History of Europe
From Hobson's Choice
|"The Dream," Edouard Detaille|
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The Congress of Vienna creates a tentative five-power collective leadership in Europe. The leading powers were:
Of these states, only one could be referred to as a nation; the others were personal dynasties with a more-or-less able solicitor, who alone was capable of understanding the implications of the alliances the Congress sought to establish. The Congress, in turn, failed to win the assent of the UK for its reactionary alliance. There were many reasons, all of which will play a role later in our narrative.
One was that the UK’s leadership was alone in being absolutely constrained by public sentiment; a permanent alliance of the UK with Russia against, say, Polish patriots or with Austria against Italian ones, was politically untenable. Another, however, was angst towards Russia: the Austrian and Prussian leadership might have dreaded France, but they dreaded Russia more and they feared to antagonize the Czar. The UK’s leaders did not. They had no common border, and they were receptive to secret entreaties by the emissaries of Continental bankers to prevent a Russian-dominated union.
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The Revolutions of 1830
A final reason was the tension between big nations and little ones. Britain’s closest friends on the Continent were small countries like Portugal, Denmark, and Norway. In addition, it had close ties to patriotic movements in Poland, Hungary, Greece, and Italy. These were all the primary strategic preoccupations of the occupying powers, and often stimulated (rather than squelched) expansionism against neighbors. Hence, Poland (a repressed nation) was an objective ally of Denmark (a sovereign nation with a territorial dispute with Prussia), and of Saxony (another sovereign nation that Prussia openly wished to annex). Britain could do little to counter balance Prussia against Austria or both against Russia; it could, however, influence the balance of power by preventing the big nations from developing a sort of super-duper sovereignty at the expense of little neighbors like Belgium.
While the common account of this period insists that the soi-disant "Holy Alliance" was in favor of the status quo, in fact, only Britain was; and it effected the status quo by constantly thwarting its alliance partners (see above). At this time, the monarchies were in a race against the development of patriotic ideologies among their subjects; the latter represented a rival claim on the loyalties, or even the basic goals and desires, of their subjects. The alternative to patriotic ideologies was officially cultivated pan-Slavic and pan-Germanic associations, in which the absolutist monarchs claimed they alone had the power to defend a large, nation-transcending, ethniki.
In the fullness of time, these ultramonarchist movements glorified the subordination of individual judgment and initiative to that of the putative "people," the sentimentally conceived majority who were supposedly not merely silent, but void of personal opinions and personal visions. This was not only supposed to be adopted by the emperor’s own subjects, but purported to preempt the patriotism other Slavs or Germans owed their own countries.
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The Revolutions of 1848 (in Austria)
In 1848, liberal patriotism won a brief, but impressive, victory over the official cults of autocracy. In Paris, then Italy, Hungary, Vienna, Frankfurt, Munich, and so forth, the Continent was racked by revolutions against the absolute despotisms. In France and Bavaria, this culminated in the actual transformation of the state: the King stepped down, and the national assembly imposed a new constitution. France had been "outside" the Holy Alliance, and hence was never covered by its interventionist provisions. Increasingly, France patriotism was divorced from the person of the monarchy. Bavaria, as a long-time enemy of Austria and Prussia alike, was also outside the protections of the 5-power alliance.
In the other countries, the alliance worked as intended. King Ferdinand of the Two Sicilies awarded concessions, then reneged en bloc and shelled his cities. In Hungary, the Russian Army invaded in support of the Viennese imperial regime; this was accompanied by joint Russian-Turkish intervention in the Danubian principalities of Wallachia and Moldova (modern-day Romania).  This was to dramatically discipline the character of nationalist movements on the continent. Rather than reflect spontaneous effusions of national feeling, as they were typically imagined to have done, they instead became willing accomplices of dynastic ambitions on the continent.
The Epoch of Nations: 1854-1914
The nations of Europe stood up after the Crimean War put a permanent end to the congress of emperors. The UK had always recoiled from the repressions of continental mini-states, whether Wallachia or Poland, and now France's 2nd Empire did also. Franz Jozef's close collusion with Nicholas I in the liquidation of Hungary did not led to the former's support in Nicholas' scheme to seize the Holy Land as a protectorate; Napoleon III and the British PM Aberdeen schemed to use this as a pretext for effectively ejecting Russia from the affairs of Europe. With Russia out of the picture, the Balkans now a cluster of "independent" monarchies, Italy presently united under Piedmont-Sardinia, and Holland broken up, there was nothing to stop Prussia from "finishing off" Austrian constraints on its conquest of Northern Germany.
This began with a minor squabble with Denmark over the territory of Schleswig-Holstein, then between the victors Austria and Prussia. While the war was over a small matter, the Prussian regime utterly smashed Austrian influence north of the Maine River, contributing to Austria's administrative disintegration. Then, as Prussia ingested much of north Germany, Bismarck manuvered Napoleon III into the Franco-Prussian War.
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The Prussian Conquest of Germany
It's difficult to explain how so many diverse and complex events led to the singular result of the nation-state on top. Prussia emerged as the core state of Germany, while Piedmont-Sardinia achieved mastery of Italy; neither involved difficulties associated with assimilating a resentful subject population. Austria[-Hungary], the old-fashioned princely state, disintegrated. Russia and Austria became the seats of pan-movements (pan-Germanism in Austria, pan-Slavism in Russia); in Russia and Prussia/Germany, the pan-movements were friendly to the regime, yet the Prussian monarchy spurned the pan-Germanic movement and the Russian monarchy had its secret service build up the pan-Slavic movement. In fact, the Russian movement was no conservative movement at all; it was a totalitarian movement in vitro. The pan-Slavic movement sought to eradicate rival nationalisms, and make them a pro-Czarist force in neighboring states. It also sought to embed hatred of liberalism in Russian society, and transform autocracy into a religion.
