Arab Revolution

Yes, History is repeating itselffor the same reasons.  The population isbooming and becoming semi educated to the extent that the illiterate seethemselves been left behind.  Moredangerously, the autocrats again show themselves unable and unwilling to getout of the way of these aspirations. Were India, China and Brazil and others harnessed thisenergy, the Arab autocrats block capitalism by choking it off in the crib withkleptocracy.

Yes, the Arab world isdiscovering that when they hit the bricks, that governments actually listen ina way that assures us that they will all become democrats just as fast as theycan organize a safe transition.  1848gave democratic institutions to Europe becausethe autocrats finally understood that the people had real tangible power thathad to be respected.  Thereafter, noEuropean king dreamed of operating without a working parliament that managedthe people’s wishes.

The Islamicists are making theerror of thinking that they are the natural inheritors of this revolt but theyare not at all.  At best they can hope tograb power while the people are blinded by their power as occurred tragicallyin Iran.   Iran today is waiting for thesecond revolution that hurls the mullahs out for the same reason as the Shahwas ejected.  This is a democraticrevolution that the democrats have a good chance to manage.

When revolution is in the air,the danger is from the party based autocrats who have a leap on organization andhave also been allowed to indoctrinate the young.  Islamicism and Communism and Nazism are all cutfrom the same cloth and the ideology is a mere mechanism to allow the secretpolice to control the population.  Todayalmost no one attends the mosques in Iran.

Revolution: Is 1848Repeating Itself in the Arab World?

PART I: The Dynamics of Global Capitalism

By Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

Global Research, February 5, 2011

Is history repeating itself? Have the events of 1848 in Europe repeated themselves in the Arab World? Will 2011see the same outcomes as 1848? Only the Arab people can decide. Their fate isin their hands, but they should learn from the mistakes of 1848 and seriouslyaddress the role of the capitalist class.


The European Spring of 1848 and the Arab Spring of 2011

In 1848, revolutionary fervour broke across continental Europe. The waves of revolution were set in motion in France. It didnot take long before the rest of Europewas 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, theItalian States, Belgium, Wallachia, and the Habsburg's Austrian Empire wouldall be shaken by popular revolt. The bases of the European revolts were thesame as those in the modern-day Arab World.

Economic disparity, abuse of workers rights, and a lack of politicalequality were all causes for the wave of revolutions in 1848 Europe.Industrialization and economic and technological leaps werecausing major socio-economic changes in European societies before and upto 1848. While in a very different historical context, this has also beenoccurring in today's Arab World.

In 19th Century Europe, fundamentaleconomic changes, characterized by the consolidation of wealth, causedmassive unemployment as well as the outbreak of famines.

This has also occurred in recent years in the Arab World, largely as a resultof the brunt of neo-liberal reforms and rising food prices. Anger overlack of employment, lack of opportunities, corrupt government practices, andrising bread and food prices have actually been igniting riots and protests inthe Arab World, specifically those states around the Mediterranean Sea,for several years before 2011. These past riots and protests were preludes tothe highly tense situations in Egypt,Tunisia,and the Arab World.

The French Revolution of 1848: Europe's Tunisiaor Iran?

1848 Francewas ruled by the landed property class, big industry, and the banking class. Itwas the working class that brought about the rise of this triad (landedproperty, big industry, and the banking class) through the French Revolution of1789. In turn, this triad or "big capital" would systematicallydisenfranchize the working class by eliminating universal suffrage.

A new residency criterion was imposed in France by King Louis-Philip I whoserved the interests of big capital and was appropriately called the"Bourgeoisie King." French citizens had to prove that they lived in ariding for three years. To prove residency, the French working class neededletters of authentication from their employers. Thus, the working class and anoverwhelming majority of the French were disenfranchized from voting and heldhostage by big capital. French workers would also migrate from one place andriding to another place and riding for employment, because of the changingeconomic conditions, which would also make qualification for voting impossible.Unemployment would grip Franceand there would be a massive surplus of labour that would be readily exploitedby organized capital. These unbearable conditions would led to the FrenchRevolution of 1848.

In the French Revolution of 1789, the working class allied itself withbig capital (big industry, the banking class, and landed property), but thiswould change in 1848. While big capital was fighting amongst itself, theworking class was becoming an ally of the petty bourgeoisie in demanding ashare in governing Franceand directing the course of French society. The House of Orléans was overthrownand the monarchy brought to a final end with the establishment of the Second French Republic.

