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The Precarious Future of the Nation-State (1)

Decolonization and recent independence movements hold the constitution of

nation-states as a high point, perhaps definitive, for the beatitude of peoples,
replicating the construction of nation-states in Europe, where they were the
object of a slow process, dating to several centuries ago.

Nowadays, globalization develops processes to make the nation-states

subalterns, with the creation of norms and institutions of many-nations or of
international scope, implicitly assuming that the nation-states’ scope is too

Between the nation-state of the past and the unification and uniformity of
the planet carried out by the multinationals and the financial capital, where
do the roles and status of the peoples and individual persons lie? And, from
an active and prospective point of view, what attitudes and choices should
the peoples assume?

A - Notes on the birth of the nation-state

1 - Colonial expansion led to the construction of the modern state

2 - The State, an essential element for accumulation

3 - Nations and nation-states

4 - The aggrandizement of a state apparatus always involves violence

5 - L'Etat, c'est moi!

6 - The importance of patriotism

7 - The beginning of industrial capitalism 20 / 11 /201 7 1
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A - Notes on the birth of the nation-state

1 - Colonial expansion led to the construction of the modern state

Nation-states emerged in the XVII/XVIII centuries. In Europe, until then and since the
dismemberment of the Roman Empire, there were territories under the tutelage of a
king, accepted as an aggregator and arbiter by a nobility of landowners, to whom a
multitude of poor peasants were bound in a vassal relationship. For this multitude, the
relationship with the king was very distant and occasional, while attachment to the
land, to the nearby community where they were inserted, was the only relationship of
belonging and of solidarity felt, although shaped by the demands of the lords.

The dynastic disputes between royal houses, the unions and partitions of lordships
would only affect the greater part of the population if there were any increases to the
already heavy rents, censuses, fines, rights and special contributions demanded by the
landlord; or if in these disputes military operations would lead to the destruction of
crops, looting and rape, which would cause famine.

The assumption of belonging to a broad-scoped and abstract entity – the nation-state

– as happens today, did not exist, because neither did there exist a state as an
administrative, coercive and tax structure that embodied it or gave it visibility, and
pressed that presence in opposition to others. There was no nation-state. There were
only subjects of the king and of the lords, concrete individuals, who demanded
personal obedience; but they were not emitters of a citizen's card, passport or
taxpayer number, among other modes of bond binding to a nation-state.

The dialectic between the peasants and the feudal lords oscillated between the
tolerance of the former and the greediness of the latter which, in case of
disagreement, regularly provoked great and bloody peasant revolts. For example, in
France, there were successive revolts in the X to XV centuries, with emphasis on the
Grande Jacquerie, almost simultaneously with similar actions of the English peasants
under the impulse of Wat Tyler and John Ball. In Aragon, at the end of the fifteenth
century, the struggle of the remensas for the right not to pay a tribute to their master
in order to be able to leave the land to which they were attached, lasted more than
ten years. In Germany, the peasants tried to take advantage of the movements 20 / 11 /201 7 2
resulting from the Lutheran secession to free themselves from the masters, but Luther
preferred to help the German nobility in their purpose of abandoning the papal
suzerainty. In these struggles, the rebels were not opposing a distant king, whose
intervention they asked for, but against their masters, their direct oppressors.

The predominance of a local-based agrarian economy did not generate a large volume
of exchanges with regions far away, resulting in the abandonment, poor quality and
safety of roads and paths, frequented by bands of robbers. In Europe, things were far
from the network of roads that linked the various regions of the Roman Empire and
where goods and soldiers circulated. The center of a royal domain was the place of
residence of the king and the court which, with its purchasing power, attracted the
commerce of luxury goods and supplies for the soldiery; the place where the king lived
was what today would be called the administrative capital of the kingdom.

Cities where the wealth generated in distant commerce and finance was concentrated
were the disturbing element of this order, as in Italy or Flanders whose moguls also
constituted themselves as landlords, helping nobles and troubled kings with loans.
Trade, craft production, shipbuilding, shipping, and universities created cosmopolitan
societies that demanded more labor power, attracting people from the countryside,
looking for a better life, running away from food crises, wars, or the landlords’

It was under royal tutelage that the maritime path from Europe to the East was
opened and America was discovered; the fact that these events were originated by the
Iberian crowns is explained by particular circumstances. Firstly, the well-established
expansionist tradition in Castile, at the expense of the Muslim kingdoms, after similar
expansion possibilities were barred to both Portugal and Aragon; that motivated the
first Portuguese incursions in Ceuta and Tangier, still with a character typical of the
aristocratic rituals, of the chivalry. Secondly, because the secular struggle of the
northern Christian kingdoms of the peninsula against the southern, Muslim, ones
created a frequent state of war that facilitated the concentration of kings’ power in
Portugal and Castile-Leon, to the detriment of the genesis of feudal nobility typical of
the lands beyond the Pyrenees. And, thirdly, since the peninsular countries are before
an open sea, the costs of its exploitation would always be high and profits unsure,
appropriate, therefore, to be carried out by the royal houses or by a potentate called
Order of Christ, directed by Infante D. Henrique, called The Navigator.

