Nationalism, Patriotism, National Pride, and National Liberation

It is time to begin to think about nationalism. Nationalism patterns have played a role in certain recent attempts to disrupt the Community. They will also require handling for any future rational society to come into being. To begin to think about this requires outlining a little knowledge that you may have bumped into but that in general has been concealed from us by the educations that the society has furnished us. The society has tried to give the impression that the existing nations and the nationalism going on now is the eternal work of God that has never changed and never will. In truth they are very recent, transitory phenomena that are already headed for the junk pile.

Humans lived in families as they evolved. When they became our present species, the best guesses are that they lived in very small groups, possibly extended families. Their struggle was to stay alive against the pressures of the environment, to find food, to find shelter, to not get bit by too many mosquitoes, to provide enough nurture for some of their children to survive. This has been our condition until very recently

There’s a book called Plagues and Peoples, by William McNeill, that I heartily recommend to all of you, that looks at the relationship between human beings and their parasites and predators. He speaks of human oppressors as “macro-predators.” He lays out a view of human history in which our vulnerability to disease has been the main factor that determined the course of development. He concludes that Cortez conquered Mexico because he brought smallpox with him. The smallpox decimated the population, and its effects reinforced certain “doom” concepts in the local religion which made the local people give up.

In many other cases, history was determined by our vulnerability to diseases, parasites, or “micro-predators.” It’s only very recently that public health measures have been effective. Public health scientists are still on the margin of being effective, as witness the AIDS situation, for example. AIDS victims are doubling every year, and unless some breakthrough not yet known, not yet in sight, is made, we can easily lose at least half the population of the world in a very short period, because nothing really sensible is being done about a quarantine and limitation of the spread of the retro-virus.

People who work in this field are very concerned. Scientific American published a whole issue authored by the top researchers in this field. They kept warning that with a population of five billion in the world, the AIDS virus is certainly only the first of many similar, doomsday-like, diseases. With this much of a substrate for viruses and other micro-organisms to proliferate and evolve on, the evolution of equally dangerous diseases, one after the other, is part of our future. We can become smarter faster than these diseases can evolve, or we can behave like we’re doing now, which is devoting only a tiny, tiny part of the necessary resource to keeping AIDS from wiping us out.

In our pre-history, we lived in extended families, and sometimes smaller groups, because we were always under threat. We were food gatherers, hunters of a sort, but most of our meat was carrion. We established our partnership with the dog family by being carrion-eaters together at the kills of the big cats where we and the dogs made friends. Our whole concern, and properly so, (I don’t think we had much choice at that time), was to handle and prey on the environment enough to stay alive. The competition for food and shelter and managing to survive the attacks of disease, was our whole preoccupation. In between times we might have played with the children once in a while, and we might have had some jokes. Under very favorable circumstances there may have been a great deal of gaiety, such as in the Polynesian cultures. Even there they had to invent agriculture first, before they had this freedom. They worked very hard to cultivate the root crops and catch the fish that gave them that freedom.

At some point it became possible for one person to pro­duce a surplus of food, more than that one person needed, on the average, to survive. Classically we talk about the invention of agriculture in the Middle East, of the establishment of animal husbandry when we began to herd animals instead of hunt them. We began to cultivate plants instead of gathering their seed in the wild. You probably all have heard me say that, just a hundred and fifty miles from where I live, the Makah tribe invented a class society based on catching and drying salmon. This was just about ninety years before the Europeans came, so the oral traditions still told about it. They found a way of one person producing more than enough food to support herself or himself, and so slave-taking was invented, and the first class societies began. War captives were turned into slaves instead of adoptees or food, and there was the beginning of a class society. Slaves became cultivators, slaves became herders, slaves became salmon catchers and dryers. Slave societies enforced themselves by an extremely crude and cruel installation of patterns, but justified themselves by the greater survival value of the organization that accompanied the oppression.

