by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
Is history repeating itself? Have the events of 1848 in Europe repeated themselves in the Arab World? Will 2011 see the same outcomes as 1848? Only the Arab people can decide. Their fate is in their hands, but they should learn from the mistakes of 1848 and seriously address the role of the capitalist class.
The European Spring of 1848 and the Arab Spring of 2011
Economic disparity, abuse of workers rights, and a lack of political equality were all causes for the wave of revolutions in 1848 Europe. Industrialization and economic and technological leaps were causing major socio-economic changes in European societies before and up to 1848. While in a very different historical context, this has also been occurring in today's Arab World.
In 19th Century Europe, fundamental economic changes, characterized by the consolidation of wealth, caused massive unemployment as well as the outbreak of famines.
This has also occurred in recent years in the Arab World, largely as a result of brunt of neo-liberal reforms and rising food prices. Anger over lack of employment, lack of opportunities, corrupt government practices, and rising bread and food prices have actually been igniting riots and protests in the Arab World, specifically those states around the Mediterranean Sea, for several years before 2011. These past riots and protests were preludes to the highly tense situations in Egypt, Tunisia, and the Arab World.
The French Revolution of 1848 illustrates how capital can manipulate the desires of the working class and mainstream society. It also illustrates that the capitalist class was predominately in control of the state, despite the changes in political leadership. Finally, the outcome of 1848 in France illustrates that policies are deliberately fluctuated by organized capital as a means to lull mainstream society. In this context, history could repeat itself in the Arab World.
Mainstream European societies were also culturally indoctrinated with the idea and attitudes that change was "progress" and that it was a slow process that would occur in increments. Scientific theories would also reflect this cultural attitude. For example, not long after the events of 1848, Charles Darwin presented his theory about natural selection in Britain. An example of a cultural bias that was reflected in his theory was the idea that change was gradual. There is no sound evidence that evolutionary change is necessarily fixed to a gradual or slow pace. Darwin was not alone in seeing change as a slow function, other scientists and scholars in different fields where also talking about gradual development. This was due to the cultural environment that was being nurtured to protect the interests of the capitalist class.
These culturally-based assumptions were tailored for mainstream European societies, because it was in the interest of the capitalist class to present the changes to European societies as "progress" and for improvement as something that was "gradual." Organized capital was merely socializing mainstream society to accept a culture of endurance 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 society in what evolved into what was later called the "welfare state." The state wasted no time in preventing the emergence of full-out working class revolutions. To pre-empt the emergence of communism in Western Europe, which Auguste Comte foretold if social differences were not resolved, the Western European governments wasted no time in giving their respective societies political face-lifts too.
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 radical nature of the working class. The second phase, the liberal welfare phase, was after the Second World War to prevent communist movements from taking over in Western Europe and Japan.
The liberal welfare state arose at a time when there was a serious communist option in Europe and globally. After the Second World War in Europe and Asia, there were strong communist movements and a great deal of support for communism. Workers were radicalizing since 1900. The creation of the liberal welfare state neutralized any drive towards communism in Western Europe and Japan by satisfying the demands of vast segments of mainstream society. It was in effect a lulling of working class demands.
Representative democracy or indirect democracy is a means in which specific numbers of citizens or constituents are represented by an official or officials. Firstly, electing a representative does not mean that they will represent the democratic will of their constituents. Exceedingly, this has clearly been the case in most the so-called democracies. Why is this?
As constitutionalists correctly argue, democracies can be managed and manipulated. Since 1848, the capitalist class has managed to hinder genuine democracy in all its forms, while promoting kleptocracy. Big capital has always managed to carve a place for itself at the helms of the state and has managed to maintain itself through the mercy of liberalism.
Part II of this article will focus on the "Struggle for Self-Determination" in the Arab World
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Association (CRG), a think-tank based in Montréal.
 After the establishment of the Second French Republic, Charles Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, the nephew of Napoléon Bonaparte who would become the new French president, would eventually also jump camps from big capital's camp to the working class and the petty bourgeoisie camp. After failing to have the French constitution amended to allow him to run for a second four-year term, in a populist move, President Bonaparte would promise the reintroduction of universal suffrage to the working class. In 1851, Charles Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte would seize power and declare himself emperor of the Second French Empire. To gain working class support for his regime in 1864 Emperor Bonaparte would remove France's legal bans on strikes and in 1866 he would also de-criminalize unions.
 The Austrian Empire would turn into a monarchic union under the Habsburgs. Hungary would be carved within the Austrian Empire as a separate kingdom, which would have its own government.