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V NATIONAL CONSCIOUSNESS


Let us go further along the not very broad road on which the relation of society and State is settled. Has the reader not been struck by the fact that when speaking of these large associations I have so far not once mentioned the nation?

I do not consider that the nation here constitutes a kind of third factor beside the other two. Instead I assume that where the State is based on society, the latter constitutes the basis both of the State and the nation. These are the superstructures of society; the State is the legal superstructure and the nation the ethical. Where ethics are absent, national consciousness weakens, in so far as it exists; the more a man fears ethics in public life the lower he rates ideas of nationality.

Unlike the State, which may be seen and experienced physically, national consciousness is an abstraction, and national allegiance can only be recognised voluntarily; thus this issue belongs to the catsgory not of law but of ethics. A man voluntarily accepts the yoke of obligations towards his nation, obligations incomparably more complicated than obligations towards the State.

Nationality is not a ready-made force, natural or anthropological, inborn in a certain ethnographical element, but an a posteriori acquired force, created by man and created only at a certain level of culture. There are peoples among whom no nationality has taken shape. It is impossible to foresee whether from given peoples one, two or more nationalities will take shape, for in this field no inborn factors, no a priori data decide, but historical development, to which certain natural factors contribute, and the free human will which cannot be calculated. In the whole of Europe there is not a land of whose inhabitants it could be said that they were from the dawn of history destined to belong to one nationality and not to another. Thus for example it is not possible to draw any conclusions about how far to the west Polish nationality might have reached if the Polabians had held out. It may be that Poland would have been on the Elbe, but it may equally well be that Great Poland would have belonged to one of the Polabian nations. It was not settled in advance that in the whole Vistula-Warta space one nation would emerge.

Ethnography and anthropology do not know associations larger than peoples; history provides the nations. And this is why nationality is so dear to us, as the incarnation of ideals of living, for it is the product of labour, the prize of progress, the evidence of the improvement achieved by the hard toil of generations amidst struggle, pain and disappointment, but with the guiding intention of carrying to ever greater perfection the ethnological material which history and the dignity of cultural achievement assembled into nation.

I do not know a case where a nation is composed of a single people.

The nation is an association above the people, an association of peoples, and so it only appears where tribal life and the joining together (usually in a State) of tribes to form a people belong to the past. From this it follows that societies still at the clan or even at the tribal stage cannot constitute a nation. Nationality can only appear after the total emancipation of the family. This circumstance of itself excludes from the idea of nationality the Turanian, Arabic, Brahmin and Chinese civilisation.

It is not possible to identify nationalities with separate languages. It was shown in the Chapter on languages that entirely distinct languages are the lot of associations smaller and lowlier than the nation composed of peoples. Anyone defining nations according to language ought to claim that nationality is an a priori force, given to man from above for the ways of developing civilisation; that nations have existed from the beginning of the world, that there was a multitude of them, but that in the pre-ages of proto-history the weaker nations began to be destroyed by the stronger, these by the still stronger until the present number was reached — in other words, that nationalities shared the fortunes of languages. In view of this identification, the separate character of Provençal nationality (langue d’oc) would have to be recognised although not because of any request by men regarding themselves as French, and on the other hand North Americans would have to be included in the English nation. But what could be done about the fact that Croats and Serbs have the same language, while the population round Zagreb speaks not Croat but Slovenian?

Nor is nationality identical with the idea of the State, for one nation may create two or more States, while several nations may belong to one State. A certain connection occurs between these ideas, however, of which there are evidences in history.

Our Polish concept of the nation has passed through significant changes. It was understood in one way in the fourteenth century when, under Ladislas the Steadfast, a nation was created in Poland, and in another under Sigismund Augustus, when the ideology of the “two nations”, Poland and Lithuania, was developed. Peter Skarga gave warning that Poles were in danger of losing their nationality (“you will turn into another nation”). Immediately after the Partitions there were widespread complaints that “we have ceased to be a nation”. Napoleonic times restored to us our awareness, of continued national existence (in precisely this lies the significance of the “Napoleonic epic” in its Polish edition), and we have not lost that consciousness; we have even created a hitherto unknown notion of nationality outside the State, even without the State. It is indeed true that our modem Polish notion of the nation dates only from the nineteenth century.

Today it is one of the so-called generally known facts that the English or French nation is not at all synonymous with our naród. In the West they do not understand nation without State, because they have not observed the phenomenon in their own history and have not studied Polish. By “nation” they understand simply the national State; to their way of thinking the nation is the association which creates a State.

Nationality is not traced to the State either in the English language or anywhere else. An idea of the sort sometimes appears in German literature, under the influence of Prussian ideology, but nowhere else. And Prussianism holds a separate place among collective mentalities, on which I cannot and do not see any need to dilate here.659

Beyond question nationality is not of State but exclusively of social origin. It is not States which change into nations, but societies — or those of them which have completed the emancipation of the family and achieved a separate public law. But these conditions are not enough; something more is necessary.

