FIRE IN THE MINDS OF MEN
Origins of the Revolutionary Faith
by James H. Billington
FIRE IN THE MINDS OF MEN
Origins of the Revolutionary Faith
by James H. Billington
If traditional religion is to be described as “the opium of the people,” the revolutionary faith might well be called the amphetamine of the intellectuals - JB
...I shall attempt to show that the modern revolutionary tradition as it came to be internationalized under Napoleon and the Restoration grew out of occult Freemasonry; that early organizational ideas originated more from Pythagorean mysticism than from practical experience; and that the real innovators were not so much political activists as literary intellectuals, on whom German romantic thought in general - and Bavarian Illuminism in particular - exerted great influence - JB
The revolutionary faith was shaped not so much by the critical rationalism of the French Enlightenment as is generally believed as by the occultism and proto-romanticism of Germany. This faith was incubated in France during the revolutionary era within a small subculture of literary intellectuals who were immersed in journalism, fascinated by secret societies.
The Promethean Faith of the revolutionaries resembled in many respects the general modern belief that science would lead men out of darkness into light but there was also the more pointed, millennial assumption that, on the new day that was dawning, the sun would never set.
…From the spark comes the flame! was originated by the first man to predict the an egalitarian social revolution in the eighteenth century Sylvain Marechal, and revived by the first man to realize such a revolution in the twentieth Lenin, who used it as an epigram for his journal, The Spark.
Mozart wrote his “Illuminist message,” in his Magic Flute, The rays of the sun have vanquished the night, The powers of darkness have yielded to light.
In the anti Napoleonic revolution the slogan was, With a match one has no need of a lever; one does not lift up the world, one burns it.
A word created not by Rousseau but by Restif de la Bretonne that Billington calls … the indulgent fetishist and nocturnal streetwalker in pre-revolutionary Paris. Restif was also a consummate author of pornographic literature. Sexuality was equated in the personal and collective psyche with violence and revolution.
Initiators of Revolution
Filippo Buonarroti, thought of as the original revolutionary. Then we have Louis Auguste Blanqui in the Paris dominated era of 1830s and 40s. Then we have Peter Tkachev the confederate of Blanqui in Russia, whose group assassinated the Tsar in 1881. Lenin’s brother attempted and failed to kill the next Tsar and then Lenin took over the scene.
Lenin’s career originated in St. Petersburg in the students dining hall and library of the St. Petersburg Technological Institute.
Even prior to the Russian revolt the seeds of revolution are found among the intellectuals of Paris, the anti-Versailles groups of the Palais-Royal in the late 1780’s. Billington says of this that it was a privileged Parisian sanctuary of the reformist House of Orleans… incubating those who would wrest power from Versailles.
The word Revolution means a return to the past. So in the days when revolution was still in the hands of Christians, Catholics etc, and later in the 18th Century Enlightenment period, the theme was a return to the antiquity of the Greco-Roman.
Thus Germany –not France- gave birth to the sweeping, modern idea of revolution as a secular upheaval more universal in reach and more transforming in scope than any political change. This concept was transported to Paris by Count Mirabeau, a former ambassador in Berlin, it helped him to become the leading figure in the early events of the French Revolution in 1789. His study of Fredrick the Great in 1788 had proclaimed Prussia the likely site of a coming revolution, and the German Illuminists its probable leaders.
Mirabeau popularized the Illuminist term “revolution of the mind,” introduced the phrase “great revolution,” and apparently invented the words “revolutionary,” “counter-revolution,” and counter-revolutionary.” Mirabeau pioneered in applying the evocative language of traditional religion to the new political institutions of revolutionary France.
The revolutionary tradition reached maturity when fighting broke out again on the streets of Paris against the restored Bourbons in July 1830. Lafayette, by then an old man, emerged to legitimize a return to constitutional monarchy, and helped to establish in power Louis Philippe of the House of Orleans… It was this Philip who renamed the great public gardens of the Palais-Royal – in which the mob that stormed the Bastille forst formed- “the garden of equality.” And it is this revolutionary Garden of Eden, this unlikely Bethlehem, that the story of the revolutionary faith properly begins.
