Rethinking the French Revolution: Marxism and the Revisionist Challenge

By George C. Comninel | Go to book overview
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2
The Marxist Response

From the start, the revisionist interpretation of the French Revolution has been framed as much in terms of an attack upon Marxism itself as in terms of a new historiography. Cobban's challenge was indeed primarily an argument against incorporating Marxist theory into historical analysis, going so far as to attribute the historiography of the popular movement to the dictates of Marxism-Leninism. 1 Furet, similarly, indulged in a favorite liberal mode of criticism by discussing at length the Marxist interpretation of the Revolution in the terms of 'catechism'. 2 Aside from these glosses, however, it is widely felt that the revisionist debunking of bourgeois-capitalist social revolution stands as a sufficient repudiation of Marxist historical claims. From the point of view of a class analysis of historical development, then, the obvious questions must be: is there any validity to the revisionist challenge, and, if there is, does this truly repudiate Marx's contribution to class analysis?


Bourgeois Revolution in Marx's Thought

That the validity of Marxist analysis as a whole should appear to have been called into question is in some measure a reflection of the central position that the theory of bourgeois revolution has held in Marxism. The whole of Marx's early thought was oriented towards the questions raised by -- and the world created by -- the French Revolution. 3 The conclusion that the French Revolution was indeed epochal and progressive, but only as the

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