Courtesy Reuters

In this year of 1989, France has been celebrating the bicentennial of its revolution at a time when the myth attached to that event is in the process of dying out among the public at large. The French have spent the past two centuries building a dream of their revolution, either to damn it or to exalt it.

During the nineteenth century the dominant attitude was one of condemnation; in this century the event has become definitively sanctified. So much so that the dominant ideology up to this point in the twentieth century has seen the revolution as a kind of "legend of saints." One Marxist school of historical thought, which holds the revolution to be unfinished, has seen the event as a kind of happy precursor of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. From this point of view, the terror was a cruel but essential stage in the human race's long march

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