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(en) Workers Solidarity #77 Review: Rudolf Rocker: Nationalism and Culture

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 21 Sep 2003 11:53:00 +0200 (CEST)

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Rudolf Rocker is recommended by Chomsky, whose own
anarchist thinking is strongly influenced by him, as one of the best
writers on anarchism and this is probably his finest work - a
brilliant libertarian analysis of the development of power, the cult
of the state and their relationship with human liberty and culture.
Rocker sees the impulse to power as a vital element in influencing
the type of society we have. Though acknowledging the crucial
role economics plays in the structure of society, he argues that
explaining the types of society solely in terms of their underlying
economic structure is utterly inadequate.

He sees power relationships as a restraining factor on human
development because when you're compelled to carry out orders,
you become little more than a machine rather than an individual
with a free will, personal thoughts and feelings.

Rocker argues that brute force is insufficient to command
obedience over long spans of time and the ruling classes have
always sought to implant the idea that their rule is legitimate and
inevitable. This is why they have supported ideologies as far apart
as Christianity and Bolshevism, both of which support a ruling
caste and encourage voluntary submission for the masses.

As Alexander Berkman noted, such voluntary belief is actually
stronger than outright tyranny, for when opposition grows, it is
flexible enough to survive whereas the dictatorships often snap
and come crashing down.

Rocker surveys the development of State power from ancient
times, paying particular heed to developments after the
Renaissance when nation-states increasingly came to be formed.
He also devotes considerable space to those who set the
intellectual climate for the triumph such as writers like Rousseau
and Fichte and contrasts their deadening visions with the value of
liberty and free expression for the development of culture.

For Rocker, nationalism was the foremost ideology - or mythology
- which the ruling classes were using to bind the working class to
them in an ever tighter form of voluntary submission.

And they were successful; nationalism became the new religion of
the people. The logical and grotesque conclusion of this awe of
the nation-state arrived with the Nazis, from whom Rocker fled in
1933 just as he was finishing this book. He demolishes their ideas
of race theory, with their pseudo-scientific babble about the
Nordic race with its pure language and superior culture. Given the
rise of racism here, these chapters are unfortunately not out of
date; readers looking for ammunition to challenge 'Irish Irelanders'
will find plenty here.

It's not cheap, but it's great book, beautifully written. If you're
interested in history or politics it's a must read.

James O'Brian

This page is from the print version of the
Irish Anarchist paper 'Workers Solidarity'.

Print out the PDF file of this issue

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