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Called by P. B. Shelley ‘the master-theme of the epoch’, the French Revolution profoundly affected British literature, giving new energy to the nascent Romantic movement while dissolving the boundary between literature and politics. This chapter examines the polarisation of British public opinion in the aftermath of the Revolution and the contestation of its ideas in the 1790s ‘pamphlet war’. The chapter analyses eye-witness accounts of the Revolution by British expatriates such as H. M. Williams and the dilemmas faced by British radicals when war was declared and the Revolution took an increasingly violent course. Wordsworth’s autobiographical account of these conflicts in The Prelude (1805) is set against later imaginative reconstructions of the Revolution by Shelley, Carlyle and Dickens and the more indirect expression of revolutionary shock in Gothic fiction. The chapter concludes by noting the linguistic legacy of the Revolution experience, which created much of the political vocabulary by which we still discuss ideas of nationhood.
Chapter 7 focuses on the two entities most often considered instances of revolutionary state formation after 2011 and which came into conflict with one another: the ISIS caliphate founded across Syria and Iraq, on the one hand, and the autonomous cantons ruled by the Kurdish PYD party in ‘Rojava’, or the Kurdish areas of north-eastern Syria, on the other. The chapter acknowledges that in attempting to create new forms of state – ‘democratic confederalism’ in the case of Rojava, and a Sunni Caliphate in the case of ISIS – these instances do resemble previous cases of revolutionary transformation. Yet their relationship with the revolutionary uprisings of 2011 is more complicated. In the case of ISIS, the chapter demonstrates that the caliphate is better thought of as a form of counter-revolution against that uprising, while in Rojava the PYD maintained an ambiguous relationship with the regime against which it was directed. For both the PYD and ISIS, international intervention proved decisive as the former were able to ally with the United States to defeat the latter – only then to suffer Turkish invasion once US support was withdrawn.
This chapter outlines the conceptual framework used in the book. Contrary to understandings of revolution based on their outcomes – on which basis the uprisings of 2011 are excluded from the definition of revolutions – this chapter argues that only a more open definition can encompass the phenomenon of counter-revolution. Adopting instead the idea of a revolutionary situation, the chapter outlines different forms of counter-revolution as a project of preventing or turning back a revolution through closing a revolutionary situation. Counter-revolution, the chapter demonstrates, cannot rely solely on the elite of the old regime but requires a popular base as well as external support. To succeed, therefore, counter-revolutionaries must unite the ‘counter-revolution from above’, ‘counter-revolution from below’ and ‘counter-revolution from without.’ Yet the social basis of such alliances has changed. Whereas the classic forms of European and colonial counter-revolution relied upon agrarian classes (sometimes united with urban capitalists and the lower middle class) supported by external powers, post-1975 democratising political revolutions were characterised by the absence or acquiescence of such classes and the encouragement of a liberal international order under US dominance. The Arab uprisings, by contrast, faced competitive regional counter-revolutions waged by financial and security elites – bolstered by the inheritance of previous revolutions from above.
Chapter 6 focuses on Libya and Yemen, both cases in which the former ruling dictator was removed – and eventually in both cases killed – but the result was the fragmentation and near-collapse of the state accompanied by direct and competitive foreign military intervention. Although ‘tribalism’ is often presented as a common factor in producing this outcome in both states, the chapter presents a materialist account of the tribe: just as in the case of the sect, tribal identification and forms of mobilisation acquiring their importance from previous forms of political economy. In both Libya and Yemen, the inheritance of previous revolutions from above – Gaddafi’s in Libya, and the anti-monarchical and anti-colonial revolutions of the 1960s in North and South Yemen, respectively – also shaped the revolutionary-counter-revolutionary conflicts after 2011. Although the NATO campaign in Libya in 2011 has been taken as a paradigmatic case of humanitarian intervention, assimilating the uprising to mid-2000s US policies of ‘regime change’, this chapter demonstrates that in both Libya and Yemen counter-revolutionary external intervention has been much more substantial and consequential.
The uprisings that shook the Middle East in 2011 shaped the subsequent decade of civil wars, coups and political crisis. The ‘Arab Spring’ has, therefore, come to be seen as a failure – a failure of transition from authoritarian to democratic regimes. Such transitions were expected to follow the model established in the last quarter of the twentieth century, producing only political rather than social transformation. Rather than revolutions, however, the 2011 uprisings have come to be seen as at most unsuccessful revolts. The reasons for this failure are typically ascribed to peculiarities of the region, in the presence of Islamist oppositions, sectarian division and external intervention into relatively weak states. Yet the crushing of the Arab uprisings represents not an inevitable failure or defeat but success: the success of counter-revolution.
