In defence of patriotism


In defence of patriotism

George Orwell's criticism of leftish disdain for patriotism still speaks to us today.

Michael Crowley


Patriotism is a contentious word; a territory disputed by left and right. Those in England who dare to admit to it these days usually qualify their allegiance with a definition that condemns colonialism, largely because patriotism is too readily confused with nationalism – a quite different condition. What makes it trickier is that patriotism is more of a sentiment than it is a concept. George Orwell described it as ‘mystical’, ‘a bridge between the future and the past’. He wrote about it a great deal in his many essays, but it is also present in the background of his fiction and other books. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, it is the absence of any possibility of national affection, the complete estrangement from the society, that underlies the dystopia.

Orwell’s essay ‘My Country Right or Left’ was written in the autumn of 1940, after the retreat from Dunkirk and the respite won at the Battle of Britain. Orwell had returned wounded from Spain in 1937, having fought for the republican government against Franco’s forces. He had faced fascism down the barrel of a rifle and, back in England, there was a widespread feeling that the establishment was not prosecuting the war effectively because of the impediments of an outdated class system – that in order to defeat fascism, fundamental economic and social change was required.

‘Patriotism has nothing to do with conservatism’, Orwell wrote.

‘It is devotion to something that is changing but is felt to be mystically the same, like the devotion of the ex-White Bolshevik to Russia. To be loyal both to Chamberlain’s England and to the England of tomorrow might seem an impossibility, if one did not know it to be an everyday phenomenon. Only revolution can save England…‘

Patriotism was required, but one that looked to a future England as much as it drew on its past. In the same paragraph, he writes of his own reticence and the left’s inability to relate to patriotic instincts:

‘To this day it gives me a faint feeling of sacrilege not to stand to attention during “God Save The King”. That is childish, of course, but I would sooner have had that kind of upbringing than be like the left-wing intellectuals who are so enlightened that they cannot understand the most ordinary emotions.’

Orwell then makes an interesting comparison, establishing a connection between the patriotic poetry of Sir Henry Newbolt and the work of poet and former comrade John Cornford, who was killed fighting in Spain. Cornford, like Orwell, was public-school educated to defend king and country, but gave his life in another country for a different cause. In Newbolt’s There’s a Breathless Hush in the Close Tonight and Cornford’s Before the Storming of Huesca, Orwell can see an emotional content that is ‘almost exactly the same’, despite the differences of period and place. His point is that the spirit of patriotism can be enlisted for the cause of socialism – ‘the possibility of building a socialist on the bones of a Blimp’. One loyalty transmuting itself into another.

Orwell develops these themes at the end of 1940 in a pamphlet-length essay, ‘The Lion and the Unicorn’, which examines the character of England and the English and sets out a programme for an English revolution. In it, we see how much we have changed over the past 80 years, but also how some traits march on.

‘England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution, from horse racing to suet puddings.’

The left in England today is by no means synonymous with the intelligentsia, and their anti-patriotism, like much of their politics, is part self-righteous affectation. But, if anything, it is more prevalent, more pronounced now, than in Orwell’s day. I spent many years among the leftist intelligentsia and I can report that it was considered blasphemous to support the England football team during World Cups – it even appeared as an agenda item at Socialist Workers’ Party branch meetings. Should England actually ever win the World Cup, it was believed that it would necessarily feed the right in British politics.

Culturally, the left locate their tastes overseas, which they consider a mark of sophistication. When Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was asked about his reading habits, he naturally spoke about Nigerian novelists. One couldn’t imagine him, or anyone in the current Labour leadership, citing Evelyn Waugh, and I can well remember being at an SWP meeting in the 1980s when the speaker, journalist Paul Foot, said he thought Brideshead Revisited was a great novel. Almost the entire room booed him. I have always found ‘books are weapons’ among the most depressing of political slogans.

