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Why was there no revolution in Britain?

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Rob_Kong
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May 10 2006 16:35
Why was there no revolution in Britain?

Hi,

Why was there no revolution in Britain?

I have had no luck finding any info on the web about this subject. I know someone out there has the answer. confused

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Jacques Roux
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May 10 2006 16:40

Hi Rob... welcome to the forum.

Not sure what exactly you mean - can you expand a bit on your question? What kind of revolution are you talking about? When are you talking about?

There have been a bunch of revolutions in Britain...

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cantdocartwheels
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May 10 2006 17:31

I suppose there was no epoch busting revolution in britain in the same way that certain revolutions in europe could be described as because british agriculture got rid of feudalism a lot earlier because it was innefficient and innappropriate to an island with a reasonably high population density.

But there were still armed revolts against government, even if there is no legacy of republicanism and civil disobedience as in france.

mk12
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May 10 2006 17:33

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Civil_War

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cantdocartwheels
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May 10 2006 17:42

the economy didn't exactly change much though, i always thought the idea that it was a revolution was just christopher hill and co. being a bit romantic about the levellers and diggers rather than any real social change

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May 10 2006 18:56
Rob_Kong wrote:
Why was there no revolution in Britain?

revol68 would have shat all over it for being nationalist.

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Lazy Riser
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May 10 2006 19:08

Hi

He would have been too hungry to shit.

Love

LR

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Refused
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May 10 2006 19:14
revol68 wrote:
despite the fact they came over with the Normans.

Saucy bastards.

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Lazy Riser
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May 10 2006 19:17

Hi

Normans go home!

Love

LR

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May 10 2006 19:22

AnarchoAl
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May 10 2006 19:57

The Glorious Revolution was surely a revolution, albeit a bourgoise one?

Partly the reason for no French-style revolution is that the UK won the seven years war and France lost it. But there were still the Radicals and the Chartists, who won major reforms, and plenty of uprisings.

Remember that we're less than 200 years past monarchial autocracy. The difference in constitutional monarchies like th UK is that the aristocracy found a way to reconcile itself with the economic and social changes, many of them became merchants etc- I'll bet that the majority of modern aristocrats also own lots of shares. Many of them won't, because they clung to tradition whilst the rest of their class moved on.

In France, the aristocracy didn't address demands from below for more distribution of power (as Britain later would with the Great Reform Act and subsequent expansions of the franchise), nor did it give a reasonable amount of say to the new power on the block, the merchants and manufactuary owners.

The English Civil War contained England's bourgoise revolution and a partial counter-revolution with the Restoration. Parliament had proven its strength however and things were never quite the same again for the King.

The removal of the Stuarts in favour of the House of Orange was also something of a coup d'etat. The Stuart's supporters seem mainly to have been people being pushed out by the shifts in society Catholics, Highland Clans etc. The House of Orange was one that had experience of a merchant/aristocrat alliance on Dutch nationalist grounds against the Spanish (Earlier Austrians, all Hapsburgs).

Knew I'd manage to work it round to the Holy Roman Empire somehow. wink

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ginger
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May 10 2006 20:09
AnarchoAl wrote:
Remember that we're less than 200 years past monarchial autocracy.

In case this confused anyone else, I asked Al so this is a "clarification" wink

Monarchial autocracy means that we used to have just one person (auto-) ruling us (-cracy) ie. the king/queen rather than the whole lovely lot of ruling class we have now.

"Not that there's been a revolution, but that things have changed a lot so something gave somewhere."

AnarchoAl
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May 10 2006 20:15

http//en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autocracy

Autocracy is a form of government where unlimited political power is held by a single individual. An emperor may rise to power through heredity, but is referred to as an autocrat rather than a monarch when his power overshadows his bloodline.

The term autocrat is derived from the Greek word autokratôr (lit. "self-ruler", "ruler of one's self"). Today it is usually seen as synonymous with despot, tyrant and/or dictator, though each of these terms originally had a separate and distinct meaning (see their respective articles).

Autocracy and monocracy are considered synonyms by most dictionaries, although the term monocracy is more often used to refer to a form of government ruled by a monarch rather than any single ruler.

The principal titles of what modern historians call the "Roman emperors" were imperator, Caesar, and Augustus; the latter two words were transliterated into Greek as kaisar and augoustos, while the existing word autokratôr was substituted for the former. When the Emperor Heraclius introduced the "Byzantine" system of co-emperors, the senior emperor (or, in the absence of a co-emperor, the sole emperor) took the title autokratôr, although the junior emperor also began to take that title in the 14th century under the Palaeologi.

