The Slogan of the French Revolution in the East Europe of the 19th Century
The first two words of the
slogan of the French Revolution, Liberty
and Equality, had a big influence on the development of societies in the 19th
century. However, the third, Fraternity, could not make any practical
impact on them. World War I changed the preconditions of further development
fundamentally. A new period started also in the afterlife of the French slogans:
the period of an ever-greater misuse of the original meaning of the words.
Liberty, equality, fraternity
– this has not only been the inscription of the coat of arms of the Republic
of France since the Great French Revolution, but also a formation of keywords
of political thought from which far-reaching consequences derived in the form
of schools of ideas, political parties, and theories.
Today, the interpretation of the first two parts of the slogan is rather
evident. Moreover, it is clear as well that after some pondering over them,
the incompatibility of the twp becomes explicit. The third word is a harder
nut to crack. There exist a disrespectful opinion that the third notion was
hooked up to the first two to obtain the traditional triple unity. In a more
respectful manner, it is a custom to point to solidarity, the compassion of
men, mutual respect, and even other moral norms of similar meaning.
Naturally, we can also think that beyond the three-word slogan, the
epoch of the French Revolution has two magic words, which can be used with
many kinds of meanings just the same and on the basis of which many – and
a number of future – movements can be explained. These two words, nation and
home are basically cognate ideas and it is believed on many occasions that
the two are even interchangeable. From another approach, the two concepts
As we have indicated in the introduction, real movements, ideologies,
and parties were born from the abstract notions. To put it very simply: liberalism
from liberty, socialism from equality, and nationalism from nation (or just
like from home). It is obvious that today even liberalism itself is a polysemic
phenomenon. Differing, and sometimes opposing schools considered or are considering
themselves liberals. The term itself comes from the first years of the 19th
century: it appeared in Spanish politics and spread throughout the world from
Socialism became a generally known concept somewhat later – and we
know it by today – with a variety of meanings: it ranges from the original
utopian ideas to communism and its Soviet realisation. However, also current
western socialism is attached to the name, if not for else, at least out of
reverence toward its own past.
Already these two notions have made and still make many kinds of interpretations
possible. Nationalism has an even more intricate composition. Since, first
of all, it postulates the existence of the nation. And nation is again a word
from among those, which have various kinds of interpretations. There are some,
who talk about nations already with respect to antiquity (this conception
was not far from the founding fathers of Marxism either, whose ‘child’ made
a very nice career); according to others, it is connected to capitalism (this
became the later standard Marxist dogma); still others consider it irrespectively
of this to be a social model existent since the French revolution; again others
believe it to be only an imaginary community, an invented group; and there
are also those who interpret it as a phenomenon of modern ages, but discover
its certain antecedents in the early modern times or even in the Middle Ages.
And this is still only the notion of the nation, which was undoubtedly frequently
remembered in East Europe in the 19th century.
Nationalism, too, can have many possible interpretations. Here, however, we
have to identify two of these, which are fundamental. One understands merely
national identity by nationalism, that is, the consciousness that somebody
declares him/herself to belong to a nation. The other is the concept of the
nation as a unity with its claims to some advantageous position, rule over
others, territorial conquest, and the oppression of others. This latter should
obviously be classified as a clearly negative, while the first one as a neutral
motif. The two kinds of interpretations (with many other possible meanings)
have been living together next to each other up to the present day and have
been given cause to many debates because the disputing parties have applied
No matter whether we consider the three-word slogan of the Revolution
itself or the explications deriving from it, the Western European – mostly
French and German – origin cannot be doubted. The slogans, notions, and interpretations
reached also East Europe. And, practically every part
of it, thus, even Russia and the Balkans, that is, the Ottoman Empire. The antecedent of this process is that also the currents
of the ideas of Enlightenment got as far as East Europe as opposed to the
previous, intellectual trends of western origin like Romanticism and the Baroque,
which reached only those areas of East Europe, which
bordered the West and had a similar structure. Also the expression ‘reach’
has to be expounded: slogans and trends reach the leading elite, the intellectual
and political elites of the East European societies. It is the development
of much later periods when the wider lower strata can get to know them and
they can spread through the primary school network, which becomes general
sooner or later.
