Anda di halaman 1dari 11

Benedict Anderson

The New World Disorder

It is quite possible that historians of the 2050s, looking back into our now
closing century, will pick out, as one deep tectonic movement stretching
across more than two centuries, the disintegration of the great polyethnic,
polyglot, and often polyreligious monarchical empires built up so painfully
in mediaeval and early modern times.2 In most cases the disintegration was
accompanied by great violence, and was often followed by decades of civil
and interstate wars. In the 1770s the first nation-state was born in North
America out of armed resistance to imperial Britain, but it was inwardly so
divided that it subsequently endured the bloodiest civil war of the nineteenth
century. Out of the prolonged collapse of the Spanish Empire between 1810
and 1830 came the brutal despotisms, rebellions and civil strife that have
plagued Latin America until our own time. As a result of the Great War of
1914---1918 the Hohenzollern, Habsburg, Romanov and Ottoman empires
blew up, leaving in their wake a congeries of small, weak, and generally
unstable nation-states in Central and Eastern Europe and in the Near East.

3
The fall of the Ch’ing Empire in 1911 opened two generations of civil
wars in China. Partition in British India, massive interethnic violence
in Sri Lanka, the Thirty Years War in Vietnam, the continuing civil
strife in Northern Ireland, the bloody collapse of the Ethiopian
Empire, the horrors in Uganda and Zaire-----all in differing ways can
be seen as outcomes of the same long process.

Seeming to counteract this tectonic movement-----which involved, of


course, liberation as much as disintegration-----was Communism in its
early internationalist form. The success of the Bolshevik Revolution in
the very heart of the evaporated Romanov empire permitted Lenin
and his associates to reassemble many of the pieces of that empire
during the early 1920s. But the Soviet Union did not regard itself as a
huge new nation-state, rather as a sort of model for a future in which
nationalism as a political principle would be finally superseded.
Indeed, for a time, under the centralized control of a multiethnic and
militant Communist Party, nationalism was reduced generally to a
politically insignificant ‘cultural’ ethnicity.

This phase, however, did not last very long. Reeling under the fero-
cious onslaught of Hitler’s armies, Stalin and his associates discovered
that encouraging nationalism was crucial to the war effort. In a
famous speech delivered on 7 November 1941, the CPSU’S general sec-
retary urged his listeners thus: ‘Let the manly images of our great
ancestors Aleksandr Nevsky, Dmitri Donskoi, Kuzma Minin, Dmitri
Pozharsky, Aleksandr Suvorov and Mikhail Kutusov inspire you in
this war.’1 Prosperous Europe has today forgotten how much it owes
both to Stalin and to Russian nationalism for the destruction of the
Nazi empire. But in the war’s aftermath, it proved implausible to add
the communized states of Eastern Europe to the USSR, and thus began
a pluralization of Communist states bearing national names. After
Eastern Europe came Yugoslavia, North Korea, China, Cuba, and Viet-
nam, Laos and Cambodia. In 1979 the first, and, it may well be, the last,
wars between Communist states broke out, as Vietnam invaded Cam-
bodia and China invaded Vietnam. A historical logic was already
visible, if then generally unnoticed. Nationalism could be halted, but
not permanently restrained or superseded. So that, during the 1980s,
Stalin’s empire was just as surely imploding as Churchill’s had done.

Meanwhile, also in the aftermath of World War II, the bourgeois


colonial empires of France, Britain, Holland, Belgium, and even

2
This text is a revised and expanded version of a talk recorded by the Australian
Broadcasting
1
Corporation in Ithaca, NY on 5 December 1991.
Aleksandr Nevsky defeated the Swedish army on the banks of the Neva in 1240;
Dmitri Donskoi routed the Mongols on the banks of the Don in 1380; Kuzma Minin
and Dmitri Pozharsky expelled the Poles from Moscow in 1612, leading to the founding
of the Romanov dynasty; Aleksandr Suvorov was Catherine the Great’s outstanding
general; Mikhail Kutusov-----thanks to Tolstoy’s energetic promotion-----was widely
regarded as Napoleon’s successful antagonist in 1812. In another speech of that year,
Stalin spoke more broadly of the Germans as ‘a people devoid of conscience and
honour, a people with the morals of beasts, [who] have the impudence to call for the
destruction of the Great Russian Nation, the Nation of Plekhanov, of Lenin, of Belin-
sky, Chernychevsky, Pushkin, Tolstoy, Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Gorky and Chekhov, of
Pavlov and Chechinov . . . and of Kutusov.’
4
Portugal collapsed, creating by the end of the 1970s a United Nations
with four times the membership that had made up the pioneering
League of Nations half a century earlier.

