My name is Marc Mulholland. I am a Fellow (lecturer and tutor) in the History Faculty of Oxford University. My College is St Catherine's. I come from Ireland.

This is a blog relating to my book published in 2012 by Oxford University Press, Bourgeois Liberty and the Politics of Fear: From Absolutism to Neo-Conservativism.
Now on sale here and here. If you want 20 per cent off the price, I can arrange that! Send me a message or leave a comment, and I'll tell you how.

The thesis my book is examining was rather pithily summarised by Leon Trotsky in 1939: "Wherever the proletariat appeared as an independent force, the bourgeoisie shifted to the camp of the counter-revolution. The bolder the struggle of the masses, the quicker the reactionary transformation of liberalism." [Context is here]

However, my book isn't a defence of Trotskyism, or indeed any particular ideology. It's a study of an idea that took shape in Left, Right, and Centre variations.

This blog has tid-bits not included in the book, and other thoughts that occur.

You can see book details at the
OUP website.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Fifty Years Ago: The Ulster Covenant and the Green-Orange Talks

It's the 100th anniversary of Ulster Day, when much of protestant Ulster pledged against Home Rule for Ireland. Many thousands are marching today in Northern Ireland to commemorate the event.

Here's a little article by me on the 50th anniversary of Ulster Day, back in 1962:

The fiftieth anniversary of the 1912 Ulster Covenant was welcomed with solemn commemoration and massive popular celebration. It also saw a remarkable and little remembered attempt to grasp the nettle of Ulster’s divided society: ‘The Orange-Green Talks’ of 1962-3.

By 1962 the IRA’s ‘BorderCampaign’ had clearly run into the sand. The opposition Nationalist Party drifted directionless. Sill, all was not rosy for Ulster Unionism. Stormont’s attempts to wring more funds from the British exchequer were going badly. Unemployment in Northern Ireland hovered around 8 percent, a disastrous total when Great Britain still basked in the great post-war boom.

The Ulster Unionist Party comfortably won the Stormont general election held in May 1962. But this masked a severe slippage in the Unionist vote. The Northern Ireland Labour Party vote reached 26 percent, 16 percent higher than in 1958, and they came close to the Unionist total in Belfast.

Commemoration of the Ulster Covenant, therefore, was not simply a sacred duty for the Unionist Party. It was also a welcome distraction. The Ulster Government set 29 September as the official day of commemoration, and Governor Lord Wakehurst, for the Crown, declared it a public holiday. Organisation for the day was put in the hands of an Ulster Covenant Jubilee Committee, made up of the Ulster Unionist Council, local Unionist Associations, and the Orange Order. A glossy 69 page souvenir booklet was published, and a historical documentary for television broadcast produced.

Lord Brookeborough addressed a Banquet dinner at Belfast City hall on the evening of 28 September. His emphasis was on Northern Ireland’s economic anxieties and its dependence upon the Union:

In common with all our fellow British citizens, we are standing at the gate of the unknown. Whether in or out of the Common Market our trading patterns will be in the future subject to far-reaching change. There are two vital factors which will govern our future wellbeing – our continued existence as part of the United Kingdom, and the resolution, resource and energy which we ourselves apply to our own local problems.

Major demonstrations were held on 29 September in Belfast, Castledawson, and Ballymena. Special trains and coaches brought in Orange members from across the six counties, also from Dublin, Cork, Cavan and Donegal. It was estimated that 100,000 marched. The procession in Belfast, from Carlisle Circus to Balmoral Showgrounds - marched past at eight deep – twice that normal for the Twelfth – and took two hours pass. Historical UVF  battalion flags were held aloft and orange rosettes worn.

At Balmoral the famous 1912 Union Flag, the largest in existence, was unfurled by Brookeborough. The crowd took a re-dedication oath that included an echo of the Gettysburg Address: “that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that Government of the Ulster people, by the Ulster people, for the Ulster people, within the United Kingdom shall not perish from the earth.”

The most striking platform speech was made by Senator Sir George Clarke, Grand Master of the Orange Order, when he called for community reconciliation:

We will have failed our children if we do not ensure the structure and policies that will bring a calmer climate in politics - and perhaps in its wake, peace in the world. It is our duty as citizens to strive ceaselessly to ensure a better understanding of each other’s problems, not only in our day, but in those of our children.

It seemed an unlikely occasion for extending the olive branch. Why did he do so? Certainly it owed something to an increased awareness of the problem of community relations. Denis Barrett and Charles Carter had recently completed their landmark exposé of Ulster’s deep-seated problems: The Northern Ireland Problem: A study of Group Relations. As Unionists celebrated, this book was being serialised in the Belfast Telegraph.