Similarly to Enlightenment, eastward expansion came about through books
and the press in this case as well; moreover, through the travels when either
the Easterners went to the West, or the Westerners visited these places. Travel,
and in cases studying at the universities of the West has become a well-known
notion by those times. The novelty of the 19th century is that
in its beginning (if – as is due – we count it from 1789), the first quarter
of a century belonged to the Revolution and to Napoleon, when the ties suddenly
grew very tight. One reason for this is that French soldiers got to East
Europe several times during the Napoleonic campaigns; the farthest, as it
is widely known, in 1812. However, French officers went to the Balkans with
political mandates, not only to train the Ottoman army, but also to gather
intelligence. On the other hand, East European soldiers arrived as far as
Paris as they were chasing Napoleon at the end of his quarter of a
century. This was even more important from the point of view of the Russian
soldiers than in case of the armies of the Habsburg Empire. Naturally, primarily
officers, but actually also common soldiers could get to know the situation
in the West, the everyday life of the people, which revealed to them a much
higher standard of life than what they had left at home. One of the Russian
generals remarked it too that it would be the best to drown the returning
soldiers before they could have disembarked because they would spread utterly
strange news back at home. However, this kind of massacre had not yet been
so ‘modish’ back then, so all the officers and common soldiers arrived home
and could narrate what they had seen and experienced.
So far, we have talked about ideas, slogans, and theories, which reached
East Europe. But what does East
Europe exactly mean in that revolutionary quarter of a century? Three empires:
that of the Habsburg, the Romanovs, and the Ottoman dynasties. Three empires,
which possessed a few similar characteristics in that period. One is the absolutist
form of government. It is not worth is to start meditating at this point on
whether or not we can talk about absolutism in case of the Ottoman Empire
in the European sense of the word. From the point of view of our train of
thought, the point is that society – not even its higher circles – has no
or scarcely a little say in the direction of the politics of the empire The
other important common trait is that many kinds of ethnic groups live in all
three empires and it was exactly those times when the process started, which
today we call national renewal, awakening, or revival – but many ethnic groups
referred to the phenomenon like this already back then. We can divide the
ethnic groups into two major types on the basis of their social structure.
This has a great significance exactly as far as their reaction to the western
influence is concerned. The first type is the one, in which the ethnic group
has its own political elite (we have to call them like this even if there
exist no political forum where this political elite could appear). The second
type is the one lacking such a political elite. We can find practically only
these kinds of ethnic groups in the Ottoman Empire with
the exception maybe of the Greeks. There are quite a few groups with their
own elites within the Habsburg Empire and the central authority, Vienna
knows about them and keeps their presence in evidence. Although the empire
has an absolutistic arrangement at the top, in Vienna, there are (more or less) functioning feudal representations,
which provide for a certain political forum for the given ethnic group in
the various countries and provinces of the empire. Those political elites
ended up in the sphere of vision of the government, which presented themselves
at these fora. The government did not pay attention to those, who could not
participate at all because their group did not have an elite. As only Russian
political elite existed in Russia which, of course, did not have an independent
feudal organisation, the government took note only of them. The Ukrainians
and the Byelarussians could easily be considered Russians, while the ethnic
groups of the colonial territories were ‘of another race’ – they were kept
on record officially like this – thus, they really did not matter.
Let’s take a closer look and find out what the ideas which reached
East Europe could mean in the three empires in the first
part of the 19th century. Having regard to the rudimentary state
of their societies, the primitive level of their economic life (as compared
to the West of the period), it becomes clear that the question of socialism
could not come to the limelight just then. And the original slogan, equality,
either. The feudal differences within the society were so self-evident and
accustomed that the notion of the equality of individuals did not even occur.
Did not, in spite of the fact that the dominant religions, both the Christian
denominations and the Islam, preached in some form or another the equality
of the people. The issue of the equality of ethnic groups, that is, nations,
receives a completely different interpretation and enters consciousness in
relation to liberty.
This is the slogan or notion, which has a meaning, a message for East
Europe already in that period. Liberty
has clearly come to depict some political freedom, parliamentarianism within
the State, individual rights, elections, and political parties. Above all:
constitutional system of some sort. As this has its antecedents in the feudal
system and thus, in the countries and provinces of the Habsburg Empire as
well, it was in this circle that the idea of constitutionalism as a political
objective was formulated and for the sake of which, one would have to go to
war. The feudal institutions provided a certain scope for action in this war.