It were the Crowns that set up the ships and when colonial exploitation, in the
Americas, demanded capital beyond the royal capability, resorted to the nomination 20 / 11 /201 7 3
(in Spain) of encomenderos with rights to lands and its inhabitants on the new
continent, who were charged with assembling ships and mobilize money for the
purpose, with the Crown collecting part of the wealth obtained from the loot. And
there were also contracts (capitulaciones) between the king and adventurers such as
Cortez and Pizarro, for the search of gold and silver, in which the crown would get a
cut. In Portugal, the king instituted Letters of Donation to grantees from the lower
nobility, with hereditary rights over the territory of Brazil and who were responsible
for giving the king 20% of the gold or precious stones found or 10%, in the case of
agricultural products. Also in Portugal, strategic shipbuilding was installed near the
royal palace so that the Crown could more easily control its development and would
charge the subsequent trade of slaves, gold, or spices. In this logic, still with medieval
traits, all the land belonged to the king who would cede his rights under contracts and

In this context, the origin, the "nationality" was irrelevant; the Catholic Kings had no
problem in hiring the Genoese Columbus or the Portuguese Magellan, just as England
hired the Venetian Cabot and Infante D. Henrique hired a Venetian slave trader,
Cadamosto. Today the same situation, with the erosion of the relevance of nation-
states and the domination of the globalization logic, has, again, become banal, with
the slow formation of vast globalized elites working for transnational corporations,
global banks, international bodies, beyond, in the European case, of the relations
created through the Erasmus program.

This enormous expansion of the action space, of colonial plundering and of great
diversification of transacted goods, including the voluminous and profitable slave
trade, constituted the beginning of globalization and gave a decisive impetus to
commercial capitalism, which was not yet dominant in Europe. And, hence, the birth
of intense competition between the Atlantic facing European crowns, all looking for
territories in America, often in the mercantilist perspective of finding gold; all seeking
to settle themselves on the spices’ islands, driving away competition; all sowing the
coasts with forts to dominate the sea lanes; all setting up their own corsairs or fighting
piracy; finally, establishing bases in Africa, bribing local heads (sobas) with weapons
and alcohol, for the delivery of slaves as return. All of this fueled an accumulation of
capital that was to be linked to plantation-type agriculture, mining, and plunder which,
as far as capitalism was concerned, was a primitive accumulation. Capitalism asserted
itself through violence and robbery; a trademark it never abandoned. 20 / 11 /201 7 4
This intercontinental and global dimension required a great concentration of means –
more robust ships that could hold large batches of merchandise and cannons,
garrisons scattered over a vast area, and armament to fuel a continued war effort for
the control of trade and colonized lands, in addition to dynastic and influence disputes
amongst the various European royal houses; disputes that came to articulate, in the
XVI century, with swords and cannons, those essential arguments to define who held
the religious purity.

In the defense area, the needs of the royalty increased substantially with the
establishment of permanent armies and the navy, where it was frequent to enlist
mercenaries, paid with gold or silver from the Americas and the Gulf of Guinea, spread
throughout Europe as payment means for commercial transactions. Indebtedness to
Italian or Flemish bankers, or in the form of bills of exchange, grew substantially; it was
no longer enough to devalue the coins’ value by reducing its silver content, which
meanwhile had been shriveled by the large scale extraction in American mines, such as
those in Potosi. Thus, the tax burden, in the form of taxes and duties in the colonial
trade, had to grow substantially, by creating customs, tithe and customs taxes; and this
implied having clerks, technicians, ministers, accounting and budget, standardization
of weights and measures, inspectors, and an inventory of chapels, hostels, houses, and
inhabitants, as happened with Numeramento (enumeration) in 1527/32, in Portugal, in
order to apply an ancestor of the IMI1. The State apparatus was born and the relation,
typical of medieval times, between the fiscal punch and the expenses with the court
and the defense, was ended.

