Economics/Class Relations

A Reflection on Left-wing Nationalism

By Robert Lindsay

There have been many leftwing nationalists – the Pathet Lao, Stalin, Samora Machel in Mozambique, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, Aristide in Haiti, Correo in Ecuador, the Fernandez’ in Argentina, and of course the Chavistas in Venezuela. The IRA was left nationalist. So was the ETA with the Basques. There is a left separatist movement in Catalonia. Putin is a nationalist with Left leanings. The Chinese Communists have always been nationalists. Mao was a huge nationalist. North Korea is extremely nationalist and very left. Qaddafi in Libya was very much a nationalist as was Nasser in Egypt. The PFLP in Palestine is left nationalist. Syria is very nationalist and it is said to be a Left regime. Iran is hyper-nationalist and very socialist. Ho Chi Minh was a nationalist. Arbenz was a left nationalist in Guatemala. The PT ruling party of Brazil was very nationalist. Kwame Nkruma was a left nationalist. The ANC and Nelson Mandela were left nationalists. The ruling Algerian party is left nationalist. The PKK are left nationalist Kurds.

However, left nationalism is very different from right nationalism in that is not chauvinist and is based on solidarity, not dreams of empire, irredentism and revanchism. It’s also not based on racial or ethnic hatred, though there are some exceptions. It doesn’t threaten its neighbors, it is not belligerent, it does no seek to unify Greater Slobodia or wherever, there is no blood and soil nationalism, they are not about destruction and going back to a golden era, they do not attack labor, the left, socialists, and nationalists and they are emancipatory instead of restrictive regarding minorities, women, etc. They don’t demonize groups based on ethnicity, race religion, national origin, or minorities in general as scapegoats. There is no perverse worship of violence for its own sake or as a cleansing agent from the degeneration of the present to bring back some golden era, there is no focus on the modern era as being sick and degenerate, they do not promote family values, traditional gender roles, they do not advocate return to traditional religion and culture, they don’t create mythological histories about the country which typically involve rewriting of history itself. There is no worship of strength and contempt for weakness with consequent valuation of men and devaluation of women. There is no reverence for heirarchy, contempt for equality, and therefore fake elision of class struggle; instead, there is a goal of more or less equality of opportunity and basic survival needs and a dislike of hierarchy. Left nationalism is emancipatory in that sense. Right nationalism says clocks run backwards and they to reinstate the old hierarchical ways due to tradition, though these were often very unfair, with people getting rewarded simply for picking the right parents and demonized for failing to do so.

We can combine socialism and nationalism in a progressive way of course and I like the idea of combining those two things. Problem is as soon as you do that everyone will say you have “national socialism” which is Nazi racist fascism. The Nazis sort of ruined the term. They’re system wasn’t very socialist anyway. More like Reaganite. I’d prefer to call it something other than national socialism because that’s fascism and I assure you that Iran is not fascist at all. The Danish and French Left now are “socialist nationalists.” It’s not even a rightwing theocracy. How is it rightwing? Social conservatism? Well ok but all Muslim countries are like this. If you study Iran in depth you conclude that it is a leftwing revolutionary country. And it’s so socialist that it is practically a Communist country. A deeply reactionary socially conservative Communism, but a Communism nonetheless. Iran is a revolutionary country like Cuba is. It is a deeply anti-imperialist countries that has alliances with Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, China, Russia – the axis of resistance to the unipolar world of the US dictatorship.

Peronism is a great example. Patria o muerte! A lot of countries have slogans like that – Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela. The founder of the Baath Party, a Christian, Michel Aflaq, said, “Without the homeland, there is nothing.” Saddam was a radical nationalist, too radical if you ask me. Assad is very similar. Qaddafi was a nationalist but he wanted to unify Africa into Africanism. The Arabs above pushed unity of the Arabs. They wanted one state for all Arab peoples. Egypt and Syria were one state for a while. Trust me, all national liberation organizations trying to liberate a certain oppressed nationality are nationalists! And many are very leftwing, even Marxist. Peron also called his system something like “socialist nationalism” or “nationalist socialism” or something. Weird thing about Peronism was it was just Argentine nationalism. There were rightwing, leftwing, socialist, Communist, and even fascist Peronists. But they were all Peronists! Peronism was simply the default for the descamisadas, or the shirtless ones – the average man. Trotsky said this is also who fascism appealed to. I guess a group like that can be seduced by either fascism or Peronism nationalism. Who are you for? Are you for the people or the rich? If you can fashion a “rightwing” organization for the former, I, a Leftist, will support it! Reminds me of Marie Le Pen’s party. I swear she’s more socialist than almost all the other parties, maybe more than Malenchon. I keep wondering why they call her party and Iran “rightwing.” It’s bullshit IMHO. I know a Marxist who has written many articles about Iran, noting that it is as revolutionary, nationalist, liberationist, anti-imperialist party with an economy that is almost as socialist as China’s, and resembles it in many ways. Most industries are run by these religious trusts. I’m not even sure if they run them to make a profit.

