THE VIOLENCE OF THE LEFT: INHERENT IN ITS DNA? (Part 1: A Tale of Two Revolutions)

Part One: A Tale of Two Revolutions

From its earliest roots, during the bloody days of the French Revolution, the Left  [1] has demonstrated a ready tendency to direct political violence against its opponents.

A quick look at both the French and the American revolutions, often portrayed in popular culture as twin-sides of the same movement toward democracy, will reveal that, quite to the contrary, these were two very different political experiences.

The American Revolution was a revolution started and led by fairly well-heeled and well-educated landowners, lawyers, and clergymen. The French Revolution, on the other hand, was started by the Paris mob (the sans-culottes, the “pantless”); led by demagogic leaders who manipulated and inflamed their most base and violent passions. The American Revolution could be characterized as a “Conservative” revolution; which sought to preserve the traditions of self-government, individual liberties, and private property that had been a hallmark of life in the Thirteen Colonies for over a century. The French Revolution was very much a “Left-Wing” revolution, that sought a transformation of French society through massive redistribution of wealth; and through the arrest and murder of the wealth-holding class.

The French Revolution, which has been the model (and often inspiration) for all leftist revolutionary movements since, was heavily influenced by the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, its patron philosopher. It was characterized by class hatred: by the poor for those born to better circumstances. Its educated and mostly middle-class leaders declared that the very condition of being born into the aristocracy made one a criminal; a traitor against the “general will” of the mass of the French people. The French Revolution was all about class envy, the desire to destroy the wealthy and “well born”, and the equality of all citizens. “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”.

By contrast, the American Revolution was influenced by the writings of John Locke and Adam Smith. It was all about preserving private property rights, less-government, lower taxes, personal liberty and responsibility. Their motto was “Don’t Tread On Me”! Its leaders were (mostly) wealthy or at least upper-middle class landowners and “professionals”.

The French Revolution began with a Parisian mob storming the prison/fortress, the Bastille.

Hollywood has too often portrayed this as an armed mob of patriotic (and starving) Parisians fighting their way heroically into the prison/fortress; opposed by the troops within, who further inflame the mob and earn their coming fate by firing upon “the people”.

Here is an example, in the 1958 version of Dickens immortal, “A Tale of Two Cities”:

This version is far from the reality of what occurred!

In truth, the garrison of the Bastille (a prison which held, literally, a handful of prisoners) put up no resistance. For hours, the mob waited outside while the Governor of the prison, the Marquis de Launay, attempted to negotiate a peaceful surrender. For his trouble, he and many of his men were murdered by the mob once they were admitted; leading to the spectacle of de Launay’s head being marched through the streets on a pike! Also that opening day, the mob seized and murdered the Mayor of Paris, Jacques de Flesselles; a reform-mined civil-servant of middle-class origins, killed just on general principles!

The American Revolution began with the British attempting to forcibly disarm the Massachusetts colonial militia; sending Redcoat troops to seize the militia’s arms at Concord. What followed was anything but mob violence. Militia-men battled with Redcoats. No mobs swarmed in the streets, no British officials or “Tories” (British loyalists) were lynched.

In Revolutionary France, under the direction of Maximilien de Robespierre, the demagogic leader of the extreme Jacobins ,  a “Reign of Terror” followed the establishment of a “liberal” Republic. Thousands of heads would (literally) roll in Paris and the other cities of France. Daily, the “progressive” citizens of Paris jeered, taunted, and threw garbage at victims of the Terror as they were walked from their imprisonment to the guillotine.

No one was safe. Even children were beheaded; their crime one of class, of being born into wealth or the aristocracy. Even servants of the noble houses, themselves people of no financial means, were executed by the mobs.

Lies and character assassination had long been tools of the leftist agitators in the years preceding the Revolution. During the Reign of Terror, many thousands were accused of the most heinous lies and subject to judicial murder. A notable example was the Queen, Marie Antoinette. A virtuous wife and mother who gave generously to the poor and even entertained the under-privileged in the Royal Palace prior to the Revolution, she was painted by the extremists as a selfish, greedy, and licentious wanton. During her incarceration, the Revolutionary prosecutors accused her of everything short of Devil worship (including incest!) in order to blacken her name and remove any sympathy for her amongst the people. She was subjected to a “show trial” (characteristic of later Marxist revolutions), in which she was given no chance to defend herself. The former-queen who was taken to execution in the end was a shockingly aged and broken creature; an innocent and undeserving victim of the left.

But not just “class enemies” of the left were murdered. The revolution soon consumed its own; as the radical Jacobins denounced and sent to the guillotine their political rivals and sometime allies within the National Assembly. Then even the most radical leaders, like Robespierre, were in turn denounced by newer and more radical “leaders”, and took their turn with “Madam Guillotine”!

Murder and mob violence characterized these first leftist revolutionaries’ approach to politics.

By contrast, in America following the Declaration of Independence by the duly-chosen Continental Congress, there were no wholesale murders of anyone. Military campaigns between the newly constituted Continental Army and the British Army would rage up and down the 13 Colonies. But political murder in the streets was unknown [2].

American “Patriots” were arrested by the British, as were their families on occasion; and some of these died in captivity or from its result. Pro-British sympathizers were not persecuted by their Patriot neighbors; though many Tories who took up arms in support of the Crown left the country after the war ended in American victory, most relocating to Canada. But none were forced to leave, arrested, or murdered. (In the preceding years, there were incidents of individuals being tarred-and-feathered. But this ugly, humiliating practice was never fatal; as pine tar, a sticky liquid at room temperature, was used instead of scalding-hot petroleum-based tar). And unlike the French Leftist leaders such as Robespierre, who orchestrated the mob violence, such Founders as John Adams denounced such practices as “barbaric”.)

