Reclaiming Nationalism, Rejecting Chauvinism, Building Socialism

Garen Yegparian
Garen Yegparian

Garen Yegparian

BY GAREN YEGPARIAN

On May 28th, Independence day (the OG one, of course, not the September 21 re-independence of 1991), I finished Houri Berberian’s latest book “Roving Revolutionaries” (well worth reading if you can make the time). Some of the issues she describes in the book that occupied our national leadership’s collective mind at the turn of the previous century are also timely today, and little discussed. Inspired by the day and the book, I thought a quick look at three concepts relevant to our new, Yerevan centered, state-building effort would be worthwhile.

Let’s first dispense with the negative one of the concepts, that which no one should want guiding or informing how our state institutions evolve and solidify, chauvinism. In English, this term is relatively little heard in recent times, and perhaps most often only in the phrase “male chauvinism”. Chauvinism is an attitude of superiority held by a person about the group s/he belongs to relative to some other group. Unfortunately, we see it among our compatriots more often than I care to admit. The sense that Armenians are better than (fill in a group) must go. It can only breed the same mentality in response, leading inevitably to conflict. It must be whittled out of our national consciousness. It should be enough that chauvinism is the same diseased mindset which led to the Young Turks organizing the Genocide. Happily, Paruyr Sevak’s oft-recited poem’s first, second, and final lines say it all and must serve as our beacon in this respect:

“Մենք քիչ ենք‚ սակայն մեզ հայ են ասում։
Մենք մեզ ո՛չ ոքից չենք գերադասում…
Կա՛նք: Պիտի լինե՛նք: Ու դեռ – շատանա՜նք:”
“We are few, but are called Armenians.
We don’t consider ourselves superior to anyone…
We exist. We shall continue. And we will grow.”

The next concept I want to address is nationalism. This one is fraught with negative connotations in today’s world, thanks to a number of historical and ideological phenomena. It is very unfortunate that such is the case. The Nazis and their Holocaust, the wars fought in Europe over the past two-three centuries, the ongoing conflicts in other parts of the world have led to a stigmatization of a very noble idea. Please see the accompanying table with definitions of the concept from the same dictionary’s editions of 1940, 1973, and currently online. Stunning, isn’t it how the term has gone from something describing a collective awareness or policy bent to something negative, to the point where the definition has effectively equated to chauvinism.

Degenerative definitions of nationalism

Degenerating definitions of nationalism

It gets worse. Have you heard “white nationalism” and “Islamic nationalism”? Ridiculous terms! Since when have “whites” constituted a “nation”? Armenians, Cherokees, French, Japanese, and Zulus are nations. But whites? Equally, since when has it been rational to equate adherents of a religion to a nation? Islam has its notion of a community, “umma”, not nation. It’s fashionable now to attach “nationalism” to any human grouping’s name when someone wants to vilify it. Enough! Remember, nationalism helped break up the chokehold of empires and grotesque emperors over human beings. Nationalism helped democracy take hold in many places. People, humans, have a basic need to belong. It’s one of the major avenues by which we manifest our caring for others. The most natural group to associate with once we get past family/clan is the nation. Sure, anything taken to an extreme is bad. But nationalism is not inherently bad, any more than faith/belief systems or commitment to some cause (environment, human freedoms, etc.). I urge all those who denigrate the is noble and natural sentiment to stop their misguided crusade. Nationalism is what will help us rebuild Armenian statehood.

Finally, socialism. This very word rankles and terrifies many people. It has been abused by those who allegedly implemented it. Think Soviet Union, which, when it became a dictatorship, by definition forever removed itself from the universe of socialism. Socialism cannot exist in the absence of democracy. Conversely, democracy cannot long endure in the absence of socialism. Democracy addresses people’s political liberation/freedom, while socialism sees to their economic and social liberation/freedom. The term socialism has equally been abused by those who feel threatened by its egalitarianism and the hope it inspires among the largest number of people who use its guiding precepts to struggle against the tyranny of big money, corporatism, or “the 1%” – a recently fashionable term. And, they have been quite successful after decades of propaganda. Socialism is a dirty word for many people.

Here’s the rub. Many of the societal, legal, benefits we enjoy are the product of socialist thought, advocacy, and struggle. Here are some examples, from the U.S. experience since that is the setting with which I am most familiar. The 8-hour-workday/40-hour-workweek, Social Security, unemployment insurance, Medicare, holidays, farmer support programs, universal public education, the right to unionize, and more. You probably can’t even imagine life where workers would not be allowed to take bathroom breaks, be locked inside factories, and even burn to death as happened to 146 people on March 25, 1911 in the Triangle Shirtwaist fire in New York City and a century later in the Tazreen textile factory (Dhaka, Bangladesh) on November 25, 2012. Even the environmental and consumer protections we take for granted in most western countries rise from the same ideological source. But if we continue on the route selected since the Reagan administration, all of the public goods we take for granted will be whittled away to nothing. That’s why some of these universally popular programs have been the targets of the political right wing… Didn’t you ever wonder why U.S. public schools have been underfunded for the past four decades or so?

