Revolutionary leaders display a remarkable unanimity on the subject of diplomacy. For Jefferson it was 'the pest of the peace of the world'. 1 Robespierre believed all of France's diplomats to be traitors to the revolution. 2 Engels thought that the 'diplomats of all countries constitute a secret league as against the exoteric public and will never compromise one another openly'. 3 Stalin, who numbered many Soviet diplomats among his victims in the purges, was even more contemptuous:
For a diplomat, words must have no relation to actions—otherwise what sort of a diplomat would he be? Words are one thing, actions absolutely another. Good words are a mask for the concealment of unprincipled acts. To speak of a sincere diplomat is the same as talking about dry water or wooden iron. 4
Libya, China during the Cultural Revolution, and Iran all attempted to restructure their diplomatic services along revolutionary lines, while also engaging in repeated abuse of their own diplomatic privileges and violations of the rules relating to diplomats stationed in their countries.
What is the nature of this institution which has incurred so much revolutionary displeasure and what is its role in international society? Why was it singled out for attack, and what impact did revolutionary states have upon their own diplomatic practice? And how has diplomacy evolved as a central institution of international society in the face of so much revolutionary distrust and hostility?