2 - The State, an essential element for the accumulation

The disaster of the Invincible Armada irreversibly weakened the power of the Spanish
and Portuguese navies, gave supremacy of the seas to England, and, indirectly, also to
The Netherlands. Taking into account the distances, storms, and risks of intrusion in
the Indian Ocean, then assumed as an area of Portuguese jurisdiction (as far as
Europeans were concerned), the English and the Dutch created their respective East
India Companies in the early seventeenth century as a form of unification of efforts
between the merchants, with a distanced supervision by their respective States. In
both cases, the initial idea was about commerce and not the occupation of the
territory. On the other hand, there was a geographical partitioning, with the English

IMI is the Portuguese municipal tax on buildings and fields. 20 / 11 /201 7 5
Company concentrating its business in India and China, involving tea, silk, cotton, salt
and opium; while the Dutch company focused on the area that is now Indonesia, to
trade on pepper, sandalwood, nutmeg and cloves, within a rational involving
plantations, controlling long distance trade with Europe and, particularly, between
islands of the Sunda archipelago.

The English Company was created with capital from noblemen and bourgeois, under
the royal concession, with a monopoly regime and with penalty of confiscation for the
transgressors. The Company’s aim was, initially, to do commerce, but in the mid-
eighteenth century rivalries among the fragile Indian states led it to arm troops
(primarily Indian soldiers) and take over the direct administration of the occupied
territory. It was not until 1858 that the English state directly took over, until the
independence processes, the government of India, the Raj.

Indian Colonial administration by English and Dutch, sought to be discreet and non-
interventional, given that the large population of the territories would be disastrous
for Europeans in the event of a large-scale revolt, given the limitations of the colonial
powers in deploying substantial military means in such extensive and populous areas.
Even if the English still managed to leave their language in India, the Dutch never
sought to transmit theirs to the subjugated peoples, maintaining a very distant
domination, and Malay as the region’s lingua franca.

During a more recent phase, the India Company's colonial power, in interaction with
assumed capitalists, led to the ruin of the Indian textile industry and to the dramatic
impoverishment of the people for the benefit of the Manchester factories where
industrial capitalism was taking its first steps, introducing new ways of exploiting the
work of others.

Still in seventeenth-century England, King Charles I presumed he had every right to

raise taxes and punish opponents as was, at that time, the rule of absolute feudal
monarchies. The existence of a Parliament, despite being composed of the clergy and
the nobility, made things difficult for him, and later he was tried and condemned to
death, giving rise to the establishment of a republic, where Cromwell emerged as the
strong man, especially after having tamed the Parliament itself.

Cromwell created a professional army and, supported by the bourgeoisie and

peasants, overturned the feudal rights over the latter and confiscated the lands of the
Anglican Church to ensure a better yield from the land; and, we emphasize,
promulgated the Act of Navigation (1651). The latter established the monopoly of the 20 / 11 /201 7 6
maritime trade between England and its colonies for English ships, and only allowed
ships of its own or the other party to perform exports or imports, excluding third
parties, to the detriment of the Netherlands. This reserved traffic2 met the interests of
the commercial bourgeoisie, eager to develop the maritime trade and the possession
of colonial lands without external competition. The absence of domination of lands
propitious to the extraction of gold and silver (which did not exist in the British
colonies) led to the promotion of settlement colonies in North America. Later,
manufacturing production, protected from competition, would foster capitalist
accumulation associated with a unified and well-defined territory, with the increasing
dominance of the oceans.

3 - Nations and nation-states

The above mentioned examples show how the European human communities have
moved from vassalage to feudal lords who had a suzerain, distanced from the people,
to direct vassals of this suzerain (king), with the fading or disappearance of feudal ties.

A nation corresponds to a people, originally linked to a common place of birth (natio),

whose lasting coexistence has generated its own culture; and that may or may not lead
to the building up of a nation-state, without any cause-effect arising therefrom. Today,
in this 21st century of neoliberalism and climate change, there are many more
Stateless nations than nation-states; and in the bosom of many of these, various
nations coexist peacefully or in a conflictual way. On the other hand, nation-states are
giving up their suzerainty to global institutions, in a process of interconnection, a
network, carried out by multinational companies and by the financial system which
make clerks of, and domesticate for their service, the national political classes.

