Thinking of the British troops and the Russian Revolution would you think individuals feel stronger ties to people of their own class throughout the world? Or is loyalty to ones country a more...

Thinking of the British troops and the Russian Revolution would you think individuals feel stronger ties to people of their own class throughout the world? Or is loyalty to ones country a more powerful force?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Although there are people of both types in the world, I would argue that the people who feel more loyalty to their country than to their class are more prevalent.  This can be seen in some ways in the American Revolution and perhaps even more clearly in conflicts such as World War I.  It is shown less in the Russian Revolution because in that war there was not necessarily any conflict between class and nation.

In the Russian Revolution, a person could be both for their class and for their nation.  Someone who was fighting in the Red Army could have been fighting for the working class or they could have been fighting for their vision of what Russia should be.  A person in the White Army could be fighting for the upper class or the middle class or for their vision of the ideal Russia.  Fighting on the side of one’s class did not entail fighting against one’s homeland.

In the American Revolution, we can see more evidence of the power of nationalism.  In many cases, there were poor or working class people (or people of yeoman farmer stock) fighting on both sides of the war.  The British soldiers fought (at least in part) to maintain their country’s power and prestige instead of fighting to help the Americans who were of their same class.  This dynamic is somewhat complicated by the fact that something like 30,000 of the British soldiers were mercenaries hired from Germany.  These people were fighting neither for class nor for country. 

In World War I, we can more clearly see the power of nationalism.  Socialist parties all over Europe tended to oppose the war.  They saw it as a war fought by the poor and the workers to help the rich.  The socialists did not want workers to participate in the war but they typically were unable to persuade the workers because the pull of nationalism was much stronger than the pull of class for many workers.  (We must, of course, take into account the fact that it would have been hard for many working class people to avoid participating in the war since most countries were conscripting men to fight.)

In the history of the world, we see very little evidence that there are strong ties between people of the same class in different countries.  People tend to feel much more loyalty to their country, particularly when their country is in danger. 

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