The fact that a British Minister, R.A.B. Butler, had recently met with a Nationalist Party delegation to hear complaints of discrimination – the first such meeting in 25 years – suggested that Northern Ireland’s dirty laundry risked being exposed to outsiders.

In August 1962, Senator Joseph Lennon, a leading Nationalist, in a speech to an Ancient Order of Hibernian’s rally, had proposed to meet Sir George Clark for talks. “Such discussions,” he believed, “should go far towards dispelling the clouds of bitterness which for so long have darkened politics in this area and could do much to bring in the light of toleration and mutual respect.” To general surprise, Sir George Clark had agreed to private but formal discussions “relating to the good will of Ulster’s people.”

Within a short time, however, dissent bubbled up. Norman Porter, previously an Independent Unionist M.P. for Clifton, doubted that his side could possibly benefit: “I cannot see any value in having the talks, because the only basis on which the Nationalists will have negotiations is of them gaining something and us losing something.” Nevertheless, Clark did meet Lennon, in secret, on 18 October 1962.

In January 1963 the Orange Order appointed representatives to meet with Lennon, along with Stormont MPs Eddie McAteer and Cahir Healy of the Nationalist Party. Orange representatives were Clark, H. Burdge (Grand Secretary), Rev. Brown (Grand Chaplain) and Richard Thorton.

By February 1963, however, it was clear that fundamental problems had arisen. A five point agenda submitted by the Nationalist delegation included references to discrimination in employment and housing. It was thought by the Grand Lodge that to discuss such allegations would be to admit their basis in fact. This was deemed unacceptable. Further discussions between Clark and Lennon in June 1963 failed to cut the Gordian knot.

Shortly after this failed summit, an ultimatum was sent to the Green representatives. The Orange delegation refused to discuss any agenda without a prior formal recognition of the legitimacy of the Northern Ireland state. This the Nationalists refused.

All the while Unionist leaders had stayed silent, and now the process was allowed to peter out. The attempt at reconciliation from the traditional bastions of sectarian community organisation had failed. Indeed, it had barely registered in political life.

Things had changed, however. In March 1963, Terence O’Neill had become Stormont Prime Minister. He was determined to improve community relations. The failure of the ‘Orange-Green Talks’, however, showed only too clearly that he had a mountain to climb.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Berlin and the Nazis - Richard Evans Article

Richard J. Evans has an extremely interesting article in the New Republic. He's not keen on the book he is reviewing - Hitler's Berlin by Thomas Friedrich. Basically, Evans's says, Berlin never was Hitler's city. It was not enthusiastic about Hitler, nor Hitler for it.

When, in July 1932, the Nazis won 37.4 percent of the vote in national Reichstag elections, making them the largest party in the country, Berlin remained resistant. The combined support of the Communists and Social Democrats in the capital was almost double that of the Nazis. In the November 1932 Hitler's party lost two million votes, while in Berlin its support dropped to 721,000 votes. At the same time, the Communists increased their support in the capital to 861,000, with the Social Democrats coming in at 647,000 votes. When Hitler came to power, he laced Berlin with torture and execution chambers to stamp out opposition.

Hitler despised the capital as degenerate and internationalised. He ambition was to re-model it entirely, and re-name it Germania. One can see why he had little compunction in seeing Berlin crushed under the hammer of the Red Army in 1945. He suicide there seems more like an gesture of spite and contempt for the city of his death, than as an act of homage.

Evans' article has a particularly fine comparison of Berlin and Munich in the post-Great War years. Well worth reading

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Marx Quotes you might expect to find, but won't ...

Here are two quotes you might expect to find in my book, but you won't. They're both from the Communist Manifesto:

First: 'bourgeois liberty':
The fight of the [ the liberal movement] against feudal aristocracy and absolute monarchyn ... became more earnest.
By this, the long-wished for opportunity was offered to 'True' Socialism of confronting the political movement with the Socialist demands, of hurling the traditional anathemas against liberalism, against representative government, against bourgeois competition, bourgeois freedom of the press, bourgeois legislation, bourgeois liberty and equality, and of preaching to the masses that they had nothing to gain, and everything to lose, by this bourgeois movement.
 This, Marx said, was "silly" because
To the absolute governments, with their following of parsons, professors, country squires, and officials, it served as a welcome scarecrow against the threatening bourgeoisie.
It was a sweet finish, after the bitter pills of flogging and bullets, with which these same governments, just at that time, dosed the German working-class risings

While this “True” Socialism thus served the government as a weapon for fighting the German bourgeoisie, it, at the same time, directly represented a reactionary interest, the interest of German Philistines.
(Interesting this. Marx here is defending 'bourgeois liberties'. However, he also seems to suggest that they will be transcended, and that their primary value is in helping the workers movement. It's maybe a one-all draw in the 'was Marx a democratric constitutionalist' debate).