In the genesis of the European nation-states, in general, the territories were based on
the areas corresponding to the suzerainty of a royal house, with more or less changes,
resulting mainly from numerous wars. But in this process many of these sovereignties,
some with smaller territories or population, others with more, disappeared, diluted in
one or more nation-states, like the kingdom of the Two Sicilies; others, even having an

In Portugal, the monopoly of maritime traffic with the colonies lasted until their independence. It was
assigned to two shipping companies which shortly thereafter were declared bankrupt - the CTM and the
CNN; those had been nationalized in 1975... made "ours", as inheritors of the losses inherent in
decolonization, thus sparing fascism’s economic groups the assumption of those losses. 20 / 11 /201 7 7
average size, took over much larger territories and populations, eliminating by the way
side many landlords, as was the case with Prussia.

Within the same seigneurial logic, in the former colonized territories, the resulting
nation-states inherited the frontiers established with ruler and squadron by the
occupying powers, without any concerns about whether or not political separation of a
nation, a tribe, or a culture resulting from ancestral coexistence would ensue; or even
if the dividing line would separate parts of the same village. Technological and warfare
advantages induced a superiority of the "whites", and were accompanied by a mixture
of contempt and punishment for "the inferior races" which did not correspond to the
virtues of the civilization of Europeans or their descendants, made in the USA. From
the nineteenth century, these attitudes would also mark the spirit of the Japanese in
their expansionism in Asia regarding others – even if of the "yellow race" – in particular
in their relation with the Chinese...

In the context of this so-called civilizing superiority, the colonial powers have left
behind, especially in Africa, nation-states where they never existed, because people
have for centuries traded their ideas, bodies, and conflicts, essentially valuing
networks, itineraries, and local languages such as the lingua franca; and paying little to
no attention to anything resembling borders. The construction of nation-states, some
fifty years after decolonization, revealed numerous civil wars, imposed limitations on
the traditional commercial corridors, and created others for the trafficking of arms,
drugs, and candidates for entry into Europe; fostered genocides, massive displacement
of refugees, and the deployment of corrupt groups protected by the global capital or
by the former colonial power; originated national or private armies specializing in
predation and massacre; engendered child-soldiers, compulsive emigration, external
military interventions (now monitored by the Pentagon, via Africom), refugees, and in
immigration countries, exclusion, exploitation, racism, "non-existent" people called

The distinction between human beings based on race, which is basically characterized
by the color of the skin, has been an instrument of social hierarchy and discrimination,
which has arisen as a result of the colonial rule; however, in countries such as the USA,
people are still faced with a racial self-qualification, resulting in cases of impossible
qualification within the "catalog", such as those people refusing any qualification other
than human being.

These arbitrary divisions, however, are not exclusive of the formerly colonized
territories. In Portugal, in the Alto Trás-os-Montes province we know of a village 20 / 11 /201 7 8
divided by the border – Rio de Onor in the Portuguese side and Río de Onor in the
Leonese side (with an acute accent in the í, as it is the rule in Castilian); Rio de Onor
reports to Bragança, county seat, and Río de Onor reports to Puebla de Sanábria,
Zamora province, community of León and Castile. In other situations, the frontier was
completely ignored by the people, who moved to the other side with cattle and
implements, depending on the charges of the fiscal puncture or the prospect of being
drafted into the army.

Nation-states, in their early stages, began to incorporate one or more nations

embracing people of various cultures, languages, and traditions, as in seventeenth
century England or Spain, from the earliest days of their constitution. As a rule, nation-
states tend to generate a unifying totalitarianism, a leveler destroying or hindering the
expression of the encompassed nations, to the detriment of the one, claimed to be
hegemonic, whether or not it has the majority; this drive can manifest itself either
through centrifugal fears (separatism or inclination for incorporation into another
nation-state, neighbor) or centripetal (expansionist claims, of incorporating parts of
other neighboring nation-states). This expansionist territorial impulse corresponded to
the inclusion of more labor power, natural resources, subjugation of other owner
classes; a wider market, as they say today. As a rule, any nation-state assumes itself as
a miserly caretaker of its territory and the destiny of its "subjects"; as well as a greedy
candidate to the control of foreign lands, to the capture of new subjects, at any
pretext, to enrich the rich and increase the ration and prestige of their political class.
Globalization, however, tends to dynamite this construction – the nation-state – and to
demonstrate its vulnerability or even inconvenience or worthlessness, not only for the
peoples – for whom it has always been a prison – but also for today's globalized
capitalism, as we will point out within the context of this writing.

