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.