Joey Nichols: Nationalism from a Leftist Perspective

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By Joey Nichols

This post is by contributor Joey Nichols. Joey is from South Carolina and works in IT. He is a leftist who writes posts about American politics, economics, and culture. He runs the blog thepoliticaljoe.com and lives with his wife and children.

On the left, you will often see and hear talks promoting the idea of internationalism – that we, as people of the planet, are all in this together. This has helped tremendously with the inclusion and acceptance of other cultures, races, ideologies, etc. Taking things down to a more individual level rather than the overall leftist movement, a lot can be gained by the conversing and sharing of experiences by people of differing nationalities and cultures.

But today, we’re going to discuss the opposite – nationalism. Here, I will give my opinion on why I believe there is space for nationalism in the overall leftist movement. I think there is much to gain if we analyze and expand on our movement as it relates to us as American Citizens.

This will also likely challenge your interpretation of nationalism. I aim to promote a version of nationalism that takes the best and brightest ideas of morality and humanity from a local level and allow them to expand outward instinctively.

Imperialism and Colonialism

On April 18, 1955 Indonesia hosted the Bandung Conference. This was a first of its kind gathering of Asian-African nations, who came together in opposition of colonialism and imperialism.

Bandung Conference, 1955.

This is where I would like to start our journey of exploring nationalism as a leftist. Where we redefine nationalism as a direct opposition to imperialism rather than fixating on race, religion, territories, and exclusion based on those characteristics.

In this conference, President Sukarno of Indonesia gave (in my opinion) one of the most influential speeches ever.

Sukarno, first president of Indonesia

During his opening statement of the conference, he highlighted the need for all countries to be united in not only the opposition of colonialism, but the necessity for peace, unity, and cooperation. I will reference parts from his opening statement often throughout this discussion. I highly recommend you read the full opening statement.

Nationalism is a social construct. The term has power and precedence because of the value that society has placed on it. It has become synonymous with hatred and a very exclusionary ideology. I believe that we should strive to recreate nationalism. In a way that promotes peace that is not demanded or forced, instead sought out organically.

Pro-Kurdistan demonstrations.

Now in saying this, we need to clearly define the differences. By stating that the new form of nationalism will directly oppose imperialism, that clearly means the current iteration of nationalism embraces it. So, to get a better understanding of that aspect, let’s have a brief discussion on what imperialism actually entails.

Also, as an aside, I view colonialism and imperialism as one in the same. While there may be subtle differences, the general overall result is comparable.

Definition of imperialism

1: the policy, practice, or advocacy of extending the power and dominion of a nation especially by direct territorial acquisitions or by gaining indirect control over the political or economic life of other areas

Colonialism also has its modern dress, in the form of economic control, intellectual control, actual physical control by a small but alien community within a nation.

President Sukarno sums it up succinctly. Imperialism doesn’t encompass just the physical takeover of a geographical location; its roots grow much deeper.

Cuban Nationalism

I would like to preface this by saying that I in no way endorse the authoritarianism that has been forced upon the Cuban population.

But before we unpack this deranged man’s statements a little bit, what has been happening for almost 60 years in Cuba is atrocious. Cubans are being deprived of essential goods needed to live their lives – not by their government, but directly by the United States. The United States imposed an absolutely brutal embargo that has failed the Cuban people.

What we are experiencing is modern day imperialism. The United States is actively persuading the Cuban population to rebel against their government so that someone more “friendly” can be put in place.

This line of thinking neglects one very simple and important detail. What led the Cuban government to have to take on such an authoritarian form? 

During and after the 1959 Cuban revolution, many enterprises were taken over by the government and fully nationalized. In brief, the reason for this is that the people of Cuba were not being compensated for the exploitation of their natural resources.

Oligarchs were seizing up as much control of the land as they could; and income inequality was devastating the population. So, they took control out of necessity.

How then, do you suppose things will turn out differently if the Cuban people are being subjected to the same type of scenario? The government formed because an uprising of people came together and demanded that they take back control.

Often, you will hear and see politicians and pundits alike making claims about how the United States should ensure that people around the world are afforded democracy. That the people themselves should have the right to choose what’s in their best interests. That’s just simply not true.

Global Democracy

Those who are in power only want to secure or expand their power. They do not want to support anything that threatens it. And in many cases, what happens through direct democracy, does just that.

So, when you hear people talking about opposing authoritarianism, you should understand that they only oppose it if they cannot actively benefit from it.

The alternative that this new nationalism brings is one of peace, hope, and solidarity. Through the collaboration and corroboration of our people, we can use our advances in humanity as an example for others to follow.

We have heavy responsibilities to ourselves, and to the world, and to the yet unborn generations. But we do not regret them.

The public considers issues such as the economy, heath care, education, and climate change as the most important in their lives. Using this new way of thinking about nationalism, we can draft policy that is equitable and inclusive to all who are in the country. This is not something that should be deemed as “virtue signaling”. This is for the peace and prosperity of mankind.

