1: loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially : a sense of national consciousness (see consciousness 1c) 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 Intense nationalism was one of the causes of the war.
2: a nationalist movement or government opposing nationalisms
We have all heard of the “Alt Right” movement and the nationalist tendencies of Donald J. Trump’s inner circle, especially well known White Supremacist and Nationalist Stephen K. Bannon, formerly (though still influencing) the Right-Wing propaganda site known as Breitbart.
Nationalists gain support by claiming that a national identity in of itself makes you great, and if (in their minds) a nation is not great, it is because of the devious actions of other groups and/or nations belittling and sabotaging their nation. Control of the message, use of propaganda, “alternative facts”, vitriol and hate towards others touches the fear and anger of those caught up in their rhetoric.
History gives us numerous examples of great nations caught up and taken over by nationalist movements. In 19th Century Europe “popular sovereignty” grew out of the wars of conquest initiated under Napoleon, who himself inspired a French Nationalist Movement destined to rule all of Europe. French culture was seen as separate of the other ethnicities of Europe and of course, superior. This in turn led to German Nationalism after being conquered and occupied by France. Throughout Europe, individual nations coalesced over the threats of other nations and internal nationalism thrived, especially in Germany. Historians believe this was a major contribution to the Great War. Germany was united under a Nationalist movement where Prussia was considered the core of the “German Spirit” and Germany was superior to all other nation states in Europe.
Despite the numerous treaties that existed, the nationalists who controlled the aggressor nations of 1914 saw themselves as superior and used the pretext of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand as the excuse to wage total war. The end result was they bit off more than they could chew and created annihilation across Europe, with Germany and the remains of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire devastated. The power of the European monarchs almost entirely dissolved to be replaced in many cases with new nationalist people’s parties. In Russia, the Tsarist regime was replaced by the nationalist communists and of course in Germany, the Kaiser Wilhelm regime was replaced by the Weimar Republic, who couldn’t hold down the new growing nationalist movement in Germany led by the Nazis. In Italy, the nationalist fascists took over under Mussolini.
The end of “The Great War” set the stage for more extreme and powerful nationalist movements throughout Europe because the victorious nations imposed harsh restrictions on the defeated powers. This provided grounds for nationalists to say “outsiders are responsible” for your terrible existence in what was once a “Great Nation.” Worse yet, the harsh policies imposed on Germany bled over to other nations in Europe and even here in the United States by (with the help of deregulated banks) and led to the Great Depression.
Both Europe and the United States suffered and nationalist movements grew and were in full swing everywhere and used the same message to gain influence and power. “We were once ‘Great’ but other ‘lesser’ nations and people (Jews) deceived us and are destroying us for their own good.”
They were successful from the end of World War 1 through the beginning of World War Two in gaining nationalist control in Germany, Austria, Italy and Spain. Germany and Italy are prime examples of the techniques used to gain control. They told their people that other nations were supplanting the greatness of their people with dishonest use of banking and media (Lügenpresse) to fool the citizens. They convinced their native purebred nationalists that “subhuman” groups such as Gypsies, Homosexuals, immigrants and Jews were responsible for their lot in life. They convinced the people that under pure German, or Italian control of government their nations would be “Great Again” especially when their leaders negotiate “better deals” with other nations rather than the bad treaties they currently have.
Italy was first to go nationalist under a fascist regime followed by Germany in 1932. What is interesting to note is that during the same time there was a nationalist movement in the United States. We were in the same Great Depression that Europe was in. While Franklin Roosevelt was being realistic about the true cause of the nation’s woes (unregulated banks and powerful money interests) he cautioned a nation by saying at his inaugural address (which was upbeat by the way) that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”, and told Americans to be hopeful and get to work with your neighbors and world community to get out of the mess we were in. Germany on the other-hand told her people that their nation was in terrible trouble and that they should be afraid and respond in anger to the immigrants, gypsies, homosexuals and Jews who conspired against them.
When your power is based on nationalism, which is to say based on “we’re the greatest” and the rest of the world is substandard and dangerous to our rightful place, people tend to go after their neighbors, after the Gypsies, Homosexuals, Immigrants and Jews have been dealt with resulting in society becoming fearful, unstable and violent. A nation starts to renege on treaties, using threat of force to negotiate other treaties that favor mostly and then such nations will bite off more than they can chew and go to war. This is what happened in Germany, Italy and Japan. The rest of the world, a community of nations working on a common goal against a common enemy fought back and destroyed the Nationalist governments and people of Germany, Italy and Japan.
