Khrushchev

Philip Short writes:

Revolutions and their aftermath are a commoner feature of historical development than we often realise. What is happening today in Iran was happening fifteen years ago in China, sixty years ago in Russia and nearly two hundred years ago in France. It is a point made forcefully by Andrzej Wajda’s latest film, which depicts the struggle between Danton and Robespierre – between humanist and puritan, pragmatist and idealist. Wajda intended it as an allegory on the present-day state of Poland. But his message is painted on a broader canvas. The terror that stalked France in the dreadful summer of 1794 is the same that Stalin unleashed in 1934. It is in the nature of revolutions to destroy their own children and to raise up, in Danton’s words, ‘tyrants worse than those they overthrew’.

(LRB 19 May 1983)