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I would interpret nationalism as an extreme and unchecked loyalty to one’s country. It unifies people but not necessarily for good. Germany was ripe for a dictator to sweep in and offer to save them if they would only support their country and work hard. This sounds innocuous enough. The citizens of Germany were more than compliant having been through the aftermath of World War One. Becoming an empire appealed to them whether they themselves used the word or not. However, loyalty having to do with nationalism is eventually demanded rather than requested. The perverted nationalism used to unite people in Germany bit them in the end. It may begin with a softer sounding purpose (National Socialist Workers’) but quickly evolves into something more sinister. The videos we watched this week attest to this. Nationalism’s agenda is to first shore up strict allegiance to the current governing entity. Nationalism also encompasses a world-view that our nation is of the highest order and therefore we can encroach upon and take possession of other territories. We can do this because those who are not (us) are inferior. George Orwell said it best in his Notes on Nationalism, “The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit which he has chosen to sink his own individuality,” (1945, 1953). Nationalism was used to justify authoritarianism in that the people were led to believe men like Hitler and Mussolini would lead their great nation into a better future.
Political and economic instability in the interwar period paved the way for nationalism as well as Hitler’s rise to power (Shubert & Goldstein, (2012). Germany was required to make restitution for their part in World War One. They also experienced the collapse of their economy. People were hungry at base level. Our text tells us, “The upsurge in electoral support for Hitler’s Nazi Party mirrored the collapse of the economy,” (2012). Nationalism easily became the mantra of Hitler and his willing followers during the interwar period because of these particular circumstances. Hitler could mobilize citizens by promising a difference. Again, their part in this difference was supposedly simple: 1. Loyalty to their country. 2. Work hard. Nationalism even sounds pretty when you say it like that.
However, we can see that nationalism in the Axis countries (Germany, Italy, Japan) meant something far different from the Allies’ interpretation (USA, Britain, Soviet Union, etc.). Our text also informs us, “Hitler destroyed German democracy with lightning speed upon becoming chancellor,” along with “Mussolini and Hitler claimed to be carrying out revolutions in their countries while loudly announcing their goals of territorial expansion,” (2012). Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. The Axis countries were not retreating per their agenda of world power and acquisition. Nationalism fueled their citizens into compliance. In contrast, the allies attempted non-intervention in the beginning. They did not act until forced to act. So…then, our nationalism was about protecting our borders and citizens. It also included coming to the aid of those under attack. This is absolutely different. I do not see us as similar to Germany’s kind of nationalism. I prefer to call us patriotic. I realize there are those in our country who would call our patriotism “nationalism lite.” I disagree.
Orwell, G. (1945, 1953). ‘Notes on Nationalism’. First published: Polemic. – GB, London. – May 1945. Reprinted: –‘England Your England and Other Essays’. – 1953.
Shubert, A. & Goldstein, R. J. (2012). Twentieth-century Europe. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.