One of the underlying plot lines of the conflict in Ukraine is the role nationalism has played and in playing in the conflict. Fundamentally, the West, especially the United States, is responding to the purest of nationalist calls. The response to Ukrainian patriotism is an endorsement of the basic tenets of nationalism. The Ukrainians are a unique people with a common language, culture and territory. Therefore, they have a right to their own nation.
Conveniently left out of American coverage is the fact that ultra-nationalists have been playing a key role in the drama. These are the militia groups that have a fondness for fascist ideas and iconography. The most famous example is the Azov Battalion, but they are just one of many operating in Ukraine. These groups have been doing the fighting in the breakaway republics. This was true when the Ukrainians were assaulting the areas and now that the Russians have invaded.
Of course, the West is now organized around opposition to nationalism, especially the form expressed by the Ukrainian ultra-nationalists. In every country in Europe, nationalist groups have top meet in secret to avoid the wrath of state sponsored terrorist groups like Antifa. In Germany, nationalism is illegal as a practical matter. A party that sounds too nationalistic, like the AfD, will be crushed by the state. In theory, Ukraine is what the rest of Europe opposes.
Then there is the reality of Russian nationalism. The Western media is painting it as the new fascism, but this is another example of the antifascist legacy. Russian nationalism is now a mirror of Europeanism. Listen to Putin and what you hear is a call for pan-Slavism or Eurasianism, to use a Dugan term. Instead of a unified Western Europe it is federation of Eurasian people with the Russians leading the way. It is the EU for people with no natural place in the EU.
There is another aspect to the Russian side that the nationalists have thus far struggled to accept or even understand. What Russia is arguing for is an older, more realistic form of nationalism that is based on blood and history. Putin talks about the long history and shared suffering of the Russian and Ukrainian people. It is a call to solidarity that transcends the whims of map makers. The modern dissident nationalist is mainly focused on maps and objections to globalism.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has put the dissident nationalists in a crisis, because it is placing them on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of the present. All of a sudden, nationalists are standing shoulder to shoulder with the people they know are the enemies of nationalism. It is turning out that modern nationalism is more of a pose than a well-considered political morality. They have been left with the same silly flag waving that we see from actors in the news media.
It is not an accident that many of the people who fly the nationalist flag were all wrong about the Covid response. Nationalism, in the modern sense, is nothing more than warmed over cartoon fascism. The modern nationalist dreams of wearing snappy uniforms and being at the top of the status hierarchy. He is fully engaged in opposition to the prevailing cosmopolitan globalism, but he has no agenda of his own, other than opposition to the polices of globalism.
This is not to say that nationalism is a bad thing, especially in the way the modern ruling elite describes it. Nor does it mean that the nation state is a failed idea. What the crisis in Ukraine reveals is that modern nationalism is simply not ready to be anything more than a holding pen for the disaffected. Nationalists in Europe need to understand that no one in the European elite is shedding any tears for what is now happening to the ultra-nationalist at the hands of the Russian military.
What the Ukrainian disaster provides is an opportunity for nationalists to regroup and plot a course that acknowledges present and future reality. The Global American Empire is fading and we see that in Europe now. What comes next is open for debate and if nationalists are to be a part of that debate, they have to have a positive agenda, rather than a list of complaints about American globalism. Nationalism needs to offer a way forward in the post-America Europe.
The place for them to start is Ukraine. Nationalism needs to explain why the Zelensky government violated its duty to the people by picking a fight with Russia. It also has to explain why Ukrainian patriots are right to defend their country, even if their government is a corrupt puppet regime of another power. In other words, nationalist need to fuse their theory with practical politics. Political theory is a fine thing but it is worthless if it cannot solve the practical problems of human organization.
The Ukraine disaster should be a lesson to American nationalists, especially the pro-white variety. The cultural, biological and linguistic differences between Russians and Ukrainians are small, certainly not worth fighting over. That is the theory, but the reality is the bombed out schools and dead soldiers. America is a big diverse place with differences that dwarf the differences between Russians and Ukrainians. Uniting any group in America is a gargantuan task.
For any form of nationalism to work in America, as it descends into majority-minority demographics, it must respect the vast regional differences. Simplistic calls to demographic reality will work no better than the simplistic calls to nationalism have worked in Ukraine. Laundry lists of complaints about the present or the past are not a viable agenda. Whatever comes next for America will have to be rooted in a positive agenda that promotes a future that inspires the target population.
Finally, what the Ukraine disaster shows is that the old categories and the old ways of speaking of politics no longer work. The ultranationalist are not Nazis, despite their adoption of some Nazi iconography. Putin is certainly not Hitler. There are no white hats and no black hats. The simplistic world of the past where everyone had a convenient role to play is over. In the post-American Empire, we will need not only new labels, but a new political morality to go with it.
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