Editorial from the August 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard
Nationalism has always been one of the biggest poisons for the working class. It has served to divide workers into different nation states not only literally but ideologically. Today it is probably fair to say that a majority of workers—to one extent or another—align themselves to their domestic ruling class. After all, the ideology of nationalism ultimately means that workers and capitalists living in a particular geographical area must have a common interest.
As with most myths there is an element of truth in this. Normally, a common language is shared and on a superficial level at least, a common "culture" can be defined, e.g. "the British way of life". However, if one probes slightly deeper such an analysis fails to stand up. Socialists argue that world society can he broken into two great classes of capitalists and workers. Despite many workers finding it difficult to communicate with and understand each other because of language or cultural barriers this does not alter the fact that they are all part of one globalised exploited mass with more in common with each other than with their indigenous bosses.
One popular myth about nationalism is that it's synonymous with fascism. This is a dangerous illusion. Fascism is the most degenerate form of nationalism but any kind of patriotism however soft or innocuous can only be defined as anti—working class. This ranges from the Conservative Party through to the Trotskyists who feel obliged to defend small nations, i.e. Iraq against powerful ones like the US.
All of which leads nicely to the World Cup. Many socialists play and watch football but it's a shame that nationalism (however hard or soft) has to taint what should be a wonderful event. Indeed "athletic nationalism" is of tremendous value to the capitalist class as it makes supporting your country" socially acceptable. It not only diverts workers minds away from the problems that surround them, it allows politicians to reap the rewards of any "feel good" factor that springs forth from a good set of results.
As President Chirac and Prime Minister Jospin fight it out for their share of the spoils in France, it is well to remember that French workers have far more in common with their fellow workers this side of the Channel than they can ever have, fundamentally, with their exploiters at home and those who represent them.