Left Problems, Nationalism and the Crisis

    • EUPE_BRUGES_2019
    • Presentation speakers
      • Malcolm James, University of Sussex, UK
      • Sivamohan Valluvan, University of Warwick, UK


    In spite of the rise of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party, emboldened nationalism remains at the centre of British politics. After all, much of the past decade had seen nationalism become the most reliable broker of electoral power. It had informed the rise of far-right populisms whilst also fortifying centre-right rule. These nationalisms manifest along multiple registers. At times, the emphasis is economic protectionism. Elsewhere, it rails, against the dictates and opacity of various supranational institutions, not least the EU. Sometimes, it amounts primarily to nostalgia for the ‘green and pleasant’ land. Common however to all forms is the compulsion to place the bulk of a society’s challenges at the door of racialised ethnic communities, domestic and foreign. So, as western capitalism reneges on the welfare contract, creating a new political vacuum, it is painfully frustrating that nationalism is rehabilitated as the most likely custodian of political discourse. And it is doubly frustrating that some who propagate for a left alternative also seem wedded to the nation – in asserting control over migration, over defence, over security, and over how we imagine our everyday sense of community. As these frustrations multiply, our talk will provide a historically attuned analysis of the relationship in Britain between the current crisis and xeno-racist nationalism, including an engagement with the myths surrounding whiteness and the working class. On the one hand, we wish to press the importance of recognising the central role of racial nationalism in recent governance. On the other, we want to contend that any alternative left visions for governance must, as a minimum, start with the repudiation of nationalism and also of the left’s routine submission to such nationalism. It is our wider argument that this repudiation can only manifest through a solid understanding of the contemporary crisis in which these nationalisms arise.