June 04, 2008

The N-Word

Daniel has a long and thoughtful blog on nationalism over at Eunomia, and I find that I agree with most of what is said, particularly his comments about the ?enduring loyalty that various nationalisms could and did inspire? and how these passions are far more powerful than those of communism. The engine that drove the Soviet Union to a large extent was Russian nationalism, and it?s clear that the ?international communism? of various regimes, from Tito?s deviation to the regimes in Vietnam and China, actually functioned through and derived their strength from nationalist sentiments. Tricky Dick was shrewd enough to grasp this fact?that the nationalist energies tearing apart the communist bloc were stronger than the imperial ones holding it together?and he proved himself a greater statesman than the ideological anti-communists of both Left and Right.

This being said, my point in my long post on ?anti-anticommunism? and the Buchanan controversy dealt with a different matter. What?s distinctive about Lukacs?s thought is not that he appreciated the enduring loyalty inspired by various nationalisms but that he displays a tendency throughout his oeuvre to inflate nationalism (and anti-communism) into a monolithic world-historical force. Put simply he does to ?Nationalism? what the most fanatic and irresponsible cold warriors did to Communism. This tendency also leads him to make some rather serious errors of interpretation, such as connecting the America First Committee with Germanophilia and American imperialism and to exaggerate rather ridiculously the admiration for Hitler among the European Right.   

Also, I think Lukacs is simply too quick to dissolve the power of Marxism-Leninism, an ideology that might not appeal much to the common folk but has so often infected the brains of the ruling elites and their minions (and still does to a certain extent.) Communist crimes varied with each nation; however, they all were expressive of a kind of perversity that simply cannot be explained by ?extreme nationalism??here I?m thinking of the ritual humiliations, the macabre attempts at social engineering, and the kinds of attempts to upturn the very core of the social order such as having students recriminate teachers, children recriminate parents. Lukacs is missing something important. 

I find that Lukacs is also missing something in his famous ?nationalism/patriotism? distinction, which he?s literally been reiterating for the past half century. As Tom Piatak and I were discussing this weekend, this distinction has much to do with Lukacs?s experience in the Austro-Hungarian empire, when things like top-down enforced language restrictions and bottom-up resistance were very much at play. I find his comments far less applicable to modern America.

Moreover, his ?distinction? is far too value-laden. Basically ?nationalism= bad, patriotism = good.? Everyone is going to call himself a ?patriot? and disparages all ?nationalists,” as well claim that he ?loves? his community blah blah blah. I thus find the distinction, frankly, banal.

As for the American situation right now: nationalism requires a people (nat, ?born? being its root) or at very least a nation-state with strictly defined borders. Unless we simply want to use this word as a catchall insult?much like ?fascist,? ?Nazi,? of ?commie??then we should stop throwing it at Bush, Wolfowitz and his ilk, and their avid supporters. ?Wilsonian globalists,? perhaps, ?U.S. military institutionalist,? maybe, ?multi-pizza gluttons,? definitely, but ?nationalists? they ain?t. 

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