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The End Of Nations Or The End Of History?

Politics / GeoPolitics Jul 24, 2014 - 06:33 PM GMT

By: Andrew_McKillop


Dancing at the Victims' Ball
By July 1794, with the surprise execution of ace executioner Maximilien de Robespierre, who himself had probably ordered more than 5000 killings by the then-newfangled and dreaded guillotine in the French revolution, faction rivalry akin to the type that sets Al Qaeda against ISIS in the Middle East today was so intense that a new wave of Terror was at hand. Called counter-revolution by some, and even the “death of History” by others, the call for Saving the Nation was going to be a powerful excuse for new purges, plots and bloody repression.

De Robespierre, nicknamed The Incorruptible, was followed to the guillotine by around 20 other revolutionary judges, ideologues and faction leaders who had sided with him. He had said that saving his revolutionary democracy is more important than saving the nation from attack by foreign armies. These threats for example included Austria and Prussia, led by monarchists and in the case of the Duke of Prussia, by a leader who above all wanted to stamp out the French revolution's anarchic threat to the whole of Europe – and its nations.

The wave of mass paranoia killings triggered across France by the threat to the Nation featured the almost totally indiscriminate murder of foreigners, prisoners, Catholics in protestant-dominated areas, and the opposite in Catholic-majority areas, clergymen, nuns, and others. The mass drownings in Nantes, in early 1794, killing an unknown number of persons but probably over 4000, had been an outrider. The victims were anyone arrested and jailed for not consistently supporting the Revolution or suspected of being a royalist, or simply being a priest or nun, or accused of being a foreign national from a particularly suspect country like Switzerland, the UK or Austria, or being a member of a family accused of any of those crimes. They were thrown into the river Loire, sometimes with stone weights attached to their bodies, sometimes dumped from the holds of ships, or sealed in the holds of ships which were then sunk. The chief executioner, Jean-Baptiste Carrier, who was later guillotined, sardonically nicknamed the river Loire “our national bathtub”.

By late 1794, in Paris, despite its counter-revolutionary nature, the fear of La Terreur, the guillotine, food shortages or famine and the spread of epidemic diseases, like typhus had resulted in what were called Les Bals des Victimes. Relatives of victims, remaining bourgeois and the well-off, and others would shave their necks and mark the area where the guillotine blade would fall in red, wear black armbands and dress in strangely decadent ways including red-splashed white clothing to evoke the coming flow of blood. Then they danced through the night. Able to be called mass catharsis, decadence or paranoia, it soon became impossible for the revolutionaries to stop these balls which continued for several years.

Wiring-in Terror
Mass terror in France had become hard-wired in society with the result that an inevitable and deep mutation of the idea of “the nation” had happened. De Robespierre's execution was preceded by a few months with the trial and execution of Jacques Roux, the revolutionary Catholic priest who not only attacked the concept of the French nation and any nation, but the existence of social classes, property, the issue and exchange of money, and “the capitalist counter-revolution”. Roux was a Marxist well before Karl, and at his trial the main charge held against him was counter-revolution.

Also called an anarchist, and a libertarian by some of his accusers, Roux like de Robespierre, Marx and Mao Zedong believed in permanent revolution – which would stave off the return of the nation, which itself is a permanent invitation to Tyranny. The nation is tyrannical by nature, rather just by the accidents of History. Neither Roux nor any other French revolutionary however admitted that the Clash of Paradigms was a far more intense threat to their permanent revolution. De Robespierre for example claimed that the philosophy of Rousseau proved the existence of what could be called a “natural social contract”, far more instinctive for any human being and society, than nations.

Today's events not only in Ukraine and the Middle East but also in troubled nations as far-flung as Thailand and Venezuela, and many “deliquescent” nation states of Africa, renews History and challenges the nation state. Violence as ever is the handmaiden of change and as mass violence grows, so does Terror.

After The End of History
The death of history was an early 1990s theme exploited and developed by the US historian Francis Fukuyama. Even he retracted his theory – basically that neoliberal economics and free-flowing markets ushered in a New Millenium of permanent economic growth and the withering of old and outdated ideas like social justice, ethnic and religious identity, community identity and even the basic concept of society. Society would be magically replaced by “the markets”.

Fukuyama was careful to introduce plenty of ambiguity on whether or not his End of History was also that of nations and the nation state.

What happened since the 1980s is that the credibility of the “national identity paradigm” withered at an accelerating pace, but History forged forward. The concept of “the markets”, rather than society, also took increasingly hard knocks as crony capitalism, with its disembodied and rigged markets replaced the childlike musings of 1980s Neoliberal talking heads steeped in their own “hermetic reasoning” but calling themselves “visionaries”. By the time of the 2008-09 mega crash of “the markets”, average citizens in the antique western nation states – still calling themselves “democracies” - began to wake up to reality. This is a three-way clash between Anarchy, Nihilism and Tyranny.

Like the “sans-culottes” street mobs of Paris that were whipped up and egged on by Jacques Roux and other Flash Mob agitators, western society from the 1980s found out that the actual content and values of the 1980s “bourgeois liberal” revolutionary paradigm they were forced to swallow had been swamped by unknowing. They had been fooled again! Neither democracy nor “the markets” meant anything at all. Violence of the mindless type would follow like day follows night.

By the 1990s or shortly after the turn of the century, called “the millenium”, harbingers of what was going to befall the antique western democracies were everywhere. For example the so-called Arab Spring uprisings and street revolts in Arab capitals starting in 2011 which jumped a continent, northwards, as the 2014 'Maidan revolution' of Kiev – and its inevitable sequels.

Each time, the slender reality of 'the nation state' received another rabbit chop in the neck but when would the guillotine blade fall?  By summer 2014, Ukraine had been hard-wired into a multi-layered civil war. Ukraine mutated into at least two separate and different states or nations, and Iraq was split into at least three. Syria's aborted Arab Spring uprising of 2011, which instantly mutated to vicious civil war, was by summer 2014 in its third year of civil, ethnic and sectarian conflict, with as many as 200 000 dead. The former “united indivisible” Syria, by mid-year 2014, was perhaps 4 or 5 different semi-nations.

More accurately, non-nations or in my terminology un-nations.

By Andrew McKillop


Former chief policy analyst, Division A Policy, DG XVII Energy, European Commission. Andrew McKillop Biographic Highlights

Co-author 'The Doomsday Machine', Palgrave Macmillan USA, 2012

Andrew McKillop has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has had specially long experience of energy policy, project administration and the development and financing of alternate energy. This included his role of in-house Expert on Policy and Programming at the DG XVII-Energy of the European Commission, Director of Information of the OAPEC technology transfer subsidiary, AREC and researcher for UN agencies including the ILO.

© 2014 Copyright Andrew McKillop - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisor.

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