This chapter focuses on Egypt and Tunisia, as the two states experienced political revolutions after 2011. In Egypt, the brief political revolution was overturned by the counter-revolution of 2013, while in Tunisia an unsteady democratic transition was achieved at the cost of the social demands of the uprising. Using the framework of counter-revolution from above, below, and without, the chapter demonstrates how counter-revolutionaries in both states were able to rely on the inheritance of previous anti-colonial revolutions from above to build a base of support – one aided by the record of Islamist parties once in power. The greater independence of the organised working class in Tunisia hampered a more fully counter-revolutionary outcome: while the external influence of the EU was concerned with fostering political revolution against social revolution. In Egypt, by contrast, the military as the core of the state was supported by a coalition of Gulf states already financially well-embedded in the country’s ruling class and pursuing a policy of outright counter-revolution.
The conclusion returns to the general questions raised in the first two chapters of the book. Reiterating and summarising the argument about counter-revolution from above, below and without, the chapter turns to the transformation in revolutions that occurred after 1975 – initially towards political revolutions and transitions towards liberal democracy, and then towards mass, urban-based uprisings frustrated by counter-revolutions. Drawing on the work of Mark Beissinger, the chapter shows that, far from being regionally unique, the Arab uprisings were the beginning of a decade of increasing mass protest that did not bring forth profound social – or in many cases, political – transformation. Nonetheless, as the example of the return of the slogans and tactics of 2011 with new forms of learning in uprisings in the region before the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrate, the success of counter-revolution cannot be assumed.
This chapter focuses on Syria and Bahrain, states in which the ruling regimes of 2011 managed to retain power: albeit in the case of Syria at the cost of more than a decade of civil war. Acknowledging the great differences between the two states, the chapter highlights the similarity in the role of sectarianism and external intervention: binding the counter-revolutions from above, below and without. The chapter presents a materialist understanding of sectarianism, however, as the product of both particular forms of political economy and counter-revolutionary strategy. In Syria, this produced a cross-sectarian ruling elite, albeit with an Alawi core, that nonetheless had profoundly sectarian effects: whereas in Bahrain, sectarianism served more straightforwardly as a prop of the Khalifa ruling house. The Syrian counter-revolution could also rely, albeit to a lesser degree, on the inheritance of the previous revolution from above and the promotion of an ideology of development and modernisation. In both states, narratives of external intervention – Western, Zionist or Iranian – served to strengthen the counter-revolutionary cause, while extensive outside support for counter-revolution – mainly Russian and Iranian in Syria, Saudi and Emirati in Bahrain – made up for the limited appeal of the counter-revolution from below. This chapter focuses on Syria and Bahrain, states in which the ruling regimes of 2011 managed to retain power: albeit in the case of Syria at the cost of more than a decade of civil war. Acknowledging the great differences between the two states, the chapter highlights the similarity in the role of sectarianism and external intervention: binding the counter-revolutions from above, below and without. The chapter presents a materialist understanding of sectarianism, however, as the product of both particular forms of political economy and counter-revolutionary strategy. In Syria, this produced a cross-sectarian ruling elite, albeit with an Alawi core, that nonetheless had profoundly sectarian effects: whereas in Bahrain, sectarianism served more straightforwardly as a prop of the Khalifa ruling house. The Syrian counter-revolution could also rely, albeit to a lesser degree, on the inheritance of the previous revolution from above and the promotion of an ideology of development and modernisation. In both states, narratives of external intervention – Western, Zionist or Iranian – served to strengthen the counter-revolutionary cause, while extensive outside support for counter-revolution – mainly Russian and Iranian in Syria, Saudi and Emirati in Bahrain – made up for the limited appeal of the counter-revolution from below.
The 'Arab Spring' has come to symbolise defeated hopes for democracy and social justice in the Middle East. In this book, Jamie Allinson demonstrates how these defeats were far from inevitable. Rather than conceptualising the 'Arab Spring' as a series of failed revolutions, Allinson argues it is better understood as a series of successful counter-revolutions. By comparing the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, Libya and Yemen, this book shows how these profoundly revolutionary situations were overturned by counter-revolutions. Placing the fate of the Arab uprisings in a global context, Allinson reveals how counter-revolutions rely on popular support and cross borders to forge international alliances. By connecting the Arab uprisings to the decade of global protest that followed them, this innovative work demonstrates how new forms of counter-revolution have rendered it near impossible to implement political change without first enacting fundamental social transformation.
