This piece of blog-journalism illustrates very neatly how difficult many contemporary commentators find it to separate their internalised assumptions about what ‘revolution’ ought to mean from an effort to analyse real situations. Headlined ‘Libya: The Revolution That Never Was?’, its opening sentence ends with the statement that, after Gaddafi’s death ‘another Arab Spring revolution appeared to be secure.’ Going on to discuss in depth the actual destabilised condition of the country ‘after the revolution’, the author wonders ‘Libya’s revolution has splintered, to be sure, but how might it be reconstituted?’
Ultimately, the piece appears to posit that ‘Libya’s 2011 revolution produced more problems than solutions’ in a fragmented and tribalised polity: ‘The revolution only introduced more hardship and violence than ever before.’ Yet the ultimate conclusion swings drastically away from this pragmatic evaluation: ‘Thus, Libya’s revolution remains postponed – its destiny in the hands of those who might envision and create an authentic, historical alternative.’
A revolution that both was, and is not yet… A contradiction strikingly typical of the contemporary discourse.
Our friend Alex Fairfax-Cholmeley has begun a new project to effectively ‘live blog’ his exploration of the French Revolution collection at Manchester’s John Rylands Library. Some very informative close readings are sure to follow…
A comment piece from the UK Guardian newspaper, making some valid if slightly oversimplified points about the difference between a ‘revolution’ that topples a regime, and the work of constructing a changed future. Perhaps most interesting is the stream of comments which follow after, revealing both how discussion of ‘revolutionary crowds’ still animates present-day internet folk, and the savage disagreement about what makes a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ revolution this can produce.
A piece by our colleague Charles Walton, available in both French and English, comparing issues of economic justice and redistribution in the French Revolution and the current situation in Egypt.
“Et si l’économie était la grande oubliée des révolutions ?…”
I’ve just posted here a keynote talk I gave last year, relevant to the themes of comparative revolution.
Peter McPhee has posted an article for the Guardian questioning the use of his own research to justify the claims made about Robespierre’s appearance that caused a media storm in France last December. Some of that earlier coverage can be reviewed below:
An intervention from Jean-Luc Melenchon
An excellent new review of Marisa Linton’s latest book, in the Dublin Review of Books…
Jack Censer at our companion blog has a new post about counter-revolutionary moments. Cross-posting here, head over to the Revolutionary Moments site to comment:
While we are focusing on the Revolution, I’d like to raise a point about the counter-revolution of Thermidor. I do recognize that at first the leadership expected little change, but the regime morphed into a counter-revolution after a couple of months only. And the next few months witnessed signaled a significant change from the most radical era of the Revolution.
Some revolutions do not seem to have this occur. For example, Iran still awaits a counter-revolution; likewise the Chinese did not have one either as long as Mao was alive. The Russians experienced the NEP in 1921 and then turned back from the market and the revolution resumed, not to abate in a thoroughgoing way until Gorbachev took power. It’s too early to tell for sure, but Egypt raced to counterrevolution very rapidly.
These ruminations suggest that counter-revolution needs some definition and that world history can give us some idea of what are general factors in creating such a retreat.
With apologies for my English English…
A very interesting recent post exploring how we might think about the “contagious” nature of “revolutionary fervor” in what have sometimes been called “domino” processes of revolutionary outbreak. Continue reading
Tariq Ali has some pertinent comments on the problem of reaching too eagerly for the label of ‘revolution’ in the context of events in the arc from Libya to Syria. But he is clearly operating with a schema of revolution – “a transfer of power from one social class (or even a layer) to another that leads to fundamental change” – that raises as many questions as it answers. Is state power actually held by a ‘social class’ in the sundry life-presidencies and dictatorships of the world – the Portuguese Estado novo in the 1970s, the Marcos regime in the Philippines in the 1980s, Mubarak in Egypt? Were the Soviet-bloc regimes overthrown so dramatically in 1989 a ‘layer’? Did the indisputably fundamental change that came over Iran in 1979 emerge from social conflict, or change the social basis of state power? It is not obvious that any of these questions can be answered positively, yet for most of these situations, the term ‘revolution’ is absolutely established to describe their transformations.