How far has nationalism changed over the last hundred years?
Nationalism emerged from the perception of “feeling and “identity” and that a “nation” be based on the people rather than a dynasty or God. It was one of the most successful political engines in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Both “identity nationalism” and “liberal nationalism” were spawned from the middle-classes. Liberal nationalism tends to focus on the good of the nation, its economy, its world power status, and its military strength. Whereas identity nationalism tends to infect large groups of mostly males who feel they should be part of something. The wearing of uniforms is a strong attraction for young males, and, when accompanied by violence and someone to focus it on, becomes a stronger force in itself. This is one of the reasons Hitler’s SA was so influential and effective. Two methods exemplified nationalism:
- The French method of “inclusion” – anyone accepting the loyalty of the state was regarded as a citizen. This involved the breaking down of regional accents and dialects, which is similar to Russification and Gillian Shepard declaring war on regional dialect in 1994. The U.S has also implied elements of inclusion by school children reciting the pledge of allegiance at an early age.
- The German method was to define the “nation” in ethnic terms. In practice, this boils down to speaking a form of German and having a German name and was first put forward by von Schoederer’s ideology of the Aryan race in Germany. Although many German-speaking Slav middle-classes adopted the theory, it became even more important the Germans.
Not all nationalisms result in aggressive practices if boundaries are drawn. It would still allow outsiders to become part of the nation-state. To study the change in nationalism, it would be necessary to look at several different cases of nationalism from 1890 to the present day. These include; the Weltpolitik, Mussolini’s march on Rome and the use of the fear of socialism, Hitler’s use of Propaganda, Stalin’s “socialism in one country” and present day nationalism particularly football hooliganism. Each represent similar ideologies of nationalism, but a different way of expressing them in terms of realisation and the image they portray.
“The expansionist power policy sought to enhance Germany’s international role by gaining access to overseas markets and raw materials, which would lead to self-sufficiency and greater industrialisation”
Wilhelm had three conditions by which to change Germany’s foreign policy that outlines the nationalistic ideals of the Weltpolitik:
- Germany allowed the Reinsurance Treaty to lapse in 1890, and thereafter neglected her traditional policy of alliance with Russia.
- Germany scorned the British offers of alliance, believing that Britain was so much in need of support against France and Russia that she would eventually have to pay a far higher price for Germany’s support than she was willing to at the time.
In 1898, Germany began building an imperial fleet capable of challenging the Royal Navy, so that when Britain clashed with France and Russia, Germany would be able to intervene, decisively in any settlement.
By considering her position only, Germany forced various consequences of the change in the policy. By lapsing the Reinsurance treaty, Russia was driven to create an alliance with France and by dismissing the alliance with Britain, caused them to negotiate their problems with France and Russia. When Wilhelm launched the development of the Imperial Navy, the British were also forced to compete, while enhancing her relationship with France and Russia.
In February 1906, Britain launched the first Dreadnaught-class battleship that dominated the First World War. The Germans rebutted by passing the Naval Law of April 1906, which required the widening of the Kiel Canal and the construction of six new ships equal to that of the dreadnaught. Such acts boosted national pride in both countries, increasing a nationalistic atmosphere in supporting their country through the naval race. A rivalry between the two European powers has always sparked nationalistic feelings in both countries, be it a sports event or a naval race. The Weltpolitik sparked a type of nationalism amid the German government in to protecting the interests of the country. They isolated themselves from other leading powers to unite against a common enemy: Britain, in terms of the naval race.
“The smallest slur upon his own unit, or any implied praise of a rival organisation, fills him with uneasiness, which he can relieve only by making some sharp retort”
This quote from George Orwell, outlines one part of nationalistic thought i.e. obsession. Wilhelm was obsessed with Germany being the all-powerful nation of Europe and as soon as Britain threatened that position he had to return the compliment, as it were. Obsession also leads to insecurity and instability, according to Orwell where the country becomes paranoid of any military developments by their rivals. The Weltpolitik, and later “Mitteleuropa” (a form of dominating Europe by controlling a customs system), was an obsessive attempt to make Germany the all-powerful European nation and a clear example of nationalism.
The image forwarded by the Kaiser at this time was that of a blatant determination to out class the rest of Europe in terms of military strength and economic prowess. The Weltpolitik outlined Germany’s intentions to raise morale within her infrastructure from the working classes to the aristocracy and it worked. The naval race with Britain provided the German people a motive for their hatred of them. This united them from this time and leading to world war one.