Arms and the People: Popular Movements and the Military from the Paris Commune to the Arab Spring

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  1. Arms and the People: Popular Movements and the Military from the Paris Commune to the Arab Spring
  2. Review 31 Reviews | Review 31
  3. Encounters with the nastiest people on the internet
  4. ISBN 13: 9780745332970

At about the same time, the bitter war over the future of the Kingdom of Hungary was brought to an end, as Austrian and Russian troops occupied the country. By the end of the summer, the revolutions were largely over. These bitter and often very violent days of reckoning mean, among other things, that the narrative of the revolutions lacks a moment of redemptive closure. And it was precisely the stigma of failure that put me off when I first encountered them at school. Complexity and failure are an unattractive combination. Why, then, should we make the effort today of reflecting on ?

There are many reasons, it seems to me. First: the Revolutions were not a failure at all — in many countries they produced swift and lasting constitutional change. It is more interesting to think of this continental uprising as a particle collision chamber at the centre of the European 19th century. People, groups and ideas flew into it, crashed together, fused or fragmented, and showers of new entities emerged whose trails can be traced through the decades that followed. Political movements and ideas, from socialism and democratic radicalism to liberalism, nationalism, corporatism, syndicalism and conservatism, were tested in this chamber; all were transformed, with profound consequences for the modern history of Europe.

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Second: the questions the insurgents of asked have not lost their power. There are exceptions, obviously: we no longer wrack our brains over the temporal power of the papacy or the Schleswig-Holstein question. But we do still worry about what happens when demands for political or economic liberty conflict with demands for social rights. Freedom of the press was all very well, as the radicals of never tired of pointing out, but what was the point of a newspaper if you were too hungry to read it?

The spectre of pauperisation had loomed over the s. How was it possible that even people in full-time work could scarcely manage to feed themselves? Entire sectors of manufacture — weavers were the most prominent example — appeared to be ensnared by this predicament. But what did this tide of immiseration mean? Conservatives looked to charitable amelioration and liberals to economic deregulation and industrial growth, but radicals were less sanguine: to them, it seemed that the entire economic order was founded on the exploitation of the weaker by the stronger. These questions have not faded away.

And the relationship between capitalism and social inequality remains under scrutiny. Particularly difficult was the question of labour.

Arms and the People: Popular Movements and the Military from the Paris Commune to the Arab Spring

What if work itself became a scarce commodity? The downturn in the business cycle in the winter and spring of had pushed thousands of men and women out of work. Did citizens have the right to demand that labour be apportioned to them, as something essential to a dignified existence? It was the effort to answer this question that produced the controversial Ateliers Nationaux, or National Workshops, in Paris.

But it was never going to be easy to persuade hard-working farmers in the Limousin to pay extra taxes in order to fund work-creation schemes for men they regarded as Parisian layabouts. On the other hand, it was the sudden closure of the workshops that poured a hundred thousand unemployed men back onto the streets of the capital and triggered the violence of the June Days.

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Painted in and widely exhibited in a number of versions, it shows a delegation of labourers whose work-creation scheme — excavation work on the various arms of the Rhine — had just been shut down in the autumn of for lack of funds. Through a large window, an orator can be seen in the square outside addressing a raging crowd.

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Marx loved this painting for its stark depiction of what he saw as class conflict. In a rave review for the New York Tribune , he praised Hasenclever for conveying in one image a state of affairs that a progressive writer could only hope to analyse over many pages of print. Questions about social rights, poverty and the right to work tore the revolutions apart during the summer of Like the upheavals in the Arab states, they were diverse, geographically dispersed and yet connected. The single most striking feature of the Revolutions was their simultaneity — this was a puzzle to contemporaries and has remained one to historians ever since.

It is also one of the most enigmatic features of the recent Arab events, which had deep local roots, but were clearly interlinked. The important point is a more general one: in their swarming multitudinousness, in the unpredictable interaction of so many forces, the upheavals of the midth century resembled the chaotic upheavals of our own day, in which clearly defined end-points are hard to come by.

The Hungarian Diet was a very old body, but in a new national Diet was convened in the city of Pest. The revolutionary insurgents of Naples, Piedmont-Sardinia, Tuscany and the Papal States all established new parliamentary bodies. The revolutionaries of Sicily, seeking to break away from the rule of Naples, founded their own Sicilian parliament, which in April deposed the Bourbon king in Naples, Ferdinando II. But the assemblies were merely one theatre of action.

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  6. This body in turn split after five days into two separate congresses, because it proved impossible to bridge the divide between masters and journeymen. Liberals revered parliaments and looked with disgust on the clubs and assemblies of the radicals which seemed to them to parody the sublime procedural culture of properly elected and constituted chambers. One interesting point emerges from the chaotic closing phase of the revolutions, which is that there was an international dimension to them, but it was not revolutionary, as the radicals and some liberals had claimed, or at least hoped.

    It was counter-revolutionary.

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    The French intervened in the Papal States against the Roman republic. The Russians intervened in Hungary. The radicals and liberals were impressively successful in creating transnational networks, but these networks were horizontal: they lacked the vertical structures and resources required to wield decisive force. The counter-revolution, by contrast, drew on the combined resources of armies whose loyalty to the traditional powers had never been seriously in question.

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    Hierarchies beat networks. Power prevailed over ideas and arguments. The effort to make sense of this outcome gave rise to one of the most interesting and important intellectual consequences of the revolution: the quest for theories or forms of politics founded not on ideas but on the realities of force. While I share this affinity for newspaper-reading, coffee-drinking, process-oriented liberals, it seems to me that an account that views events only from an insurgent or liberal standpoint will miss an essential part of the drama and meaning of these revolutions.

    They were a complex encounter between old and new powers, in which the old ones did as much to shape the shorter and longer-term outcomes of the revolutions as the new. The future Prussian minister-president and German statesman Otto von Bismarck was a minor player in , but the revolution enabled him to fuse his personal destiny with the future of his country.

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      Foreign Policy Digital 6 min read Politics. Iran Is Already Losing. With its particular focus on US-led globalisation, Foundations of the American Century also owes a considerable debt to the liberal economist John A. Hobson who, in his study Imperialism , was among the first theorists to consider the role of philanthropic institutions as part of a machinery of economic expansionism. The book succeeds because the author avoids the trap of implying an unmediated vertical relationship between the philanthropies and the political and economic elites whose goals they ultimately served. A defining characteristic of the East Coast liberal internationalist was their understanding of the need to twin elite authority and popular moral authority as a prerequisite of a dynamic and modern capitalism — theirs was not some stagnant oligarchy.

      Inderjeet Parmar: Foundations of the American Century. Houman Barekat is a London-based writer and editor of Review Search Search for: Go. Discussion Comments are disallowed for this post.