The International Patriot

by Chris Horner

How should people on the ‘progressive’ side of politics view patriotism? That question continues to vex those who would connect with what they suppose are the feelings of the bulk of the population. The answer will vary a good deal according to which country we are considering – the French left, for instance, has a very different relationship to la patrie to that of the US or the UK. In the case of the former, the side cast as traitors has historically been seen as the right. In the USA, at least in the second half of the 20th century it has been very different: those who protested against the Vietnam war were cast as the anti patriots. And today, we still hear that the left ‘hates our country’. The accusation is a damaging one, and has been wielded with glee by conservatives whenever they have the chance. So there is a tricky task for the left, it seems: to be seen as with and not against the mass of people in their identification with the nation and its history, without abandoning an internationalist perspective that rises above the narrow nationalism of the conservative. 

I want to suggest here that we need to see that there is a problem with both the approach that seeks to inhabit the abstraction of simplistic universalism and the one that would rush into the warm embrace of parochial particularism (‘my country, right or wrong’ at its extreme). Instead, we need to see that the universal is something emergent, in and through the particular struggles and questions with which we are confronted. It is a concrete universal. Read more »