[Marxism] Re: Revolutions tend to puritanism?

Yoshie Furuhashi critical.montages at gmail.com
Tue Aug 22 14:32:34 MDT 2006

On 8/22/06, Johannes Schneider <Johannes.Schneider at gmx.net> wrote:
> Yoshie writes:
> > Formerly and actually existing revolutions have all had a tendency
> > toward cultural, social, and sexual puritanism.
> I dont think that is correct in the case of the October revolution.
> It was certainly a time of trying out new in all fields of culture and society.
> This does not mean that there was no backlash afterwards.
> I dont want to repeat here what Trotsky wrote about the Thermidor.

The political dynamics that brought about Thermidor appears to happen
in almost all revolutions: the early phase of revolution, during which
the populace overthrows the ancient regime, unleashes liberty on all
fronts, and then the phase of consolidation of the revolutionary
regime begins, which closes down new political, social, and cultural
spaces opened up by the overthrow.

> In the case of France I doubt your quite general assumpion as well.
> Or do you regard "The marraige of Figaro" as an expression of puritanism?

What I had in mind is things like this:

<blockquote>In 1793, the Society of Revolutionary Republican Women,
created by sans-culotte women, lasted only six months before it was
shut down by authorities. Advocating issues of interest to the radical
middle-class and the Parisian poor, such as penal reform, occupational
training for girls, public morality, and economic reforms and finding
their petitions ignore by the moderate Girondins, the sans-culotte
women allied with the Jacobins, tipping the balance of power in the
Girondin / Jacobin struggle toward the Jacobins. Once the Jacobins
consolidated their victory over the Girondins, the Jacobins moved to
co-opt parts of the Républicaines-révolutionnaires agenda, to silence
their leaders, and to disband their organization. As critical of the
Jacobins for failing to implement their alleged economic policies as
they had been critical of the Girondins for failing to adopt their
economic polices, the Républicaines-révolutionnaires continued to
press the Jacobins with their radical demands, demanding among other
things that all women wear the Revolutionary dress and cockade. A law
was duly passed to require all women to wear the proscribed articles
and when the Républicaines-révolutionnaires tried to have the law
enforced, market women rebelled and petitioned the Convention for the
abolition of the Society. The Convention seized their opportunity,
dissolved the Society, and outlawed all women's clubs and
associations.  ("Women and the French Revolution,"

Revolutionaries, whether male or female (as in the case cited above),
tend not to respect liberties of individuals and often get carried
away trying to impose their code of revolutionary behavior on the
populace at large, in their zeal to purify society by purging
counter-revolutionary elements (from people to customs to clothes).
Lynn Hunt said of the French Revolution: "by politicizing the
everyday, the Revolution enormously increased the points from which
power could be exercised" (Politics, Culture, and Class in the French
Revolution, Berkeley, 1984, p. 56).  The politicization of the
everyday can sometimes empower people to cast away restrictive
traditions, but the very same politicization can also narrow the range
of choices that people are allowed to make.

On 8/22/06, Ian Pace <ian at ianpace.com> wrote:
> In terms of culture, the October revolution led to the embracing of radical
> modernist work in painting, criticism, cinema and music, for a start,
> producing an unprecedented body of work that broke strongly with the
> sentimental, auratic, mystifying kitsch that was prominent in many artistic
> fields in Tsarist times. Of course things changed significantly by the late
> 1920s, but that is another issue.

Liberty can last till the phase of regime consolidation begins, as I said above.

> Social puritanism - well, that's a big
> question that it would be difficult to answer briefly, but I don't know of
> any evidence to suggest that was the case. Sexual puritanism? Hard to
> reconcile with the total legalisation of abortion on demand and divorce.

<blockquote>In 1988, the USSR Ministry of Public Health published
official statistics on abortion for the first time in 60 years. Using
the official data published in 1988 and unofficial statistics from a
variety of independent sources, this report attempts to describe some
of the basic features of fertility regulation in the USSR. Induced
abortion is the main method of fertility regulation throughout the
country, and a high proportion of induced abortions are unregistered
and performed illegally. The availability and use of modern
contraceptives is low; among those who practice contraception,
traditional methods predominate.  (AA. Popov, "Family Planning and
Induced Abortion in the USSR: Basic Health and Demographic
Characteristics," Studies in Family Planning 22.6, Nov-Dec 1991, pp.

In the Soviet case, the right and access to abortion masked the
fundamental absence of the right and access to sex education,
contraceptives, and so on.

> Or, for that matter (relative to what had preceded) the
> Cuban or Nicaraguan revolutions?

I've discussed the problem of policy toward homosexuals and
prostitutes in the early years of the Cuban Revolution (you should be
able to find my postings on the subjects in the archive, I think); and
I've discussed the absence of the right to abortion in Nicaragua here
(again, you should be able to find my postings on the subject in the


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