Animated by the great spirit of Confucius we continue with our duty towards the great cause of rectifying the names.
The name we select to rectify today is Nationalism as it is understood within the context of contemporary Western Europe. The question around its name is whether the European nationalists of today are correctly equated with Fascists.
The answer is no; their historical parallels are to the Anglo-Saxon model of Parliamentary Nationalism, or Democratic Nationalism, particularly the American Nationalist model. Parliamentary Nationalism is the advancement of the interests of the nation state combined with robust democratic and property rights for citizens.
If the connection between European Parliamentary Nationalists and American Nationalism is not obvious to conservative Americans it is because they take it for granted that American Democracy will pursue nationalistic objectives and remain Democratic. At the same time American conservatives never associate the actual practice of American Democracy with the word ‘Nationalism’.
This is not the case for the history of Continental Europe where Nationalism has only recently been tied to constitutional rights.
The most significant difference between the history of American Nationalism (known commonly as just ‘Democracy’ or ‘American Democracy’) and all forms of European nationalism has been how each region transitioned to a nationalist system.
After America won the War of the American Secession (wrongly called the American Revolutionary War) our transition to ‘Parliamentary’ (so to speak, in America’s case) Nationalism was immediate and seamless. Independent from the Old World’s politics, class stratification, and inherited privileges, the founders were free to fashion a Republican system of government on a legislative blank slate. Perhaps most importantly, the nation’s elite embraced this new Constitutional framework because membership in the elite was no longer legally dependent on aristocratic bloodlines in a new nation where royal titles were not legally recognized.
Continental Europe’s transition to Nationalism was, not seamless, but chaotic at times and hampered by inertia at others. Before the Cold War, European Nationalism went through three stages.
The first begins with the French Revolution. The Monarchists and Imperialists of this era – who were best exemplified by the 18th century Imperialism of Metternich – opposed ethnic Nationalism because it was then used as a weapon by the French Revolutionary Left and their immediate successors to break apart ethnically pan-European states.
The first period ends and the second begins in the mid-19th century when Napoleon III, Bismarck, and other Imperialists embraced ethnic Nationalism as a way to solidify their own states and centralize the governmental power they felt was needed to rule their increasingly complex industrial nations.
The third stage starts with the destruction of Imperialistic Nationalism and the rise of Parvenu Nationalism, or, what is more commonly known as Fascism. Parvenu Nationalism filled the power vacuum created when the credibility of the Ancien Régime died at Verdun and the Somme. Its leadership was drawn from the middle and working classes. The most prominent form of Fascism to emerge was Nazism. This form of Nationalism took the worst habits of WWI era Imperialistic Nationalism – militarism, colonization, ethnic supremacy, and centralized government – to genocidal extremes and welded it with demagoguery and cults of personality.
The weight of its excesses brought about its downfall as well as the downfall of any other viable form of Nationalism.
After the Cold War a fourth type of European Nationalism developed – Parliamentary Nationalism. This Nationalism is by definition neither Imperialist nor Fascist because it is not militaristic, does not seek to strip mine its neighbors of resources, or enslave populations. Instead its objectives are preserving democratic rights which have been infringed upon by an unaccountable EU tyranny, peaceful economic exchanges with their European neighbors, lacks all desire for wars of conquest, and opposes immigration.
Without militaristic tendencies, and with their support of constitutional rights, there is no reason for modern European Nationalists to be equated with the strands of Nationalism that led to WWI and WWII, or be viewed as anything but perfectly legitimate and normal political organizations.