As the economic crisis deepens, contradictions apparently far removed or safely buried rise to the surface again: the conflict between capital and labour, the polarization of wealth and poverty, the wretchedness of daily life and the uncertainty of survival, inter-imperialist contrasts, the destruction of the environment and the absolute inability by capital to remedy the ills it has caused… The system is becoming more and more unstable, more and more destructive and self-destructive. Recent and ongoing events along the southern shores of the Mediterranean and the Arabian peninsula are the clearest demonstration of the instability caused by the deep crisis in the capitalist mode of production, as, indeed, are the growing tensions and centrifugal impulses that we have been witnessing for some time within what was to have been “Fortress Europe”, the supposed third power standing between the United States and the Far East.
The nuclear tragedy in Japan, moreover, is something more than a chance accident, clearly revealing – twenty-five years after the similar accident in Chernobyl – the devastating character of a mode of production that has, from the very beginning, upset everything and, in particular, the relationship between the human species and the earth’s crust: a character that has been made even more devastating by its imperialist phase, which has raised the destructive potential of capitalism to its maximum power.
The ruling bourgeois class is not blind to all this: it is well aware of what is happening, though powerless to control or manage it and destined to perish together with the tottering edifice it has constructed. It knows this from historical experience and class memory and thus also knows how to react: it does so through its parties, its combative military organizations (police forces, armies, legal and illegal structures), its means of mass communication, its obedient servants in the fields of politics and trade unionism (the so-called “opposition”, the so-called “defenders of the workers”), the rhetoric it pours out from thousands of loudspeakers of all types (rights, democracy, the Constitution, non-violence, social peace, etc.).
The main ingredient in all this is the appeal to the Nation, which lately has become more and more insistent and widespread. In all countries, it is the reappearance of these contradictions that encourages capital, its State and its ruling class to tread harder on the accelerator of nationalism every day. We saw this a few years ago in France, it is constantly to be seen in Great Britain and the United States, it can be seen in Germany and Russia, it can be seen in “Italietta”, celebrating 150 years of national unity under the banner of a patriotic collective embrace, with the corresponding waving of red, white and green flags. Nationalism – destined to grow daily in boorishness and vulgarity – is the card that the ruling class has to play against the thousand and one dangers looming on the horizon. And it translates into thousands of different languages and can wear hundreds of different masks: the obtuse pride in the past, the removal of all the profound class fractures and the bloody reality that this has meant, the construction of some little lay or religious image to believe in firmly and prostrate oneself in front of… But it is also looking to the future: making “our” country stronger and more competitive, pulling “our” economy out of the quagmire of the crisis, defending “our” beaches and “our” borders from invasion by barbarians, safeguarding “our” language and culture, “our” living space… Things already heard and practised in the years leading up to the world wars.
Because this is exactly what nationalism prepares for: the tightening of ranks, when objective circumstances are in place and the demand for it is loudly voiced in the name of “saving the threatened fatherland”, to move on at the opportune moment to a war effort: with no internal resistance, no spanners in the workings of the war machine, at any level – in the field of production, discipline in the factories, social and military mobilization, law and order and “culture”, and so on. At the right moment, national capital will be in need of an army to defend itself against other national capitals (and at the same time to assault them), engaged in the same effort – and an “army” means closed ranks, being reliable, disciplined, efficient at all levels, on the warfront as in the back lines, in the war fought with weapons as in the war of words, deeds, ideas and passions.
At the same time, this progressive intensification in national, patriotic and chauvinist rhetoric is accompanied by a strategy (also the fruit of historical experience) of incessant segmentation, the obsessive creation of barriers, borders, separate territories within which individuals, groups, social layers and classes are caged. A gigantic national Lager is created, consisting of separate compounds, divided off by mutual mistrust and intolerance, built upon hate and competition. The Nation, incensed and exalted as a single entity, then becomes a container for “identification and expulsion centres”, both real and metaphorical ones: exactly like the “best of all possible worlds”, the world of progress and freedom is increasingly turning out to be a universe of islands on a collision route, glowering at one other and doing each other down as soon as they can, while at the same time, within every nation, the segmentation increases, isolating and fragmenting, distancing and separating. In fact, this is the only way that the pot can be brought to the melting point necessary for the war effort. Divisions are made today, so that fusion is easier tomorrow. The two strategies are not opposites: they converge dialectically – towards sacred national unity by taking the precaution of previously fragmenting each component of it.
Persecuted and tormented by the crisis, proletarians must not fall into the trap. They must refuse both the call of their national flags, with all the disgusting racism and chauvinism that goes with it, as well as refusing to turn in upon themselves to defend the illusion of a “little world apart”. They must stick together, it is true, but along class lines: defending their own interests, which the worsening crisis will inevitably reveal to be contrary to those of the bosses, of the national economy and of the State that upholds and defends them. They must take action against the fragmentation of their lives and their reactions: by overcoming all the barriers that separate them, connecting to one another over and above the artificial categories created by capital at all levels (in the workplace as in daily life), destroying all the obstacles standing in the way of creating a single, true class front.
This will only be really possible if, on a path that will inevitably be rough and exhausting, they recognize the need for a guide of their own, a chief of staff that does not stand aside and look on but which, in the struggles of the exploited class and its clash with the ruling class, has gained the trust of the proletarians, over and above their national and local confines. Briefly, if they recognize and support the international communist party.