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Notes and Comments on "The Virtue of Nationalism"

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1 hour ago, StrictlyLogical said:

 

The centrality of individual rights as an organizing principle in the conduct of government is itself an aspect of a culture only few nations have ever possessed.

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12 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Doesn't this contradict what you said another thread, that fascism is pretty close to manifesting in the US? And part of your evidence for that were parallels with Weimar Germany which we all know eventually led to Nazi Germany.

National socialism is fascism.  Wheres the contradiction?

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That fascism doesn't really seem to be a type of socialism, so something can't be socialist and fascist. That's fine if you mean lowercase 's' socialism as a description (focusing on the collective good), but not as a specific political philosophy. The only similarity I see is collectivism, and that would be a better word to use.

Maybe I can phrase what I'm thinking in a different way. Do you think nationalism can go too far? Do you think it's something that you can have too much of (kind of like you can't have too much of a virtue like independence), or something you try to strike a balance about (like kindness versus sternness maybe).

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6 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

That fascism doesn't really seem to be a type of socialism, so something can't be socialist and fascist. 

"Doesn't really seem" is a hedging phrase indicating that you don't actually know.   Fascism is fully and completely socialist, having been born in socialist theory.   Every domestic policy of fascist theory is a socialist policy.  The theoretical distinction that Hitler and Stalin fought over was whether or not socialism was necessarily globalist or could proceed one nation at a time.  Stalin denounced everyone not toeing the globalist line as a rightist, but it is not actually a fundamental difference.

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National Rights

A nation, like any other group, is only a number of individuals and can have no rights other than the rights of its individual citizens. A free nation—a nation that recognizes, respects and protects the individual rights of its citizens—has a right to its territorial integrity, its social system and its form of government. The government of such a nation is not the ruler, but the servant or agent of its citizens and has no rights other than the rights delegated to it by the citizens for a specific, delimited task (the task of protecting them from physical force, derived from their right of self-defense) . . . .

Such a nation has a right to its sovereignty (derived from the rights of its citizens) and a right to demand that its sovereignty be respected by all other nations.

“Collectivized ‘Rights,’”
The Virtue of Selfishness,

----

"Such a nation has a right to its own sovereignty (derived from the rights of its citizens)..." [AR]

No one is there yet.

So? Does one put on hold one's nation's sovereignty and national interests until this is achieved?

It is national *identity* which I think concerns us here. If that identity is not 'perfect' as yet, one may be advised to "not let the perfect be the enemy of the good". That's a source of frustration and unhappiness, and, most probably, an obstacle to achieving this desired state of affairs. The "good" has to be emphasized, not left behind and forgotten.

To mention again the "esteem" one has (or has not?) "...for one's country's liberties... etc.".

Perhaps some would think that one cannot hold any value for one's country and the amount of freedom all individuals have - until -  individual rights are attained? I disagree. E.g. Americans have much to be proud of due to their aggregated national culture - their specific identity - which was and is still individualism, implicit and not fully realized as it may be. I would think this is THE sound base to be built upon. To expect individual rights and laissez-faire to arrive in one's lifetime, is likely unrealistic (depending on your age ;)). 

A national identity is what anti-nationalists, internationalists/globalists repudiate, quite as altruist-collectivists do an individual's identity, by playing on fears of war-mongering, xenophobia, etc.. (I.e., a person's subjective, predatory 'selfishness'). From what I observe there are hidden motives here to merge a nation's unique identity with other nations, so to sacrifice it.

 

 

Edited by whYNOT

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11 hours ago, Grames said:

"Doesn't really seem" is a hedging phrase indicating that you don't actually know. 

Not with certainty, but enough that I'm skeptical of what you said.

I don't know what you mean "born in socialist theory". In what sense? The only connection I can even think of is Hegel. Fascism's philosophical standpoint is different, resembling a distortion of Romantic era nationalism more than anything (e.g., Wagner). The whole political structure is different, the symbolism is different.  
 

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13 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I don't know what you mean "born in socialist theory". In what sense?

In the sense that the transformation from the regular internationalist socialist vision of revolution which is to benefit the working class into a fascist vision of a revolution within one country to benefit that country is a simple "search and replace" operation of "international working class" (or also "proletariat") with "YOUR COUNTRY HERE".   The "international class struggle" becomes a "struggle between nations".  The call for dictatorship, the political correctness, the moralizing consequentialism which excuses every barbarity, everything is the same.  Even so-called distinguishing factors such as militarism and emotional patriotism are not distinguishing at all: there has never been a socialist regime which was commonly acknowledged as not fascist which did not also glamorize military force and Stalin had to resort to propaganda that exhorted the protection of the Motherland rather than stale abstract refrains about the world's workers.  Even Hitlers racism can be understood as just a recast version of the tactic of extolling the supposed virtues of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie. "Bourgeoisie" is a word retained and as frequently used by fascists to identify a common enemy as the socialists and communists used it.

