Tuesday, August 18, 2015

New Zealand's Flag is the Red Flag

At a time where New Zealanders are discussing and in the process of deciding a new flag for the nation, perhaps the son-in-law of Karl Marx, Paul Lafargue can place the issue into perspective:

“The country’s flag is a commercial asset, said the celebrated patriot, Cecil Rhodes, but this commercial asset only represents the economic and political interests of the capitalist classes. The middle-class only beats the big drum in praise of love of country and honour of the flag in order to beguile the proletariat, so that it should sacrifice itself in defence of the riches which the middle-class has stolen…
… If the proletariat of a nation in order to throw off the yoke of the governing class must be organised nationally and rise nationally, yet it will be unable to attain its final emancipation until there has been effected an international agreement with the proletariats of other capitalist nations. Any social revolution must necessarily be international…
…The revolutionary proletariat will have neither to keep its ancient nationalities nor to constitute new ones, because by becoming free it will abolish classes: the world will be its fatherland.”

A contemporary of Lafargue, Gustave Herve, explained at his trial: 

“Flags are but emblems; and are worth something only in so far as they represent something worthy. What, after all, is one’s native country? Or what, in actual fact, do all these “fatherlands” consist?
Allow me, if you please, gentlemen of the jury, to draw for you a mental picture, to speak if I may a kind of parable, which will the better help you to understand what our feelings are. One’s native land, every country, no matter under what form of government it be masked, is made up of two groups of men, consisting on the one hand of a quite small number, on the other including the immense majority of people.
The first of these is seated round a well-furnished table where nothing is lacking. At the head of this table, in the seat of honour, you find the great financiers; some, perhaps, are Jews, others Catholics or Protestants, or it may be even Freethinkers. It is possible for them to be in entire disagreement on questions of religion or philosophy, and even on questions affecting their individual interests, but as against the mass of the people, they are as thick as thieves.
Seated on their right and left hand you have Cabinet Ministers, high officials of every department of civil, religious or military administration. Paymasters-general with salaries of 30, 40, and 60 thousand francs a year: a little further off fully fledged barristers, by their unanimity glorious interpreters of the “Universal Conscience” - the whole Bench and Bar, not forgetting their precious assistants, the solicitors, notaries and ushers.
Large shareholders in mines, factories, railways, steamship companies and big shops: manorial magnates, big landed proprietors; all are seated at this table: everybody that has two-pence is there too, but at the foot. These latter are the small fry, who have for that matter, all the prejudices, all the conservative instincts, of the big capitalists.
Ah! gentlemen of the jury, I wish that you may be of the number of these privileged ones seated around this festive board. Verily, you are not so badly off there, after all, you know. In return for a little work - when you have any work at all - work I say which is oft-times intelligent, occasionally agreeable, which always leaves you with some spare time for yourself, directive work that flatters your pride and vanity - in return for this you can enjoy a life of plenty, made pleasant by every comfort, every luxury that the progress of science has placed at the service of Fortune’s favoured ones.
Far from the table I see a great herd of beasts of burden doomed to repulsive, squalid, dangerous, unintelligent toil, without truce or rest, and above all without security for the morrow; petty shop-keepers chained to their counters, Sundays and holidays, more and more crushed by the competition of the big shops; small industrial employers, ground down by the competition of the big factory owners; small peasant proprietors, brutalised by a sixteen to eighteen hours day, who only toil that they may enrich the big middlemen: millers, wine factors, sugar refiners. At a still greater distance from this table of the happy ones of this world, I see the crowd of proletarians who have but their strength of arm or their brain for sole fortune, factory hands, men and women exposed to long periods of unemployment, petty officials and shop-assistants forced to bow and scrape and hide their opinions, domestic servants of both sexes, labouring flesh, cannon fodder, matériel of “pleasure”.
There are your beloved countries! Your country to-day is made up of this monstrous social inequality, this horrible exploitation of man by man.
When the proletarians doff their hats to the flag as it passes by, it is to this that they uncover. They in effect say: “What a splendid country is ours! How free, kind and just is she!” ”
The World Socialist Party (New Zealand) has always argued that this is not 'your' country, it belongs to the rich elite. To think otherwise is naive in the extreme.  Patriotism has run through politics like a malignant tumour. Enormous damage has been done, throughout the world, by the notion that one country and its people are superior to the others. A truly progressive policy – socialism – recognises the essential unity of the human race and the urgent need to celebrate it by building society on that basis. We refuse to lower the socialist red flag to march with the enemies of socialism. All over the world, in every capitalist state, there are masses of people who depend for their living on the sale of their labour power. Internationally, these people have a common interest which is opposed to that of their ruling classes. Instead of vying with one another in the competitive world of capitalism, they should be extending the hand of fraternal greeting and unity. The callous brutality, the greed and hypocrisy of the ruling class of all nations could hardly ever be clearer than it is to-day. The workers have only to discard the blinkers of patriotism to see this plainly. But to ensure that this insight is not achieved it is necessary to indoctrinate the population with patriotism and a willingness to sacrifice for 'their’ country. This process begins early in life in the schools. It is here that children are first taught blind loyalty to the state under whose rule they happen to have been born. They learn the words of its national anthem and to idolise its national flag. Enough!

WSP(NZ) website:

E-mail: wsp.nz@worldsocialism.org

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