Revolutionary nationalism

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Revolutionary nationalism (aka radical nationalism) is an ideological theory that calls for a national community united by a shared sense of purpose and destiny.[1] It was first attributed to adherents of the revolutionary syndicalism, and heavily promulgated by Benito Mussolini. This intellectual synthesis of “radical nationalism and dissident socialist” formed in France and Italy at the beginning of the 20th century.[2] Sometimes Revolutionary nationalism is identified with Proletarian Nationalism.

Early nationalism[edit]

By the middle of the 19th century, nationalism was transforming from a citizens’ movement that had opposed the excesses of state power held under the autocratic authority of the monarchies to one where nationalism became a method of political legitimacy for the ruling elite.[3] The early nationalist movements originally struggled to attain self-determination and freedom, but in the last decades of the 19th century, with the introduction of socialism, a movement arose to foster collective identity and revolutionary nationalism.[4] But a few decades before World War I, various socialist factions clashed over the meaning of nationalism and socialism, causing one bloc to drift towards nationalistic-based socialism, and the other towards internationally-based socialism. This movement for “national identity” threatened monarchical empires that were populated by wide variety of ethnic, religious, linguistic, and cultural groups.

World War I[edit]

During the onset of World War I, socialist political parties in Austria, Britain, France, Germany, and Russia went along with the nationalist current and decided to support their nations’ interventionist policies in the Great War.[5] At this point, most of the socialist parties and members that held positions in the Second International “abandoned their commitment to internationalism and supported their national government,”[6] a dispute that lead to the dissolution of the Second International in 1916. The crisis could not be resolved since so many members held the position that the “nation triumphed over class” and “nationalism overrode internationalism.”[7] According to Italian historian, Emilio Gentile, this conflict lead to a condition where socialists and revolutionaries sought an ideology where a revolutionary nationalism would fuse the “myth of the nation with the myth of the revolution through interventionism.”[8]

In Italy, a number of revolutionary syndicalists found it relevant to identify the “communality” of man not with class, but with the nation, causing the first intimations of revolutionary nationalism to make their debut “among the most radical Marxists.”[9] Even Vladimir Lenin noticed this nationalist trend among socialist intellectuals and at first thought it had some potential for Marxist strategy, and that the “force of nationalism” should be taken into consideration.[10]

Mussolini’s Revolutionary Nationalism[edit]

According to A. James Gregor, Mussolini had a fuzzy, imprecise approach to the concept of revolutionary nationalism by 1909, although he acknowledged its historical role which later provided the groundwork of his subsequent views, including revolutionary syndicalism.[11][12] Mussolini maintained that if the masses were to be energized by the sentiments of nationality, “only the revolutionary socialists could effectively and legitimately commit that energy to national purpose.”[13] Despite Mussolini’s inclination towards nationalism, he was still opposed to traditional patriotism and conventional nationalist appeal, which included his emphatic rejection of the type of nationalism that was championed by the privileged classes and traditional bourgeoisie, who simply used the slogans of nationalism “whenever a profit might be turned.”[14]

One of most cogent descriptions of Mussolini’s approach to his version of nationalism follows:

Mussolini's revolutionary nationalism, while it distinguished itself from the traditional patriotism and nationalism of the bourgeoisie, displayed many of those features we today identify with the nationalism of underdeveloped peoples. It was an anticonservative nationalism that anticipated vast social changes; it was directed against both foreign and domestic oppressors; it conjured up an image of a renewed and regenerated nation that would perform a historical mission; it invoked a moral ideal of selfless sacrifice and commitment in the service of collective goals; and it recalled ancient glories and anticipated a shared and greater glory.[15]

Mussolini would commonly use nationalist language in his writings while at the same time conveying the importance of an internationalist class analysis.[16] Mussolini’s concept of revolutionary nationalism often alluded to its compatibility with an “ideal socialist internationalism,” while articulating that the “nation” constituted “the most advanced collective organism attained by civilized ethnic groups” in our time. [17] Nonetheless, Mussolini and Fascist Syndicalists were confident that a time would come when mankind would negate national antagonisms in a universal brotherhood of peoples.

However, Mussolini’s sudden shift in 1914 to publicly clamor for Italy’s entry into World War I, was based on more than a simple expression of nationalistic pride. Mussolini based his foreign interventionist policies on Marx’s premise that social revolutions can supersede war.[18] At this point, Mussolini attributed “great importance to war as a catalyst for revolution.”[19][20]

Other Italian Fascists considered their radical nationalism to be based on the struggle for equality by the plebeians, who were seen as being exploited by plutocratic governments. Robert Michels, an early revolutionary syndicalist who affiliated with the National Fascist Party by 1924, declared that Fascism was “the revolutionary nationalism of the poor.”[21]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Roger Griffin, “How fascist was Mussolini?” New Perspective, vol. 6, no. 1, September 2000, pp. 31-5
  2. ^ Guntram H. Herb, David H. Kaplan, edit., Nations and Nationalism: A Global Historical Overview, Santa Barbara, CA, ABC-CLIO, 2008, chap: “Perversions of Nationalism,” Aristotle A. Kallis, p. 515
  3. ^ Guntram H. Herb, David H. Kaplan, edit., Nations and Nationalism: A Global Historical Overview, Santa Barbara, CA, ABC-CLIO, 2008, chap: “Perversions of Nationalism,” Aristotle A. Kallis, p. 512
  4. ^ Guntram H. Herb, David H. Kaplan, edit., Nations and Nationalism: A Global Historical Overview, Santa Barbara, CA, ABC-CLIO, 2008, chap: “Perversions of Nationalism,” Aristotle A. Kallis, p. 513
  5. ^ Spencer Tucker and Priscilla Roberts, editors, Encyclopedia of World War I: A Political, Social, and Military History, 5 Vol. set, Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, Tucker, 2005, p. 884
  6. ^ Cheng Chen, The Prospects for Liberal Nationalism in Post-Leninist States, Pennsylvania State University Press, 2007, p. 37
  7. ^ Yannis Sygkelos, Nationalism from the Left: The Bulgarian Communist Party During the Second World War and the Early Post-War Years, Brill Academic Pub, 2011, p. 13
  8. ^ Emilio Gentile, The Struggle for Modernity: Nationalism, Futurism, and Fascism, Westport, CT, Praeger, 2003, p. 6
  9. ^ A. James Gregor, Giovanni Gentile: Philosopher of Fascism, New Brunswick: NJ, Transaction Publishers, 2004, p. 55
  10. ^ Cheng Chen, The Prospects for Liberal Nationalism in Post-Leninist States, Westport, CT, Praeger, 2003, p. 37
  11. ^ A. James Gregor, Young Mussolini and the Intellectual Origins of Fascism, University of California Press, 1979, p. 75
  12. ^ Cf. I. De Begnac, Vita di Mussolini, II, ch. 7, mostly p. 157
  13. ^ A. James Gregor, Young Mussolini and the Intellectual Origins of Fascism, University of California Press, 1979, p. 98
  14. ^ A. James Gregor, Young Mussolini and the Intellectual Origins of Fascism, University of California Press, 1979, p. 97
  15. ^ A. James Gregor, Young Mussolini and the Intellectual Origins of Fascism, University of California Press, 1979, p. 99
  16. ^ Mark Neocleous, Fascism, University of Minnesota Press, 1997 p. 20
  17. ^ A. James Gregor, Young Mussolini and the Intellectual Origins of Fascism, University of California Press, 1979, p. 98
  18. ^ Christopher Hibbert, Mussolini: The Rise and Fall of Il Duce, New York: NY, St. Martin’s Press, 2008, p. 21.
  19. ^ Richard Pipes, Three “Whys” of the Russian Revolution, New York, NY, Vintage Books, 1997, p. 38
  20. ^ Benito Mussolini, “The War as a Revolution,” 1914, in Roger Griffin, editor, Fascism, 1995, pp. 26–28
  21. ^ A. James Gregor, The Faces of Janus: Marxism and Fascism in the Twentieth Century, Yale University Press, 2000, p. 133