Already during his lifetime public opinion in the West had been in agreement about the deceased Libyan dictator: “insane” was the most frequent description of him. However, putting aside fashion faux-pas and focussing instead on his political career, the former ruler shows up in a rather different light. So who was Muammar Gaddafi?
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.
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.
Any reasonable analysis of capitalist societies must include a critique of private property in the means of production. Most Marxists would agree. But it takes two to tango. The capitalist mode of production cannot be completely self-sufficient. It's ridden with prerequisites, and it is the state that introduces and maintains these prerequisites. Contracts can serve as examples: Any contract that is executed depends on the assumption that the contractors will stick to its specific terms and conditions. The state imposes sanctions for breach of contract. If it wasn't for these sanctions, contracts would not be counted as the near-guarantee that they are taken for. This is a fundamental example of how any economic activity depends on the state, mostly in cases of non-compliance.