If the French Revolution can be said to have begun in any single spot at any single moment, it may have been in the gardens of the Palais-Royal at about 3.30 in the afternoon, of Sunday, July 12, 1798.
The “Garden of Equality” of the Duke d’Orleans.
The Palais-Royal was the center in Paris not just of politics and high ideals, but also of low pleasure…Choderlos de Laclos, was the author of “Les Liasons Dangereuses” and a pioneer of the liberated pornography of that flourished during the revolutionary era. Laclos’s friend, the Marquis de Sade, opened a bookstore in the Palais during the turmoil to sell his dark masterpieces; every form of sexual gratification that he described was available in the cafes and apartments of the Palais complex. The gardens were the gathering places for prostitutes… Even before the revolution, the Palais-Royal had generated a counter-morality of its own.
Many of the main thinkers and activists, of the French Revolution, from Mirabeau to Marechal, were collectors and authors of pornography. They were also fascinated with mythic Earth symbols like the Oak, as well as other phallic images, like the Phrygian cap and the maypole.
Concepts were propounded by revolutionary journalists like Nicholas Bonneville, of rule by “superior intelligences,” even by “magic circles.”
The public spectacle of the guillotine was an essential cohesion ritual during the reign of terror, in Paris. The spectacle of public amusement is continued today in the televised horrors of fiction and the news coverage. With every revolution comes the fetish of blood.
The revolution’s “passion for theatricality” extended even to the bodies of the decapitated victims, as people played with them, sang to them, danced, laughed and greatly amused themselves with the awkward appearance of these actors who so poorly played their “funny” roles
Champs de Mars – the metaphysical center of Paris, the destination for the mobs before and after their excursions, the place of the celebrations. More than three hundred thousand Frenchmen from all over the country marched to hear a vast chorus commend the unified French nation to the sun: “pure fire, eternal eye, soul and source of all the world.”
In February 1793, Restif used the term “communism” as his own for the first time to describe the fundamental change in ownership that would obviate the need for any further redistribution of goods and properties.
Appropriately, in view of his erotic interests and preoccupations, Venus was the site for his communist society of the future,
Babeuf’s concurrent conspiracy takes us deeper into the occult labyrinths of Paris where modern revolutionary organization began
Communism in Russia
The first of many Russians to comment substantively on Restif was the founder of a distinctively Russian tradition of revolutionary intelligentsia: Alexander Radishev.
Radishev blasted the libertarian excess and sexual permissiveness of Restif’s communism – providing a hint of the more ascetic and puritanical version that was to come.
Whatever the precise links of Babeuf to Bonneville, of both with Marechal, and of all with Buonarotti, a common force shaped them all: romantic occultism.
Thus under Napoleon, conspiratorial societies with hierarchical discipline became the dominant form of revolutionary organization, and in the 1820’s under the conservative restoration they produced a wave of revolutions throughout Europe.
Billington in his own words
The plain fact is that by the mid 1810s there were not just one or two but scores of secret of secret revolutionary organizations throughout Europe – extending even into Latin America and the Middle East…And it was they who in the process of modernization pioneered a phenomenon by now familiar: impatient youth forming their own organizations to combat monarchical-religious authority.
The story of secret societies can never be fully reconstructed, but it has been badly neglected- even avoided, one suspects-because the evidence that is available repeatedly leads one into territory equally uncongenial to modern historians in the East and in the West.
…the modern revolutionary tradition as it came to be internationalized under Napoleon and the Restoration grew out of occult Freemasonry…and that the real innovators were not so much political activists as literary intellectuals, on whom German romantic thought in general and Bavarian Illuminism in particular – exerted great influence.
The three nations that dominated the revolutionary tradition of the early nineteenth century - France, Italy and Poland.
THE CARBONARI (Charcoal Burners)
From the Jura at the beginning of the nineteenth century came the purveyors of the dream to arouse the masses: the society of Good Cousins, Charcoal Burners.