Second: 'politics of fear':
A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of communism.
To find out what did get in the book, buy it at Amazon, or if you're in town you can now find it in the Oxford University Bookshop.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

World, meet Book. Book, meet world.

Though official publication date is 4 October, Bourgeois Liberty and the politics of Fear: From Absolutism to Neo-Conservatism is now available from Amazon.

Why not see what you make of it?

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Pre-Distribution: Some Historical Background

Chris Bertram has been considering Ed Milliband's wheeze of 'pre-distribution'. 'Pre-distribution'  starts from the point of view that welfarism should not simply try to remedy the inequalities resulting from the starting-point of mal-distributed resources. But nor should ensuring so-called 'equality of opportunity' of itself be considered sufficient. Instead equality of opportunity should be attuned to, not bisected from, improved equality of outcome.

Chris isn't optimistic that Milliband's first hashing out of the concept does much more than gloss Labour's adherence to austerity. That's looks to be true, though I share Martin O'Neill's view that raising the topic at all in this way is quite a break-through in itself.

Criticism on the Left of post hoc re-distribution isn't new, of course. In the 1830s, Louis Blanc (1811-1882) wrote scathingly that as "competition produces misery" and the "fecundity of the poor throws upon society wretched beings who want work, and cannot find work", so we ultimately arrive "at this pitch, society can only choose between killing the poor out of the way, or supporting them gratuitously - that is between atrocity and folly."
[Louis Blanc's l'Organization du Travail (1839), trans. by James Ward in Louis Blanc on the Working Classes: With Corrected Notes, and a Refutation of his Destructive Plan (London, 1848), p. 83].


Obviously Blanc wanted to avoid atrocity and folly. Blanc was a moderate, relatively speaking, who believed in gradual reform and the avoidance of violence or class conflict. Unlike the hyper-statist Saint-Simonians, however, he was passionately committed to democracy and the universal (male0 suffrage. This, he believed, would transform the state into an instrument for progress.

The democratic ‘social republic’ would not take over and plan the economy, but rather would facilitate cooperative production by associations of workers. Starting-up capital would be provided to Ateliers Nationaux (national workshops) which, as they attracted skilled, well motivated workers, would soon stand on their own feet. The State would provide a binding 'code' for the Ateliers, but after a year's midwifery no longer directly intervene. Workers would run the associations themselves.

The associations would generally handle necessary welfare provision which, along with the ‘right to work’, would give labour the security of a private property. The monopoly of capital in the hands of employers would be ended, and in due course capitalist enterprises would dwindle as wage-labourers decamped to become cooperative producers in the Ateliers.

Blanc's ideas were resuscitated by Ferdinand Lassalle in the 1860s (to Marx's grief, as he could see no good coming from the Prussian state), and by the early Fabians in the 1880s. Fabian Essays (1888) argued that some industries such as railways should be taken into state control for reasons of technical efficiency, and if a capitalist enterprise acquired national monopoly status, it should be taken over (compensation being paid) by the state. In general, however, County and other Councils were expected to set up socialised enterprises in competition with capitalist outfits; being free of charges for rent and interest, they would be easily competitive. In the main, capitalist enterprises would be squeezed out of the market rather than taken over. Socialised enterprises, firstly for public works (roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, housing, public utility services), ultimately establishing farms and factories, would ensure employment and establish the socialist ‘right to work’.

In contrast to Blanc and Lassalle, however, in the relevant essay by Annie Besant, the idea of workers’ control of their industries was rejected. Instead, government  authorities should appoint managers and boards; usually, of course, local government authorities for local and regional public enterprises. Later on, Guild Socialist Fabians around G.D.H. Cole tried to bring back in the idea of workers' control, but within a pluralist system of countervailing powers (consumers, trades unions, etc.).

The late Paul Hirst thought about these ideas a lot, and his notions of 'associative democracy' might well be worth revisting for 'pre-distributionists' now. 

