Against All Nationalism

What happens to workers anywhere is the business of socialists everywhere. Peace is always better than war because wars are never fought in the interests of ordinary people. And because in wars it is always ordinary people who suffer. So, irrespective of the issues involved or the terms agreed, socialists, can only welcome the ending of any war in any part of the world.

Stop the killing is our permanent peace policy. The latest war in Ukraine is a tragic reminder that nationalism, always diversionary, is often deadly. The curse of nationalism is not new. The World Socialist Movement does not take sides in national conflicts because it is not our aim to support one or other of the competing capitalist or would-be capitalist factions, each of which seeks its own territories and exploitable populations. No socialist will ever fight to defend a border for he or she seeks to do away with the divisiveness of countries and states. As socialists, we want to participate in a progression of the global community to free humankind’s real human potential.  However, it doesn’t come as a surprise to discover, lurking at the heart of society, nascent racism, xenophobia and nationalist sentiments. This baggage is carefully nurtured on opposing wings of the left and right. 

The idea that opposing Russia has to mean supporting Ukraine and its resistance is all too common. We totally reject this argument. Just like any other set of rulers, the Ukrainian ruling class and government are happy and willing to sacrifice ordinary citizens. Therefore, against the divisions and false choices set up by nationalism, we fully support the working-class inhabitants of Ukraine against state warfare – not because of their nationality or ethnicity but simply because they’re real living, feeling, thinking, suffering, struggling human beings. And this support has to mean total hostility to all those who would oppress and exploit them – the Russian state that seeks to use working people as pawns in their power struggles. The only real solution is one which is collective, based on the fact that as a class, globally, we ultimately have nothing but our ability to work for others, and everything to gain in ending this system – capitalism – and the states and wars it needs. Just because the WSM doesn’t support Russia’s puppet separatist states doesn’t mean that we, therefore, supported the pro-Ukrainian faction. We were against both sides, Ukrainian capitalism as well as Russian imperialism who are fighting over who should control territory.

Nationalism can never be a solution to the problems of oppression. We do not advocate re-drawing the border or political deals or the exchange of one ruling class for another. These amount to mere rearrangements of the capitalist furniture. The World Socialist Movement points out firmly that a free society can never be fashioned by coercion. Conversely, armed might can never be the agent of liberation in any real sense of the word. It re-affirms that all peoples should seek their emancipation, not as members of nations or religions or ethnic groups, but as human beings, as members of the human race. They should unite to abolish the division of the world into so-called nation-states and to establish a World Co-operative Commonwealth in which we will all be free and equal members – citizens of the world, not subjects of nation-states. “The workers have no country, they have a world to win” is as true a maxim today as it was when the Communist Manifesto was penned in 1848. But such an internationalist position will only emerge when workers adopt the socialist position. Only a world socialist system can remove from society the machinations of capitalist interests that periodically turn the world into turmoil and brings great misery to the millions of workers.

Socialism is the natural umbrella for humanity, the vast majority of which desires a peaceful world. All the wars, including the Ukrainian, are seen by socialists as effects, the cause of which is capitalism. Effects can be ameliorated but it is better to eliminate the cause and prevent the effects from returning. Our rulers have a long and inglorious tradition of lying to stay in power, and our only defence against this is to understand the basis of this lie machine and to work to expose their lies as often as possible. They tell different lies in different circumstances and set different agendas according to the intended audience. Our interest lies in exploiting the divisions between the divergent interests of different groups of capitalists and showing the contradictions involved. Nationalism creates conflict amongst those with the least to gain and have the most to lose. Whatever cause and victory the misinformed defenders of nationhood believe they are fighting for, it pales into insignificance when compared to the real war that needs to be waged on the battlefield of ideas and against an elite who perpetuate patriotic myths for their own ends and always to our detriment.

 Despite their cultural, historical and linguistic differences, there is more that unites Ukrainians and Russian than can ever divide them. Their real needs, the needs working people identify with, can only ever be fulfilled in a world devoid of borders or frontiers. We can only hope it is not too long before these long-suffering people come to realise this.