One of the main purveyors was Jean-Pierre Briot
The Carbonari increasingly drew a hitherto quiescent populace into civic activity, and posed an immediate threat to the traditionalistic Bourbon King Ferdinand I, when he was restored to the Napoleonic throne in 1815. Carbonari ritual in the South was far more effective in mobilizing the masses than the traditional Masonic ritual in the North. Naturalistic and familiar symbols replaced the occult and mathematical language of Masonry…were an artisan brotherhood in the woods, not an esoteric order in a temple; they met in a bourgeois shop…rather than an aristocratic lodge; and they bade their members follow a patron saint…rather than to to seek out the esoteric secrets of Solomon, Pythagoras and the like.
The Carbonari became, in effect, a pyramidical counter-government in the kingdom of Naples.
The Carbonari combined all three levels that were seen to be crucial to the revolutionary tradition: belief in an uncompleted revolution, in the authority of Nature against tradition, and in a secret, hierarchical organization.
The Fascists and Fascii
The Grand Master used an axe as his gavel on a wooden block, the symbolic trunk of to which all branches of the society were organically related.
The Ladder and Clenched fist
The wooden ladder – symbol of man’s climb to perfection – was always present on the table of the lodge master; and a principle sign of the both the apprentices and the masters was known as the “ladder.” Their ritual of recognition – the vertical extension of both arms downwards with clenched fists – may be a distant ancestor of the future revolutionary salute: the raised, single-armed clenched fist. Bundles fascii of sticks also lay on the table of the master – a symbol that harked back to ancient Rome and would be revived in the Rome of Mussolini. For the Carbonari the bundles signified “the members of our respectable order, united in peace.”
The members sat in triangular lines in a triangular room under three over-hanging candles symbolizing the three sources of enlightenment in the great firmament sun, moon, and northern star.
The word “black-balled” comes from the Carbonari that would blacken with Charcoal anyone who was a renegade member. Putting someone in the “black book” etc also come from this order or sect.
But for all its international echoes and prophetic anticipations, the post Restoration decade of revolutionary activity belonged largely to the Italians. The Carbonari had been the first organization to lead a large-scale revolution in modern Europe.
The Carbonari diaspora produced a bewildering variety of atomized protest groups.
These had names like the five in a family, seven sleepers, vampires, black bellies, bandits etc;
The term “Liberal”
The birth of the term “liberal” in Spain – used in opposition to the term “servile” – marks the conscious appearance of Manichean combat terminology among revolutionaries.
Charles X outlawed the Carbonari, as did the Pope.
Astrea – a secret lodge of the “young Russians,” the secret society in Russia.
…the Russians developed similar plans for working through Masonic lodges with a secret, three-stage hierarchy.
The Russian Paul Pestel – one of the most inventive revolutionary thinkers of his time anywhere in Europe. He was one of the few to argue for an authoritarian, centralized revolutionary state and that would consciously create a single nationality and press for egalitarian social reforms. He followed the Buonarrotian pattern of making extensive use of Masonic lodges and symbols…His pan-European, even worldwide perspectives bordered on megalomania.
Youngest of the French Carbonari, He was to keep alive the conspiratorial spirit throughout the nineteenth century, and to help transmit it back to a more receptive Russia in the late 1870.’
Giuseppe Mazzini from Genoa
The man who did the most to incite the peoples of Europe against their kings was the Genoese Giuseppe Mazzini. A veteran of the Carbonari who had been imprisoned during the Revolution of 1830, Mazzini saw his life as an “apostolate” that would provide martyrs as well as teachings for a new type of national society. In exile in 1831, he founded the model society for the modern revolutionary nationalism.
He was rumored to have links with rich Lombards. He wrote hundreds of books and was extremely well connected throughout the world. He was involved in taking revolution throughout the world, even to Latin America, to Uruguay. He converted Giuseppe Garibaldi. One of Garibaldi’s symbols was the Black Flag with a Volcano motif. His soldiers also appropriated red smocks or shirts that were originally used in slaughter houses to disguise the blood.
These the original “bloody shirts,” were henceforth to camouflage the blood of men rather than cattle.
Mazzini desired to federate all nationalistic revolutionary sects.
