Nationalism and Internationalism : Their Limitations

Dec 27


Rahul Sharman

Rahul Sharman

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I do not believe… that an individual may gain spiritually and those who surround him suffer. I believe in ADVAITA, I believe in the essential unity of man and, for that matter, of all that lives. Therefore, I believe that if one man gains spiritually, the whole world gains with him and, if one man falls, the whole world falls to that extent.

If the modern world could settle its organisation in economic terms only,Nationalism and Internationalism : Their Limitations Articles the transition to an international order would not be a matter of overwhelming difficulty”. There is already an establishment of interdependence between nations through the mechanism of the credit system, the result of which is the existence of the world market, with its, corollary of a world price for the main essential commodities. Apart from this economic concept, there also lies a political tendency towards internationalism the hostility and conflict among nations create what is called the crisis of civilisation. The remedy lies in the abolition of the nation-state system and n the emergence of the “world-state”. But this is cosmopolitanism and universalism, pure and simple, and not internationalism. Because creating a world state is not the ultimate solution for eliminating the danger of war. And above all, nationalism is not the sole cause of creating a war. National independence and patriotism did not give rise to the two World Wars. It was imperialism1 the product of capitalism, which was their root cause.

Most internationalists believe that as the nation-state is a distinct political entity, its sovereignty should be preserved. Internationalism, on the other hand, is a psychological feeling which drives all nations to collaborate with each other for ‘peace, freedom and progresses. Besides, there is also the common interest of mankind which gives rise to the recognition of humanitarian rights for the whole people, brotherhood of  nations and international community. 1’hus, internationalism stands today as a feeling that compels the different nations of the world to give up their separate national desires and cooperate with one another for ‘peace, freedom and progress’.

As the ideal ofinternatjona1sm progressed, the concept of nationalism strengthened more and more. When the free traders of the early 19th century visualised the idea of internationalism, the epoch of nationalist development at the same time had ‘made it clear that the end of its influence is not even remotely within view.”

This, however, gives a definite reason about why the scope of nationalism must be clarified. The controversy regarding nationalism ultimately resolves into two approaches the objective and the subjective. The former gives a sense. of territoriality manifested in the love of one’s own home while the latter defines nationalism as a set of emotional bonds, ‘a soul, a spiritual principle”, which creates a sense of special unity, a sense of attachment to one’s own nation as distinguished from other nations.

The spirit of nationality may be said to have made its first appearance in the period of Renaissance and Reformation in the western world. Peoples With one language and one tradition were unconsciously groping towards unity, which later extended towards the sense of modern nationalism. ‘Modern nationalism is hardly older than the first partition of Poland”. This nationalism differs from all previous forms because it seeks to express itself through the organs of a sovereign state. It has sought ‘to make each nation a complete economic unit by demanding for each nationality an autonomous and independent government. Once nation-states were born in Europe, each nation-state began to establish colonies, protectorates, spheres of influence through the subjugation of non-European people. There is no powerful nation in modern Europe which has not owned or lost a colonial dominion and in the 19th century, the creation of mono-national states became an almost universally accepted principle.

Despite the unmistakable values of nationalism, many modern thinkers have not supported its ideal. They reiterate that nationalism is inimical to world peace. Firstly, there grows a sense of individual superiority complex among the separate nations which leads to aspirations of establishing a world empire dominating the rest Secondly this sense of superiority gives rise to the problem of international law. As the separate nations tend to strengthen their sovereignty, they disobey the international obligation so essential in modern world. Thirdly, the neo-colonial activities create the domination of inferior nations by superior ones, for a steady supply of raw materials and markets for the products.

Each nation-state, as soon as it became powerful1 demanded its “place in the sun”, the right to fulfil its “manifest destiny”, to “take up the white man’s burden”, and to carry on its “civilising mission”. This aggressive nationalism is a breeder of wars — trade wars, tariff wars and currency wars, as well as wars of guns and bombs. It appeared in its crudest form in Nazi Germany, fascist Italy and militarist Japan. All these threats to the world peace create a sense of transformation from nationalism to internationalism.

Thus internationalism, as we understand today, is a feeling that compels the different nations of the world to give up their separate national interests and cooperate with one another for “peace, freedom and progress”.

This reveals the idea that nations cannot be themselves at their best when they work against each other. Internationalism is thus based on the conception of a family of self-respecting and self-governing nations united together by ties of equality, peace and harmony. It is based on the principle of peaceful coexistence of different States. It follows that nationalism and internationalism are not incompatible with each other; on the other hand, they are complementary. Nationalism implies love and duty to one’s own country but not necessarily hatred for others. While each nation should pursue its own interests it should not be self- centred but coordinate its own interests with those of other nations. Hence, it has been well stated that, “The future of civilisation lies in a synthesis of nationalism and internationalism”.