Left politicians are suspicious if not fearful of patriotism, particularly when it is expressed by the working class

Of course, left politicians will congratulate England’s cricket team occasionally, but far from knowing how to take advantage of a sense of patriotism, they are suspicious, if not fearful, of it, particularly when it is expressed by the working class. In 2014, Emily Thornberry, now a Labour leadership candidate, tweeted a photograph of a house in Rochester with flags of St George outside. She was canvassing ahead of the Rochester and Strood by-election, and the inference of course was derogatory. She was rightfully accused of snobbery, but there is another question here. Why did she assume that the people who lived there would not be Labour supporters? That this marked Rochester out as infertile territory for socialists? Because being patriotic is now considered to be incompatible with the left. Incompatible because the left believe it to be veiled racism, and when expressed by the working class, a whisper away from fascism.

Notions of patriotism in England today are not restricted to ethnicity. That kind of ethnic patriotism is on the backfoot and almost extinct, certainly taboo. In fact, I would argue that the English patriotism of today is more likely to pride itself on its anti-racism. Black and Asian people can feel, and have every right to feel, as patriotic or as unpatriotic as white people. Instead of despairing and posting a photograph of the front of the house online, Thornberry would have been better knocking on the door and opening a dialogue. As Orwell puts it: ‘An intelligent Socialist movement will use [people’s] patriotism instead of merely insulting it.’

In ‘The Lion and the Unicorn’, Orwell extols what he considers to be the innate, natural anti-authoritarianism of ordinary people in England, summed up as an attachment to liberty and to privacy:

‘All the culture that is most truly native centres round things which when they are communal are not official – the pub, the football match, the back garden, the fireside and the “nice cup of tea”. The liberty of the individual is still believed in, almost as in the 19th century. It is the liberty to have a home of your own, to do what you like in your spare time… The most hateful of all names in an English ear is Nosey Parker.’

Orwell would despair at the England of today, where people are reported and even arrested for what they have written online, for expressing an opinion, for refusing to write something on a wedding cake. He would recognise it as befitting the totalitarian regimes he satirised in his fiction. While he says that ‘the English are hypocritical about their Empire’ – something I think is no longer true – he maintains that ordinary people are averse to the glorification of militarism. English literature, he writes, ‘like other literature, is full of battle-poems, but it is worth noticing that the ones that have won for themselves a kind of popularity are always a tale of disasters and retreats. The most stirring battle-poem in English is about a brigade of cavalry which charged in the wrong direction.’

Eighty years and numerous wars later, I think this is still the case — we have remembrance rather than glorification. Yet the left’s antipathy towards patriotism in England is more exaggerated than ever. It is at the heart of their reaction to Brexit. The Leave vote can usefully be described as intrinsically patriotic since it expresses a desire for national sovereignty; characteristically, the left defamed the vote as racist and did all they could to block the implementation of the result.

Indeed, during the General Election, Labour engaged in Orwellian doublethink, by talking about ‘the many, not the few’ while campaigning against the will of the majority. It made Labour increasingly sound like an Eastern European Communist Party, and a major part of its problem is its growing remoteness from ordinary people.

Being patriotic is now considered veiled racism, a whisper away from fascism

In Orwell’s day, the trade-union movement provided at least some Labour MPs. Emily Thornberry is a former barrister married to a High Court Judge — they are millionaires with a ‘property portfolio’. Corbyn has seen very little working life outside of politics and the membership of his party is skewed towards the public sector and students. I left Labour after the referendum result, but though it was growing in numbers, I also felt it was increasingly insular.

Orwell, though he went to Harrow, made it his quest to live among and learn from ordinary people, poor people. He did so to write The Road to Wigan Pier, Down and Out in Paris and London, and he took a bullet through the throat for Homage to Catalonia. He wandered between the intelligentsia and the common people writing in a style that was deliberately plain, particularly in the context of his era, because he sought a readership that was lower middle-class and self-educated working-class. He was not an intellectual writing for other intellectuals. He believed the common man and woman, not the politicised proletariat or a professional elite, were the best hope for civilisation.

Orwell’s essays were required reading on the left I grew up in. We discussed him and decided our socialism would be different to the one he lamented. Ours would be more human, for we were Trotskyists. But in many ways, we were the same. We could be found on his pages, wagging fingers at people who wore poppies, verbally cuffing comrades for listening to the overtly religious Van Morrison.

