Foreign Affairs: 100 Years
A New Americanism
Why a Nation Needs a National Story
A NOTE ON NATIONALISM
THE rich development of historical studies in the nineteenth century transformed men's views about their origins and the importance of growth, development and time. The causes of the emergence of the new historical consciousness were many and diverse. Those most often given are the rapid and profound transformation of human lives and thought in the West by the unparalleled progress of the natural sciences since the Renaissance, by the impact on society of new technology and, in particular, the growth of large- scale industry; the disintegration of the unity of Christendom and the rise of new states, classes, social and political formations, and the search for origins, pedigrees, connections with, or return to, a real or imaginary past. All of this culminated in the most transforming event of all-the French Revolution, which exploded, or at the very least profoundly altered, some of the most deeply rooted presuppositions and concepts by which men lived. It made men acutely conscious of change and excited interest in the laws that governed it.
All these are truisms that need no restating; nor does the corollary, no less platitudinous, that the theories claiming to account for social change in the past could not be confined to it: if they were valid at all, they must work equally well for the future. Prophecy, which had hitherto been the province of religion and the preserve of mystics and astrologers, moved from preoccupation with the apocalyptic books of the Bible-the four Great Beasts of the Book of David or of the Gospel according to St. John-and other occult regions, and became the province of philosophers of history and the fathers of sociology. It seemed reasonable to assume that the realm of historical change could be dealt with by the same kind of powerful new weapons as those which had unlocked the secrets of the external world in so astonishing a fashion.
Nor did this prove to be an altogether idle hope. Some of the historical prophets of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, even the visionary among them, proved to have a firmer grasp of reality than their theological predecessors. Some thinkers of the Enlightenment were optimistic, some less hopeful. Voltaire and Rousseau were equally clear about the very different worlds they wished to see, but wondered gloomily whether human folly and vice would ever permit their realization. Melchior Grimm thought it would take centuries to improve human nature. Turgot and Condorcet were the most sanguine: Condorcet was sure that the application of mathematical methods-in particular social statistics-to social policy would usher in that reign of virtue, knowledge and happiness, "bound by an indissoluble chain," that would put an end forever to the reign of cruelty, misery and oppression whereby kings and priests and their wretched tools had kept mankind in subjection for so long.
What these men believed was not absurd. The new scientific methods did put vast new power in the hands of those who knew how to organize and rationalize the new society. The bright new world that Condorcet conceived in the darkness of his prison cell was that very world of "sophisters [i.e. Condorcet's rational men], economists and calculators" which Burke, who had perceived its coming no less clearly, had lamented only three years before. This great mutation did in due course come to pass, even though its consequences turned out very differently from Condorcet's dreams. So, too, Condorcet's disciple Saint-Simon, at the beginning of the century, correctly foretold the revolutionary role to be played by the union of applied science, finance and industrial organization, and, still more accurately, the replacement of religious by secular propaganda, into the service of which artists and poets would be drafted as they had once worked for the glory of the Church. And he wrote lyrical but acutely prophetic chapters about the vast increase of social human power, in particular over nature, that was in process of realization. His secretary and collaborator Auguste Comte saw that to achieve this a species of secular religion, organized by an authoritarian church dedicated to rational, but not liberal or democratic, ideals would be needed.
Events have proved him right. The transformation in our own century of political and social movements into monolithic bodies, imposing a total discipline upon their followers, exercised by a secular priesthood claiming absolute authority, both spiritual and lay, in the name of unique scientific knowledge of the nature of men and things, has, in fact, occurred, and on a vaster scale than even that most fanatical systematizer seems to have imagined. This was duly echoed by the fathers of science fiction, Jules Verne and H. G. Wells. Jules Verne confined himself to brilliant predictions of technological discoveries and inventions. Wells is the last preacher of the morality of the Enlightenment, of the faith that the great mass of prejudice and ignorance and superstition, and the absurd and repressive rules in which it is embodied, economic, political, racial and sexual, would be destroyed by the new élite of scientific planners. It was this type of approach that seemed so vulgar and dehumanizing to Victorian romantics, Carlyle or Disraeli or Ruskin. It alarmed even so rational a thinker as John Stuart Mill, who wished to believe in scientific method, but perceived in Comte's authoritarian arrangements a menace to both individual liberty and democratic government, and so became involved in a conflict of values which he was never able to resolve.
"The government of persons will be succeeded by the administration of things": this Saint-Simonian formula was common to Comte and Marx. Marx became convinced that this would be brought about by the true motor of all social change-the productive forces of society, the relationships of which were the primary factors that determined, and were as a rule disguised by outer forms-"the superstructure"-of social relationships. These included legal and social institutions as well as ideas in men's heads, ideologies that consciously or unconsciously performed the task of defending the status quo, that is the power of the class in control against the historical forces embodied in the victims of the prevailing system, which in the end would prove victorious. Whatever his errors, no one can today deny that Marx displayed unique powers of prognosis in identifying the central trend at work-the concentration and centralization of capitalist enterprise-the inexorable trend toward ever-increasing size on the part of Big Business, then in its embryo, and the sharpening social and political conflicts that this involved. He also set himself to unmask the conservative and liberal, patriotic and humanitarian, religious and ethical disguises in which some of the most brutal manifestations of these conflicts, and their social and intellectual consequences, would be concealed.
These were genuinely prophetic thinkers. And there were others. The unsystematic and wayward Bakunin predicted more accurately than his great rival Marx the circumstances in which the revolutions by the dispossessed would occur. He saw that they were liable to develop not in the most industrialized societies on an ascending curve of economic progress, but on the contrary, where the majority of the population was near subsistence level, and had least to lose by an upheaval, that is, in the most backward regions of the world, inhabited by primitive peasants in conditions of desperate poverty, where capitalism was weakest-Spain, Russia. This doctrine was reformulated later but never attributed to anarchist inspiration by later Marxists such as Parvus (Helphand) and Trotsky.
These were the optimists. But by the early 1830s the first pessimists begin. The poet Heine warned the French in 1832 that one fine day their German neighbors, fired by a terrible combination of absolutist metaphysics, historical memories and resentments, fanaticism and savage strength and fury, would fall upon them, and would destroy the great monuments of Western civilization: "Implacable Kantians . . . with axe and sword, will uproot the soil of our European life in order to tear out the roots of the past. . . . armed Fichteans will appear" restrained neither by fear nor greed, like those "early Christians, whom neither physical torture nor physical pleasure could break." The most terrible of all will be Schilling's disciples, the Philosophers of Nature, who, isolated and unapproachable beyond the barriers of their own obsessive ideas, will identify themselves with the elemental forces of "the demonic powers of ancient German pantheism." When these metaphysically intoxicated barbarians get going, then let the French beware: the French Revolution will seem like a peaceful idyll.
Who can say that this, too, has not come to pass in a form far more horrible than any conceived even in Wagner's most sinister moments? A few decades later Jakob Burckhardt foretold the inevitability of the military- industrial complex that would, or at any rate might, dominate the decadent countries of the West. There follow the fears of Max Weber, and all the black Utopias of Zamyatin, Aldous Huxley, Orwell, and the long row of blood- chilling Cassandras, half satirists, half prophets, of our day. Some of these vaticinations were pure predictions; others, like those of Marxists and of the Francophobe neo-pagans who terrified Heine, can be regarded as to some extent self-fulfilling.
These are examples of genuinely successful diagnoses and prognoses of the direction in which Western society was moving. Besides these there have been all those justly forgotten utopias-from Plato or Fourier or Cabet or Bellamy or Hertzka-embalmed in the pages of the more voluminous histories of Socialist doctrines. On the other side, there were the liberal and technocratic or neo-medieval fantasies, which rest either on a return to a pre-capitalist and pre-industrial type of Gemeinschaft; or, alternatively, the construction of one single, technocratically organized, managerial, Saint-Simonian world. But in all this great array of elaborate, statistically supported serious futurology mingled with free fantasy, there took place one movement which dominated much of the nineteenth century, for which no significant future was predicted, a movement so familiar to us now, so decisive both within, and in relationships between, nations, that it is only by some effort of the imagination that one can conceive of a world in which it played no part. Its existence and its power (especially outside the English-speaking world) seem to us so self-evident today that it appears strange to have to draw attention to it as a phenomenon the prophets before our day, and in our time too, virtually ignored; in the case of the latter, at times with fatal consequences to themselves and those who believed them. This movement is nationalism.
No social or political thinker in the nineteenth century was unaware of nationalism as a dominant movement of his age. Nevertheless, in the second half of the century, indeed up to the First World War, it was thought to be waning. Consciousness of national identity may well be as old as social consciousness itself. But nationalism, unlike tribal feeling or xenophobia, to which it is related, but with which it is not identical, seems scarcely to have existed in ancient or classical times. There were other foci of collective loyalty. It seems to emerge at the end of the Middle Ages in the West, particularly in France, in the form of the defense of customs and privileges of localities, regions, corporations, and, of course, states, and then of the nation itself, against the encroachment of some external power-Roman law or Papal authority, or against related forms of universalism-Natural law and other claims of supranational authority. Its emergence as a coherent doctrine may perhaps be placed and dated in the last third of the eighteenth century in Germany, more particularly in the conceptions of the Volksgeist and Nationalgeist, in the writings of the vastly influential poet and philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder.
The roots of this go back to the beginnings of the eighteenth century, and indeed before it, at any rate in East Prussia, where it grew and whence it spread. Herder's thought is dominated by his conviction that among the basic needs of men, as elemental as that for food or procreation or communication, is the need to belong to a group. More fervently and imaginatively than Burke, and with a wealth of historical and psychological examples, he argued that every human community had its own unique shape and pattern. Its members were born in a stream of tradition which shaped their emotional and physical development no less than their ideas. Indeed, distinctions between reason, imagination, emotion, sensation, were for him largely artificial. There was a central historically developing pattern that characterized the life and activity of every identifiable community and, most deeply, that unit which, by his own time, had come to be the nation. The way in which a German lived at home and the way in which he conducted his public life, German song and German legislation-the collective genius, not attributable to individual authors, that created the myths and legends, the ballads and historical chronicles, was the same as that which made the style of Luther's Bible, or the arts and crafts and images and categories of thought of the Germans of his own time. The way in which Germans spoke or dressed or moved had more in common with the way in which they built their cathedrals, or organized their civic lives-a central German essence, as it were, an identifiable pattern and quality-than it had with analogous activities among the inhabitants of China or Peru.
Human customs, activities, forms of life, art, ideas, were (and must be) of value to men not in terms of timeless criteria, applicable to all men and societies, irrespective of time and place, as the French lumières taught, but because they were their own, expressions of their local, regional, national life, and spoke to them as they could speak to no other human group. This is why men withered in exile, that is what nostalgia ("the noblest of pains") was a yearning for. To understand the Bible one must imaginatively enter into the life of the Judean shepherds of primitive times; to understand the Eddas, the savage struggle with the elements of a barbarous northern race. Everything valuable was unique.
Universalism, by reducing everything to the lowest common denominator which applies to all men at all times, drained both lives and ideals of that specific content which alone gave them point. Hence Herder's implacable crusade against French universalism, and his concept and glorification of individual cultures-Indian, Chinese, Norse, Hebrew-and his hatred of the great levellers, Caesar and Charlemagne, Romans, Christian knights, British empire-builders and missionaries, who eliminated native cultures and replaced them with their own, historically, and therefore spiritually, foreign and oppressive to their victims. Herder and his disciples believed in the peaceful coexistence of a rich multiplicity and variety of national forms of life, the more diverse the better. Under the impact of the French revolutionary and Napoleonic invasions, cultural or spiritual autonomy, for which Herder had originally pleaded, turned into embittered and aggressive nationalist self-assertion.
The origins of cultural change and national attitudes are difficult to establish. Nationalism is an inflamed condition of national consciousness which can be, and has on occasion been, tolerant and peaceful. It usually seems to be caused by wounds, some form of collective humiliation. It may be that this happened in German lands because they had remained on the edges of the great renaissance of Western Europe. In the late sixteenth century, during the great creative age, which was far from spent even in Italy which had risen to an unparalleled height a hundred years before, and marked an immense upsurge of creative activity in France, in Elizabethan England, in Spain, in the Low Countries; German towns and principalities, both those dominated by the imperial power of Vienna and those outside it, were by comparison profoundly provincial. They excelled only in architecture and, perhaps, Protestant theology. The terrible devastation of the Thirty Years War doubtless made this cultural gap even wider. To be the object of contempt or patronizing tolerance on the part of proud neighbors is one of the most traumatic experiences that individuals or societies can suffer. The response, as often as not, is pathological exaggeration of one's real or imaginary virtues, and resentment and hostility toward the proud, the happy, the successful. This, indeed, characterized much German feeling about the West, more especially about France, in the eighteenth century.
The French dominated the Western world, politically, culturally, militarily. The humiliated and defeated Germans, particularly the traditional, religious, economically backward East Prussians, bullied by French officials imported by Frederick the Great, responded, like the bent twig of the poet Schiller's theory, by lashing back and refusing to accept their alleged inferiority. They discovered in themselves qualities far superior to those of their tormentors. They contrasted their own deep, inner life of the spirit, their own profound humility, their selfless pursuit of true values-simple, noble, sublime-with the rich, worldly, successful, superficial, smooth, heartless, morally empty French. This mood rose to fever pitch during the national resistance to Napoleon, and was indeed the original exemplar of the reaction of many a backward, exploited, or at any rate patronized society, which, resentful of the apparent inferiority of its status, reacted by turning to real or imaginary triumphs and glories in its past, or enviable attributes of its own national or cultural character. Those who cannot boast of great political, military or economic achievements, or a magnificent tradition of art or thought, seek comfort and strength in the notion of the free and creative life of the spirit within them, uncorrupted by the vices of power or sophistication.
There is much of this in the writings of the German romantics, and, after them, of the Russian Slavophiles, and many an awakener of the national spirit in Central Europe, Poland, the Balkans, Asia, Africa. Hence, the value of a real or imaginary rich historical past to inferiority-ridden peoples, for it promises, perhaps, an even more glorious future. If no such past can be invoked, then its very absence will be ground for optimism. We may today be primitive, poor, even barbarian, but our very backwardness is a symptom of our youth, our unexhausted vital power; we are the inheritors of the future which the old, worn-out, corrupt, declining nations, for all their vaunted present-day superiority, can no longer hope for. This messianic theme is sounded strongly by Germans, then by Poles and Russians, and after that, in our time, by many states and nations which feel that they have not yet played their part (but soon will do so) in the great drama of history.
This attitude, almost universal among the developing nations, is plain to the most untutored eye today. But in the home of political prophecy, the nineteenth century, when the future was discerned through many historical, sociological and philosophical telescopes, it was evidently not plain at all. The great masters did not foretell the huge proliferation of national pride, indeed, did not predict it at all. Hegel, in his emphasis on "historic," as opposed to "unhistoric," nations as the carriers of the ever forward-thrusting cosmic Geist, may have flattered the self-esteem of Western and Northern Europe or fed the ambitions of those who sought German or Nordic unity and power. But he was no less opposed than Metternich to the wild, violent, emotional nationalism of Francophobe and anti-Semitic students, with their chauvinism and bookburnings, which seemed to him barbarous excesses, as they did to Goethe, who forbade his son to fight against the French. To trace to Hegel's writings the fierce nationalism of later German writers who derive from them is certainly unjust. Even the fanatical early chauvinists-the Jahns, the Arndts, the Goerreses, and indeed, Fichte, who is in part responsible for this mood, with his paeans to the uncontaminated German language as a vehicle for the uniquely liberating German mission in the world-even they did not consciously view nationalism as the dominant force in the future of Europe, still less of mankind. They were merely struggling to liberate their nations from disabling dynastic or foreign or skeptical influences. Jahn and Arndt and Körner are German chauvinists, but they are not theorists of nationalism as such, still less prophets of its universal sway; inferior nations, indeed, are not entitled to it.
The rationalists and liberals, and, of course, the early Socialists, virtually ignore nationalism. For them, it is a mere sign of immaturity, an irrational relic of, or retrogressive return to, a barbarous past: fanatics like De Maistre (who for all his ultra-montanism was an early believer in natural "integralism") or Friis or Gobineau or Houston Stewart Chamberlain and Wagner, or, later, Maurras, Barrès, Drumont, are not taken seriously until the Boulanger and Dreyfus affairs; these, in their turn, are regarded as temporary aberrations, due to the abnormal mood following on defeat in war, which will make way once again for the return of sanity, reason and progress. These thinkers, who look to the past for strength, do not play the part of social seers: with varying degrees of pessimism, they seek to revive a national spirit that has been undermined, perhaps fatally, by the enemy-liberals, Freemasons, scientists, atheists, skeptics, Jews. With a great effort something may yet be saved. But they believe that it is the other, "destructive" tendencies which work against the national spirit, that are there in menacing strength and hold the field and must be resisted, if only to preserve islands of purity and strength and "integral" life. Gobineau is the most pessimistic of these, and, in any case, he is concerned with race rather than nations, Treitschke the most hopeful, reflecting, no doubt, their respective national moods.
As for Marx and Engels, for them, I need hardly repeat, it is the emergence of classes, economically determined by the division of labor and accumulation of capital, and the war between these classes, that account for social change in human history. Nationalism, like religion, is a temporary phenomenon which, generated by the ascendancy of the bourgeoisie, is one of the self-sustaining spiritual weapons against the proletariat. If, too often, it penetrates the masses, it does so as a form of "false consciousness" which disguises their true condition from them and breeds illusions that provide them with deceptive comfort in their benighted state. After the end of the conditions that have given rise to it-the class war-nationalism, like religion, will evaporate together with other politically potent and historically conditioned illusions. It may acquire a certain independent influence of its own, as many such by-products of the evolution of productive forces do, but it cannot survive the destruction of its primary source, the capitalist system.
This tenet became a dogma for every school of Marxism. No matter how wide the disagreements on other issues, this was common ground, from the peaceful gradualism of Eduard Bernstein to the most left-wing members of the Bolshevik Party. The belief that nationalism was a reactionary bourgeois ideology was tantamount to the belief that it was doomed. At most, national risings on the part of colonial peoples against their imperialist masters might be considered as historically determined, a tactical step on the road to the true Socialist revolution which could not be too far behind. Even so, a national rising was one thing, and nationalism another. It was this belief that caused such disappointment and indignation to the internationalist Left, led by Lenin, Karl Liebknecht and their friends, when the Socialist parties in the belligerent countries, instead of proclaiming a general strike which should have stopped the war in 1914, joined the national colors and went to war against each other. It was this that caused Rosa Luxemburg to protest against the very formation of a national state by the Poles at the end of the war. The October Revolution, it is fair to say, was genuinely antinationalist in character.
The contrast, enunciated in some quarters, between Lenin as the authentic voice of Russian feeling, as against the "rootless cosmopolitanism" of men like Trotsky or Zinoviev or Radek, has no foundation. Lenin looked on the Russian Revolution as the breaking of the weakest link in the capitalist chain, whose value consisted in precipitating the world revolution, since, as Marx and Engels were convinced, communism in one country could not survive. Events decreed otherwise, but the doctrine itself was altered only under Stalin. The initial mood among the early Bolsheviks was genuinely antinationalist: so much so that Bolshevik critics in Russia vied with each other in disparaging the glories of their own national literature-Pushkin, for example-in order to express their contempt for national tradition as a central bourgeois value.
There was a similar mood among the leaders of the abortive Communist revolutions that followed in Hungary and Munich. "National-chauvinism," "social-chauvinism" became terms of abuse, battle cries used to crush autonomous movements in some of the non-Russian provinces of the old Russian Empire. But after this, the genuine internationalist phase was over. Every revolution and upheaval thereafter contained a nationalist component. The rise of fascism or National Socialism was interpreted by Marxist theorists as the final and extreme, but desperate, resistance on the part of capitalism in these countries against the inevitable victory of international socialism. The systematic underestimate of the strength of totalitarian or authoritarian nationalist movements, and their triumph in central and northeastern Europe, the Iberian peninsula and elsewhere, was due to ideologically caused miscalculation.
The economic autarky which followed the great crisis of 1931, plausibly enough interpreted as a culmination of the internal contradictions of the capitalist system, was, whatever else it might indicate, a form of acute economic nationalism, which outlived its putative economic causes, and gravely obstructed the advance of the enlightenment, whether liberal or Socialist. What followed in the newly liberated territories in Asia and Africa seems to support the view that after the 1920s neither socialism nor any other political movement in the postwar world could be successful unless it came arm in arm not only with anti-imperialism but with pronounced nationalism.
The rise of nationalism is today a worldwide phenomenon, probably the strongest single factor in the newly established states, and in some cases among the minority populations of the older nations. Who, in the nineteenth century, would have predicted the rise of acute nationalism in Canada, in Pakistan (indeed, the very possibility of Pakistan itself would have met with considerable skepticism among Indian nationalist leaders a hundred years ago), or in Wales or Brittany or Scotland or the Basque country? It might be said that this is an automatic psychological accompaniment of liberation from foreign rule-a natural reaction, on Schiller's "bent twig" theory, against oppression or humiliation of a society that possesses national characteristics. In most of these cases the desire for national independence is intertwined with social resistance to exploitation. This kind of nationalism is, perhaps, as much a form of social or class resistance as of purely national self-assertion, creating a mood in which men prefer to be ordered about, even if this entails ill-treatment, by members of their own faith or nation or class to tutelage, however benevolent, on the part of ultimately patronizing superiors from a foreign land or alien class or milieu.
So, too, it may be that no minority that has preserved its own cultural tradition or religious or racial characteristics, can indefinitely tolerate the prospect of remaining a minority forever, governed by a majority with a different outlook or habits. And this may indeed account for the reaction of wounded pride, or the sense of collective injustice, which animates, for example, Zionism or its mirror-image, the movement of the Palestinian Arabs, or such "ethnic" minorities as Negroes in the United States or Irish Catholics in Ulster, the Nagas in India and the like. Certainly contemporary nationalism seldom comes in its pure, romantic form as it did in Italy or Poland or Hungary in the early nineteenth century, but is connected far more closely with social and religious and economic grievances. Yet it seems undeniable that the central feeling is deeply nationalistic. More ominous still (and even more rarely, if indeed ever, foreseen a century ago), racial hatreds seem to be at the core of the most hideous expressions of violent collective emotion of this kind: genocide and near-genocide in India, in the Sudan, in Nigeria and Burundi, indicate that, no matter what other factors may be present in such explosive situations, they always possess a national or racialist core, which other factors may exacerbate, but which they do not generate, and without which they do not combine into the socially and politically critical mass. Passionate nationalism appears to be the sine qua non of contemporary revolutions.
Whatever may be the explanation of this phenomenon, which, in its own way, is just as menacing as the other dangers that loom over mankind-pollution or overpopulation or the nuclear holocaust-its rise is incompatible with nineteenth-century notions of the relative unimportance of race or nationality or even culture, as opposed to, say, class or economic competition, or of psychological and anthropological factors as against sociological or economic ones. Yet these were the assumptions upon which predictions of the emergence of a rational society, whether founded upon the principles of liberal individualism or on technocratic centralization, once rested. Unanticipated outbreaks of such dissimilar, yet equally nationalist movements in the Communist societies of our day-from the Hungarian resistance in 1956 to anti-Semitism and nationalism in Poland, and indeed in the Soviet Union itself-seem, to say the least, to weaken the orthodox Marxist thesis.[i] Yet they certainly cannot be described, as they sometimes are by those who are embarrassed by them, as mere relics and survivals of an earlier ideology. Neither Nagy in Hungary nor Moczar in Poland, despite the vast differences of their purposes, were in any sense bourgeois nationalists.
In the face of this, faith in countervailing forces-in multinational corporations which, whatever their relationship with class war and social conflict, at any rate do cross national borders, or in the United Nations as a barrier to unbridled chauvinism-seems about as realistic (at least so far as lands outside Western Europe are concerned) as Cobden's belief that the development of free trade throughout the world would of itself ensure peace and harmonious coöperation between nations. One is also reminded of Norman Angell's apparently unanswered argument a short while before 1914 that the economic interests of modern capitalist states alone made large- scale wars impossible.
What we are seeing, it seems to me, is a world reaction against the central doctrines of nineteenth-century liberal rationalism itself, a confused effort to return to an older morality. The lines of battle in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were more or less clearly drawn. On one side stood the supporters of tradition, of political and social hierarchies, whether "natural" or hallowed by history, or belief in, and obedience to, divine, or at any rate transcendent, authority. These were men who believed that the operations of untrammeled reason must be kept within bounds and should, above all, be prevented from questioning the validity of the laws and customs and ancient ways of life-those impalpable and unanalyzable bonds that hold society together and alone preserve the moral health of states and individuals. This is the faith in the "integral" community which critical examination by skeptical intellectuals, using rationalist methods, can only discredit in theory and undermine, and in the end, disintegrate in practice. On the other side stood the unswerving champions of reason, who rejected faith in tradition, intuition, transcendent sources of authority as mere smokescreens to justify irrationality, ignorance, bias, fear of the truth in matters of theory, and stupidity, injustice, oppression and the corrupt power of Bentham's sinister interests, in practice.
The party of progress, Liberal or Socialist, appealed to the methods of reason, especially the methods employed in the natural sciences, by which any rational being could verify the truth of a principle, or the effectiveness of a policy, or the reliability of the evidence on which these conclusions were founded. He could test such claims for himself by the use of techniques open to anyone, at any time, anywhere, without appeal to special faculties or mystical intuition with which only a chosen few were mysteriously endowed-magical ways of knowing for which infallibility was often claimed. Each side knew its enemies: on the right stood monarchists and conservatives, clericals and authoritarians, nationalists and imperialists, men whom their opponents called reactionaries and obscurantists; on the other side, rationalists, scientific materialists, skeptical intellectuals, egalitarians and positivists of many hues. Whatever the differences within each group, whether about ends or about means, the main lines of division between them were clearly discernible; and in spite of mixed and intermediate positions, each side was conscious of where it belonged, and who its natural allies and opponents were.
There is a sense in which, in our time, Burke's "sophisters, economists and calculators," the rationalists, the Victorian progressives, have won. Condorcet had once observed that all real issues of the future could be decided on the basis of rational calculation of utilitarian consequences. Calculemus was to be the new watchword, the key to the solution both of social and of personal problems. This method, with its stress on systems analysis, cost effectiveness, reduction to statistical and quantitative terms, reliance on the authority and power of organization and experts, is today the common property of both sides. The application of technological techniques in organizing the lives and productive activities of human beings, is the policy of governments, of industrial enterprises, indeed, of all large-scale economic (and cultural) activities in capitalist and Communist states alike. Scientific knowledge and scientific organization, which alone have succeeded in revealing the secrets of nature, animate and inanimate, can surely be made to rationalize social life and so bring about the maximum satisfaction of discoverable human needs, provided that the system is organized by disinterested experts.
Physicists and biologists, geographers and urban and rural planners, psychologists and anthropologists, mathematicians and engineers (including Stalin's "engineers of human souls"), specialists of every kind, can be, and to a larger degree have been, harnessed into the service of those who, sometimes with pure motives and a fanatical devotion to what they see as the cause of reason and human happiness, are determined to make the best use possible of available resources, natural and artificial, human and nonhuman. Marxists, or inhabitants of underdeveloped countries, may protest against the use of such methods in their own interest by the class enemy, internal or external, capitalists, "neo-colonialists," imperialists. But they do not protest against the technological approach itself, and indeed seek to adapt and perfect it for the promotion of their own interests. It is against this that a worldwide protest has begun.
The effectiveness of this revolt, for such it seems to be since it is still in its early beginnings, is hard to foretell. It springs from the feeling that human rights, rooted in the sense of human beings as specifically human, that is, as individuated, as possessing wills, sentiments, beliefs, ideals, ways of living of their own, have been lost sight of in the "global" calculations and vast extrapolations which guide the plans of policy planners and executives in the gigantic operations in which governments, corporations and interlocking élites of various kinds are engaged. Quantitative computation cannot but ignore the specific wishes and hopes and fears and goals of individual human beings. This must always be so, whenever policies for large numbers must be devised, but it has today gone very far indeed.
There is a growing number among the young of our day who see their future as a process of being fitted into some scientifically well-constructed program, after the data of their life expectancy and capacities and utilizability have been classified, computerized, and analyzed for conduciveness to the purpose, at the very best, of producing the greatest happiness of the greatest number. This will determine the organization of life on a national or regional or world scale, and this without undue attention to, or interest in (since this is not needed for the completion of the task), their individual characters, ways of life, wishes, quirks, ideals. This moves them to gloom and fury or despair. They wish to be and do something, and not merely be acted upon, or for, or on behalf of. They demand recognition of their dignity as human beings. They do not wish to be reduced to human material, to being counters in a game played by others, even when it is played, at least in part, for the benefit of these counters themselves. A revolt breaks out at all levels.
The dissident young opt out or attack universities, intellectual activities, organized education, because they identify them with this huge and dehumanizing machinery. Whether they know it or not, what they are appealing to is some species of Natural law, or Kantian absolutism, which forbids the treatment of human beings as means to ends, no matter how benevolently this is conceived. Their protests sometimes take rational forms, at other times violently irrational ones, mostly exhibitionistic and often hysterical attempts to defy the ruling powers, to insult them into awareness of the totalitarian effect of such policies, whether intended or unintended (the authentic Marxist component of such protests, the denunciation of exploitation and class rule, is not, as a rule, the dominant note). They protest against the destructive effect to individuals of global planning, of the substitution of figures and curves for the direct perception of actual human beings for whose ostensible good all this is being done, especially of those remote from them whose lives the planners seek to determine, sometimes by exceedingly brutal means, hidden from their own sight by the opaque medium of impersonal statistics.
In industrial or post-industrial societies, the protest is that of individuals or groups whose members do not wish to be dragged along by the chariot wheels of scientific progress, interpreted as the accumulation of material goods and services and of utilitarian arrangements to dispose of them. In poor or ex-colonial territories the desire of the majority to be treated as equals of their former masters-as full human beings-often takes the form of nationalist self-assertion. The cry for individual and national independence-the demand not to be interfered with or dictated to or organized by others-springs from the same sense of outraged human dignity. It is true that the movement for national independence at times itself leads to the creation of larger units, to centralization, and often to the suppression by the new élite of its own fellow-citizens, and it can lead to the crushing of various minorities, ethnic, political, religious. At other times it is inspired by the opposite ideal-escape from huge impersonal authority that ignores ethnic, regional and religious differences, a craving for "natural" units of "human" size.
But the original impulse, the desire fare da se, appears to be the same in both cases; it is the se that varies. The self that seeks liberty of action, determination of its own life, can be large or small, regional or linguistic; today it is liable to be collective and national or ethnic- religious rather than individual; it is always resistant to dilution, assimilation, depersonalization. It is the very triumph of scientific rationalism everywhere, the great eighteenth century movement for the liberation of men from superstition and ignorance, from the selfishness and greed of kings, priests and oligarchies, above all, from the vagaries of natural forces, that, by a curious paradox, has imposed a yoke that, in its turn, evoked an all-too-human cry for independence from its rule. It is a cry for room in which men can seek to realize their natures, quirks and all, to live lives free from dictation or coercion from teachers, masters, bullies and persuaders and dominators of various kinds. No doubt to do entirely as one likes could destroy not only one's neighbors but oneself. Freedom is only one value among others, and cannot be realized without rules and limits. But in the hour of revolt this is inevitably forgotten.
Antinomianism is nothing new. Mutiny against the life of the barracks, the suffocation of "closed" societies against the laws and institutions that are felt to be unjust or oppressive or corrupt or indifferent to some of the deepest aspirations of human beings, occur in the history of every long- lived state and church and social order. Sometimes these institutions, whatever their official professions and ideologies, are felt to favor a particular class or group at the expense of others, whom they seek, consciously or unconsciously, to deceive or coerce into conformity. At other times the system is felt to be mechanically self-perpetuating and the reasons for its existence, even if once valid, have become obsolete. Its supporters delude men (and are themselves deluded) into supposing that human arrangements, which may have originally responded to real needs, are objective necessities, laws of nature (at least human nature) which it is idle and irrational to seek to alter. Diderot spoke of the war within each human being, of the natural man seeking to liberate himself from the artificial man, who is compounded of social conventions, irrational pressures and the "interested error" of the ruling class which rational criticism would blow sky-high but upon which contemporary society rests.
Protest against this takes the form sometimes of a nostalgic longing for earlier times, when men were virtuous or happy or free, or dreams of a golden age in the future, or of a restoration of simplicity, spontaneity, natural humanity, the self-subsistent rural economy, in which man, no longer dependent on the whims of others, can recover moral (and physical) health. The result would presumably be the reign of those eternal values which all but the hopelessly corrupt can easily recognize simply by looking within themselves; this is what Rousseau and Tolstoy and a good many peaceful anarchists and their modern followers still believe. Populist movements in the nineteenth century which idealized peasants, or the poor, or the "true" nation, very different from its self-appointed bureaucratic rulers, represented attempts of this kind-a return to "the people" in order to escape from a world of false values, "inauthentic" lives, organization men, or Ibsen's or Chekhov's crushed or repressed beings, where human capacity for love and friendship, justice and creative work, enjoyment, curiosity, pursuit of the truth, have been aborted and frustrated. Some wish to improve contemporary society by reforms. Others feel, as the Anabaptists of the sixteenth century may have felt, that the corruption has gone too far, that the wicked must be destroyed root and branch, in the hope that a new and pure society will arise miraculously upon its ruins.
