shades of 1848: gulps of reality in a pure state

For many, what is transpiring in the Arab world, bears resemblance to another year of revolution: 1848. When the inevitable reaction to these toppling of regimes takes place, will it recall the sad end of 1848 when the springtime hopes of an entire continent collapsed in the reaction of counterrevolution. Will 2011, be called, in Arnold Toynbee’s phrase, a turning point where history failed to turn? Or, as the Germans viewed the earlier revolt, that “crazy and holy year”?

Daumier. the uprising. ---"Once people are no longer afraid -and that's what Tunisia taught Egypt, and Tunisia and Egypt are teaching others -then it can happen anywhere, couldn't it?" Cascading dominoes are a characteristic of a revolutionary age. Europe went crazy for liberal democracy in 1848, in a tide of mostly fruitless revolutions.---Read More: image:

Though inspired very generally by the ideas of liberal nationalism and democracy, the mostly middle-class demonstrators of 1848 had, like their Arab contemporaries, very different goals in different countries. In Hungary, they demanded independence from Habsburg Austria. In what is now Germany, they aimed to unify the German-speaking peoples into a single state. In France, they wanted to overthrow the monarchy (again). In some countries, revolution led to pitched battles between different ethnic groups. Others were brought to a halt by outside intervention.

In fact, most of the 1848 rebellions failed. The Hungarians did kick the Austrians out, but only briefly. Germany failed to unite. The French created a republic that collapsed a few years later. Constitutions were written and discarded. Monarchs were toppled and restored. Historian A.J.P. Taylor once called 1848 a moment when “history reached a turning point and failed to turn.” Read More: a

"But this smash-hit film's comic pleasures are closer to the heart of the '68 phenomenon than might be thought. The deeper chord struck by Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis is in a celebration of human bonds amid today's ruthless capitalism, just as May ‘68 was also a protest by the young against the alienating boredom of an authoritarian and "blocked" society. Julie Coudry, the (possibly departing) president of the Confédération Etudiante, has made the point that in 1968, students (and striking workers) opposed to the ordre établi sought new forms of participation and communication; while in 2008, people are fearful of all-powerful globalisation yet also anxious to play their part in the reform of an (again) blocked society where a new generation of young people (again) has little say. "Read More: image:

Falling midway between the French Revolution of 1789 and the Russian Revolution of 1917, the uprisings of 1848 had both prophetic and nostalgic elements. The French insurrectionists, wrote Alexis de Tocqueville, “were engaged in acting the French Revolution, rather than continuing it.” Karl Marx predicted the revolution of 1848 was a rehearsal for a proletarian revolt that would not fail.

Raed El Rafei:Gilles Deleuze, the prominent French philosopher, once said about Mai 68 – the famous youth rebellion that took place in France in May 1968 – that it was a “gulp of reality in its pure state”. Deleuze said what characterises people in such moments is that they are in a “state of becoming” – what he called the “revolutionary-becoming”.

---A key slogan of the French 1968 student revolt summed this up: ”… be reasonable – demand the impossible”.---Read More: image:

For me, this perfectly expresses the televised revolution of the Egyptian people – that of individuals not only reinventing themselves but also instantly reinventing the image we have of them. And the raw footage reaching us from Egypt also introduced a new, powerful idea into Arab households: rebelling against injustice is not just a personal affair. People can pull together and rebel against the unfairness of their living conditions. Read More:

Before the Tunisian and Egyptian upheavals, the potency of organising and working in groups against tyranny was seldom put forward by the television industry. Drama series internalised the powerlessness of individuals and groups in a system that persistently crushed them. Furthermore, Arab television drama presented uprising as rebellion against foreign forces. Protests and popular movements became somehow relics or icons of the past. Countless television series and films were made about Egyptians or other Arab nations resisting colonial occupation to the point that images of people taking to the streets against the British or the French have become engraved in the collective memory of Arabs.

"Thus the machine defines and produces the reality of its servant, that is to say, it makes of him a practico-inert Being who will be a machine in so far as the machine is human and a man in so far as it remains, in spite of everything, a tool to be used: in short, it becomes his exact complement as an inverted man. At the same time, it determines his future as a living organism, just as it defines that of the employer. The difference is that it defines him negatively as an impossibility of living in the more or less

term. The machine does this not only through the counter-finalities which we have described (air pollution, destruction of the environment, occupational diseases, etc.), but also through representing, for him, in so far as it develops his being in the practical field of industrialisation, a permanent threat of reduced wages, of technological unemployment and of becoming disqualified."---Sartre. Read More:

But the silver screen seldom reflected the idea that Arabs could not only rebel in the present but also stand up against their own rulers. Fresh footage of the Egyptian turmoil and those of the subsequent protests in many other Arab countries are pervading the minds of Arab viewers and will turn our way of perceiving the region and its people upside down.Read More:

Does reaction follow revolt as inevitably as one tide the other?Or was it simply the swiftness of reaction that was so extraordinary in 1848? In any case, everything about that year has a breathless quality. The Age of Metternich, which had proceeded from the Congress of Vienna in 1815 came to a sudden end in February 1848. Within the next six weeks, a dozen conservative rulers fell like rotted fruit, or bricks from a condemned building. Yet, on the eve of their downfall events seemed under control.