As we approach the 80th anniversary of ‘My County Right or Left’, those on the contemporary left should take a look at it and the two volumes of his essays that were published in his lifetime. Indeed, we all should, for Irving Howe called Orwell the ‘the greatest English essayist since Hazlitt, maybe since Dr Johnson’. His essays are not accessories to his other books. They lay claim to his greatness as a writer, covering a wide field of culture and politics, from Dickens and Yeats to ‘Anti-Semitism in Britain’ to ‘How the Poor Die’.

He said he wanted to make political writing into art and he succeeded – his work has endured and, if anything, become more prescient. His writing is plain, but also splendid because of its vision. He sees into the recesses of our humanity and its opposite. He writes speculatively, mockingly, without self-regard. He is understated and those who arrogantly claim his mantel, to be the nation’s conscience, need to read him, for they will find themselves on his pages and thus may find a new direction. At the risk of sounding patriotic, he is among the greatest of Englishmen, a patriot and an internationalist – and that is a perfectly possible and admirable thing to be.

As Orwell wrote in ‘The Lion and the Unicorn’:

‘England is not the jewelled isle of Shakespeare’s much-quoted message, nor is it the inferno depicted by Dr Goebbels. More than either it resembles a family… with all its cupboards bursting with skeletons. It has rich relations who have to be kow-towed to and poor relations who are horribly sat upon, and there is a deep conspiracy of silence about the source of the family income. A family with the wrong members in control – that, perhaps, is as near as one can come to describing England in a phrase.’

Michael Crowley is an author and dramatist. Visit his website here.

Picture by: Getty Images.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


Gerard Barry

10th January 2020 at 12:47 pm

To me, growing up in Ireland, being patriotic and/or nationalistic was and still is the most normal thing in the world. For me, it has nothing to do with hatred of other nations or a sense of superiority over them. Instead, it’s just recognition and awareness of the fact that different nations and peoples exist on this planet and that, even if we have a common humanity, we are still all different.

I feel sorry for people in larger, more powerful nations like England, Germany or the US (to name but three) where patriotism or nationalism are almost seen as dirty words.

david Oxley

26th December 2019 at 11:15 am

Slot of the comments seem to over look the specific period we are living in, nationalism hasn’t always existed, English people haven’t always fought fir king and country, look at the Civil War. What is perculiar about today is how the elites in the UK have given up on nationalism and prefers multi culturalism and the EU to run society rather than attempt to build an independent spirit of what makes the UK unique. It’s laws, traditions, pubs, food, pastimes and history which creates a national fabric on which we all have a common bond, and immigrants from outside the UK also have a common touchstone, parliamentary democracy, freedom of speech, fair play. On spiked the expression anti anti- nationalism is a hood starting point and as a life long hater of the England football team. ( l was a leftie, and considered England too boring too dull compared to Brazil ), I enjoyed the success in 2016 as I saw my friends and family finally having something to be proud of , that brought us together, gave us something shared.

Steve Huckle

23rd December 2019 at 12:27 pm

As a Socialist who visited Russia for England’s semi-final, I like this piece – patriotism vs nationalism is a complex narrative, but one which Orwell treads brilliantly.

Emily Thornberry, capable though she is, will not become Labour’s leader precisely for bemoaning white van man. That was unforgivable; the Labour membership has not forgotten such snobbery.

Far from, “campaigning against the will of the majority”, Labour’s position was far more nuanced than that. Too nuanced, in fact – like many on the left, I regret their not representing LEXIT and the chance to divorce from the Neoliberalism of the EU by investing in public services – a much more socially inclusive version of EU divorce than the Conservative’s flavour of BREXIT and their supposed free-trade nirvana.

Gerry Mohan

22nd December 2019 at 8:06 pm

Can’t agree with that.
Patriotism is over, innit?