In keeping with the contention of the rulers of Imperial Russia that Moscow was the "Third Rome" (after Constantinople and Rome), the formal title of the Russian Tsar was Imperator i Samodyerzhets Vserossiysky ("All-Russian Emperor and Autocrat"). The absolutist rule of the Russian Czars is probably chiefly responsible for the modern meaning of the words "autocrat" and "autocracy".

http//en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_monarchy#Since_the_Union_of_the_Crowns

Accordingly, in 1714, Queen Anne was succeeded by the son of the deceased Sophia of Hanover, George I, who consolidated his position by defeating Jacobite rebellions in 1715 and 1719. The new monarch was much less active in government than many of his predecessors, preferring to devote much of his time to the affairs of his German kingdoms. Instead, George left much of his power to his ministers, especially to Sir Robert Walpole, who is often considered the first (unofficial) Prime Minister of Great Britain.

The decline of the influence of the monarch and the rise of the power of the Prime Minister and Cabinet continued during the reign of the next monarch, George II, but was halted during that of George III.

George III attempted to recover much of the power given up by his Hanoverian predecessors; he also acted to keep the Tories (who favoured royal control in government more than the Whigs) in power whenever possible. George III's reign was also important because of the union of Great Britain and Ireland into the United Kingdom under the Act of Union 1800. At the same time, George III also dropped the claim to the French Throne, which had been nominally made by all English monarchs since Edward III.

King George III asserted his political authority on several occasions, in contrast with his two Hanoverian predecessors.

From 1811 to 1820, George III was insane, forcing his son, the future George IV, to rule as Prince Regent. During the Regency, and later during his own reign, George IV continued to maintain what remained of royal authority, instead of ceding it to Parliament and the Cabinet.

His successor, William IV, attempted to do the same, but met with much less success. In 1834, William dismissed the Whig Prime Minister, William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne, over policy differences, and instead appointed a Tory, Sir Robert Peel. In the ensuing elections, however, the Whigs maintained a large majority in the House of Commons; they forced Peel to resign by blocking most of his legislation, thus leaving the King with no choice but to recall Lord Melbourne. Since 1834, no monarch has appointed or dismissed a Prime Minister contrary to the will of the democratically chosen House of Commons.

William IV's reign was also marked by the passage of the Great Reform Act, which reformed parliamentary representation and abolished many rotten boroughs. The act, together with others passed later in the century, led to an expansion of the electoral franchise, and the rise of the increasingly legitimate House of Commons as the most important branch of Parliament.

The final transition to a constitutional monarchy was made during the long reign of William IV's successor, Victoria. As a woman, Victoria could not rule Hanover; thus, the personal union of the United Kingdom and Hanover came to an end. The Victorian Era was an historic one for the United Kingdom, and was marked by great cultural change, technological progress, and the establishment of the United Kingdom as one of the world's foremost powers. In recognition of British rule over India, Victoria was declared Empress of India in 1876. However, the reign was also marked by increased support for the republican movement, due in part to Victoria's permanent mourning and lengthy period of seclusion following the death of her husband in 1861.

AnarchoAl
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May 10 2006 20:26

Reading more about it, the Glorious Revolution (William of Orange taking over from James Stuart) seems to be key

http//en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glorious_Revolution

The Glorious Revolution was one of the most important events in the long evolution of powers possessed by Parliament and by the Crown in England. With the passage of the Bill of Rights, it stamped out any final possibility of a Catholic monarchy, and ended moves towards monarchical absolutism in the British Isles by circumscribing the monarch's powers. The King's powers were greatly restricted; he could no longer suspend laws, levy taxes, or maintain a standing army during peacetime without Parliament's permission. Since 1689, England, and later the United Kingdom, has been governed under a system of constitutional monarchy, which has been uninterrupted. Since then, Parliament has gained more and more power, and the Crown has progressively lost it.

Steve
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May 10 2006 21:10

According to someone at the last Manchester SolFed meeting on Spain 1936 there has never been a real revolution anywhere.

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K-TownBootboy
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May 11 2006 09:52

interresting thought - did he elaborate or just state it as a fact?

Steve
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May 11 2006 10:19

Basically what he was saying that in his opinion the only time you can anything a revolution is when the entire social/economic/political structure has been overthrown. Therefore the Russian/Spanish/Chinese etc revolutions were not because they failed to do this. I asked, “in that case there will be only one revolution the one that’s brings a true communist society” and his answer was “yes”. This was in the context of a discussion about the Spanish Revolution 1936 which he said was not because it failed.

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K-TownBootboy
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May 11 2006 21:44

ah

on the other hand, one could view Spain as a victory, since they actually did make it work.

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oisleep
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May 11 2006 21:45
Rob_Kong wrote:
Hi,

Why was there no revolution in Britain?

