Americans are overwhelmingly polarized over ongoing presidential election campaigns. The choice is going to be between Donald Trump – an oligarch accused of disregarding the interests of minorities, and Hillary Clinton – an utterly disgraced public servant too unqualified and incompetent to even serve at the lowest possible grade in the US State Department. But, between the two, one has already clearly […]
In response to an excellent commentary by my favorite modern academic, Immanuel Wallerstein, I would like to answer an essential question raised. The question is worded in alternate ways, as follow:
Is it left to be internationalist, one-worldist, or is it left to be nationalist against the intrusion of powerful world forces? Is it left to be for the abolition of all frontiers or for the reinforcement of frontiers? Is it class-conscious to oppose nationalism or to support national resistance to imperialism?
Wallerstein is a left-wing scholar with a strongly seductive anti-nation-state thread in all his writing. Most of my own views fall on the left and am quite antistatist in my thinking, but not of the extreme type who want to actively offend or defame socially conservative religious groups and minorities. Be that as it may, I will answer these questions as a comrade of Wallerstein’s.
The simple answer is that it is left to be internationalist and one-worldist. Preserving the nation-state is political reactionary behavior. One must push for the abolition of all frontiers if one really wishes people to have full rights and be equal. For as long as there are “citizens” and “nations”, there will be inequality and we’ll be trapped in exactly the current world-system of racial and political hierarchy and exploitation gripping the world’s people. The global division of labour responsible for horrible global wealth and excess in the north and deep poverty in the south will remain, for as long as distinct nation-states prevail as a result of this historical system.
However, aiding the oppressed, which is the goal of the world left in the long term, requires ad hoc support for certain nationalists around the world. Where we feel that it is clear that there are oppressors and oppressed, as is clear in the Israel-Palestine conflict, the oppressed must be supported passionately even if they have a nationalist ideology. We can hope to talk them out of this at an intellectual level, but that will not sway oppressed people on the ground away from their patriotic fervour and it would be unwise to try.
Any capable elite within the global left, however, will never be driven by petty nationalists. It will maintain an overarching interest in abolishing nations, borders and ultimately the exclusivity of citizenship. However, that is not to be achieved by coercion. One must, as I do, take into consideration the social, religious sensibilities of all minorities and groups. One cannot simply impose a borderless or one-world government scenario on the whole world by the force of arms of the majority or whoever has an arsenal of weapons and fanatics to enforce their will. If such a global reformed society emerges, it will emerge by the will of the people on the ground who decide enough is enough and it is finally time for an end to all conflict and paranoia.
Unavoidably, such a mission will proceed differently from place to place. Wallerstein finds this troubling because it means a global “left” political platform is not possible, but I believe such a platform is easily possible. It only needs to be authored with restraint through adequate conferences, to include exceptions to the internationalist paradigm where clear and real oppression by one nation against another exists, for the duration of which the internationalists must support the oppressed side. I cannot answer without using much the same phrase Wallestein anticipated: the situation ” varies from place to place, moment to moment, situation to situation.”
I do not say I am rejecting Wallerstein’s theory of the complete world-system when I say this. I am just looking at the detailed cultural superstructure of this world-system and admitting that it needs to be taken into consideration – it can’t just be ignored. It drives the passions of many millions of people on the ground, many of whom lack the time to digest the idea of a unified world-system or eventual unified world-society that would be the ultimate reward of understanding Wallerstein’s theories.