The battle for ‘We’
Somebody once remarked that the most important word in the political vocabulary is ‘we’. It was a shrewd observation, since to get someone to use ‘we’ in relation to some group of people is to get them to identify their interest as the interest of that group.
In the battle for ‘we’, socialists are trying to get all those excluded from ownership and control of means of production to recognise the fact of their common interest as one class within capitalist society, to regard themselves as ‘we’ and to use ‘our’ and ‘us’ only in relation to that class and its interests.
Those who control one or other of the two hundred or so armed states into which the world is divided have to try to prevent this practice emerging, and deliberately seek to undermine it, in the interest of the other main class in capitalist society – those who do own and control means of production and who derive a privileged income from this. They seek to convince the people who they rule over that the ‘we’ they should identify with is ‘the nation’ as the nation part of what they call the ‘nation-state’.
Those born and brought up in Britain have been taught, through what’s been drummed into them in school and through what they continuously read in the papers or hear on the radio or television, to regard themselves as British. In school they are taught the history of the kings and queens of England, and of the wars in which the British ruling class has been involved over the centuries, and of the evolution of the British state. The media reinforce this by reporting news from an almost exclusively British angle and encourage identification with ‘the nation’ via identification with ‘our’ sports teams and performers.
It therefore comes almost as a reflex action for people to use ‘we’ in relation to the British state and to regard themselves as part of a British ‘nation’. So they spontaneously say such things as ‘we beat the French at Waterloo’ or ‘we won the Second World War’ or ‘we got twenty gold medals at the Olympics’. Even opponents of particular policies pursued by the British state, yesterday as well as today, fall into the same trap and say such things as ‘we should never have conquered India’ or ‘we shouldn’t have nuclear weapons’.
Such usage is music to the ears of the ruling class as they know it means that they currently have the upper hand in the battle for ‘we’.
For socialists, ‘we’ are all those, wherever you are born, wherever you live or wherever you come from, who are not members of the privileged ruling class. ‘We’ are all members of a world-wide excluded class of wage-working wealth producers, who have a common interest in coming together to abolish so-called ‘nation-states’ and establish a world community without frontiers in which all the natural and industrial resources of the Earth will have become the common heritage of all humanity, to be used for the benefit of all instead of, as today, to make profits for the few.