The Two Faces of Nationalism

Russia and America are two indicators and two converging faces of the same thing. From a human organism, as it was when it was led by the light and by the authority of superior castes, the body regresses to the type of a sub-human acephalous organism. Coming of the faceless beast.

And now we have all the elements to tackle seriously the question: what is the meaning of nationalism in the modern world?

One type of nationalism can already be clearly discerned from what has been said: it is the degree immediately preceding the international forms of economic-proletarian collectivism.

In this nationalism, what is really important is not the exaltation of one particular national consciousness over others, but the fact that “the nation” becomes a person, an entity, as such, and the incapacity to go beyond the law of blood and soil, which concerns only the natural and infra-intellectual aspect of man, the inability of the individual to increase his standing except in terms of a given collectivity and tradition, are raised to ethical values. The mere fact of being ‘national’, here, confers a true mystical aureole on everything, which protects its inviolability and compels respect towards it. This infra-intellectual ethnic element not only does not grant any authority to superior principles, but reduces such principles to its service: “nation” demands the first tribute — it is only subsequently, and in a subordinate manner, that there is room for reality, truth and spirit. Furthermore, in certain forms of nationalism, a further step is made: any disinterested and objective criterion is regarded as a mere abstraction, and it is claimed that, for reality, truth, and culture, as well, national tradition and political interest cannot be left aside: thus they start to speak in favour of our scientific, philosophical, and, even, religious tradition, and an unfavourable presumption of valuelessness, or, at least, a suspicious indifference, is expressed against all which is not “ours” and does not “enhance the nation”.

Just as they will not tolerate the free manifestation of superior activity, which might create a reality superior to that which is conditioned ethnically, so, in the context of such nationalism, there is respect for the superior personality only insofar as it is a “representative” of the nation. Having come to birth within the revolutions which overwhelmed what was left of the aristocratic-feudal régimes, this nationalism thus expresses a pure “mob spirit” — it is a variety of the democratic intolerance for any leader who is not a mere organ of “the popular will”, completely subordinate to the sanction of the latter. Thus, it is easy to see that, between nationalism and Soviet-style or American-style anonymity, basically there is only a difference of degree: in the first, the individual is dissolved back into his ethnic-national roots, in the second the differentiation peculiar to these ethnic roots is overstepped, and a larger collectivisation and disintegration in the mass element occurs. To go from one degree to the other, the mysticism of race has to give way to a structure of the purely economic-mechanical type. In such a structure, owing to its impersonal nature, the last residues of qualitative difference are in fact rooted out, and, with the rationalisation and mechanisation of social life, the path for the advent of the “Mass Man”, without fatherland, is virtually open. Now, given that civilisation today is precisely on the plane of economic-mechanical power, and that all criteria of value and greatness are more or less directly reduced to this plane, perhaps shiftings of this type will be only a matter of time.

One may ask: can nationalism also take on another meaning? We think that an affirmative answer can be given to this question. We have said that nationalism appears as a transitional form, accompanying the passing of political rule to the hands of the third caste, but before the rule of the last caste. Now, this allows it to have a double meaning, because, if this transitional form can occur on the downward path, it can also be met in the direction of a putting to rights, of a potential restoration. Assuming that the bottom has been reached, anyone who finds the strength to rise will again encounter nationalism — but another nationalism! Like “vectors” in physics, the definition of this phenomenon must include the factor of direction. In the first nationalism, the direction is towards collectivisation, realised in the degree of “nation” — in the second, it proceeds instead from collectivism towards the construction of a new aristocratic hierarchy.

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