The Red Flag
The future banner of international revolution, the red flag, made its modern debut in Paris during the riots and demonstration after the funeral of a popular general, Maximilien Lamarque, on June 5, 1832. In a scene worthy of his own melodramas, Victor Hugo unfurled the red flag that night on the barricades in the Rue de la Chanverie and lit a torch beside it.
Romantic nationalism was everywhere hailed as the cause of “the people” – a term so vague yet appealing that it seemed to require a special language of sounds and symbols to express its meaning. Songs and flags helped enlist the emotions and politicize the illiterate.
The High Priest of this new religion of “the people” was Jules Michelet…Michelet looked for vindication to Poland and invited as lecturer to the College de France perhaps the greatest of all poetic prophets of revolutionary nationalism: Adam Mickiewicz.
But it was Michelet who fortified radical nationalism with the kind of antireligious humanism that Russian revolutionaries were to find congenial.
Blanqui was descended from a north Italian family … and had joined the French version of the Carbonari during its period of decline.
Blanqui led two successive conspiratorial organizations, the Society of the Families and the Society of the Seasons, where in many ways the modern social revolutionary tradition was born.
In the same 1939, much of Ireland lay in terror before the Irish Sons of Freedom and Sons of the Shamrock or Ribbon Society.
…the Ribbon Society did not attempt a political coup. It was succeeded in the 1840’s by Young Ireland, which, as we have seen, was directly linked with Mazzini and that other revolutionary tradition, romantic nationalism; and then, in the 1850’s, by the Irish Republican Brotherhood called Fenians after the pre-Christian warriors, was largely modeled on the rival Carbonari model of republican conspiracy.
James Fazy, the leader of the Swiss rebellion and revolution between 1830 and 48.
…England did not produce a revolutionary tradition – let alone a revolution – of its own in the nineteenth century.
Karl Marx and Max Weber suggested exactly opposite conclusions about whether Protestantism caused or was caused by Capitalism.
Much experience in nineteenth century Europe supports the argument that Protestantism and parliamentarianism provided a kind of alternative equivalent to revolution.
Henri de Saint Simon and Hegel
Two new systems …those of Saint Simon and Hegel – offered just such a view of history, and these two systems provided the principal sources of modern revolutionary ideology…the impact of both men converged on Karl Marx.
The scientific phase of Saint-Simonian thinking grew directly out of the activities of the first people to call themselves “ideologists.” Destutt de Tracy, who first popularized the term “ideology”, in 1796-97, suggested in the first part of his Elements of Ideology…building on the tradition of Locke… de Tracy maintained that all thinking and feeling were physical sensations in the strictest sense of the word.
Proceeded to analyze society in terms of its physiological components: classes. He never conceived of economic classes in the Marxian sense, but his functional class analysis prepared the way for Marx.
…he divided society up into property owners, workers, and savants, placing all his hope on the latter group’s disinterested approach to human affairs. He thought that the property owners could be persuaded to see that the savants were the natural leaders able to steer humanity away from a revolutionary disruption of the social order
One can deduce many things from this piece of information. We can see that such a short time scholars and thinkers considered society cohesive and aware enough to be reasoned with and also that persons of the revolutionary mode thought a great deal about a leadership of the intellectuals, the intelligentsia.
Saint Simon later became disillusioned with the savants and turned to the industrialists, creating a strong work-ethic conviction and philosophy.
All men must work was what he believed
During the restoration Saint Simon divided society into two fundamental groups: industrial and idlers.
His friend and pupil Auguste Comte, went on to create Positivism which was nonpolitical and authoritarian.
Social revolutionary Saint-Simonianism was begun by two young students from the Ecole Polytechnique: Orinde Rodriguez, the son of a Jewish banker from Bordeaux, and his young mathematics student, who had fought for Napoleon in the Hundred Days War and spent 1821-23 in St. Petersburg, Barthelemy Prosper Enfantin.
Rich in Pythagorean number mysticism, Enfantin’s revolution concentrated on triadic formulations for the new “organic era.”
Founder of the Russian Revolutionary tradition, was typical in moving from an early infatuation with Saint Simon.
