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‘The sans-culottes of the french revolution’ (1889, Reprinted december 1905)

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Chapter Summary

Kautsky described the policy of the sans-culottes as one of 'Revolution in Permanenz'. Below the mass of labourers and petty bourgeois lived a large lumpenproletariat in cities. They joined the revolutionary movement that promised to end their sufferings. The common bond was hatred of the privileged who always wronged them. The centres of the revolution were the neighbourhoods of Paris immediately close to the seat of government. The French revolution reached its zenith when the coalition of European monarchies marched on France while counter-revolutionary uprisings broke out in several provinces. The Revolution was saved by the sans-culottes. They seized control of the Paris Commune, gaining absolute mastery over the huge instruments of power there. Their fall has been called the shipwreck of the Revolution. The enormous force that they unleashed and gigantic historical role they played gave them self-confidence and a degree of political maturity that they never lost.

Keywords: French revolution; Paris; sans-culottes

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