Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 10 June 2009

The Masses Arise: The French revolution and today's struggles

The Masses Arise by Peter Taaffe, photo Dennis Rudd

The Masses Arise by Peter Taaffe, cover Dennis Rudd

Peter Taaffe's book, The Masses Arise, first published in 1989 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the start of the French revolution, is now back in print.

Kevin Parslow

Its republication by Socialist Publications, in time for the 220th anniversary of this great event in July 2009, is extremely timely. Not only does the author recount the events of the revolution, bringing out the heroic role of the sans-culottes - who have been vilified by right-wing historians - but also the relevance of these events to what is likely to develop in the coming period in France, Europe and throughout the world. "This book is more relevant today than when it was first published in 1989," writes the author in a new introduction.

The collapse of Stalinism and with it the planned economies of Eastern Europe led to a massive ideological campaign against socialism and Marxism, as well as the ideas of revolution. Voices advocating these ideas were drowned out by the campaign extolling the capitalist 'free market', which was now the eternal model for humankind.

Under the impact of the devastating world economic crisis, the ideas of socialism and revolution are back on the agenda. Even in the political crisis in Britain this year over the scandal of MPs expenses, there have been references to 'revolution', 'Jacobinism' and the 'tumbrels'.

Peter also shows the connection between the French revolution and the movements of the working masses as an independent class force throughout the nineteenth century in the revolutions of 1830, 1848, the Paris Commune of 1871, and the tumultuous events of the twentieth century.

New material is included about the events of 1968 and the great sit-down strikes in 1936 because of their connection with the example set by the French revolution.

Also recounted is the role of Gracchus Babeuf, and the Communist 'Conspiracy of Equals'. The author explains that "the great Babeuf was the 'father' of the ideas of communism, albeit in a rudimentary and primitive form. Nevertheless, those ideas did not disappear when Babeuf's head was cut off by the rising French bourgeois but continued in the 'back alleys of France' and provided the thread that led to the independent development of the workers' movement in France later."

Haunting spectre

The French revolution and subsequent events which were inspired by its example have always exercised the French ruling class and its political representatives. In particular, the 1968 general strike and occupation of the factories is a spectre which continues to haunt the present French government.

Right-wing president Nicolas Sarkozy declared soon after coming to power: "Now, in France when there are strikes, nobody can see it." Peter comments: "One year later, two and a half million workers and young people demonstrated on the streets against Sarkozy's policies. One placard read: 'Now do you see the strike?' This was just the beginning of the seismic change in consciousness now developing in the depths of the French masses.

"From over 50% support in opinion polls, Sarkozy's standing dropped to 37% as unemployment rocketed against a background of record profits for the capitalists and a worsening of the workers' conditions. Most striking was the general support of the population, 69% in January 2009, for the strike. An even greater proportion supported the strike of March."

It is vital in the coming period to build the forces of genuine socialism and Marxism in order that working-class people will be able to seize the opportunities to advance their position in the explosive situation created by the crisis of French, British, European and world capitalism. The author points out: "In taking this road, the new generation of workers and young people in particular could benefit enormously from studying all revolutions, the English revolution as well as the French revolution."

A thorough grasp from a Marxist standpoint of what are complex events can be hugely beneficial - as the great teachers of Marxism demonstrated - in politically arming us for the coming tumultuous period. 2009, like 2008, is a year of big anniversaries: Tiananmen Square and the collapse of the Berlin Wall. But the Socialist Party hopes that the new generation will also turn towards and study the events of the French revolution. Peter writes: "If this book does nothing else but familiarise them with the main events and thread of the revolution, from a socialist and Marxist perspective, we will have succeeded in our aim."

All readers of The Socialist should buy this book, and urge their friends and workmates to order a copy - cover price 10. Get your local and university libraries to order copies. There will be special reductions for those who order a copy in advance and for bulk orders.

The Masses Arise

The Great French Revolution 1789 -1815

by Peter Taaffe

10, plus 10% p&p
Out soon - order now for a discount.
Please make cheques payable to Socialist Publications Ltd and send to Socialist Publications, PO Box 24697. London E11 1YD
Phone 020 8988 8779 to pay by card or for discount details and bulk orders.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 10 June 2009:

Step up the fight for a new workers' party

A socialist MEP Joe Higgins elected in Ireland

'The best fighter that money can't buy'

STOP PRESS: BNP feel the anger

Youth Fight against Racism

Socialist Party election campaign analysis

No2EU: a step towards a workers' political voice

Socialist Party workplace news

Reinstate Rob Williams now! Support Linamar strikers

London Underground: Solidarity with strike over jobs and pay

Glasgow council street cleaners start workers' fightback

Bristol bins strike threat brings new conditions offer

Unison NEC elections bring gains for Socialist Party

Another DWP minister resigns

Engineering construction workers ballot: End 'race to the bottom'

Come to NSSN conference

News in brief

Socialist Party publication

The Masses Arise: The French revolution and today's struggles

International socialist news and analysis

European parliament elections 2009: Europe on the edge

General strike in Basque country

Brazil: "Liberty, Socialism and Revolution" is born

Youth fight for jobs

CWU conference backs Youth Fight for Jobs campaign

No to cuts at Kings

Liverpool Community College strike


Home   |   The Socialist 10 June 2009   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


triangleSalford Socialist Party: The Russian revolution betrayed

triangleCzechoslovakia 1968: 'Prague Spring' challenges Stalinism

triangleBernie's book shows need for workers' party

triangleBirmingham South East Socialist Party: The Iran 1979 revolution

triangleSalford Socialist Party: The Russian revolution betrayed

Great French Revolution 1789:

triangleLeytonstone Socialist Party meeting: The Masses Arise: Lessons of the French Revolution

triangleThe Masses Arise by Peter Taaffe - New edition

Peter Taaffe:

triangleObituary: Maureen Mulhearn 1945-2018

triangleMass rally to commemorate 1917 Russian Revolution

triangleOctober 1917 reviews: 'More bright than any heaven'


triangleYork Socialist Party: Building and financing a revolutionary party

triangleHackney Socialist Party: The Left Opposition's fight against the rise of Stalinism in Russia


triangleSpain: millions on streets against sexism and capitalist oppression


triangleFrance: rallies in support of oppressed Kurdish people

Historic events

Historic events



15 years since the invasion of Iraq: what we said



Czechoslovakia 1968: 'Prague Spring' challenges Stalinism


Vietnam war

Vietnam War: 50 years since the Tet Offensive



110 years ago: massacre at Santa Maria school in Chile - commemorate 21 December 1907


Russian revolution

Russia, October 1917: When workers took power


Che Guevara

Che Guevara 50 years on - revolutionary socialist and fighter



Mutinies and strikes: when Bolshevism threatened British bosses



Lewisham 1977: When socialists and workers defeated the far-right National Front



Marx's Capital at 150: an unequalled analysis and critique of capitalism


Russian revolution

Russia 1917: how art helped make the revolution


Russian revolution

July Days 1917: battles with counterrevolution



Lessons from the Russian revolution for LGBT+ struggle today



Liverpool's 1983-87 socialist council



The Pentrich uprising: revolution and counter-revolution in 19th century Britain


Russian revolution

June 1917: when workers in Britain first tried to form soviets

triangleMore Historic events articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0191 421 6230

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551



Alphabetical listing

March 2018

February 2018

January 2018