Explanation and Example: Capitalist Nationalism

A still from Killer of Sheep A still from Killer of Sheep

**Reformist consciousness was famously described by Gramsci as “dual” or “contradictory”; on the one hand accepting the permanence of the system, on the other rejecting the effect of its operation. The most basic expression of this contradiction is an acceptance by workers of the wages system accompanied by a rejection of the particular level of wages which they are being offered, but it extends to all aspects of social life. Workers remain nationalist to the extent that they remain reformist. And from the point of view of the capitalist class in individual nations it is absolutely necessary that they do so, or the danger is always that workers will identify, not with the “national” interest of the state in which they happen to be situated, but that of the class to which they are condemned to belong, regardless of the accident of geographical location. Nationalism should not therefore be seen as something which only “happens” during separatist movements on the one hand, or during fascist and imperialist manifestations on the other: the capitalist system generates nationalism as a necessary, everyday condition of its continued existence.**

The National Question, Class and the European Union: An Interview with Neil Davidson

**I didn’t want to make a revolutionary film about taking over the city or the world, necessarily. What happened was that I was thinking about how to make a film that reflected the reality of the situation. I used to get my hair cut in Watts at a particular barbershop, and there was always some conversation or argument with these older guys inside. I went in there one time, and it was Paul Robeson’s birthday or something. I was excited, but their attitude was against Robeson because they felt he’d turned against his country. They were talking about a guy who was a spokesperson for injustice all over the world! So we got into a big debate, and they were saying things like, “I’ll give you a plane ticket to Russia if you promise not to come back.” Then I realized that they’d lived through the war, they were from the South, they’d been through segregation, and yet they still had a profound patriotism and love of America. It was hard for me to reconcile. They weren’t a part of the Watts rebellion; they were responsible people who were into supporting America. They believed in the system. It made me look closely at people who were, say, economically at the lower end but who still believed politically that they had opportunities and who never thought of themselves as poor because they were working and making a living. It was an eye-opener in many ways.**

This Bitter Earth an Interview with Charles Burnett on Killer of Sheep

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Douglas Storm is a host and producer for Interchange on Bloomington, Indiana's community radio station WFHB. "Why then do you try to 'enlarge' your mind? Subtilize it..."

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