This is why socialist precepts must guide the policies implemented by our twin Armenian republics and why we must all support such development in our homeland.

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11 Comments

  1. Arman Kaymakcian said:

    Wow your are beyond comprehension, socialism huh?
    I think you need to do some more reading about the Soviet Union. Or perhaps you should ask some Armenians who lived through the time of Joseph Stalin.
    I’ve read some of your other articles as well. Let me clear this up for you socialism does not work ever!!!! Has never worked!!! Ever!!! Will never work ever!!!!
    It would lead to the same end As it has in every other country and in every other circumstance with starvation, desperation, and death. Get a grip you sound ridiculous

    • Raffi said:

      @ Arman Kaymakcian: Socialism is not comunism, socialism in EU is just working fine, you wish you could live in EU.

  2. Bob said:

    Soft-headed nonsense! So your “twin Armenian republics” are or must become showcases of socialist precepts? Then why did they secede from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics? Why have they been losing, rather than growing populations? Socialism is no Nirvana, and Christ was no socialist. Many times socialism has been tried and has ALWAYS have failed and always will because socialism attempts to alter the most basic of human behavior. (a constant through the ages). It brings nothing but misery and death (to 100,000,000 in the 20th century alone, for instance). It is, instead, and in the words that J. Edgar Hoover used to describe communism, A FALSE RELIGION. Yet Mr. Yegparian would have us repeat the same “experiment” and expect a different result, He might consult the late Dr. Albert Einstein on that.
    Concerning public education and the idea of throwing yet more money at it; who, or what nation, spends more per capita on that while getting so little for our public dollars than does the United States?

  3. Barséghian Ardachèce said:

    Mr Garen, I am pleased with your political analysis of the concept of nationalism and the basis of the socialist ideology to which I have been admate for many years by my activism within French society and in the international institutions in Geneve by following the exemplary struggles of comrades who shared this concept of nationalism and the ideas of socialism. I decided 29 years ago, the implosion of the communist system, to settle in the country with strong Soviet cultural impregniation where force prevails the law. I have carried in my suitcase rural development projects in cooperation with the French and European institutions and their experts. These programmes were inspired by cooperative, participatory structures that led people to take responsibility for what the Moscow central system had aihile over several generations, which was required not to decide but to carry out the political orientations of the Centre. Similarly, the collectivist, Soviet concept required citizens to move away from national history and culture and adopt Soviet culture, in other words Russian, on pain of deportation. Thus we have herite of a country totally neutralized in its own history and national culture with habits and traditions that endure, as can be seen on a daily basis in families, society, rulers, from the village to the region, no structural reform especially for rural families and remember that we have about 1000 rural communes that do not have access to higher education , a health (still reserved for the families of this mafia bourgeoisie), has justice (with the same corrupt magistrates of the former regimes), the rights of women, children, flouts, these farming families deliver to the land without experience of management of the type of cooperative groups of joint exploitation as practiced in France. Refusal to hear these experiences applied to the country and succeeded, to lead them to chronic debt with hypothec goods and to exodus. No sense of parliamentary democracy, an opposition assaulted, intolerance to the other who thinks differently, the tradition of the One Party, of the single think, of the providential ruler. A governance that takes up the metodes of the past or “act prop” self-satisfaction, self-sufficiency, the refusal to consult the internal competences, deliver beautiful speeches towards the diaspora that above all must be held at the age of national policies, an ostentatious lifestyle of the rulers, from the village to the state, without much progress on the promises made to the people regarding the eradication of nepotism and corruption. So I think of the women and men who had the colossal task of governing under the 1st Republic of 1918, in a miserable situation, after genocide, to suffer the betrayal of the Bolsheviks of Armen with a lenin who plotted with attaturk on the back of our people, yes, they were nationalists and socialists in the noble sense that you remind us to confront and solve the immense problems. This is what our country sorely lacks.