In summary, the divide between the Right and Left can be seen at the very inception of this political divide; with the American and French Revolutions. One a fight by the upper and middle class Americans to protect their liberty and property from British interference and confiscation. The other, the French, by the lower classes to seize the property of others and redistribute it for the “common good” (more precisely, their own).

The American (conservative) Revolution was fought against British soldiers, not against their neighbors. The French (Leftist) Revolution, though it led to conflicts with foreign powers, was all about mob violence and class warfare against fellow citizens. In the former, those who disagreed with the “patriot” point of view were not attacked; and after the war, no reprisals were taken against. In the latter, any perceived opponent was in danger of being murdered by the mob or the “authorities”.

A tale of two revolutions: the beginning of a political struggle that continues to this day.

PART 2 Breaking Eggs to Make Utopia

 

  1. So-called because the original leftists in French politics sat on the left side of the Chamber of Deputies in the National Assembly.
  2. Though British officials in Massachusetts were, on occasion leading up to the Revolution, the targets of beatings and even being “tarred and feathered“.
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15 thoughts on “THE VIOLENCE OF THE LEFT: INHERENT IN ITS DNA? (Part 1: A Tale of Two Revolutions)

  1. Wow, interesting read.

    My one objection would be categorizing the left as violent and then, when the right is violent, you call them “middle of the spectrum”. Facism is well into the right end of the spectrum (although, it’s more of a loop than a spectrum which is why communism and fascism just sort of muddle themselves into totalitarian mess that ends up looking awfully similar to each other).

    To quote the umm…interesting Ann Coulter (who has also written on left wing violence): “My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building”.

    I’m going to attempt to attack a video, the man in the video is both English and has Cerebral Palsy so he is a little hard to understand at first, but he is brilliant and makes several interesting points, so it’s worth the watch:f

    The nazis, Italian facists, Francisco Franco, Getulio Vargas in Brazil (torturing and murdering leftists), and even the rise of neo-nazis present in the U.S. and Europe.

    When you look at modern examples like the clashes between police and protestors it becomes less clear who’s responsible for the violence. There are thousands of people who sincerely want change but unfortunately these type of events tend to attract idiots who are out to make trouble. Also, there is definitely an abuse of power going on with the police (I’m not anti-police and I’m not anti-authority, but I’m also not going to put on blinders and say that their actions are always reasonable or in the name of justice and “keeping the peace”).

    • Karen, with respect to facism, I have to respectfully disagree. Facism was collectivist in nature and as such subverted the interests of the individual beneath that of the state. That, by definition, makes it a leftist ideology. Saying that it was a right-wing movement because of its extreme nationalism looks at the issue far too narrowly and completely misses the broader and much more important aspect of the individual vs. the state.

      • That’s the problem with ideologies in the hands of weak, corruptible people. Communism never even got close to what it should have been in a pure form. In fact, because the government always ends up having so much control over the individual, one could argue that communism, in reality, is actually quite right wing.

        My whole point is that people are willing to use violence against others to gain power and money. Extreme ideologies like facism and communism seem to allow for this kind of violence to sneak in because the people that support them are so impassioned that they are willing to throw their morals out the window because they feel the ends justify the means.

        I just don’t in any way believe that violence is a left-wing only phenomenon.

      • Karen, I would add this to what Dean responded: Authoritarianism and Fascism are neither Right nor Left; but are found on both ends of the spectrum.
        China is an authoritarian regime, yet its roots are communist; and thus Left-wing. (One could argue China is still “totalitarian”, rather than merely “authoritarian”.) Its also becoming more and more fascist.
        An example of Left-wing authoritarianism is Castro’s Cuba; or Chavez’ Venezuala. I don’t consider either overtly fascist.
        North Korea, which started as a communist country, has become a fascist state…
        Iran is both a totalitarian and increasingly fascist. Yet their underpinning ideology is neither Left nor right. It is Islamic… Thus the term, Islamofascism.

      • I agree that facism in its corrupted form (or whenever it’s applied in the real world) is not clearly right wing. My point is simply that communism in its corrupted form is not clearly left wing.

        So to pin all the violence that has gone hand-in-hand with communism on the left while ignoring the violence that has been associated with facism because it doesn’t count as “right-wing” is a little unfair.

        I don’t consider myself either left or right but I don’t like extremism in pretty much any form. It always seems to end in violence and oppression and I think both ends of the political spectrum are equally guilty of it.

    • I was able to understand this kid just fine. I think it’s atrocious that the police would use that much force on a person with CP and bound to a wheelchair. Even if he was able to throw something at the police, that level of force is not necessary. I wouldn’t be surprised if the constables were attacking him to incite violence from the crowd, but, I’m also sure that there were members of that mob who were committing acts of violence to provoke the police.
      Another good post Barry. This reminds me of Orwell’s 1984, in which he categorized leftist revolutions as a discontent middle class manipulating the poor to overthrow the upper class, resulting in the former middle class becoming the new ruling class.

  2. Nice wrap-up. The tell: The American revolutionaries believed in inherent human rights that were to be protected by the government whereas the French revolutionaries believed that the government was the granter of rights… the type of statist model we saw that has exhausted Europe economically and morally and that we see pushed for here, particularly in California.

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  6. You know this is tripe right? Your whole analysis is broken from the start, just shot through with factual errors and contextual “adjustments”.

  7. Pingback: VIOLENCE OF THE LEFT: ITS IN THEIR DNA (PART 4 Leftist Violence comes to America, a Historical Perspective) | Word Warrior of So Cal

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