The renationalization of politics is reflected in the USA, Europe and many other countries of the world as a major trend of an old/new epoch. In many cases, their dynamics are still underestimated or the use of homeland and nation is regarded as a “cavalier offence” within the framework of universal tolerance. Nationalism is questionable because of the psychological conditions of its emergence “the most well-heeled kind of pride,” for example, Schopenhauer called it. And it is dangerous, as we all know from history. Not only is class antagonism obscured by the construction of a sham community, patriotism is often fueled by leaders in order to achieve solidarity with their policies that would not otherwise have been possible. Wars and civil rights restrictions were often justified by reference to the fetish “nation”.
“Woe to the one who has no home!” — with these words the first part of Nietzsche’s well-known poem from 1884 ends. Probably only rarely were the farewell and the subsequent loss of homeland more painfully described than in these few words. For man, homeland is not only the place where he was born and raised, which he combines with warmth and security, where he was shaped and where his feelings and most of his thinking and behaviors developed. For him, these are often still one of the most important certainties of his life, which he rarely questions or even undergoes a critical analysis, but with which he usually feels connected for a lifetime, with which he identifies.
Not so with Nietzsche: His quoted poem has a second part in which he makes it clear that the farewell from the homeland described in it was not forced, but was brought about by himself and thus also as a necessary liberation from It must be seen that he deliberately exchanged the dull happiness of the homely, pleasantly warm German parlour for a possibly threatening cold in the foreign world.
After all, Nietsche had left Germany years earlier and stayed primarily in Italy and Switzerland, from where he then repeatedly complained about the “fatherlandegging”, the “nationality madness” and the increasing racism in his home country. Defendant. In the ensuing period, too, he was less and less able to bear the kind of patriotism that was spreading there and the arrogant German-language that was associated with it on the part of broad circles of German society.
Before Nietzsche, another German philosopher recognized the basics of the psychology of nationalism. He described national pride as “the most well-heeled kind of pride,” but he “betrays the lack of individual qualities of which he could be proud.”
So whoever finds nothing in his person that distinguishes him especially towards others or of which he could be justifiably proud, then willingly takes “the last resort to be proud of the nation to which he belongs” (Schopenhauer)
Outstanding discoveries and achievements made by members of one’s own nation are regarded in this way as one’s own, although one has no part in it, one identifies with it, simply wants to be proud and rise above other nations and foreign cultures. Such identification strengthens above all the self-esteem of those members of society who cannot count themselves among their preferred ones, but who have to work hard for their small, often even quite uncertain prosperity, and are themselves still subject to high economic adjustment pressures.
Nietzsche, on the other hand, described nationalism, which was soaless at the time, as the “most anti-cultural disease and irrationality” that had gripped Germany and the whole of Europe and thus “brought it to an impasse.” “We homeless” are “little tried to participate in that false racial self-admiration and fornication, which today shows itself in Germany as a sign of German sentiment and seems twice wrong and indecent to the people of the “historical sense”.
People like him are “not ‘German’ enough, as the word ‘German’ is common today, to speak out against nationalism and racial hatred, in order to be able to enjoy the national heartbreak and blood poisoning”, which is why the peoples of Europe at the moment, and tried to delimit it.
Nationalism as a means of preparing for war
Only a few years later, during the period of transition from the nineteenth to the twentieth century, there was a dangerous escalation of political and economic conflicts between the major European powers, each of which was to extend their own the sphere of power, a redistribution of the colonies as well as an unbridled access to the markets. Added to this was excessive, often aggressive nationalism, which increasingly endangered peace between peoples and thus further strengthened the already existing danger of war.
At the same time, however, a powerful counter-movement was formed, which was willing to oppose national arrogance with a transnational solidarity of the workers and to respond to the growing danger of war with a policy of reconciliation between the workers. peoples.
In October 1912, around 150,000 people gathered in Berlin alone for a peace rally under the motto “War on War”. A few weeks later, an extraordinary peace congress was held in Basel, attended by delegates from 23 countries, and which included an appeal to the European workers with the obligation to use all means to prevent the outbreak of war.
Addressing the “proletarians and socialists of all countries”, this appeal ended with the following words:
Ensure that the governments constantly have in mind the vigilant and passionate will for peace of the proletariat! Thus, in this way, confront the capitalist world of exploitation and mass murder with the proletarian world of peace and fraternization of peoples!
But these great words were followed by hardly any action. When the First World War broke out less than two years later, there was no significant resistance to the war. Fearing the threat of isolation or even the dismantling of the party, and possibly also fearing for its personal security, the leaders of the Social Democrats subordinated themselves to the supporters of war and voted in parliaments for the acceptance of the war loans. . National selfishness had prevailed against the will for peace of nations and for the internationalist solidarity of all workers.
