Critical Theories of nationalism.

quotes from

Nationalism on the Internet. Critical Theory and Ideology in the Age of Social Media and Fake News. Christian Fuchs



“I feel at home in the entire world wherever there are clouds and birds and human tears.” (Rosa Luxemburg).

“Imperialism in all countries has no “understanding”, it knows only one right: capital profit, only one language: the sword, only one means: violence. […] Socialism alone can accomplish the great work of lasting peace, to heal the thousand bleeding wounds of mankind, to transform the fields […] that have been stamped down by the Apocalyptic Horsemen of War into flourishing gardens, to conjure up tenfold new productive forces instead of the destroyed ones, to awaken all physical and moral energies of mankind and to replace hatred and discord with fraternal solidarity, harmony and respect for everything that bears human dignity. If representatives of the proletarians of all countries join hands under the banner of socialism to make peace, then peace is made in a few hours. […] The International will be humanity! Long live the world revolution of the proletariat! Proletarians of all countries, unite!”.  (Liebknecht et al. 1918. To the Proletarians of All Countries).

“Militarism fulfils a quite definite function in the history of capital, accompanying as it does every historical phase of accumulation. It plays a decisive part in the first stages of European capitalism, in the period of the so-called “primitive accumulation”, as a means of conquering the New World and the spice-producing countries of India. Later, it is employed to subject the modern colonies, to destroy the social organisations of primitive societies so that their means of production may be appropriated, forcibly to introduce commodity trade in countries where the social structure had been unfavourable to it, and to turn the natives into a proletariat by compelling them to work for wages in the colonies. It is responsible for the creation and expansion of spheres of interest for European capital in non-European regions, for extorting railway concessions in backward countries, and for enforcing the claims of European capital as international lender. Finally, militarism is a weapon in the competitive struggle between capitalist countries for areas of non-capitalist civilisation. In addition, militarism has yet another important function. From the purely economic point of view, it is a pre-eminent means for the realisation of surplus value; it is in itself a province of accumulation.”  (Luxemburg, Rosa. 1913/2003. The Accumulation of Capital).

“We rather think that all nations independent of ethnicity, language and beliefs can live in complete peace and friendship with one another and can vie in the fulfilment of their cultural tasks. Naturally we do not surrender to the illusion that this ideal can be realised as long as capitalism exists. […] As long as capitalism prevails, wars are inevitable.”  (Luxemburg, Rosa. 1914. Über Militarismus und Arbeiterklasse).

“There will be no more war, as soon as the masses declare: We do not want any genocide!”.  (Luxemburg, Rosa. 1914. Über Militarismus und Arbeiterklasse).



“The Communists are further reproached with desiring to abolish countries and nationality. The working men have no country [Vaterland in the German original]. We cannot take from them what they have not got. Since the proletariat must first of all acquire political supremacy, must rise to be the leading class of the nation, must constitute itself the nation, it is so far, itself national, though not in the bourgeois sense of the word.”  (Marx and Engels. 1848. Manifesto of the Communist Party).

If the emancipation of the working classes requires their fraternal concurrence, how are they to fulfil that great mission with a foreign policy in pursuit of criminal designs, playing upon national prejudices, and squandering in piratical wars the people’s blood and treasure? [Nationalist wars and conflicts] […] have taught the working classes the duty to master themselves the mysteries of international politics; to watch the diplomatic acts of their respective Governments; to counteract them, if necessary, by all means in their power; when unable to prevent, to combine in simultaneous denunciations, and to vindicate the simple laws of morals and justice, which ought to govern the relations of private individuals, as the rules paramount of the intercourse of nations. The fight for such a foreign policy forms part of the general struggle for the emancipation of the working classes. Proletarians of all countries, Unite!”  (Marx 1864. Inaugural Address of the Working Men’s International Association).

“Ireland is the BULWARK of the English landed aristocracy. The exploitation of this country is not simply one of the main sources of their material wealth; it is their greatest moral power. […] And most important of all! All industrial and commercial centres in England now have a working class divided into two hostile camps, English PROLETARIANS and Irish PROLETARIANS. The ordinary English worker hates the Irish worker as a competitor who forces down the STANDARD OF LIFE. In relation to the Irish worker, he feels himself to be a member of the ruling nation and, therefore, makes himself a tool of his aristocrats and capitalists against Ireland, thus strengthening their domination over himself. He harbours religious, social and national prejudices against him. […] This antagonism is kept artificially alive and intensified by the press, the pulpit, the comic papers, in short by all the means at the disposal of the ruling class. This antagonism is the secret of the English working class’s impotence, despite its organisation. It is the secret of the maintenance of power by the capitalist class. And the latter is fully aware of this”.  (Marx 1870. Letter of Marx to Sigfrid Meyer and August Vogt).

“The English bourgeoisie has not only exploited Irish poverty to keep down the working class in England by forced immigration of poor Irishmen, but it has also divided the proletariat into two hostile camps. […] The average English worker hates the Irish worker as a competitor who lowers wages and the STANDARD OF LIFE. He feels national and religious antipathies for him. He regards him somewhat like the POOR WHITES of the Southern States of North America regarded black slaves. This antagonism among the proletarians of England is artificially nourished and kept up by the bourgeoisie. It knows that this scission is the true secret of maintaining its power”.  (Marx 1869. The General Council to the Federal Council of Romance Switzerland)

“[Bonapartism] professed to save the working class by breaking down Parliamentarism, and, with it, the undisguised subserviency of Government to the propertied classes. It professed to save the propertied classes by upholding their economic supremacy over the working class; and, finally, it professed to unite all classes by reviving for all the chimera of national glory”.  (Marx 1871. The Civil War in France)


[nationalist movements are] cicatrices and scars of a democracy […] that until today has still not lived up to its own concept” (Adorno. Aspekte des neuen Rechtsradikalismus. Talk at the University of Vienna on 6 April 1967).

“The fabrication of national collectivities, however – common practice in the abominable jargon of war which speaks of the Russian, the American, and certainly also of the German – is the mark of a reified consciousness hardly capable of experience [Erfahrung]. Such fabrication remains within precisely those stereotypes which it is the task of thinking to dissolve. […] The fabrication of stereotypes, on the other hand, promotes collective narcissism. Those qualities with which one identifies oneself – the essence of one’s own group – imperceptibly become the Good; the foreign group, the others, Bad. The same thing then happens, in reverse, with the image the others have of the German. Yet after the most heinous deeds [Unheil] were perpetrated under National Socialism in the name of an ideology which privileged the collective subject at the expense of any and all individuality, there is in Germany a double reason to guard against relapsing into the production of ideolatrous, self-glorifying stereotypes”  (Adorno 1985. On the Question “What Is German?”).


[Marxists cannot be nationalists] since nationalism by definition subordinates all other interests to those of its specific “nation”. […] any Marxists who are not, at least in theory, prepared to see the “interests” of their own country or people subordinated to wider interests, had best reconsider their ideological loyalties”  (Hobsbawm, 1977. Some Reflections on “The Break-Up of Britain”)

Like most serious students, I do not regard the “nation” as a primary nor as an unchanging social entity. It belongs exclusively to a particular, and historically recent, period. It is a social entity only insofar as it relates to a certain kind of modern territorial state, the “nation-state”, and it is pointless to discuss nation and nationality except insofar as both relate to it”. (Hobsbawm, 1992. Nations and Nationalism since 1780).

“The foreigner came to symbolize the disruption of old ways and the capitalist system which disrupted them. Thus the virulent political anti-Semitism which we have observed spreading across the western world from the 1880s […] took aim rather against the bankers, entrepreneurs and others who were identified with the ravages of capitalism among the “little men”. (Hobsbawm 1989. The Age of Empire 1875–1914)

“Until the Great Depression something very like global free trade, while perhaps benefiting Britain rather more than others, had been in the interest of all. Yet from the 1870s on such claims ceased to ring true, and as a global conflict came, once more, to be considered as a serious, if not an impending possibility, the sort of nationalism which saw other nations frankly as menace or victims gained ground”. (Hobsbawm 1989. The Age of Empire 1875–1914).

“Whatever the nature of the nationalism which came to the fore in the fifty years before 1914, all versions of it appeared to have something in common: a rejection of the new proletarian socialist movements, not only because they were proletarian but also because they were, consciously and militantly internationalist, or at the very least non-nationalist. […] And the canonical view among historians is indeed that in this period mass nationalism triumphed against rival ideologies, notably class-based socialism, as demonstrated by the outbreak of war in 1914”. (Hobsbawm, 1992. Nations and Nationalism since 1780).

[Ethnicity is an ideology that] links the members of ‘we’ because it emphasizes their differences from ‘them’. What they actually have in common beyond being ‘them’ is not so clear. […] ethnicity is one way of filling the empty containers of nationalism” (Hobsbawm, 1992. Nations and Nationalism since 1780).


“Racism, fascism, nationalism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia operate by repressing one’s factual dependency on capital and state through the unconscious construction of a regional omnipotence at the expense of others, “strangers” whose persecution “supersedes” conflicts with the ruling classes, whereby this displacement also involves the repression of one’s self-harming participation in stabilizing powers one is dependent upon; this repression, in turn has to be kept “unconscious” by mythicizing one’s own “powerfulness” and demonizing “others” (Klaus Holzkamp 2013. Racism and the Unconscious as Understood by Psychoanalysis and Critical Psychology. In Psychology from the Standpoint of the Subject).

“Racism is constantly emerging out of nationalism. […] And nationalism emerges out of racism. [Racism is] a supplement internal to nationalism” (Balibar and Wallerstein 1991. Race, Nation, Class).



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