The last reincarnation of a pre-modern empire is China, where Mao


Tse-tung, taking leaves out of the books of both Stalin and the Sons of
Heaven, attempted heroically to create a socialist state on imperial
foundations. But it was named The People’s Republic of China, and
thus represented from the start a forlorn attempt to stretch the short,
tight skin of nationalism over a vast multiethnic, multireligious,
multilinguistic imperium. One is reminded of France in the 1950s,
which still included Algeria as a part of the metropole, and which
fought a horrifically brutal-----and futile-----war to keep things that way.
It is thus quite possible that Mao’s empire too will crumble, at least at
the edges. Taiwan is already effectively independent. Tibet may well
follow, and perhaps China’s Turkic and Mongol zones in due
course.2 There is no reason to think that late empires die more peace-
fully than their predecessors, or that the aftermaths of their dying are
any less tormented.

Dangerous Fancies

In what perspective does it make sense to reflect on all of this? There


are, I believe, four misconceptions which ought to be discarded from
the outset. The first is that what is going on is ‘fragmentation’ and
‘disintegration’-----with all the menacing, pathological connotations
these words bring with them. For this language makes us forget the
decades or centuries of violence out of which Frankensteinian ‘inte-
grated states’ such as the United Kingdom of 1900, which included
all of Ireland, were constructed. Should we not really regard such
‘integrations’ as pathological when we see how calmly The Irish
Republic and the United Kingdom have coexisted since the former
was established in 1921-----after decades of often violent repression and
resistance? Or when we observe the brutal warfare still continuing in
‘integrated’ Northern Ireland? Behind the language of ‘fragmentation’
lies always a Panglossian conservatism that likes to imagine that every
status quo is nicely normal.

The second prejudice, which is related to, and grows partly out of the
first, has to do with the relationship between capitalism, markets, and
state size. Unreflecting commentators-----on the Left and on the Right
-----frequently assume that ‘small’ countries, with limited resources in
raw materials and labour, are somehow not ‘real’ countries or are
‘barely’ viable in the face of the industrial giants and the exigencies of
the world capitalist economy. This kind of thinking goes back to early
modern mercantilism, and was given additional force in the late eight-
eenth century by the American nationalist Alexander Hamilton, and
in the mid nineteenth century by the German nationalist Friedrich

2
To be sure, the Han form the vast majority of China’s population, and this demo-
graphic weight should militate against successful separatisms. But one should not
forget the history of political fissiparousness among the Han themselves. In the last 150
years China has been much longer divided than unified.

5
List, who argued for ‘big’ nation-states on the grounds that only these
had sufficiently large internal markets to permit ‘economic sover-
eignty’ and a seriously competitive place in an industrializing world.

But revisionist students of political economy have for some time been
arguing that in a highly interconnected world economy it is quite
often small, ethnically and religiously homogeneous countries that do
best. In Europe they point to The Netherlands and Finland, Norway
and Austria by comparison with Italy, France and the United King-
dom. In Asia they refer us to South Korea and Thailand, Singapore
and Japan, by comparison with India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka or Paki-
stan. The argument is quite simple at bottom. It is that in such small,
homogeneous countries the sense of national solidarity is especially
strong, making it easier for political and economic leaders to ask
for sacrifices without expensive coercion, to develop smoother indus-
trial relations, and effectively to seek specialized niches in the inter-
national division of labour. Conversely, domestically troubled giants
like the United States or India face enormous political difficulties in
bending and renovating the national economy in the contemporary
environment.