The rulers also skillfully exploited the existing national feelings and the emerging patriotism of the people for their goals. They spoke of a hostile threat to the sovereignty of their own country by foreign powers, appealed to the patriotism and sacrifice of their compatriots and appealed for broad support for the war.
Thus, on the eve of the declaration of war, Emperor Wilhelm II addressed Russia with the following words from the balcony of the city castle to the people of Berlin:
Enormous sacrifices of good and blood would require a war from us. But we would show the opponents what it means to irritate Germany. And now I recommend you God, go to church, kneel before God, and ask him for help for our good army!
The following day he said at the same place a real non-existent and never sought or desired equality and fraternity among the Germans in a purely purpose-driven, interest-driven and demagogic way:
I no longer know any parties or denominations; today we are all German brothers and only German brothers. If our neighbour does not want it otherwise, he does not grant us peace, i hope to God that our good German sword comes victorious from this heavy struggle.
After the outbreak of war, he finally addressed all Germans with the call “To the German people”, although understandably he did not speak of a war of aggression and conquest that had to be waged, but rather of the beginning of the arms race into a necessary one. defensive war. Of course, he did not miss the already usual reference to the patriotic duty of the defense of the fatherland and to the hoped-for assistance of the God of the Christian Church:
So the sword must decide. In the midst of peace, the enemy invades us. That’s why! To arms! Any vacillation, any hesitation would be a betrayal of the fatherland. (…) Forward with God, who will be with us as he was with the fathers!
The result of this war was millions of deaths, hundreds of thousands of war cripples, great destruction and endless suffering among the people of all warring countries. The internationalism of the labour movement, as well as all the people who had actively opposed the war, had also suffered a crushing defeat from which they were not to recover, and whose further effects on the future development of the world had been can only be described as devastating.
National sense of responsibility and fascist dictatorship
Two decades later, the next great world war began, which developed into a total war of extermination, especially on the Eastern Front, in which all known standards about the victims and the destruction were far exceeded. Nationalism, in turn, was an important element in the entire fascist-National Socialist ideology and practice. He was now even more aggressive and increasingly supplemented by extreme, inhumane racism.
Only a few weeks after assuming government responsibility, the National Socialists secured their power. In March 1933, they cleared the way for a lasting dictatorship that encompasses the whole of social life. With the Empowerment Act, the validity of which was initially limited to only four years, but then extended for a further four years, the Hitler government became, by a majority of the deputies of the German Reichstag, an unlimited exercise of power. Authorized.
She then used this possibility purposefully to abolish the separation of powers in Germany, to eliminate parliament, to ban the opposition parties and the free trade unions, to liquidate dissidents and political opponents, or to at least to get behind the lock, to eliminate the fundamental democratic rights of the citizens, to promote rearmament and to prepare for the next great war.
In order for the law to enter into force in the first place, however, a two-thirds majority of the elected members of the parliament, the German Reichstag, which had not yet been completely disempowered at that time, was required. The governing parties — the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) and the German National People’s Party (DNVP) had such a majority, but not even though the Communist Party deputies no longer take part in the vote. because their mandates were completely cancelled and many of them had already been arrested.
The necessary two-thirds majority was then only achieved because the deputies of all the bourgeois parties represented in Parliament were invariably prepared to join the basic cause and the demands of the National Socialists. and to vote in favour of the law, while the Social Democrat Members present united against it.
The approval of the Catholic-conservative German Centre Party (Centre) to the Empowerment Act was justified by its deputy, the canon lawyer and prelate Ludwig Kaas, with the following words:
At this hour, when all small and narrow considerations must remain silent, the German Centre Party (…) consciously and out of a national sense of responsibility, it disregards all party political and other concerns, and it “at this hour is enough for all, including former Opponents, the hand to ensure the continuation of the national rescue work
Kaas went to Rome a few days later and was involved in the drafting of the concordat between the German Reich and the Vatican. After the war he did not return to Germany.
For the liberal German State Party (DStP), the deputy Reinhold Maier, who was elected after the war as the first prime minister of the state of Baden-Württemberg, was a member of the German Bundestag for several years and from 1957 to 1960 Federal Chairman of the FDP was:
In the major national goals, we feel quite connected to the view expressed here today by the Chancellor of the Reich (Hitler).” Serious concerns would be deferred by his party “in the interests of the people and the fatherland and in the expectation of a legal development” and the law would be approved.
With their approval of the Empowerment Act, the bourgeois deputies, together with the National Socialists, voted in favour of the de facto self-empowerment of the parliament, which had only recently been elected. Inflated phrases — such as ‘national sense of responsibility’, ‘people and fatherland’, ‘national bailout’ and the implementation of ‘major national objectives’ — were ultimately more important to the bourgeois parties — conservatives and liberals — than the preservation of the Democracy and the averting of a fascist dictatorship in Germany.