Yet, the working class did not secure their rights after 1848. Theyheld briefly the seat of power. The new taxation system failed andthe capitalist class retained its control, thereby neutralizing effortsfor genuine socio-economic reform in France. This led up to the 1851 Paris coup that was tomake Charles Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte the emperor of the Second French Empire.The other outcome, after the defeat of Emperor Bonaparte in the Franco-PrussianWar, was the 1871 establishment of the short-lived French government known byhistorians as the "ParisCommune." [1] Under the Paris Commune andits mixed socialist and anarchist government, Francebecame history's first socialist republic, more than seventy years before theestablishment of the Soviet Union. Under thePrussian occupation of France,the ParisCommune was ultimately crushed by an agreement and strategic understandingreached between the Germans and French organized capital.

What lessons can be learned from 1848?

The French Revolution of 1848 illustrates how capital can manipulate thedesires of the working class and mainstream society. It also illustrates thatthe capitalist class was predominately in control of the state, despite thechanges in political leadership. Finally, the outcome of 1848 in Franceillustrates that policies are deliberately fluctuated by organized capital as ameans to lull mainstream society. In this context, history could repeat itselfin the Arab World.

1848 and the Rise of the Welfare State and Liberal Democracy

Europe was jolted from its place, because of the revolts of 1848. Foralmost a decade afterwards there were reverberations throughout Europe. Yet, the revolts in Europedid not equate to true revolution. Nor were the objectives of most of theEuropean masses met. In the case of Hungary, nationalistic objectiveswere met and the Habsburg Empire was reformed, in 1867, into Austro-Hungary,with the German Austrians no longer just dominating the Magyars (Hungarians).[2] 1848 also served as a catalyst for the unifications of Italy and Germany.

The European states, however, remained as kleptocraciesthat worked to protect, extend and entrench the wealth of the rulingclasses. For the most part the mainframes of privilege and wealth are still inplace in modern-day Europe. One may and shouldask how this is possible?

The popular revolts in Europe causeda change in the thinking of the European ruling classes. The ruling class,which was essentially the capitalist class, would go about business as usual,but in a much more liberal and camouflaged manner. At the behest of the rulingcapitalist class, the state would send government agents to infiltratepolitical movements and unions and direct them into so-called "peacefulchannels."

Mainstream European societies were also culturally indoctrinated with the ideaand attitudes that change was "progress" and that it was a slowprocess that would occur in increments. Scientific theories would also reflectthis cultural attitude. For example, not long after the events of 1848, CharlesDarwin presented his theory about natural selection in Britain. Anexample of a cultural bias that was reflected in his theory was theidea that change was gradual. There is no sound evidence that evolutionarychange is necessarily fixed to a gradual or slow pace. Darwin was not alone inseeing change as a slow function, other scientists and scholars indifferent fields where also talking about gradual development. Thiswas due to the cultural environment that was being nurtured toprotect the interests of the capitalist class.

These culturally-based assumptions were tailored for mainstream Europeansocieties, because it was in the interest of the capitalist class topresent the changes to European societies as "progress" and forimprovement as something that was "gradual." Organizedcapital was merely socializing mainstream society to accept a culture ofendurance in the hope that change would gradually come. This is similar to the"transition periods" being called for by the White House, by the E.U.,and by the Arab regimes themselves in the Arab World.

The capitalist class also made small concessions to pacify mainstream societyin what evolved into what was later called the "welfare state." Thestate wasted no time in preventing the emergence of full-out working classrevolutions. To pre-empt the emergence of communism in Western Europe, which Auguste Comté foretold if social differenceswere not resolved, the Western European governments wasted no time in givingtheir respective societies political face-lifts too.

After 1848, Britainand the Netherlandsinstituted governmental change through constitutionalism and progressivelybecame liberal democracies and so-called constitutional monarchies. By the endof the Second World War, most Western European countries were liberaldemocracies and "liberal welfare states." 

It must also be pointed out that there were two phases to the welfare state.The first phase was its emergence after 1848 to oppose the increasingly radicalnature of the working class. The second phase, the liberal welfare phase, wasafter the Second World War to prevent communist movements from taking over inWestern Europe and Japan.

The Decline of the Welfare State and its Direct Relationship to thedecline of the "Communist Threat"

Currently, the vitality of the liberal welfare state has been the focusof many discussions. A liberal welfare state is a state that essentially is onethat has programs to reduce inequalities amongst its citizens. These programsinclude state focus on the poorer strata or members of a society and a muchbroader focus on social programs to reduce inequalities amongst the citizenry.