University of Berlin
Founded in 1809, the University of Berlin was in many ways the first modern university, urban, research-oriented, state-supported, free from traditional religious controls.
I saw Napoleon, the soul of the world, riding through the town on a reconnaissance. It was a wonderful sight to see, concentrated in a point, sitting on a horse, an individual who overruns the world and masters it.
He had begun as a student of Theology, in search of a Theodicy, a justification of the ways of god to man; he ended up instead creating a new God: the “World Spirit.”
Hegel found in the ancient Greeks’ insistence on man as social animal an antidote for lonely romantic brooding. Eternal contemplation of the self was, he discovered, the old idea of hell: the literal term of Hypochondria. The world of the spirit or mind, the German Geist meaning both provided a way out, because the mind finds satisfaction in its own activity.
Young intellectuals were fascinated by the suggestion that their own intellectual life and personal alienation put them in special communion with the World Spirit.
History was a process whereby the absolute mind moves to absolute freedom.
The founder of revolutionary Hegelianism was August Cieszowski.
Cieszowski introduced the Greek term praxis for the “practical activity” that he thought would be characteristic of the new age. The quest for a “philosophy of action” became central to the most revolutionary thinkers of the group: first radical fellow Poles, then the seminal Russian revolutionary, Nicholas Ogarev, and finally Karl Marx. 230
Cybernetics and Intelligentsia
In 1843m B. F. Trentowski invented the word “cybernetics” to describe the new form of rational social technology, which he believed would transform the human condition. In his neglected work, The Relationship of Philosophy to Cybernetics, or the art of ruling nations, he also invented the word “intelligentsia.”
It was a word that identified the intellectual controllers that were separate from the other classes.
Libelt and Cieszowski still looked largely to the old aristocracy to produce the new elite.
None of the young Hegelians had seriously suffered at the hands of the European authorities; and most of them including Marx appear never to have even been inside a factory.
Karl Marx- believed that the revolution was to bring freedom through the destruction of the state, rather than through its fulfillment, as Hegel had envisaged.
Comparatives between Crimea and Vietnam
These two destructive wars mark the birth and perhaps the death of the ritual of mass violence originated at home but exercised abroad by liberal industrial states. Both wars were strictly localized in distant places through a gradual process of escalation. The doses were calculated by antiseptic accountants and sugar-coated by ambitious politicians who dramatized the threat of a hostile authoritarian regime taking over – through the domino effect …Both wars were entered into be idealistic, innovative reformers Palmerston and Kennedy/Johnson and were briefly glamorized by creating heroic fighting models the Light Brigage, Green Berets. Success or failure depended in each case on the relevance of new terminology and the role of a new means of communication. In the Crimea the London Timesand the new mass press stimulated the enthusiasm for war and thirst for victory. In Vietnamm the New York Times and the new mass medium, television, helped take America out of the war.
When the word first appeared publicly in 1840, it spread throughout the continent with a speed altogether unprecedented in the history of such verbal epidemics.
Socialism was first used in print by the Englishman Robert Owen…He wrote The chief question between the modern…political economists and the communists or socialists… is whether “capital should be owned individually or commonly.”
It was just after the revolution of 1830 that socialism came into widespread positive usage for the first time and it rapidly became one of the “sacramental words of the epoch”
…socialism was generally seen as the necessary counter both to individualism and to a narrow preoccupation with purely political processes.
Communism as a political ideal and verbal talisman originated, however, not among workers but among intellectuals who provided leadership through smaller groups that arose within or out of these larger organizations.
It was the Communists that kept insisting that a “New Era for the World” was coming and a surety. The terms that they employed have a striking resemblance to terms sacred to all Freemasons. Terms like Perfected, indissoluble, unalterable, equal, real, social, community, communal, egalitarian and probity etc smack of the lodges.
New Education and Theodore Dezamy
This educational ideal was developed in an even more extreme manner by the second major figure in the birth of Communism: Theodore Dezamy… called for a totally new type of mass education “communal, egalitarian, harmonious…industrial and agricultural.”
