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Left-wing nationalism describes a form of nationalism officially based upon equality, popular sovereignty, and national self-determination. Left-wing nationalism has its origins in Jacobinism of the French Revolution. Left-wing nationalism typically espouses anti-imperialism. Left-wing nationalism stands in contrast to right-wing nationalism, and has often rejected racist nationalism and fascism. However forms of left-wing nationalism have included intolerance and racial prejudice.
Notable libertarian left-wing nationalist movements in history have included the Indian National Congress that under Mohandas Gandhi promoted independence of India from the British Empire and the African National Congress of South Africa under Nelson Mandela that challenged apartheid.
Left-wing nationalism has appeared in authoritarian forms. A totalitarian form existed under Stalinism in the Soviet Union. The Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party in Syria and formerly Iraq has promoted pan-Arab nationalism and state socialism. Josip Broz Tito as leader of Yugoslavia and the League of Communists of Yugoslavia promoted left-wing nationalism.
Marxism identifies the nation as a socioeconomic construction created after the collapse of the feudal system, which was utilized to create the capitalist economic system. Classical Marxists have unanimously claimed that nationalism is a bourgeois phenomenon that is not associated with Marxism. However certain interpretations of the works of Karl Marx have claimed that although Marx rejected nationalism as a final outcome of international class struggle, he tacitly supported proletarian nationalism as a stage to achieve proletarian rule over a nation, then allowing succeeding stages of international proletarian revolution. Marxism in certain instances has supported certain nationalist movements for utilitarian purposes if they are in the interest of class struggle, but rejects other nationalist movements that were deemed to be distracting workers from their necessary goal of defeating the bourgeoisie. Marxists have evaluated certain nations to be "progressive" and other nations to be "reactionary". Joseph Stalin supported interpretations of Marx tolerating the use of proletarian nationalism that promoted class struggle.
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels interpreted issues concerning nationality on a social evolutionary and class reductionist basis. Marx and Engels claim that the creation of the modern nation state is the result of the replacement of feudalism with the capitalist mode of production. With the replacement of feudalism with capitalism, capitalists sought to unify and centralize populations' culture and language within states in order to create conditions conducive to a market economy in terms of having a common language to coordinate the economy; to contain a large enough population in the state to insure an internal division of labour; and to contain a large enough territory for a state to maintain a viable economy.
Though Marx and Engels saw the origins of the nation state and national identity as bourgeois in nature, both believed that the creation of the centralized state as a result of the collapse of feudalism and creation of capitalism had created positive social conditions to stimulate class struggle. Marx followed Georg Hegel's view that the creation of individual-centred civil society by states as a positive development, in that it dismantled previous religious-based society and freed individual conscience. In The German Ideology, Marx claims that although civil society is a capitalist creation and represents bourgeois class rule, it is beneficial to the proletariat because it is unstable in that neither states nor the bourgeoisie can control a civil society. Marx described this in detail in The German Ideology, saying:
Civil society embraces the whole material intercourse of individuals within a definite stage of development of productive forces. It embraces the whole commercial and industrial life of a given stage, and, insofar, transcends the state and the nation, though on the other hand, it must assert itself in its foreign relations as nationality and inwardly must organize itself as a state.
Marx and Engels evaluated progressive nationalism as involving the destruction of feudalism, and believed that it was a beneficial step, but evaluated nationalism detrimental to the evolution of international class struggle as reactionary and necessary to be destroyed. Marx and Engels believed that certain nations that could not consolidate viable nation-states should be assimilated into other nations that were more viable and further in Marxian evolutionary economic progress.
On the issue of nations and the proletariat, the Communist Manifesto says:
In the sense that the proletariat must first conquer political rule for itself, raise itself to the status of a national class, constitute itself as [the] nation, it is itself still national, although not at all in the sense of the bourgeoisie. Already with the development of the bourgeoisie the national boundaries and conflicts among the peoples vanish more and more… The rule of the proletariat will make them vanish even more.
In general, Marx preferred internationalism and interaction between nations in class struggle, saying in Preface to the Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy that "[o]ne nation can and should learn from others".