The third fancy is that ‘transnational corporations’ have somehow


made nationalism obsolete. After all, people say, we see General Elec-
tric abandoning high-wage America to locate its new plants in labour-
cheap Venezuela and Zambia, as well as hiring Venezuelans and
Zambians as local managers. This view, however, overlooks the
obvious facts that the effective controllers of General Electric are over-
whelmingly American citizens, live in America, are active politically
in America, and can be quite antagonistic to Japanese, or German, or
French ‘transnationals’. Their indifference to the plight of American
workers is not at all new, and is in fact easier to get away with because
of the vast size of the United States.

The fourth prejudice is that there is some inscrutable connection


between capitalism and ‘peace’, such that the ‘free market’ is instinct-
ively juxtaposed not merely to the command economy but to war.
This idea flies flatly in the face of all the historical evidence. No coun-
try fought more wars in the nineteenth century than ‘free trade’ Brit-
ain. No country has fought more wars in the second half of the
twentieth century than would-be free-market America. Both World
Wars were instigated by capitalist giants.

All four fancies are not merely profoundly conservative. To the extent
that powerful leaders in big countries actually believe them, they are
dangerous, for they have the cumulative effect of encouraging such
people to imagine that they stand for progress and peace, while their
adversaries stand for ‘narrow’ nationalism, sectionalism, and often
‘terrorism’. In turn, this view encourages them to unleash the prepon-
derant military power at their disposal to make their wishes prevail. A
simple example is Indonesia’s bloody ‘integration’ of the old Portu-
guese colony of East Timor, which between 1975 and 1980 took the
lives of one third of the local population. Today, in the face of ever
bolder resistance to this ‘integration’, the regime in Jakarta prepares

6
for more repression against ‘disintegrationists’, ‘separatists’ and ‘anti-
Indonesian elements’. Everyone sensible knows that all significant
violence would cease the minute Jakarta agreed to quit East Timor
and leave its wretched and heroic people alone.

Modern Imaginings

What, then, accounts for the driving power of nationalism and its
much less respectable younger relation ‘ethnicity’? And how are the
two related? Two common types of explanation quite clearly can not
stand serious investigation. One is that they are the natural creatures
of economic discontent and relative deprivation. It is true that many
nationalist and ethnic movements build on, or exploit, such discon-
tents. Yet these same discontents have also fired a wide variety of
other, often competing, social movements-----socialist, communist,
religious, millenarian, and so forth. Nonetheless, many of these com-
petitors, for a variety of reasons, seem today to have lost their ideolog-
ical power for the time being. Hence nationalism and ethnicity are
very likely to move in to take their place. We are seeing a good deal of
this ‘moving-in’ in today’s Eastern Europe, where once-staunch Stalin-
ists are turning themselves into strident nationalists. The other expla-
nation, typically propounded by the political leaders of nationalist
and ethnic movements, is that they represent deep historical memories
and traditional communities. In fact, however, such movements are
distinctly modern imaginings, and none go back further than the last
quarter of the eighteenth century. The truth is that it is precisely their
modernity which gives nationalism and ethnicity such contemporary
power.

The two most significant factors generating nationalism and ethnicity


are both linked closely to the rise of capitalism. They can be described
summarily as mass communications and mass migrations. Up until
the nineteenth century the vast majority of the people in even the most
advanced states could neither read nor write, and for the most part
lived and died near where their ancestors had lived and died before
them. But capitalism, and especially industrial capitalism, changed all
this, first in Europe and the Americas, later, and with increasing
speed, around the rest of the world.