In this chapter, I find traces and articulations of the neo-Roman idea of freedom in an entirely different intellectual context than the one so eloquently analysed by Quentin Skinner in Liberty before Liberalism: the Francophone Counter-Revolution at the end of the eighteenth century. Like the neo-Romans, the counter-revolutionary authors studied here, François-Xavier de Feller and Charles-Alexandre de Calonne, stated that you can only be free as a citizen in a free state. However, a ‘free state’ for these authors did not mean popular self-government, but instead consisted of the monarchical rule of law and the moderate exercise of royal and clerical power. For these authors, the French Revolutionary Republic was the very opposite of a free state, a murderous despotism as well as anarchy without rules, that turned its subjects into slaves.
This chapter describes the role of private individuals who aimed to collect the traces of the French Revolution amidst the tumultuous events. It is centred on the figure of Jean-Louis Soulavie, and his unique collection of prints and drawings, now split between the Louvre and regional archives. It discusses how Soulavie acquired and interpreted this corpus of images, drawing connections with his changing political convictions, and the different functions ascribed to the image, including the commemorative (especially for victims of the Terror), the explanatory (seeking to understand the cause-and-effect of revolutionary processes) and the predictive (echoing Soulavie’s belief in the occult power of images). It connects Soulavie’s engagement with visual culture with other aspects of his collecting and considers the dispersal of many cabinets assembled by this first generation of collector-historians during the Restoration.
The Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune 1870-71 exercised a dramatic impact on the rhetoric around private collecting, this chapter suggests. It examines why conservative collectors such as baron Jérôme Pichon felt that they were personally under attack as the city was shelled and burned during the année terrible, and suggests that heritage became intensely politicised, as radicals were blamed for repeating the vandalism previously seen in the Revolution of 1789. The chapter emphasis the emergence of a belligerent branch of art history written by Pichon’s associations- like Louis Courajod and baron Charles Davillier- and stresses that conservative collectors took their vision of the past into the public sphere through the vibrant culture of temporary exhibitions which emerged under the Second Empire. Through the figure of baron Léopold Double, it explores the cult of the old regime created by royalists but also argues that this cult proved very unstable in the new political and economic circumstances of the 1880s.
This article argues that the case of the Egyptian 2011 revolution forces us to rethink accounts of counter-revolution in International Relations. The debate over whether the events of 2011–13 in Egypt should be considered a ‘revolution’ or merely a ‘revolt’ or ‘uprising’ reflects an understanding of revolutions as closed and discrete events, and therefore of international counter-revolution as significant only after revolutionary movements have seized sovereign power. Against this account, which maintains the idea of sovereignty as the boundary between domestic/social and international/ geopolitical phenomena, I argue that counter-revolutions can operate across boundaries during revolutionary situations before and to prevent revolutionary transformation and therefore affect whether a revolutionary sovereign power is established at all. Such counter-revolutions draw upon both the ideological inheritance of historical strategies of international ‘catch-up’, and the cross-border class relations that these different strategies bring into being. In the Egyptian case, the counter-revolution thus relied upon two factors deriving from this strategy: the ideological inheritance of Nasserism as a response to international hierarchy, and the integration of the post-Nasser Egyptian ruling elite with Gulf financial, and US security, networks.
The struggle led after 1860 by the Anti-Risorgimento (understood as the conservative opposition to Italian unification) went beyond the frontiers of new Italy. The transnationality of this campaign manifested itself in numerous ways, from international networks of financial support and militancy that were closely associated with counter-revolution and supported by the international structures of the Roman Catholic Church, to forms of transnational mobilisation such as armed volunteerism. This internationalisation of anti-Unity fighting was a conscious strategy of the movement's leaders. They relied on a tradition of solidarity and exchange within the ultraconservative camp – a sort of ‘white international’ – to further the transnational construction of a European identity of counter-revolution. In Italy, the victory of the nationalist movement endowed various anti-liberal forces with a common adversary and common goals; yet the strategy adopted by the Papacy (still a temporal power until 1870), in relation to the cause of the dispossessed sovereigns, was not devoid of ambiguity.
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