Patriotism and nationalism

By November 12, 2018EU Politics, Society, US Politics

French president, Emmanuel Macron gave a passionate speech at the 100thanniversary of Armistice Day, the day that ended the First World War. In that speech he warned against the rise of nationalism, the type of tribalism that led to the war in the first place. In part, he said:

“…This vision of France as a generous nation, of France as a project, of France as the carrier of universal values was, in these sombre hours, exactly the opposite of the egoism of a people only thinking of their own interests, because patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. By saying our interests are first, who cares about the others, we erase what a nation holds dearest, what gives it life, what makes it great and what is essential: its moral values.”1

He later tweeted, in English:

“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. By putting our own interests first, with no regard for others, we erase the very thing that a nation holds dearest, and the thing that keeps it alive: its moral values.”2

This speech was in part seen as a rebuke to the idiotic redneck nationalism of Trump, who was in the crowd. Subsequent to this tweet, someone (I cannot remember who) tweeted that ‘patriotism and nationalism are very close friends’. That person made the same mistake that right-wing nut jobs do when they assert that because Hitler’s Nazi Party had ‘sozialismus’ in its name it was actually socialist3, or because the North Korea (DPRK) has ‘democratic’ in its name it is actually democratic, or because Scott Morrison calls himself a Christian, he actually adheres to the teachings of Christ, or because the United Patriots Front has ‘patriots’ in the name, they are actually patriotic. None could be further from the truth.

Patriotism is actually love of one’s own nation, whereas nationalism is hatred of other nations. This is what in part precipitated World War 1. A Bosnian Serb nationalist (Gavrilo Princip) assassinated Austro-Hungarian heir Archduke Franz Ferdinand. After demanding restitution and getting little, Austria-Hungary shelled Belgrade; Russia felt obliged to back Serbia and mobilised its army. Austria-Hungary and its alliance partner Germany did the same and the latter demanded Russia demobilise. When Russia didn’t, Germany, followed by Austria-Hungary declared war on Russia. Russia’s alliance partner, France, ordered full mobilisation of its army. Germany then invaded Belgium and declared war on France the same day. The Belgian Government invoked the 1839 Treaty of London, and Britain therefore declared war on Germany and both Britain and France subsequently declared war on Austria-Hungary. Four years and three months later nine million soldiers, sailors and aviators were dead, as were seven million civilians. That is nationalism, not patriotism. Macron is right; nationalism is the antithesis of patriotism.





  • “Patriotism is actually love of one’s own nation, whereas nationalism is hatred of other nations.” (sic.): Interesting statement.

    Also interesting, perhaps, might be the fact that the word “hate” or “hatred” does not feature in this entry for “Nationalism”:

    Expression of this view is not at all an endorsement — much less, a defence — of Trumpism.

  • Jon says:

    Literal translations or definitions mean very little without context. Macron was talking about a specific brand of nationalism which is a relatively recent phenomenon since WWII. Reading between the lines I presume he’s talking about the desire by some nations to dominate and force other nations to submit through superior power, economic and/or military. I can’t recall the term being used previously to define the sort of erratic (ignorant, arrogant, self-obsessed, stupid – take your pick) behaviour we’ve seen under the narcissist Trump but it’s certainly prevalent in China for example. In the USA, a leader in modern democracy on many fronts until recently (law, freedom, media etc), a neocon manifesto specifically stated that America has the right to take the resources of other countries where circumstances required – eg Middle Eastern oil threats etc. The dangers of that perversity and China’s nationalism are obvious to all but the intentionally blind.

    Patriotism in its mildest form – the celebration of culture, history, identity etc – is a significant part of what binds nations, although some are so diverse and their peoples so different that national boundaries really mean very little. The kind of mindless patriotism (or maybe nationalism is the new parlance) of “my country right or wrong” and the (per)version pushed by extremists/racists/rwnjs is primarily a danger to social cohesion within nations, at least initially. Samuel Johnson’s now famous observation that patriotism [of a particular type] is the last refuges of a scoundrel holds true even moreso these days.

    Many of us are latent patriots, we all have some nationalistic tendencies but those to be feared are the ones who beat the drums and publicly proclaim their patriotism. They are invariably ignorant, intolerant people with closed minds.

    • admin says:

      What I was trying to get at was that the Trumpesque ‘nationalism’ is a fairly quick way to alienate all your allies. While I doubt the US would ever seriously damage its own interests, its interests are actually much broader than Trump perceives. People like Obama and his predecessors realised that there was a broader and longer term collective (diplomatic, trade, defence) set of interests. Trump doesn’t get this at all, mostly because he is too stupid.

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