Debate from ROAPE Volume 16 Number 45/46
Antinomies of Nationalism & Democracy in SA Liberation
In my view marxists have acceded too readily to the appeal of nationalism in SA, fudging the differences between marxism and nationalism and downplaying the basic fact that marxists are not nationalists. It is one thing for socialists to recognise the progressive nature of nationalism in SA and to accept it as a factual condition of their struggle as socialists; it is another simply to welcome nationalism as ideology and programme. The conversion of working class struggle into nationalism has been far less complete than might appear and is the result not of the triumph of reason but of a definite interplay of class forces which, though hidden beneath the surface of political life, are its real social determinants. Eric Hobsbawn's sweeping but true observation that ‘getting their history wrong is an essential characteristic of nations’ (1989:125) should be a warning to marxists not to accept too readily the self-conceptions of the nationalist history.