(I have fantasized that if a flying saucer had landed about the time we were deciding, “Yes, more of our children will live to maturity this way, I guess it is better to submit and be a slave,” they might have said, “Stop, stop, all you need is the organization, not the oppression, and we’ll show you how!” Then we might have skipped this whole miserable class society experience which has gone on for eight thousand years or so.)

Slavery lasted perhaps for about six thousand years, worked itself out with bigger and bigger groups of oppressors conquering other groups of oppressors, city-states conquering city-states, until finally in our history books we read about Rome competing with and conquering Carthage in the finals of the tournament. Rome then immediately became so top-heavy, required so many armed soldiers to keep the huge numbers of slaves in subjection on the big plantations, that it collapsed. Roman slave owners brought in barbarian chieftains to manage the armies that they were too effete to manage any more. It took about a generation until the barbarian chieftains figured out that they were doing the work, they might as well run the place. So slavery collapsed and was replaced by feudalism, in which a slightly different class relationship was set up. Most people had some few rights on the land, or some rights in their workshop, but their produce mainly belonged to the ruling baron. Feudal society was guided by the Church in Europe. It had different forms in other places.

These changes took place everywhere. Slave societies gave way to feudal societies in Africa, in Asia, in what’s now Latin America. In a certain sense there was a crude evolution.

We read that there were Hebrew slaves, that there were Nubian slaves in the slave societies of ancient Egypt. We hear of people whom we tend to relate to our modern nations. But there were no nations under slavery. The old cultural and language groups were a completely different concept. One’s identity with a particular language or a particular race or a particular original habitat was only an excuse for dividing you from and keeping you fighting the other slaves. It was not your “national” identity. Your identity was your ownership by the slave-owner. All slaves owned by the slave-owner had this in common, and that was about all they were allowed to have in common.

Feudalism succeeded slavery. There were no nations under feudalism. You did not have nationalism, you had baronism, overlordism. We still hear songs, “All bow down to Burgundy!” Burgundy was a local lord. Your loyalty, your identification was all to the baron or lord who commanded you. This was true in Africa, it was true in Asia, as well.

Only when feudalism collapsed (with a little help from the rising owning class) and was replaced by capitalism, did nations and nationalism emerge. This is not a phenomenon of longstanding. You may feel, “My race has always been Irish and we’ll be Irish forever, “ but you weren’t Irish in a national sense until the emergence of capitalist nations.

Some capitalist nations are just now emerging. For example, in Zimbabwe the emergence is not complete. There’s a pretend nation left over from British imperialism which is actually two nations vying for control. We’ve had many examples of people trying to make federated nations. In Belgium, for example, the French-speaking people and the Dutch-speaking people entered into a truce and temporarily became the most prosperous state in Europe. Now everything’s falling apart, because there was not a true na­tion.

The achievement of nationhood has rarely been completed. The oppression of minorities or the conquest of neighboring nations usually begins before the dominant nation has completed its own emergence.

Nationhood did not mean freedom for the people. It meant oppression by a ruling class of the same nationality as the oppressed, at best.

The English, for example, have never been free. They’ve been told they were free because they’ve successfully been used to oppress other people, but they’ve never been free. The Germans have never been free. The French came close to it, but many French peoples and languages have been oppressed by the dominant power in the Ile de France. I visited the north of France and started singing the Marseillaise. I meant to pay my respects to French patriotism, and the people in the north said, “Stop that song. Our faces have been ground into the dirt with that song.” The typical national state was not really a national state, it was a multi-national state filled with all kinds of internal oppressions, internal imperialisms. But a few of them came close.

In every nation or would-be nation, patriotism and nationalism have been created and installed. Boy, oh boy, has it been installed! In the United States schools, you salute the flag every morning. The little children stand up and say, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all (white folks).” (laughter) Black youngsters catch on to the fraud and say it that way, “for all white folks.”

