Progressive Patriotism

One of the greatest moments of Hollywood film is this stirring call to arms against fascism, and it reminded me of an argument from Eric Hobsbawm writing in 1983

In the anti-fascist period of the 30s, the Communist International launched the call to wrest away national traditions from the bourgeoisie, to capture the national flag so long waved by the Right. So the French Left tried to conquer, capture or recapture both the tricolour and Joan of Arc and to some extent it succeeded.

In this country, we didn’t pursue quite the same object, but we succeeded in doing something more important. As the anti-fascist war showed quite dramatically, the combination of patriotism in a genuine people’s war proved to be politically radicalising to an unprecedented degree. At the moment of his greatest triumph, Mrs Thatcher’s ancestor, Winston Churchill, the unquestioned leader of a victorious war, … found himself, to his enormous surprise, pushed aside because the people who had fought that war, and fought it patriotically, found themselves radicalised by it. And the combination of a radicalised working class movement and a peoples’ movement behind it proved enormously effective and powerful. … But let us not forget that our ‘Churchillian’ memories are not just of patriotic glory — but of victory against reaction both abroad and at home: of Labour triumph and the defeat of Churchill.

11 comments on “Progressive Patriotism

  1. Hi Toque,

    It was written in 1983, so that is an anachronistic reference to the fact that Thatcher had just won the Falklands war, and Churchill of course won the second world war.

    I don’t think Hobsbawm was literally suggesting that Churchill had been giving one to the Thatcher’s Mum.

  2. It is also worth saying perhaps that this scene just wouldn’t work with “God Save the Queen”!, but it would with Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, Flower of Scotland, or Jerusalem.

  3. Yeah – we have commented on that before, if we have a referendum we should automatically assume that anyone proposing “God Saves the Queen” realy means the Sex Pistols – and I think we could live with that as a perfectly English national anthem.

  4. Ok – I know I must be the only person in the world who wondered what the Germans were singing, but I googled the chorus, and it is a song from 1840 by Schneckenburger.

    It is not an intrinsicly offensive song in any way, more about national defence at a time before unification, when German nationalism was prpgressive. You can imagine Freidrich Engels singing this on the barricades in 1848, followed by the Marseilleise!

    It just shows what a contested battle ground the ideology of national identity is that sung by Nazis it has an entirely different significance.

    Es braust ein Ruf wie Donnerhall,
    Wie Schwertgeklirr und Wogenprall:
    Zum Rhein, zum Rhein, zum deutschen Rhein,
    Wer will des Stromes Hu”ter sein?
    Lieb’ Vaterland, magst ruhig sein,
    Fest steht und treu die Wacht am Rhein !

    Solang’ ein Tropfen Blut noch glu”ht,
    Noch eine Faust den Degen zieht,
    Und noch ein Arm die Bu”chse spannt,
    Betritt kein Feind hier deinen Strand !
    Lieb’ Vaterland, magst ruhig sein,
    Fest steht und treu die Wacht am Rhein !

    Der Schwur erschallt, die Woge rinnt,
    Die Fahnen flattern hoch im Wind:
    Am Rhein, am Rhein, am deutschen Rhein,
    Wir alle wollen Hu”ter sein !
    Lieb’ Vaterland, magst ruhig sein,
    Fest steht und treu die Wacht am Rhein !

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