IRGC is massively involved in the economy, and they run a lot of it. The religious trusts are like charities based on solidarity. They don’t have production problems like they had in Communism. In Cuba, the military runs many enterprises because they ran into the typical production (and corruption) problems of Communism, and the army could be trusted to not be lazy or thieving. Workers nominate, hire, and fire their managers. Many attorneys work there. They are employed by “The Lawyers Collective of Holguin,” whatever that is. They are quite happy and make good money. There are also some sort of private lawyers. Yes, there is private enterprise but as you make more, the taxes go up and up. Nevertheless, people who owned a popular restaurant with a big income and high tax rate said it was still worth it because they still came out ahead. They were interviewed in an apartment with marble counters! They give star athletes a really nice place to live in so as not to defect. You can own one or two cars. You can own or two houses I think. They didn’t want to allow more than that because then you get into “used car salesmen” and “real estate agents,” two modern plagues. There is a bustling real estate market with people buying new homes, selling second ones and trading homes. There is a list of professions that are not allowed to go private like almost the entire medical profession. But doctors and higher level medical ops like nurses or techs make some pretty damn good money. It’s all based on the greatest good for the greatest number. If Cuba had enough money to allow everyone to live a first world lifestyle, they would fund it in an instant for their people. Deng wanted “a rich Communist country.” There’s no contradiction.

Communism doesn’t have mean poverty. It just means splitting it all up in a much fairer way. Everyone doesn’t make the same. I think in Cuba a physician makes 8X more than a ditchdigger. They have computer programmers now and they pay them 50X the average wage (!) just to keep them from defecting. They say they have no choice. The gusanos will never come back! Cuba had Jim Crow racism, literal segregation, before Castro. The rich all took off and left all their stuff. That’s why they are so pissed. If you go back now you will see the mansions of the racist White reactionary (or fascist) rich. They are somewhat dilapidated but they function. They have been turned into apartments, with more or less with each room turned into an apartment. And they are full of working class Blacks of modest means who were just niggers under Jim Crow. If you think those Black people squatting in that stolen mansion are going to let the owners come and throw them out, you’re flat out wrong. No one wants the exiles back, no one. I met a bunch of Cuban women lately on a dating site, and they all loved the Revolution. They’ve found out a way to keep themselves popular. They are ultra-populist, as populist as you can get. The President goes out and joins local demonstrations of a few hundred people in a park, that’s how populist it is. And all candidates for office are nominated by neighborhood councils and candidates do compete. The neighborhood just chooses who they want. And they all run on “I (we) are going to help this neighborhood more than anyone else.” A lot of the neighborhood public enterprises are almost run by the neighborhood and the barrio has people in the bread stores making sure everyone works hard and doesn’t steal. If they screw off they can get canned on the spot.

Try this. Western Left: Let’s have a revolution! Yay! Yay! Ok, first we do is get all the female workers to hate all the male workers! Yay! Cool! Ok, next, let’s get all the non-White workers to hate all the White workers! Yee-haw! Fun! Next, let’s get all the gay workers to hate all the straight workers! You go girl! Good show! And finally, let’s get all the tranny workers to hate all the cis workers! Yippee! Whoo-ha! So really the male workers, the White workers, the straight workers, and the cis workers are all evil oppressors! We will deal with them after the Revolution, and it won’t be pretty. To the wall! Line em up! Ok, ok, we had a revolution! Now! Liberation! Whoa! What happened? None of the white workers showed up! None of the male workers showed up! None of the straight workers are here! None of the cis workers came! Damn! What did we do wrong? We gave a revolution and no one showed up! Worse than that, those groups we demonized – Whites, men, straights, and cis people turned into rightwingers when we on the Left started demonizing them. Why did they do that? I don’t understand! See how dumb that is? Even from a theoretical Marxist POV, it’s downright stupid to declare half, majority, or overwhelming majority of the WORKERS THEMSELVES as evil oppressors. Pure idiocy.

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