Anti-Nationalism 1/3

Socialists assert the primacy of the working class struggle over all others. The working class has no allies among the capitalist of any country. The battle lines may not be clearly demarcated in this era of media sound bites and dis-information but there is no question that the real struggle is between capital and labour. That is the bottom line. It is time to return to basics. There are no common interests between workers and their exploiters, whatever flag is waved.

Socialism will be a cooperative worldwide system. Nations and frontiers and governments will disappear. Groups of people may well preserve their languages and customs but this will have nothing to do with claiming territorial rights or sovereignty over pieces of the world surface. To move forward, the dispossessed majority across the world must now look beyond the artificial barriers of nation-states and regional blocs, to perceive a common identity and purpose.

Because political power in capitalism is organised on a territorial basis each socialist party has the task of seeking democratically to gain political power in the country where it operates. This however is merely an organisational convenience; there is only one socialist movement, of which the separate socialist organisations are constituent parts. When the socialist movement grows larger its activities will be fully co-ordinated through its worldwide organisation.

Such words as “Independence”, “My country”, “Sovereignty” and “Self-determination” all pertain to the ideology of nationalism that forestalls class-consciousness. All definitions are confusing. In fact what capitalism needs for its continual reproduction is not so much “a nation” as “a state”. A “separatist” is bound to appeal to the prejudiced emotions of his “people” over a territory at all times in the name of a national “story” – christened “history” – invariably told about “the heroes”. Winning “national independence” is a capitalist objective.

This ideology speaks in terms of “common bonds” – race, religion, language, economic interests – to define the nation-state. But such homogeneity is conspicuously absent in almost all the 195 countries on our planet. And all nations are class-divided. A change of capital’s capital city does not make workers “independent”. The transfer of political power takes place between two rival “nationalist” minorities but belonging to the same exploiting and the ruling class who own and control the means of production and distribution all over the world. It is not “independence” but “interdependence” that is the order of the day. Nationalism is not a thing that ought to concern the working class. Wherever we live and work, our only concern ought to be socialism.

All nationalistic ideas simply seek to turn back the wheel of history by fettering the ongoing and inevitable process of capitalist globalisation. “Re-structuring”, “down-sizing”, “rationalising”, “re-engineering” and “out-sourcing” are the euphemistic labels under which big corporations are shrinking the world over. New ideas, beliefs, fashions, attitudes and opinions are formed, reformed, challenged and defied almost every minute. Shifts in consumer demand, new technologies, and new distribution methods that change their markets are giving challenging times to the corporate giants. Nation-states that played a predominant role in human affairs in the past few centuries have lost their old importance.

However, capitalist globalisation is not synonymous with the globalisation of the interests of capitalism.

 It is now crystal clear that as capitalism is a universal and cosmopolitan phenomenon but so also is the working class. The working class cannot emancipate itself nationally. The world is a “global village”. Each region may have its own particular and distinct customs, but they are part of a greater system of society that is worldwide. This system of society is capitalism and every region and nation operates within this system of society in one way or another. One country cannot establish socialism. No country is completely self-sufficient in the resources people need to satisfy their needs. No country can really isolate itself from the rest of the world in a peaceful manner, so a peaceful “socialist nation” would be easy prey for the outside capitalist world. Just as capitalism is a world system, socialism will have to be a world system. Socialism will be a world without countries. Borders are just artificial barriers that belong to a past and present that is best left behind. Socialism is not an island in the middle of capitalism, but a global system of society that will replace capitalism.

Nationalism is presented as the way forward but socialism can only ever be won by the working class. Nationalist movements – no matter what their rhetoric – is no substitute. The idea of them moving us “closer to socialism” is misconceived. Nationalism has nothing to offer most of the time but “blood, toil, tears and sweat”. Nevertheless, underneath there does exist the forlorn hope that the well-being of the country does mean the well-being of its citizens. People are poor, live under miserable conditions and work long hours( if they are lucky enough to be in a job),  yet, instead of realising the origins of the problem in the economic setup, most people try to salve their disappointment with nationalist cure-alls. The pursuit of reforms causes the workers, already so nationalistic, to become even more nationalistic.

That “the emancipation of labour is neither a local nor a national but a social problem, embracing all countries in which modern society exists, and depending for its solution on the concurrence, practical and theoretical, of the most advanced countries” (IWMA Rules) should be the guiding principle of the working class of the world.

Socialists are not opposed to freedom. An individual has the right to think, feel, desire, speak and act in their own ways. That, in fact, is what the right of self-determination really means — the right to be oneself. The worldwide socialist commonwealth of self-governing parts in a single whole, freely established, will solve any national problem. We’re all part of a huge number of what could be called “cultures,” aren’t we, not just geographical?  Regional variations in culture will undoubtedly remain but to call this nationalism is not particularly accurate. There will be far more mixing of cultural habits once the fetters of nationalism that tie workers to their rulers have been broken. Socialists are the gravediggers of the nation.

There is but one world and we exist as one people in need of each other and with the same basic needs. There is far more that unites us than can ever divide us along cultural, nationalistic or religious lines. Together we can create a civilisation worth living in, but before that happens we need the conscious cooperation of ordinary people across the world, united in one common cause — to create a world in which each person has free access to the benefits of civilisation, a world without borders or frontiers, social classes or leaders and a world in which production is at last freed from the artificial constraints of profit and used for the good of humanity — socialism. There is in reality only one world. It is high time we reclaimed it. In socialism, there will be just a free world for free people. It could be like that now, so why not do something about it ? The world is ours for the taking. So why not take it?