Patriotism, everyone’s heard of that. Proud to be Irish, French, American? Comedian George Carlin: “Being Irish isn’t a skill. It’s a fuckin’ genetic accident.”
Could try another one: how about anti-patriotism? C’mon, give it a try, just for a minute…
Ah well, not so popular I think, but a guy called Gustav Hervé wrote a pamphlet in Paris with that title about 100 years ago, while sitting in jail for inciting soldiers not to go to war to die for their betters. Unfortunately in later life he became a patriot himself; succumbed to metastases from the childhood infection I guess.

Donald Trump recently gave a speech to the UN in praise of patriotism. He says the US has embarked on “an exciting program of self-renewal” because “the future belongs to patriots”. Boris Johnson considers himself a patriot too, as do a flock of other toe-rag politicians in European capitals.

I have a lot of questions about this, but here’s just two for Brexit-or-bust Brits who work hard for not enough money; or are unemployed and being used to scare those in work with a fate they could share if they step out of line… What the fuck do you have in common with this overfed public schoolboy who’s never done a day’s work in his life? What can he offer you that made it worth abandoning the chance to work together with Polish or French or Spanish people in similar jobs…to get rid of the Borises and Rees-Moggses and the rest of the ponces we permit to run the show and our lives, for their own benefit?

Patriotism is a tool of divide and rule. It’s also over. Nations are over. They’re over because when people realize what’s happening across the border and they connect up the dots, there are no borders anymore. Moblie phones…the internet? That’s what they do, end borders. They globalize. You can put up custom posts at Dover, walls around Europe, or between Mexico and the US, or between bits of Ireland. But you can’t stop globalization any more than you can tell the tide not to come in. Ask King Canute.
Banks, corporations, multinationals, of course, never miss a thing. They’ve been globalizing for decades, actually a couple of centuries, snapping up everything they can regardless of the consequences for the rest of humanity.

We can leave it to them to expand their power even more, buy up whole cities and squeeze us for more rent, claim ownership of water, put locks on local wells and even charge for collecting rainwater as they’ve done in some places. All in the name of fundamentalist religion masquerading as a rational choice: The Market. Or, more modestly, One Market Under God. There is no limit to their greed if we don’t make them stop.

Or we can stop believing in the fraud of “Our Common Heritage”, our “British Culture”, and see that we have nothing in common with the people who own corporations, the banks, the City of London and who believe they’re entitled to own everything else including our lives. There is no Britain, there is no England uniting “ordinary” people with someone like Boris Johnson who’s no more than an empty suit, a privileged hole in the air: or with the “Duke” of Westminster or billionaire Jim Ratcliffe. If you want to know the meaning of shared heritage, otherwise known as class warfare waged from above, just try gatecrashing their next cocktail party or try to get into Annabel’s club in Mayfair, London, where black people serve the rich, enabling a fine nostalgia for the days of Empire. Forget class at your peril; it’s sucking the air from your lungs and the Duke of Devonshire is pissing in your soup while you’re singing “God Save the Queen”.

The EU is run by corporations too and it’s an undemocratic shithole but it has a population of over 500 million people. That’s a lot of people and a lot of real power to force change. Real international solidarity is possible in place of a belief in solidarity with a phoney band of local cheats who are busy selling as much of the UK as they can to the highest bidder so they can trouser the profit.
Patriotism is the catchword of those who never have and never will return solidarity with the rest of the population, who they despise and above all, fear. Trump didn’t quite put it rightly, got his words mixed up again. He must have meant to say – an exciting program of self-renewal…patriots have a great future behind them.

Steve Huckle

23rd December 2019 at 12:33 pm

Well said, Gerry x

William Clark

22nd December 2019 at 6:10 pm

Is there any parent who wouldn’t throw themselves into molton steel to save their child? I ask that because most parents would. We would almost certainly do it for our spouse, or the person you love. And if there was some threat to your village or town, would you be prepared to make sacrifices for it? Probably yes, but not your own life. The more distant the threat and the larger the community I am discussing, the less likely we are to mobilise ourselves to make sacrifices for others. Surely patriotism arises according to where you draw that boundary? In WWII Churchill did indeed rally a nation that was closer to calling a truce with Germany than one might think, simply by recognising a threat that would have seen people rounded up at midnight and taken away for liquidation or slave labour if we did not make a stand. Patriotism cannot be considered a sin if it is merely the definition of a moveable boundary, but blind patriotism is another matter.

