the failed revolutions of 1848 -- 10/30/18

Today's selection -- from A World to Win by Sven-Eric Liedman. In 1848, a series of violent political upheavals aimed at toppling monarchies swept across France, Germany and beyond -- the so-called Revolutions of 1848. Brought on by financial crisis, spiraling food prices and the encroachment of industrialization, these revolutions were known as the Springtime of the Peoples. Yet, even though some reform was achieved, there was a counterrevolution that brought "the opposite of what the revolutionaries intended":

"After 1789, violent social upheavals stood out as a fairly natural result of modern social development. It was an outlook that filled many with hope, and others with fear or aversion. The July Revolution of 1830 and the February Revolution of 1848 seemed to confirm this tendency. The latter in particular -- antici­pated in the thoughts of so many, and which spread over Europe so quickly -- strengthened these convictions.

Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix commemorates the July Revolution.

"But the rebellion resulted in the opposite of what the revo­lutionaries intended. A new emperor came to power in France, insignificant in comparison to the first, and a man who only safe­guarded his own power and honour. In Prussia, the king and his government came out of the battle strengthened, and the same applied to other German-dominated states. Reactionary Russia, with its despotic tsar, Nicholas I, strengthened its position on the continent, and Great Britain -- the last refuge in Europe for revo­lutionaries -- became even more vigilant against its own threats. In the revolutionary year of 1848, Chartism had experienced its last great period of growth. The activists -- who again quickly increased in number -- were optimistic, but the keepers of order were on their guard and every attempt at rebellion was smoth­ered in its cradle. In addition, many Chartists were hesitant with regard to the more downright socialist slogans.

"After the wave of revolutions, the front against all social change was stronger than ever, both in Great Britain and across Europe. It was a change that not only dashed many hopes. It also opened the path to a new way of thinking -- or, rather, it brought ideas that had recently been repressed to the foreground. Views on social development -- in fact, on change in general -- were transformed. The conviction that most processes require dramatic breaks was overshadowed by its opposite: the idea of continuity."



Sven-Eric Liedman


A World to Win: The Life and Works of Karl Marx




Copyright Albert Bonniers Förlag 2015


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