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Editorial: 2014 - Year of Xenophobia?

From one point of view the prospects for 2014 don’t look good. The elections to the European Parliament in May threaten to become a festival of xenophobia as the main parties try to outbid UKIP by being as, if not more, anti-foreigner than them. August will see the ceremonies to mark the outbreak of the First World War. These, too, threaten to become a celebration of nationalism, with prominent historians already arguing that it was a justifiable war which Britain deserved to win.

This means that this year, in addition to our usual activity of putting across the case for socialism, we will have to step up the socialist case against nationalism and war.

The phrase ‘Nation-State’ itself assumes that the states into which the world is divided are the political expression of pre-existing ‘nations’. In fact, it’s the other way round. It is the ‘nation’ that is the creation of the state. States inculcate into their subjects the idea that they form a community with a common interest and that the state represents that interest. The result is that people come to refer to themselves and other subjects of the same state as ‘we’ and ‘us’.

Socialists do not speak of ‘we’ and ‘us’ in relation to so-called ‘Nation-States’ in which they happen to have been born or live. We know that, in every state, there are two classes with opposed interests: the class of those who own and control the means of production and the rest, the vast majority, who do not and, to live, have to sell their mental and physical energies to those who do for a wage or a salary.

Wars are not fought between ‘nations’ but between states, and states represent the interest of their ruling, owning class. Wars arise out of the conflict of economics between states, representing the owning class within them, over sources of raw materials, trade routes, markets, investment outlets and strategic areas to protect these. The slaughter of the First World War  was no exception.

Nationalism is used by states to win support – and cannon fodder – for wars. But it can prove counter-productive if it escapes from state control, as it risks doing over the question of Europe. The interest of the dominant section of the capitalist class in Britain is that Britain should stay in the EU so as to have free access to the European ‘single market’, but a large segment of public opinion is opposed to this on nationalist grounds which UKIP is exploiting.

Throughout the year, then, we will be insisting that wage and salary workers in one state have the same basic interest as their counterparts in other states. We are all members of the world working class and have a common interest in working together to establish a world without frontiers in which the resources of the globe will have become the common heritage of all the people of the world and used for the benefit of all.