Against Patriotism, for Internationalism: A Marxist Critique of Patriotism

  • Paul GombergEmail author
Living reference work entry


In The Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels wrote that workers have no country. This chapter defends that tendency in Marxist thought. Patriotism is identification with and loyalty to a nation-state. States arise in human prehistory to consolidate and extend exploitation and oppression of laboring classes by a ruling class. Philosophers often write of a “national community,” but class societies in general and capitalist societies in particular are so brutal in their oppression of workers that the language of “community” is nonsense. In capitalist society, the state suppresses those who are exploited and oppressed by capitalists and advances capitalists’ aims beyond national borders. So for the working class, patriotism is loyalty to the state of those who oppress them, and it makes no sense to be loyal to one’s oppressors.

Both Marx and Engels and Marxists who followed them were ambivalent about national and patriotic loyalties. Lenin argued that workers have an internationalist duty to recognize the right of national self-determination because otherwise they side with oppressing ruling classes against oppressed nationalities. Lenin neglected the possibility of opposing national (and racial) oppression without recognizing a right of national self-determination. This neglect was due to the belief, inherited from Marx and Engels, that nationalist movements could be progressive and help the development toward communist society. However, the history of the twentieth century shows that this is wrong. Nationalism and patriotism undermine the struggle for classless society by creating alliances with capitalists and dividing workers from other workers. Patriotism and proletarian internationalism are truly contradictory. Workers have no country.


Communism Community Exploitation Internationalism Oppression Self-determination State Workers 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of California at DavisDavisUSA

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