Thus, in present-day United Kingdom, Scots, Welsh and Irish (from the north), live
together with their languages3 and cultures; but political, economic, and cultural
domination emanated from England and, most importantly, from the iconic and
gigantic London. In France, the monarchs and later the Republicans, settled in Paris,
found it convenient to destroy in the south the Provençal culture, the langue d'oc, to
squeeze the Britons into a corner, to forget the German culture of Alsace or the
Basques in the southwest, and prevent any sovereign reverie of the Corsicans;
referring their respective languages to the neglect of "non-recognition". For its part, in

In addition to the small communities that speak Manx (Isle of Man) or Cornish (Cornwall). 20 / 11 /201 7 9
Spain, the dominant political class based in Madrid has always dreamed of an
impossible homogeneity, even though it had used brutal means in the time of fascism,
such as the prohibition of teaching and public use of the languages of the nations
integrated under guardianship of a monarchy without a king; an integration that Rajoy
and his entrenched nationalism, typical of fascism, tries to maintain, with more than
doubtful success, unless he places Franco's tricorn on his head and restores the firing
squads, as suggested by his confrère Casado. In Brazil as in the USA, Indian nations try
to survive, in the first case, to the charges of the agro-business that destroys their
habitat and, in the second, in zoos or reservations.

4 - The aggrandizement of a state apparatus always involves violence

The competition for territories, in particular colonial ones, transformed the

management of the king and court’s expenses into a bureaucratic and financially
complex structure, with high military and administrative expenses, demanding an
income collection machine, adapted to the means of the time but very zealous to
obtain the adequate amounts for the enormous expenses demanded by the
circumstances. As mentioned above (point 1), the tax burden and its collection
apparatus, restricted to the original territory even though it had grown considerably,
was not sufficient for the needs of royal finances.

An essential source of financial resources in which the States relied heavily was the
slave trade. According to Philip D. Curtin in his work The Atlantic Slave Trade, between
the 16th and 19th centuries, 1.6 M African slaves were dumped on the Spanish
colonies of America, 3.6 M on the Portuguese colonies, 2 M on the English ones, on the
French 1.6 M, on the Dutch 0.5 M, with a grand total of 9.2 million people. And it
shouldn’t be forgotten that 20% to 40% of those boarded in Africa died in the 30/50
days trip during which they lay chained in the hold. From Liverpool alone, in the twelve
years ending in 1707, 5300 slave ships sailed to Africa.

The European states charged, for centuries, the slave traders with large sums as
licenses. The Spanish Exchequer, in addition to charging a tax of 100 pesos per “piece”
(a standard for a healthy 15/30 years old male slave) also received a tax between 2.5%
and 5% on the sales and transaction (the VAT of those times...) at the boarding time,
and from 5% to 7.5% at the destination, in the Americas. The receipt for the tax
payment consisted of... a mark made on the slave's skin with a hot iron. Taking into
consideration that upon arrival at Cartagena de las Índias a "piece" was traded for 300
pesos, that it reached 600 in Chile and in the mines of Potosi the price reached 900 20 / 11 /201 7 10
pesos, one can imagine the enormous profit margin of the slave traders and the state
revenues that this business afforded.

The question of slavery, as well as the land occupation of the native communities of
the Americas, reveals that capitalist accumulation had a primordial beginning in the
midst of the greatest violence and robbery; followed by some "democratic"
redistribution with the pirate assaults on silver galleons coming from America and the
result of the payments in gold of the commercial activities’ deficits. As the Iberian
powers had imported, from the Muslim world – and before that from the typically
feudal Northern Europe – the boullionism logic, the extraction of precious metals and
the high profits of the spice and slave trades allowed them to neglect manufacturing
and protectionist measures on importing finished goods, something that England did
not. In the two Iberian countries, the erosion of military power or control of the seas,
continuity of colonial exploitation, lack of interest in land reform, an on-going
conservative royal power, meanwhile enslaved to the persecution of wealthier and
entrepreneurial elites, and in the name of a religious proselytism, sealed their
decadence and their later – and subordinate - arrival at capitalism.

5 - L'Etat, c'est moi

The building up of nation-states in Europe and the accumulation of capital generated

around the slave trade and in the aftermath of slave labor are essential pieces for the
future development of capitalism. Even today, despite high technologies, the crime
economy accounts for about 15% of the world’s GDP, and capitalism does not dispense
with the "pieces" of the 21st century, the refugees, immigrants from Africa or the
Middle East who try to reach Europe; nor the Latin Americans who try their luck in the
United States; not forgetting to mention the trafficking of prostitutes, body organs,
children, and other "niche markets". The financial system, today, does not pass
without the leading role in the integration (laundering) of such a large volume of
capital; and the political classes of the nation-states do not impose taxes on the drug
cartels, but they know that the money involved is laundered in the offshore branches
of their banks and that many entrepreneurs will gain competitiveness through the
recruitment or even enslavement of the "pieces", which is fundamental to growing the
sacrosanct GDP.

