By Otto Scott
“The final stage in all revolutions is an assault against the Executive. Historically, this has taken various forms.”
During President Reagan’s Administration, the Wall Street Journal editorialized about a confrontation between the Congress and the Executive Branch. The Journal described the confrontation as whether or not the president [Ronald Reagan] had violated the 1947 National Securities Act or the Boland Amendment attached to an appropriations bill in 1983, two years after Reagan took office. The Journal wondered whether the results of the prior presidential election would be overturned in favor of the foreign policy of Clayborn Pell, who was against resistance to Communism. The Journal subsequently asked how we can arrive at a consensus between what it called “the wholly incompatible view of the world and U.S. security by such politicians as Senators Pell, Kerry, Mikulski and Dodd?” Unfortunately, this adds up to more than a struggle between two political parties holding the same basic beliefs. It adds up to another stage in what is, and has been an unfolding revolutionary process.
In France in the 1790s, during the great proto-typical secular revolution of modern times, the assault against the Executive was mounted from inside the Legislature. That final stage began when the Estates General were transformed into a General Assembly—a more radical body. The legislators in the Assembly launched a series of “inquiries”—miniature trials, so to speak—against the Crown, the Nobility, the Clergy and, ultimately, even centrist members of the Assembly itself. These proceedings were noisily supported by claques in the Assembly gallery, by partisans parading in the streets, by demonstrators and rioters, and by a radical press. This revolutionary chorus created the impression that all France was on the rim of a volcano.
As the Left—the Jacobins—expanded their influence within the Assembly, they rewrote the Constitution, obtained its ratification and held elections in which they triumphed. Then their “inquiries” took on a new and sinister significance. The Courts of France, which had assisted the revolution to reduce the powers of the Crown, were reduced to impotence, together with all the other institutions of the ancient regime. By then the guillotine was in operation; Louis XVI and his Queen were sent to their deaths; an entire class was murdered.
Historians and commentators have told us, over and again, that revolutions are the result of long-standing injustice and poverty. They have described revolutions as inevitable, and they argue that in many respects’ revolutions are pathways to progress.
But when revolution appeared in France, that nation was the richest in the world. France had the largest land mass and the greatest number of people in all Europe. Its industries were the largest, it had the greatest number of wealthy and middle-class persons; its language was preferred for diplomacy, art, letters and science; it had more intellectuals than any other nation, more novels, more theater—and more license. Behavior under Louis XVI was unbridled. Paris, Marseilles and other French cities harbored sex clubs, cults, occult fashions, homosexual costume balls, wild theater and newspapers that combined pornography and radical politics. Adultery in the middle and upper classes was the mode and not a whim; the laws against insulting the Crown or blaspheming Christianity were dead letters. Poverty was at the lowest level in French history, though it existed.
How did revolution occur in so rich a society? The government of France rose under the Sun King, Louis XIV, and then fell in terms of stability, because the Sun King drained the Treasury with his wars and his extravagances. His successor listened to John Law, whose paper money experiment ruined thousands of prosperous families. Then more extravagances under Louis XV. Finally, when Louis XVI arrived, France had lost its North American colony and spent its last reserves helping the Americans against Britain. Saddled with an enormous deficit, the French government could no longer pay the interest on its bonds. The banks of Switzerland and Amsterdam closed against Paris. In that extremity, the financial experts told the King that there was only one solution. Raise taxes. That was why the Estates General were summoned (in the name of tax Reform), and where most historians start the date of the French Revolution.
Let’s add some social and intellectual factors. Economics cannot be separated from the body politic or the social context in which commerce and government function. There is nothing abstract about real life. The long reign of Louis XIV succeeded in boring all France, Voltaire launched his satires—his ridicules of the Christian religion, French manners and morals, French history and tradition, i.e., French culture. Voltaire’s success not only inspired an army of imitators; it launched a decades-long fashion. Eventually the fashion spawned Rousseau, who argued that man is good, and society is bad. If anyone did anything wrong, it was the fault of the System.
There would not have been a revolution in France if its intellectuals had not turned against French history, traditions, leaders and institutions. It was that onslaught which portrayed French patriotism as foolish, backward and reactionary.
Solzhenitsyn said, “to destroy a people, you must first sever their roots.”
He was talking about a nation’s memory, its history. The French intellectuals came to accept Voltaire’s description of their history as a record of criminality. As their self-respect waned, French morals loosened. Slander became another term for journalism. The underground press combined pornography and radicalism. It invented scurrilous lies about prominent persons.
