Monday, September 13, 2010

The World That Never Was: A True Story of Dreamers, Schemers, Anarchists and Secret Agents / by Alex Butterworth

Much like our own era which has been plagued by terrorism, the latter half of the nineteenth century witnessed a distinct rise in subversive political activity in traditionalized Western societies and abroad. From approximately 1871 when the Paris Commune brought about a schism between Marxists and anarchists, countries all across Europe as well as America experienced a new wave of revolutionary and counter-revolutionary activity largely stemming from unstable economies and a strong divide between rich and poor. Underground political movements, independent groups of reactionary citizens and other socialist enterprises began forming as never before. Led by charismatic leaders who preached change and transformation, promoting new ideas and outright revolution towards the powers that be, the situation inevitably gave way to acts of insurrection which, then as now, were perpetrated through aggressive coercion and random acts of violence.
Author Alex Butterworth well-characterizes the period by describing a collection of heretofore unknown about revolutionaries who never quite changed the world but nonetheless contributed some interesting anecdotes to history. It was an age, not unlike our own, in which middle-class citizens, ordinary working folk and others not affiliated with any of the popular radical ideologies remained subjects to fear, prone to anxiety over the instability of governments and the rising tide of rebellion. Staged protests and peaceful demonstrations gave rise to bombings, assassinations and other violent exploits. As aggressive power struggles spilled over into the political arena, creating diplomatic messes and wreaking further havoc internationally, things escalated into all out wars (World War I specifically) between nations and empires and, in the case of Russia, a full-blown revolution.
The wave of upheaval a century ago was not only representative of today's world in terms of the paranoia, suspicion and skepticism, it was strikingly familiar claims Butterworth, almost a duplicate reproduction of the conflicting, sometimes arbitrary attitudes about our society. Mistrust of elected officials and ruling entities accompanied a pervading sense of unrest back then, just as nowadays partisan politics and terrorism has created instability even within our more prosperous New World Order. History repeats itself. (335.83 BUTTERWO)

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