After the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the liberal welfare state has been in decline. This wasattributed to so-called fiscal crises, which instituted containment policiesthat would later evolve into government liquidation of social programs. Thereis, however, a very good case to argue the opposite.

The liberal welfare state arose at a time when there was a seriouscommunist option in Europe andglobally. After the Second World War in Europe and Asia,there were strong communist movements and a great deal of support forcommunism. Workers were radicalizing since 1900. The creation of the liberalwelfare state neutralized any drive towards communism in Western Europeand Japanby satisfying the demands of vast segments of mainstream society. It was ineffect a lulling of working class demands.

After the collapse of the Eastern Bloc and the Soviet Union, the ruling capitalist classes in the Western Bloc no longerneeded the liberal welfare state to placate mainstream society from imposingcommunism. After the start of the current economic crisis, cutbacks to socialprograms and even broader austerity measures have been applied further againstthe liberal welfare state. From the perspective of a Marxist historicalanalysis, the liberal welfare states served the capitalistclass in eroding the demands of the working class and mainstream society.

Democracy versus Kleptocracy: More than Meets the Eye

It must be asked, how "democratic" were these so-calleddemocracies of the world? To answer this, we must consider democracy as the"rule of the people." Direct democracy, which is the direct involvementand participation of every citizen, is democracy in its truest form. Directdemocracy can arguably be considered to be in line with anarchism or to beone and the same.

Representative democracy or indirect democracy is a means in which specificnumbers of citizens or constituents are represented by an official orofficials. Firstly, electing a representative does not mean that they willrepresent the democratic will of their constituents. Exceedingly, this hasclearly been the case in most the so-called democracies. Why is this?

Democracy has never been practiced in its true form. Athens is credited through the Eurocentricperspective as the home of democracy as a political system. Even in Athens true democracy wasnot practiced. Ignoring the industrial slavery in Athens, the vast majority of the Athenianpopulation was not involved in the voting process and even those who did votewere influenced or coerced at times. There was also an elite that manipulatedthe course of decision-making in the Athenian city-state.

The key word here is "managed." Like Athens, the modern-day so-called liberaldemocracies are also "managed" by a ruling class. This is donethrough the control of various institutions, entertainment, political parties,information, and the means of the general population's livelihoods. The peopleare stirred and directed in how they vote. Genuine informed consent is missingin many cases. In the United States, Barack H. Obama was presented as anoption outside of the status quo, but in reality he was merely a new face forthe same ruling establishment controlling the American way of living.
Modern-day democracies are kleptocracies in one way or another.Empirically there is such a vast amount of data that shows this. There can beno real democracy until men and women are free in thought, in body, and inlivelihood. As long as they are controlled, either socially or economically, bysuch things as organized capital there will be a spoiling effect on trueliberty. If it does not control the state, the capitalist class wields atremendous amount of influence over the state. In turn, the state serves thecapitalist class and exhorts control over mainstream society for the capitalistclass, as do the media and the structures of economic life.

As constitutionalists correctly argue, democracies can be managed andmanipulated. Since 1848, the capitalist class has managed to hinder genuinedemocracy in all its forms, while promoting kleptocracy. Bigcapital has always managed to carve a place for itself at the helmsof the state and has managed to maintain itself through the mercy ofliberalism.

Part II of this article will focus on the "Struggle forSelf-Determination" in the Arab World

Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is a Research Associate of the Centre for Researchon Association (CRG), a think-tank based in Montréal.


[1] After the establishment of the Second French Republic,Charles Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, the nephew of Napoléon Bonaparte who wouldbecome the new French president, would eventually also jump camps from bigcapital's camp to the working class and the petty bourgeoisie camp. Afterfailing to have the French constitution amended to allow him to run for asecond four-year term, in a populist move, President Bonaparte would promise thereintroduction of universal suffrage to the working class. In 1851, CharlesLouis-Napoléon Bonaparte would seize power and declare himself emperor of theSecond French Empire. To gain working class support for his regime in 1864Emperor Bonaparte would remove France'slegal bans on strikes and in 1866 he would also de-criminalize unions.

[2] The Austrian Empire would turn into a monarchic union under the Habsburgs.Hungary would be carved within the Austrian Empire as a separate kingdom, whichwould have its own government.

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