and now people are comparing occupy wall street to the French Revolution…
Did people just gloss over the Reign of Terror when learning about the French Revolution? The slogan “liberte egalite fraternite” is a great slogan and great things to rally around but they were never really achieved… Once the Reign of Terror happened the revolution was shot to hell… Do you really want to be comparing your movement to it?
I would argue rather that the Terror happened because the revolution was in the process of “being shot to hell,” to use your phrasing, not the other way around. We are talking about a time when revolutionary France was dealing with external and internal wars, inflation, food supply problems, etc. In other words, pretty much anything that could conceivably go wrong was going wrong. This kind of situation doesn’t exactly lend itself to a great deal of stability in “normal” times, let alone a time when you’re in the midst of figuring out exactly how to reconstruct the political, social, and economic institutions of your country after hundreds of years of repression and general monarchical mismanagement. To save the revolution and to stop all the gains - and let us not forget that there were so, so many gains made for ordinary people during the revolution; it’s completely inane to brush them off to the side, as some people are wont to do, with a cry of “BUT BUT BUT THE TERROR” - that had been made in the past several years from disappearing, it was necessary to take strong actions.
Was everything that happened under the Terror, then, roses and sunshine and virtue? No, god, of course not. One need only look at, say, the massacres in Lyon and Nantes to come to that conclusion.
Was the Terror - at least the idea of it, if not the implementation - necessary? I shudder (as a number of the revolutionaries themselves did), but I say yes; given the facts of the time in which this policy was formulated, I don’t think there were many other options to stop the total collapse of France.
But was the Terror in the form that it actually took throughout France in 1793 and 1794, then, justified? This is a question that, after taking stock of the situation, of everything that was at stake, and of everything that resulted, one must answer for oneself. Suffice to say, though, that the answer is far more complicated than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ and anyone who confidently says that they can answer it as such is kidding themselves, hasn’t done their research particularly thoroughly, or both.
…And this has been your ‘Chelsea likes to sit around and pontificate about the French Revolution instead of doing coursework’ digression of the day.
To get back to the original post itself, though, I don’t think the French Revolution comparison (but perhaps I should say “threat,” rather, because that seems to better describe how I’ve seen it used by movement supporters) is a particularly bad one if it’s meant in the sense that one of the causes of the French Revolution was the vast social and economic inequality that existed in France in 1789, and that this very type of inequality has been growing to monstrous proportions in the United States over the past 30 or 40 years. If nothing is done to check it, then something French Revolution-esque could very well erupt here. Not now, perhaps, but further down the line, if we do nothing to change our trajectory? Certainly.