The Labour Party, I.L.P. and Communist Party, the Liberals, and the gentleman of the Atlantic Charter have found a common cause, the cry of “National independence.”
I propose to question this “national independence.” Upon what will “independence” be based? Will it be race, creed, colour, language or geography? In the proposed restoration of “nations” to their “independence” will the restorers go back twenty, fifty or a hundred years? and having established this “independence” will that be a guarantee against future “fascism,” for it must be remembered that “fascism” grew in nations that were already independent.
Modern nationalism manifests itself as the political expression of a rising capitalist class when it considers itself grown up and able to run its industries, banks, etc., without the aid of “foreign” capitalism. This enables the native capitalists to enjoy all the profits instead of sharing it.
In 1860 was established the Kingdom of Italy, and in the next decade it was unified by the adhesion of Rome and Venetia. The Italian “independent nation” soon began to open its doors to “foreign” money, and industrial undertakings were established by firms like Amstrong’s and Henry Ford’s. The workers now “nationally independent,” began producing profits for “foreign ” capitalists, with their home-grown masters sharing the swag. The value of their “independence ” was then seen by the workers in their mass emigration to U.S.A. to become wage-slaves to another “independent ” capitalist class. Having achieved their independence, the Italian ruling class then began the suppression of Ethiopia, Tripoli, part of Somaliland, a few islands from the Greeks, and Albania. Sixty years after its own liberation the ” independent ” nation of Italy went—FASCIST.
During the greater part of the nineteenth century and the early part of the present one a large ramshackle empire lay athwart Central Europe. Within its confines were a motley collection of “nations” and “races.” The war of 1914-18 shattered this empire, and the map changers, by various treaties, plus loans, plus armed threats, restored “independence” to “nations” which had lost it, and gave territory to some “nations” which hadn’t lost it. Sheer kindness of heart !
The two nations mainly concerned were Austria and Hungary. For many years the new independent Austria was so “independent” that it had to be artificially fed by Paris finance. Now, here is the strange case of a ruling class which did not want independence, but sought an anschluss (customs union) with its brother ruling class over the border—Germany. The French ruling class, fearful of a rejuvenated Germany, came down with a heavy hand (and bribes) and said, “You will have to be independent,” for Austria was so “independent” that France could dictate her actions. In 1934 this independent nation became Fascist under the pocket dictator, Dollfuss.
Hungary, always the land of the hungry peasant and home of the brutal Magyar landowner, was made independent (after slices of it had been given away) by a treaty subsequent to the war of 1914-18. An effort by Bela Kun to Sovietise this land proved a complete failure and resulted in bloodshed with the eventual establishment of a “White” dictatorship under Admiral (Butcher) Horthy in place of the “Red” dictatorship. The Hungarian working class has one of the lowest standards of living in Europe, but at least retain their “national independence.” To-day independent Hungary is an ally (and vassal) of Fascist Germany. So far the blessings of “national independence” seem to be more apparent than real, for the workers of Italy, Austria and Hungary couldn’t be much worse off if they had been parts of an Empire without “national independence.” I hope to continue my enquiry in another issue.