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What is Patriotism? An Analysis

A meeting of the leaders of far right parties this weekend proclaimed “the return of nation-states” and “patriotism as the policy of the future” (BBC -Link)  In reply we republish the classic socialist analysis of patriotism that appeared in the December 1915 Socialist Standard that “The only universal bond of nationality or patriotism that exists for us to-day is, then, that of subjection to a single government. Patriotism in the worker is pride in the common yoke imposed by a politically unified ruling class.”

The Johnsonian Definition and Others

 The answer depends largely upon the point of view. From one standpoint patriotism appears as the actual religion of the modern State. From another it is the decadence and perversion of a noble and deep-rooted impulse of loyalty to the social unit, acquired by mankind during the earliest stages of social life. From yet another viewpoint, that of capitalist interests, patriotism is not…

Class Struggle and the Nation

In the Communist Manifesto we read the following:
"Though not in substance, yet in form, the struggle of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie is at first a national struggle. The proletariat of each country must, of course, first of all settle matters with its own bourgeoisie."

 This passage only means that the  British workers, for instance,  cannot wage the class struggle against the French capitalists, nor can the French workers wage the class struggle against the British  employers, but that the British  bourgeoisie and the power of the UK State can be attacked and defeated only by the British working class.

The nation naturally arises as a community of interests of the bourgeois classes. But it is the State which is the real solid organisation of the capitalist class for protecting its interests. The State protects property, it takes care of administration, puts the rmed forces in order, collects the taxes and keeps the masses under control. The "nations", or,…

We

The text of the Socialist Party's identity leaflet.

Somebody once remarked that the most important word in the  political vocabulary is “we”. It was a shrewd observation, since to get someone to use “we” in relation to some group of people is to  get them to identify their interest as the interest of that group.

In the battle for “we”, socialists are trying to get all those excluded from ownership and control of means of production to recognise the fact of their common interest as one  class within capitalist society, to regard themselves as “we” and to use “our” and “us”  only in relation to that class and its interests.

Those who control one or other of the two hundred or so armed states into which the  world is divided have to try to prevent this practice emerging, and deliberately seek to  undermine it, in the interest of the other main class in capitalist society – those who do  own and control means of production and who derive a privileged income from this. They seek to con…

What Independence?

“Words and illusions vanish; facts remain.”

The capitalists are good mystifiers: they want to have us believe that their interests as an oppressing class are the interests of all classes. Since the time of Marx, class conscious workers have combated the capitalists’ chauvinist appeals with appeals for the international solidarity of the working class. They have fought the attempts of the bourgeoisie to enlist the workers in their nationalist strivings with appeals for the joint class struggle of the workers of all countries against world capitalism. In The Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels insisted that ‘the working men have no country’. They argued that the nation state was alien to the interests of the proletariat and that in order to advance their interests workers must ‘settle matters’ with the bourgeoisie of each state, that workers must challenge the power of their ‘own’ capitalist class directly.  It implied uncompromising opposition to the local state and its dealings with …

The nationalist follows the capitalist flag

The Socialist Party fights nationalism by rejecting it and exposing it's racism and xenophobia. Nationalism is a fraud whereby would-be rulers “self-determine" to impose their vision of nationhood on an entire community. Nationalism is an ideology of separation, of hatred for the “other” and the “outsider” It has been a creed of violence and war and oppression. And it has absolutely nothing to offer the world’s oppressed. What is necessary is to develop human solidarity, the instincts of mutual aid that enable us to survive and which have fueled all human progress.  Patriotism, in its essence, is a readiness to die and to kill for an abstraction, for what is largely a figment of the imagination. Nations are in no sense natural communities; they stand in stark opposition to  the principles of mutual aid and solidarity upon which our very survival depends. This community of interests and of relationship or neighbourly feeling, does not necessarily or exclusively apply to natio…

Same Poison, Different Bottle

We have a regrettable tendency to see what we want to see and rationalise what we already want to do. Scottish nationalists attribute Scotland’s ills to the constitutional link to England. Both Left and Right see independence as a panacea. Those on the Scottish Left who have added their voices to the campaign for independence have succumbed to ideas incompatible with the socialist transformation of society.

The Left has long subscribed to the principle of “self-determination” that small nations ought by right – assuming the support of its people – be given the right to cede from larger states and claim autonomy over their affairs but over the decades socialists have seen the divisive character of such nationalist campaigns. No serious socialist can be a committed to nationalism.

 “Nationalism requires too much belief in what is patently not so." the historian Eric Hobsbawm has said.

Nationalism is the ideology of always putting one's nation first, often at the expense of oth…

the Independence Referendum

Nationalism and the referendum increasingly dominates Scottish politics and its newspapers. We now have the date of the referendum which will be the 18th September 2014when Scot voters will be asked the Yes/No question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"


By re-drawing the map the nationalists promise economic prosperity. The unionists prophesise economic catastrophe. Socialists say experience shows that either way, the working class will lose out.

Independence is nothing but a dead-end. It doesn’t bring us closer to socialism, only farther away from it. Separation is no stepping stone to socialism, despite what phony “Marxist” theoreticians may say. It maintains and reinforces the divisions within the working class – a real boon for the capitalist class which do their best to keep us divided. The people on the Left who are pushing this option fall right into class collaboration. Under capitalism there is necessarily a division between rich and poor, a ruling class…

Only the Red Flag

A country’s flag is a commercial asset, said the proponent of the British Empire, Cecil Rhodes. It represents the economic and political interests of the capitalist class. The ruling class praise love of country in order to beguile the proletariat, so that it should sacrifice itself in defence of the wealth hich the ruling-class has stolen from them. Capitalists are always nationalist, since they must exploit the proletariat of its own nation, but at a certain times of the economic development it must assume a certain international character, in order that the surplus of goods which it has captured from the wage-earners may be sold.

