Friday, October 9, 2009

Hobsbawn 2

In Chapter 4 of The Age of Empire, democracy was introduced. At this time in the late 19th century, there was a lot of fear in democracy because the higher-ups were afraid of the poor uneducated people ruling the nation. Although there was a general stigma against democracy by those with power, the common man still progressed and by the early 20th century, universal male suffrage had been reached in many places. With every step in the direction of power, the people demanded more, leading to labor movements as well as religious movements. These movements led to political polarization and a lack of unity so it led governments to promote nationalism and patriotism and give their workers a break. These divisions also hurt movements since everyone couldn’t unify in a single movement like Marx’s plan. Most issues were based around labor though, especially at the height of the working class in the new industrial cities. The rift between the employees and employers was great which established trade unions which were closest to a true revolution. Although the workers around the world continued to be unhappy and mistreated, their position remained since capitalism stabilized. Workers never managed to make a revolution, but they established their own cultural identity and gained sympathy and support from the Socialist parties.
What I find so fascinating about this is their inability to unite. It seems that all the workers shared a common goal for better treatment and representation, but they were never able to consolidate the masses. This is for a number of reasons. I think it’s mostly based on the religious, ethnic, geographic, and lingual lines that divided them. It’s similar to today’s world like in Belgium particularly. The nation is divided into Wallonia, the French-speaking area in the South, and Flanders, the Dutch-speaking area in the North. They’re united in one country technically, but their actions show no unification. In the Belgian political system, there’s basically two of every ideological party, a Walloon party and a Flemish party. This is just a small example of how difficult it is to unite over such cultural lines. Hobsbawn also mentioned that it was basically impossible for them to unite and overthrow the government since it was basically paradoxical to their unity.
But why was it impossible to unite? Why did it contradict their unity? With Marxism, the idea is for the entire world to unite and rise up in a violent overthrow. What about socialism prevented such a union or revolution?


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