"The King and the government undoubtedly saw the banquet campaign as a real threat to their position and they decided to ban a banquet scheduled for Paris on February 22nd. The organizing committee gave in and cancelled the banquet, but workers and students did not give up and arranged large demonstrations in the streets of Paris. The demonstrations continued on the next day and , completely unnerved by the size and anger of the crowds, Louis Philippe gave in to their demands and fired Guizot. The King’s decision was a victory for the camaigning reformers and resulted in spontaneous celebration by the demonstrating crowds. More and more people flocked to the streets on February 23rd and finally, in the evening, a group of demonstrators clashed with a detachment of troops in the Boulevard des Capucines. The troops panicked and fired into the crowd, killing or wounding between forty or fifty people.33 Rumour of the incident spread and caused the large crowd to revolt and during the night, a large number of barricades were erected in the streets of Paris. ---Read More:

“Liberalism and Change” were the upsetting words in Metternich’s age. His ideal was an autocratic absolutism tempered by salon wit and supported by a loyal army and police, a submissive bureaucracy, and a grateful church. Ideas of freedom were a sickness to be cured, if in an acute stage of contagion, by bleeding- and the Austrian army was Europe’s medical corps, ready and prompt with its treatment. True, France had been feverish with revolt in July, 1830, but in that crisis the Grande Bourgeoisie had simply substituted an anachronistic Bourbon king with the perfect bourgeois monarch: the modest, pear-faced Louis Philippe, Duc d’Orleans.

Anne Applebaum: And yet — in the longer run, the ideas discussed in 1848 did seep into the culture, and some of the revolutionary plans of 1848 were eventually realized. By the end of the 19th century, Chancellor Otto von Bismarck had indeed united Germany, and France did establish its Third Republic. The nations once ruled by the Habsburgs did gain independence after World War I. In 1849, many of the revolutions of 1848 might have seemed disastrous, but looking back from 1899 or 1919, they seemed like the beginning of a successful change….

"In 1848, revolutionary fervour broke across continental Europe. The waves of revolution were set in motion in France. It did not take long before the rest of Europe was hit with a tsunami of popular uprisings and revolts. Like a domino effect, country after country would be hit by revolt. Denmark, the German States, the Italian States, Belgium, Wallachia, and the Habsburg's Austrian Empire would all be shaken by popular revolt. The bases of the European revolts were the same as those in the modern-day Arab World. Economic disparity, abuse of workers rights, and a lack of political equality were all causes for the wave of revolutions in 1848 Europe. Industrialization and economic and technological leaps were causing major socio-economic changes in European societies before and up to 1848. While in a very different historical context, this has also been occurring in today's Arab World." Read More:

In the Arab world, we are also watching different kinds of people with different goals take charge of street demonstrations, each of which must certainly be assessed “in its own context,” as the historian wrote of 1848. In Egypt, decisions taken by the military may well have mattered as much as the actions of the crowd. In Bahrain, the conflict between Sunnis and Shiites is clearly central. The role of “Islam” is not the same in countries as different as Tunisia and Yemen. In Libya, the regime has already shown itself willing to use mass violence, which others have avoided. Tempting though it will be to lump all these events together and to treat them as a single “Arab revolution,” the differences between countries may turn out to be more important than their similarities. Read More:

Andrew McKillop: For delirious and malevolent dreamers like Gaddafi, and like the 1968 crop of student and alternate society leaders of the rich world, all and every economic detail was as uninteresting as it was unimportant.

In both cases there was however sufficient fat to trim, or existing wealth slopping around the system to permit these almost 18th century mindsets, more influenced by J-J Rousseau than by Nietzsche or Sartre– or effectively and in reality by Hitler and Mussolini in the case of Gaddafi. Both the type and kind of Flash Mob cellphone and Internet-based revolutions that are possible, today, will be heavily influenced by existing wealth, and the lack of it in affected countries- and as noted the current wave of revolutionary change is potentially global, exactly like the economy. Read More:

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