Understanding, on any level, is diﬃcult to achieve. Here in the United States, we have a population that combines personal commitment with intellectual detachment, and even disbelief. We have people who work hard, but refuse to think; refuse to add things up. There is a widespread conviction that nothing has a larger meaning.
In the face of a continuing trashing of this nation by its intellectuals, such an attitude is more than myopic. it is intellectually perverse. Every pre-revolutionary symptom of Paris in the 1780s as well as Leningrad in 1910 and Berlin in the 1920’s is among us today. The foreign agents; the mysteriously funded, unsettling publications; the cults and the homosexual clubs; the demonstrations and riots; the disorders; the demagogues; the international intrigues and the helpless bourgeoisie; the bankrupt government and Utopians talking about a new Constitution, while the Left mounts an assault on the Executive from the bastion of the Legislature.
All that separates us from Paris, 1789, and Berlin, 1930, is a financial debacle. Does anyone doubt that it is coming? We have accumulated a huge runaway deficit, and have become the world’s largest debtor nation at a time when nations which are in debt to us are in the process of organizing international defaults.
There is no diﬀerence between the revolution building here and elsewhere. The struggle to take control of the nation from inside Congress is no diﬀerent than the methods applied successfully in France so long ago, in the Russian Duma, and in the German Reichstag. They seem foreign and diﬀerent only to those who are unacquainted with revolution, and who harbor the quaint illusion that the United States is immune from the processes of unchecked revolution.
There have been, however, revolutions halted by individual action. For the revolutionaries, despite their boasts, do not always win. The revolutionary tide is not “inevitable.” In World War I, the German General Staﬀ set up several eﬀorts to win the war by subverting the governments of Russia, France and Britain. We know that their support of Lenin proved successful—and we know the price that Germany later paid to the Frankenstein it helped into life. But, the German General Staﬀ also funded revolution in Ireland in 1916 (revolutions do cost money), and gave money to Sir Roger Casement and other Irish rebels. The Easter Rebellion, as it was called, failed—but not without loss of life and an exacerbation of ill-will between England and Ireland.
The most ambitious eﬀort at subversion was made by Germany against France. There, German money and propaganda not only created mutinous cadres inside the French Army, but planted traitors inside the French Chamber of Deputies. These posed as ardent lovers of peace, and sought to weaken the French military eﬀort and fighting spirit in every way. They were assisted by pro-German newspapers that promoted defeatism and surrender, and a gaggle of intellectuals of varying degrees of sincerity. General Petain quelled the Army mutiny by stern and secret measures, and Clemenceau, then in his 70s, rose inside the Chamber of Deputies to hurl the charge of treason—and made it stick. These two elderly men, one considered mediocre and the other at the end of his career, saved France from revolution at a moment of deep and terrible crisis.
In Spain, the revolution forced the abdication of the king in 1931. A Republic was declared, and several elections were won by the Left. Finally, the Left gained control of the Spanish Cates, and the government. It then consolidated its revolution by ordering all large family-owned estates broken up. Then, because the revolution was against religion and against freedom of thought or faith, it ordered all religious orders dissolved. But the revolution does not rely only upon decrees; it also uses terror. The Spanish government, under the control of revolutionaries, launched a wave of murders of priests and nuns, and the physical destruction of churches, convents and monasteries. At that, the Spaniards rose in rebellion, defeated the Communists and set oﬀ a wave of Leftist denunciations that endures to this day. But the revolution in Spain was rolled back.
The worldwide revolutionary tide continues to flow. It does more than lap at our shores: it has seeped into our Congress, it long ago entered our media, our universities and even our mainline churches. A leftist revolution can, as in France, Russia, Germany and elsewhere, carry us all beyond the point of peaceful return if we remain uncomprehending and passive.
Revolutions cannot be halted by incomprehension. But to know the plans of the enemy is to have a great advantage. To arouse the nation to those plans is not impossible; all America is uneasily aware that something is wrong. What is needed are voices to rally counter-revolutionary resistance. The defense of our tripartite government from congressional eﬀorts to reduce the president to the status of a civil servant (answerable to congressional inquiries that usurp the proper functions of the courts) is a defense against the final stage of revolution.
Article from www.chalcedon.edu , originally delivered as “The Shape of Events [Our Revolution]” in 1987 and republished in The Journal of Christian Reconstruction vol. 13 no. 1, by the Chalcedon Foundation in 1991.
This article has been re-edited and condensed from the original by Gospelbbq.