Jon Hubs

20th December 2019 at 9:49 pm

I am not sure anyone realises how much that needed to be said, but your elucidation is breathtaking
and you timing impeccable.
Thank you.

Jonathan Yonge

20th December 2019 at 9:36 pm

And yet… and yet…
Patriotism is an English sin, the Scots, Welsh and some Irish are allowed to practise it.
Also yet..
Isn’t this diffidence and self denegration also an English trait ?
And isn’t it a strength rather than a weakness ?

What great civilisation failed because it lacked self-criticism ?

So tell me then .. those Brits who think that patriotism is racist, are any of them not also proud of their nationhood ?
I love the English for this


20th December 2019 at 4:06 pm

Unfortunately, the kind of ‘patriotism’ we are seeing in England at the moment is rapidly morphing into nationalist ignorance, the kind that denies the good in other cultures. Dr Johnson was surely right about the misuse of ‘patriotism’ by scoundrels.

Jon Hubs

20th December 2019 at 10:13 pm

Patriotism has the agency to direct tribalism in the most inclusive way imaginable, if coherently implemented,unless you think we can eradicate tribalism, its the best we have.
Patriotism is also a counterpoint to the existential horror of identity politics.


14th January 2020 at 1:04 pm

How about a written constitution and bill of rights to cement national identity?

Marvin Jones

20th December 2019 at 3:35 pm

Patriotism and Nationalism. There is a difference, but both are rapidly becoming obsolete and only available to a few sections of people due to the vast and rapid demographic change in the country as we speak. Because of the lack of will, money numbers of immigrants that have settled here through uncontrolled migration in the last 20 years, patriotism and nationalism has switched to their own people, countries and cultures. So, the patriot who would wish to fight and die for their country is diminishing before our very eyes daily. Their allegiances are to their gods and incessant mass migration of their own kind. The changes are permanent and the result unbearable to imagine.

Graham Woodford

20th December 2019 at 9:09 pm

Spiked writers often comment on the ‘hysteria’ of those they disagree with. They ought to read the hysteria in the comments of the people who support their viewpoints. That probably is the point I suppose.

Michael Lynch

20th December 2019 at 11:19 am

To understand Orwell it is necessary to read all of Orwell. Instead many make the mistake of reading one or two novels, mainly 1984 and Animal Farm, then cherry pick the themes and ideas to suit their own viewpoint. For example, ‘Keep the Aspidistra Flying’ is a great example of middle-class, high minded foolishness. Even those that adapted the 1997 film for screen missed the point that Orwell was making.

George Orwell

20th December 2019 at 10:20 am

Orwell was a Saint for the masses which is why I use his name here. He inoculated me against both forms of extremism and taught me plain writing.

Mike Stallard

20th December 2019 at 10:04 am

I am 80 years old.

As a boy, London was the centre of the world. The King was, naturally, Emperor of India. I had never seen a black face or met anyone really from anywhere outside England. The Americans were much richer and I could feel that we were doomed to second rate status.
But – hey! – we had just won the war! By ourselves!

None of that – none – is true today. Orwell is someone I read at school.

John Millson

20th December 2019 at 10:03 am

Patriotism/Nationalism – a continuum? The first includes. The second does the opposite? Families can do both.
Sport and culture are great patriotic unifiers, as is home-based design, invention & manufacture.
Truism: the one great positive of Brexit is that it has forced us to think about and make our different versions of patriotism work to the same end.

John Wilkinson

20th December 2019 at 9:05 am

I think Orwell’s remark regarding the English as being “hypocritical about their Empire” does remain true to an extent. Even now, I can sometimes feel what some might call an irrational pride in the old Empire and its history, when a vast proportion of the map was pink and the Royal Navy was a force to be reckoned with, and yet also feel a revulsion at some of the events that occurred during the making of that Empire.
Am I not being hypocritical?

Marvin Jones

20th December 2019 at 3:18 pm

History was the sign of the times, a past when Britain was truly great and powerful to prove it. Whatever good or bad was due to “survival of the fittest” having the upper hand. Now through the vast change in the demographics of this once great land, greed and sentimentality has injected guilt into the mix due to certain races greed for compensations exaggerated by the liberal left, and history is now treated as imperialistic incarceration torture of the natives of countries involved.
There should be no place for sentimental guilt for greed and ignorance.

Dominic Straiton

20th December 2019 at 6:42 am

Remoan were (that felt good) jingoistic eu imperialists. Give me nationalism any day.

steve moxon

20th December 2019 at 8:37 am

Yes, that’s a valid way of looking at it. And empires historically have been more of a problem for their neighbours than individual nations.


1st January 2020 at 7:28 pm

Which countries are the EU about to invade? The EU Member States barely have functioning armies. In fact, the UK barely has a functioning army.

Tony In The Mysterious East

15th January 2020 at 10:15 pm

Remoaners WERE! We’re still here Dom. We ain’t going away, just as Brexshitters would still be bleating around if they’d lost in 2016. BTW the will of the people would now be to remain.

Jane 70

20th December 2019 at 4:55 am

The lib/left’s celebration of the SNP’s ‘progressive patriotism’ gives the lie to their wholesale repudiation of any English patriotic sentiments, which must be crushed, derided and ridiculed.

Why is it that the Nats, and to a lesser extent Sinn Fein ,are celebrated in this way, albeit not without some reservations on the part of Scottish Labour members?

In the past year I’ve read a couple of Orwell’s works and been struck by the clarity of his observations of the affluent left’s prejudices.

In the aftermath of the election, Jezza seems to have regressed to truculent trotskyite, his sulky behaviour in parliament a revelation.

Ed Turnbull

20th December 2019 at 11:02 am

Jane, I think the answer to your question is quite simple when one understands that today’s lefties view everything – and I do mean *everything* – through the lens of oppressor versus oppressed. The Scots and Irish (in this example) are viewed as ‘oppressed’, and so their nationalism is regarded as good, necessary even. Whereas the English are, invariably, seen as ‘oppressors’ and thus English nationalism is bad, very bad indeed.

You can apply this reasoning to just about every other vector – biological or cultural – in our society: race, sex, religion, sexuality, etc. Which, of course, gifts us the multi-dimensional matrix of intersectionality. Thanks progressives

Graham Woodford

20th December 2019 at 9:20 pm

Not that Brexiteers don’t see the EU as the oppressors, or anything. These comments are bonkers anyway. It was the labour that actually fought the SNP in the Scottish referendum. The Tories nowhere to be seen.

Most people I know on the left dislike nationalism and its side dish, xenophobia. To suggest they’re tolerant of the supposedly progressive version is nonsense. But let’s face it, in the face of English nationalism, and its overbearing powering, it’s pretty understandable that the Scots and the Irish want out.

I’m pretty patriotic by the way. Booed Warner all the way to the crease a few times this summer.

Ed Turnbull

20th December 2019 at 11:09 am

Forgot to mention: I’m an Englishman living in Scotland, and I can attest that much of Scottish nationalism is predicated on anti-English sentiment (that frequently veers into irrational hatred); this is probably another reason why it garners such approval from the left.

It’s interesting that you don’t find a corresponding anti-Scottish sentiment south of the border. Though that appears to be changing, and there’s a growing exasperation with the never ending whining that issues forth from Holyrood. I’d say if the Scots truly wish for independence, give the English the vote in IndyRef2. But be careful what you wish for…

Jane 70

20th December 2019 at 1:53 pm

Quite agree Ed, as a fellow English person in Scotland.

i know many Scots who are living and working in England ,doing well and content. No resentment from their English hosts.

A recent visit to family members in England, confirms what you’ve noticed: many people who support the Union are sick to death of the SNP’s grievances and pieties. Fat Controller Blackford is a particular bete noir,I wonder why?


1st January 2020 at 7:32 pm

The Scots are rank hypocrites for remaining in the ‘union’, and also fools for allowing Westminster to steal their oil!

Charles Stuart

20th December 2019 at 2:11 am

Orwell went to Eton. Other than that this was a fine essay. The simple fact is that the Labour Party lost because it is full of people who are oikophobes, or hater of their own culture.

steve moxon

20th December 2019 at 9:09 am

Yes, it’s that ordinary folk now feel this in their gut — even though they haven’t figured out why the Left hate them. The Left generally is still in denial that this is a generic Leftist trait inherent in Leftism, hardly just the Labour Party.
The psychological basis of Leftism appears to be a means of acting out the universal motivation of status-seeking by subterfuge: pretending that you yourself are not engaging in this behaviour and pretending that it occurs instead in others: ‘projecting’ own attitudes and behaviour on to others.

Esau Bloggs

20th December 2019 at 2:22 pm

Yes, projection is something the hard left and Islam share in common. Perhaps that is the real basis of their counterintuitive alliance, temporary though it is.

Claire D

20th December 2019 at 3:23 pm

And animus possessed feminists also.

steve moxon

20th December 2019 at 12:34 am

Patriotism and nationalism are just labels for universal natural grouping psychology.
Recent research reveals that men (though not women) automatically regard anyone and everyone within a symbolic grouping of which they themselves are a member as fellow members of their group. For example, one’s workplace, school year-group, town … and, indeed, your country; this last being about the furthest extent of the phenomenon, because there cannot be internationalism: there would be no group distinct from one’s own from which membership could distinguished.
Grouping is basic biology — of which the Left is willfully ignorant.
Ordinary people do not have any ideology of nationalism, and nor are they being in some way ideological in being patriotic: they are simply being normally human.
The pejorative view of ordinary people as nationalistic/patriotic is ‘projection’ by the Left of a mirror-image of the Left’s own ideology. Ordinary people are not internationalist, so must be nationalist, the excuse for reason goes. It’s totally false.

Ed Turnbull

20th December 2019 at 11:24 am

Steve, I’d beg to differ about nationalism being the furthest extent of grouping behaviour. You’re forgetting religion, and by way of evidence I offer islam, and its concept of the Ummah. In that you have a group that transcends nation, race, sex, and so on. And all it demands is total obedience to its tenets.

Yet it’s spawned a large number of adherents prepared to go to quite extraordinary lengths in ‘defence’ of their group. Behaviour that goes way beyond what one might think of as ‘normal’ religious observance and is, to my mind anyway, indicative of membership of a cult. And whereas other cults – the Moonies or Scientologists – rightly attract much opprobrium, islam largely gets a free pass, certainly by the establishment. So I ask, rhetorically of course, what makes islam different? Answers on a postcard…

Esau Bloggs

20th December 2019 at 2:15 pm

steve moxon

20th December 2019 at 2:57 pm

Hi Ed. Religious affiliation seems to be not to a grouping per ce. A religious belief system appears not to be perceived as a grouping of individual adherents. It’s as if there is transcendence of such, which anyway is to be expected.

Marvin Jones

20th December 2019 at 3:58 pm

The threat of death for apostasy and disobedience for their tenets. Also probably the brain washing of the mind from as young as possible. I was brain washed into the Catholic faith from a very young age, in Calcutta India would you believe. I first began to doubt things when I was about 16, and it took me a few years of mental torture to eventually get this cancer out of my psyche. I am now 71 and have had an ecstatically lovely life without all that mental baggage.


1st January 2020 at 7:30 pm

The Labour Party’s failure is mostly down to the rank incompetence of Jeremy Corbyn.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to comment. Log in or Register now.

More long-reads

The First Fleet: Australia begins

Michael Crowley

The First Fleet: Australia begins

Unlearning the lessons of Prohibition

Christopher Snowdon

Unlearning the lessons of Prohibition

#MeToo, Trump and misreading <em>The Handmaid’s Tale</em>

Ella Whelan

#MeToo, Trump and misreading The Handmaid’s Tale

The People’s Decade

Brendan O'Neill

The People’s Decade