As a child my little heart beat high on the Fourth of July. Every fire­cracker that went off, supported my pride in being AN AMERICAN!! Not even a United Stateser. An American! What right did the people of Mexico and Canada have to claim the title of American? “We’re the top dog and don’t you forget it!” And since we were so damn oppressed and beat down in every other phase of our lives, just to be allowed to feel proud of something was an irresistible snare. As far as I know, everybody in every country gets tears about being patriotic. Right? Do any of you remember being cynical about patriotism when you were four? (voice: Yeah! I was.) Good for you!

Nationalism and patriotism are deliberately installed, carefully con­trived, and endlessly perpetuated for a very specific reason. A very specific reason. In these present so­ci­e­ties (which I usually remember to call “owning-class/ working-class,” so as not to push buttons, but which everyone else calls capitalist) the whole point of the society is the robbery of the majority of the popula­tion by the minority. Similar robbery was the whole point of the slave society. Similar robbery was the whole point of the baron/serf societies during feudalism. This is the whole point of this society. It is not “to provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare,” and all the other good things mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. It is to permit a minority to “legally” rob the majority, under the myth that this would make the minority happy.

Now, as owning-class people have come into RC and been listened to well enough that they can really tell what their lives are like, it’s very plain it has never made any of them happy. It has made them miserable in a different way than the rest of us, which they were told repeatedly was good. Once they got done having to take the ballet lessons and go to boarding school, they did have all the chocolate that they wanted to eat and could travel. No human happiness, though.

The whole notion of national pride, nationalism, and patriotism, has been a very vigorously installed myth, which is still installed in all the groups of people that are pushing toward nationhood. It exists for one simple reason. Ordinary profits are fine from the owning-class society point of view. It’s good, from the owning-class society’s point of view, to exploit hell out of the manual workers and take most of the value they produce. It’s good to exploit hell out of the middle-class workers and take the value they help produce or expedite. But it’s an absolute essential of the owning-class mystique, that your real gains are made when you cut the throat of another owner, when you drive your dearest friend into bankruptcy and take over his company. As you pass by the park where he’s sitting with a bottle of cheap wine inside a paper sack as he slowly dies, you realize that YOU WON. This is the heart of the morality of owning-class society, that the really choice gains are made by destroying your “competitors.” And, since you are divided into nations, you not only get points for triumphing over the owning class of another nation, or at least apparently triumphing over them, but the way for really big, wide-scale internal exploitation, without any resistance, is to have a war. If two national owning classes can put your two countries at war, then, boy, do the profits roll in!

Now, we hear of nations as a whole being impoverished by war (the poor people frequently are). We are led to believe that “the nation,” that is, the owning class, also suffers. Modern communication is so much better than it used to be that it’s hard to believe it any more. We hear, “Germany was defeated in the war. Japan was defeated in the war.” My, how their owning classes have suffered. They came out of it just dripping with jewels. Enormous profits. Every owning class super-profits by starting and carrying through a war.

That’s the whole point of war. Not that “we’ve got to de­fend our women and children against the barbarians,” not that “our sacred honor is at stake,” not that “our flag shall never be sullied,” not even that “we’ve got to knock off the monster Hitler because he’s worse than our own monsters” (although that appealed to us quite a bit, and there was some rationality to it, in a way, once things got to that point).

War is the super-profitable part of capitalism. You can always bring on a war by national pride, by patriotism, by feeling your heart lift up at the thought of your country. My country, right or wrong, but my country!

Nationalism is a great big bunch of patterns, installed semi-deliberately and through distress. To feel proud of being a Hertchgalenian may be the only part of your life you’re allowed to feel proud of, because the rest of the time you’re a dirty slob of a peasant, or a working person, or a headachey schoolteacher, or a miserable owning-class person who resorts to drugs or booze in order to get through the day. So the patterned motivation is very powerful.

