What were the causes of the 1911 Chinese Revolution? - …
What, then, should those who remain faithful to the legacy of the radical Left do with all these? Two things, at least. First, the terrorist past has to be accepted as OURS, even - or precisely because - it is critically rejected. The only alternative to the half-hearted defensive position of feeling guilty in front of our liberal or Rightist critics is: we have to do the critical job better than our opponents. This, however, is not the entire story: one should also not allow our opponents to determine the field and topic of the struggle. What this means is that the ruthless self-critique should go hand in hand with a fearless admission of what, to paraphrase Marx's judgment on Hegel's dialectics, one is tempted to call the "rational kernel" of the Jacobin Terror:"Materialist dialectics assumes, without particular joy, that, till now, no political subject was able to arrive at the eternity of the truth it was deploying without moments of terror. Since, as Saint-Just asked: "What do those who want neither Virtue nor Terror want?" His answer is well-known: they want corruption - another name for the subject's defeat.
Or, as Saint-Just put it succinctly: "That which produces the general good is always terrible." These words should not be interpreted as a warning against the temptation to impose violently the general good onto a society, but, on the contrary, as a bitter truth to be fully endorsed. - The further crucial point to bear in mind is that, for Robespierre, revolutionary terror is the very opposite of war: Robespierre was a pacifist, not out of hypocrisy or humanitarian sensitivity, but because he was well aware that war among nations as a rule serves as the means to obfuscate revolutionary struggle within each nation. Robespierre's speech "On war" is of special importance today: it shows him as a true pacifist who ruthlessly denounces the patriotic call to war, even if the war is formulated as the defense of the Revolution, as the attempt of those who want "revolution without revolution" to divert the radicalization of the revolutionary process. His stance is thus the exact opposite of those who need war to militarize social life and take dictatorial control over it. Which is why Robespierre also denounced the temptation to export revolution to other countries, forcefully "liberating" them: "The French are not afflicted with a mania for rendering any nation happy and free against its will. All the kings could have vegetated or died unpunished on their blood-spattered thrones, if they had been able to respect the French people's independence."
The Jacobin revolutionary terror is sometimes (half)justified as the "founding crime" of the bourgeois universe of law and order, in which citizens are allowed to pursue in piece their interests, one should reject this claim on two accounts. Not only is it factually wrong (many conservatives were quite right to point out that one can achieve the bourgeois law and order also without the terrorist excess, as was the case in Great Britain - although there is Cromwell...); much more important, the revolutionary Terror of 1792-1794 was not a case of what Walter Benjamin and others call state-founding violence, but a case of "divine violence." Interpreters of Benjamin struggle with what could "divine violence" effectively mean - is it yet another Leftist dream of a "pure" event which never really takes place? One should recall here Friedrich Engels's reference to the Paris Commune as an example of the dictatorship of the proletariat:
What were the causes of the 1911 Chinese Revolution
What can be more "totalitarian" than this closed loop of "your very fear of being guilty makes you guilty" - a weird superego-twisted version of the well-known motto "the only thing to fear is fear itself"? One should nonetheless move beyond the quick dismissal of Robespierre's rhetorical strategy as the strategy of "terrorist culpabilization," and to discern its moment of truth: there are no innocent bystanders in the crucial moments of revolutionary decision, because, in such moments, innocence itself - exempting oneself from the decision, going on as if the struggle I am witnessing doesn't really concern me - IS the highest treason. That is to say, the fear of being accused of treason IS my treason, because, even if I "did not do anything against the revolution," this fear itself, the fact that it emerged in me, demonstrates that my subjective position is external to the revolution, that I experience "revolution" as an external force threatening me.
But what goes on in this unique speech is even more revealing: Robespierre directly addresses the touchy question that has to arise in the mind of his public - how can he himself be sure that he will not be the next in line to be accused? He is not the master exempted from the collective, the "I" outside "we" - after all, he was once very close to Danton, a powerful figure now under arrest, so what if, tomorrow, his proximity to Danton will be used against him? In short, how can Robespierre be sure that the process he unleashed will not swallow him? It is here that his position assumes the sublime greatness - he fully assumes the danger that the danger that now threatens Danton will tomorrow threaten him. The reason that he is so serene, that he is not afraid of this fate, is not that Danton was a traitor, while he, Robespierre, is pure, a direct embodiment of the people's Will; it is that he, Robespierre, IS NOT AFRAID TO DIE - his eventual death will be a mere accident which counts for nothing:
The Imperial examinations were not the sole factor in the Taiping Rebellion; resentment of Qing rule and the humiliation China suffered in the First clearly loomed large in Hung Xiuquan's thought, while his mystic inspiration remains inexplicable. Nevertheless, the tantalising frustration that the examination system caused in many aspiring intellectuals was certainly an integral part of Hong's motivation, and a root cause of the tragic ambition that led to slaughter then unprecedented in history.