Socialism or Nationalism?
The left nationalists replace the principle of international class struggle with the doctrine of international struggle between states. As a result ‘socialism’ has become associated with militant nationalism rather than with the working-class internationalism it had originally been. The political struggle they present as a struggle is not between the working class and the capitalist class, but as a struggle of ‘patriots’ – workers and capitalists together – against foreign rule and domination. They call upon the entire population, employer and employee alike, to combine in a common struggle to achieve independence. Any supposed socialist who tells workers that they have more in common with their own ruling class than with the workers of other countries is a fraud. Any supposed ‘socialist’ who argues against the fundamental idea for the workers of the world to unite to overthrow all their exploiters and oppressors is not a socialist.
Nationalism has been a dangerous diversion from the class struggle and led to workers supporting the killing in wars of other workers in the interest of one particular state and its ruling class. The essence of nationalism is that when local businessmen are prevented from ‘building up their own wealth’ they may well build their own independent capitalist state. Nationalist struggles are class struggles under an ideological smokescreen, but not of the working class. They are either struggles by an aspiring capitalist class to establish themselves as a new national ruling class or struggles by an established but weak national ruling class to garner a bigger share of world profits for themselves. There is no reason why socialists should support independence movements.
Where is the link from the triumph of nationalism to the socialist understanding of the workers, that some left nationalists say should take place? A cursory reading of history shows that capitalism and the power of the capitalist have not been weakened. Has nationalism progressed the cause of the working class one inch over the decades? Or led it down many a tearful false trail?
For the socialist, class-consciousness is the breaking-down of all barriers to understanding. The concept of nationality is one of these obstacles. The idea that a geographical area controlled by a privileged elite who thrive on the enforced exploitation of that area’s producers, should grant to the latter the right to live there providing they accept their wage-slave status and defend the right of the privileged to live on their backs is offensive to any reasonably-minded worker. Those who promote such nonsense are enemies of our class.
Nationalism means merely that workers get new masters instead of the old ones. Capitalism does not change by a change of management personnel. Political control may well switch locations but multinationals will still maintain their economic stranglehold on the newly independent nation.
Socialist Standard November 2020