From what has preceded, the reader can easily understand that if we had asked the residents of Skopje, Prilep and Bitola in the year 1812 (using the languages understood by the respective populations) if they wish to live together in the territory of today’s Republic of Macedonia, as unit distinct from the others, and under specific cultural and political terms, because they are all Macedonians, they would have considered us rather insane. The same impression would have had the residents of Kastoria, Edessa and Thessaloniki, if we had asked them the same question, with the difference that these are Greeks and that they would live in the Greek state. If we put the same question today, after two centuries of war, ethnic cleansing and tireless linguistic and cultural integration on the part of the state apparatus, the vast majority of the inhabitants of these towns will answer us (in Macedonian) “da” and (in Greek) “nai.”
Nationalism as an ideology can appear in various forms. Throughout history sometimes it has been presented as a progressive and liberating force, and other times as an irrational and reactionary doctrine, democratic or despotic, left or right, so it is better to be treated as a series of nationalisms. All of them, however, have at their core the central political importance of the nation. The creation of the nation – state consists the most effective form of control for the oppressed via a policy of assimilation, or via a policy of legal repression of their demands. The state administration gives the potential to the elites to maintain the control using in the biggest degree the laws and to smaller degree coercion, making the process more attractive with patriotic and unionist crowns.
The emergence of this phenomenon is primarily linked to the needs of the rising bourgeoisie and of capitalist development whiles afterwards the modern state and its ideological mechanisms, are tasked with the construction of national identity. The national identities are constituted in relation to a set of essentials or predetermined characteristics that have different importance, which provide concrete privileges, rights and obligations in each national citizen. Simultaneously the notion of the ‘other’ is created consciously and officially. The social dimension of otherness is used for the legitimization of various forms of discrimination, oppression and exercise of violence, against internal and external enemies.
As today, similarly to the historical period that we examined, nationalist ideology was used as a relief valve for social inequality, poverty and insufficiency. The irredentism and more generally the nationalism with its references to continuity and to the magnificence of nation, consists the main characteristic of the ideology of the Balkan states that we came across. The continuity of nation does not constitute a simple ascertainment but an independent value. Mainly this continuity stresses the continuity of difference with other, whoever other. Such a difference appears in the contemporary conflict between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia about the name issue.
Our goal in the second chapter was not the discovery of the true or authentic origin of the name Macedonia and its people. In any case, the constant shifts in the geographical area, the expansions and contractions, and the number of populations found beneath this name, makes impossible such a perspective. In addition, at certain times emerged diverse geographical and historical traditions in relation to the name Macedonia. The two main ones are fighting today for the copyright of the name. But this vague framework played an essential role in both the construction of the Greek and the Macedonian nation. It constituted the raw material, on which was constructed the fable of historical continuity, and at the same time the name constituted a national symbol.
Anything that has a reference to the past, real or constructed can be used as a national symbol. Such are the symbols of the Sun of Vergina and the figure of Alexander III, which are analyzed in chapter three. The use of national symbols on one hand, converts complex questions in simple interpretations and this takes place with the help of national fable. Thus in the mind of the reader the symbol appears as perfectly natural, as something given. On the other hand, the subject recognizes itself in the frame of the national symbol which accepts. In addition, national fiestas have the character of political propaganda, carried out by symbols and images that are addressed to sentiment. All these serve as tools for social cohesion and political legitimacy. For this reason, the authority chooses to invest lavish celebrations, like the 100 anniversary of the liberation of Thessaloniki.
The last twenty years nationalism kept pace perfectly with neoliberalized economy. The imaginary of powerful Greece went hand in hand with the export of capital in the Balkans, the expansion of banks and the creation of fields for new profitable investments. During 1991-92, the nationalist outbreaks tended to outweigh a variety of intense social conflicts in Greece. In the Republic of Macedonia, neoliberalism is the “essential component” of the modern Macedonian identity, since any reference to alternative economic systems competitive to the market economy systems point to the “dark past” of Yugoslavian economy. Also, the exacerbations of Macedonian nationalism seemed to be proportional to the priorities set by the Macedonian state in relation to the according contacts of Greek and Macedonian capital. Simultaneously, within the state, nationalism serves as a mechanism for workforce management, devaluating the immigrants and placing them in a hostage situation which releases the local capital and postpones its crisis, as it happened in the first decade of the 21st century in Greece. Respectively, in the Republic of Macedonia, the deregulation of labor relations, privatizations, the abolition of the welfare state and the impoverishment of its people have been covered up under the cloak of nationalism and the debate around the constitutional name of the country.
At the writing period of this book (period 2011-2012) the proliferation of nationalist, racist and fascist tendencies in a growing part of the Greek and Macedonian society is beyond precedent. Although the listing of all these evolvements is beyond the scope of our work, we consider it is appropriate to quote some general points.
In the present circumstances the notion of the nation is still used in the construction of political discourse and its legitimacy. In the framework of capitalist crisis, patriotic arguments on the one hand oppose “the traitor politicians” and “international economic interests” while on the other hand, put emphasis on the “love of our country” and “the progress of the people”, responding positively to the austerity measures that aim at the devaluation of our lives. Thus, the crisis is being presented as a result of state rivalries and not as a product of capitalistic relationships. Patriotism-nationalism additionally creates the necessary national coalitions and alliances that tend to integrate an increasingly growing part of the exploited, promoting in this way the healthy function of capital. We have no illusion that today’s patriotic rhetoric is deeply embodied in the very essence of the political system – both in its right wing and left wing – bringing exploited and exploiters into one common “embrace” as the relationship of exploitation are kept intact.
Unfortunately, during the last years, nationalism is not only being produced by official institutions but also from the below. Within the uncertainty of our time, there are many people who choose to side up with the national core, simply ignoring what is happening around them. Others adopt fascist practices and participate actively in capitalist brutality, hunting down immigrants and helping to establish racist ghettos. Immigrants and other marginalized groups (roma, LGBT, etc.) have become a scapegoat being chased on the one hand by police operations and the other hand, from local communities in villages, neighborhoods and cities.
Patriotisms are nothing more than an obstacle on the path of social liberation. They offer fake dilemmas which mitigate the potential of social competition exacerbation. From our part, we propose through this small effort, the promotion of an internationalist communication that contribute to the deconstruction of nationalism and the communication of our everyday life struggles beyond borders and all national (and not only) divisions which render us more alone and weak. For us, national rivalries always degrade class issues as a secondary issue. For us, being unwilling to fit into national identities, the dilemmas related to names are without meaning. For us, the enemy is not only the Greek or Macedonian nationalism, but the network of social relations based on exploitation and pauperization of human life wherever it stands. For us there is no “us” and “the others”, there is justice and injustice. And justice cannot be based in any national features, but can only be the result of the struggle for freedom and dignity.