Strong central authority, was also required of course.
He asked for society to be ruled by the Knowing Ones. But these personages are not
the usual savants or intellectuals nor religious or revolutionary believers. They will not be partisan or themselves tied to any side. It would be these ones that could lead men to happiness.
“Finished Communism” would exist only in a “universal country” that will supersede not just nationalism… but also any other divisive allegiances … there would be a no “new holy alliance against the first government embracing Communism,” because its ideological appeal would spread rapidly and create “the universal community.” Conflict among “unitary Communists” was logically impossible. Quotes from Theodore Dezamy)
His greatest admirer was Karl Marx
The greatest influence on the British Communists and of the founding fathers of it
John Goodwyn Barmby
First popularized the term communism in England, linking it with inventive fantasies that were bizarre even for this period of florid social theory.
Barmby, called for the rejection of Christ’s claim to messiahship, and defined communism as a new fusion of Judaism with Christainism.
He was infatuated with the creation of Utopia along with advances in technology. He wrote Book of Platonopolis. He was also infatuated with Masonry. He was also a friend of Mazzini.
The original link between the Young Hegelians and the new generation of French social revolutionaries had been Moses Hess, the Paris correspondent of Die Rhein ische Zeitung…As a Jew - and later a founding father of Zionism - Hess lent his belief in Communism a messianic fervor looking forward not just to a change of government but to a kind of political “end of days.”
The concept of a “universal class” was revived… in Marx’s introduction to Hegel’s work, and applied to the “proletariat” – a term that Marx used for the first time in this purely philosophical, Hegelian sense.
It was also Hess who introduced Marx in 1843 to his life-long collaborator, Fredrick Engels, who called Hess “the first Communist in the party.”
The crucial new element that Marx brought to communism was dialectical materialism. Here at last was a finished revolutionary ideology with a dynamic historical outlook.
Championed the thought that Hegel’s “spirit of the times” was nothing more than a conglomeration of material forces.
Feuerbach paved the way for revolutionary atheism by inventing the Hegelian belief that God created man out of his spiritual need to overcome divine alienation. Feuerbach suggested that, on the contrary, man had created God out of his material need to overcome human alienation. To Marx, this suggested that alienation was to be solved not by spiritual, but by material forces.
The League of the Just
… Marx and Engels turned for allies to Karl Schapper’s group in London, the League of the Just.
The term proletariat came into modern use in the seventeenth century as a general, contemptuous term for the lower classes.
…extremism on the Left played a role preparing the way for reaction of the Right.
Proudhon was the most arresting and famous radical personality in France: authentically plebian and fearlessly polemic.
Proudhon feared the authoritarianism in Marx even when he himself was being offered a major share of the authority.
Refutation of Hegel
Proudhon’s first major work, The System of Economic Contradictions, insisted that the intellect could discover necessary contradictions in society – but no certain syntheses.
…Kant helped lead Proudhon to speak not of a progressive dialectic which resolves everything, but of antinomies that can never be resolved. Proudhon found in the Kantian discovery of insoluble, philosophical antinomies a source not of despair, as Marx contended, but of guidance for understanding the comparable antinomies in social life.
In society, contradictions are brought into equilibrium by Justice, which was for Proudhon a moral absolute. Justice was higher principle that somehow struggled to control the historical process… History for Proudhon was a kind of development of the idea of Justice, which he described variously as “the great ideal,” “a mystery,” and “the very essence of Humanity.”
…Proudhon called Marx utopian for believing that society could be improved “without stirring up renewed consciousness of justice.”
He proposed a system of people’s banks to grant virtually free credit. This would stimulate economic activity without increasing the power of the government or of large, impersonal business enterprises.
Marx defined communism - whose essence was the liquidation of private property - as the final synthesis of History. Proudhon saw communism only as a “antithesis” of Capitalism - and thus necessarily as one-sided and false as the “thesis” of capitalism itself.
Proudhon’s new “revolution sociale” was to be made not by the violent seizure of political power at the center, but rather by the nonviolent development of a new system of equal contracts at the local level. Direct agreement of man to man was to undermine and replace that artificial contract between citizen and government, between worker and capitalist. Free credit was to stimulate the “moral” goal of a fairer distribution rather than the economic goal of greater production.
