Friday, January 24, 2020

Nationalism is a disease - Inocculate yourself

Karl Marx’s observation, “The ideas of every age are ever the ideas of its ruling class” finds no better expression than nationalism. 

Covert, subliminal and seemingly innocuous activities, commentary and assumptions emanating from innumerable capitalist sources form the hard core of nationalistic attitudes. Its terms, suffused in common parlance, seem harmless. Sports, secular and religious holidays, and beauty contests have become ritualistically embellished with the trappings of the nationalist ideology. We hear workers speak of national and world events in terms of “we” and “our” when referring to the actions of the government. The ruling-class prerogatives that such actions represent are promoted as democratically arrived at and debated referendums embraced by the entire working class!

We must not lose sight of the fact that nationalism is a tool of capitalist reaction used to thwart the social unrest within the working class away from tendencies aimed at their emancipation from wage slavery. It is sand in the eyes of the working class to blind them from the conditions of their exploitation and misery under capitalism.

As was noted by Marx and Engels:
“The proletarian is without property...modern industrial labor, modern subjection to capital, the same in England as in France, in America as in Germany, has stripped him of every trace of national character.”

Indeed, the products of modern industry are devoid of any national identity. BMWs are built by Kurds, Turks and Greeks and, only incidentally, by Germans. Apple electronic products are made by Chinese, and perhaps also by some Americans. Who knows? Who cares?

The modern working class is unique in history. It is the first revolutionary class to be totally devoid of the ownership of productive property, and the special discipline that a form of ownership inherently imposes upon a class. Unlike the lords and princes of feudal estates whose ownership of land and exploitation of serfs gave them a special unifying orientation and “world view”; unlike the capitalist class whose ownership of shops, factories, industry, and command over wage labor has imparted the capitalist “world view,” focus and ideology; the modern working class must derive its resolve, its unity, its discipline, purely from its special relationship to production.

There are only two nations-the exploiters and the exploited. With this vital message we call upon the world’s workers to heed the voice of the Socialist Party and join forces with us to bring about international solidarity, freedom and peace.


Commenting on the nationalist virus would not be complete without at least a brief reference to the seemingly endless conflict between Palestinian and Jewish nationalism in the Middle East.

Obviously there are Jews and Muslims who do unspeakable things, just as there are from literally every group on the planet.
 Every lie in the media tells about Muslims today was told about Jews in the 1930s.
The lie that Muslims are trying to take over the country? Told all the time about Jews. So pervasive was that belief that George Orwell dedicated an essay to debunking it.
The idea that Muslims are trying to impose their own laws here? That’s exactly what the Jews were accused of too.
Even the claims of paedophile grooming gangs and gangsters are a re-hash from previous centuries. Dickens’ character of Fagin was based on that anti-Semitic stereotype.
The Right-wing feign outrage at halal slaughter yet happy to permit the fox-hunts of the wealthy. Jewish and Muslim methods of butchery are pretty much identical. The traditions barely diverge at all, except for the languages in which prayers are said.
Intelligent people would now never fall for such smears against Jews. They’ve learned their history and they understand its lessons. So why do people repeat these lies about Muslims?
There exists a resurgent, racist far-right, who have been increasingly successful in vanquishing the discredited centrists of US and European politics.
They love Israel because it offers an alibi for their own white nationalism. In defending Israel from criticism – by characterising it as anti-semitism – they seek a moral gloss for their own white supremacy. If Jews are justified in laying claim to being the chosen people in Israel, why can’t whites make a similar claim for themselves elsewhere in the US and Europe? If Israel treats Palestinians not as natives but as immigrants trespassing on Jewish land, why can’t other white nationalists similarly characterise non-whites as infiltrators or usurpers of white land?

Zionism and Palestinian nationalism have deluded Jewish and Arab workers for almost a century. The questions of whose land or whose resources, whose history and whose legacy, are moot since everything is owned by the capitalists or the political state. It makes little difference if the capitalists or the state are Israeli or Palestinian, Muslim or Jewish. The conditions of these two working-class peoples remains tenuous, insecure, vulnerable to the same laws of ruination facing every worker throughout the world. For those who argue “Israel is a safe haven for the Jews,” consider that a good part of the world’s Jews have been assembled in a concentrated area that, in the light of nuclear proliferation, makes them more vulnerable than ever. Moreover, Israel’s puny resources make it totally dependent upon regional and international connections which Israeli capitalism assiduously cultivates. What if the Israeli working class exhibited similar internationalist class characteristics in which Jewish workers extended the band of fraternal friendship to the Palestinian working class? What if, in opposition to the extreme chauvinism of the Histadruth, the official Zionist trade union federation, Israeli unionists attempted to build a multinational union organisation?

As a matter of fact, such an organisation was set on foot in Palestine in 1930, remarkably one year after anti-Jewish pogroms had broken out in 1929. Under the co-sponsorship of the left-wing Poalei-Zion (Workers of Zion) and Brit Shalom (Covenant of Peace) organizations, there was launched the “Activat Hapooalim” or “Workers’ Brotherhood.” It had as its slogan, “From national separation to international unity! From estrangement of nations to fraternity of workers!” Hundreds of Jewish and Arab workers joined this organisation before the British imperialists put an end to it. It threatened to become a mass organisation conforming to working-class internationalist guidelines.

No comments: