The Role of Nationalism in the Post-World War II Era

The Post-World War Second Era began after the victory of the allies over the Nazi coalition, and after that the victorious states started to compete for the dominance in the world. In this sense, the Nazi Germany with its aggression and threats was the unifying factor that did not allow the most powerful states to come into conflict. At the same time, the great destructions in the Western Europe replaced the most successful European states out of the international competition for many decades of restoration, so the end of the World War II reinforced the establishment of the bipolar system, the main political centers of which were the USA and the USSR. The difference between the ways, the USA and the USSR chose for their development, presupposed the next events as well as the general situation in the international politics. The liberal ideology of the USA and its partners opposed the Communist ideology of the USSR and its supporters. In this way, both states tried to share their ideological systems, primarily because their leaders tried to enlarge the spheres of their influence. This opposition is well known as the Cold War. In that historical context, the role of nationalism was very important, because the Soviet propaganda appealed to the nationalist ideas of those states, which the USSR wanted to make its allies, and in this way, the radical nationalist ideas became the ideological instruments of the struggle against the American influence. Thus, the Chinese and Korean nationalists, who collaborated with the Communists, provoked the transformation of the Cold War into the global issue. Moreover, nationalism in its moderate form served as a counterbalance of the economic reductionism, and thus helped to adapt globalization to the national demands. Therefore, the role of nationalism in the post-World War II period was very important, and its ideas remain effective both for the denial and for the establishment of globalization.


The main specific feature of nationalism is its connection with the process of globalization, that it why it is important to define globalization before the analysis of the nationalist issues. Globalization is the process of all states’ economic and political collaboration that leads to the appearance of the global market, provides new possibilities for the international division of labor, and allows all states to work together without any limitations. It is clear that objectively this process is more positive than negative, because it provides great advantages for the global economic, technical, scientific and, other aspects of development. In addition, globalization should exclude any conflicts between the nations because the globalized world would be organized through the power of mutual profits and economic dependences, based on the global market, world division of labor, and other related principles. Such economic unifying factors would replace the national interests of separate states, which usually contradict the interests of other states, causing the competitions, conflicts, and even world wars. At this point nationalism, as an alternative position, appears. The main idea of nationalism is the difference between the nations, which cannot be avoided by any economic factors. The nationalists’ belief is that there are no values or ways of development, equally appropriate for all nations, and, thus, globalization would oppress some nations and establish the dominance of other nations. Furthermore, globalization is an economic process, which appears because of the global economic development, while nationalism is an ideology, oriented on the criticism of this objective sequence of the economic processes. Nationalism also helps to avoid the limitations of the economic reductionism, serving partly as a factor that promotes the establishment of democracy and liberty. It is clear that globalization and nationalism are two closely interrelated phenomena, which means that they should be researched together.

The positive effect of nationalism appears as the result of the economic dominance of the USA in the today’s world. One of the most popular criticisms of globalization is its dependence on the American culture. It leads to the appearance of some cases, when globalization may take a form of ‘Americanization’. For example, in the today’s France, many nationalist activists protest against the Americanization of their state, and in this way try to oppose globalization, which in their opinion inevitably leads to the dominance of the USA. As stated before, globalization is an objective economic process that does not serve particular interests of any separate state or nation. Besides, it allows nationalists to prevent international leaders such as the USA, Germany, or any other state from occupying the role of a global leader that would dictate its norms to the whole world. In fact, the reasonable cultural and traditional rigidity of separate states to some degree helps to keep globalization in its economic aspect without letting it expand into other fields of social life. It is clear that all nations are unlike, but they differ only to some extent, so the international values should be represented by their national interpretations in each separate state in order to provide the possibility for those values to be realized to the highest degree. It is also obvious that despite the fact that Soviet propaganda interpreted globalization as Americanization, the USSR itself tended to the global expansion of its values and norms. In this aspect, nationalism was that factor, which allowed the allies of the Soviet Union to preserve their identity and some amount of political and social liberties. Today, when the multipolar system replaces the bipolar one, it is obvious that each nation’s identity does not contradict the general values that have the international importance. Therefore, nationalism is the ideological instrument that does not allow any idea to combine the whole world into one society, governed by one center. Certainly, a completely unified global society without any national differences may look as a dystopian one because of the lack of alternative to the global Government as well its remoteness from the people. In this aspect, it becomes clear that nationalism plays an important role in the establishment and realization of democracy. Furthermore, the reasonable connection of the national component with globalization may allow the world nations get the advantages from the globalization as well as preserve their national liberties.

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At the same time, nationalism may have many oppressing effects and serve as the source of obstacles for the promotion of liberalism and democracy. It mostly concerns the effects of nationalist radicalism that may acquire a form of extremism and cause the range of internal and external problems for the state. First, it is clear that for the radical nationalists there are no international values, because their ideology grounds on the radical interpretation of the difference between all nations. Instead of establishing the diversity that should be the result of a moderate version of nationalism, the radicals provide the segregationist policy, oriented on some forms of ‘purification’ of the nation from the representatives of other ethnic or cultural communities. The parallelism between the activities of the German Nazis (the Genocide of Jews) is evident, because Nazism is actually a form of the radical nationalism, which has nothing common with the devotion to the native land or culture. This aggressive ideology leads to the nation’s isolationism because of the radical denial of any international values and collaboration. It is very important that the radical nationalists interpret multiculturalism, individual freedom, diversity, and other elements of the Western liberalism as the ideological elements hostile to their worldview. The reason for it is clear ,because liberalism with its cultural intention to preserve each nation and identity would demonstrate the mistakes of the radical nationalists, who try to keep their nations without liberal alternative through blackening the liberalism. One of the best examples is the claim that liberalism is limited to the national interests of the Americans and serves as the ideological mechanism of the Americanization, realized in a form of globalization. As stated before, nationalism in its moderate form prevents all nations from establishing the dominance and dictatorship, which represents its positive effect. Besides, it was also mentioned that globalization is not a project of any particular nation, because it is an objective consequence of the economic development of the world that tends to the international collaboration. Thus, as long as the radical nationalist regimes try to oppose the global ideas of personal liberties, diversity, and liberalism itself, the role of radical nationalism in the establishment and promotion of democracy and human liberties seems to be definitely negative.

There are two illustrative examples of the role of nationalism in the promotion of democracy in the post-World War II era. The first example concerns the establishment of the Communist Government in China in 1949. Due to the fact the event took place in the very beginning of the post-World War II era, it was one of the political steps of the Soviet Union, directed against the global dominance of the USA. On the one hand, the Chinese Government promoted the Communist ideas and in this way resisted the liberalization (interpreted as Americanization) of the state. The Chinese People’s Republic was the USSR’s ally in the very beginning of its existence. On the other hand, the well-known Cultural Revolution, which was the further nationalist activity of the Chinese leader Mao Zedong, appeared as a measure, oriented on the resistance to the Soviet influence. It is clear that Communist China was enough nationalist to oppose globalizing intentions of both the USA and the USSR, and by doing so the state preserved its independence and identity. Moreover, today’s China rejects globalization only in the sphere of culture and values, while its economy effectively collaborates with others within the global economic system and appears as one of the most successful in the world.

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Another example is the North Korean invasion of South Korea in 1950. It is important that after the World War II, the USSR and the USA captured and divided Korea, which was under Japanese control, into the Northern and the Southern regions to ensure the equal political, economic, and military influence in the place. The event took place after the establishment of the Chinese Communist Government, so that the military forces of North Korea were unofficially supported by the Chinese troops, loyal to the Soviet Union. Thus, the military conflict between the North and South Korea was in fact the indirect military aggression, committed by the USSR against the USA. As a result, the relationships between two parts of Korea became hostile after the Korean War, and both states chose different ways of economic and political development. Thus, South Korea chose the way of the moderate nationalism, connected with the acceptance of globalizing tendencies and liberal values, promoted by the USA, which secured it from the Soviet aggression. All those steps allowed the state become one of the main economic and democratic leaders of the today’s world. In contrast, North Korea chose the way of radical nationalism, connected with the Communist ideology. Therefore, the refusal of economic collaboration with the developed states as well as the antidemocratic political regime led North Korea to the situation of isolationism and separation from the progressive majority of the world. In this way, North Korea tried to preserve its cultural and national identity, but in reality achieved only the economic degradation, accompanied by the shortening of the people’ liberties.

The establishment of the Communist Government in China as well as the North Korean invasion of South Korea demonstrated that the opposition involves all the states of the world. The Communist USSR promoted the isolationist tendencies in its ally states through the interpretation of globalization as the opposite alternative of national identity, while in fact the Communist ideology totally opposed nationalism. Furthermore, such propaganda was based on the sophistic argumentation, because globalization contrasts the radical nationalism only, whereas the moderate form of it serves as a positive feature of the globalizing processes.

In conclusion, the role of nationalism in the post-World War II era becomes clear through the perspective of the Cold War. According the mentioned examples, the Cold War can be understood as the international opposition that has some greater meaning than just the struggle between two world leaders. It is possible to interpret the Cold War as the opposition of moderate nationalism, which encouraged liberalism and international collaboration, and its radical version, which promoted totalitarianism and isolationism. This detail demonstrates the ultimate importance of the nationalism that remains one of the most significant drives of political relations of the today’s world.

Oct 13, 2020 in Communications
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