In the aftermath of World War Two, instead of repeating the mistakes of the Great War by harshly punishing defeated nations and their people indefinitely, not only was the United Nations created to give all a voice in international affairs, Europe was rebuilt by the American people in the spirit of fostering a world community where we all helped each other (The Marshall Plan). They were allowed back into the community of nations and worked with each other for their own national good, at least in Western Europe and Japan. Eastern Europe unfortunately fell under the control of Stalinist communism.
Eastern Europe was made to suffer for generations. The Soviet Union was in their own way nationalistic by placing themselves apart from the rest of the world and claiming superiority. They kept their citizens convinced that outside “western” influences were harming their success. However their rule and nationalist economic policies were untenable in a global economy and like so many nationalist states, bit off more than they could chew. The Russian economy collapsed and the Soviet Union disintegrated. However, the fall of the USSR gave talking points used by Vladimir Putin to gain a new nationalist control of Russia. Under Putin, though much more strategic
On the other hand, in the years following World War Two, because the United States worked on equal footing with the nations of Europe and the European nations began to work on equal footing with each other, all prospered economically and socially. At least until Putin began to sow the seeds of discontent among European nations by supporting new nationalist movements there in an attempt to break up the European Union. By destroying democratic Western Nations via creating a lack of confidence in their electoral processes and governments, Russia comes off greater and more powerful in world affairs.
It is no coincident that White Supremacists in this nation echo the same talking points and advocate for the same policies as the Nationalists of fascist Germany, Italy and Japan of 80 years ago. They claim inherent superiority over all other nations and outsiders. The blame immigrants, Muslims, Jews, Homosexual, bad treaties, for all the woes they “say” exist whether they exist or not.
History shows us that within a nation state, nationalism sews the seeds of division, distrust in others and existing government. By claiming all is horrible when it isn’t, those who do feel left out, whether they are left out or not blame others. In our case they’re blaming Jews, Muslims, Homosexuals and Immigrants. By outlawing and removing them the nation will be “Great Again”. This is a historically proven way to gain power, but history also shows it is a poor way to maintain power and often leads to catastrophic results.
What nationalists fail to understand is that by outlawing and removing “others” you weaken the economic base of a nation leading to real problems in terms of financial security, job growth and spending power. By using fear, anger, hate and violence society crumbles leaving “strong men” to pick up the pieces and consolidate power over everyone. Such a government, as history shows us, tends to battle other nations while it’s battling itself. Their economy becomes unsustainable in a world economy and collapses upon itself over time. Nationalist nations that exclude others only serve to isolate themselves while taking on more than they can effectively handle without willing help. Such an existence, especially as a governing philosophy is untenable and doomed to failure.
The Trump Nationalist Regime, orchestrated by Stephen K. Bannon created a false narrative that the nation wasn’t great anymore, that immigrants, Muslims and Jews were to blame. This gave them a bigoted base to begin their movement to take over the nation. Then they said government lied to you about jobs, economic growth and pushed conspiracy theories to a gullible group. They pushed the premise that the media is dishonest whether they supported their regime or not, like Germany harped on the “Lügenpresse” (lying press) to place doubt in the minds of the public and open the door for them to accept their own propaganda via sites like Breitbart, The Daily Caller, NewsMax, Drudge Report, InfoWars, etc. to confuse and indoctrinate a growingly uneasy population. This is how nationalist regimes begin, and history shows us they all end up like Germany, Italy, Japan because of their overreach and lust for power using citizens as pawns and props.
The Trump Nationalist Regime is already working on weakening our nation by deregulating the banking industry, deregulating big oil and coal allowing them to pollute our water and air. They are working to weaken our healthcare system and economic security of our nation. They are weakening our national security system that will eventually allow a terrorist attack to occur giving them their own “Reichstag” fire to consolidate control. They are already working to grow military spending to place American troops in harm’s way overseas thus needlessly adding to our national debt. They are weakening the underpinnings of our nation created and expanded over the last 227 years since our constitution was ratified. The Nationalism of the Trump Regime is textbook in its creation, growth and ultimate destruction. Problem is, we as a nation could be destroyed too if we allow it to go on too long.