The attainment of constitutionalism in a revolutionary manner, as it happened
in Paris in 1789, did not emerge
for long. The Jacobin dictatorship rather discredited the violent revolution
in the eyes of the upper strata, while the lower ones did not know anything
about it. Devotion towards the upper classes could be regarded as general.
There were no feudal institutions at all in the other two empires (the
German institutions of the Baltic provinces were negligible in relation to
the whole of the Russian Empire), so there was no available legal forum for
any kinds of political fights. The government strictly prohibited even the
mentioning of the issue. Thus, constitutional transformation of the Russian
and the Ottoman Empires did not arise in those times.
Yet, if the slogan of liberty does not mean anything or is not conceivable
in the dimensions of the whole of the empire, here is the slogan of the nation,
nationalism, the issue of national identity or, more precisely, national renewal
mentioned already in the first decades of the century. This motif raises,
if you would like in a national relation, the issue of equality as well. Liberty
in multinational empires means also the liberty of nations, what is more,
means primarily that and not the liberty of individuals. From this respect,
strictly speaking, nations are equal; liberty is the due of all.
The declaration of the principle of national liberty was achieved almost
everywhere in East Europe in the first part of the century.
But who were its preachers? Those few dozen persons, mostly intellectuals,
or where there was one, some members of the political elite with a vision,
who meditated about the solemn idea among intimate friends and possibly behind
close doors. In the Habsburg empire, it was exactly because of the feudal
structure that national liberty did not seem an object to be reached for the
political elite, for it might have appeared that they actually possessed it.
The situation was different in case of the nations lacking the political elite
but these were still so weak (both in political and economic sense) that they
could not think about starting any movement against the actual power, the
empire. After all, the question of individual liberty was not resolved either
but no movement tried to go against this. Not even in the revolutionary 25
years: the Polish uprising of 1974 was the consequence of the preceding events,
the repartition of Poland.
Although the Polish asked for help from Paris,
they did not get any and not only because it would have been physically impossible,
but because they did not do anything about the bondsmen.
The situation changed in 1848 in one of the sub-regions of East
Europe, which comprised more or less of the Habsburg Empire and the Polish
territories outside it and under Prussian and Russian authority. In reality,
the Polish began their movement with a revolt started in Krakow
somewhat earlier, in 1846.
In those times, Krakow was a free town according to the decree of the congress
in Vienna because no agreement had
been reached about where it should belong. Thus, it could be considered the
only free Polish territory. The emigration would have wanted to start a revolt
from here, which would have extended to the entire Polish territory (which
meant the country before the repartition in their opinion). The Austrian forces
quickly quelled the uprising. Even the bondsmen turned against their landlords
although these promised liberation to them.
At last, this proved to be only an episode. However, the movements,
which broke out in various capitals of the Habsburg Empire after the revolution
in Paris, produced a revolution on
the whole. The revolution, which established constitutional freedom, eliminated
serfdom, in other words, brought liberty according to the liberal conceptions.
Brought liberty, but for whom? To the peasants without doubt, who ceased to
be preoccupied about the events after the conditions of socage had been eliminated.
It yield liberty neither to the nations in general nor to the single nations.
In reality, they did not even want some kind of complete liberty. The Czech
historiographer and politician, the recognized leader of the nation, František
Palacký answered in an open letter to the preparatory commission of the German
national assembly in Frankfurt, which invited him too as one of the representatives
of the former Holy Roman Empire. Palacký declined the invitation because, quoth he,
he was Slav, Czech, and not German. He elaborated on the fact in length that
many small peoples live between the Russians and the Germans, that these separately
cannot resist none of these two, and that Russia was the more
dangerous neighbour because it wanted to create a universal empire. For this
reason, these peoples would have to unite and Vienna was the natural centre of unification. If
did not exist, it should be invented. Finally, the single little nations sided
with the Austrian government because it had proclaimed the equality of nations.
The Hungarian political elite could not reach this decision even though originally
it took the side of the empire. At last, the Hungarian army was defeated in
armed conflict, which unfolded in the summer of 1848. Hungarian national liberty
was lost but also that of the nations siding with Vienna, given that the constitution proclaimed in
the summer of 1849 never entered into force. Absolutism returned for a while
and both the contemporaries and posterity liked to forget about of the fact
that the basic change had indeed occurred: the feudal order had been eliminated.
