Historical materialism is an essential feature not only of the Marxism of the traditional workers movement but also of Marxist-Leninist ideas. A critique of historical materialism explains some of the dreadful aspects of the practice of Marxism-Leninism in power (“actually existing socialism”) and thus is part of the answer to the question of how their project turned out to be such a failure from the perspective of the abolition of exploitation and domination.
When we declare our opposition to capital and nation, quite a few people would agree with the later part if we appended an ‘-ism’. Being a ‘nationalist’ is not a badge of honour these days, instead it is reserved for the types of the British National Party. A proper, democratic citizen does not consider himself a nationalist, instead the much more noble label ‘patriot’ is preferred. A patriot, so the popular idea, does not look down on other nations, but ‘instead’ and ‘only’ loves his own. This love expresses itself in many different ways:
Cheering for the English, Welsh, Scottish or British team in whatever sport is on telly goes without question. That ‘we’ win if they win is for some reason understood.1
“British jobs for British workers” – Gordon Brown shared appreciation for this with some of the Lindsey wildcat strikers. The disagreement a liberal would register with this is that these sentiments harm ‘our’ economy.
‘We’ are all in this financial crisis together and need to pull in our belt. In the interest of ‘our’ economy we will have to take a hit. Although, some of those ‘greedy bankers’ might have to give up some of their bonuses as well in times of crisis for the sake of ‘us’ all.
‘Our’ troops deserve ‘our’ support in Afghanistan, one might disagree with the government but this does not alienate oneself from the troops who risk their lives in order to serve ‘us’.
Some go even as far as asking how many immigrants ‘our’ culture and country can take.
While these statements deal with quite different topics, they all have two features in common. First, they are based on some common definition of who ‘we’ are, i.e. who belongs to this group and who does not: “Nation denotes a people who are believed to or deemed to share common customs, origins, and history” (Wikipedia). Some people also mention language. Second, these statements also imply some content that follows from this group membership (an entitlement for preferred treatment for instance, or a collective worth sacrificing for). The justifications of the groups in question and the demands made in the name of these groups is what we call nationalism.
7pm, Conway Hall (Club Room) 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL
Critique of nationalism is nothing unheard of on the Left and among Marxists and Anarchists. However, for many radical critics of the nation, it is merely a smoke screen that distracts the working class from its own interests. We argue that this theory does not capture the essence of nationalism and fails to explain why it is so appealing to so many people. On the contrary, we will argue that the process of people (as citizens) learning to appreciate the nation-state is based on their private interests (as bourgeois) - and therefore how the material basis of a capitalist society invites people to make the national cause their personal cause. All this does not diminish the fact that nationalism is an ideology of fundamental sacrifice and that the abolishment of capitalism must not be international but anti-national. The reality of the nation calls for its abolishment not its acceptance.
1 There is no biological determination for being homo-, bi- or heterosexual. All scientific attempts to prove the biological origins of homosexuality rely on finding statistical correlations between sexual preferences and physical attributes. Bigger earlobes, properties and condition of testicles, features of the brain, DNA sequences etc. cannot count as causalities, even if there were correlations within the group under investigation. That is because in order to prove a cohesion, one has to find not only a formal coherence of phenomena, but one with regards to contents.
The implications of the budget deficit and the public debt reach far beyond the state's ability to pay for its undertakings such as killing people in Afghanistan and maintaining the miserable existence of workers in the UK. The public debt weakens the national currency. Since many groceries etc. are imported from the eurozone, this drives up prices for many people. Even prices for goods produced in the UK rise; a development well known as inflation.
It just does not stop, they do it every two years. Athletes come together to compare their stamina, strength and skill. At the time of the writing of this article it happens in Vancouver and in two years time London will be the city the whole world will be watching ...on the telly. By and large this seems like a rather harmless event and most people would shake their heads in disbelief when they hear that this was a very political affair. We do it anyway1.
Recently passengers using the German public transport system have been advised about something quite astonishing: Big posters of the Kindernothilfe ('Help for children in need') point out that the reader has got a well hanging on his/her ear and that one rubs school books on one´s skin (Oxfam's appeal to donate two pounds a month to provide clean water for an African village is a British version of the same principle.)! The following attempts to show that this does not only appear to be strange, but that it is quite strange indeed.