  4. Hagop Varoujian said:

    As ever, most interesting and enlightening article. The definitions of the word nationalism and it’s perception over a period of several decades was an eye-opener.
    Makes me wonder if humanity is on a downward trend with freedoms and democracy as we know it heading towards total annihilation…

  5. Barséghian Ardachèce said:

    Unfortunately you did not understand Garen’s analysis of the content of the concept of Nation and Socialism. Socialism and communism should not be confused, which dissociated at the 2nd Congress of International Socialism in 1907. The example of socialism in Europe that has applied in all European countries, from which I am born, societies have evolved in cultural social economic terms a powerful civil society, trade unions that have obtained by feroces struggles advances on working conditions and women, children, annual conferences, health FREE by a minimum contribution for employees stronger for companies , FREE education for young people in kindergarten has university, or even state aid for families in social difficulties, social assistance for the payment of rents to these families, allowances of all kinds and many others. All this in the name of the struggles to extract these social benefits from the state and rulers who counted only by good economic balance sheets on the back of wage-earning. All this has nothing to do with the communism of the single thinker which resulted in a resounding failure on the populations including Armenia, we saw the state of desolation of structures, families, society, the country, the tyrannical neutralization of political thought, which, you understand, has absolutely nothing to do with the concept of Socialism with its precite conquetes. In 1918 thanks to this concept our intellectuals were able to install our 1st Republic with a Socialist government and structure the country totally ruin. Yes, the Armenian communists, these immature Bolsheviks betrayed the nascent independent state to offer it to the bloodthirsty Soviet communist totalitarianism that pacted with Attaturk on the back of Armenia. This was not socialism in the noble sense of democratic and nationalist developed by Garen. It is true that this Socialism has experienced and is experiencing evolutions in all these European countries, as in Germany, France … So let’s go back to our country which is in this political confusion and because of having retained the methods and principles imposed for 80 years, nepotism, corruption, the one-minded “all those who do not think like me are ENNEMIS that we beat, that we murder …” The eradication of these serious communist practices (not socialist by total absence of civil society) persist in society, in the country, the irresponsibility of heads of family in the face of their continuing duty, to celebrate, a credit, any occasion, marriage, birth, deces, camaraderie with alcoholism has the key and the disastrous consequences on women and children … Mr. Pachinian is against him this neo-communist policy “It’s me or chaos” he flees forward, without listening to his intellectuals and the diaspora, self satisfied, self-sufficient but the School, the University is still under the practice of corruption, diplomas out of complacency money, health of the same, justice too, the whole innacessible to the people and so on the governments. This lack of intellectual understanding that Garen wants to explain. I want to give a clear example with a rounded approach. We have 1000 villages in the country, consider that we have on average 100 land owners per village that own about 7 to 8000 m2, if each of these families, I say well families, contributes to the equivalent of 15 packs of cigarettes per month (not to mention alcohol) or 5,000 drams on average (because there would be a proportionality with the largest owners and other criteria) and if we multiply by 12 months – a year , we get a social tresorerie of … 60,000,000,000 drams. So how is it that the Minister of Health does not want to think about 100% health protection for families? By the view that each medical act will be fixed to the doctor what is harmful to his interests which freely practice the price of his consultation (often in dollar) so the people, families, are totally excluded at the access to health, only can accede the bourgeois mafia, hence the concept of Socialism and National that prone Garen. Finally, in 1996, an eminent doctor surgeon Armenien de France, Administrator of Hospitals, had come to the Minister of Health, Mr. Babloyan, to install this free health system. Mr. Babloyan did not follow through, why? Ask this gentleman who was President of the Council at the time when the government mafia was weaning, WHAT OF HOSPITAL CENTRE is he owned? In his name or other relatives? Please try to understand GAREN. That is my opinion that is not definitive.

  6. Norayr Eblighatian said:

    Hello Garen. I would suggest that when you use terms like Nationalism and Socialism, you describe what you are referring to in more detail. There are so many shades of Nationalism and Socialism, that enumerating some extreme cases does not give the reader clear ideas about what you are writing about. Also, I will take exception to your conclusive remark “This is why socialist precepts must guide the policies implemented by our twin Armenian republics and why we must all support such development in our homeland”. Does nation-building have to be based on socialist precepts? And where are these socialist idea implementations by the ARF (an organization that is ‘socialist by affirmation’ only)? We need to start talking about specific examples as opposed wishful thinking. Very (very) few Armenians in the US will listen to a socialist agenda, and practically no one in Armenia & Artsakh (that have just gained their independence from a socialist experiment) will even remotely entertain such ideas…….finally, let me remind you that the last word of the ARF is ‘federation’ meaning an umbrella organization with many beliefs and ideals based on the core concept of nationhood.

  7. Barséghian Ardachèce said:

    Excuse budget 6 000 000 000 drams (6 milliards drams) DAREGAN !!!