In the Balkans, the attainment of national freedom seemed rather difficult
against the Ottoman Empire. And especially so during
the reign of the Holy Alliance in the first part of the century. Its system
sided always with the legitimate sovereign and in the Ottoman Empire this sovereign was the sultan. However, he differed from
the other legitimate sovereigns of Europe in one respect:
he was not Christian. Yet, the peoples of the Balkans were indeed Christians,
which this gave a peculiar tint to the situation. The Serbs started to fight
already in 1804: first only against the brawling janissaries (on the side
of the sultan), and then against the Ottoman rule. Their timing was perfect:
the ongoing Russian-Turkish war made their temporary victory possible. Then
came an armed suppression, after which they obtained the autonomy of the Serb
territory within the Empire with another armed uprising (it meant the smaller
part of the current Serb territory). This, naturally, could seem to belong
to the internal affairs of the Ottomans.
On the other hand, the Greek insurrection started in 1821 led at last
– even if it took many years and heavy fights – to the complete liberation
of part of the Greek territory. In a first moment, the powers of the Holy
Alliance all turned against the Greeks as they were regarded as rebels fighting
their legitimate sovereign. The Holy Alliance was forged exactly for these
occasions. However, the English government realised it soon what a great strategic
importance the Greek peninsula had and at the end it was the European powers
to secure the full liberty of the Greek state, exactly ten years after the
beginning of the revolt.
If it was not clear in case of the Serb uprising, the Greek incident
made it obvious: certain ethnic groups could count upon the obtainment of
their sovereignty against the Ottoman Empire if at least
one, but preferably more great powers supported their claim. Later in the
century, this was realised in this sense, too: the independent Serb, Romanian,
the – though much later – Bulgarian, and in the last moment, in 1912, also
the Albanian states were established. This happened in each case with the
assistance and according to the instructions of the great powers. They even
donated sovereigns to the new states from one of the smaller dynasties. Only
the Serbs kept theirs for they had as man y as two, who ruled taking turns.
The Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 brought a great change after
many years of preparation and various conflicting tries. It brought permanent
constitutionality, the disappointment of the Austrians – because they were
left out of the German Empire which had been unified –, the victory of the
Hungarians – because most of their national claims were realised –, and the
autonomy of a certain level to given nations (Croatians, the Polish in Galicia,
in a certain sense even the Czechs). The others had to contend themselves
with general liberal rights, sort of a realisation of the first French slogan
at least with respect to individuals.
The Compromise consolidated the situation for some time, which brought
about quick economic development. However, the dualist system hindered the
further expansion of national liberty because it did not make the federative
transformation of the empire possible, it did not provide for the national
liberty of the majority of its nations. This was problematic anyway in case
of those nations, part of which was living in an independent foreign country
neighbouring the Monarchy, like the Serbs or the Romanians. The rigid system
of dualism sooner or later turned most of the nations against the state or,
at least, alienated vast masses notwithstanding the fact that in reality everybody
got used to the patriarchal rule of Francis Joseph. This state seemed to be
firm as a rock and tolerable in the short run until 1914.
The Russian system seemed unbearable even for the Russians for a long
time, even after the semi-constitutional changes brought about by the revolution
of 1905. The government made sure that independent statehood could not be
placed on the agenda despite this semi-constitutional system either. Thus,
liberal individual rights asserted themselves roughly everywhere by 1914:
the constitutional era came about even in the rest of the Ottoman
Empire in 1908. However, the liberty of the nation – in effect with the exception
of the Russians – might have seemed only some distant idea – except in the
countries of the Balkans. However, these were constrained to position themselves
under the protection of one of the great powers.
After all this, let’s see what was going on with the slogan of equality.
