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A counter-revolutionary is anyone who opposes a revolution, particularly those who act after a revolution to try to overturn or reverse it, in full or in part. The adjective, "counterrevolutionary", pertains to movements that would restore the state of affairs, or the principles, that prevailed during a prerevolutionary era.

A counterrevolution can be positive or negative in its consequences; depending, in part, on the benificient or pernicious character of the revolution that gets reversed. For example, the transitory success of Agis and Cleomenes of ancient Sparta in restoring the constitution of Lycurgus was considered by Plutarch to be counterrevolutionary in a positive sense. During the French Revolution the Jacobins saw the Counterrevolution in the Vendée as distinctly negative.


England, France and other counterrevolutionaries

In some ways, the supporters of Jacobitism may be placed in this category. The Jacobites were supporters of the Stuart house's claim to the English throne since 1688. The Jacobites survive to this day in their support for the Stuart family's claim to the English throne.

The word "counterrevolutionary" originally refers to thinkers who opposed themselves to the 1789 French Revolution, such as Joseph de Maistre, Louis de Bonald or, later, Charles Maurras, the founder of the Action française monarchist movement. Henceforth, it is used in France to qualify political movements that refuse the legacy of the 1789 Revolution, which historian René Rémond has referred to as légitimistes. Thus, monarchists supporters of the Ancien Régime following the French Revolution were counterrevolutionaries, for example the Revolt in the Vendée and the monarchies that put down the various Revolutions of 1848. The royalist legitimist counterrevolutionary French movement survives to this day, albeit marginally. It was active during the purported "Révolution nationale" enacted by Vichy France, though, which has been considered by René Rémond not as a fascist regime but as a counterrevolutionary regime, whose motto was Travail, Famille, Patrie ("Work, Family, Fatherland"), which replaced the Republican motto Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.

After the French Revolution, anticlerical policies and the execution of King Louis XVI led to the Revolt in the Vendee. This counter-revolution produced what is debated to be the first modern genocide. Monarchists and Catholics took up arms against the revolutionaries' French Republic in 1793 after the government asked that 300,000 Vendeans be conscripted into the Republican military. The Vendeans would also rise up against Napoleon's attempt to conscript them in 1815.

The supporters of Carlism during the 19th century to the present day are perhaps the oldest surviving counter-revolutionary group in Spain. Supporters uphold the legitimist view of royal succession, as well as regional autonomy under the monarchy, tradition and Catholicism. The Carlist cause began with the First Carlist War in 1833 and continues to the present.

The White Army and its supporters who tried to defeat the Bolsheviks after the October Revolution, as well as the German politicians, police, soldiers and Freikorps who crushed the German revolution of 1919, were also counterrevolutionaries. General Victoriano Huerta, and later the Felicistas, attempted to thwart the Mexican Revolution in the 1910s.

In the late 1920s, Mexican Catholics took up arms against the Mexican Federal Government in what became known as the Cristero War. The President of Mexico, Plutarco Elias Calles, was elected in 1924. Calles began carrying out antiCatholic policies which caused peaceful resistance from Catholics in 1926. The counter-revolution began as a movement of peaceful resistance against the anticlerical laws. In the Summer of 1926, fighting broke out. The fighters known as Cristeros fought the government due to its suppression of the Church, jailing and execution of priests, formation of a nationalist schismatic church, state atheism, Socialism, Freemasonry and other harsh antiCatholic policies.

The Spanish Civil War was in some respects, a counter-revolution. Supporters of Carlism, monarchy, and nationalism (see Falange) joined forces against the (Second) Spanish Republic in 1936. The counter-revolutionaries saw the Spanish Constitution of 1931 as a revolutionary document that defied Spanish culture, tradition and religion.

More recently, the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion into Cuba was conducted by counterrevolutionaries who hoped to overthrow the revolutionary government of Fidel Castro. In the 1980s, the Contra-Revolución rebels fighting to overthrow the revolutionary Sandinista government in Nicaragua. In fact, the Contras received their name precisely because they were counterrevolutionaries.

The Black Eagles, the AUC, and other paramilitary movements of Colombia can also be seen as counter-revolutionary. These right-wing groups are opposition to the FARC, and other left-wing guerrilla movements.

Some counterrevolutionaries are former revolutionaries who supported the initial overthrow of the previous regime, but came to differ with those who ultimately came to power after the revolution. For example, some of the Contras originally fought with the Sandinistas to overthrow Anastasio Somoza, and some of those who oppose Castro also opposed Batista.

Plinio Correa de Oliveira has by far expanded on the idea of Revolution and Counter-Revolution.

Usage of the term

The word counterrevolutionary is often used interchangeably with reactionary; however, some people considered reactionary (like the CCP) used the term counterrevolutionary to describe their opponents - even if those opponents were advocates of a Marxist revolution. In general, the word "reactionary" is used to describe those who oppose a more long-term trend of social change, while "counterrevolutionaries" are those who oppose a very recent and sudden change.

The clerics who took power following the Islamic Revolution became counterrevolutionaries; after the revolution the Marxists were driven out of power by the mullahs. Thousands of political prisoners who opposed the Islamist regime were killed especially during the 1988 Massacre of Iranian Prisoners.

Sometimes it is unclear who represents the revolution and who represents the counterrevolution. In Hungary, the 1956 uprising was condemned as a counterrevolution by the ruling Communist authorities (who claimed to be revolutionary themselves). However, thirty years later, the events of 1956 were more widely known as a revolution.


  • "The Counter-Revolution will not be a reverse revolution, but the reverse of a Revolution." (La Contre-Révolution ne sera pas une révolution contraire, mais le contraire de la Révolution.), Joseph de Maistre

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Counter-revolutionary" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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