top of page

'Nationalism', 'Ultra-Nationalism' or 'Imperialism'

Last edited - 15 Jun 19


What is Nationalism?

In the traditional definition, nationalism simply implies the belief in the right of a group of people sharing common culture and beliefs to live together according to their cultural values without external influence.  In the modern western sense, nationalism is derived from Jewish political philosophy where the biblical 'nation' of Israel were given a defined geographical territory in which they were to live and govern themselves according to their cultural and religious laws and traditions.  They were forbidden to impose their culture/beliefs beyond their geographical borders.

In this example, nationalism is geographically isolated or limited.  It does not imply political or military influence beyond national borders.

Nationalism is characterised by a pride in one's culture, national identity, traditions, art, music, etc.  It tends toward isolationism in foreign policy and tends away from militarism.


Unfortunately, due in no small part to Adolf Hitler adopting the term 'National Socialist', nationalism has often been confused with race or ethno-centric imperialism.  This form of nationalism isn't nationalism at all, as it seeks to export it's culture/beliefs and impose them through political or military action beyond it's geographical borders.  This idea exists in direct opposition to the true nationalism of anti-colonialist 'nationalist' leaders such as Jomo Kenyatta, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Ghandi and American leaders such as Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.

The conflation of 'nationalism' or 'ultra-nationalism' with 'fascism' is the result of historical and philosophical ignorance.  Hitler and Mussolini were not 'nationalists' or 'ultra-nationalists', but 'imperialists'.  Their definition of national 'greatness' included the conquering and subjugation of other nations or cultures.  Mussolini, the first fascist leader, was determined to recreate Italy in the form of a modern day Roman Empire.

In summary:

Abraham Lincoln and Mahatma Ghandi were 'Nationalists'.

Mussolini and Adolf Hitler were 'Imperialists'.

bottom of page