Engels expressed a number of highly racist and genocidal statements against peoples deemed to be unfit for revolution. Engels denounced Slavs in response to attempts by Croats and Czechs to gain independence from Austria-Hungary by attempting to gain support from the Tsar of Russia, whom Engels counted as an enemy of communism. Engels called Slavs along with Gaels, Bretons and Basques "national refuse" and claimed that they deserved "to perish in the universal revolutionary storm". In response to these events, Marx and Engels joined in calling for Germany to wage war on Russia to force basic civilization upon Russia. Engels perceived most Slavic nations as being backward and uncivilized, but he along with Marx believed that certain Slavs were more civilized than others, such as Poles over Russians, and Russians over Bashikirs and Tartars. Both Marx and Engels perceived Germany to be a nation of greater civilization than other nations, and was further in progress towards communism than other nations.
While racist traits have been identified in the works of Marx and Engels, both Marx and Engels opposed the exploitative racism, such as in the case of slavery in the United States. Marx and Engels claimed that slavery of blacks in the United States was detrimental to the workers' rights of whites, saying:
In the United States of America every independent movement of the workers was paralysed as long as slavery disfigured a part of the Republic. Labor cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the black it is branded.
Similarly, though Marx and Engels criticized Irish unrest for delaying a worker's revolution in England, both Marx and Engels believed that Ireland was oppressed by Great Britain but believed that the Irish people would better serve their own interests by joining proponents of class struggle in Europe, as Marx and Engels claimed that the socialist workers of Europe were the natural allies of Ireland. Also, Marx and Engels believed that it was in England's best interest to let Ireland go, as the Ireland issue was being used by elites to unite the English working class with the elites against the Irish.
Joseph Stalin promoted a civic patriotic concept called "revolutionary patriotism" in the Soviet Union. As a youth, Stalin had been active in the Georgian nationalist movementand was influenced by Georgian nationalist Ilia Chavchavadze who promoted cultural nationalism, material development of the Georgian people, statist economy and education systems. When Stalin joined Georgian Marxists, the Marxism in Georgia was heavily influenced by Noe Zhordania, who evoked Georgian patriotic themes and opposition to Russian imperial control of Georgia. Zhordania claimed that communal bonds existed between peoples that created the plural sense of "I" of countries, and went further to say that the Georgian sense of identity pre-existed capitalism and the capitalist conception of nationhood.
After Stalin became a Bolshevik in the 1900s, he became fervently opposed to national culture, denouncing the concept of contemporary nationality as bourgeois in origin and accused nationality of causing retention of "harmful habits and institutions". However Stalin did believe that cultural communities did exist where people lived common lives, and were united by holistic bonds, these, Stalin claimed were "real nations", while others that did not fit these traits were "paper nations". Stalin defined the nation as being "neither racial nor tribal, but a historically formed community of people". Stalin believed that the assimilation of "primitive" nationalities like Abkhazians and Tartars into the Georgian and Russian nations was beneficial. Stalin claimed that all nations were assimilating foreign values and that the nationality as a community was diluting under the pressures of capitalism and with rising rational universality. In 1913 Stalin rejected the concept of national identity entirely and advocated in favour of a universal cosmopolitan modernity. Stalin identified Russian culture as having greater universalist identity than that of other nations. Stalin's view of vanguard and progressive nations such as Russia, Germany, and Hungary in contrast to nations he deemed primitive is related to Friedrich Engels' similar views.
Yugoslavia under the rule of Josip Broz Tito and the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, promoted both communism and left-wing Yugoslav nationalism. Tito's Yugoslavia was overtly nationalistic in its attempts to promote unity between the Yugoslav nations within Yugoslavia and asserting Yugoslavia's independence. To unify the Yugoslav nations, the government promoted the concept of "Brotherhood and Unity", where the Yugoslav nations would overcome their cultural and linguistic differences through promoting fraternal relations between the nations. This Yugoslav nationalism was opposed to cultural assimilation, as had been carried out by the previous Yugoslav monarchy, but was instead based upon multiculturalism. While promoting a Yugoslav nationalism, the Yugoslav government was staunchly opposed to any factional ethnic nationalism or domination by the existing nationalities, as Tito denounced ethnic nationalism in general as being based on hatred and was the cause of war. The League of Communists of Yugoslavia blamed the factional division and conflict between the Yugoslav nations on foreign imperialism. Tito build strong relations with states that had strong socialist and nationalist governments in power, such as Egypt under Gamal Abdel Nasser and India under Jawaharlal Nehru.