Nationalism as political philosophy does not call for a "struggle between nations".

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more on Hitler as socialist

George Watson was the author of The Lost Literature of Socialism published in 1998.  A short article on the book by Anthony Flew appears on the fee.org website at https://fee.org/articles/the-lost-literature-of-socialism/ .  A longer article by George Watson more specifically directed at Hitler as Marxist appears at Hitler and the Socialist Dream. 

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On 5/2/2019 at 3:06 PM, StrictlyLogical said:

"How to understand why nationalism is considered a swear word today? On the face of it, this Wiki definition and explanation holds only positive assessments"

Really?

 

What about

"promotion of the interests of a particular nation"  ... why is the standard for this so called "National" interest?

Recall, what is proper role of government?

 

the nation is the only rightful source of political power (popular sovereignty)."...  what about individual sovereignty and individual rights? .. are they only GRANTED (permissions) from the all powerful and only rightful State?

 

"aims to build and maintain a single national identity—based on shared social characteristics such as culturelanguage, religion, politics, and belief in a shared singular history"...  what has any of this to do with an individuals rights to pursue happiness and isn't it inimical to an individual for some collective overstructure to "build and maintain" something which may or may not have anything with what FOOD I like to EAT, which clothes I like to WEAR, what SONGS I like to SING, what STORIES I like to HEAR, what language I SPEAK, what GOD I believe in...or not... and what is a collective "singular history" when history is full of unique individuals living out their lives pursuing their values and the happiness that accompanies that pursuit?

"to promote national unity or solidarity" ... who decides what that NATIONAL unity or NATIONAL solidarity looks like?  Around WHAT particulars is that unity or solidarity promoted?  What kind of sheep are the so called Government to mold ?  Why is this not entirely subjective?   

"preserve and foster a nation's traditional culture" ... ??   ... tradition???   are you as an individual to live under the threat of force, government edict, according to the arbitrary standard of some "tradition"?

 

ALL of THIS is positive???  How long have you been studying Objectivism???  HAVE YOU BEEN STUDYING OBJECTIVISM?

 

A proper government possesses power based on delegation of individual sovereignty, and its only role would be the protection of individual rights, leaving its citizens free from interference to pursue their happiness and their values, free to pursue their individual interests, their unique identities, their individual cultures, individual tastes in foods, clothes, songs, stories, languages, their individual religions, and allowed to hold their own personal beliefs (freedom of thought).  Initiation of force would not be permitted to anyone and the government would have the role of employing retaliatory force, against those who initiate it, according to objective laws. 

Moral people of principle do not adhere to some concept of "Nationalism" (as explained by Wikipedia).. it is something over and above free individuals and a legitimate proper government ONLY there to protect their rights.  They have no need to and understand why they shouldn't.  Nationalism bears much resemblance to Statism... and as far as I can tell, Nationalism is one of the many yellow brick roads (paved with good intentions) leading to Statism.

 

EDIT:  Nothing I state above detracts from the ethical and political legitimacy and necessity of a people within a particular geographical area having a proper government within that geographical area, to protect their individual rights.  It merely identifies that "Nationalism" is not any kind of guide toward the implementation of that proper government.

Yes, I know the literature, and what I said stands. The excerpt on nationalism is benign, in itself, unless one has a fixed preconception from what one has been 'told' by leftist propaganda that always points to "conservative" and "fascist" nationalism (conveniently, overlooking it when in socialist form). I repeat, nationalism does not have to go that way by necessity. It depends on context and the individual. This is all about political systems as they exist today and in the past, and you could be reminded that you live in reality, what IS. 

But, too, in a future of individual rights, one could well find merit in the individualist - cultural background of one's nation. NOT as primary importance, mind you, but subservient to individual rights. Would such a sovereign nation not be esteemable to a citizen in its "unity and solidarity"? Even, another dirty word lately, of feeling a "patriotism" towards it because of the values he perceives? 

As for "culture, language, religion, shared history". Do you by any chance believe that all citizens of this future dispensation will be, by necessity, Objectivist (and libertarian)? Nope, I didn't think you do. Obviously, all (or a majority of) individuals - of all religious, secular, ethical, ethnic, etc. types - will need to perceive, understand and be convinced - by self-interest - of the virtue of individual rights for that to ever come about and be sustainable. 

