A discussion with Micah Alpaugh author of Non-Violent Protest and the French Revolution. Arbiters of popular sovereignty. From an audio broadcast of Against the Grain, moderated by CS Song.


Key Elements Explained

1. Popular sovereignty and democracy to the parisienne masses to discover new forms of popular sovereignty leading to elections. The French revolution obtained popular sovereignty from the established order for all mankind.

2. The French Revolution was run primarily through petitions. Signatures were used in the republican campaign of 1791 to remove the monarchy.  However, the parisienne masses met with resistance and violence ensued.

3. The mass protests influenced national politics and women’s peaceful protests succeeded in bringing the King back.

4.  The infamous September massacre involved the storming of the Bastille.  The Reveillon riots of April brought down Reveillon’s mansion which violated the community.   In 1792 practice dethroned the French Monarch.

5. However, the removal of the Girondins the radical aspect in 1793, took place with almost no protest and involved no violence where all will united for the best course to take.

6. The revolt adopted a conciliatory tone with authority believing it to be the best voice.  For the first time in the modern history the general will by Rousseau wanted no violence and routinely fraternized.  This general will proved in the long term to become part of non-violence of Gandhi which is Satyagraha or adherence to truth. Truth became the symbol of popular sovereignty in the fight to depose the British Empire. The revolt succeeded though not entirely.

7.  These non-violent processes established voting blocks which subsequently and successfully wrote the French Constitution within which the Rights of Man is symbolic of resistance to oppression.

8. Edmund Burke, founder of modern conservatism in the United States disapproved of the French revolution for not including tradition. In its stead, it opened up new forms of sovereignty such as direct democracy.

9. Non-violent protest has become a tradition that passed the torch from Gandhi to King and then to Nelson Mandela.  Non-violence was held to be their ideal and preferred method.

10. Nelson Mandela adopted a conciliatory attitude to the harsh Apartheid.  He began by mandating democracy as the right to combat scourges. His was a fight against evil not to be mistaken for political power and ambition. He did occasionally advocate violence but as with the French masses practiced restraint.  In this Mandela has no rival having spent 27 years in a solitary jail cell.

11. Direct or representative democracy?  The French revolution brought about the only example of direct democracy. It successfully advocated civilization as an antidote to tyranny.  To be followed by the famous Gandhi, who said that such a civilization would be a very good idea.


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