The capitalist class flood the media with illusory phrases such as “national interest,” “national security,” and “national unity” in regards to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
We live in the epoch of the possible proletarian revolution – the rise of world socialism and its challenge to world capitalism. There is only one class capable of overthrowing capitalism: the working class. There is no ideology above the class struggle; there is no longer an ideology such as nationalism that can serve the interests of both the bourgeoisie and the working class.
The World Socialist Parties are frequently accused of failing to distinguish between oppressed and oppressor nations, between the nationalism of the oppressor which is reactionary and the nationalism of the oppressed which is progressive. Nationalism preaches to the people that they have more in common with one another than they do with the people of other nations, regardless of class. Nationalism helps bind the working class to the bourgeoisie of its nation. Nationalism ties the working people to their own bourgeoisie while socialism unites the working people of the world against the capitalist class. Those in the World Socialist Movement argue that the destiny of working people must not be tied to the bourgeoisie, neither to its own existing national bourgeoisie nor to an aspiring ruling class. The working class must determine its own destiny and to the extent that the working class holds nationalist ideas, it is allowing its destiny to be determined by the capitalist class. Unity must be established between the exploited regardless of nationality.
Socialism can not be accomplished under nationalist ideas engendered by capitalism. Socialism must be international or it cannot exist at all. The world is irresistibly being driven to internationalism and interdependence. Nation-states cannot resolve such global problems as climate change, depletion of energy and natural resources or deal with the effects of pollution of all kinds on land and ocean, the ecological disasters facing fauna and flora. In the end, it is nationalism and the nation-state will have to disappear, not socialism. The only race is the human race.
Almost every country is more powerful than another and tries to dominate it. Even the small countries harbour designs on parts of their neighbours' territory. The tendency of nations to dominate others leads to the view that they are all imperialist, which renders the term anti-imperialism meaningless. Nationalist slogans distract the workers from their own specific class aspirations. They divide the workers of different nations, they provoke the mutual hostility of the workers and thus destroy the necessary unity of the proletariat. They line up the workers and the ruling class shoulder to shoulder in one front, thus obscuring the workers' class consciousness and transforming the workers into the executors of plutocrats’ policy. National struggles prevent the assertion of social questions and proletarian interests in politics and condemn this important means of struggle of the proletariat to sterility. All of this is encouraged by ‘socialist’ propaganda when the left nationalists present nationalist slogans to the workers as valid, regardless of the very goal of their struggle, and when it utilises the language of nationalism in the description of our socialist goals. It is indispensable that class feeling and class struggle should be deeply rooted in the minds of the workers; then they will progressively become aware of the unreality and futility of nationalist slogans for their class.
Put your class first, not your country. The world is a “global village”. Each region may have its own particular and distinct customs, but they are part of a greater system of society that is worldwide. This system of society is capitalism and every region and nation operates within this system of society in one way or another. Borders are just artificial barriers that belong to a past and present that is best left behind.
Our emphasis is upon the class struggle, to awaken class feelings in order to turn attention away from national problems. Our anti-patriotism campaigns could appear to be useless against the power of nationalist ideology and it could seem that nationalism is making the most progress among the workers. But insofar as nationalist movements are in practice capable only of following in the wake of the ruling class and thus of arousing the feeling of the working class against them, they will progressively lose their power. Capitalist conceptions will continue to dominate their minds as before. And when the decisive moment arrives when they must choose between national and class interests, the internal weakness of this workers' movement will become apparent, as is currently taking place in the separatist crisis. How can we rally the masses under our banner if we allow them to flock to the banner of nationalism? Our principle of class struggle can only prevail when the other principles that manipulate and divide men are rendered ineffective; but if our propaganda enhances the reputation of those other principles, we subvert our own cause.
Even though we do not get involved in the slogans and rhetoric of nationalism and continue to use the principles of socialism, this does not mean that we are pursuing a kind of ostrich policy in regard to national questions. These are, after all, real questions that are of concern to men and women and which they want to solve. We are trying to get the workers to become conscious of the fact that, for them, it is not these questions, but exploitation and the class struggle, which are the most vital and important questions which cast their shadows over everything. But this does not make the other questions disappear and we have to show that we are capable of resolving them.
To all the nationalist arguments, our response will be if they speak of the glory of the nation, we shall speak of the solidarity and unity of the workers of the world.