In spite of these attempts to create a left-wing Yugoslav national identity, factional divisions between Yugoslav nationalities remained strong and it was largely the power of the League of Communists and popularity of Tito that held the country together.
A Serb backlash arose within the League of Communists of Yugoslavia against the decentralized Yugoslav multiculuralism, beginning in the 1960s. Serb communist officials, such as Dobrica Ćosić claimed that such a decentralized multicultural policy was not creating the Yugoslav nationality that was promised, but encouraging factionalism. At the time Ćosić refuted accusations that he was a Greater Serbian nationalist, and claimed that he was in favour of a united Yugoslavia with republics within it on a temporary basis, until a united Yugoslav nationality could be formed. Slovenian critic Dušan Pirjevec accused Ćosić of desiring a forced unitarism where Greater Serbian domination would flourish. Ćosić's criticisms of Yugoslav cultural policy grew more intense and more in line with Serb nationalism than with Yugoslav nationalism. In 1968, Ćosić condemned the Yugoslav government's policies in Kosovo that he claimed favoured the ethnic Albanian population while ignoring the persecution and forced emigration of Serbs and Montenegrins by ethnic Albanians that he claimed was taking place there.
Serb nationalism escalated following the death of Tito in 1980. Serbian intellectuals broke a number of taboos, such as Branko Petranovic, who identified Draža Mihailović, the Chetnik rival of Tito during World War II as being an important "anti-fascist". Dobrica Ćosić joined other Serb political writers in writing the highly controversial Memorandum of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts of 1986. The Memorandum claimed to promote solutions to restore Yugoslav unity, but it focused on fiercely condemning Titoist Yugoslavia of having economically subjugated Serbia to Croatia and Slovenia and accused ethnic Albanians of committing genocide against Serbs in Kosovo. The Memorandum was harshly condemned by the League of Communists of Yugoslavia as well as the government of Serbia led by Ivan Stambolić. Members who would later support Serb nationalism maintained followed the status quo in Yugoslavia by denouncing the Memorandum. Serbian communist official Slobodan Milošević at the time of the release of the Memorandum maintained public silence on the issue, but in a meeting with members of secret police he formally endorsed the official government denouncement of the Memorandum, stating:
The appearance of the Memorandum of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences represents nothing else but the darkest nationalism. It means the liquidation of the current socialist system of our country, that is the disintegration after which there is no survival for any nation or nationality. … Tito’s policy of brotherhood and unity … is the only basis on which Yugoslavia’s survival can be secured.
However, amidst the rising nationalist sentiment in Serbia, Milošević joined the Serb nationalists in 1987 as their major spokesperson in the communist establishment. Milošević supported the premises of the Memorandum that included promoting centralization of power in the federal Yugoslav government to decrease the powers of the republics and autonomous provinces and a nationalist motto of "strong Serbia, strong Yugoslavia". Milošević and the Serbian government supported a tricameral legislature, that would include a Chamber of Citizens to represent the population of Yugoslavia, a system that would give Serbs a majority; a Chamber of Provinces and Republics to represent regional affairs; and a Chamber of Associated Labour. Serbia's specific endorsement of a Chamber of Citizens and a Chamber of Associated Labour faced opposition from the republics of Croatia and Slovenia as they saw the proposals as increasing Serbia's power and federal state control over the economy, which was the opposite of their intention to decrease federal state control over the economy.
In Europe, a number of left-wing nationalist movements exist, and have a long tradition. Nationalism itself was placed on the left during the French Revolution and the French Revolutionary Wars. The original left-wing nationalists endorsed civic nationalism which defined the nation as a "daily plebiscite" and as formed by the subjective "will to live together." Related to "revanchism," the belligerent will to take revenge against Germany and retake control of Alsace-Lorraine, nationalism could then be sometimes opposed to imperialism. Left-wing nationalists have historically led the separatist movements in the Basque Country, Catalonia, and Northern Ireland, for example.
