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What is Internationalism?

Are you a nationalist or an internationalist?  Or perhaps even a supranationalist?  Maybe you have never thought about it, but in politics it affects how you see a wide range of issues.

One of the key values of the New Party is internationalism (to be contrasted to nationalism on one hand and supranationalism on the other).  Internationalism is the only approach consistent with a pluralist concept of society.  But first, let us define our terms.

We use the term nationalism to mean those who favour giving priority to 'home' industries over foreign competition, who would place very strict controls on immigration, who oppose outside cultural influences and who see national sovereignty as an inviolable principle in virtually all circumstances.  Many nationalists are effectively isolationalists too, since they rarely see any reason to be involved in conflicts unless their immediate interests are directly threatened.

We use the term internationalism to mean those who favour an expansion of free trade, who support free competition and co-operation between nation-states and who welcome interaction with other cultures.  Internationalists would tend to be more liberal on issues such as immigration, more concerned with tackling issues around the world (whatever the sensitivities of national sovereignty) and more willing to seek to promote liberal democratic values and institutions.

We use the term supranationalism to mean those who favour the construction of decision-making structures that go beyond the nation-state, ultimately aiming for some sort of world government.  They typically see national cultures as a threat to the world government project.  Because of their aversion to democratic nation states, and their wish to override the writ of national parliaments, they are often termed 'post-democrats'.

These terms sometimes get confused and in popular usage they often overlap.  However, identifying the main differences between them is important for understanding why internationalism is a key value of those who wish to see a pluralist society.

Pluralist and monopolistic societies

In the New Party we stand for a pluralist society - that is, a society with different centres of power and authority.  This should not be understood purely in a political sense.  A pluralist society presupposes, for example, the ability of individuals to own and accumulate wealth, for businesses to be free of government and for autonomous civic organisations to operate without central control.

But a nationalist state, in the terms we have defined above, would inevitably curtail pluralism.  A nationalist trade policy would, for example, prevent individuals purchasing goods freely without regard to their national origins, and would restrict the ability of businesses to act in their own commercial interests.  A nationalist cultural policy would mean excessive controls on the media to prevent outside influences gaining ground.

Likewise, supranationalists also work against pluralism by trying to counter national influences.  This leads to excessive rules and restrictions like the EU-inspired legislation to enforce metric weights and measures and to prevent traders from selling goods in pounds and ounces.  The prosecution of the 'Metric Martyrs' may have seemed as much absurd as sinister but it signalled intolerance with alternatives to the central power.  Fortunately the EU has relaxed its plans to outlaw pounds and ounces – for now.

Thus nationalists and supranationalists (supporters of 'world government') share a common goal: both groups seek to exercise monopolistic control and undermine pluralism.  In the case of nationalists, control is exercised by creating a closed society which is shielded against outside influences (trade, migration, cultural influences and so on).  In the case of supranationalists, control is exercised by removing the ability of different countries to operate independently.  Both nationalists and supranationalists favour monopoly over pluralism.

Internationalists

Internationalists work for a world in which there is no single centralised power but rather multiple centres of influence. True, some nation states will always have more power than others, but there is no overriding control.

Internationalists must also work for positive change in the world, standing in opposition to tyrannical regimes.  People are naturally apprehensive about encroaching upon "national sovereignty".  But national sovereignty is only "national" when it is embodied in the people of any given society.  In many cases, national sovereignty is little more than a cover for control by a criminal gang who sustain themselves in power by force and oppression.  In such circumstances, the idea of national sovereignty is meaningless and intervention for change is sometimes justified.

We are fortunate enough to live in a society with a long tradition of liberal democratic and 'Enlightenment' values, a country in which individual liberties are seen as important.  Liberal democratic societies are not perfect but they offer the best opportunity for individuals to prosper and develop their potential.  We have no hesitation in saying that liberal democratic values should be recommended and upheld elsewhere around the world; that liberal democracy is not the preserve of the rich, advanced West and a few other countries but potentially of benefit to all.

Conclusion

So we say that in the New Party, our principal focus of concern may be the UK but the principles for which we stand hold true for other countries too.  If we believe in the freedom of the individual and human rights, we believe these to be just as valuable whether we are talking about a British Citizen or a citizen of Somalia, Pakistan or China.  Thus we do not take the view, held by some, that what goes on in other countries is of no concern to us, or that other countries need despotic regimes because they cannot sustain democracy.

Many people who would otherwise call themselves 'liberal' or even 'libertarian' carry with them a great contradiction when they leave behind domestic politics and look at international affairs.  Suddenly they become isolationist, nationalistic, tentative about issues like sovereignty - and positively amnesiac with regard to their concerns for individual liberty.  If we believe in liberty, it cannot be liberty only for the few.

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