The rising capitalist class of the eighteenth century was only able to overthrow the aristocracy and seize power by proclaiming the brotherhood of nations and by calling on them to make common cause against tyrants; to be a patriot meant for bourgeois revolutionists not to love France, Germany or Italy, but to love the revolution. When the revolution was …

Real Freedom

Some of our critics never miss an opportunity to sneer at the Socialist Party with the accusation of how we can claim to be socialist when we do not support the cause of "freedom" for the Scots. Our credentials for being a Marxist party are questioned as they point out that Marx himself supported nationalist causes.

 Marxism is a method of assessing what, at any particular time, is in the best interest of the working class and should be done to hasten the establishment of socialism. The  victory of capitalist production was a progressive aspiration in Marx's day. With the triumph of capitalism came political democracy, the numerical growth of the working class and its concentration in large enterprises, trade unions, workers' parties. In other words, the triumph of capitalism opened the way for the struggle for socialism. National movements were to be supported as a means to an end, NOT as an end in themselves. The fact that Marx supported campaigns (but also oppose…

Independence - A bosses buy-out

Of the top 100 economies on the planet, 40 are corporations, the wealth of certain corporations dwarf the economies of some nations. Another little known fact is that less than 1% of corporations, mainly banks, control the shares of more than 40% of all global businesses. When it comes to who is big in this corporate world it is oil and gas, 7 out of the top 10 companies in the world are oil and gas.

The Scottish economy is controlled by the same hedge funds the same banks and the same multinational giants as the rest of Britain. Edinburgh is the UK's second financial centre after London and Europe's fourth by equity assets. Glasgow also has the third highest GDP Per capita of any city in the UK (after London and Edinburgh) Glasgow is now one of Europe's sixteen largest financial centres. The Financial Services Sector provides employment for 1 in 10 of the population and the Scottish economy is hugely dependant on it.  Scotland' GDP is £124 billion (excluding revenues…

MacCapitalism

In a mock independence referendum students at Glasgow university voted "No" by a margin of nearly two to one. Just 967 votes (37 per cent) were cast in favour of independence, with 1,614 (62 per cent) against. There were eight spoiled ballots. In the actual debate, according to an Al-jazeera report, nationalists chanted “in-de-pendence”, while some at the back of the hall responded with cries of “the workers have no country.”

 The Socialist Party of Great Britain seeks to abolish all nation states and we stand firmly against the proponents of nationalism in Scotland and in other parts of the world. We make a call for workers of the world to unite. We do not think this demand is some utopian hope. Capitalism itself is leading the world in that direction of  breaking down national barriers with globalisation driving workers towards a potential of integrate and fuse.  Will socialism be achieved as the product of a big bang, a simultaneous, worldwide revolt of the working class…

Patriotism? No thanks!

“Yet some can be patriotic who have no self-respect, and sacrifice the greater to the less. They love the soil which makes their graves, but have no sympathy with the spirit which may still animate their clay. Patriotism is a maggot in their heads.” - Henry David Thoreau

Nation-states have a logic of their own. So insidiously is the logic purveyed through the state’s institutions that it becomes common-sense. Like religion, it encourages devotion to a vague and ill-defined abstraction. Even in its most innocuous forms, patriotism is irrational. The World Cup and the Olympics are known for their unabashed displays of nationalism. Flags, patriotic chants, and cross-national rivalries are the order of the day. Football is the quintessential illustration of sociologist Benedict Anderson’s argument that nationhood itself represents an “imagined community”  –  an affinity between strangers who will never meet or hear of one another, but are bound by a mental image of shared history, often m…

class loyalty

The media and the political mouthpieces of capitalist ideology have done their job well. Scottish workers are being caught up by the "patriotism" of the referendum debate - either for independence or for the union. Capitalism has reached a point at which it threatens all humanity and not just the divided national, religious, racial (or other falsely labeled) identity groups.

The patriotism of the capitalist class is better called national chauvinism. This "patriotism" equates loyalty to the nation with loyalty to the capitalist-controlled government and its policies. It seeks the acquiescence of workers in the crimes, aggressions, depredations and depravities of the ruling class and its agents.  It is intended to trick workers into sanctioning whatever is deemed in the interests of the business class. It's nationalistic baloney asserts that our interests as a “nation” are totally bound up with, if not identical , to those of our exploiters. But as we know, in c…

Fainthearts Not Bravehearts

“Let's not be English, French or German anymore. Let's be European. No not European, let's be men. Let's be Humanity. All we have to do is get rid of one last piece of egocentricity - patriotism." Victor Hugo

The curse of nationalism is not new. There is always a load of myth and romanticism surrounding nationalism. Nationalism is an idea that varies in time and places which has as it central core the belief that a national population group is the most important political category, and political rights are primarily given to individuals as members of nations. Many of the areas within the UK have arguably been "nations" at some time in the past. Nationalism, for the Left is garbed in “national liberation” clothes to make it sound even more revolutionary. Nations, borders and flags indeed give people identity but that national identity is made up for reasons of power and controlling of the population that the nation state has inside its borders. For natio…