The Furies:Violence and Terror in the French and Russian Revolutions
The Furies: Violence and Terror in the French and Russian Revolutions is a book that examines the effects of counter-revolution, and how it has lead to state terror in the new governments of the First Republic of France, and the Soviet Union.1 It is emphasized that the effects of counter-revolution, especially when it is supported by external military powers, has not been focused enough upon when trying to evaluate what caused the emergence of these terrible furies after their revolutions.
The traumatic events that followed these two world-changing revolutions has been discussed and referenced any time one wishes to ...view middle of the document...
Basically, when there has been a successful overthrow of old regimes which have existed for centuries, revolution will always be met with a large conservative resistance.2
There are of course, many factors which contributed to these counter-revolutions taking place within these countries. Mayer has divided his book into four parts, the first begins with chapters which cover contributing factors to counter-revolution. There is a reoccurring theme throughout this part of this book which leads to the conservatism of the peasantry in both of these countries, which make up a majority of the population.
The second part of the book covers the reasoning, and push for greater violence during France Great Terror, and Russia's terror during the Russian Civil War. For France this would be driven by such actions as the murder of Marat, and the growing external threat of foreign powers. For Russia, Mayer discusses the role of the Cheka, a secret police force issued by a decree by Lenin to eliminate or intimidate the threat of counter-revolution within Russia's controlled territories during the Russian Civil War. What is extremely important is how Mayer points out that the use of terror was not limited to only the revolutionaries. It is mentioned that while the revolutionaries were carrying out terror from above, counter-revolutionaries carried out bottom-up terror. Mayer even compares the White Terror in Russia to the prison massacres of September 1972 in Paris.3
Part three of The Furies talks exclusively about the largely conservative peasantry which made up a majority of the populations of these two countries after their revolutions. This comes as no surprise, as many of the factors discussed in part one applies directly to the peasantry. Finally, part four of The Furies covers how Napoleon looked to externalize the revolution through a European military conquest, and how Stalin worked internally to â€œbuild socialism in one countryâ€ (the Soviet Union). There is a very good quote that very much sums up the purpose of this book: â€œIn assessing the costs of revolution, there is no ignoring or minimizing these resistances...