Proudhon preferred the terms Mutualism and Federalism.
Proudhon had a consistent – many have called it reactionary – preference for smaller and more personalized social units. His passionate defense of the traditional rural family and attendant hatred of the “pornocracy” of Paris was part of a relentless localism that tended to prefer Burgundy to France.
Marx’s global perspective favored “the establishment of large-scale economies and politics and the assimilation of smaller cultures and languages.” Marx and Engels had a special contempt for “small relics of people… got up in popular dress,” and a certain infatuation with “the right of the European nations to separate and have independent existence.”
Marx occasionally advocated war usually against Russia, but viewed it as a means of hastening social revolution and thus as a passing phenomenon. Proudhon feared that war had an enduring psychological appeal and suggested its inevitability in a world of sovereign nations. “War is the most ancient of religions and it will be the last.”
Bakunin’s resultant struggle with Marx was…in many ways a continuation of the earlier Proudhon-Marx conflict.
Proudhon had the desire to put power directly in the hand’s of the people, primarily by the nonviolent strengthening of local communal structures. At the same time there was a deep antagonism to dogma and “ideal-mania” as well as an indifference to history, and a suspicion of science.
…Bakunin insisted that the Communist movement, then only in its infancy, was a deeply authoritarian foe of revolutionary liberation.
A herd of animals organized by compulsion and force and concerned only with material interests, ignoring the spiritual side of life.
He argued that revolutions narrowly based in cities tended simply to seize the existing power of the central state and then superimpose their authority on the countryside. Elitist, urban-based revolutionaries like Marx tended to radiate intellectual contempt for the peasantry by denigrating their religious faith and their individualistic methods.
The Fabian Society
The Fabian Society founded in 1883 played a catalytic role, preaching the “inevitability of gradualeness” in the movement toward a socialist society. Taking their name from the Roman warrior Fabius who learned to wait patiently before sticking a fatal blow against Hannibal, the Fabians were less doctrinaire in their reliance on the masses than the Social Democrats. They feared that “the revolt of the empty stomachs ends at the Baker’s shop.” They. Rejected not just revolutionary tactics, but also the concept of class struggle, arguing in effect that.
The conflict between bourgeois and proletarian might produce industrial unrest; it would not produce Socialism.
Fabian ideas deeply influenced Eduard Bernstein, the leading German Social Democratic exile in London in the 1890’s.
Bernstein argued forcefully that Marx’s teachings required systematic revision in light of economic events since his death. He argues that a capitalist collapse was not inevitable, and a catastrophic revolution increasingly improbable. Wealth was in some ways being spread rather than being concentrated in ever fewer hands under the capitalist system, and class distinctions blurred rather than ever more sharply polarized. He argued that the Social Democratic party could substantially increase its influence if it.
Could find the courage to free itself from outmoded phraseology and strive to appear as what in fact it now is, a Democratic Socialist party of reform.
Bernstein had brought to Germany the view widely expounded throughout the European Left that capitalist society might “grow into socialism without violent revolution.”
Impact of Masonry on Buonarroti
Although Buonarroti's revolutionary organization went far beyond any Masonic models, it was clearly influenced by his five-year immersion in Masonic meetings in Geneva. So great, indeed, was the general impact of Freemasonry in the revolutionary era that some understanding of the Masonic milieu seems the essential starting point for any serious inquiry into the occult roots of the revolutionary tradition.
The rituals leading to each new level of membership were not, as is sometimes suggested, childish initiations. They were awesome rites of passage into new types of association, promising access to higher truths of Nature once the blindfold was removed in the inner room of the lodge. Each novice sought to become a "free" and "perfected" Mason capable of reading the plans of the "Divine Architect" for "rebuilding the temple of Solomon," and reshaping the secular order with moral force.
Masonry ritualized fraternity and provided upward mobility more easily than outside society. The Masonic title of "brother" fulfilled on the continent some of the function of blending bourgeoisie and aristocracy that was assumed in England by the envied term "gentleman."