We owe it to ourselves, our children, and our children’s children to path a way towards a better, more sustainable future.

The life of man today is corroded and made bitter by fear. Fear of the future, fear of the hydrogen bomb, fear of ideologies. Perhaps this fear is a greater danger than the danger itself, because it is fear which drives men to act foolishly, to act thoughtlessly, to act dangerously.

American Nationalism

American exceptionalism is the general idea that the United States is superior in every way to other nations. In right-wing propaganda this has mostly manifested itself into white, male, supremacy. This in turn results in the propagation of fear mongering based on race, religion, sex, gender, etc.

There are countless videos, articles, and podcasts, and news segments claiming that Democrats are actually pushing a “race replacement” campaign. The claim suggests that Democrats are actively encouraging people of other ethnicities to immigrate to the US in order to “replace” Caucasians.

If this sounds insane, it is. But, the truly scary part about it is that this is being broadcast over the most watched “news” show. 

This type of rhetoric has one purpose alone. It’s all one large call to action campaign with the end goal of either keeping the status quo or further entrenching the power of the oligarchs. When people hear this stuff from a source they deem credible, they get genuinely fearful.

This could then cause them to act irrationally – see January 6, 2021.

We can demonstrate to the minority of the world which lives on the other continents that we, the majority, are for peace, not for war, and that whatever strength we have will always be thrown on to the side of peace.

Instead of pushing our interest outwards towards other nations, lets first build something great here. We should lead through example – by empowering our own people. By striving to create a harmonious life for all that live in America.  By creating a world in where people value humanity more than material greed.

In a society such as this, all residents of the United States would be empowered to be more productive, care for one another, and just be at peace.

Out of this would come the desire for others to imitate and adopt the practices that have been proven to work. People of other nations would see the level of support and care the United States puts into its people that they would then demand that from their governments. All of which would be done completely organically. By creating a better world for us, we have in turn helped them create a better world for themselves.

Splendid isolation may once have been possible; it is so no longer. The affairs of all the world are our affairs, and our future depends upon the solutions found to all international problems, however far or distant they may seem.

Climate Change

Currently, smoke from the forest fires on the West Coast of the U.S. is showing up in New York. Climate change is happening and worsening as we speak. This is not something that will be able to be localized to just one country. This needs to be taken care of on a multinational global level.

But, we can take our lessons of our new found nationalism and put them into use. Instead of hoarding all intellectual property for advancements in climate technology, we can share them with the world.

It shouldn’t need to be said, but far too often, many are willing to ignore the fact that if there’s no more livable earth, there’s not going to be any more humans. Or in terms that the oligarchs and elites will understand, there won’t be any profit potential.

Issues such as climate change need drastic solutions that can be implemented worldwide. It will do more harm keeping all advancements isolated from others.

Delta Variant and COVID-19 Vaccines

If you haven’t noticed, COVID-19 is making waves again around the world with the Delta variant being the main culprit. What’s the one thing that we know for sure would stop the spread of the virus in its track? Vaccines.

Well, instead of making the patents for the vaccines freely available, companies are wanting to protect their revenues by keeping them private. This has led to over 6 billion people having practically no hope whatsoever to getting access to the vaccine. 

A world in which we do not prioritize the health and well being of ALL of its people, is a world where we all will suffer.

But what harm is in diversity, when there is unity in desire? This Conference is not to oppose each other, it is a conference of brotherhood.

Nationalism Moving Forward

In this sort of nationalism, people would identify themselves on individual, local, and international levels. All people are first individuals, then part of the local population, and finally we’re all humans together on Earth.

This sort of nationalism exemplifies the best from all levels. Where your individualism can help guide and form your local community, which then can go further and make the world a better place.

All of this may sound grandiose or farcical. And that’s because it mostly is, as things stand now. Currently, the world is so fractured that a simple virus, in which we have a cure for, is destroying the global economy and ravaging countries less fortunate than ours.

We as leftists, need to find a way to make this new form of nationalism mainstream.

Also, you may have noted that a lot of what I have said here today sounds a lot like the current iteration of internationalism/globalism. Wherein we are all in this together, so we should all work together, etc.

The differing point is what actions we take to get to a point where we can impact others on an international level. Rather than viewing problems from a strictly global viewpoint, we start small and expand outward naturally. We set the precedent here at home and provide the tools and materials for others to replicate our successes.

Conclusion

One of the most uplifting and empowering things I’ve ever experienced is knowing that something I have done (at work, with my children, anywhere) has impacted someone positively. We should strive to do that as a nation.

I hope this piece will help you think about things in a different light. If you have anything you would like to add or anything you would like to discuss, comment below, reach out on Twitter, or send me an email.

Also, I will be collaborating with a few other bloggers and will be sharing great content of theirs with you. That should be starting within the next week or so. So be on the lookout!

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