The emptiest, dumbest platitude of our time, uttered both by establishment stiffs like the Archbishop of Canterbury and by self-styled radical leftists, is that the 1930s have made a comeback. Treating that dark decade as if it were a sentient force, a still-extant thing, observers from both the worried bourgeoisie and the edgy left insist the Thirties have staggered back to life and have much of the West in their reanimated deathly grip. Looking at Brexit, the European turn against social democracy, the rise of populist parties, and the spread of ‘yellow vest’ revolts, the opinion-forming set sees fascism everywhere, rising zombie-like from its grave, laying to waste the progressive gains of recent decades.
This analysis is about as wrong as an analysis can be. Comparing contemporary political life to events of the past is always an imperfect way of understanding where politics is at. But if we really must search for echoes of today in the past, then it isn’t the 1930s that our era looks and feels like – it’s the 1840s. In particular 1848. That is the year when peoples across Europe revolted for radical political change, starting in France and spreading to Sweden, Denmark, the German states, the Italian states, the Habsburg Empire, and elsewhere. They were democratic revolutions, demanding the establishment or improvement of parliamentary democracy, freedom of the press, the removal of old monarchical structures and their replacement by independent nation states or republics. 1848 is often referred to as the Spring of Nations.
Secret Empires: How th…
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Sound familiar? Of course 2018 has not been as tumultuous as 1848 was. There have been…