, he will
      merely pass from office more hated than any president since Richard
      Nixon.

      The key to Bush's residual popularity remains his religion.
      Robespierre, like Washington, Franklin and Jefferson, was a Deist. As
      the Reign of Terror got underway, Robespierre suppressed the religion
      of Reason and replaced it with the worship of the Supreme-Being. He
      was no atheist. Unlike Bush, he was no Methodist. Bush, however, like
      Robespierre, seeks to impose his religion on everyone. Bush is an
      enemy of man. Man recovered from Robespierre, and will recover from
      Bush. But will America?

      As Robespierre rose, Lafayette was jailed as insufficiently
      revolutionary. Wouldn't a guillotine set up in DC's Lafayette Park
      sing volumes? It'd be an interesting work of art. I just saw Manet and
      the Execution of Maximilien at MoMA. I couldn't help thinking of
      Saddam. Saddam was the puppet of Reagan and Rumsfeld. Maximilien was
      the puppet of Louis Napoleon.
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