Edited by whYNOT

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On 5/2/2019 at 3:06 PM, StrictlyLogical said:

"How to understand why nationalism is considered a swear word today? On the face of it, this Wiki definition and explanation holds only positive assessments"

Really?

 

What about

"promotion of the interests of a particular nation"  ... why is the standard for this so called "National" interest?

Recall, what is proper role of government?

 

the nation is the only rightful source of political power (popular sovereignty)."...  what about individual sovereignty and individual rights? .. are they only GRANTED (permissions) from the all powerful and only rightful State?

 

?

 

 

About the "granting" of rights, I have used this sardonically when I referred to this notion. As Rand put it (roughly) rights cannot be granted - only protected. Further, I think that the kind of incrementalism by governments in recent times - of an ad hoc right being "granted" to one 'group', while disregarding, or at cost to, other 'groups' will not foster freedom of action and individual rights, in the long term. It's either all or nothing, in my perhaps idealist view. Partial compromises with 'liberty' are inimical to liberty. 

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The concerns about nationalism stem from a bunch of linked issues that have recently risen to the fore: migrants and borders, (purported) racial supremacy, egalitarianism, "inclusivism/exclusivism", trade tariff wars, military wars with neighbors, and so on. The entire problem superficially appears to be answered by nations being absorbed into one another. No borders ... etc. Take away national, ethnic, wealth inequalities/differences, say the anti-nationalist globalists, and there would be assured amicability and harmony for all. "Nothing to kill or die for...imagine all the people, living life in peace..." (nice song).

But I think this is a dangerously unrealistic, naive view of human nature. We can see from history and from our general experience of individuals and 'groups' of individuals that people have and still have, perversely, reveled in their "differences". Superficial ones, or not so. Sometimes this was a weak attempt at individualism, sometimes a collective/tribalist fear of 'the other' (tribe), sometimes the same tribalist assumption of superiority: we are right/good, they are wrong/bad. (If - rational - Objectivist organizations and individuals could 'split' - for ultimately inessential causes - it doesn't look hopeful for larger populations). People will *find* differences, rational and irrational, one example being civil wars.

In a nutshell, if such differences can't be rationally dealt with within a present 'Sovereign State', they will simply be exacerbated and multiplied within a much larger context. The answer naturally is individual rights. An individual is "different" so to say, in that he/she is autonomous.

"Such a nation has the right to its own sovereignty (derived from the rights of its civilians)". AR

I take this to mean that, causally, the individualism of the nation (nation-ism, nationalism) is conferred by the individualism of its people, an *extension* of their rights.. 

When and where citizens in a nation/country can, to begin with, respect the rights of others, their freedom of expression, of association, etc., the fact of and conviction in others' individual sovereignty will become solidified, and so increased benevolence and so more considerate, mannered behavior to others. It's not a 'perfect' system, since no large number of people, nor a (minimal) government, nor an individual at all times, can be 'perfect' - but better than perfect: the only one, ever, which is based on the nature of mankind.

For all the globalists' possibly "good intentions", any Utopianist project involving the dissolution of a nation's character into others, 'the one into the many', I think will necessarily be totalitarian to end with if not to begin, and where then, the individual's freedom of action?

Conversely, nations which respect each others' national sovereignty and deal with each other from common values and rational self-interest (or not, with those who are beyond the pale) gives the greatest probability for enduring international goodwill.

Edited by whYNOT

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On 5/3/2019 at 2:25 PM, Grames said:

In the sense that the transformation from the regular internationalist socialist vision of revolution which is to benefit the working class into a fascist vision of a revolution within one country to benefit that country is a simple "search and replace" operation of "international working class" (or also "proletariat") with "YOUR COUNTRY HERE".   The "international class struggle" becomes a "struggle between nations". 

But what you changed I think is a fundamental difference. The "your country here" part is exactly why I'm saying "socialist" just doesn't work. My disagreement is taxonomic though - collectivist makes more sense, as a genus, and the species would be whichever specific version of narrative used to identify "the enemy". Something like that. I'm not seeing the value of labeling it socialist. 

But I'm not trying to label it as primarily "nationalist" either. I'm suggesting that Nazi-ism is a form of nationalism taken to an irrational degree, with minimal similarity to socialism qua socialism. I think the question becomes: is nationalism a continuum where it can be either rational or irrational, or if it is simply a dimension of good political philosophy where "irrational nationalism" is a contradiction.