With the extent of the spread of the liberal system in East
Europe, it could seem to many that also equality was attained. It did come
about formally; everybody became equal in the eyes of the law. Naturally,
after the revolutionary quarter of a century passed, it turned out in the
West that this was not so. Real equality would still have to be created. Economic
development brought modern capitalism and the working class as it was expanding
from England toward the East. And
also those restless intellectuals who, in their doctrinaire manner, called
upon European development to account for real equality, which exactly the
creation of liberty rendered impossible. In the West, first utopian socialism
was born from this, then the organisations of the people, relief societies,
and then the movement of the restless intellectuals, which will be named Marxism
after its most influential representative. This engendered the discovery of
class struggles, a completely different vision of society than what has started
to be realised on the basis of the first slogan. The prophets of equality
either calmed down as time passed or began political organizations (this is
how the workers’ parties were born), or resorted to terrorism. However, none
could solve the problem of equality. Equality was not realised in the West
either before 1914 in the
way it had been imagined at the beginning of the century, after the revolutionary
quarter of a century.
It is natural that the accomplishment of the second slogan started
only later than the first one in East Europe. One reason for this is that in conformity with the economic
situation of the East Europe of those times, working
class evolved much later and more slowly. Sure, no numerous working class
was organized in the Western European countries either; it remained only a
minority. And much more so in the East. Although it is true that here it grew
to be much more concentrated than in the West because of the belated and peculiar
development. Within the Habsburg Empire, in the Czech provinces, and in a
few territories of Russia (the two capitals, the Polish territories,
the surroundings of the Ural and the Don-Donets), this often created such
vast masses of workers in small areas and in the dimension of plants, which
was rare even in the West. By the turn of the century, the majority of Russian
working class gathered in great plants, in which the number of workers surpassed
even the five hundred persons. Here, but in the Monarchy as well, the working
class had the special trait that it was ethnically heterogeneous, that is,
from the point of view of the national community of Marxism the situation
was downright ideal. Naturally, the similarly exploited workers would turn
against their exploiters together, independent of their outdated ethnic differences.
Before elaborating on this subject, we have to touch upon the countries
in the Balkans. Here, economy was at such an underdeveloped stage that, in
reality, it was hardly possible to talk about a working class at all. One
hand was enough if one wanted to count the few factories operating in Belgrade,
capital of one of the independent states around 1900.
Of course, this did not make any difference with respect to the fact
that they had those restless intellectuals too, who wanted to organize the
movement. This movement was, first of all, only a hobby of the intellectuals
here in the same way as it happened in the West in the beginning. As the workers’
parties had already been organized by the end of the century in West, the
intellectuals believed that although they did not unite the whole of the workers
for the time being, East Europe must fall behind. (The
historian can add posteriorly that naturally they did not think in terms of
East Europe.) That is, if there existed an English, a
German, and a French (actually, here there were even two sometimes), then
these parties could have to be created here too.
The constitutional order of the Habsburg Monarchy made the foundation
of formal political parties possible at last. The significant resistance of
the authorities had to be overcome but the worker’s party was born by the
1890s. According to the directives of the 2nd International, one
party could be formed in a country, that is, one Austrian and one Hungarian
separately. However, a Croatian was created as well because of the autonomy
the social background of which was just as scarce as in the countries in the
One country – one party; this formula fulfilled the expectations in
the two parts of the Monarchy for a while. It went more easily in Hungary
with the separation of the Croatians because the working classes were living
in Budapest and in some other cities
or mining districts and accordingly, natural assimilation had its results
quite soon. Although the leaders of the Social Democratic Party had never
declared it, in reality they believed this was the natural way of things.
It occurred to them only before the First World War that ethnic sections could
be created and as this would not spoil the principle of one country – one
party, it could be considered a right aspiration.
The situation was surely different in the Austrian border areas. Here,
a Czech party was formed parallel to that of the workers of German mother
tongue. The Polish one was created only later, since there was hardly any
industry in Galicia; however, their intellectuals were bustling
and demanded their own workers’ party. Thus, the national motif came into
prominence and, although the Austrian Social Democratic Party did not dissolve,
national parties were formed within its body: the Czech Slav (giving a wink
to the Slovaks), the Polish, and, of course, a Slovenian as well. The congresses
of the Austrian Party recalled almost the congresses of the International
but they surely were not conveyed very often. Also the leaders of the party
were conscious about the significance of the national motif and they tried
to solve it by raising the possibility of cultural autonomy – which would
have solved the problem of mixed settlements – instead of territorial autonomy.
(Lenin will be very angry with this.)
No matter how weak, not to say more, was the working class in the Balkans,
the intellectuals there just could not lag behind the others in activity.