If I stop at this point, the situation seems very simple. We just have to discharge all our patterns of national pride and patriotism and nationalism. It’s “obvious.” They are all just patterns for the messing up of our lives and for our super-exploitation, no matter what it costs in lives and destruction of our population. When the market starts closing down (as it does in every capitalist state because capital­ism is extremely unstable; it chokes itself off repeatedly), and you can’t possibly get it going again because a deep dark depression is about to overwhelm you, then if you will start a war, the population will contribute war bonds, and loan money, and the national debt can go up, up, up, up, up. Who cares about the national debt when “our country” is at stake? So war has been a “dependable” solution to crises.

Now, fortunately, that is changing. The leading imperialist power could not keep the war going in Viet Nam. It was defeated. It could not get one started in Nicaragua, though the heads of state are still saying, “We’re gonna, we’re gonna.” The imperialists tried to kill off all the possible urban leaders in El Salvador through use of the death squads, and yet they can’t really get a war started. They bombed Khaddafi. They killed his baby, but they couldn’t get any big actions going.

Now we’re down to invading Panama to overthrow our own CIA puppet. What is different is that the sentiment of the people for peace has really risen. We don’t really dare yet to note or believe how much this attitude has changed, but our peace activists have been effective. You can no longer have push-button wars as easily, in spite of many attempts. We’re likely to have to withdraw from Korea because the North and South are getting together. Not right away, but soon. The situation is changing.

So it could seem that in RC we need just face the fact that nationalism, patriotism, and national pride are all deliberately manufactured, deliberately maneuvered patterns used to harm us and exploit us, and we’ll throw them all away.

But it’s not that simple. We can’t do it that simply, because we have bought this junk for too long.

Another characteristic of owning-class/working-class society (capitalist society) is that it very quickly resorts to imperialism. That is, it isn’t profitable enough for the owning class just to oppress its “own” workers and its “own” middle class, and it must aspire to oppress an entire other group. So within each country, every nascent nation, every minority people that speak a different language or live in a particular territory, are suppressed. In Belgium they attempted to call it a “federation,” This was the “successful” one. But it was dominated by the Francophones, by the French-speakers. The Dutch-speakers were kept as peasants and were humiliated and were kept down. They’re coming to outnumber the French-speakers now, so Belgium is no longer stable. Just in the time that I’ve been visiting Belgium, the entire situation has changed. The nationalism of the Flemings is coming to the fore. They are demanding a bigger say, a bigger say, a bigger say, and the Francophones in dismay are saying “Where will this stop? Won’t they allow us any dignity? After all, we managed this country well for so many hundred years, where’s their gratitude?” “Federation” doesn’t work.

More blatantly, the groups of capitalists who organized themselves as nations first, quickly set out to bring imperialism around the world. In a relatively short period of time, every part of the surface of the world, was brought under imperialist oppression, in which one nation oppressed whole other nations. Many of you come from countries that have experienced this in great depth.

Some nations never got themselves organized. Canada hasn’t quite made it yet, it’s still working on it. Later events are catching up on them. We don’t know whether Canada will ever go all the way through the usual process. New things are being forced by the collapse of the world system. As a result of the many liberation movements coming out of World War II, most of the old imperialisms crashed and were replaced by “secret” imperi­alisms. Gandhi led the Indians to independence from England, he put India in control of the Indian capitalists, and then heavy, heavy poverty settled over the land. If possible, it has been worse than it was under the British, although that’s very difficult to imagine.

Everywhere in the world, various peoples were led up to this point of becoming nations, assuming some kind of national pride like the English created, or the French, or the Germans, or the Russians, and then squash! They became victims of some other imperialism. So you have many, many national oppressions, and you can’t ignore that fact. We may be able to sit here in this room and see with each other that of course nationhood is ridiculous, humanhood is what it’s about. We can see that to be members of the human race is the thing to take pride in, not in petty national differences. But in the world in general people can’t do that, because so much painful emotion has been installed around their national oppression. We have to first contradict that invalidation of our national pride and discharge that, before we can reach for humanhood.

So that, even though I will say to you, and I hope you can hear me say, that pride in being a nation is ridiculous, pride should be in being human, a step past that of pride in nationalism, we can not skip the step of reclaiming our pride in our nation. We have to first end national oppression.