On the part of the German economy, the donations to the Nazi party flowed rather sparsely before it came to power. But from then on, when Hitler was in office, “the situation changed, of course. Suddenly, huge sums of money from the economy flowed to the Nazis, and the entrepreneurs quickly sought to adapt to the new regime, which would provide many of them with arms contracts and reward them all by giving it to the workers’ organizations in Germany.” In return, the Nazis left “the distribution of property and the economic and social hierarchy largely intact.”
Without nationalism and terror, the Nazi exercise of power is hardly conceivable, since national arrogance, exclusion and violence were “all-present and highly visible” in Nazi Germany.
Nevertheless, many Germans “found this violence to be more positive and not at all threatening, since it was directed against Jews, Marxists and ‘antisocial’ outsiders, homosexuals, gypsies, pacifists, mentally or physically handicapped by birth and so-called ‘habitual criminals’, all groups in which many Germans were happy to see as few of them as possible. And the rest quickly learned to be calm.”
Moreover, the denunciation, as “the most common form of cooperation between citizens” with governments, allowed “social control to be carried out with a staggeringly small number of police officers.” Thus, the Secret State Police was so well supplied with information by eager fellow citizens that “it could handle only about one officer per ten to fifteen thousand inhabitants”.
Thus, if one considers fascism “within the complex network of interactions with society”, this story includes “ordinary citizens and the holders of political, social, cultural and economic power who are the fascism of fascism. or failed by not resisting him.”
Nationalization of the masses as the highest and most formidable task
The National Socialists recognized that “the strength of a country (…) not only by its military power, but by the fanaticism and the unity of its peoples”. In doing so, the existing class conflicts “must be overcome by integrating the working class into the nation and by getting rid of the ‘foreign’ and ‘unclean’”.
The masses should therefore no longer be kept out of politics, but should be won over, disciplined and mobilized for National Socialism and its goals. A clear distinction must also be made between the members of their own “nation who needed protection and outsiders who deserved raw treatment.” Finally, the international solidarity of the workers must be replaced “by the conflict of national identity against other peoples”.
Hitler saw the “nationalization of the masses”, which also required social concessions and sacrifices, as “the highest and most formidable task” of the National Socialist movement. But the desired nationalization of the popular masses will only be fully successful if it also “eradicates their international poisoners”, because the people can only “with all the vehemence inherent in the extreme” made nationalistic.
It is therefore necessary to proceed with the greatest brutality and with an indomitable will to annihilate those who oppose the national uprising, because , according to Hitler:
The broad masses are only a piece of nature, and their feelings do not understand the mutual handshake of people who claim to want opposites. What it desires is the victory of the strongest and the annihilation of the weak, or its unconditional submission.
With precisely this image of man, as well as with their extreme nationalism and racism, the National Socialists actually succeeded in not only attracting a considerable part of the Germans to their goals and making them accomplices, but even to make them complicit. to follow them obediently until the very end, to the point of total doom.
A closer understanding of how the link between nationalism and fascism worked in the past is therefore urgently needed. It offers the opportunity to better counter such developments in the future.
The emergence of the “well-known warning signs” of extreme nationalist propaganda and hate crimes is “just as remarkable and alarming as the willingness to “give up the rule of law” or the need to “through nationalist and hate crimes. racist demagoguery to seek the support of the masses”.
The fascists are always “close to power when the conservatives use their techniques (…) and try to bring the supporters of the fascists into their boat”.
Nationalism as a social belief system
Nationalism has a long history. His appearance is neither necessary nor accidental, but rather the logical consequence of “certain social conditions, of our relations”.
These conditions, as we know, require illusion and are often associated with apparent certainties and a strong and established faith. The sociologist Norbert Elias also described nationalism as “one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, social belief system of the 19th and 20th centuries.”
A statement that is certainly true for the 21st century. After all, the dissolution of the old community ties and affiliations of people over many centuries led to a widespread loss of values and orientation. But with the generally perceived lack of togetherness and natural bonds, the nostalgic search for a suitable form of replacement for the lost began.
Above all, the idea of a strong and unified nation proved to be particularly suitable in order to be able to adequately meet people’s needs for community and belonging, for firm attachment and security. Does it at least create for them the illusion of social cohesion, of a “fraternity” in the form of an imagined agreement and equality between persons who could often not be more unequal; in other words, a convergence and equality that does not actually exist.
Is it precisely within modern nations people with an extremely unequally distributed access to power, people with extremely unequal income opportunities and available wealth, and people with very different interests and Goals that are often directly contradicted or excluded in social practice.
Nationalism created an effective social belief system, a kind of secular substitute religion that “puts one’s own national community at the rank of a supreme value” and the illusion of a narrow and solid national religion for people. togetherness could give us.
In this sense, the emergence and rise of nationalism is nothing more than the reaction and result of the increasing alienation and homelessness of modern man.
Woe to the one who has no home!