What is nationalism?

What is nationalism?

Short description from an anarchist perspective of nationalism and its relation to statism and authoritarianism.

I. Origin of the nationalist doctrine.

"Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind." - Albert Einstein

Nationalism is a doctrine which appeared as a reaction against anarchist ideas in the nineteenth-century, along with statism. Both statism and nationalism have formed in time the core of authoritarian political orientations: Bolshevism, fascism, national socialism. These have led to the largest known catastrophes in human history.

The arguments of nationalist ideology represent the philosophical reflections inspired by German idealists and romantics. Hegel argued that the state is more superior than the individual and it is the highest form of consciousness. Such a consideration leads automatically to the condemnation of freedom, the denial of civil rights and the arbitrary and unjust rulings over peoples lives. Hegel's speculative philosophy inspired a century later, Nazi ideology.

II. Similarities between Bolshevism and fascism or between national-communism and National Socialism.

"Fascism is a religion. The twentieth century will be known in history as the century of Fascism" - Benito Mussolini

Therefore, nationalism can be identified as both common in fascist ideology and in the forms communism took over the twentieth century. Socialism in its roots was internationalist, but the statist form it took was bound towards nationalism and authoritarianism: thus the name of national-communism.

Both fascism and Bolshevism (or national-communism) constitute the opposite authoritarian direction of the democratic and libertarian movements. The revolutions realized under the fascists, Nazis or Bolsheviks inherently contain coercion, lack of pluralism, strengthening state authority and intolerance.

III. The inherent implications of nationalism.

"Nationalism is our form of incest, it is our idolatry, our insanity" - Erich Fromm

Strengthening state authority would be a first consequence. Nationalists base their arguments about strengthening state authority on the identification of enemies from within (Jews, homosexuals, Roma, national minorities, etc.) Against these enemies nationalists want to strengthen the means of state coercion, ranging (as we find in the history of the twentieth century) even towards genocide. The enemy from within is never the same with the real oppressor, his identification diverts the citizens attention from the real oppressor (the state, ruling class,etc).

Another consequence would be the limitation of individual freedom. Since the masses can revolt against the injustice and abuse of the state, the nationalists will seek to have control over them. How will this control be exercised? Through the abolition of trade unions or other forms of free association, by strict control of education, using media and literary/artistic creations as means of propaganda to support the nationalist regime and by a mass culture characterized by a wooden language. Moreover - the ruling class of such a regime will seek to ensure not only that citizens are exposed but will maintain a state of terror in society, aimed to discourage any form of protest. In this regard the known criminal activity of the state police services, such as the German Gestapo, Soviet Cheka or the Iron Guard imposed terror in Romania in the period in which they held power. Thus, all authoritarian regimes in history have used an almost total restriction of rights and civil liberties, using the official police and the paramilitary groups, or bullies who were in the service of the party (the German SA, the legionary police in Romania). Identifying an external enemy is also a characteristic of nationalism. Instead of proper coexistence, cooperation and keeping the peace, the nationalists identify, in general among the neighboring countries, an enemy. Antipathies towards neighbors are cultivated, based on the criterion of an alleged superiority towards them. In this way national history is mystified to accommodate their chauvinistic arguments.

IV. Characteristics of fascist nationalism.

"Nationalism...is like cheap alcohol. First you get drunk, and then it blinds, then it kills you " - Dan Fried

The Romanian fascists (the Legionnaires or the neo-Legionnaires of the New Right) used or are using religion as a way of manipulating the masses.

Other features of fascism(not only Romanian)are:

- militarized organization. It aims to not allow free individual development but to equalize both those who serve in the fascist organization and the rest of the citizens;
- harsh discourses against minorities (Jews, Romani, Hungarians, homosexuals,etc.)
- patriotism. It is promoted to induce a sense of duty towards the state or the fascist organization and thus resulting in the willingness to commit atrocities. The idea of patriotism is placed above their own consciousness, so under the pretext of love of country, many end up committing heinous acts that would otherwise not be able to commit;
- restricting rights and civil liberties. This is necessary to overcome all opposition, because a nationalist regime is opposed to one in which pluralism and the divergence of ideas are accepted and tolerated;
- elitism. Restriction of power in the hands of a group seen as most competent to make decisions. A direct consequence of elitism is discrimination and moral corruption, and lack of democratic participation and public debate.

V. The relationship between people and education in terms of nationalism.

"Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons" - Bertrand Russell

In terms of relationships between people and education, the nationalists share a traditionalist vision. Initiatives such as the emancipation of women are not seen with good eyes by nationalists, even mistaking them with immorality. The woman in a society subjected to a nationalist regime will always be limited to the traditional role.

Throughout history, the nationalists have encouraged denouncement and animosity between people in order to form an amorphous mass of them. This is common to fascism and Bolshevism.
Education, in the nationalist vision should serve - not individual and personal development and the obtaining of autonomy but its indoctrination according to the rigid dogma of nationalism. Patriotism is encouraged to divert attention from real issues, promoting the cult of heroes in order to inoculate people with a false idea of national superiority.


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