Capitalism linked to the technology of printing had already created in


early modern times an impressive production of books in vernacular
languages. In the nineteenth century appeared the mass-oriented
newspaper, consumed not merely by the book-reading middle classes
but by the growing working classes, who, unlike their peasant fore-
bears, had to be made literate to function effectively in factories and
their new urban environments. Governments, intensely aware of the
educated-manpower needs of capitalism and of their own conscript-
based, industrialized military machines, began developing modern
school systems, with standardized textbooks, standardized curricula,
and standardized examinations-----in the politically dominant vernacu-
lars. (Imperialism quickly spread these structures and habits to the
colonized territories.) In conjunction with the spread of the political
doctrines of republicanism, liberalism and popular democracy, print

7
capitalism brought into being mass publics who began to imagine,
through the media, a new type of community: the nation. In the twen-
tieth century, with the development of radio and television, these
impulses have been enormously reinforced, and stretch still further, in
that their messages are accessible to people who do not have to be very
literate in the dominant vernacular-----messages, furthermore, which
have a colloquial, auditory and visual immediacy that print can
scarcely match.

Mass Migration and the World Market

Mass migration also took on a new character in early modern times in


that it was stimulated less by disaster and war than by commerce and
capitalism’s development of increasingly rapid and safe long-distance
transportation. Over the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth cen-
turies millions of minimally free Europeans and millions of enslaved
Africans moved across the Atlantic to the Americas. In the nineteenth
century there came an extraordinary market- and state-induced flow
of non-Europeans from continent to continent. Chinese to California,
Southeast Asia and Australia; Indians to South America, Africa,
Southeast Asia and Oceania, followed by Armenians, Lebanese,
Arabs, and so many others. In our own time the pace is fast, and likely
to increase in speed, thanks to the train, the bus and the aeroplane:
Koreans in Canada, Filipinos in Italy, Thais in Japan, Turks in Ger-
many, West Indians in England, Algerians in France-----in their tens, if
not hundreds of thousands. To be sure, many are ‘pushed’ by political
repression in their homelands, but the great majority are ‘pulled’ by
exactly that force-----the market-----which George Bush imagines as a
force for peace and order, but all modern history shows to be the most
deeply subversive institution that we know.
Human bodies, though caught up in the vortex of the market, are not
merely another form of commodity. As they follow in the wake of
grain and gold, rubber and textiles, petrochemicals and silicon chips,
they carry with them memories and customs, beliefs and eating
habits, musics and sexual desires. And these human characteristics,
which, in their places of origin, are usually borne lightly and unself-
consciously, assume quickly a drastically different salience in the dias-
poras of modern life. It is no accident that nationalism’s historical
debut occurred in the Americas among the descendants of Scots and
Castilians who shared language and religion with Scots and Spaniards
in Europe, but who had rarely seen Scotland or Castile. The metro-
poles thought of them scornfully as ‘creoles’ or ‘colonials’-----as it were,
non-European Europeans-----and this imposed, placeless, identity
eventually fused with attachment to their non-European homes, to
create the possibility of becoming Mexicans, Venezuelans and ‘Amer-
icans’. Such people, however, were peculiarly fortunate compared to
their successors elsewhere. ‘Debased’ they might be in the eyes of the
imperial metropole, but they were still more or less ‘white’, still spoke
European languages, and still followed European religions. They
could not be treated with the full brutality inflicted on Indians, Afri-
cans and Asians. Furthermore, they were following the market out of
the metropole, not back into it. In the Americas they quickly made

8
themselves masters of the indigenous populations. (Following inde-
pendence from the metropoles, they encouraged huge new immigra-
tions from non-British and non-Spanish Europe to consolidate this
domination and to promote accumulation in a labour-scarce envir-
onment). Afterwards, only in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and
South Africa could their example be followed. In all later market
migrations, people moved away from the periphery towards more
inward centres, they had no choice but to be subordinated, and they
were never regarded even as ‘debased Europeans’.

