“Don`t be deceived when they tell you things are better now. Even if there`s no poverty to be seen because the poverty`s been hidden. Even if you ever got more wages and could afford to buy more of these new and useless goods which industries foist on you and even if it seems to you that you never had so much, that is only the slogan of those who still have much more than you. Don`t be taken in when they paternally pat you on the shoulder and say that there`s no inequality worth speaking of and no more reason to fight because if you believe them they will be completely in charge in their marble homes and granite banks from which they rob the people of the world under the pretence of bringing them culture. Watch out, for as soon as it pleases them they`ll send you out to protect their gold in wars whose weapons, rapidly developed by servile scientists, will become more and more deadly until they can with a flick of the finger tear a million of you to pieces.”
~~ Jean – Paul Marat ~~
Today is Bastille Day in France, home to the greatest and most catastrophic revolutionary uprising in history. It`s leaders came from quiet provincial backwaters and from middle class professions and families; they were not born with blood lust in their hearts, or possessed souls which beat faster at the thought of mass murder in public squares, or the violent overthrow of the monarchical system by removing the heads of that system`s representatives, like plucking bloodied cherries from a withered tree dying from the poison of it`s own political and social corruption.
“Man has the right to deal with his oppressors by devouring their palpitating hearts.”
The man who came to be the mentor of the leading revolutionaries has come down to us with a bad press: Jean – Paul Marat has been described as nothing more than a hollow soul with a sociopathic bloodlust, but he was so much more than that; his was the beating heart which reached out beyond the man it gave life to and planted, nurtured and harvested the seed of total revolution within the receptive and fertile imaginations of a group of upwardly mobile, highly educated young professionals who wanted more from life than to merely exist within the narrow confines of a world ruled for the benefit of a non contributory, parasitic aristocracy.
When the revolution broke out in 1789, Marat initially supported the king, but his mind soon veered wildly in the other direction when he witnessed the inept and violent response of the authorities. In September 1789 he published a paper called L`Ami du Peuple, which advocated the concept of universal male suffrage, the end of feudal privileges for the aristocracy and a greater equality of wealth from the top to the bottom of the social heap. A year later his ideas began to form a more radical and violent solution to the national troubles: to clear the obstruction of political dead wood from the revolutionary path of progress, he saw an unavoidable need to eliminate the Revolution`s enemies by mass executions.
Marat, the man trained to be a doctor and save lives was now demanding the death sentence on anyone who threatened his vision of a new egalitarian France: the seed of revolutionary theory had been placed within him by a visit to England in the 1760`s, where he dipped his toes deeply into the London intellectual coffee house scene, which introduced him to philosophy, art and writing encouraging him to produce a string of political critiques including Chains of Slavery, which contained the kernel of his later, vociferous hatred of despotism. He then published Plan de Legislation Criminelle, advocating judicial reform with trial by twelve man juries and an equal rights death penalty.
“God has always been hard on the poor.”
By 1788 everyone knew that France was going “to the dogs” and Marat ditched his scientific career and threw his cap into the ring with the Third Estate, amongst whom he collected a large following. Factual representation was not Marat`s business; like all good revolutionaries his intention was to rouse the rabble by the use of any weapon at his disposal, and Marat`s greatest weapons were his intense hatred of the aristocracy and his ability to channel that hatred into inflammatory rhetoric. He labelled whomsoever he wanted as an “enemy of the people” knowing that was the kind of journalistic style the people sought; he became an infamous outlaw, and was forced to clamber into the Parisian sewers to continue his scurrilous attacks on the enemies who were looking to silence him.
“I am the anger, the just anger of the people, and that is why they listen to me and believe in me.”
Marat finally emerged into broad daylight after the monarchy was carted off to the Tuileries Palace from Versailles and married a young girl half his age, but the long time spent within the unhealthy, pestilential confines of the sewers had taken it`s toll on him and he needed to soak for hours in a warm bath to ease his physical distress. His acute displeasure at his physical predicament seemed to require an outlet; from this moment on his political rantings and demands became ever more virulent as throughout 1792 – 93 he demanded heads should roll, but only if done properly, legally and democratically; even his call for the king`s head needed a piece of paper to legalise it`s removal.
When his demands were not met, he turned his baleful gaze upon the Girondins who he now believed were the enemies of the people. After this, the Girondins were dead meat; he championed the rise of Robespierre, the Jacobins and the violent Parisian sans- culotte masses which he used to jail and eradicate the Girondins. Having allied himself hook-line and sinker with the radical faction called The Mountain , which comprised Robespierre and the sans – culottes he found that even they were beginning to distance themselves from this relentless man of violence.
A man steeped in blood, violence and bitterness needs to have a fitting end perhaps; and so the bitterness of young Charlotte Corday, who`s family had been destroyed by Marat`s ideology put an end to his life`s journey by seeking an audience with him while he was at his ease bathing, as was his custom, and stabbing him to death. She believed that had this man lived he would have continued to publish his lists of people who the revolution required to be guillotined. She walked calmly from the house having severed Marat`s carotid artery but was quickly arrested, tried and guillotined………. “I killed one man to save 100,000″ she uttered on the scaffold.