Since societies produced out of themselves the concept of the national State, they must have been societies with the power, drive and opportunity to create associations of a new and higher type which determined or at least enormously influenced the character of the Slate. A concept may be formed by a philosopher in isolation (and this is even usually the case), but it can only be given body if the educated public accepts it, and is itself already sufficiently numerous and influential. For the concept of the nation to be accepted and produce effect, the elite of the society must have been for it and moreover in a position to ensure the existence of the nation alongside the State. This could be accomplished only by societies with influence on the State, where the State did not swallow up society, but left it freedom of development. Thus the concept of the nation could not have arisen in Egyptian civilisation, nor later in Byzantine. The Jewish concept of the chosen race as a means of indicating co-religionists has nothing at all to do with the question occupying us here.

There remain Greece and Rome. The classical Greeks, at variance on the triple law, were by the same token incapable of creating a general association. Individuals arrived at the idea of a Hellenic nation (for instance the famous passage in Herodotus), but it was never generally accepted.

The concept was born in Roman, and then fostered by Latin civilisation. I do not know an example of a nation outside that civilisation. They reach only as far as classical antiquity reached. Peoples who remained historically outside the limits of Roman influences become nations as soon as they accept Latin civilisation; this has been the case with peoples of completely different background, the Finns and Magyars for example, as soon as they joined the Latin family.

I state the fact that history has not so far pointed to national consciousness outside Latin civilisation.

Many things have radiated and radiate from one civilisation to others, for mutual influences arise. In this way the concept of the nation has sometimes reached out from the Latin sphere — but has it anywhere been adopted lastingly and effectively? For the nation is an association, so that its essence must consist in the system of communal life shared within that association. In other words: A nation must belong in its entirity without the slightest reservations to the same civilisation. A national association is a civilisational association.

If it were not this, it would be nothing. For the nation is a voluntary association, in contrast to the State which is a compulsory association and could not develop without compulsion; even a national State must have the power to use force towards its citizens, towards the people who created it. But the very suggestion of force in national affairs would be an absurdity. We were by force Russian or Prussian citizens, but remained Poles. Is it possible to be a member of any nation compulsorily?

Civilisation proceeds from good, unforced will; conversely, a society exposed to compulsion in civilisation would be in danger of a state of a-civilisation (prolonged captivity contains this danger).

The will of a society ripe for the shaping of a nation cannot be divided in the direction of two civilisations; something of the kind is possible only in the case of people who do not themselves yet know what they want. Moreover without homogeneity in civilisation no voluntary and at the same time extensive association will take shape. For these reasons a lively national consciousness in two civilisations is a Utopian idea.

Let us now look for other features of nationality. There will be agreement that the nation is a civilisational association possessing a homeland and a native tongue. It is time for a definition of these concepts.

It is often heard that the homeland is not only the earth of the country one is born in, but a whole, series of considerations of a spiritual nature. I believe I am released from examination of this question, since I have incorporated into the definition of nation the expression “civilisational” (association) — and so regard that point as dealt with. Nevertheless I maintain that all civilisational aspects of the nation must be connected with some area, that is with the settlements of the peoples forming the common nation, and so there will be no misunderstanding if we call this particular area the homeland. This way of thinking, popularised throughout the world, is entirely justified. The homeland is the compact territory forming the permanent abode of the nation and stage of its history. It follows indirectly that there is no nation without an historical sense — and so it is in fact.

A man who possesses a homeland also possesses a native tongue. As every man has only one homeland in the same way he cannot have two native tongues. The Swiss regards as his native tongue the language of his canton, and that alone.

Clearly the homeland is not a concept from the sphere of private law, but emphatically from public; moreover homeland and patriotism have nothing in common with private law, and so are not compatible with the kind of public law which bases itself on private law. Thus a nation can only emerge in societies which possess a separate public law and where the State is based on society. And so only in Latin civilisation.

Again there forms before our eyes the same order of civilisations which has already faced us on several occasions. There is no polygamous nation, no nation exists before the emancipation of the family, nor without liberties for society nor without a separate public law. And the various systems for organising the way of life of the community still fall into the same order.

A word on “supra-national” associations. It is an enormous misunderstanding to suppose that there belong here those mediaeval dreams about the “family of rulers and Christian peoples” and the several later forms, largely theoretical, down to the Prussian programme for a pax germanica and the contemporary misfit and great falsification of universal history which is the so-called League of Nations. These were and are supra-State associations, or attempts at such associations. Confusion of the concepts of State and nation leads here to unnecessary complications and immensely increased difficulties. Until the misunderstanding is removed no step forward will be made towards the creation of an effective supra-State association.

A supra-national association is an absurdity, because of the inescapable differences in homeland and native tongue. It is possible to imagine a universal State, but will some kind of universal language be native to everybody? Is it possible to have one’s homeland everywhere and anywhere? These are blatantly anti-national suppositions. Anybody who plans a supra-national association aims at the abolition of nationality, and so at the abolition of Latin civilisation.

National consciousness represents great progress in the history of the societies of Latin civilisation; without it that civilisation would be incomplete. For its highest criterion is the supremacy of spiritual forces. On what is this supremacy to rest, where to find its guarantees? The State offers compulsory means but this supremacy can only be acknowledged voluntarily, from conviction, to which nobody forces or will force a man. So it also can rest only on a large and voluntary association, and such is the nation.

Only through the nations does Latin civilisation reach its heights.



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