The scale and speed of these modern market-driven migrations made


any traditional form of gradual assimilation to the new environments
very difficult. In the face of bewilderingly alien environments it was
only to be expected that the migrants would turn to each other for
moral and economic support-----and so they clustered in ghettoes small
or large-----in Detroit, Berlin, Huddersfield, São Paolo, or Marseilles.
More serious still, capitalism paradoxically also held them, in strange
ways, in their homelands’ grip. For one thing, they could, in prin-
ciple, easily go home, by the same ships, trains, buses and aeroplanes
that had vacuumed them out of those homes in the first place. The
telex, the telephone and the post office encouraged them to keep ‘in
touch’, in a way unimaginable in earlier centuries. Hence many of
them dreamed of circulatory migration rather than of finding a new
permanent home, even if that was what, finally, they found themselves
stuck with. But it was not only local and familial memories that they
brought with them. Capitalism had its own way of helping them
imagine a more mediated identity. We may recall the famous photo-
graph of a Peloponnesian Gastarbeiter sitting mournfully in his tiny
room in some anonymous German industrial town-----Stuttgart
perhaps? The pitiful little room is bare of any decoration except a
travel poster of the Parthenon, produced en masse by Lufthansa,
with a subscription, in German, encouraging the gazer to take a
Holiday in Sunny Greece. This Lufthansa Parthenon is transparently
not a real memory for the melancholy worker. He has put it on
his wall because he can read it as sign for ‘Greece’, and-----in his
Stuttgart misery-----for an ‘ethnicity’ that only Stuttgart has encouraged
him to imagine.

On the other side, the mass appearance, in settled communities, of


thousands of immigrants, did not, and will not, fail to produce its
own ethnicizations. Le Pen’s neofascist movement in France finds its
strongest support among two once visibly antagonistic groups: work-
ers who used to be faithful supporters of the French Communist Party
but whose rundown neighbourhoods are exactly where the poor
immigrants are compelled to cluster; and former pied-noir (putatively
‘white’ colonial) elements who fled free Algeria in 1962, and who
despite their Maltese, Italian, Spanish and Levantine ancestries, feel
themselves more than ever French. Neo-Nazis and skinheads behind
the recent outrages in United Germany, the National Front in the
United Kingdom, ‘White Power’ extremists in the United States-----
who advertize themselves ‘ethnically’ as the real Germans, English or
Americans-----are also in part responses to the labour flows created on
a mass scale by contemporary world capitalism.
9
Dangerous Convergences

There is still another way in which the market is making a special con-
tribution to the new world disorder, and it intersects frequently with
the upheavals sketched out above. In the early days of industrialism,
the munitions industries in the advanced Western states operated
largely outside the market. They typically had but a single customer,
the state, produced commodities to customer specifications, charged
administered prices, and were, because of imperial rivalries, usually
surrounded with a wall of secrecy. But by the 1880s, some of these
munitions giants, for example Armstrong in Britain and Krupp in
Germany, had broken out of the state’s monopsonistic grip, and were
building an infant world arms market. Characteristically, these con-
glomerates’ free-market customers were weak, peripheral and agrarian
states which were incapable of constructing the high-tech metallur-
gical and chemical plants necessary for making modern weapons of
their own on a mass scale. Thus British and American arms flowed to
the recently independent states of South America, German weapons
primarily to Eastern Europe and the Ottoman Empire. For two basic
reasons, this process picked up increasing speed after World War I.
The first was the collapse of the Romanov, Habsburg, Ottoman,
Hohenzollern and Ch’ing empires, and the proliferation in the debris
of a host of new, weak, agrarian nation-states, also completely incap-
able of self-armament. The second was the new speed with which
weapons systems were becoming obsolete as the pace of invention
accelerated: in one generation, aeroplanes, submarines, aircraft car-
riers, tanks and poison gas were all born. The great munitions indus-
tries were now in the business of supplying their core customers with
the most advanced and expensive war machinery possible, but also
selling off obsolescent, cheaper lines of goods on the world market.
The logic behind these developments only deepened its thrust after
World War II, as technological innovation picked up further speed,
and as the number of weak, agrarian states proliferated. But two new
conditions substantially aggravated the situation. On the one hand, as
a result of the oil crisis of 1973, the world saw for the first time
immensely rich weak, agrarian states, such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and
Iraq, which had the purchasing power to acquire ‘firstclass’ arms
from the industrial cores. On the other hand, the onset of the Cold
War pitted two superpowers in a global struggle fought largely
through proxies in the periphery, precisely because the two powers
were terrified by the prospect of a nuclear war between themselves. As
a matter of state policy, military-assistance programmes on a vast
scale developed, largely outside the international market, in that their
beneficiaries’ bills were often paid for by the superpowers themselves.
Hence the massive arms races of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s in the
Near East, South, Southeast, and East Asia, Latin America, and even
Africa. The character of superpower competition in the periphery
also encouraged both sides to sell or grant quite sophisticated
weapons to customer-clients who were not the leaderships of nation-
states: guerrillas, rebels, terrorists and counter-terrorists, above all in
zones where the rival superpower was hegemonic. We recall Amer-
ican operations against Soviet-influenced Afghanistan, Angola and