If we stop at that point we’ll be stuck where India is. We need to go right on past national pride to pride in being human. This was Mao’s great contribution. He said, “Com­plete pride in being Chinese, and on to pride in being human!” And he did very well until age and betrayal and overwork led to his death, when reversion to exploiter patterns took over the leadership of China for a while.

Even in RC we have to reclaim full pride in whatever nation we belong to and whatever nationality we are. We’ve had the good insight that however mixed one’s heritage we fully belong to each part of it. In some sense USers had a good start because in the United States many people have many different heritages. The U.S. is the “melting pot of the world,” but the oppression tells you you had better forget that you are anything except “100% American.” The forced assimilation syndrome operates in the United States. We have lots of heritages. I can say to you, “I’m 100% Penobscot. I’m 100% Norwegian. I’m 100% French, I’m 100% English, I’m 100% Scottish, I’m 100% Irish. And maybe I’m 100% twenty other things they never told me about.” We can reclaim every heritage on our way to giving up nationalities as unimportant.

Will this take very long once we really take pride in our nationhood and understand that it’s only a step on our way to pride in our humanness? I don’t think so. The television and world-wide satellites will very quickly have all of us speaking thirty-two languages. If they let us sit in front of the good television of the future when we’re two years old, we can learn a language in a week. We’ll be universal people, world people, very quickly.

So, we’re very close to, and the correct road will lead us very quickly, in my opinion, to humanhood. We will get proud, welcoming stars in our eyes whenever we see any­body from anywhere. We’re already making timid moves toward that, in RC. I just sat there and glowed last night in this World Conference. I had enjoyed the closeness of the men and their gains in the men’s group earlier yesterday, but it was wonderful to just sit there last night and see all these women LIKING each other. I thought of it again and again as I went to sleep. There was the reality of humans, just right there, shining through. We’re not too far away from reclaiming it, and the changes will come fast.

I think it’s very important that we understand that nationhood and national pride and patriotism are all big, sham, dopey attitudes, but we’ve got to have the right to claim them before we can give them up.

It’s somewhat parallel to what a Native man in the Northwestern USA once told me. There was a time when the U.S. government ruled that no Native was allowed to drink alcohol on a reservation or a reserve. The man said to me, “You know, I yearned to go to town. I finally got to town. All my life I’d been told that I didn’t have the right to get up there to the bar and drink. Nothing was more important to me, than that I get up to that bar and drink as much as I wanted to.” He had to go through this, he said, even though he paid a terrible price. He talked to me about how he got through that nonsense.

We have a “right” to have our national pride. We have to claim it fully. I just glory in listening to G— saying, “My country!” and see the people around her as their eyes light up. “Half of our population is in other countries, still dominated by them, and we’ve only had fifty years of self-rule since the five tribes arrived to settle Hungary, but now there’s going to be a free Hungary!” You can see the Hungarian delegation around her just thrill to the idea.

But it also is thrilling to realize they’re thinking of leading everybody. Not dominating everybody, but leading everybody. And that’s fine. We need to reclaim our national pride fully, but, I think, reclaim it fast and go on. Keep clearly in our mind, particularly at this leadership level, that it’s something we’ve got to go through because we got oppressed that way and we have to untangle that first. Just as fast as we can we’re going to reach past nationalisms for humanhood and world citizenship (and, possibly, galactic citizenship just as soon as we can get in touch with any “others”).

Questions, comments?

B: My question is about English liberation. From listening to you speak, it sounds to me as though we don’t really need workshops on English liberation, we need to continue on classism work. There’s an intent in England to pull together people to work in a workshop situation on English liberation, and to get some total identity of being English. I’m not sure that that’s really what England needs to do.

HJ: I think you have to. I don’t think you can skip it. I think it needs clear leadership. You need to face the fact that the English have never been liberated, that you’ve never had a free society in England. You’re entitled to it, and when you get it, it’s not going to be oppressive to the Welsh or the Irish or the Scottish or the Cornish people.

