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Democrat April-May 2000 (Number 43)

The National Question

A contribution to the discussion by Arthur Smelt - Nationalism

From time immemorial, mankind has seen the need to band together in groups in order to survive.

The herd became superseded by the clan, clans merged into tribes and tribes become nations leading to the nation state that we know today. There are of course many parts of the world where tribal life still exists.

Thousands, or possibly hundreds of thousands of years of clan and tribal existence, have left mankind with a powerful innate instinct to group together, the imperatives of which have become more complex with time.

A nation can be described as a community of people of common descent, history, language, common territory, a community of economic life and certain peculiarities of social psychology as expressed in the specific features of the culture, which distinguishes it from other peoples.

There are however, many instances where a nation state may comprise a number of different nationalities who may well retain their individuality. Switzerland, for example is a country where German, French, Italian and Romansh languages are spoken. Within the nation state, there are also divisions as to class, religion, provincialism, customs and as exists in a number of countries, the North/South divide.

Nationality is the status of belonging to a particular nation, whereas nationalism is a patriotic feeling of national independence. By invoking patriotic fervour, nation states have successfully defended themselves from oppression and external attack.

Nationalism is often mistakenly interpreted as a form of irrational adulation, that everything which is "ours" is wonderful. The idea, covert or overt, of self superiority and the inferiority of other peoples or nationalities, is undesirable and dangerous. This is chauvinism or racism. Such attitudes can serve to obscure shortcomings and failures within the nation and can hinder the establishment of healthy ties and relationships with other peoples.

Protection of our nation state however, is not to promote chauvinism or the worst kind of reactionary attitudes, but to ensure that people of the nation are not deprived of the right to decide their own affairs, the right to self determination in the light of what is best for the nation as a whole. The right to elect and dismiss governments and not to have laws, rules and regulations imposed by a far away bureaucracy out of touch with the nuances which surround us. In the name of democracy we insist on the right to determine the course of economic policy appropriate to the people of this country. We should have the right to intervene as in the case of Rover and Longbridge, to save tens of thousands of jobs and avoid the disastrous consequences which follows large scale unemployment.

In defending the nation state, we are pitting ourselves against a bureaucratic dictatorship which calls itself European Union, the proponents of which try to present it as democratic, humanitarian and working for the benefit of everyone. They extol cosmopolitanism as progress, as a way of abandoning national differences. In reality cosmopolitanism serves big power aims to impose on individual nations worldwide, its domination, its commercial interests, its language and way of life.

By decrying the nation state as out of date and denigrating those who defend it, the architects of EU aim, by hook or by crook, to entrap the people of Europe inextricably into a union which will benefit powerful corporatism, transnationalism and globalism. The laws being enacted without our knowledge or consultation, are in effect a legal straightjacket which in the final analysis will be used to discourage dissent. You have been warned.