10
Cuba, and Soviet operations against American-influenced South
Africa and various parts of Latin America. In a substantial number of
such cases, superpower military support was provided to subgroups
which, to a greater or lesser degree, defined themselves in nationalist,
ethnic or racial terms. (The temptations were particularly great in
Asia and Africa. There, nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century
imperialisms had forcibly ‘integrated’, within iron colonial cages, a
huge variety of older polities, ethnolinguistic groups and religious
communities.3 The independent successor-states born after World
War II were thus peculiarly vulnerable to external manipulation of
ethnic sentiments.)

The example of the superpowers was quickly followed by intermed-


iary powers: small industrial countries such as France and Britain;
and barely industrial states which enjoyed special relations with a
superpower, such as Israel, or surplus wealth, such as Iran. Some at
least of these states have been attempting to go nuclear despite the
efforts of the existing nuclear club to maintain its exclusive member-
ship. Finally, a substantial number of Third World states, incapable
of producing sophisticated armaments themselves, have proved quite
ready to divert arms received or bought from the cores to friendly
opposition groups in neighbouring states with which they have
serious bones to pick (for example, Tanzania’s military support of the
opponents of Idi Amin, or India’s arming of the early Bengali rebel-
lion against Old Pakistan).

Up to a point, it is plausible to argue that the end of the Cold War


and the implosion of the Soviet Union may to some extent reduce the
flow of munitions around the world. But Moscow’s contribution to
the flow was always substantially smaller than that of Washington, let
alone of the West as a whole. Furthermore, it was largely state-
directed and outside the market. At the same time, half a century of
Cold War has created huge military-industrial complexes in the West,
which will powerfully resist attempts to curb their reach, and for
which the world arms market-----with its substantial new customers in
Eastern Europe-----remains an irresistible magnet. Arms production
itself has spread quite rapidly outside the old cores-----to Brazil and
Argentina, Israel, India, China, even places like Thailand and
Indonesia. It may even be that the decline in world fears of a major
nuclear war will further stimulate the working of the market, in
that the drive to sell may be less inhibited by large strategic and/or
moral considerations.

From the beginnings of nationalism, based as this culture was on an


idea of popular sovereignty, it was accepted a priori that one central
guarantor of the reality of that sovereignty was a national army. Even
in such core industrial polities as Germany, France and Japan, how-
ever, these national armies soon played a central role in domestic

3
The eminent historian of Africa, Roland Oliver, describes the ‘partition’ of the con-
tinent in the last quarter of the nineteenth century as ‘a ruthless act of political amalga-
mation, whereby something on the order of ten thousand units was reduced to a mere
forty.’

11
politics. In the weak peripheral states, militaries largely armed and
trained from the outside were even more likely to turn inwards, as the
nineteenth-century experience of Latin America shows. The world
today is full of national armies that have never fought an external
enemy, but continue to torment their own fellow-citizens.

