In the 21st century, nationalism is now a dirty word in Britain. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first reason is that nationalism is most often equated to racist, fascist regimes similar to the Hitler regime and the second is that nationalism is the ideology that socialism needs to defeat to achieve its objective.
One of the left's most stringent beliefs is that the world would be a better place if we all adopted socialist principles. This belief is given as the reason why the Soviet Union failed - that it would have succeeded if only we'd all become part of the Soviet Empire - and this objective is what lies behind progressive liberalism. The term "progressive" often conjures up the image of "making things better" and this is a deliberate use of the term - to imply that "progressive" doctrines are making things better coupled with "liberalism" to imply freedom. But the real ethos behind the term "progressive" in the political context is the other meaning of the word - moving towards a goal - and the "liberalism" sought by progressive liberals is the freedom to usurp nations in their determination to reach that goal - and that goal is a single world government. For the purpose of this post, I am calling that goal "internationalism".
In the early days of left wing ideology, nationalism was supported as a step towards the goal of internationalism even though, as Marx himself noted, capitalism was an integral part of creating a nation state. It was the Marxist view that nationalism was a step towards the ultimate goal of internationalism and the socialist utopia. Nationalism was considered by Marx to be a means to an end and not, as Renan believed, an end itself.
Once nationalism had become established, in the west at least, it was then and only then that the left turned against it. The baton had, by now, passed from Marx to Lenin and it was he who said "The aim of socialism is not only to abolish the present division of mankind into small states and all national isolation; not only to bring the nations closer to each other, but also to merge them".
So the goal of socialism is to create a situation where nations are "merged". To do this, the left have developed techniques to create "interdependency" and have used various instruments to achieve this. One of the more obvious instruments is the NGO (non-governmental organisation) which are used to create causes which require international cooperation. Some of these causes are real - because the NGOs were, at first, acting independently (though driven by the same ideology) - but recent times have seen certain causes deliberately engineered to create interdependency – anthropogenic global warming and environmental concerns being the most obvious – and have resulted in close collaboration between NGOs and supranational organisations.
At the start of this post, I mentioned that there were a couple of reasons why nationalism is considered a dirty word in Britain today. It is important to understand that it is the left that dominates political thought, the media and has institutional control in Britain today.
Looking at the first of those reasons, there is no doubt that the Nazi regime was utterly abhorrent, but it is wrong to attribute the disgusting objectives of that regime purely with nationalism. Nazi Germany was only superficially nationalist as it was also strongly imperialist with a strong desire to conquer and dominate other nations and, perhaps most overlooked today, it was internationalist with a stated objective of "uniting Europe" in a powerful political and economic union. Sound familiar?
More than this, though, the Nazi regime was socialist (statist) with strong central government obsessed with controlling the people to the nth degree. Remarkably, the harm perpetrated in the 20th century by a couple of rogue "nationalist" states has been scrutinised obsessively and yet with very little consideration given to the other aspect of their cause - socialism. The fact is that the common link between most of the world's most barbaric regimes and their collective atrocities in the 20th century has been socialism and not nationalism. Even so, it is wrong to suppose that all socialist regimes are barbaric and brutal just because many were, just as it is wrong to suppose all nationalist regimes are extreme and racist just because one or two were.
At the outbreak of WW2 virtually every major nation was nationalist - but in the conventional sense. Britain was strongly nationalist as was France, Holland, Belgium, Spain, Ireland, Japan, Australia, Italy and, of course, the USA. The USA remains nationalist today - nationalist in the original sense of the word. Nationalism was the predominant ideology of the early 20th century because, as Renan noted, the nation state was the culmination of the endeavours and struggles of a people - and by the beginning of the 20th century most western nations had reached their culmination. Their were some minor border disputes - as there are today - but on the whole the western nations had become pretty settled
The second reason why nationalism is considered a dirty word is the hypocritical way that nationalism is portrayed in the MSM. Whenever it suits the MSM, nationalism is a cause to be supported - for Bosnians, Kosovans, Palestinians and many others – but it will be “nationalism” under the guise of "freedom" or "self-determination" It won’t be referred to as nationalism - but where it threatens the goal of internationalism is it is a cause to be pilloried.
In 1849, Karl Marx wrote in the New Rhenish Gazette that "England will only be overthrown by a world war, which is the only thing that could provide the Chartists, the organised party of the English workers, with the conditions for a successful rising against their gigantic oppressors."
Ignoring the rhetoric, Marx was proved largely correct. Although Britain was apparently successful in defeating it's enemy in the Second World War, the actual outcome for Britain was the victory for socialism that Marx envisaged and Britain became a socialist nation and has remained so ever since. Unfortunately for Marx, his belief that the defeat of England to socialism would be the final step towards socialist world domination was stymied by the emergence of the USA as an even more potent nationalist political force.
The nation state is not just the culmination of a peoples struggle and endeavours as claimed by Renan. It is also the bulwark that lies between individual liberty and freedom and an unelected ruling class obtaining global hegemony. Of course, there are many out there who still believe that a global political ruling class is a goal worth pursuing, but one only has to look at the UN or even the EU to see where that would lead. Corrupt, bureaucratic, undemocratic and sclerotic. To see where that would ultimately take us to, one only has to look at the defunct Soviet Union - the last great internationalist paradise.