A careful study of the French revolution (and the Russian) provide a complete antidote to the slander that revolutions are the work of tiny handfuls of conspirators and demagogues. The role of the masses is fundamental in driving the revolution forward at every stage. And when this active participation of the masses ebbs, the revolution comes to a full stop and goes into reverse. That was the case both in France and Russia, and led directly to reaction, firstly of the Thermidorian and later of the Bonapartist variety. It is impossible to read the inspiring history of the French revolution in the period of its ascent without a profound feeling of pride in the achievements of a revolutionary people. Here is the answer to all the cowards and sceptics who doubt the tremendous potential that is present everywhere in the masses.
Trotsky defines a revolution as the moment when the masses, that is to say, the millions of ordinary men and women, begin to participate in politics, to take their lives and destinies into their own hands. Revolution stirs up society to the bottom, and mobilises layers that were previously inert and "non-political". The role of women in the French revolution is a graphic illustration of this fact. Among the most decisive moments in the revolution was the fifth of October 1789, when six or seven thousand women of Paris marched in the pouring rain to Versailles to demand bread and force the king to move to Paris. The men were shamed into joining this strange procession of "the baker, the baker's wife and the baker's boy" which turned the king of France into a virtual prisoner of the revolutionary people.
– From The French revolution