It has become very common recently for many leftists to denounce many liberatory movements as “nationalist,” particularly among the Left-Communist and Anarchist camps. They do this because the culture that binds these liberatory movements is often called “nationalism of the oppressed.” These leftists fail to analyze the nature of this “nationalism,” and thus lump it in with the same nationalisme which actually conducts oppression. I want to try and explain the flaw in that thinking, and encourage the use of a more accurate term for these liberatory movements: National-Liberationism.
First we have to look at what this so called “nationalism” is and what differentiates it from actual nationalism. The word “nationalism” is accurately applied to ideologies and movements like that of the Nazis, the KKK, Imperial Japan and it’s bushido code, and most recently with the Trumpism of the United States (as well as traditional American Culture). These movements and their nationalism are ones of domination; that is, they seek to impose the will of one nation upon others to exploit them. They are inherently xenophobic, rejecting diversity and embracing violently enforced political borders. This ideology has the effect of harm, slavery, exploitation, and most importantly: this ideology forces artificial national identity upon subjugated people.
Look at the national identity of Black Americans, or the Seminole people, even the Palestinians. These nations only exist because that national identity was forced upon them, they are nations that did not exist before the oppression that created them. As a result, their entire character is the polar opposite of nationalism, it is a Liberatory-Nationalism. Because it exists purely as a means of survival, and to maintain resistance to the nationalism that oppresses them. When an oppressed nation raises a national banner it does so not as a symbol for dominating others, but to throw off it’s own oppression. It does not seek to raise borders, but to eliminate the borders that have been forced upon it. This is characterized by these National-Liberation movements often welcoming foreign individuals, and groups that are not from the groups oppressing them. Such as the Kurds and Catalans welcoming foreign fighters, or the Native Americans welcoming “illegal aliens.”
Of course it is possible for a National-Liberation movement to corrupt itself into a nationalist movement, we need look no further than the Zionist movement for this to be seen. But it is not inevitable. Dismissing National-Liberation movements altogether as “nationalism” because of this possibility is as wrong as dismissing democracy and communist movements because they could become corrupted into despotic systems. Oppose a movement for embodying the things you stand against, not because it might become something that it isn’t right now. Opposing National-Liberationism only helps the oppressors.