The two main philosophies and engines for political change in the 19th century were Nationalism and Liberalism.
Their adherents were instrumental in challenging the multi-national dynasties that controlled Europe. Nationalists dreamt of statehood for their national communities whilst Liberals strove for individual liberty and the freedom to organise for social change. Indeed many activists proclaimed to be followers of both creeds.
The great liberal patriot Giuseppe Mazzini believed that liberty could only be attained through national Independence (of Italy but everywhere else as well). He believed that through the construction of nation-states not only would liberty be obtained for their citizens but international peace too i.e. through the satisfaction of national feeling.
A liberal nationalist would defend the value of national identity by stating that “individuals require a national identity in order to lead meaningful, autonomous lives” whilst liberal and democratic societies need the stability of “national identity in order to function properly”
Unfortunately, in the 20th century these ideas were superseded by the rise of totalitarian philosophies such as Fascism, which sort to exaggerate nationalism or the ‘common good’ at the expense of individual liberty, or Communism that sought to exaggerate class consciousness at the expense of the nation i.e. ignoring common ties.
Whilst these philosophies have been largely discredited they nevertheless left a stain upon nationalism and, perhaps less obviously, liberalism. The perversion of the ‘sovereignty of the people’ from national self-determination to national aggrandisement via Empire or war, led many to connect it to xenophobia. Indeed the experiences of the last world war made a new generation believe that nationalism inevitably led to war.
Liberalism on the other hand became identified with Europe’s ‘political class’, as representatives of Liberal democratic states. They too viewed nation-building as a threat to peace and personal liberties (unless emerging from dying Empires). They have sought to maintain the peace via supra-national bodies, firstly the United Nations and soon afterwards the EU (beginning as the Common Market).
Thus we often hear talk of the ‘liberal’ establishment regardless of party colour. In reality since the fall of communism in the latter part of the 20th century most of these states have begun to take on the shape of monoliths, unencumbered by ideology and only interested in exercising power for the sake of it. Those that are driven by ideas are more often seen as threats to the ‘New Order’. There is increasingly little left of their liberalism and much more of a controlling paternalistic hand. Political correctness is just one of the spin-offs of an increasingly Big Brother establishment.
Indeed the two abiding achievements of the 19th century, a proliferation of national independence and political and civil liberties, are under threat. Here in the UK we see the political class happy to either work towards an ‘ever closer (European) Union’ or slavishly follow US foreign policy. We need more than ever an independent (and ethical) British foreign policy that follows the dictates of national interest and achieves peace through observing everyone else’s. The problem of national identity following global migration, a by-product of globalisation, is being ignored. This will inevitably lead to civil and communal strife in many parts of the world in the absence of any attempt at creating unifying and inclusive national sentiments.
The ‘New World Order’ establishments are using the ‘War on Terror’ to facilitate a growth in the surveillance society whilst restricting civil liberties e.g. freedom of speech, association, ID Cards. A heavily regulated society does not fit well in a sophisticated western democracy, particularly one which has taken the protection of their liberty for granted i.e. where an ‘Englishman’s home was always his castle’.
Now is the time to re-unite these two great ideas to reverse these dangerous trends by helping to protect our cherished freedoms and liberties within the framework of a preserved nation state. We need a resurgent National Liberal movement as the vehicle to achieve these aims and we need it soon.
Copyright to: NLP, PO Box 4217, Hornchurch, RM12 4PJ – 2008
Date: April 1, 2008