Other Free Encyclopedias » Science Encyclopedia » Science & Philosophy: Quantum electronics to Reasoning » Radicals/Radicalism - Radical Liberalism, Radical Nationalism, Radical Socialism, Marxism, Radical Feminism, Radicalism In The Twenty-first Century

Radicals/Radicalism - Radical Nationalism

political italy irish germany

Early advocates of nationalism drew from the French example and sought republican freedom and unification. Most were liberals in the Enlightenment tradition. The exceptions, however, East Central Europe and the German states, rejected the liberal-rational tradition, preferring a folk community where emotion trumped reason and where the needs of the individual merged nicely with those of the state. In Germany, Johann Gottfried von Herder (1744–1803), philosopher and close friend of Goethe, denied the universal nature of man and insisted upon the uniqueness of Volk or culture. Rationalism, he argued, ran counter to the German spirit.

Other Europeans with pro-nationalist sympathies shared similar desire to unite divided territory. Such sympathies led in 1815 to 1840 to nationalist revolts in Italy, Spain, and Greece. Only in Greece did the effort succeed, in 1830. Nevertheless, the demand for self-government did not die. In 1848 a workers' revolution in France, which forced the abdication of King Louis-Philippe (r. 1830–1848), inflamed the imagination of nationalists everywhere, spurring a new round of insurrections. In Bonn, Carl Schurz (1829–1906), a student radical compelled to write from the safety of Switzerland, described reaction upon hearing the news. "We were dominated by a vague feeling as if a great outbreak of elemental force had begun," he wrote (pp. 157–158). Indeed, it had. In 1848 revolution spread to nearly every state on the continent. In Italy, Giuseppe Mazzini (1805–1872) responded to the Paris uprising by writing subversive articles aimed at inciting the Italian masses. "Every privilege which demands submission from you … is a usurpation and a tyranny which you are bound to resist and destroy," he declared (p. 562). Mazzini's radicalism manifested itself in his political activity; between 1844 and 1858, he plotted the overthrow of Austrian rule in Italy.

Revolution in Paris, Germany, and Italy failed and conservative forces regained control. Nationhood did not come for Italy until 1860 when another political subversive, Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807–1882), led a guerrilla army against Austria. The German Empire took shape in 1870, after a victorious war against France led to increased feelings of Teutonic greatness and superiority. Due to the farsighted vision of Otto von Bismarck (1815–1898), Germany adopted a federal constitution that included male suffrage. As a result, conservative nationalism subsequently replaced radical nationalism and the new state embraced the idea of German destiny.

Meanwhile, political radicalism emerged in Ireland between 1845 and 1849, the result of the potato famine and deliberate inaction on the part of the British government to feed the starving populace. In the summer of 1848, Irish republican nationalists attempted a revolution against England. The revolt failed, but the experience increased Irish radicalism, spawning the Fenian movement of 1858. In 1873 the Fenians became the Irish Republican Brotherhood, then the Irish Volunteer Force, and, in 1919, the Irish Republican Army (IRA), a paramilitary faction dedicated to the overthrow of British rule and the unification of Ireland. Beginning in 1970 the IRA, yet to achieve national independence, resorted to terrorist tactics while its political arm, Sinn Fein, made use of the ballot. In 1998 a splinter group, the "Real IRA" bombed the town of Omagh.

An inherent weakness in nationalist extremism was a tendency to divide the world into "them and us," a process that postmodernists call Othering. After 1871 that predisposition caused governments to conflate national pride with militaristic goals, leading in June of 1914 to the assassination of Austria's heir-apparent by militant Serbian nationalists. The murder of Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife Sophie was an act of political radicalism that provided the pretext for World War I.

The incredible cruelty of World War I—trench warfare, the horrendous effects of mustard gas, and sheer loss of life—caused intellectuals to lose faith in the idea of progress and to abandon their liberal ideals. Fascism and communism rose to fill the vacuum and a new sort of radicalism got underway. In Soviet Russia, that process began with Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1870–1924) who established the first totalitarian dictatorship in 1917. In 1922 Benito Mussolini (1883–1945) seized power in Italy and formed the first fascist government. In Germany, militancy coupled with state-worship and the election of Adolph Hitler in 1933 gave rise to Nazism. In all three places, human rights, individual freedom, and social justice gave way to abuses, compulsory labor, and political terror. In terms of violence and challenge to conventional thinking, totalitarianism proved every bit as radical as any previous political movement. It peaked between 1927 and 1953, with the regime of Joseph Stalin (1879–1953).

Radicals/Radicalism - Radical Socialism [next] [back] Radicals/Radicalism - Radical Liberalism

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or