No To Nationalism 1/3

The same the world over

Nationalism is anathema to the World Socialist Movement (WSM). Workers have no country. We have more in common with people like ourselves in other countries than with the privileged owning-class of the country where we happen to be born in and live and work. The worldwide working class has a common interest to end its exploitation and solve its problems, to join together to establish a world without frontiers in which the resources of the planet will have become the heritage of all so that there can be production to meet needs and not for profit.

One world, one people, where cultural differences will still be celebrated, but where we will all be citizens of the world.  The WSM affirms its unity and solidarity with fellow members of our class across all borders. The World Socialist Movement didn’t get its name for anything. Unique amongst all political parties, left and right, we have no national axe to grind. We side with no particular state or government. We have no time for border controls or for immigration restrictions.

The world over, workers must do what they can individually and collectively to survive and resist capitalism. In many parts of the world that means escaping the tyranny of political terror or economic poverty. Politically, however, workers should resist taking sides in the battles of the economic blocs that happen to be named on your passport. You cannot blame other workers for your misery and suffering. Instead, workers must oppose nationalism in all its forms: not just refusing to espouse their creed, but defying the rituals of anthem signing, flag saluting and other expressions of craven loyalty to the nation-state, that help enforce the idea of a nation in our minds. The World Socialist Movement wants a new world without borders, nationalism or any other nonsense of capitalism. We are all brothers and sisters.

Nationalists believe we should hold allegiance to “our country”. Socialists do not. Socialists look forward to and struggle for a new world uncluttered with the frontiers and divisions. We say that nationalism is a toxic poison.

What is a nation? It is simply the people and the territory which have been appropriated by a class of robbers at some point in history. It has less to do with a common language, religion, race, culture, and all the other things which nationalists imagine or pretend are essential ingredients in the making of nations. Every nation-state is by its very nature anti-working class. The “nation” is a myth as there can be no community of interests between two classes in antagonism with one another, the non-owners in society and the owners (the workers and the capitalists.)

The illusions of nationality are yet another tool of the ruling class, intended to fool workers into thinking that this really is some kind of collective society and to misplace their passions that could otherwise be directed into the class struggle. The presence of political nationalist ideas is an indication that some groups in society feel their real material interests are being frustrated by forces outside (or even inside the nation.)

Of course, the desire to achieve their aims is never expressed in terms of their own needs only. In order to enlist the necessary working-class support such arguments as “justice”, “freedom”, and “the nation” are used to justify the real bone of contention and to give it an aura of sanctity. The current ruling class have cultivated such ideas as nationalism, propagating the illusion that we live in a society with shared social responsibilities. The more enlightened rulers among them probably saw the effects of separating and alienating people from each other and their labour, and so stepped up the spreading of beliefs like nationalism in order to try and convince people that they were not so exploited as they really were and that everyone had a common interest. The state ultimately exists only to defend the property interests of the owning class at any given point in history – which is why modern states across the world send the police and army in to break strikes and otherwise seek to protect the interests of the capitalists and business at every turn.

As workers, you have no real community of interests to gain from separatism or sovereignty. In what way is the life of one wage slave basically different from that of another wage slave from elsewhere? There is no basic difference in the way of life of the world’s working class because we all suffer from the same problems. 

Jonathan Swift wrote, “the first principle of patriotism is to resent foreigners.” This method, of setting one section of the population against another, has been used successfully all around the world – so successfully that great swathes of people can now rouse themselves, with no apparent external cue, against the latest foreign threat, the most recent immigrant group, anyone who looks or sounds like they may be from a group that’s not their own. Enemies are required by the state elites. Enemies within and without.

We are told by nationalists that it would be an extension of democracy, bringing power nearer to the people, so how can socialists not be in favour of this? Socialists are in favour of democracy, and socialism will be a fully democratic society, but full democracy is not possible under capitalism. Supporters of capitalism who talk about “democracy” always mean only political democracy since economic democracy where people would democratically run the places where they work are out of the question under capitalism, based as it is on these workplaces being owned and controlled by and for the benefit of a privileged minority. A country can have the most democratic constitution imaginable but this won’t make any difference to the fact that profits have to come before meeting needs under capitalism. The people’s will to have their needs met properly is frustrated all the time by the operation of the economic laws of the capitalist system which no political structure, however democratic, can control.

Should self-government for those nationalists seeking independence eventually be established workers will discover that they cannot will or legislate away the problems of capitalism. No country in the world, no matter how independent or rich in resources, has yet succeeded in eliminating poverty, unemployment, insecurity, etc.

The workers are wasting their time when they struggle to make some aspect of capitalism better, to make capitalism more acceptable. Capitalism is not a system that can be humanised reformed or transformed into something better. It is a profit system subject to economic laws which can only work in one way: as a system of profit-making and accumulation of capital in the interest of a tiny minority of profit-takers. The interest of the working class in all countries is to reject all nationalism, to reject in fact the very idea of “foreigner”, and to recognise that they have a common interest with people in other countries in the same economic situation of being obliged to sell their mental and physical energies in order to get a living. 

The goal of socialists is not to assist in the creation of even more states but to establish a real world community where all states as they currently exist will be destroyed. In a socialist society, communities, towns and cities will have the opportunity to thrive and people will no doubt feel an emotional attachment to places and locations that are real and tangible but nation-states will be consigned to the history books where they belong.