In France, defeat in the Franco-Prussian War did not discredit the state; if anything, the sentiment of revenge cut across all political classifications and became the source of political authenticity. Curiously, as a result of this, France became one of the most anarcho-capitalist societies of the developed world, with almost unlimited free enterprise. It was, along with Vienna, the font of "libertarian" ideas. Yet, this did not impede the development of nationalism (or national narcissism) in France, either.
The development of nationalism was stimulated by the need for national governments to provide for the common defense and the general welfare; both required massive public works expenditures, taxes, and capital markets. Likewise, the emergence of the nation meant the expectation that all of the people of a particular nation were to be tied together under a single state. In the case of Germany, this was attempted repeatedly in the early 19th century through a pan-German congress; in the 1860's, however, it was accomplished from the top down by the heretofore reluctant Hohenzollerns. Why did the Hohenzollern regime suddenly develop an enthusiasm for German unity? One obvious answer is that Friedrich Wilhelm IV died in 1858 and was succeeded by Wilhelm I (1858-1888); Wilhelm, in turn, appointed the brilliant Otto von Bismarck as chancellor. Bismarck, a junker, had no sentimentality for Austria and regarded it as so feeble as to be, in effect, a revolutionary vector. Bismarck, in other words, had the insight that Austria's "conservativism" and Catholicism were, far from preventing nationalist revolution, enabling it and provoking it. His mission was to prevent the political emancipation of the bourgeoisie, ideally by erecting an administrative barrier to Austria. Hereafter, Prussia would not "join" a German confederation (in which the bourgeoisie were the actors and the monarch an adornment); rather, this was to be a dictatorship of the junker, with the bourgeoisie treated as a lovely teenaged daughter whose aspirations were to be regarded as mere silliness.
Yet, Bismarck forged the stronghold of European bourgeoisie, and it ran away with him. Conservative to the marrow, he sought to eliminate all revolutionary nationalist challenges to the junker landlord caste; this meant idealistic Schuberts and Schillers in Frankfurt, the petit bourgeois in France, and the peasants in East Prussia (now Poland). Blood and iron meant a martial caste consciously mimicking the junkers themselves, and an industrial machine to ensure the junkers would win every battle. It did not mean a state enslaved to the expansionism of the bourgeoisie, or the vagueries of the market. With such clear, minimalist objectives, and the utter ruthlessness of junker arrogance to guide him, it was natural that he should crush his opponents like so many snails under a hobnailed boot. But he did not understand that an industrialist;'s scion, whipped into fighting toughness and modeling himself after a junker, would quite inevitably look for battles and opportunities for expansion. Like a siamese twin to the junker caste he imitated, the new class of martial bourgeoisie organized industrial expansion exactly as the junkers prepared the order of battle, yet remained utterly devoted to the junker "ideal." This was, natually, the deadliest enemy Bismarck could have encountered, and when he joined battle it was Bismarck who lost.
- ↑ Bernard Cook , "Two Sicilies, Kingdom of, 1848-49"
- ↑ I. W. Roberts, "Russia in 1848 and 1849"; James Chastain., "The International Status of the Romanian Lands in 1848 "
- ↑ See Wikipedia: Crimean War
- ↑ See Wikipedia: Belgian Independence ; note Holland broke up into three polities, with the Duchy Luxembourg now a separate state in royal union with the Netherlands.
- ↑ See Wikipedia: Second War of Schleswig (1864); Austro-Prussian War (1866) .
- ↑ See Wikipedia: Ems Dispatch . The Ems Dispatch was a telegraph sent to the King of Prussia at Bad Ems over the succession to the Spanish throne. For a pretty good intro to the Franco-Prussian War, see Marxists.org.
- ↑ Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, Harvest (1973), p.227ff
- ↑ The notion that France has always been a nation of dirigisme is both incorrect and not especially germane. In fact, there have been several periods in French history when French economic policies were far more liberal than those of the UK, to say nothing of protectionist USA and centralized Prussia/Germany. In his excellent and highly controversial "Kicking Away the Ladder: the 'Real' History of Free Trade" (Dec '03), Ha-Joon Chang demonstrates (table 1, p.2) that for all sampled years, US tariff rates far exceeded those of France (except during the construction years of 1950; in 1950, UK tariff rates exceeded those of France). Likewise, Austria[-Hungary]'s tariff rates generally were the same level as France's during much of the 19th century, when the Austrian school of economics was led by luminaries like Carl Menger. Pre-war Japan, of course, adopted medium tariff rates as soon as it could; these at once exceeded France's 20% in 1913.
Especially revealing is the chart on p.8, in which UK and French tariff rates are compared over consecutive 5-year periods. Although the UK is world-renown for its embrace of laissez-faire policies, between 1821 and 1875, France had lower tariffs than the UK. For the rest of the century, tariff rates were only slightly higher. Moreover, the administration and technology of dirigisme evolved. In France, the small populations and low incomes of its subjects (2nd Empire, early 3rd Rep.) meant the country largely subsisted on large projects and bursts of armament spending. The UK, in contrast, had a steady stream of weapon spending, military campaigns, and convoluted schemes to build up its financial sector. We might characterize 3rd Republican industrial policy as mainly hard-money, but here and there a gigantic state scheme such as the canals or the reconstruction of Paris; in Germany, to a thicket of massive, professionally-administered projects for export and internal improvement; and in UK, a rather perverse dread of German-style industrial policy, which provoked spending instead on navies, colonial armies, and ports.
Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)
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