Monday, 24 September 2012

David Priestland: Merchant, Soldier, Sage

I've just finished David Priestland's new book, Merchant, Soldier, Sage: A New History of Power. As the title suggests, David makes sense of history by juggling his three basic categories, analogous in some ways to capitalists, militarists, and intelligentsia. He defines them as castes, suggesting modes of thinking linked to occupation. David also discusses 'workers' quite a lot, but they rarely got to exercise power.

In general, David argues, a 'caste-balance' is a good thing. In the 1920s, and since 1970s, buccaneering 'merchants' have been hegemonic, with inegalitarian and de-stabilising results. Priestland looks back quite fondly to the post-war golden age of rapid growth and welfarism (whilst admitting its grave problems). Then a coalition of worker and 'sage' held the quick-buck market at bay. (This is quite similar, though with different terms employed, to the analysis in Gerard Dumenil and Dominique Levy's analysis in The Crisis of Neoliberalism (2010); they spoke more of a worker/manger alliance against finance-capital, which they hope to see re-instituted.)

David treats of a lot of themes I look at in my book, though I stick to more of a 'class' framework (tweaked about). I'll not judge whether that this following is also a difference, but David's prose really zips along! He's particularly adept at using portraits of individuals to illustrate wider themes.

There's some very intriguing data employed. For example, David cites the work of Graham Turner, which claims that had Britain and America not let domestic debt rip between 1997 and 2007 (private and government both, presumably), consumption would have been 20 percent lower! (p. 243).

Anyway, it's an outstandingly interesting, well-written and thought-provoking book. Highly recommended!

David's also got an article in the Guardian for you to take a gander at.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Political Violence in Cardiff

I've gone off to this conference on 'Political Violence in Inter-War Europe', held in Cardiff.

My paper, on Friday, is called, "Violent Revolutionism and ‘Dual Power’ in Postwar Europe: Soviets, Räte, Dáil".

Will I get it all in within the allotted span of 20 minutes?

Sleepwalkers: New Book by Christopher Clark

I'm pleased to see that Christopher Clark has a new book coming out very soon on the origins of the First World War; The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to war in 1914. I've read Clark's books on Kaiser Wilhelm II: A Life in Power (2000, 2009) and Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947 (2007). Both are outstanding books: gripping reads that avoid the sensationalism easily attached to their subjects without sacrificing great story-telling.

I expect more of the same in Sleepwalkers. The blurb suggests that Clark wishes to re-think the historiographical consensus throws almost the entire blame upon German aggression and miscalculation for pitching a basically stable European states system into catastrophic war. Rather, says Clark, Europe was a "multipolar, fractured, multicultural world of clashing ideals, terrorism, militancy and instability ... saddled with a conspicuously ineffectual set of political leaders". He also points out that in its own terms, Gavrilo Princip's assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was staggeringly efficient. It actually succeeded in destroying the Hapsburg Empire and creating a greater Serbia. But at what cost!

In his biography of Wilhelm II, Clark noted that, following the assassination, "Vienna's demands [for restitution from Serbia] look distinctly undraconian from a contemporary standpoint - they represented considerably less of an incursion upon Berlgrade's sovereign prerogatives than those set before the Serb delegation at Rambouillet in 1999 - and the Serb reply was less accommodating than has often been asserted."[pp. 303-4] It wasn't all blind or cynical lashing out by the Central Powers.

It's this kind of food for thought that puts Clark's newest book top of my end of Summer reading list.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Price Swings

Reflecting who knows what process, Bourgeois Liberty ... on Amazon is no longer 30 percent off, but now five percent off.

On Book Depository, on the other hand, it has gone from full price to 25 percent off.

Anyone understand pre-publications price gyrations? Presumably it's all computerised?

I have flyers from OUP offering 20 per cent off. If you would like one, feel free to get in touch.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Prussia and the 'Free Right of Merit'

Between about 1859 and 1864, there was an acute struggle between liberals seeking greater powers for the Prussian parliament, elected on a wealth franchise, and the Crown struggling to consolidate its hold upon the army. With Bismarck's help, the Crown triumphed (more or less).

This was a key turning-point as I discuss it in my book. Rather provocatively, I said it came  "closest to being the most striking example of an archetypal bourgeois revolution".

Partly this claim depends upon my definition of 'bourgeoisie', which is neither as just a disparate rag-bag twixt gentry and labourers, nor a super cohesive class of capitalists. Rather, it is a class category bound by a common interest in what we'd call 'meritocracy'.