In order to maintain a surplus in foreign trade with a corresponding entry of gold,

imports of raw materials would have to be the object of monopolies and subsidies
granted by the State, while at the same time fighting the import of manufactured 20 / 11 /201 7 11
goods through customs duties. The concentration of money on trade would gradually
allow a new model of material production with the commoditization of the land and
the transfer of agricultural work hands, unnecessary in the field, to industrial
production; this new model added to the powers of the absolutist, all-powerful State,
the instruments for labor regulation; and this, despite and against the arts and crafts
guilds that, in general, languished until they disappeared, although recently they were
more or less recovered in the professional orders, as a means of controlling the access
to the work of its (obliged) members. To these roles as regulator, financier, protagonist
in what can be called industrial policy and in the financial balance with the outside,
were joined to other, ancient, powers in the areas of border control, law enforcement,
courts, and war. Together, they substantiated the basis of protectionism and the
affirmation of the nation-state, vis-a-vis its competitors; they marked the absolutist
power, well expressed by Louis XIV, in the second half of the 17th century, when he
supposedly said "L'Etat c'est moi ".

In Portugal, one can follow the performance of a country and an economy that
engendered the peculiar situation of colonizer and colonized. The Methwen's treaty, in
1703, clearly embodies the application of the (uneven) international division of labor,
in which the manufacture of textiles would be an English specialization while Portugal
would engage in the production of wines, which pleased the Douro landlords. A few
years before (1690) the Earl of Ericeira, a great promoter of industry in Portugal,
unable to overcome the English influence and the destabilization sponsored by the
opponents of textile manufacture on the Serra da Estrela, who managed to obtain the
support of the Inquisition, since some industrialists were... new-christians (people with
jew or moorish ancestors or “impure blood”), had committed suicide.

The society’s inability to impose a capitalist development path dovetails with the ease
with which the flow of Brazilian gold allowed it to resort to importation and fill the
deficits resulting from unequal exchanges with England. On the other hand, Brazilian
gold allowed large construction expenditures that did not generate industrial
development in Portugal but produced macaws such as the Mafra Convent; likewise,
the flow of gold did not prevent the Lisbon inhabitants, in order to have an aqueduct
that supplied them with abundant water, from having to pay for it with specific taxes
on food, during many years. Later, in the mid-nineteenth century, the construction of
railroad lines linking rural areas – rather than industrialized (non-existent) urban
centers – proved to be inadequate when abandonment of the fields, flight to the
coastal areas, or emigration phenomena happened. 20 / 11 /201 7 12
The poor devils who say "the State is all of us" do not think they’re Louis XIV, nor do
they mask themselves for the carnival. But they impute to the State a vigilant,
equalitarian and protective spirit of all its subjects that, they believe, would be
represented and protected by the State. Even those state functions in favor of the
population, particularly the working one, in the areas of education, health, or social
action, never fail to be integrated into the more general interests of capitalist
accumulation. The state has always been oligarchic and executor of the measures that
interest capitalism, through the elements of the political class that hold it, in the sense
of keeping tamed the masses, between the stick and the carrot. Those poor devils,
many of whom self-called "leftists", are like the slaves, grateful for the bowl offered by
their owner, whose legitimacy for being in its possession they do not dispute.

6 - The importance of patriotism

The connection between royal power, the commercial bourgeoisie, and, later, the
industrial and financial bourgeoisie, demanded a state that was powerful in face of
external entities and able to dispute markets, colonies, and even the European
physical space, with rivals, within the framework of successive royal succession crises,
promoters of antagonistic alliances. Every nation-state was born and affirmed itself in
an environment of distrust and antagonism with its rivals, creating an increasingly
powerful apparatus, invasive and demanding regarding the encompassed population;
but the relative unity of the various factions of the bourgeoisie and the aristocracy
around the omnipotent king, was not enough against external threats, or to monitor
their own ambitions vis-a-vis the outside world. It was necessary to involve, to engage,
the great mass of the population from the fields and the cities in this "national" design
so that they would accept, without protest or revolt, the tax burden, the military
enlistment, and the domination by the owning classes; and to that effect it become
necessary to instill a new element in the minds of peoples – that ingrained and
irrational feeling of belonging, patriotism; and through it the subordination to the
ruling strata and to the king, in particular, as the living incarnation of the fatherland. It
was meant that people imbued with patriotism would respect boundaries, accept the
loss of autonomy in their lives, the category of subjects of the State, members of a
nation-state4 within which scope they are fragmented into several categories -

Indeed, desertions in the face of wars between nation-states demonstrate that there are many people
unwilling to give their lives for an abstraction that serves as coverage for the very interests of a
privileged minority which finds it has the right to engage, for the sake of those interests, people who 20 / 11 /201 7 13
consumer, taxpayer, spectator, voter, debtor, collaborator, waste (see Man, Social
Being and Fragmented).

