"Economic Nationalism"? (was Re: Who Killed Vincent Chin?)

Jim heartfield jim at heartfield.demon.co.uk
Sat Jan 1 10:50:18 PST 2000

In message <012701bf53d6$a72e4f40$9ee13ecb at rcollins>, rc-am <rcollins at netlink.com.au> writes

>if you mean to ask 'do you think there are good nationalisms and bad
>nationalisms?', then the answer is 'no'. the difference between the
>nationalisms of countries like the US and countries like Indonesia's is
>that the former affects more people than the latter; but quantitative
>morality has never been a favourite of mine, as you know. not to mention
>that i think it constitutes an abrogation of any solidarity with the
>workers and poor in those countries in favour of a kind of kissingeresque
>calculation. but even then, kissinger made policy for a state. which
>state do you make policy for?

This is too pristine pure to be true, though. Where capitalist rule takes the political form of the denial of national self-determination, then it is sheer utopianism to expect the oppressed to ignore the actual conditions of their existence and fight for an idealised form of 'class struggle' at the expense of the actual struggle unfolding before them.

The nationalism of the Irish, Vietnamese and Algerian freedom fighters was not part and parcel of the nationalism of Thatcher, Lyndon Johnson and DeGaulle. On the contrary, it was its opposite. In Marx's passages on the famine in Capital I he describes Fenianism in terms that are entirely commensurate with his description of the working class movement in England. There he describes Fenianism as the countervailing force that Capital creates in much the same way that he describes the accumulation of misery in the working class as the opposite pole to the accumulation of wealth at the other.

Instead of reducing terms like 'working class' to rigid definitions that are held up like a check list against real life struggles to see whether they are worthy of our support, one has to understand the method of Marx's approach - that the importance of the working class was that it was the opposition to and living negation of Capital.

When I met Irish republicans during the hard days of their struggle against British rule, I remember one grandmother asking me, without a shred of national sentiment 'have you come to help us with the revolution?'. She understood the international dimensions of that struggle, looking beyond its national form. -- Jim heartfield

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