B: A free, capitalist society wouldn’t be oppressive? How can a capitalist society be free?

HJ: You need to have the right to have a free, capitalist society, which you’ve never had, and then you need to dump it.

B: It seems like a contradiction, a free, capitalist society.

HJ: It is a contradiction.

C: It’s having your own capitalists instead of someone else’s capitalists. Home-grown oppressors.

HJ: England has had home-grown oppressors, which has confused them. “Here’s to the Widow of Windsor,” said Kipling, “We’ve won half the world for the Widow and salted it down with our bones. Poor devils, it’s blue with our bones.”

You need to establish that freedom for the English people means the end of classism.

B: Yes, I understand that.

HJ: Yes, that you can’t have complete freedom under capitalism. You can’t have complete nationhood as long as you’re oppressing another nation. Your freedom has been blunted, stunted. English freedom has been stunted into a weapon for misusing other people, for which you all are internally ashamed all the time.

I tried to speak this way in Germany, where they don’t hear me as easily. The Germans have never been free. Hut! Zwei! Drei! Fier! What kind of freedom is that? I asked. For a while they would seem to hear. Now, I don’t know whether they can or not. Of course, underneath the Junker and Nazi conditioning, they are completely human. They’re looking for ways to cast off this yoke.

B: I understand everything that you’re saying, apart from having a goal of having a free, capitalist society (laughs).

HJ: Only momentarily, as a temporary goal.

C: Well, what is a free, capitalist society?

HJ: There is no such thing.

C: I’d be happy to have it . . .

B: If you’re saying that that should be an aspiration toward having some sense of English freedom . . .

HJ: English independence.

B: And English independence . . .

C: What has England had? I don’t think you’ve been explicit.

HJ: Well, England has had a feudal society, which was only partially done away with. Most of the feudal privileges were kept to a great degree in order to reinforce the oppression of the capitalist society. It was subverted to imperialism very quickly, first on the Irish, the Welsh, the Cornish, and the Scottish people, and then from there, all over the world. The whole world map was colored red with the British Empire. So the English people never got their own freedom. I think you can understand that they can’t have freedom under capitalism. As long as they’re tolerating capitalism, people’s lives are poverty-stricken, limited, everything else bad. Who makes the decisions any more? It isn’t the Cabinet, God bless ’em. Or the Queen. It’s Wall Street. Or what is it in England?

B and C: Threadneedle Street.

HJ: Now Threadneedle Street takes orders from Wall Street. So you’ve become the object of imperialism while pretending that you’re still a big imperialist. Everybody knows that British imperialism is now a dummy that sits on Uncle Sam’s lap.

Real freedom for England is independence.

B: Of the United States.

HJ: Of anybody. And freedom for Wales and Cornwall and all of Ireland and Scotland.

B: Thank you.

D: What happened in Ireland was that when you wanted to get more profit, you banded people together under your banner and tried to Become Something, and one of the things to become is a nation. If you became a nation, you could be even a bigger capitalist and gain more profit. Are you saying that the idea of the nation itself, was a corrupt idea?

HJ: Well, it was an oppressive idea.

D: Therefore corrupt as an idea?

HJ: By “corrupt” you usually mean that you violate the regular rotten rules.

D: It was an anti-human idea, the idea of a nation. The basic driving force to be a nation was capitalism, was bigger profits.

HJ: Yes. National independence meant that you would have Irish exploiters instead of English exploiters exploiting you.

D: Right. What the Irish owning class did was to encourage some of the wars, some of the rebellions that were actually wars. Some of these were instigated by the Irish capitalists and called patriotic, so that people would then fight “for Ireland,” or for the flag and so on. They’d be thinking they were fighting for Ireland and the flag when in fact they were fighting for capitalism.

HJ: This is true in every country.

