Meaning of Nationalism:
Suffice it to say here that the people who have same race, language, religion, history, literature, economic interests and political aspirations, feelings of nationalism are aroused among them. Nationalism teaches us to love our motherland.
The nationalist love their motherland, rivers, mountains, flowers, animals and birds very much and they say that motherland is better than paradise. Hans Kohn writes, “Nationalism is an idea, an idea-force which fills man’s brain and heart with new thoughts and sentiments and drives him to translate his consciousness into deeds of organised action”.
According to Dr. Gamer, “It is one of the characteristic features of modem nationalism that most peoples who constitute a nationality aspire either to be independent and to be under a state organisation of their own choice and creation or at least to be accorded a large political autonomy where they are united with another nationality or nationalities in the same state”.
Merits of Nationalism:
(1) Helpful in liberating the country from foreign yoke:
Nationalism infused the spirit of patriotism in the minds of the people. If a country is under the yoke of a foreign rule as was the case in India before 1947, the people can be united for attaining freedom through nationalism.
In the nineteenth century, in Greece, Italy, Bulgaria, Serbia and Poland and in the twentieth century in many countries of Africa, Asia and South America many freedom movements were started. Inspired by the national feelings, the people of these countries freed themselves from the foreign rule.
(2) It leads to social unit:
Through nationalism the feelings of the high and low and cateism are banished from the minds of the people, and social unity is achieved. The nationalist leaders make the people understand with full force that our nation can progress and can have a prestigious place in the world only, when all disparities are removed.
(3) It leads to the spirit of heroism and self-sacrifice:
Nationalism creates the feeling of heroism and self-sacrifice. Every nation has to make several sacrifices for the attainment and protection of its freedom. India at first freed itself from the Turks and the Mughals and later from Britishers.
In order to achieve this aim, our people made many sacrifices which have gained an important place in our history. Similarly, our countrymen made several sacrifices to face the Chinese and Pakistani aggressions and our armed forces displayed a spirit of unique heroism. It forms a golden chapter of our history.
(4) It leads to economic prosperity:
The feeling of nationalism unites the people and they work for the economic prosperity of the country. They bear the burden of extra taxes in order to implement plans in the national interest.
(5) Nationalism enables the country face the economic and political crisis effectively:
Every nation faces an economic or political crisis once or twice in its career, and the world history is a clear proof of it. If the people have national feelings, they will have unity, and the spirit of self-sacrifice. With the help of this spirit, the people of that country shall be able to face the crisis boldly.
(6) It leads to political unity and stability:
Nationalism is a great organising force. Through this force, the leaders create political unity among the people and they crush disintegrating tendencies. It brings about stability in the nation. For example, when on October 20, 1962, China invaded India, the spirit of nationalism was aroused among the people but the Leftist Communists preached in favour of China and their anti-national tendency was clearly seen. Therefore, the then Minister for Home Affairs, Shri Gulzarilal Nanda, put them behind the bars and created political unity and stability in the country.
(7) Nationalism helps in curbing mutual conflicts and quarrels and the attention of the people is drawn towards big problems.
(8) The individual gives up his selfish interest and works for national interest.
(9) True nationalism is an important link between different countries of the world. Mahatma Gandhi, Shri Jawaharlal Nehru and Mrs. Indira Gandhi being true nationalists, were Internationalists also. Under the inspiration of Shri Jawaharlal Nehru, the U.N. declared the year 1965 as international co-operation year.
India under the leadership of Mrs. Gandhi had become President of Non- Aligned Movement. After her assassination on October 31, 1984, Mr. Rajiv Gandhi became the President of Non-Aligned Movement. If the nationalism is liberal, it is not harmful. Liberal nationalists want world peace. They believe in equality, liberty and prosperity of all nations. However, sometimes it becomes aggressive nationalism.
The following are the drawbacks of aggressive nationalism:-
Demerits of Aggressive Nationalism:
(1) Aggressive nationalism leads to racism:
Aggressive nationalism leads to racism. Hitler encouraged racism in the name of nationalism and said that Aryan race was the best race and it had been made to rule all over the world. He turned the Jews out of Germany. Mussolini also believed in racial supremacy. The British likewise believed in the supremacy of the white race.
(2) It encourages Colonialism and Imperialism:
In the name of nationalism many European races discovered many new markets for their goods in the name of racism and established colonies. Later on for the sake of their national interests, they conquered many parts of the world and expanded their empire. The English, Dutch, French, Russians, Japanese, Germans, Italians and Spanish people acted similarly during the nineteenth and twentieth century’s.
(3) It is likely to endanger world peace:
When nationalism takes the extreme form in any country, that country invades other weaker countries, which becomes the basis for a world war. For example, Hitler invaded Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium and France and Russia.
Mussolini invaded Ethiopia, The result of all these invasions, was the Second World War in which there occurred a great destruction of men, money and material. After the Second World War, Pakistan followed this policy and, first in 1947, and later in 1965 and 1971, she invaded India. It resulted in a great loss of life and property to both the countries.
(4) It is hindrance in the way of World Federation and international cooperation:
Militant or aggressive nationalism is a great hindrance in the way of international co-operation. Many modern intellectuals are of the view that in order to establish world peace, it is essential that every state should give up a part of its sovereignty and give it to the world-federation. But militant nationalism proves a hindrance in its way.
If the nationalism does not take the militant form, it is a good thing. It will help in settling international conflicts. Unity will be established and mutual goodwill and co-operation will be increased. As Hayes has said, “Nationalism will prove a boon for the humanity and the world if it means pure patriotism. If it takes a militant form, it will result in mutual enmity and non-co- operation among the nations and the world peace will be disturbed. In that situation, it will prove a curse”.