The ruling class uses nationalism and racism as a way to divide us. They use it to instill ignorance, they use it to keep us from realising our true potential. The working class is an international class. No matter what country you’re from, the working class has a shared experience; being exploited by capitalists. Despite this, we’re told our real enemy is the “other”; the immigrant coming over and taking jobs and scrounging off our benefits system.
Nationalism stops us from looking at things from a class perspective and encourages the working class to identify with “the Nation” – which is exactly what the ruling class wants. They want you to be scared of immigrants at the end of your road, and to not want to welcome them into the local community. This makes it a lot easier for the state to wage wars overseas in the name of patriotism, in order to extract resources for the benefit of British capitalists. For these reasons, it’s in the interest of the capitalist class to spread and exploit nationalist ideas amongst the working class.
While it is true that a part of the working class do buy into nationalist rhetoric, the generalisation that all working class people are racist and or hold strong nationalist views isn’t just offensive, it’s absurd. Large sections of the working class are themselves the victims of racism. The truth is that the bourgeoisie spreads an anti-immigrant and racist narrative through the right wing media such as the Sun and Daily Mail, to drum up hatred of immigrants and BAME people within the working class. They then capitalise on this to push the narrative that the working class are racist and want to get rid of immigrants.
This myth of universal working class racism – the stereotype of the white, racist, working class man in a northern town – then encourages parties like Labour (which is supposed to be the workers’ party) to move rightward in an attempt to attract working class votes, and they themselves perpetuate racism to justify their nationalist policies. In doing so they not only betray the millions of immigrant workers in the UK, but the historic interest of the international working class.
The effect of nationalism and racism in the working class is divide and rule. It provides ideological justification for wars against and economic domination of other countries, and for the super-exploitation of migrants to Britain (both “legal” and “illegal”). Racism creates scapegoats for the lack of affordable housing, school places and hospital beds. Socialism must be achieved on an international basis; we cannot pursue our struggle for socialism without the support of the working class of all nations. We have more in common with a sweatshop worker in Bangladesh than we do with British CEO. Working class people who place political unity with their own bourgeoisie above unity with the working class of all nations are acting against their own interests.