As subjects, they would have to be willing to antagonize themselves with unknown

people who had sucked the same patriotic elixir, but from a different bottle, with the
label of another nation-state in conflict with their "homeland5". From a narrower point
of view and of ideological capture, patriotism is no different, nor smarter than
belonging to some fan club; although the political classes exalt the former and appear
more restrained in regard to the latter, while accepting as useful the discharges of
tensions of the most fervent adherents. The adoption of a nationality is like "race", in
which it divides the human species, constricts solidarities and shatters Humanity.

In inventing patriotism, the European bourgeoisies also created a way of making less
expensive the wars they were often involved in – the mandatory military service –
invented by France in modern times, in the follow-up of the French Revolution. With
the new technologies of the time, the war required many soldiers, artillery generated
many casualties and made it impossible to recruit tens or hundreds of thousands of
mercenaries, because there were not enough candidates; and, since the risk was high,
wages would have to be high, according to the well-known law of supply and demand.

The capitalists, who were never clumsy in what regards accounting, saw that it would
be cheaper to persuade or compel a population to defend the "common" homeland,
instilling in them the said feeling of belonging, so that they would accept the sacrifice

have nothing to do with them or their fortunes. Deserters and refractories are treated by political
regimes as cowardly and unpatriotic, a superlative of ignominy for political regimes, the worst of
anathemas; or, in the most benevolent hypothesis, they are ignored even though History has justified
their refusal to participate in the service of oppressors, as in the case of the colonial war that Portugal
carried out in the colonies between 1961 and 1974. In Portugal, the regime introduced in 1974 has been
discreet regarding refractories, deserters and political prisoners of the fascist regime, as well as the
agents of PIDE (the secret police), the military who committed atrocities and war crimes, or the
members of fascism’s political oligarchy. On this subject, we have noted these testimonies:,,MUL912907-5602,00-
The very name of fatherland reveals the prevalence of machismo, undervaluation of women, of being
female, that has not yet been despoiled in designations such as mother-nature or motherland 20 / 11 /201 7 14
and the idea that the king and the lord-owners were engaged in the defense of the
people when in reality, they were the ones with assets and interests at stake, rather
than the vast majority of the people.

Later, schools were an essential instrument for instilling such vile concepts as race and
patriotism, within a vicious context of exaltation of the historical achievements of the
homeland; a homeland in which "our" soldiers shone, were heroes, and the opponents
were defeated, even when in the majority, by the valor and spirit of sacrifice of our
people, bla bla. And when defeat was unavoidable and followed by secular
subjugation, comes the recourse to nostalgia, lamentation, as transposed into the
metaphor of "arriving on a foggy morning" concerning a desired return of King
Sebastian, defeated in Morocco and whose return would withdraw legitimacy to the
investiture of Felipe II of Spain as king of Portugal. Defeats can also underpin
xenophobia, such as occurred centuries after the Serbian defeat by the Ottomans in
the Battle of Kosovo Polje. In the following, those who became members of the
Ottoman administration eventually adopting Islam, recently ascended, in Bosnia, to
the category of Muslims, to differentiate themselves from the Bosnian Serbs and the
Croats, in an imbecile mixture of distinctions, where ethnic or religious criteria are
used in order to maintain divisions and hatreds.

The stressing of patriotism, the exacerbation of belonging to a nation-state,

corresponds to the overestimation of borders, distrust, and animosity towards the
Other, who lives on the other side. In Portugal it is said "from Spain, [comes] neither
good wind nor good marriage" although the family connections between the two sides
of the said border having been common for centuries and the immense linguistic and
cultural affinities. Politically, the separation between the two nation-states has been
stable for centuries, being essentially an abstraction since nothing distinguishes one 20 / 11 /201 7 15
side from the other (the so-called dry border); or, when defined by a river, although it
helps the demarcation it is, as a rule, a link between the two banks and a weak
obstacle, except in the case of the International Douro that, by excavating steep banks,
makes it impossible to cross easily. If the frontier was already in the past a true sieve,
as evidenced by formal commerce, smuggling and, above all, the crossing of armies,
borders are, today, markers of the past, with their castles and fortresses as tourist
attractions, and are only closed in exceptional situations, as we report below, where
the entire political class emerged unified.

