Rethinking the French Revolution: Marxism and the Revisionist Challenge

By George C. Comninel | Go to book overview

6
Marx's Early Thought

The politics of the French Revolution without question remained the pre-eminent focus of European politics in the era of Marx's youth. Here, aristocratic reaction was in power. There, conservative liberals warily eyed republicans. Everywhere, democracy was a subversive force. In 'backward' Germany, the French Revolution had loomed large, and in the Rhineland of Marx's birth it had left a tangible legacy which contrasted starkly to the freshly imposed rule of ascendant Prussia. Jean Bruhat, in two articles devoted to the impact of the French Revolution on Marx's thought, particularly emphasized this strong liberalism of homeland and family as a background to Marx's studies. 1

Yet, as Marx and Engels were to contend, social conditions in Germany were not such as to have produced a real bourgeois liberal movement. Particularly outside the Rhineland, liberal ideology was primarily a matter of abstract philosophy -- informed by foreign historiography and political economy -- not of active politics. (So, too, did Germany produce a 'socialist' philosophy in place of a workers' socialist movement. 2) The conservative philosophical liberalism of Hegel, the moderate (seemingly 'left') philosophical liberalism of the Young Hegelians, and the petty bourgeois philosophical radicalism of the 'True Socialists' -- each of which in turn Marx confronted in developing his critique of liberal ideology -- were all imbued with the ideas of the French Revolution. 3

The question for liberals had been what to make of the politics and goals of the Revolution in the context of Germany, and -- for

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Rethinking the French Revolution: Marxism and the Revisionist Challenge
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 4
  • 1- The French Revolution As Bourgeois Revolution: Orthodoxy and Challenge 5
  • Notes 25
  • 2- The Marxist Response 28
  • Notes 51
  • 3- Bourgeois Revolution: A Liberal Concept 53
  • Notes 74
  • 4- In Defense of History: A Marxist Critique of Marxist Theory 77
  • Notes 102
  • 5- Liberal Ideology and the Politics Of the Revolution 104
  • Notes 119
  • 6- Marx's Early Thought 121
  • Notes 131
  • 7- Historical Materialism 133
  • Notes 176
  • Conclusion: Towards a Marxist Interpretation of the French Revolution 179
  • Notes 205
  • Select Bibliography 208
  • Index 219
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