  8. Barséghian Ardachèce said:

    An example of the need for a SOCIAL approach to consider the people, the citizens, these families producing national wealth, as a worker or farmer, much more, those families who will provide by blood and life offered to the national defense, so let’s start, I am diabetic category 2, I beneficiate of the free of all care IN FRANCE. Because of this pendemie, no more flying to France, so I went to a pharmacy in the country and stocked myself for a month and I had to pay 27,000 drams and all my life I will have to treat myself. So the average salary of a worker, if he has a job … 100,000 drams. No one reimburses him for this huge financial burden as a percentage of the salary, knowing that this man is head of the family, that he has to pay his rent, his energy consumption, provide family food and so on, this head of the family is obliged to leave the country for a better salary, hope, with the consequences on the family balance, or to borrow from the bank at rates of 25 to 40% with mortgage on his property. You have understood that this family is deprived of access to health, has education in the system that has been going on for 30 years, ultra libera, while the socialist design concoit and allows a comprehensive policy, integrated, family protection … as in France, Germany or Europe. It is quite possible, absolutely possible to design this social policy but successive rulers and today we think exclusively in economic terms, we boast of a factory that opens, the press rushes a lot of articles, with pictures of the rulers, but never informs about the wages of workers from 60 to 80,000 drams, never informs about the number of hours per day , from 9 to 10 hours, how many days per week, 6, working conditions worthy of feodalite, without health protection, accident, without annual conge pays … and this has been going on for 30 years with groups of exploiters who have enriched themselves, have their money in Western banks, their families do not need care in the country they care abroad, they do not need the educational system of the country, their children are educated abroad, the or this type of entrepreneurial parents have luxurious residences , ievaylen, ievaylen. Draw your conclusions on the concept of Nation and Socialism as a given and practical in Europe. So have developed strongly new technologies, exploiting the enormous capacity of the country’s young people in the same conditions. So our Party had a lot to show up and I fear for the future and with such neighbors.

  9. Barséghian Ardachèce said:

    In fact, if Mr. Pachinyan is a citizen political structure as part of his parliamentary opposition action in denunciation CONSTANTE, without compromise, of the regime ante, for the best ultra liberal, force remaining to finance by all means including national violence of the type amplifies to the soviet, tyrannical and even criminal terrorizing regime in many aspects of which submission and total dependence on the targets neo imperalism Russian , therefore nefaste to our Nation and the people, once again humiliated after 80 years of communism, declaring itself untouchable by the law in the form of a mafia, in order to allow himself to plunder, insult the country, Mr. Pachinyan succeeded stronger, with his strength of national conviction, to create and maintain for many years its publication of opposition declaring all , without concession, he had the political intelligence to coagulate behind him, according to Gandhi’s method, in a village-to-village march to the capital relying on the reaction force of a humiliated people. He thus imposed this force on the rulers who have cede with runaways. The real reality of the situation of the country has appeared in all its grandiose, economic, social, cultural, civil and political dimensions. So his strength of conviction to want to restore all these parameters according to a new paradigm ran into the reality of having to rebuild the country, but the political forces whose Party which was to associate itself with this heavy task, in the national interest, was in a dogmatic, doctrinaire approach, playing with all-out politics without a line of consuite. The people have seen the practices of our Party’s cadres with their betrayals of the ideas, straying from the people and paying the price. Mr. Pachinyan finds himself alone in the face of believing that he has a Herculean popular force without imagining that only the National Unite could answer the challenges. Mr. Pachinyan has been complacent in self-sufficiency, has the unique neo-Stalinist and cannot offer a clear line, a long-term vision, settling into a dangerous isolationism, navigating day by day with the consequences of gross political errors betraying the popular forces that brought him to the head of the country, forgetting the social policy of the people. , giving strength to the desire of an investor capitalism that will never arrive by its incoherant management which refuses, by lack of modesty, according to a pretention that reveals its inability to advance in a logic of national interest by appealing to the contribution of the diaspora, besides financial, but to the reflection and active contribution to the POLITIC, GOVERNMENT. Without adopting, embracing this notion, these principles of cooperation with diasporic political forces we will sink into the ponder. This is certainly my imperfect analysis, but I am one of those people who dream of Socialism in the true and profound sense of the concept. One last point, CLORE and REFONDER our Party in the country as in Artsakh, for 30 years the people saw …

  10. Barséghian Ardachèce said:

    Important I forgot to recall when Mr. Pachinyan was a political prisoner, like many others, I followed them in all their process with lawyer, as a defender of the rights of thought and political expression, during this period, these named tachnags, played a political politician in a totalitarian sectarianism the people were witness to this unworthy fault of our Party that they have violated definitively …

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