July Fourteen marks the beginning of the modern age, the greatest revolution in history, the only revolution, according to some. Sartre criticised the communists for regarding the invention of the steam engine and not the French Revolution as the greatest event of the eighteenth century. (Although, as far as I know, they did not make such a choice.) But there has been a lot of discussion of the political aspects of what was, for a long time, known as "the Great Revolution" or even "the Bourgeois Revolution"(i.e. before the exigencies of the Cold War forced the West to shun all mention of classes.) Hannah Arendt accuses Robespierre, the hero of the twentieth century Left among the French revolutionaries, of betraying his own principles: "He begins by defining the aim of a constitutional government as being the preservation of the republic that the revolutionary government created for establishing public liberty." But then, she thinks, he made a volte-face "saying that, under a constitutional regime, it nearly suffices to protect the individual from the abuse of public power." This, according to her, had reduced the individual to impotence. (Essai sur la Revolution, Gallimard, 1967, p 199). Elsewhere, she says the French revolution was about freedom but was frustrated by poverty. Well, she does not accept that, under capitalism, freedom is the freedom of the capital. The individual can exercise it only as the owner of a commodity - a means of production or his own capacity to labour. Is it, therefore, surprising that the fundamental rights accorded to the man by the French Revolution do not include the right to eat? But what about historicity? Bourgeois freedom, with all its limitations, is a qualitative advance over pre-capitalist obligations, primitive chains. It is another level of relationship between men. Fourteenth of July was a dawn for mankind. But, if so, what happened to the high noon - the point at which the man crosses from the age of scarcity into the age of plenty, where he enters the age of freedom? Was the October Revolution a false dawn? Only half so. It did not bring us the promised freedom. Instead we got a nightmare in some sense. But it did give us a glimmer on the horizon of something "far from the sphere of our sorrow." The cultural impact of the French Revolution is long-lasting. In fact, no social analysis is possible today without using the terms it gave to us. It was in these that the subsequent great revolution - that of October - measured itself: was Lenin a Robespierre? Or was it Trotsky? No, the latter was closer to Marat. Was Stalinist power Thermidorean? Then where did Gorbachev get his "auto-Thermidorization?" Actually, Jacobinism has not ceased to be a living political category. True, it never exceeded the logic of bourgeois ideology. But then that logic may not suit the bourgeois system at every stage. The US observed the first centenary of the fall of Bastille, when Wilson, who later became president, observed that Jacobinism was a bad example for Latin America. The Socialist International was founded in Paris in 1889. The Iranian Revolution, if we ignore its loud clericalism, is entirely bourgeois and, as such, closer to 1789 than to 1917. The writer is a former ambassador