These are extreme cases, chosen to illustrate the predicament at its most characteristic. It is with this mood and this predicament that nationalism is connected. It, too, is a pathological form of a self-protective resistance. Rousseau, the most spellbinding voice of this general revolt, told the Poles to resist encroachment by the Russians by obstinately clinging to their national institutions, their clothes, their habits, their ways of life, not to conform, not to assimilate; the claims of universal humanity were incarnated, for the time being, in their resistance. There is something of the same attitude in the Russian Populists of the last century. It is to be found among those hitherto suppressed peoples or minorities-those ethnic groups which feel humiliated or oppressed, to whom nationalism represents the straightening of bent backs, the recovery of a freedom that they may never have had (it is all a matter of ideas in men's heads), revenge for their insulted humanity.
This is less acutely felt in societies which have enjoyed political independence for long periods. The West has, by and large, satisfied that hunger for recognition, the desire for the Anerkennung which Hegel analyzed very memorably; it is lack of this that, more than any other cause, seems to lead to nationalist excesses. Nationalism to many liberals and Socialists in the West appears to be mere chauvinism or imperialism, part and parcel of the ideology of that very establishment which has robbed the victims of their birthright. What could be more paradoxical or more pathetic than that they should seek to realize the very values of the monstrous system which has reduced them to poverty and degradation? Is this not one of the best illustrations of the Marxist thesis that one of the greatest wrongs the ruling class does to its subjects is to blind them to their true interest, to infect them with its ideology dictated by its own interests, as if they were identical with those of the oppressed?
In fact, nationalism does not necessarily and exclusively militate in favor of the ruling class. It animates revolts against it, too, for it expresses the inflamed desire of the insufficiently regarded to count for something among the cultures of the world. The brutal and destructive side of modern nationalism needs no stressing in a world torn by its excesses. Yet it must be recognized for what it is-a worldwide response to a profound and natural need on the part of newly liberated slaves-"the decolonized"-a phenomenon unpredicted in the Europe-centered society of the nineteenth century. How did the possibility of this development come to be ignored? To this question, I volunteer no answer.
[i] The attitude of the founders of Marxism to national or local patriotism, autonomist movements, self-determination of small states and the like, is not in doubt. Apart from the direct implications of their theory of social development, their attitude to Danish resistance to Prussia over Schleswig-Holstein, to the Italian fight for unity and independence (when Marx in his dispatches to The New York Times so sharply differed from the pro-Italian Lasalle), to the efforts by the Czechs to defend their culture from German hegemony, and even to the outcome of the Franco-Prussian War, is quite clear. The charge brought by the Swiss anarchist leader James Guillaume against Marx, of supporting Pan-Germanism, was only a piece of absurd propaganda during the 1914-18 war. Like other historicists who believe in a single progressive universal civilization, Marx regarded national or regional loyalties as irrational resistance by lower forms of development, which history would render obsolete. In this sense German civilization (and the developed workers' organization in it) represented a more advanced stage of (admittedly capitalist) development than, say, Danish or Bohemian or any other Kleinstaaterei. Similarly, it was more desirable from the point of view of the International Workingmen's Movement that the Germans-with their superior workers' organizations-should win rather than the French, riddled with Proudhonism, Bakuninism, etc.; there is no trace of nationalism in Marx's conception of the stages of world progress toward communism and beyond it. It is all the more significant, therefore, that the creation of states founded on Marxist doctrines should, nevertheless, display acute national feeling. The latest and sharpest expression of this is contained in the report presented to the National Conference of the Rumanian Communist Party by its leader Nicolae Ceau_[pic]escu on July 19, 1972:
Some people think that the nce of the Rumanian Communist Party by its leader Nicolae Ceau?escu on July 19, 1972:
Some people think that the nation is a concept which is historically obsolete, and that the policy of national unity and the development of the nation, particularly in Socialist conditions, would even be a wrong policy, would represent the expression of narrow-minded nationalism. Sometimes it is said that this policy is opposed to Socialist internationalism. . . . With respect to the national problem in Socialist conditions, we have to say that the victory of the new society has opened up the way to achieving true national unity, to strengthening and developing the nation on a new basis. . . . The dialectical process of bringing together [different] nations presupposes their strong affirmation [of their national characteristics]. . . . Between national and international interests not only is there no contradiction, but on the contrary, there is a full dialectical unity. (Scinteia, July 20, 1972, p. 8.)
Ceau?escu is perhaps the most impeccably Leninist-Stalinist of all the leaders of Communist states. The fact that he should have chosen to make a doctrinal issue of what has, in practice, for many years been the line of many Communist governments and Parties in the East and West, is surely an event of some importance. The conflict between Marxist discipline and nationalist forces, which is a fairly constant factor in contemporary communism-indeed, the entire topic of Marxism and nationalism, both its theoretical aspects and in practice, deserves closer study than it has obtained.