Did World War II finally fulfill the ambition of the French revolutionaries of the 1790s?  

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The French Revolutionaries, especially during the radical phases of the Revolution, had envisioned the complete and total mobilization of the French state toward fighting the war with the rest of Europe. The actions of the Committee of Public Safety, including the Terror itself, are best understood in this context. Inasmuch as the Second World War involved fully mobilized populations who used all of the industrial might they could summon along with varying degrees of repressive measures to maintain a consensus for the war at home, it represented a fulfillment, or perhaps better stated, the logical conclusion of the total war paradigm first articulated by the National Assembly in their so-called levee en masse in 1793:

From this moment until that in which the enemy shall have been driven from the soil of the Republic, all Frenchmen are in permanent requisition for the service of the armies. The young men shall go to battle; the married men shall forge arms and transport provisions; the women shall make tents and clothing and shall serve in the hospitals; the children shall turn old linen into lint; the aged shall betake themselves to the public places in order to arouse the courage of the warriors and preach the hatred of kings and the unity of the Republic.

This appeal to civic nationalism was echoed in the propaganda of almost all of the protagonists of World War II. In the United States, women indeed served in war industries and nursing corps, children collected cans for recycling drives, and Americans were treated weekly to propaganda extolling the virtues of the United States and portraying the Japanese and Germans as barbarians bent on world domination.

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