Dictionary Definition

counterrevolution n : a revolution whose aim is to reverse the changes introduced by a previous revolution

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A revolution aiming to reverse the political or social changes instigated by a previous revolution.
    ''The military leaders behind the original coup were executed in the aftermath of the counterrevolution.


revolution to reverse effects of previous revolution

Extensive Definition

NB: A revolution, being one full rotation of some body, ends in the exact same place as a counter-revolution, which simply does not move at all.
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 revoltion that gets reversed. For example, the transitory success of Agis and Cleomenes of ancient Sparta in restoring the constitution of Lysurgus 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.


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, and so were 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.

Other counterrevolutionaries

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.
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 United States sponsored Contra-Revolución rebels fighting to overthrow the revolutionary Sandinista government in Nicaragua. In fact, the Contras received their name precisely because they were counterrevolutionaries.
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. Thousand 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

Footnotes and references

See also

Further reading

  • Liberalism and the Challenge of Fascism, Social Forces in England and France (1815-1870), Prof. J. Salwyn Schapiro, McGraw-Hill Book Co., Inc., NY, l949, pg 364.
  • The Counter-Revolution, Thomas Molnar, Funk & Wagnalls Co., 1969, ISBN 030870424X

External links

counterrevolution in Czech: Kontrarevoluce
counterrevolution in German: Konterrevolution
counterrevolution in French: Contre-révolution
counterrevolution in Luxembourgish: Géigerevolutioun
counterrevolution in Hungarian: Ellenforradalom
counterrevolution in Japanese: 反革命
counterrevolution in Norwegian Nynorsk: Kontrarevolusjon
counterrevolution in Polish: Kontrrewolucja
counterrevolution in Swedish: Kontrarevolution
counterrevolution in Chinese: 反革命

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

backfire, bloodless revolution, bouleversement, breakdown, breakup, cataclysm, catastrophe, clean slate, clean sweep, comeback, computer revolution, convulsion, counterattack, counterblast, counterblow, counterfire, counterinsurgency, countermeasure, counterstep, counterstroke, debacle, defense, overthrow, overturn, palace revolution, radical change, retort, revolt, revolution, revolutionary war, revulsion, spasm, striking alteration, subversion, sweeping change, tabula rasa, technological revolution, total change, transilience, upset, violent change
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