I have had no luck finding any info on the web about this subject. I know someone out there has the answer. confused

evening BN

Steve
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May 11 2006 21:50
K-TownBootboy wrote:
ah

on the other hand, one could view Spain as a victory, since they actually did make it work.

Nope not good enough. Anyway according to him they didn't.

joroberts17
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May 13 2006 12:53

I am concerned about a lack of revolution.. My ideal scenario would be for a sort of 'people's army' to overthrow the government through storming the houses of parliament. Looting, rioting, hurling the fuckers out into the street, into the gutter where they belong. If violence is necessary, then it's necessary, but it will only be necessary if they resist. Remember the Russian revolution? Well, I would like to see a repetition of that here, only with anarchists starting it. That is my dream, because it's got to be better than the modern nightmare which we are now suffering. Underclass plebs like me, being shat on from a great height by the powers that be on a daily basis, just because I don't 'conform'...

And no leadership either, because that's the first and most vital flaw of the system we currently have in place.

ghostzart
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Jun 19 2006 13:12
joroberts17 wrote:
Remember the Russian revolution? Well, I would like to see a repetition of that here, only with anarchists starting it.

If you want a repetition of the Russian revolution you'd need similar circumstances, i.e. millions of people dying of starvation each year, most of the male population of working age drafted into the military and leaving a crippled workforce behind, etc. Essentially what led to the Tsar's demise was not politics or ideology, but want of food and decimation of the people for the sake of a war they had no concrete excuse to be involved in. Erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Moral and all that. The problem with what you're suggesting, some sort of anarchist vanguard, is that it lacks the proper class consciousness of the public beforehand.

Let's say a small contingent of anarchists in the UK began a riot in the most populous cities.

a) what exactly is going to spur the rest of the public to join when undoubtedly the government, under the auspices of the war on terrorism, is just going to attempt to arrest or otherwise eliminate this small group;

and

b) without any understanding or knowledge of either anarchism or anti-capitalism, some system identical to the current one or at the very most paving the way for a return to that system will no doubt be put into place. You have a majority of the public dissatisfied and disillusioned with both parliamentary government and capitalist production, but on the other hand educated from birth to accept both as sometimes flawed yet nonetheless inherent and preferable to anything else. Until you get a decent amount of people to see through that, any attempt at overthrowing either of those two branches of modern society is just going to wind up putting in a new one. Or far worse, some form of state or "war" communism like what eventually happened in Russia.

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Lazy Riser
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Jun 19 2006 13:15

Hi

Best post since the boards reopened.

Love

LR

Blacknred Ned
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Jun 19 2006 14:05

It is surely one of the central insights of anarchism that the revolution is much more than the storming and the breaking and the throwing out into the gutter stuff. Revolutionary change must be built over a long period as the movement, new society or however you want to characterise it puts down strong roots. I have written elsewhere that to imagine taking on the state or the corporations without already having hollowed out all loyalties to them would be pretty much impossible.

Seeing the revolution as synonymous with the moment of violent catharsis is like seeing sex as the moment of orgasm, without the foreplay or the afterglow and cuddles. In other words something that could be great is just premature, a bit messy and possibly more than a little embarrassing. wink

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Jun 21 2006 23:25

Hey. Just my two cents.

I think the general problem with a British revolution was the fact that there were well-established democratic institutions that responded well to general movements and trends - they were politically expedient. If you look at other revolutions they were mostly ones against a very autocratic, authoritative regime - Tsarist Russia etc. It is easy to rally support against a state that is activelly repressiong you by sending you to war, starving you and keeping you from advancing.

Britain responded well with increasing enfranchisement of the population, creating an illusion that the working class (the drive, motor of change as we know)are being involved in the political process. The 1867 and 1884 Franchise Acts for example gave the vote to more and more people, male householders in the land and artisans.

Another plus (for the Establishment) was that parties responded well too. No radical, major party ever evolved to represent the classes or lead them. Even the Labour party grew out of the Labour Representation League/Committee within the Liberals. Parties such as the Liberal party gradually radicalised - they responded to the new classes by establishing sorts of a welfare state through their 1906 New Liberalism: the 1908 Pensions act etc. When there is a popular, widespread party that is accomodating your views (to an extent) you lose any real revolutionary fervour. Both Conservatives and Liberals involved the working classes through things like the Operative Liberal Associations and working men's clubs or the Primrose League.

We must not also forget the strength of nationalism and patriotism - even in the most revolutionary periods in the late 1880s and 1910-4, a full one third of the working class voted Conservative.

Trade Unions also did not develop into fully syndicalist movements, and instead seeked political representation and an involvement in the political process - the 1901 Taff Vale judgement broke their independence and led them to look to Labour as representation.

