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Nation. Name given by their rulers or would-be rulers to a collection of people with a distinct culture usually but not always based on a common language. The geopolitical entity of the state and its machinery of government are not necessarily the same as the nation; and this forms the ideological basis for nationalism - the belief that a nation should become a state. (See also NATIONALISM; STATE.)


Nationalisation. The wages system under new management. Nationalisation is state capitalism and does not differ from private capitalism as far as the exploitation of the workers is concerned. They still need their trade unions, and the strike weapon, to protect themselves from their employers.

The Socialist Party has never supported nationalisation. It is not socialism, nor is it a step towards socialism. (See also STATE CAPITALISM.)


A. Buick & J. Crump, State Capitalism, 1986


Nationalism. An ideology which emphasises the distinctiveness of a nation and usually points to its statehood. Nationalist movements arose with the development of capitalism and the state. In the nineteenth century, Karl Marx supported some nationalist movements because they were historically progressive in that they served the class interests of the rising bourgeoisie in its struggle against the traditional aristocracy. In the twentieth century, nationalism was, and still is, associated with movements for ‘self-determination’ and ‘ethnic cleansing’.

Socialists do not support movements for national liberation. Certainly socialism will allow the fullest linguistic and cultural diversity, but this cannot be achieved through nationalism. Marxism explains how workers are exploited and unfree, not as particular nationalities, but as members of a class. To be in an ‘oppressed minority’ at all it is usually necessary to first belong to the working class. From this perspective, identifying with the working class provides a rational basis for political action. The objective is a stateless world community of free access. Given that nationalism does nothing to further this understanding, however, it is an obstruction to world socialism. (See also NATION; STATE; STATE CAPITALISM.)


Nigel Harris, National Liberation, 2002


Needs. Wants of the means of living. Needs have a physiological and a historical dimension. Basic physiological needs derive from our human nature (e.g. food, clothing and shelter), but historically conditioned needs derive from developments in the forces of production. In capitalism, needs are manipulated by the imperative to sell commodities and accumulate capital; basic physiological needs then take the historically conditioned form of ‘needs’ for whatever the capitalists can sell us. The exact type of ‘needs’ current will depend on the particular stage of historical development.

In socialism, a society of common ownership, democratic control and production solely for use, human beings will be ends in themselves and consumption will take place according to their self-defined needs. (See also HUMAN NATURE.)


Agnes Heller, The Theory of Need in Marx, 1976

Michael Lebowitz, Beyond Capital, 2003