FRAN�OIS FURSTENBERG has written an editorial on Jacobinism for the New York Times. We should grant his point that a terrorist was someone who ruled during the so-called "Terror" of the French Revolution, 1789. Otherwise though, we do not support his stance on Jacobinism.
Furstenberg points out that Jacobins were responsible for repressing liberty in the name of liberty. The Jacobins spread patriotism and war to knock down monarchies, but they themselves conducted warrantless searches. Imprisoning and executing people without due process, the Jacobins in essence used monarchist techniques against monarchists, and that is the problem with Furstenberg's argument.
While failing himself to point to a social force that is going to deliver Liberal, post-modern utopia, Furstenberg fails to identify what is unique about Jacobinism, why it was not just another monarchist ideology of repression. But as even the wikipedia.org points out, it was the Jacobins who heightened the anti-feudal struggle. So though they used the same means of repression as the monarchists, the Jacobins advanced the economic system and thus prepared the basis for whatever freedom was possible within that newer economic system--not total or merely mentally consistent freedom, but improved real world freedom.
The Jacobins are representatives of early capitalism triumphing over feudalism. Another distinctive feature of the Jacobins as we look forward from 1789 was the Jacobins' minority status. The Jacobins could not win as a majority-oriented movement, even then. The Jacobins have been buried especially by the Martin Luther King fantasy about a majority Christian Amerikan impulse for civil rights. By ridding the South of Jim Crow, the civil rights movement successfully relabeled and covered up a movement to increase Black imprisonment 10-fold.
Today we distinguish between Jacobin internationalists and proletarian internationalists. The situation is not the same today as if a revolutionary France confronts a more backward Europe as it did around 1800.
A Jacobin internationalist today can only aid the struggle against feudalism in the Third World. The difference between a Jacobin internationalist and a proletarian internationalist is that a Jacobin internationalist will cease aiding a revolutionary movement once it has overthrown feudalism and attempts to go on from capitalism to socialism. The Jacobin internationalist gets off the boat then.
Jacobin internationalists also differ from another kind of bourgeois internationalist, the imperialists as so identified by proletarian internationalist Lenin. Imperialists are incapable of identifying feudalism and overthrowing it--going so far as to confuse Korea and Iraq for instance. The arguable exception would be World War II during U.$. occupation of Japan, but that would be on account of the pressure built up by the neighboring Soviet Union and China, not from any prior experience that the united $tates had in such questions. Today the united $tates conducts ever larger but pointless wars all around the planet without advancing anything, because the economic system is no longer the same. The united $tates is no longer in early capitalism. In contrast, we can stand in greater sympathy with Napoleon who really sought to bring advance to Europe and came offering citizenship in Empire; although, he too found it necessary to compromise with monarchism. At least when Napoleon came with cannon calling, he also offered a chance to merge with him.
MIM wishes that Jacobin internationalism were more widespread and sucked up political space occupied by white nationalists masquerading as Marxists. These phony Marxists speak for a petty-bourgeoisie they call proletarians, when it would be much better to be bourgeois internationalists, just with an emphasis on being early bourgeois.
If 80% of the organizations calling themselves "socialist" would abandon their so-called socialism and take up anti-imperialist Jacobin internationalism we would be much better off. It is intellectuals failing to draw the ideological lines of demarcation in a way most beneficial to the forward march of history.
Other things being equal, the Jacobin internationalist and proletarian internationalist have no reason for monarchist tactics in the late- stage capitalist countries themselves. Quite the contrary, the proletarian internationalists argue increasingly that the arbitrariness of imperialism is reinforcing feudalism in the Third World in increasingly wasteful ways. So we will not be surprised to see fiscal conservatives among the Jacobin internationalists. That is another difference between revolutionary France and the united $tates today. Furstenberg talks about police power and military power spreading out through Europe, but realistically the portion of society dedicated to such activities was small and the state was small relative to today.
The proletarian internationalist critique today is that late-stage capitalism allowed the growth of a standing army and other huge repressive apparatuses. They are an entrenched interest making it impossible for a Jacobin majority (contradiction in terms) to exist. The possibility for democracy-oriented politics died in the late-stage capitalist countries. What is still possible is the anti-feudal struggle supported by minorities in the imperialist countries.
As late-stage capitalist countries have no majority internal dynamic for freedom or other progress, they await the destruction of their entrenched interests by a massive upheaval among Chinese workers. Rising wages for the Chinese workers and others providing cheap labor will bring about a necessity for Western fiscal conservatism, and a cut-back in the imperialist state. Late-stage capitalist countries can also look forward to the possibility that an international proletariat with no entrenched interest in monarchism will liberate the late-stage capitalist countries, when the war-machines run themselves into the ground, as the French king's war machine did to clear the way for 1789. Chastising Jacobins for not having a Liberal majority is fruitless activity. There is no Liberal majority, nor a post-modern majority for freedom. There is only the relabeling of projects such as the civil rights movement as success won by a majority. If the united $tates ever falls into the middle of the pack as prison-states go, instead of leading the world as number-one prison state, it will be because U.$. imperialism needed to perfume its international image and enjoy fiscal conservatism, not because there is any majority electorate with the courage to overcome "tough-on-crime" politicians. JFK joined the civil rights movement to make propaganda against the Soviet Union. The intellectuals who do not fight along the lines of that dynamic are wasting their time talking about the latent freedom-loving tendencies of Archie Bunker.