Thirdly, the growing importance of the social dimension as the revolutions progressed was evident in both the Arab Spring and the "Spring of Nations".

Although in their early stages, both the Arab and the European revolutions were restricted to ousting the relevant regime and social reforms were not an objective, in both cases socio-economic problems quickly emerged as the focus of revolutionary aspirations.

In Europe, the social dimension found its expression first and foremost in demands for a reduction in working hours, for permission to form trade unions and, in the case of Hungary and Austria, the abolition of serfdom.

In the same way, the growing interest in womenʹs rights, social justice, independent trade unions and the battle for academic freedom during the course of the revolutions are representative of the significance of social issues to the Arab Spring.

Failed revolutions and the restoration of the status quo

Fourthly, what the "Spring of Nations" and the Arab Spring also have in common is that the romantic ideas that underpinned their designation would very soon turn out to be just that. Neither was destined to succeed and the "Spring of Nations" quickly turned into a long and icy winter. Shortly after the outbreak of the European revolutions in February 1848, repressive monarchies succeeded in reasserting their control after realising that not only were the revolutionaries unable to pose a serious threat to the state apparatus, they were also unable to count on support from the military.

Graffiti near to Tahrir Square in Cairo showing activists of the 2011 revolution (photo: picture-alliance/dpa)
Former icons of the pro-democracy rebellion are now incarcerated: many Egyptian Arabellion activists have either gone into hiding, left the country or remain in prison. Sisi had reason to clamp down hard on the revolutionaries: "In Egypt, the counter-revolution under the leadership of Abdul Fattah al-Sisi would not have been possible without generous financial support from Saudi Arabia and the Emirates," writes Khaled Fahmy

By contrast, thanks to the co-operation of Church and Monarchy, as well as the mutual offers of support by reactionary regimes, the counter-revolution was successful. A classic example of this kind of support was provided by the Tsar of Russia, who sent a 300,000-strong army into Hungary to crush the revolution there.

Analogously, in the case of the Arab Spring the counter-revolutions were for the most part successful because the Gulf monarchies supported the reactionary powers that had come under pressure from the revolutions. A clear illustration of this support is the fact that in March 2011, the Gulf Cooperation Council sent troops to Bahrain to tackle the revolution there.

In Egypt too, the counter-revolution under the leadership of Abdul Fattah al-Sisi would not have been possible without generous financial support from Saudi Arabia and the Emirates.

An irrevocable turning point

Fifthly and lastly, a further parallel between the Arab Spring and the "Spring of Nations" is that both represent a turning point in the recent history of Europe, as well as that of the Arab world. It may be the case that the "Spring of Nations" became a long cold winter, and that the reactionary regimes very quickly regained the ground they had lost in just a few months of 1848. It is also true to say that they succeeded in making an example of the workers, journalists, lawyers and trade unionists that led the many different revolutionary movements.

Nevertheless, the goals of the revolutions that the European masses vociferously demanded in rural and urban areas during the year 1848 largely dictated the political process in the second half of the 19th century. The "Spring of Nations" led to fundamental changes in the political, societal and cultural landscape of European countries.

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Comments for this article: Failed revolutionaries?

"In Egypt, the counter-revolution under the leadership of Abdul Fattah al-Sisi would not have been possible without generous financial support from Saudi Arabia and the Emirates," writes Khaled Fahmy. Well, and have not major Western powers, especially the US, Britain, Canada, supported the Egyptian regime and kept channelling arms to Egypt and Saudi Arabia? Today, the dominant forces in the world are the Western powers and Western-dominated international institutions such as IMF and NATO. How come that an analysis such yours does not include the role of the major powers, their geo-strategic interests? Are they part of the revolutions or the counter-revolutions? The Russian regime is also a player in affecting the outcome of the Syrian revolution. Furthermore, is it outdated not to speak of classes in these revolutions? Shouldn't a comparison with 1848 include social classes?

Nadeem07.12.2018 | 18:25 Uhr

I also have one more question regarding the use of the term "reactionary". In a few "democratic" countries, the level of inequality has become almost unprecedented, in a country like England some businesses even do not allow unions, in many businesses, and even in universities, the pay gap is between 11 to above 30 percent... a media controlled by private corporations (e.g. 80% of newspapers in Britain are owned by 6 families). A global Dutch company doesn't recognise a union in Bangladesh. What we call "democracies" sell weapons to monarchies and dictators, some of them destroyed Iraq, have supported the Israeli colonial settler state, they have welcomed Arab rulers in their cities and received huge sums of money and investments ... On what basis we do not call those regimes with such features, and that are friends with reactionary regimes, reactionaries?

Nadeem07.12.2018 | 20:52 Uhr

Firstly, I don't think that this is accurate: "Even the flight of millions of people from the Arab world to Europe to escape Islamist terror can also be seen as resulting from this failure." Millions? The millions are in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan. If we count that 800,000 were accepted in Germany, we cannot speak of millions who entered Europe. Also, in the case of Syria, most of those who fled fled because of the regime's terror. Secondly, why do you put "The Spring of Nations" in inverted commas, but not "The Arab Spring". The latter was coined by a Foreign Policy magazine journalist, not by the Arabs or Arab historians? Thirdly, like Trump supporting Haftar, or Macron shaking hands with Sisi and selling arms to Saudi Arabia, the major powers were willing to see the Syrian regime overthrown. Obama quickly released aid to Egypt. There are a few other examples. Why don't you include them in the counter-revolutionary camp along with Saudi Arabia and the UAE? Fourth, and more importantly analytically, when comparing 1848 with 2011 shouldn't one compare the structures of the social formations? One society was industrialising. The other was not. Is a capitalist society different in its structure, class, politics, development, its people's aspirations, etc to a pre-capitalist one?

Nadeem10.05.2019 | 20:12 Uhr