There's an interesting section on the dispute in F. L. Carsten's study re-published in his Essays in German History (London: the Hambledon Press, 1985):
The army conflict in Prussia was at the same time a social conflict between a rising middle class and a declining nobility. This was clearly perceived at the time. Thus the historian of the foundation of the German Empire of 1871, Professor von Sybel, said in 1862: 'in internal affairs, the great conflict of our time is not a conflict between Crown and parliament, but one between the excessive privileges of the nobility and the free right of merit.' Another moderate Liberal declared: 'it is a struggle about principles ... a struggle of the burghers versus the Junkers.' ['Bismarck and the Prussian Liberals', p. 239]
It's a nice little paragraph. Too late for the book, but I submit it for your consideration.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Why did Marx Expect the Workers to be Socialist?

A while ago I wrote an article on why Marx and Engels believed that it was the wage-earning proletariat in particular who, as a social force, would be attracted to the message of socialism.

It's summarised by Marx's introduction to the 1880 programme of the Parti Ouvrier:

The emancipation of the productive class is that of all human beings without distinction of sex or race;
The producers can be free only when they are in possession of the means of production
That there are only two forms under which the means of production can belong to them
  1. The individual form which has never existed in a general state and which is increasingly eliminated by industrial progress;
  2. The collective form the material and intellectual elements of which are constituted by the very development of capitalist society;
This collective appropriation can arise only from the revolutionary action of the productive class – or proletariat - organized in a distinct political party;
Such an organization must be pursued by all the means the proletariat has at its disposal including universal suffrage ...
What this actually meant I discuss in some detail in an article from Critique, here.

You can read the entire article, free of charge, at this website.

Here's my conclusion:

Marx argued that humans were necessarily dependent on one another, and upon nature. However, this dependence is felt by the individual as an imposition, and as powerlessness, unless it is voluntarily accepted as a means of self-realisation. For Marx, such voluntarism is only realisable when responsibility for the production of the means of life is assumed collectively. Such a state of affairs is socialism. Objectively, socialism becomes feasible insofar as production is spatially and temporally integrated under the influence of scientific knowledge and organisation. Subjectively, the modern working class becomes available as the agent of socialist transformation. Class consciousness arises from an innate desire to secure one's mode of subsistence. In history, producers have access to the means of subsistence either in a form dependent on the will of others, or independently, in the form of indefeasible property rights. Class consciousness always idealises independent proprietorship. This holds true for proletarians. However, as capitalism makes individual proprietorship impossible, only collective ownership appears to offer secure independence. This definition of Marx's theory brings into focus his examination of the problem of money wages. Income streams derived from the sale of labour power must be insecure if Marx's theory is to be robustly predictive of proletarian socialist preference formation. With this allowance made, Marx's theory is strikingly in accordance with historical data, and evidence gathered by social scientists.

 I still think it's a pretty good take on the subject! Feel free to disagree.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Generalists with Chips on their Shoulders

Historical academics often bemoan the fact their discipline has been fragmented into narrower and narrower specialisms. It was partly in reaction to the cult of the monograph that I wrote my Bourgeois Liberty ... book.

What I hadn't realised was that that the displacement of the generalist had in the nineteenth-century given rise to such potent ideologies of frustration. Here's Kevin Passmore in his excellent Fascism: A Very Short Introduction:

[The late nineteenth-century] saw the emergence of modern disciplines in the universities: history, sociology, political science, physics, biology, literary criticism, and so on. The rise of professional, specialized research led to displacement of old-style scholars, sometimes amateurs, who claimed expertise in several fields. Lawyers and doctors, who had previously dominated university faculties, were especially likely to pretend to wide competence, and were attracted to ... racist, eugenicist, psychological, and historical ideas ...
These polymaths often resented their lack of recognition from specialist professional academics, and compensated by seeking political success. Some favoured the extreme left (the legally trained Lenin was a quintessential generalist); others the new right. [Maurice] Barrès gave the [French] republican establishment's refusal to honour a now forgotten race theorist as a reason for entering politics. It is no accident that doctors and lawyers were prominent in the far right. Their resentment of specialists was coupled with fear that professions were overcrowded with Jews and women, and with dislike of government plans to introduce ‘socialist’ health-care programmes. Doctors and lawyers espoused eugenicist theories, which they thought gave them the right to play god. Specialist academics were often just as influenced by pseudo-scientific knowledge and nationalism. In pre-war ultranationalist movements specialists sometimes held sway, but generalists with chips on their shoulders increasingly set the agenda. [p. 38].
If any reviews of my book complain that it attempts to be too far-ranging, I'll be careful not to take the criticism to heart!