Peoples' movements and protests
Because power is organized from a center, there are always ”peripheries” or ”provinces” where people are disadvantaged in various ways due to their powerlessness. Investments are decided elsewhere, outsiders decide who in the periphery is allowed to make a career, and outsiders decide which cultural codes are to apply – the codes of the periphery or province are considered backward, rural and quirky.
National movements are fighting against such forms of disadvantage.
National movements were already fighting the ancient empires and their plunder. Until the French Revolution, however, their self-understanding was mostly social - the ”people” versus the ”ruler”, it was just that the ”people” happened to be provincially limited. However, the French and American revolutions combined with the subsequent Romanticism created a new political language: the ”people” were consciously bound to the land of the peripheral province as (potential) ”citizens” and defined on that basis.
Pioneers of this kind of struggle were the Spanish and German movements that fought Napoleon’s armies, but the national movement that would invent most of the movement’s themes was the Irish. It was the first movement to link the interests of an oppressed class, in this case the peasants, to the interests of the nation vis-à-vis the center, and expressed them in boycotts, strikes and a national language, the ”Celtic Renaissance” (Eastern European movements had thematized it ”national” but without making it a mass struggle).
Through the imperialist subjugation of the whole world by the European states during the 19th century, the national movements also spread all over the world. Because this imperialist subjugation was organized both through the state and economically, the national movements have both committed to building independent states and organizing economic development under their own auspices, strong enough to counter the center-controlled economies.
Most national movements have been organized by the educated middle class of the cities, who saw themselves as limited in their development of the discriminatory policies of the imperialist powers. Successful national movements have also been linked to peasant movements and / or labor movements and drawn them into the self-defense of the periphery.
The great period of success of the national movements was the period 1945-1975, when all colonial rule was abolished and national development became global over-ideology. Strong mobilizations in the South, mainly India and China, were aided by the North’s preoccupation with two world wars.
Since the 1970s, however, national movements have
suffered great setbacks.
It is possible to see a new tendency towards self-assertion in the early 2000s, marked by the Southern countries’ refusal to join the Nordic countries’ WTO program. But this trend break has been preceded by strong peasant mobilizations. The future self-defense of the periphery must probably to a greater extent than hitherto be conducted by the direct producers themselves, for example in the form of trade union aspirations aimed at keeping more of the periphery’s surplus in the place where it is produced.