D: This is true in every country, right. Now then, the bit where I get confused, is that I can see that it’s important to reclaim our national pride, because that’s where we’ve been invalidated, but we’ve been hurt on a corrupt basis. In other words, we’ve been given something called a nation to take pride in, in order to fight the capitalists of other nations, and we’ve been defeated by those other capitalists, we’ve been hurt by them. In order to get over that, we take the direction of taking pride in our nationhood. But if we go on taking pride in our nationhood past winning independence, it’s a false idea, and therefore, does it have any real, deep future value to us?

HJ: No.

D: Then why should we bother with it?

HJ: Because you can’t get people together well enough on any other basis, if they’re so conditioned. Unite the people against national oppression and for national freedom, but winning that, take it immediately beyond that to real freedom, to ending class oppression.

D: But that was the same appeal that the capitalists used. They said, “Unite the country for freedom,” and we believed them. Then they said, “Let’s use that for class oppression.” Unite the country for freedom was exactly the same appeal, which gets so easily corrupted.

HJ: Well, that’s why you can’t have the capitalists lead or dominate your independence movements.

D: Absolutely not, because then you’ve got it corrupted all the way.

HJ: But you can have them support you to the point of ending the im­perialist oppression, the oppression of your people by some other country’s capitalists.

E: You can do that because you recognize that that is not your goal, that you have no allegiance to that as a final goal. But what about our cultural identities? What do we do about our cultural diversities? Claiming pride in our particular cultural identity as blacks or African-Americans, and so on, is a necessary, temporary measure on our way toward peoplehood, where our particular cultural identities will have some historical significance, but that’s all. I’m sort of testing if that’s the same thing you’re saying about our national identities.

HJ: Yes.

E: So I’m thinking about Africa, for instance. What I know about its history and current nation-states is that the particular identities that current nation-states have are those that were superimposed by European imperialism when they came to try and carve up the continent (You take this and I’ll take that, you take that one and I’ll take the one by the door). What’s happening now is that with independence, African countries are identifying with these identities that were given to them by the Europeans. I’m trying to sort out what of pride can be gained in claiming an identity that did not exist prior to the advent of the Europeans, on this way of ours toward peoplehood.

HJ: The people who are claiming these identities are owning-class people who want some excuse to exploit as big a territory and as many people as possible. You can’t skip any steps. In M’s country, they have a very real basis for pride in that they united enough to throw the Europeans out of political office. They haven’t thrown them out of economic power, by a long ways. The Europeans still own almost everything and dominate almost everything and live in choice suburbs. But a very real struggle was waged and won, and there’s room for great pride there.

Can they stop there? If they do, they’re in deep trouble. There are two big tribes, and twenty or so smaller ones. Each will eventually have to be recognized as “free” and “independent.” The two big tribes are going to have to attain some kind of agreement about freedom for each, or there will be continual friction and it will be impossible to govern the country well. Some kind of federation will be temporarily necessary.

At some future point, I think nations will disappear com­pletely; but we’ve got a lot of jobs to do first. I would guess, in M’s country (in fact she was talking about this at the table), that she’s somehow got to reach across the tribal conditioning, “It’s either you or us,” all the time. She’s learned to speak the other tribe’s language excellently. She’s trying to find words that won’t restimulate the division. In a good social program that she’s starting, she’s trying to find some way to involve the other tribe without their fearing that she’s doing it just for her own tribe, and so on like that. There’s going to be a lot of steps that have to be taken, in every country. It’s going to be a most interesting period in the world. I’ve heard that there’s something like twenty-five hundred different potential nations in this world.

The definition of a nation will change. What it has been in this transition period, the definition we generally agree upon, is that it’s a group of people with a common historical background, a common language, inhabiting a common area, and having people participating in all the elements of the existing economic system.