During the 1940s and 1950s radical intellectuals, most of whom joined the Communist Party of Australia, combined their philosophical internationalism with a "radical nationalist" commitment to Australian national culture. This type of cultural nationalism was possible among radicals in Australia at the time, in part because of the CPA's patriotic turn in line with Comintern policy from 1941, and in part because the most common understanding of what it meant to be "patriotic" at the time was a kind of pro-Empire Anglo-Australian "race patriotism". To promote an anti-British nationalism was, until the late 1960s, a "radical" activity. At the same time, this "radical nationalism" dovetailed with a growing respect for Australian cultural output among intellectuals, which was itself a product of the break in cultural supply chains - lead actors and scripts had always come from Britain and the United States - occasioned by the war.
The post-war radical nationalists promoted a type of national culture which had been canonised during the 1890s by writers including Henry Lawson, Joseph Furphy and Banjo Paterson. This culture was informed by the "bushman" myth, which held that Australians were naturally egalitarian and "practical" and anti-authoritarian. All this was represented in the "outback" working-class tradition of "mateship". The post-war radical nationalists interpreted this myth, or tradition, as having implicitly or inherently radical qualities: they believed it meant that working-class Australians were "naturally" democratic or even socialist. The apotheosis of this line of thought was in Russel Ward's book The Australian Legend (Melbourne, 1958), which sought to trace the development of this ethos from its convict origins, through bushranging, the Victorian gold rush, the spread of agriculture, the industrial strife of the early 1890s and its literary canonisation. Other significant radical nationalists included the historians Ian Turner, Lloyd Churchward, Bob Gollan, Geoffrey Serle and Brian Fitzpatrick, whom Ward described as the "spiritual father of all the radical nationalist historians in Australia", and the writers Stephen Murray-Smith, Judah Waten, Dorothy Hewett and Frank Hardy.
The radical-nationalist tradition did not survive the 1960s, as the New Left came to interpret much of Australian history - particularly labour history - as fundamentally racist, sexist, homophobic and militarist. The bushman myth, however, has survived the modernisation of Australian culture and its economy. Having informed a significant amount of cultural output during the period of the new nationalism, the "Australian Legend" was "raided" by the third-time Liberal Party leader John Howard for the conservative political Right during the 1990s.
In Canada the term used by S. H. Milner and H. Milner in order to describe political developments in 1960s and 1970s Quebec which they saw as unique in North America. While the liberals of the Quiet Revolution in Quebec had opposed Quebec nationalism which had been right-wing and reactionary, nationalists in Quebec now found that they could only maintain their cultural identity by ridding themselves of foreign elites, which was achieved by adopting radicalism and socialism. Similar movements were seen to have occurred in the "Third World": China, Algeria, Cuba and Viet Nam, although ethnicity and class consciousness were seen as having been combined in parts of the United States, where blacks and other ethnic groups had experienced greater oppression under capitalism. This ideology was seen in contrast to historic socialism, which was internationalist and considered the working class to have no homeland.
The 1960s in Canada saw the rise of a movement in favour of the independence of Quebec. Among the proponents of this constitutional option for Quebec were militants of an independent and socialist Quebec. Prior to the 1960s, nationalism in Quebec had taken various forms. First, a radical liberal nationalism emerged and was a dominant voice in the political discourse of Lower Canada from the early 1800s to the 1830s. The 1830s saw the more vocal expression of a liberal and republican nationalism which was abruptly silenced with the rebellions of 1837 and 1838. In the 1840s, in a forcibly annexed Lower Canada, a moderately liberal expression of nationalism succeeded the old one, which subsisted but was confined to political marginality afterwards. In parallel to this, a new catholic and ultramontane nationalism emerged. Antagonism between the two incompatible expressions of nationalism lasted until the 1950s.
According to political scientist Henry Milner, the manifestation of a third kind of nationalism became significant when intellectuals raised the issue of the economic colonization of Quebec, something the established nationalists elites had neglected to do. Milner identifies three distinct clusters of factors in the evolution of Quebec toward left-wing nationalism: the first cluster relates to the national consciousness of Quebecers (Québécois), the second to changes in technology, industrial organization, and patterns of communication and education, the third related to "the part played by the intellectuals in the face of changes in the first two factors".