In Portugal, after its simultaneous integration with Spain in the EEC, we can remember
only two frontier related moments when admissions were controlled by the police.
The first was when pope Wojtyla visited and more recently during the 2010 NATO
Summit in Lisbon, when pacifist and anti-militarist groups were prevented from
entering Portugal. We recall a bus with Finnish people, who were prevented from
entering through the northern border, a group of Andalusians barred in Vila Verde de
Ficalho and other cases that encompassed about 150 people, without the
parliamentary "left" having spent a neuron regarding this trampling with the freedom
of movement at borders. The Socrates government, the NATO host, sent 42 activists to
jail so they would not disturb the ritual procession convened by the CGTP/PCP and
supported by the "left"; in this context, the government ordered the isolation and
encirclement of the anti-militarist demonstrators, branded as potential terrorists
during the previous days, in order to create an environment conducive to brutal

7 - The beginning of industrial capitalism

Mercantilism gave way to industrial dominance capitalism that integrated into the
productive process the land, commercial activities, technology, and labor, the latter
becoming autonomous by means of a salary. The technology was based on
mechanization, on the use of new materials, on coal, on steam, and was integrated
into the manufacturing system; meaning, the acceptance by the workers, without
discussion, of a working schedule of thirteen hours during which accidents could
happen, and absolute obedience to the instructions emanating from the boss,
supreme entity within the factory.

In slavery, subsistence was provided for by the owner and productivity tended to be
low; it was increased only by the whip on the back, which required a prolonged
vigilance, with the related costs. In the new paradigm, in capitalism, wage earners – 20 / 11 /201 7 16
men, women, and children – were no longer part of an owner's inventory and could be
trained in technical routines. They received a salary that they could formally negotiate,
they could also change their employer or location, and they could also be dismissed; in
this context, a performance considered to be insufficient was tantamount to dismissal
and hunger... in freedom.

The salaried workers, whose initial stage salary was at the subsistence level, had no
other resources to meet all their needs; and this penury played to the capitalist’s hand
who pressed for the workers’ performance overachievement, leading to productivity
increase; their productivity would, of course, be higher than that of a slave.

As for the routine imposed by the factory system, each employee had, as only
alternatives, submission or starvation and death. Thus, a collective will for change, for
the improvement of the working and living conditions that could lead to the abolition
of capitalism, was generated. To this end, it would be necessary to destroy the state
machine that works for the defense of the capitalists.

This economic reality was in line with the humanitarian spirit which, in the higher
social strata of England, was fighting slavery and led to the abolition of trafficking in
1807 and slavery in England and its colonies in 1833. The same anti-slavery strata,
however, forgot humanitarianism at their factories’ doors, where enormously hard
work prevailed along with the low wages earned, especially by women and children.

There are those who proudly claim that the first anti-slavery legislation in the world
was proclaimed in Portugal by the Marquis of Pombal, in 1761, legislation which,
already at the time, highlighted the very current practice of a truncated or unfulfilled
application. It should be noted that it only had legal application within the European
and so-called Portuguese India territories, since slavery continued to be strong in
Brazil, where it was abolished only in 1888, after trafficking was banned in 1850. Thus,
the Marquis later reinforced this legal provision with the of the free womb law, under
which a child from a slave mother was born free.

As a matter of fact, in Portugal, slavery ended only in 1854 (long after England and due
to British pressure) when a decree freed the state-owned slaves, however the pious
Catholic Church continued to own slaves until 1856; the last of the old slaves died in
the twentieth century thirties6. By decree, slavery was abolished in the colonies in

"Slaves in Portugal - From Origins to the 19th Century" by Arlindo Manuel Caldeira 20 / 11 /201 7 17
25/2/1869 but, in practice, it lasted until 1876, having been quickly replaced by forced
labor, a form of "civilizing" the Africans (Regulation of Indigenous Labor, 1899 7). The
factual duration of slavery in Portugal is, of course, linked to the backwardness of the
economic and social structures which allowed a degree of "profitability" for slavery,
since these were mainly servile, and thus disconnected from economic activity. As in
many parts of the world , slavery continues to exist in Portugal.

(to be continued)

This and other texts at:

Margarida Seixas "Slave labor and forced labor in the nineteenth-century Portuguese colonization: a
historical-legal analysis", 2015 20 / 11 /201 7 18