Although a bit later, social democratic parties were formed here as well.
The role of the Romanian Social Democratic Party illustrates it well that
this was merely a fashion among intellectuals. It had been founded by intellectuals
at the beginning of the 1890s and was terminated a few years later with the
majority of the party leaders joining the liberal party. Here, the slight
strengthening of real labour movement will lead to the formation of the workers’
party right before the war, naturally, on the foundations laid down by the
spontaneous precedents and, in reality, trade-unionism. Therefore, the role
of the intellectuals in the creation of workers’ parties is even more obvious
in the Balkans.
It is clear that Russia was in a situation
similar to that of the countries in the Balkans in many respects in spite
of the aforementioned strong concentration of the working class. It was evident
that the intellectual class started to organize the movement here as well.
However, this (Russian) intellectual stratum could look back upon more significant
antecedents than the one in the Balkans: its ancestors came from among the
nobles, who could not find their place in society, who were ‘unnecessary’
men. Accordingly, and as they could perceive it clearly that the peasants
(they had been liberated from serfdom after 1861 but could not yet become
completely independent and free) formed the overwhelming majority in the Russian
Empire, the intellectuals tried to realise the early movement among the people,
that is, among the peasants.
It is often remembered too that Russian nobility had been liberated
from the obligatory service of the state in 1762 and this was replaced by
the service of the people, namely some kind of a political movement among
more modern conditions for the attainment of liberty and equality. The beginning
of the movement was connected to the negative aspects of the 1861 reform of
servitude, the retainment of power over the peasants, and the proprietorship
of the village community (obshchina) instead of individual property. The movement
received the name ‘Narodnik’. It derived from the word ‘narod’ which means
people in Russian as opposed to the other Slav languages, in which this word
means nation in the modern sense of the word. They had a slogan as well, formulated
first by Ogariov: what does the ‘narod’ wants? Land and freedom (zemlia and
volia respectively). The movement found some prophets soon, who referred to
the responsibility of the nobility with respect to the people who maintained
them. They declared themselves to be under the influence of utopist socialism,
to be socialists. Not much later, this involved Marxist theory as well.
‘Going to the people’ became the slogan of the movement and people
meant naturally the peasants and their living area. The movement came to its
height in the mid-1870s when students learned even professions to help the
peasants that way too. However, their fine hands often betrayed that they
did not belong among the people and it happened not once that the peasants
themselves reported them to the police. The movement split into two in 1878.
The one, which remained attached to anarchist methods and terrorist attempts,
called itself ‘narodnaja volja’ (people’s will) and it had a great future
until 1914. The other one chose the ‘black repartition of lands’ name. This
meant on the one hand illegality (black) and on the other the claim to obtain
full peasant property. Both parties continued to look upon Marx as their master.
Several attempts were carried out against Alexander II but without
success. Finally, they managed to kill him with a bomb at the beginning of
1881. Only that the system did not crumble at that. What is more, the retorsions
became even more terrifying. At this point, the narodniks turned to Marx asking
that if socialist transformation could begin only among capitalist circumstances
it would be their task then to promote that capitalist development? Marx pondered
over this for long, as he did not want to disillusion his followers. He drafted
around a dozen answers, sometimes very long ones. At the end, however, he
sent to them one of the short ones with the Dodonian answer that if the socialist
revolution won in the West, then the transformation could be accomplished
on the basis of the obshchina in Russia. Many regarded the obshchina, that
is, the village community as the basis of socialism in Russia.
The leaders of black land distribution, among them Plekhanov, opted
for Marxist socialism before long and in conformity with this, they sharply
condemned murderous attempts and anarchist tactics. Of course, they could
not found a legal workers’ party before 1905 with the conditions in Russia and they were forced into underground existence.
They were active abroad as well, especially in Switzerland where
emigrant revolutionaries gathered from every country. Another illegal party
was formed from the followers of ‘People’s Will’ the party of Socialist-Revolutionaries
(their name came from the initials: ‘eSeR’). Naturally, this movement considered
itself Marxist as well although nothing could deter it from continuing the
attempts. It did not make a difference between peasant and worker exactly
because of the small size of the working class. It managed to build up a great
basis of supporters; the military officers of peasant origin all took the
side of this party and they made up the majority of the officer corps by the
turn of the century.