Among the many reasons for this introversion have been, especially in
the ex-colonial periphery, the processes of decolonization itself, as
well as the temptations posed by the general absence of countervailing
domestic powers in poor, weak, and still heavily agrarian nations. In
the first place, when the imperial powers began creating local mili-
taries in the colonies, they trained them for purposes of domestic
control. The Burma Rifles, for example, were destined to be deployed
only in British Burma and against domestic Burmese resistance to
British rule. In the second place, for obvious political reasons, they
recruited on a heavily ethnicized basis, characteristically favouring
backward and/or Christian minorities: ‘Martial Races’ in India,
Ambonese in the Dutch Indies, Karens in Burma, Berbers in Algeria,
Ibos in Nigeria, and so forth. The transfer of sovereignty therefore
often created a fundamental and dangerous antagonism between an
ethnic minority in control of the most powerful domestic organiz-
ation, and majorities or pluralities that claimed state power on the
basis of popular elections and representative government. Even where
coups did not rapidly ensue, militaries were too important for the
new national governments not to attempt to seize control of recruit-
ment into the officer corps. Under the best of conditions-----that is,
where some genuine conception of national representation in the mili-
tary was adhered to-----majoritarianism usually threatened the hitherto
powerful minorities inside the military with the long-term erosion of
their ascendancy, and, perhaps, their ability to help their fellow
ethnics in time of trouble. In other cases, such as in Latin America,
recruitment to the officer corps was heavily biased on class and
ethnic-racial lines, generally excluding ‘Indians’, and favouring
creoles and mestizos from the middle and upper classes. Small wonder
then that militaries have been extensively used in the periphery to
maintain power structures which, despite nationalist rhetoric, have
been profoundly ethnicized. Still less wonder that discontent and
rebellion against such status quos should have also disposed them-
selves along ethnic, quasi-ethnic, or racial lines.

Hence, despite the end of the Cold War, dangerous convergences that
were already born in the last century show every sign of continuing to
develop: market-led proliferation of weapons-systems, mythologiz-
ation of militaries as sine qua non symbols and guarantors of national
sovereignty, and ethnicization of officer corps.

The Emergence of the Long-Distance Nationalist?

There are profoundly deep economic, social and cultural forces at


work here, over which political leaderships even in advanced, ‘demo-
cratic’ states have only tangential control. To sense these forces one
does not need to go outside Old Europe itself. As the crow flies, Bel-
fast is less than 500 kilometres from London, but has been an armed

12
camp for the past twenty-five years, despite British use of the most
sophisticated urban counter-insurgency methods against the IRA, and
despite British leaders as aggressive as Margaret Thatcher. The IRA
survives not only because of its local nationalist appeal and its ruth-
less methods, but because it has gained political and financial support
in the United States and inside England, weapons on the international
arms market, and training and intelligence from Libya and in the
Near East. Belgrade is less than 1,000 kilometres from Berlin, capital
of the most powerful state in Europe and hub of the European Com-
munity. But Berlin, the Community and the United States seem
largely impotent in the face of the civil war destroying Old Yugo-
slavia. Belgrade is the headquarters of a putatively ‘national’ army
which was and is disproportionately Serbian and is now being used
for Serbian rather than Yugoslavian ends. Croat politicians, on the
other hand, have been highly active on the world arms market, and
draw substantial resources from emigrant Croat communities in
various countries around the world.

What these instances show is not at all that nationalism is obsolete.


Rather, the vast migrations produced over the past 150 years by the
market, as well as war and political oppression, have profoundly dis-
rupted a once seemingly ‘natural’ coincidence of national sentiment
with lifelong residence in fatherland or motherland. In this process
‘ethnicities’ have been engendered which follow nationalisms in his-
torical order, but which are today also linked to such nationalisms in
complex and often explosive ways. This is why some of the most
strongly ‘Irish nationalist’ supporters of the IRA live out their lives as
‘ethnic Irish’ in the United States. The same goes for many Ukrainians
settled in Toronto, Tamils in Melbourne, Jamaicans in London,
Croats in Sydney, Jews in New York, Vietnamese in Los Angeles, and
Turks in Berlin. It may well be that we are faced here with a new type
of nationalist: the ‘long-distance nationalist’ one might perhaps call
him.4 For while technically a citizen of the state in which he comfort-
ably lives, but to which he may feel little attachment, he finds it
tempting to play identity politics by participating (via propaganda,
money, weapons, any way but voting) in the conflicts of his imagined
Heimat-----now only fax-time away. But this citizenshipless participa-
tion is inevitably non-responsible-----our hero will not have to answer
for, or pay the price of, the long-distance politics he undertakes. He is
also easy prey for shrewd political manipulators in his Heimat.

4
‘Him’ because this type of politics seems to attract males more than females.
13