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Nationalism, Revolution, and Anti-Nationalism

The main concern of this article is to reveal the thin line Revolution and Anti-Nationalism share. In order to understand that, we also need to ponder on how these things are also related to ‘Nationalism’ as it is only by studying Revolution and Anti-Nationalism alongside Nationalism will we be able to justify the explanation to some extent. Successful comprehension of how blurry the line might get is only feasible if we look into these ideas in an orderly fashion. Although thorough research work in this arena is more appropriate to explain such a delicate issue, the article does provide an overview of the matter that has been emerging as a serious one in recent times.

A close look at History will divulge that Nationalism has been a very important factor of bringing together the mass since time immemorial. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines nationalism as “loyalty and devotion to a nation, especially a sense of national consciousness,” and “exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups.” Historically, these nationalistic feelings have been first used in the 18th Century and Nationalism took the help of “ethnographic principles.” However, the idea of uniting nations under one banner was more favourable in the past and thus, the presence nationalistic aspects in the society were less. Irrespective of the positive features of nationalism, it has been often used to promote protectionist policies, radical politics, and even several militaristic movements like Nazism. The subjugation of individualism was promoted by fascist regimes of Mussolini and Hitler by inclining on national identity and tradition. This was done by emphasizing how individualism was most probably the cause of “economic and political turmoil of the early 20th century.”One of the notable instances of Nationalism being used to promote something pessimistic was the type of Nationalism exhibited during World War II by the Nazi party. When taken to the extreme Nationalism has taken the shape of the Holocaust, genocides, ethnic cleansings, lynching, etc.

Several scholars have come forward in order to explain how Nationalism might turn into something harmful when taken to the extreme and thereby suggesting patriotism as an alternative. An essay written during the final stages of World War II shows how it might turn a person into someone who disregards common sense and facts. Nationalism always carries around the danger of moulding itself into something ugly if taken to the extreme. This essay was written by George Orwell in 1945. From India, examples can be given of Rabindranath Tagore and in more recent time, Ramchandra Guha who have reiterated similar concerns. Nationalism, by being a catalyst to several violent chapters that one might want to erase from History, has invited both positive and negative criticism simultaneously. However, Nationalism has lived up to its definition while giving rise to several revolutionary movements like that of the French and the Americans in order to usher in a more advanced stage. It has managed to ignite the desire for a change that would help masses create a unified nation, on the basis of human rights and not rampant exploitation. Nationalism and revolution have always gone hand in hand. Various Nation-States have the feelings of Nationalism to thank for their creation and such a drastic shift was possible only after the revolution. And nationalism has been the impetus to these revolutions. For instance, it was the nationalistic feelings of people that drove the ‘Indonesian Revolution’ and led to the creation of a free nation from the clutches of colonialism.

Nonetheless, a word that has been climbing the ladder in contemporary time is ‘Anti-Nationalism.’ Several times situations have cropped up where dissenting individuals who merely tried to argue a point have been claimed by others to be an ‘anti-nationalist.’ Recent years have seen the demand for revolution or maybe overturning of certain authoritative dictates by the Government to be tagged as something ‘anti-national,’ but what needs to be understood clear as day is that nationalism has always associated itself with revolution since beginning. For instance, ‘Black nationalism’ has advocated for the rights of black people and has had a significant impact on how Black people are to be perceived. It has brought about revolutionary changes by involving blacks into the socio-political and economic sphere. Such a drastic change would not have been possible without tapping on nationalistic feelings. Nationalism has made way into not only positive but also normative aspects of society. Worldwide dissent against the government is initiating to be viewed as an anti-national move, but History would prove this stance to be something flawed and untrue. It should be kept in mind that the usage of ‘nationalism’ might vary from person to person. A different interpretation that stands in opposition to what another person believes should not be termed as ‘anti-national.’ For instance, person A might believe that critically questioning the Government is what Nationalism truly is all about; whereas person B might believe otherwise. However, such difference of opinion gives no right to either person A or B to tag the other as ‘anti-national.’

Moreover, a major trend has been to take Nationalism to an extreme level. When such a step is taken, a person without realizing signs up for ‘hyper-nationalism or ultranationalism.’ A modern history professor and political theorist,  Roger Griffin explain that when nationalism is taken to an extreme it becomes ‘xenophobic’ and establishes its legitimacy “through deeply mythicized narratives of past cultural or political periods of historical greatness or of old scores to settle against alleged enemies”. It might also draw on “vulgarized forms of physical anthropologygenetics, and eugenics to rationalize ideas of national superiority and destiny, of degeneracy and sub-humanness.” Several scholars claim that such a move is the initial stage of ‘Fascism.’ An instance of hyper-nationalism from Indian subcontinent can be claimed to be one regarding Bengaluru’s Hubbali Bar Association (HBA). A news outlet, The Times of India reported, “Hubbali bar Association had earlier passed a resolution prohibiting its members from appearing as counsel of defence for three college students who have been accused of raising pro-Pakistan slogans while staging an anti-CAA protest in their hostel. At the intervention of the High Court, the HBA withdrew the resolution, but some of its members heckled the lawyers who had come forward to defend the students, which once again caused the court to issue a rebuke and rule that proper legal representation is provided to the accused, as prescribed by the law of the land. The hyper-nationalism displayed by the lawyer’s association not only goes against the code of ethics which enjoins those in the profession to act on behalf of those charged with any criminal activity, on the fundamental premise of the presumption of innocence till otherwise proven but also violates the constitutional right to freedom of speech.”

Evidently, it can be seen that the path Nationalism has traversed gave rise to revolutions that upturned societies and led to the formation of new nations freeing itself from clutches of colonialism, imperialism, exploitation, etc. Anti-nationalism is readily understood to be something that stands in contrast to whatever nationalism has to offer. Thus, it is crystal clear that revolution can never be claimed as something ‘anti-national’ and neither can be dissent as opposing views have been the source of revolutions in the first place. It needs to be remembered that crushing opposing views is not upholding ‘nationalism’ but rather the opposite. Nevertheless, it is also imperative to remember that with the increasing complexities of the society, more and more things have been entering the ominous grey area rather than remaining in the ‘black and white’ division of issues. Therefore, as stated above, a more thorough research paper will finely tune these issues as an article regarding the same might not fully do it justice.

   Sagarika Mukhopadhyay                                                                                                      

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