How would you address my claims though about the different aesthetics between the two? I find them to be very important differences that you seem to overlook.

Edited by Eiuol

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Collectivism is technically better, but who goes around calling himself a collectivist?  It's an abstraction.  Identifying fascists as socialists calls attention to the common elements and shared history and tactics.  There were street battles between communists and fascists in Weimar Germany because they both HAD paramilitary gangs planned for use in their anticipated revolutions.  

What variable underlying nationalism could vary up to "extremism" (which is itself an anti-concept dissected by Rand, so you aren't thinking clearly if you take that seriously).  Nazi-ism incorporated racism.  But if nationalism is equated with racism then nationalism is a redundant concept.  Nations can adopt individuals of other races so nationalism is not racism.

4 hours ago, Eiuol said:

How would you address my claims though about the different aesthetics between the two? I find them to be very important differences that you seem to overlook.

The different aesthetics are unimportant distractions, highly inessential, not fundamental toward any conclusion.  In modern vocabulary it is just branding.  On what basis do you find them to be important?

 

 

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It does little good to speak of collectivism out of the context of altruism (I think). Where there exists collectivism there is certainly underlying altruism. Collectivism ~presupposes~ sacrifice of self: either self-subjugation to, and/or subjugation by the 'group'. One is identified (by collectivists) by one's 'tribe' or identifies oneself as a member of that tribe. Socialism, by definition, fully rests on altruism-collectivism, nationalism, not necessarily - or at all, (i.e. where there is at present a strong culture of individualism). 

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I'm not trying to go by what people call themselves. Certainly, there is a similarity, as I mentioned, but calling a fascist and a communist both socialists seems to miss the differences that matter; I think it's fair to distinguish between nation-oriented collectivism and international-collectivism. If there's just socialism, we would miss a lot about how they pose different types of threats. 

A variable that underlies nationalism could be the extent that a nation may demand following tradition within that nation, which could be vary to the absolute overthrow of tradition (Maoist China in the Cultural Revolution), to Nazis trying to assert and emphasize traditions of German society. How nationalism was defined in the first page of the thread doesn't seem to preclude tradition put in a light that overlooks either the way tradition changes or can prove useful. But, I might have to read the book, which I plan to read in a few months.

I bought up aesthetics not in terms of just propaganda, clothing style or simply using symbols. I'm not sure to what extent aesthetic outlooks and specific aesthetic points of view come through for communism, and socialism in general (leaving aside for now if fascism should be included in there), although I know it's there. But with fascism, a lot of it looks like a collectivist mutation of 19th century Romanticism, raising tradition itself to be the ideal that Romantic art should portray. Germany did that, Italy did that, Russia didn't. I think there's enough of a difference in aesthetic philosophy to stand for something really fundamentally different. Or at least, it better describes how fascism evolves, but not nearly as well for what I mean by socialism, and thus justification enough to keep them in separate categories within collectivism.

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Culture

Just as there is no such thing as a collective or racial mind, so there is no such thing as a collective or racial achievement. There are only individual minds and individual achievements—and a culture is not the anonymous product of undifferentiated masses, but the sum of the intellectual achievements of individual men.

“Racism,”
The Virtue of Selfishness, 127

A nation’s culture is the sum of the intellectual achievements of individual men, which their fellow-citizens have accepted in whole or in part, and which have influenced the nation’s way of life. Since a culture is a complex battleground of different ideas and influences, to speak of a “culture” is to speak only of the dominant ideas, always allowing for the existence of dissenters and exceptions.

“Don’t Let It Go,”
Philosophy: Who Needs It, 205

The acceptance of the achievements of an individual by other individuals does not represent “ethnicity”: it represents a cultural division of labor in a free market; it represents a conscious, individual choice on the part of all the men involved; the achievements may be scientific or technological or industrial or intellectual or esthetic—and the sum of such accepted achievements constitutes a free, civilized nation’s culture. Tradition has nothing to do with it; tradition is being challenged and blasted daily in a free, civilized society: its citizens accept ideas and products because they are true and/or good—not because they are old nor because their ancestors accepted them. In such a society, concretes change, but what remains immutable—by individual conviction, not by tradition—are those philosophical principles which correspond to reality, i.e., which are true.

“Global Balkanization,”
The Voice of Reason, 11

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"...concretes change, but what remains immutable - by individual conviction..."

(Somehow recalls the famous line by Yeats: "The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity").

