Nationalism, Then and Now

As I continue to make my way through the archives of the Revolutions Podcast I have been struck by some similarities with our own day. Right now I am on the cusp of the great revolutions of 1848, which were brought about by social changes resulting from industrialization and a rising sense of nationalism among the peoples of Europe. I have written before on the rise of nationalism and how it is a preferable alternative to the encroaching globalism that is being pushed by our elite bureaucrats. Nationalism was a driving force for change in the mid-19th century and it continued to be a factor through World War II a hundred years later. But there are some distinctions that I have noticed with regards to the nationalism that we advocate today.

Before getting into those I would like to examine the difference between the nation and the state. 21st century Americans don’t often think about that distinction, taking it for granted that the United States is a single nation made up of many different ethnic groups. Our educational and media establishments push the idea that this has always been the case and always will, but students of history know that this is not necessarily true. A nation, from the Latin “natio” meaning birth, is a group of people united by a shared ethnic heritage. The English are a nation. The Arabs are a nation. The Afrikaners are a nation – though descended from the Dutch, they developed uniquely in South Africa over several centuries. On the other hand, a state is a government implemented by or over a nation. (Hence the term “nation-state”.) The United States is an empire of several nations, all coexisting within the same state. (Follow this link for a much more in-depth discussion of this phenomenon: http://www.colinwoodard.com/americannations)

Nationalism in America today means a recognition that we are a state composed of several nations, and that we might be better off if each nation governed itself rather than fighting to control each other. The same thing is happening in Europe as Britons, Italians, Hungarians, and others are wondering if subsuming their national sovereignty to technocrats in Brussels and Strasbourg is really the best thing to do. This sort of nationalism was in vogue following World War I as several great multi-national empires disintegrated. The premiere example of this was the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which had ruled over more than a dozen different nations including Germans, Hungarians, Slavs, Greeks, and more. After the war leaders such as US President Woodrow Wilson advocated for self-determination, that is, for ethnic nations to govern themselves. This led to the creation of several smaller states such as Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.

This sort of nationalism – a desire for self-rule – is distinct from many of the nationalist movements of the mid-19th century. Whereas American Nationalists desire to be free to rule ourselves without interference from globalist bureaucrats or DC busybodies, 19th-century nationalists often wanted unification with their ethnic brethren. Germany, for example, did not exist as a state until 1870. Prior to that, ethnic Germans lived in Prussia, Austria, and dozens of smaller kingdoms and states throughout what remained of the Holy Roman Empire. To a German of that era, nationalism meant erasing the borders of these states and forming a new nation-state of Germany. This was partially accomplished by Chancellor Otto van Bismarck of Prussia, but his beloved German Empire still excluded Austria, which was ruling a multi-national empire of its own and had no intention of joining another.

It was this style of nationalism that motivated history’s favorite bogeyman Adolf Hitler. He was born in Austria, and from a young age dreamed of the same unified Germany that motivated Bismarck a generation before. The victorious allies of World War I feared a unified Germany, and so did their best to divide ethnic Germans up between various states in central Europe. Hitler’s actions in the late 1930s were aimed at unifying those scattered groups under his Nazi flag. Hence the annexation of the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia, the Anschluss with Austria, and finally the invasion of Poland, which had been ceded East Prussia after World War I. This is how the concept of nationalism became associated with Hitler and the Nazis, and is how modern globalists slander and silence modern nationalists. When we say “We want to be left alone to rule ourselves” they hear “We just can’t wait to invade Poland.” We say we want self-determination, and they accuse us of advocating genocide.

19th-century nationalism still exists, of course. Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt had a Bismarckian vision of pan-Arab nationalism, hoping to create an Arab nation-state that could rival the US and USSR in power. He managed to unite Egypt and Syria under one government but even that small union did not survive his death. In America today, some racial nationalists like Richard Spencer desire some sort of pan-European nation-state made up of white people without regard to ethnic heritage. His views are often used to tar those of us who advocate the other kind of nationalism. Globalist media either does not care about the distinction, or they simply do not have the vocabulary to articulate the difference.

Perhaps a new word is needed for our brand of nationalism that is opposed to globalism and empire, but I cannot think of any so succinct and self-explanatory. We are in favor of nations as distinct political entities. We are not seeking to dominate other nations, as Hitler did. On the contrary, we are more like the Slavs who sought independence from the Hapsburg Empire or the Greeks who fought for their independence from the Ottomans. Our globalist masters share neither our values nor our concerns. They believe that people are interchangeable cogs in their GDP machine. We reject this, and we reject the globalist push to erase national borders. We reject globalist propaganda that says we are all simply citizens of the world without a unique heritage. When they praise diversity, what they are really advocating is the sublimation of our ethnic distinctions. We reject the false equivalence that says modern Nationalists are all Nazis and that nationalism leads to genocide. We recognize that different nations have unique traditions and histories that are worth preserving. We recognize that people are ruled best when they rule themselves. We do not desire for the the English to rule over Africa, Germany to rule over the Slavs, or Japan to rule over the Chinese. We believe in the right of self-determination for all.

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