Nation and nationalism have been approached through contrasting perspectives, different disciplines and different methods of analysis. In recent decades there have emerged a large number of studies that focus on specific nations, states and regions, especially in the Balkan Peninsula. The aim of this book is not so much to cross and possibly expand the routes of the scientific research and dominant historiography as it is to show an alternative approach and mainly a political statement. This political statement of some comrades from Thessaloniki and Skopje concerning the Macedonian issue is in relation to the concepts of nation and nationalism. This attitude is directly linked to our political orientation and our critical attitude towards the concepts of nation and nationalism.
The innovation of the book that you hold in your hands lies in that it constitutes the product of joint work between comrades from the two sides of the border. The bilingual imprint of our thoughts into a single book symbolizes the strength of joint juxtaposition to the common enemy: nationalism wherever it can be found. In a way, it constitutes our own small effort of healing historical wounds that have been opened by national segregations and by the borders. Through our meetings, we came in contact with unknown, up to the moment realities, and through the communication of our experiences, we came much closer to the common elements that unite us, regardless of the side of the border where we have been born and the language that we have learned to speak in our childhood.
In the first chapter we attempt to analyse the notions of nation and nationalism through a short presentation of Balkan history from the early 19th to the early 20th century. Nationalism is a modern ideology according to which “belonging” to a nation is a “natural” thing. The members of a nation are connected by a kind of paternity, without the need to ever encounter one another. Through a solidarity that transcends the notion of class division in the society and ignores the inequalities and exploitation of capitalism, the members of a nation are self-determined as a big family. But this narrative conceals fierce conflicts of interest between conquerors and conquered, capitalists and workers, rulers and ruled, people of different ethnicity, race and gender. Our historical journey begins with a brief reference to the multinational Ottoman Empire, emphasizing the revolutions in Serbia (1804) and Greece (1821). What follows is a critical analysis of nation and nationalism, along with a reference to the Bulgarian ethno genesis. Finally, this chapter results in the presentation of the Macedonian issue. The process of nation-building and its ultimate end, the formation of a nation state are to a large degree a project of the local bourgeoisie, opportunistic merchants and landowners, and not a project of the common people. As in most parts of the world, these processes went hand in hand with the development of capitalist relations in the economy, and with the slow industrialization of the Balkan countries.
In the second chapter, we go through the history of the name Macedonia. While in the dominant ethnocentric historical narratives, the emphasis is usually on proving the authenticity of certain toponyms or ethnonyms and their historical continuity through time, this chapter highlights the aspect of discontinuity through the changes of the geographical names in time. These changes indicate that the name Macedonia is not necessarily identical with a single people and a single territory but acquires different ethnic and geographical meanings through the centuries. Finally, it indicates the two different geographical traditions of the name Macedonia, which have fueled the modern nationalist conflict between the Republic of Macedonia and Greece.
In the third chapter we try to deconstruct the national symbols and myths, the tools that are used by nationalism to distort meanings and to give new interpretations to things and concepts. The motives behind the naming of the Vergina sun as Ancient Macedonian symbol and the Tomb II at Vergina as the tomb of Alexander’s father, can be easily perceived by a person with basic information and a little thought. We highlight the way in which Alexander’s current image has been built in order to stimulate national feelings, while we attempt to deconstruct his historical figure. Obviously, we do not omit the contribution of the educational system, intellectuals, artists and media in the production, reproduction and maintenance of these national symbols and myths.
In the fourth chapter we attempt to connect the economic, social and political evolutions with the rise of nationalism in the Republic of Macedonia and Greece over the last two decades. We describe the ways in which the state in tandem with other public institutions (media, schools, the church, etc) systematically cultivates the national myth, instigates nationalist frenzy, misleads the public opinion by shifting the responsibility for the social problems to “others”, eases the tension of social conflicts and manages to mitigate social competition, even if only temporarily. At the same time, we put emphasis on the strong tendency of parts of the society to join the national ideal. The rise of nationalism in both countries does not cause problems in the domestic and international capital. On the contrary, it keeps pace with capitalist development and provides enrichment opportunities to those who “know how to do business” (Greek investments in the Balkans, alliances of the respective bourgeoisies, exploitation of the embargo by economic interests through the advancement of illegal trade). Moreover, nationalism creates the necessary social alliances, smoothing the ground on which capitalist development progresses. This process is a part of capitalist barbarism and promotes the degradation of the lives of all the exploited, but mostly of the immigrants and other marginalized people who happen to be the weakest link.
Lastly, we include an annex which refers to the Gemidjii anarchist group, and particularly to their history, actions, as well as their motivations and political viewpoints which led to the attacks carried out in Thessaloniki. Here, we attempt to deconstruct the symbol that is being constructed today by the state of the Republic of Macedonia, through which the members of the Gemidjii group are presented as national heroes.
At the end of this introduction, we think it is necessary to thank all those who contributed in one way or another to the completion of this book. Indeed their help was more than valuable. We hope that this book will work as an essential tool for any self-organized educational effort of the social movement, as well as a field for fruitful discussions and contradistinctions.