Philip of Orleans was the titular head of French Masonry (the Grand Orient), and most of the pro-revolutionary denizens of the c afes of the Palais-Royal were his Masonic "brothers."
In the Masonic milieu, normally conservative people could seriously entertain the possibility of Utopia 35-or at least of a social alternative to the ancient regime
In the early days of the revolution, Masonry provided much of the key symbolism and ritual - beginning with the Masonic welcome under a "vault of swords" of the king at the Hotel de Ville three days after the fall of the Bastille To be sure, most French Masons prior to the revolution had been "not revolutionaries, not even reformers, nor even discontent;" and, even during the revolution, Masonry as such remained politically polymorphous: "Each social element and each political tendency could 'go masonic' as it wished." But Masonry provided a rich and relatively nontraditional foraging ground for new national symbols (coins, songs, banners, seals) , new forms of address (tu, frere, vivat!), and new models for civic organizations, particularly outside Paris.
Most important for our story, Masonry was deliberately used by revolutionaries in the early nineteenth century as a model and a recruiting ground for their first conspiratorial experiments in political organization. Buonarroti was entirely typical in adopting the names of two Masonic lodges, "perfect equality" and "perfect union," for his first two revolutionary clusters in Geneva. These lodges had originated in the 1760s in opposition to absolute monarchy and aristocratic privilege respectively.
Buonarroti drew up his first blueprint for "the sublime perfect masters" during his active membership of I806-I3, in a lodge of "perfect equality" in Geneva, and defined "perfect equality" as its goal.
The Illuminati Model
If Freemasonry provided a general milieu and symbolic vocabulary for revolutionary organization, it was Illuminism that provided its basic structural model.
The organizational plan that Buonarroti distilled from two decades of revolutionary experience in Geneva ( and basically remained faithful to for the rest of his life ) was simply lifted from the Bavarian Order of Illuminists.
The revolutionaries' primitive vision of the world as a dualistic struggle between the forces of darkness and of light may originate in the neo-Manichaean view of Weishaupt's followers that their elect group of "illuminated ones" was engaged in struggle with "the sons of darkness," their categorical name for all outside the order.
The Illuminists attempted to use the ferment and confusion in Freemasonry for their own ends. Weishaupt joined a Masonic lodge in Munich in 1 777; and attempted to recruit "commandos" (groups of followers ) from within the lodges of the Bavarian capital. Late in I 780, Weishaupt's campaign spread to all of Germany and to the pseudo-knightly higher orders of Masonry with the entrance into Weishaupt's inner circle of Baron Adolph Knigge.
...the Illuminists recruited largely among those who had belonged to the most popular of the German higher Masonic orders, the Strict Observance
The Illuminist technique was, first of all, to discredit the more conservative rival order by fair means (helping the conference of occult orders at Wilhelmsbad in 1782 to determine that the Strict Observance Lodges were not in fact descended from the Knights Templars) and foul (arguing that the Strict Observance Lodges were secretly controlled by "unknown superiors" who were in fact Jesuits in disguise)
The Illuminists co opted the organizational structure of their conservative Masonic rival; in the process, they acquired some of the mysterious allure that they had not possessed as an arid cult of rationalistic intellectuals. Illuminism also became much more political.
Weishaupt appears to have initially seen Masonry as a kind of intermediate training ground for Illuminists - after they had entered the order but before they joined the secret inner circles." Then, under Knigge's guidance, he developed a system of three successive "classes" that incorporated all existing "grades" of Masonry as preliminary to a higher class of Illuminist grades. The first two classes (the preparatory and the middle) incorporated the three traditional grades and the higher symbolic grades of Masonry respectively.
The decisive book in popularizing the Illuminist ideal was Count Mirabeau's The Prussian Monarchy under Frederick the Great, which also appeared in 1788. Written in large part by a former Illuminist Jakob Mauvillon, Mirabeau's work distinguished rationalistic Illuminists from "mystical" occultists, hailing the former as leaders of a movement the "great aim" of which was "the improvement of the present system of governments and legislations.
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