[Editorial Analysis] Liberals are losing the ideological battle against nationalists

Mains Paper 1: Indian Society

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Communalism, regionalism, socialism


• Over the last fortnight, we have seen a pitched battle in India between “nationalists” and “liberals”.

• After all, for most liberal elites, both in India and the West, nationalism is a dangerous, regressive and divisive impulse.

Historical context of the word nationalism

• During the current Indo-Pak crisis, several liberals quoted from George Orwell’s classic 1945 essay Notes on Nationalism, where he distinguished between patriotism and nationalism.

• Patriots, wrote Orwell, are devoted to a particular place and way of life, which they believe to be the world’s best but have no wish to force on others.

• Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power.

• The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.

• However, no liberal quoted from later in the essay, where Orwell also condemns pacifists (“transferred nationalists”) and Anglophobists (“negative nationalists”): “Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely, one finds that (their disapproval is) directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States.

• Moreover, they do not as a rule condemn violence as such, but only violence used in defence of western countries.

• Replace “Britain and the United States” and “western countries” with “India” in some liberal laments in mainstream and social media, and you will get my point.

Relation between patriotism and Nationalism

• Patriotism cannot exist without a nation, and a nation cannot survive without nationalism. It is one of the modern world’s foundational principles.

• Nationalism gave rise to the modern state system and was a liberating force in anticolonial freedom struggles across the globe.

• Democracy is a result of the creation of nation-states.

• One of Karl Marx’s biggest mistakes was to assume that the working classes would rise above their national identities and never fight each other.

• Millions have died in wars since then, and the proletariat have invariably chosen nationalism over their supposed class interests.

• The European Union has hardly been able to contain its members’ nationalistic agendas and universal cosmopolitanism will always remain confined to John Lennon’s Imagine.

Defining modern day nationalism

• Today, nationalism is more important than ever before as we have to balance national interests with the demands of a globalized economy and changing geopolitics.

• Mere patriotism will not do. Nationalistic China is attempting to build a global empire (while boxing in India). Russia has transnational ambitions.

• Orwell called patriotism “defensive, both militarily and culturally”. India has been defensive for far too long.

• In an increasingly competitive world, we have to push our interests harder. We need more, not less, nationalism.


• We need to develop better forms of nationalism, through every form of inclusion social, political, financial not through demagoguery or empty symbolism but by instilling true pride in every Indian heart.

• For that, we need something else too.

• As Swami Vivekananda said (and I paraphrase): You can’t expect someone to worship God on an empty stomach.

• Similarly, you can’t expect a household that can’t afford two meals a day to be very nationalistic or liberal.


Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the impeachment of the President of India, consider the following statements:

1. The President can be impeached only on the ground for violation of the Constitution.

2. The process of impeachment can only start in the Lok Sabha.

3. The charge of impeachment of the President shall be preferred only if the resolution is passed by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the total membership of the House.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1, 2 and 3

(b) 1 and 2 only

(c) 2 only

(d) 1 and 3 only

Answer: D

Mains Questions:

Q.1) How the nationalism and patriotism correlated with each other. Explain.

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