First vs. Third World Nationalism

A few people have asked me to give my thoughts on nationalism. The Third Worldist view holds that it’s a good thing for the Third World and bad for First World. So at their request I’m clarifying the position at least in my own words. I cannot speak for any Third Worldist group, I can only speak for myself. My position is that they are very different things

that manifest themselves in two opposite ways. This manifestation is of course dependent upon their position within a power dynamic.

First World Nationalism

When we look at nationalist movements in the First World, what do we see? We see xenophobia and racism mostly. This tends to be the entire core of these movements. The idea that there are others coming into ‘our’ countries and taking away what ‘we’ve’ built up. Those immigrants or refugees are seen as parasites, outsiders are seen this way. What they hold is a disdain for anyone who is from outside the country, because they’ll steal what we’ve taken from others. When we speak of nationalism in the First World we’re talking about an arrogance that declares us to be superior to others, not national pride as those who hold it assert.

Nationalism, of course, manifests itself militarily as well. In the First World this means being pro-imperialist war. When we use love of the country as a justification for war, it is to attack weaker countries and steal their resources. Or it can be used as a means of revenge against someone who has attacked us when we ‘did nothing wrong’. What is important is that we stand on the top end of a power dynamic. First Worlders often feel a moral superiority, a God given right to enter other countries and tell them how to live. It is believed that we have some supposed right to install a government for other people according to our values, i.e. capitalism, bourgeois democracy.

For us there is no invasion on altruistic grounds. Capitalism is not capable of doing that. Capitalism can only plunder, steal, rape, and murder. It will not do any good simply because it’s the right thing to do. Capitalism will only invade a national if it can materially benefit from it. Meaning, they have to profit from it. If there’s nothing in it for the capitalist class, then they’re not going to put out any effort. Look at the Rwandan genocide, no country cared about it, because it couldn’t be twisted to their benefit. It was only the actions of Canadian UN General Roméo Dallaire, out of an actual desire to stop genocide that anything happened.

Capitalism cannot care, it cannot show solidarity.

Third World Nationalism

When we look at nationalist movements in the Third World what do we see? We see struggles to liberate a country from colonization, imperialism. It is not the same as it is in the First World. They are looking to abolish control of their country by others. They seek self-determination. When they call for national pride they are speaking of taking their destinies in their own hands. The nationalist stance is one of liberation, to remove those who oppress the country. Not as it is in the First World, a justification for the oppression of another nation. When we speak of nationalism in the Third World we’re speaking of a desire to build one’s self up, not tearing another down.

It is different when it’s a Third World country. Third World nationalism is entirely different. Why? Because it comes from the opposite end of that global power dynamic. It’s coming from the oppressed, the occupied, not the oppressor, the occupier. A struggle for national pride from an oppressed country is a reaction to its oppression by another. It’s an act of defiance against that really existing oppression. Not as it is in the First World, a perceived oppression from immigrants and refugees. When the militant forces are brought together, it is to fight off people in their country who hold power over them. Not like it is in the First World where nationalist militancy attacks disposed people, those who do not hold power in society. The power dynamic makes all the difference.

In this case capitalism can be somewhat altruistic. Albeit in a limited form. Mao spoke of the national bourgeois who also wanted liberation. By no means does this make them socialists. It means they can be temporary allies in the fight against imperialism, which is after all the primary contradiction. This doesn’t mean capitalism is good, it means it’s possible to turn one part of the capitalist class against another. This weakens the overall power of the bourgeoisie as most of it is propped up by the imperialist occupation. This tactic has proven absolutely correct in history as we’ve seen with Mao and the Communist Revolution. The key here, as it is with nationalism in general, is the power dynamic.

But, What If…?

First World countries which are capitalist cannot invade out of solidarity with Third World people. The system is capitalism. No matter how much the ‘working class’ of the invader may show solidarity with the working class of an oppressed nation, this doesn’t change the nature of the invasion itself and its after effects. There is no altruistic invasion by capitalism.

What if the invading country is a socialist one? Then it would certainly not be the same as a capitalist one. In that case, depending on the circumstances, it could be altruistic. But we must of course distinguish the difference between a genuine liberation effort from that of social imperialism.


Mao said, “It’s always right to rebel.” But you have to be on the oppressed end of a power dynamic in order to do so.

17 thoughts on “First vs. Third World Nationalism

  1. But what about Ron Paul style nationalism, it’s racist AND isolationist. He claims he would end imperialism, or is he simply referring to military imperialism but nothing of economic imperialism which matters even more today

  2. this post would make great content for a video. but i think you should go into more detail. What about 3rd world nationalism within the 1st world like the Nation of Islam or Mexica Movement? What about Muslim immigrants in Europe who want some kind of islamic nationalism? also how do you counter the accusation that all nationalism hurts the working class because it props up the national bourgeoise over the workers?

      • what kinds of factors? I think if you support 3rd world nationalism it would make sense to support the bits of the 3rd world within the 1st world. Or do you think those groups like the NOI and Islamic nationalists in Europe are more 1st world in ideology than they are 3rd world?

      • OK, but what are the defining factors that you speak of? What makes the Islamic sects in Europe different from Nation of Islam or Mexica?

      • Islamic sects in Europe don’t have the roots that say Native Americans or African Americans have in the United States. The Islamic sects don;t have the history or oppression and tie to the land as they do.

      • Wouldn’t an argument against you be that Muslims in Europe are there *now* so from a 3rd Worldist perspective they should have some kind of national liberation?

        Also what’s your opinion on 1st World vs. 3rd World religion? Is it the same as nationalism?

      • I’d say no. There’s non historical context for Islamic nationalism in the First World. For Native Americans the U.S. is their land. While these Islamic nationalists could return to the country of their origin, or any other Islamic state. in fact it’s really a case for halting imperialist aggression in the Middle East. As for religion I’m mixed on that.

      • Given the refugee crisis and rise of the islamophobic far-right in Europe, would you say Muslims in the EU constitute a nation? What about giving them back al-Andalus since the land was unfairly stolen from them by Spain?

        And religion: what about it makes you mixed on the topic? What should the MTWist position on religion be? What makes it different from nationalism?

      • No, the refugees don’t count as a nation, because they have a home. As for giving back al-Andalus, I do not know. I don’t know enough about the history there. As for religion, it’s always complicated.

    • OK. I always saw religion in the 3rd world as both their means of coping with imperialist destruction of their people and lands and a means of resistance against 1st world domination. 1st world religion is just like 1st world nationalism since it’s oppressive like the religious right/christian zionism or superficial like the new age movement. What do you think?

      • OK. What about Islam? There were Islamic Marxists in Algeria and also in Iran. Marxist-influenced leaders came to power in several Islamic countries. I think Islam is more communist than Christianity. All of Islam’s traditions are communal while Christianity is all about individualist salvation. also the west has historically supported christians over muslims. I think you should make a post on 1st world vs. 3rd world religion.

        Also do you think Greece is going fascist because of its status as a beneficiary of imperialism or because of its culture?

      • I’d much prefer if socialism wasn’t mixed with any religion. Communism is the science of revolution. Religion is the opposite of science. In the past people have used religion to get people into Marxism. I reject doing this, because I think in the end their God will mean more to them than revolution.

      • I think you should turn this post into a video since 1st vs. 3rd world nationalism is a big point of Third Worldism.

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