227 years ago today the people of Paris stormed the gates of the Bastille and in doing so starting one of the most momentous occasions of the French Revolution. To celebrate Bastille day, we bring you this short extract from Eric Hazan's People's History of the French Revolution in which Eric discusses the events of July 14th 1789.
First published in French by Libération. Translated by David Broder.
The 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen is part of our constitutional bloc. It sanctions a freedom limited by the principle of reciprocity set out in its fourth article: "Freedom consists of being able to do everything that does not harm others; thus the exercise of each man’s natural rights has no constraints other than those that assure other members of society the enjoyment of these same rights. These constraints can only be determined by law."
In fact, the Constituent Assembly would produce a law that immediately contravened this article, with the 29 August 1789 law on the unlimited freedom of the sale and circulation of grain. In sanctioning property rights as natural, this law flatly denied reciprocity, for it led some to become richer and others poorer, in a dissymmetry that would only be aggravated by the lack of any controls being introduced.
Originally published in Libération, this text by Éric Hazan and Julien Coupat is a castigation of the existing order and a call to mobilise against 'the world of lies'; the bureaucracies, parliaments, and courts, ahead of the 2017 French election.
No reason to endure a year and a half of electoral campaigning, which we already know will culminate in a blackmail of democracy. We have a year and a half to form a human network sufficiently rich and self-assured to render the prevailing stupidity obscene, to make derisory the idea that slipping a voting paper into a ballot box could be a meaningful gesture – and a political gesture at that.
The reverberations of the events of the French Revolution travelled far and wide, reemerging in some of the most unexpected places. Yet, one of the least explored aspects of its influence is in the new political vocabulary engendered by the events of 1789. In this extract from Communal Luxury: The Political Imaginary of the Paris Commune, Kristin Ross analyses the emergence of the popular reunions of the revolutionaries of 1848 in the years preceding the start of the Paris Commune and the reactivation of the language of the citoyen. In doing so, Ross brings to light the subtle process of intwinement evident across the diverse events that make up the great revolutionary century in French history that the events of the French Revolution of 1789 inaugurated.