“There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”
― Howard Zinn
Nationalism is a simple ideology that aims to promote the interest of a single nation or group of people over those of others. It aims to create a nation with complete self-governance and sovereignty that is free from outside influence. They believe that the nation is the natural and sole source of power and unity. To achieve this, nationalists believe that all the people in a nation should be united on the same front or for more practical reasons, should be from one certain group or clan. Nationalists believe for a nation to achieve glory, its subjects should have a single shared history or culture. To further interpret this notion, nationalist believe that the strength of a nation lies solely in the internal unity of people and to achieve this, the nation should consist of uniform minded people only, namely extreme patriots, who are willing to place the national strength over their own individuality and political plurality.
Now let’s explore the idea of how nations are created. A nation is a pure ideological construct. Geographical boundaries depicted on maps are not naturally occurring barriers, but man manmade imaginary constructs born out of in depth scheming and analysis. The tendency for humans to group themselves into similar clans have existed since the birth of mankind, resulting in the creation of various tribes, villages, civilizations and over the years, through several wars and endless bloodshed, we reached a point in history where we drew up maps and made permanent boundaries and called them nations. So nations are pure ideological constructs, they have existence only when a vast majority of the people believe in that idea. If the subjects of a nation suddenly cease to believe in that idea, then the entire construct falls apart. And the greatest power and trouble of ideas is that they can never be wiped out of existence.
Now, how does nationalism, a seemingly crude form of patriotism become harmful in the hands of the fascist? Fascism has militarized nationalism as its core principle. Militarized nationalism means that the use of violence and extermination of an enemy nation or a section of one’s own nation is good for the nation. Fascism takes the inborn nationalistic tendencies in humans and exaggerates it to such an extent that they start believing being a patriot is paramount for their existence. We’ll see how this is achieved.
Every fascist movement ever, began by appealing to this nationalism present in every human. Fascists are fundamentally nationalists, just that they advocate violence and even ethnic cleansing to achieve their ends. Fascism is an extreme form of nationalism, where in they believe (or make others believe) that their nation is under constant attack by a certain section of the population and the only way to protect the motherland is by the oppression or complete extermination of other factions.
In Italy, when Mussolini gave a factual existence to fascism, he summoned all the population to pick up arms and fight in the world war. He made them believe that everyone else was coming to conquer their land and resources and war was the only solution to safeguard the motherland. He succeeded in gaining control of the majority emotion and rose to power to become the autocratic dictator he was.
In Germany, Hitler didn’t have a war right at his hand to do this. His political movement started after the war. He started propagating the idea of a ‘Once Great Germany’, which now lay in ruins because of the Jew overrun of their systems and a lacking democratic process. He propagated the idea of the majestic fatherland of the past. Though his historical facts may be flawed and his methods obscure, he again managed to swing the popular emotion in his favor. He convinced the majority that the biggest problem of Germany was the presence of Jews. He blamed the failing economy, failing democracy, losing war, all on the existence of one section of the population. And the people, eager to be led by the supreme leader who had the magnificent vision and knowledge, willingly gave him supreme control only to realize it much later.
The core of Fascist nationalism lies in the idolization of some distant past, where they apparently claim that their nation was at peak glory and that ever since, the motherland has been under siege of constant deterioration. They establish their idols and dreams in some carefully chosen period in the nation’s past, mostly where the nation had a more or less indigenous population. Like Hitler claims of his magnificent fatherland before the population explosion of Jews and the RSS claims of the Gupta Golden rule before the arrival of Islam.
The second step is to weave out a narrative using carefully chosen facts and willing omission of others to further reinforce this idea. Through conscious manipulation of history and epics, they weave out a counter narrative to the existing political ideology of tolerance and unity. Hitler used the claim of Aryans being the pure race. He used several other claims to further reinforce this ideal. He selected certain architecture, paintings, wars and epics to narrate a tale of glory of the German nation built solely on Aryan efforts. Now RSS is replicating the same in India, digging out only portions of history that illuminate India as a nation of supreme power and unity right up to Islam Invasion. The fact that this entire narrative is grossly wrong of historical facts is comfortably ignored. They use epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana, which to be true , are nothing more than pulp fictions printed on magazines, instead of historical facts and architectural evidences.
The third step is to sedate their audience with a deluge of wrong facts and hype up the latent nationalistic fervor in them. To make them believe that they have been victims of some historical oppression and now is the time to claim back their rights. Let’s discuss the sole example of RSS. Their aim is to create a HinduRashtra. They approach the Hindus with a carefully laid out narrative of history that they created. They propagate ideas like the Hindu religion has been a heaven of peace and harmony, entire nation was united and strong under the Hindu religion, it was a time of paramount development in science, art and culture and so on (all of these claims are historic blunders). Then they go on to say that Islam and other foreigners came here and destroyed all their culture and plunged them into depths of poverty and illiteracy. (We’ll debunk these myths in coming chapters)
The final step is to make the followers believe that they have always been victims, victims of love and trust, victims of foreigners, victims of religious oppressions and so on. Then they urge the followers to take up arms and fight, to expel all those who question these legacies, to overthrow anyone who won’t accept their supremacy, to unite everyone under one banner of patriotism.
This is how fascists kick up a fury of nationalistic pride &arrogance and label it as patriotism. Anyone who questions is a traitor. Anyone who criticizes is an enemy spy. Anyone who refuses to join them is the enemy itself. They will make people believe that a battle is going on or is imminent to happen and they themselves create this battle. They give weapons to the citizens and shout out that the nation is violent. They createlarge-scale rhetoric dramas to superimpose their ideology and create an illusion of supreme control and power. They fill the people’s minds with obscure symbolisms and banners. They make them paranoid and make them live in constant fear. Then they provide the solution to escape the fear: OBEY.