U.S. blacks are a nation. They’re an oppressed nation, they’re a scattered nation. When I was first an activist, we talked of “self-determination.” There were two hundred and forty-five counties across the middle of the U.S. South where blacks were a majority. We drew lines on the maps and said, “These counties have the right to secede from the United States as an independent black nation.” It didn’t work out that way. Capitalism came to Southern agriculture and drove the black sharecroppers off the farms, and they came to the middle of the big cities. Now we have a potential black nation, resident in the center of all the big cities of the United States. Who knows how it’s going to develop from now on?

The U.S. blacks are a nation. There are black owning-class people, there are black middle-class people, and black working-class people. There are black intellectuals. They have a common territory, even though it’s a scattered one. They have a common language, in fact several common languages. So they constitute a nation.

Groups of the Native “nations,” which is the word that is used as a substitute for “aboriginal tribe,” actually constitute small nations. There are not very many of them in the United States. There are more in Canada. In South America there are a number of them that constitute nations. They are horribly oppressed. There are four or five layers of oppression on top of each one, but they have a common language, they have a common territory, they have a common history, and, with just a little development, they can have a common economy.

Traditionally, in capitalist political theory the role and goal of a nation was to become a fully-developed capitalist entity. History has gone way past that now. Any emerging nation which tries to do that now will get into difficulties like India’s, where there is some political freedom but enormous economic oppression. Indian people are living on the edge of disaster. To drive through those Southern Indian cities with Subbaraman and see the courage of people was sad but inspiring, We saw the absolute stark courage of people with no space, just a great mass of dust and dirt, and (you’d think) hopelessness, but they carry on. It’s a measure of the greatness of human beings. You’re used to it, Subbu, maybe it doesn’t look so impossible to you, but I’m just filled with admiration that people are living, and persisting, and surviving against these enormous odds.

For a long while, the China led by Mao showed the possibility of decisive change. Terrible famines had wracked China for thousands of years. The landscape had been gutted and ruined. In a fairly short period of time, conditions were changed to where everybody ate, everybody had access to dignity, the landscape was being reformed. The possibilities of what human beings can do were dramatically displayed. Yet it looked like that could all be swept away by a few tons of propaganda, once the little exploiter patterns grabbed political power after Mao’s death. Now we see again that it can’t be permanently swept away. They smashed the student movement once the workers began to join it only a few weeks after it got started. But it won’t stay smashed, I can promise anybody that.

We’re in the middle of this enormously complex worldwide situation which most of us haven’t had a chance to examine. Do you find this examination of nationalism and its surroundings useful? (Voices: yes) You have to go through national liberation, you have to carry it through. You cannot suppress or ignore national pride. It has to be fully expressed and then turned toward pride in humanhood.

F: Some things that we are trying to work out in RC can sometimes seem confusing to people. You just began to draw the distinction between real pride and this pseudo-pride, or pride patterns which often come as the result of nationalism, as opposed to pride in the actual situation and in the struggles that a people are in. That can get very con­fusing. It’s like the difference between being proud of being really a man as opposed to the patterned manhood that people are expected to be proud of. In Ireland we have that problem, with the pseudo-Irish nationalism often being put forward that’s organized around distress, as opposed to real pride in the national struggle. How do we make that distinction?

E: Do you think that, in the nations that are the oppressor nations or the dominating nations in the world, there is something possible like we’ve developed owning-class liberation in counseling. Can there be a U.S. liberation, freeing the U.S. peoples from the oppression of living in this imperialist country, as a nation fighting against tolerating its im­perialist role and seeking liberation, not only as a class?

HJ: Yes. USers must organize to require their country and its owning classes to give up their imperialist roles. In fact large numbers are already doing just that even if they organize only around particular acts so far and not the whole system. But it’s going to be enormously complex, because there aren’t any typical USers. Many parts of the country, if you drive twenty miles, people won’t know you. They will be as antagonistic to you as a visitor as they would be to a moon visitor or somebody from Moscow. The U.S. is an enormously complex setup, held to­gether by superstitions, false notions, a fabricated history. This is part of our job as U.S. RCers, however, to bring clarity to this situation

Harvey Jackins 

Last modified: 2021-10-01 19:16:24+00