Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Robespierre in The Soviet Union

Portrait of Robespierre
The Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin did not see the French Revolution as a failed movement; he saw it as an unfinished one, a necessary stage in class history. He believed that the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia would fulfill the promise of the French Revolution, finally creating a state where there would be reign of equality. He was impressed by the violent tactics that the French jacobins had used to achieve their political aims.

In 1915, Lenin wrote, “One cannot be a Marxist without entertaining the deepest respect for the great bourgeois revolutionaries (Robespierre, Garibaldi, and others) who roused tens of millions of people in the struggle against feudalism.”

Susan Dunn, in her book Sister Revolutions: French Lightening, American Light (Chapter 6: “Enlightenment Legacies”), points out that in 1918 Lenin had a statue of Robespierre installed in the Kremlin, but the statue crumbled in months because it was made of substandard stone:
For several months in 1918, Robespierre stood in the Kremlin. A likeness of the French revolutionary had been ordered personally by Lenin, the head of the new Russian government, to embellish the capital of the Soviet republic. But neither bronze nor marble had been available, for the October Revolution was also a time of civil war, foreign invasion, bread shortages, sacrifice, and suffering. The statue was sculpted in weak, temporary stone. Cracks soon formed and widened, and Robespierre eventually crumbled. The statue’s collapse from within probably never caused Lenin to wonder about the fragility of the French model of revolution. On the contrary, he considered himself a jacobin, like Robespierre, who would not recoil from the use of terror to achieve his ends. 
Naturally, Lenin did not have a positive impression of the American Revolution. He probably viewed it as a failure because it had led to the creation of a constitution and guarantees of civlil liberties which were not important for him.

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