Economics needs to be considered - despite steady economic falls in 1890s Britain never suffered a major depression. Russia for example experienced a revolution due, in part, to the hardships of the First World War. The French communards - the deprevation of the Franco-Prussian war. Revolutions need an empty stomach.

Generally, there was too much cleverness on the established parties' part, no genuine workers movement in the form of syndicates etc, and no real economic hardship of the worst kind. I am talking mostly about the late 19th century and especially the wave strikes of 1910-4, when Britain really did look close to a revolution to many contemporary observers.

ghostzart
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Jun 22 2006 09:42
Dreamcatcher wrote:
Revolutions need an empty stomach.

Like the fat, well-fed bastards who started the American Revolution? Depends entirely on whether you're speaking of working class revolutions or revolution in general as a (usually armed) social upheaval and structural change.

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Jun 22 2006 11:32
ghostzart wrote:
Dreamcatcher wrote:
Revolutions need an empty stomach.

Like the fat, well-fed bastards who started the American Revolution? Depends entirely on whether you're speaking of working class revolutions or revolution in general as a (usually armed) social upheaval and structural change.

But that wasn't a revolution, it was simply a battle between bourgeoisie factions.

chris98
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Jun 22 2006 12:08
Rob_Kong wrote:
Why was there no revolution in Britain?

Historically: a devious and potentially very violent upper class, adept at divide and rule tactics

Presently: a majority population enjoying levels of health, riches and security unprecedented in human history. Why should they seek to destabilise that? To salve their guilt-wracked consciences? roll eyes

ghostzart
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Jun 22 2006 12:16
Jef Costello wrote:

But that wasn't a revolution, it was simply a battle between bourgeoisie factions.

Maybe. I'd say more a battle between proto-capitalism and mercantilist protectionism. The colonies paid a heavy tax in order to repay England for the massive amounts of money spent on the French and Indian War, and royal ships prevented any other country, particularly the Dutch, from entering the bays in order to trade with the colonial merchants (whose prices were dictated by Parliament and heavily tilted towards the importers). If there's two things capitalists don't like, it's taxes and someone telling them off whom they can and cannot make money. It was a revolution in the sense that a large portion (roughly 33%) of the colonial population supported it and the result was a change in government. It also dramatically weakened the idea that the monarchies of Europe were necessary or invulnerable. Of course it also created what would become a massive global octopus with almost unlimited local resources. But we weren't debating whether it was a good revolution or a bad one, just that revolutions aren't always spurred by starving workers in wretched conditions.

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Dreamcatcher
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Jun 22 2006 13:41
ghostzart wrote:
Dreamcatcher wrote:
Revolutions need an empty stomach.

Like the fat, well-fed bastards who started the American Revolution? Depends entirely on whether you're speaking of working class revolutions or revolution in general as a (usually armed) social upheaval and structural change.

Point well taken. However, I was talking about the former (w/c revolutions) as you probably guessed.

ernie
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Jun 24 2006 00:09

Hi

Dreamcatcher, the point you make about the political cleverness of the ruling class in Britain hits the nail on the head. They gained this understanding from first hand experience of having to confront the first industrial proletariat and its struggles, particularly the Chartists. Initially, they responded to the embryonic workers movement at the end of the 18th and early 19th centuries with repression: using treason charges against the leaders of the corresponding societies, then introducing the combinations acts. However, they soon learnt that these were only making the movement more radical and parts of its revolutionary, so they repealed them in the 1820's. Then faced with the Chartists they showed they had learnt a lot, faced with the myrther (terrible spelling but I am tired) uprising it decided not to hang, John Frost one of the leaders, in order not to provide a focal point for the development of revolutionary feeling in the class.

Then as you said they gradually sort to get the class to accomodate itself with capitalism through the use of democracy.

This underlines that we should never underestimate the intelligence of the ruling class and must always try to understand what it is up to.

However, whilst there was no major Socialist Party in Britain on the model of Germany or France, there were efforts to build a party.

As for the lack of syndicalist organisation, there was a very large one in france, the CGT, and this led the proletariat in France into the trenches and national defence in 1914.

We should also not forget the movements in Britian during the revolutionary wave of 1917-1926. These are usually buried by the ruling class, but there were machine guns, tanks and calvalry on the streets of Glasgow in 1919.

In the 1980's I met an old worker from Liverpool, on a train, who remembered mounted troops being used against demonstrations there in the 1919. His indignation had not lost any of its edge.

I also met an old lady, in the early 80's, from the Welch Valleys who remembered the reaction in her pit village upon hearing of the death of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, and the great hope that everyone had for the world revolution.

Thus, though there was no proletarian revolution, that does not mean that the revolutionary wave did not have an impact.