Rand's thoughts on that hard to grasp and amorphous-seeming abstraction, a national "culture" I think is pertinent to nationalism and is central to the debate. Culture is one of those things - you know it when you see aspects of it - but find it hard to define. Ultimately, you are left a sense of a nation's freedom-culture (or not much). What *ought to be* a nation's culture she makes clear. However should an existing Western nation's independent cultural identity, compromised somewhat or highly as they are, be sacrificed to a 'global culture', which would be no culture at all - and which is the aim of anti-nationalists? Rand blasts tradition here, but is not (statist, collectivist) "progressivism" as bad or worse - the other side of a false alternative?

The usual false dichotomy between intrinsic values and skeptical/subjective values comes up: "My nation, right or wrong", decreed by those with  traditional, conservative, godly conviction - but also holding a degree of individual liberty - or - as it's seen by many others opposing those, a nation that lacks any specific identity/ideas, lacking objective values, and endlessly mutable according to how 'the Society' feels?  

One gets the sense that whatever is worth rescuing of present and past objective value in a country's culture mustn't be abandoned lightly. Even memories of its past accomplishments and "concretes" made by individuals - i.e. tradition - have merit in today's context of rapid shifts. (Change for the sake of change, often, not altogether for improvement). Especially, not to be sacrificed in the name of 'egalitarianism' amongst other nations, or in the name of moral relativism among other cultures. There will be and has to be an objective solution which avoids the subjective cynicism of Yeats, and in which "the best" can be full of passionate conviction. 

Edited by whYNOT

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On 5/7/2019 at 11:59 PM, Eiuol said:

A variable that underlies nationalism could be the extent that a nation may demand following tradition within that nation, which could be vary to the absolute overthrow of tradition (Maoist China in the Cultural Revolution), to Nazis trying to assert and emphasize traditions of German society. How nationalism was defined in the first page of the thread doesn't seem to preclude tradition put in a light that overlooks either the way tradition changes or can prove useful. But, I might have to read the book, which I plan to read in a few months.

The common thread between socialism and communism and fascism (and modern leftism) is identity politics.  Whether that politics is based on economic class or race it is still determinism.  A proper nationalism would not be predicated on a culture or tradition or politics of determinism.

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I agree that there is a proper nationalism (and I am curious to explore the implications of that), but it looks clear to me that fascism has a sense of improper nationalism, with an irrational concern for tradition - which is not precluded from nationalism. Tradition is present in fascism, but not in communism, and that's a pretty big difference. The reason seems to be different conceptualizations of how the world could and ought to be. We could argue about whether Nazis should be categorized as socialists, but does the book talk about Italian fascism, or American eugenics? Neither seemed imperialistic, although they were certainly concerned about identity politics. This is the last thought I had on it, next time I bring it up, I plan to have read the book already.

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This "view from the left" has some valid points both ways; all in all, it seems to me that so long as it's an adjunct to individualism, which nationalism *must* remain subservient to - in a nation which mostly protects individual rights - nationalism, for an individual, is benign and even of value. https://merionwest.com/2019/06/05/nationalism-no-longer-a-dirty-word-but-complicated-as-ever/

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On 6/5/2019 at 10:51 AM, whYNOT said:

This "view from the left" has some valid points both ways; all in all, it seems to me that so long as it's an adjunct to individualism, which nationalism *must* remain subservient to - in a nation which mostly protects individual rights - nationalism, for an individual, is benign and even of value. https://merionwest.com/2019/06/05/nationalism-no-longer-a-dirty-word-but-complicated-as-ever/

That article gives utopian universalist objections.  He wants to jump to the "final destination of humanity" without knowing what that might be and without any intermediate transitional stages.  He wants to abolish war totally and forever, just like every imperialist utopian in history.  This author, Néstor de Buen,  had read Hazony and still couldn't resist the call of utopian universalism.  

Nationalism isn't necessarily the final destination of humanity and it isn't going to abolish war.  Any schemes that have claimed either have so far been disastrously murderous lies.

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On 6/8/2019 at 3:03 AM, Grames said:

 and still couldn't resist the call of utopian universalism.  

Nationalism isn't necessarily the final destination of humanity and it isn't going to abolish war.  Any schemes that have claimed either have so far been disastrously murderous lies.

The idea of utopian universalism is as much dangerous as historical, collectivist-statist nationalism, i.e., of individuals taking their self-worth from their nations (and the defeat of other nations). This cure for war is as harmful as the disease. The borderless, global utopia will turn out even more collectivist. First the sovereignty of nations gets undermined, then does individual sovereignty. I think that's the object for some.

Now, individualist nationalism, on the other hand...

Edited by whYNOT

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