The socialists – abroad of course – split into two in 1900. The radical
minority received a majority with respect to one of the items of the agenda
of the congress and they called themselves Bolsheviks thereafter in order
to assert their majority and superiority. When the organising activities became
allowed, their opponents, who accepted the Menshevik attribute because they
were less concerned about social psychology than Lenin, were still in majority.
Similarly to the social democrats of the Habsburg Empire, who continued to
regard themselves as militant revolutionaries (although, in reality, they
had began to follow the western social democrat and socialist parties), they
could not start to change either because of the even more archaic conditions.
This wing still seemed militant in its declarations but not in its deeds.
It had become a sleek parliamentary party. What is more, it gained majority
at the last elections of the Imperial Diet before the war. The development
started somewhere here. It would help them realize temporarily their objective
– the social welfare state – after many bypasses and World War II. Also the
social democrats of the Monarchy hit this road.
We can encounter peasants’ wars reminiscent of those of the Middle
Ages in the Balkans even after 1900. The intellectual leaders clang to the
conceptions of the parties of the West, for what could have they done about
the slogans of socialism otherwise? But they persisted in being socialists.
Thus, the objective remained the realisation of the second word of the French
Let us remark, so to say, in addition, that we have mentioned the claims
and activities of various social classes but the peasantry was overlooked
in this inventory for the most part. We might as well say that the narodniks
represented them. However, them too, and also their successors, the eSeRs
regarded themselves socialists, that is, Marxists. The peasants’ parties appeared
almost everywhere by the turn of the century. The Bulgarian
Agrarian National Union was the most characteristic one among them.
It was very consciously peasant and it claimed a right to the government on
the basis that the overwhelming majority of the country was made up of peasants.
The eSeRs fulfilled the role of a peasants’ party to a certain extent. Notwithstanding
all this, significant political activity would evolve only in the period between
the two world wars.
Thus, it was still the workers’ parties, which considered the slogan
of equality theirs. We have talked about that this working class, regardless
of the fact whether we look at the Habsburg Empire or Russia,
was multiethnic, that is, it was of mixed nationality. This seemed undoubtedly
an advantage from the point of view of internationalism announced by the founding
fathers. As it turned out, it was not at all. National division took place
within the Austrian Social Democratic Party in Austria (soon also within the trade-union movement,
that the leaders must have had acknowledged shaking their head). The parties,
which had been created in the Balkans, were much more the parties of intellectuals
than of workers. They soon fit themselves into the national environment, they
acted for national missions, and sided with the interests of their nation
state more than once.
The situation was somewhat different with the Soviet labour movement.
Neither the Mensheviks were listening to national slogans with pleasure, for
it was enemy bourgeois chatter, nor the Bolsheviks, who were capable of fighting
to the outmost against any nationalism and declaredly primarily exactly against
Russian nationalism. However, it happened to be the head of the Bolsheviks,
Lenin (who denounced any chauvinism so vehemently and tolerated the national
motif in the Balkans at most during the war there – because every war served
the victory of the revolution), to declare it more and more often in view
of victory that national right to self-determination was naturally very important,
a fundamental thing, but still, it ought to be subordinated to the interests
of the revolution. And revolution would require the largest possible state
because the revolution of the working class could evolve in such a country.
That is – the Russian Empire would have to be held together because then revolution
could prevail. They succeeded in holding it together a few decades after the
revolution, but the insurrection had been victorious beyond question.
If we look through everything outlined here above frankly, we have
to reach the conclusion that also the labour movement of East
Europe started out somewhere toward the idea of the nation state. If we go
back to the original question, it is doubtless: it managed to get to liberty
(naturally, to national liberty) from equality. This was the modern in it.
The attempts, the murder of Alexander II, having a bomb tear Grand
Duke Sergei, governor-general of Moscow, to pieces, and then, at the end of the period,
the death of Francis Ferdinand – these events point directly to the 21st
century except that these attempts had not yet been directed against complete
The slogans of liberty and equality have lived on, while there was
still nothing one could do with the third one. World War I changed the preconditions
of further development fundamentally. A new period started also in the afterlife
of the French slogans: the period of an ever-greater misuse of the original
content of the words. However, this is another story.