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Can Nationalism be a Good Thing?

+4 votes
I've been troubled recently after having taken a course on the Vietnam War, in which I've found myself consistently supporting the nationalist movement in Vietnam against foreign occupation. It seems to me that there were no anarchist proponents in Vietnam of any scale, and therefore the movement for national liberation and an independent state was ultimately the most desirable outcome, even if such a state would as expected be oppressive in its own right. Naturally this is uncomfortable for me because as an anarchist I feel that I should be opposed to nationalism in any form- but can a consistent anarchist support nationalism that brings with it significant short-term improvements? I also now recall in an interview I saw of Norman Finkelstein he stated that in Palestine, he believed he should support a two-state solution on a tactical level because in the short term it was the only solution likely to result in peace in the region, even though he personally supported, as he put it, a "no state solution." Is an independent state free from foreign control generally preferable to one controlled from abroad, or should consistent anarchists try to stand opposed to any and all states in an active sense?
asked Jan 16, 2015 by IDontKnowShit (360 points)
would you please describe what you mean by "support/supporting"?
Sorry my English vocabulary isn't great. Support as in material support, public advocacy etc. Basically it amounts to is it better to act in favor of short-term goals which will reduce suffering and possibly move people towards a situation where anarchy is more likely to forment, or is it better to always act- in whatever capacity- against statist goals? Sorry if I'm not making myself very clear I'm not the most articulate.
no need to apologize...your english vocabulary sounds fine to me, and i've heard many people use the term "support" in a similar context. i also understood your question in terms of the dilemma between short term and long term goals.

i generally ask for clarification when people say "support" because it seems vague to me  (i don't use the word myself for this reason). basically, does it mean only a mental position on something, or something that involves actions (and what type of actions)?

so, my question reflects more of how i look at things than your ability to articulate. :)

edited for clarity, and to add: i like your nickname!
IDKS, so i think i've got your drift about support - "to act in whatever capacity toward (another's goals)".

when you ask "is it better" to do one or the other, or "should consistent anarchists try to stand opposed"...

do you mean which actions (continue to act against the state vs. acting with the state to drive out the foreign control) have a better chance of succeeding in bringing about anarchy?

or do you mean which one seems more desirable to live through and act on?
Nationalism can be seen as nothing but a spectacle on the grandest scale, a civilized corruption of what 'nation' actually means and with which the word finds its *kinship*: kin, gene(-sis)(-tic), indigenous, nature, natal, native, etc. This denotes an autochthonous relationship to place and people, rather than an ideological imposition/agreement. An illustration may be found in, or rather, as, US history: the *actual* nations we categorize loosely as 'Native Americans' or 'American Indians' were destroyed by the pseudo-'nation' (founded upon ideological bases) of United States.

As dot points out, this is an important distinction to make as well as BAA's, because ideological 'nationalism' is spectacular, stupifying, deceitful, socially stratifying and rigid (who may be excluded/included; inside/outside; etc).

One reason I desire anarchy, is that I desire the freedom to find, and spend time around others (humans and non-humans), that my relations may become as autochthonous as possible for a domesticated person. This is important to me also because I make the distinction between *anarchy* and *anarchism* along these lines, the latter of which smacks of too much ideology much of the time...as well as the possibility of  'nationalism' lying in wait, though one founded on 'workers' or some other idealization.

I desire a world where not only people and ideas speak incessantly as they do now, but our very places do as well and thus becomes alive to us again.
BAA- The word "support" in this case I think I mean as "to consider a good course of action in the tactical sense." I suppose in this case I'm actually talking more about reducing state-imposed human suffering in times of crisis than of pursuing anarchist objectives. I guess the question is more, is it hypocrticial for an anarchist to pursue a common goal in direct collusion with organizations which are by their nature opposed to anarchism (IE seek to give power to a state)?

you said you've consistently found yourself supporting the nationalist movement in vietnam, yet you also feel you should be opposed to nationalism.

so to put my original question to you more directly (hopefully, to assist you in resolving your dilemma)....

what have you done to support the nationalist movement in vietnam, and what would you do differently if you decided to oppose it? what effect do you think each set of actions would have on the people there? or how would you deal with it in the place where you live under similar circumstances?

perhaps by looking at it that way, you could resolve some of the conflict you feel (which seems to me like the underlying issue), rather than trying to get an answer to a general question about whether nationalism can be a good thing, or if one state coercing people is preferable to another.

and welcome to A101...i just arrived here a few months ago and really like this place, and i hope you will too.

1 Answer

+5 votes
anarchists are against nations.
the only leeway i can see, and not much even here, really, is when the word is used for an ethnic group vs a political and/or geographically based body (ie per usual there is a question of semantics and intention)...
the distinction that BAA is getting at is significant here, because we can still send aid to, and promote other people sending aid to, people who are having a hard time. but the parameters of the assistance would not be around the issue of the nation, but around something else.

for more reading on this, the classic is fredy perlman's *the continuing appeal of nationalism.*

and baa, a very minor aside (but one i indulge myself in anyway), the word is tack (as in boating, i believe), not tact, unless you meant to write tactic and just forgot the last two letters. :)
answered Jan 16, 2015 by dot (50,590 points)
yes, i realized it and started editing. and thanks for elaborating on my distinction, because i started doubting my clarity!
Thanks, dot, for reminding me to read this Perlman piece. I've been meaning to do so.