No Equality Without Liberty and Social Justice: The “Birth” in the French Revolution and Socialist Development

No Equality Without Liberty and Social Justice: The “Birth” in the French Revolution and Socialist Development

Word equality breaks in dictionary Politician western With the American and French Revolutions. The first article from Declaration of Human and Citizen Rights Recognized by the Paris National Assembly in 1789 that “men are born and remain free and equal in rights; therefore social distinctions can only be based on the general benefit.” The principle of equality was essentially the recognition that all citizens are equal before the law regardless of differences in wealth and social status and represents The material substrate of freedom, which cannot exist without equality.

But already in the immediate following years some advocates of the democracy movement in particular Philip Buonarroti And Gracchus Babeuforganizes a conspiracy against the conservative government that imposed itself with a revolution 9 Thermidor That put an end to terror, in the name of a radical concept of communist-style equality.

Equality remained formal to the conspirators unless private property, which was the genetic locus of inequality, was abolished. “Property boundaries are torn apart,” V. read equals statement Let all goods be restored to one common patrimony, and the fatherland—only mistress, sweetest mother of all—provide her free and beloved children equally with food, education, and work.” In these few lines some principles were formulated that would characterize all communist movements from Marx to Lenin in the next century: The nationalization of property was a condition for everyone to enjoy the commons on an equal footing. If you add it in the He appears The need for a period of dictatorship of the revolutionary minority that seized power has been theorized, and the extraordinary freshness of Babeuf and Buonarroti’s thought is clearly demonstrated.

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Predictably, the plot ended badly with Babeuf’s death and the exile of many of the other co-conspirators, but it launched a concept destined to endure over time to this day, a harbinger of many inconsistencies: Political freedoms are not sufficient to achieve equality if they are not supported by social justiceThat is, through institutions and laws that combat inequality that arises in society through differences in income and wealth generated by economic systems. Taking this concept to extremes was widespread in socialist movements up to the Second World War, resulting in a negative polarization between liberty and equality, as if the former were not just useless tinsel in the workers’ struggle against exploitation and injustice, but a collection of empty formalism And false principles used by the authorities to oppress the workers. Marx’s freedom It is an abstract idea, the basis of alienation, because it hides from the workers the materiality of their unfair social condition. The egalitarianism generated by the communist revolution that abolished property, forbade and nationalized the means of production, also brought back a new idea of ​​freedom that denied the formalities of the rule of law but put labor and participation in building a socialist state in its place. center.

Hence the idea that even appearance inclusivity It had a large number of followers, that the struggle for freedom or civil rights or for democracy did not belong in the interests of the workers who had to focus only on the struggle for equality which they were only going to achieve in the new socialist state. The clash between Bernsteinone of the leaders of the German Social Democratic Party H Lenin At the beginning of the twentieth century it was precisely about this: For Lenin, democracy and freedom were manifestations of a false consciousness that misled the labor movement from making a revolution, while for Bernstein they were an integral part of the struggle for social justice., without which they would gradually slide into a totalitarian world. And this was exactly what happened in the Soviet Union or in Maoist China: the violent realization of an egalitarian society and the creation of an authoritarian state supposedly as a tool that was supposed to guarantee it against its external and internal enemies, produced exactly the opposite: a society of powerful and oppressive bureaucratic subjects without freedom and without equality.

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The failure of communism forced us to rethink equality as an integral part of the rule of law. And in 1931 it was Charles Rosselli In his liberal socialist pamphlet to break the wall of rigid polarity between liberty and equality when he wrote: “Socialism understood as an ideal of freedom not for the few but for the many, not only does it not contradict liberalism, but it is also theoretically its logical conclusion, practical and historical continuation.” Marxism, and again We must understand by Marxism a strict deterministic view of history, which has led the labor movement to suffer the initiative of the opponent, and an unprecedented defeat… socialism, the concept in its essential aspect, is the gradual application among men of the idea of ​​liberty and justice: an innate idea that lies, in a sense, buried by the cultures of the centuries, at the bottom of every human being; a gradual effort to secure an equal possibility for all human beings to live the life which alone is worthy of the name, and to bring them out of the bondage of matter and material needs which still dominate the greatest number even today; The possibility of developing their personality freely, in a constant struggle for improvement against primitive and animal instincts and against the corruption of a civilization that is so prey to the demon of success and money.

It comes from this painful meditation born in exile against fascism And in close confrontation with the communist movement, the conviction that the future of equality lies in freedom, but also that the future of freedom cannot exist without equality. He traced an ideal path that not only made it possible to re-establish Correctionalbut also to give an ideal basis for the welfare state.

A researcher of contemporary history, he has taught at the Universities of Bologna, Turin and Milan. He has been a visiting professor at Brown University (Providence, RI) and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Berkeley. He served as Scientific Director and then Vice-President of the Ferruccio Bari National Institute. He is the President of REFAT, the International Network for the Study of Fascism, Authoritarianism, Totalitarianism, and Transitions Towards Democracy, and the PER Foundation – Progress, Europe, Reforms. His latest publication is Why Fascism Triumphs. 1914-1924. Date of a decade, Milan, Le Meunier, 2022.

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