In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Left harboured a hope that nationalism would disappear as the workers of the world realised it was a divisive capitalist scam. Sadly, nationalism has proven particularly resilient – and since the end of WW2 unleashed wars of national liberation and separatism, the Left has become its biggest advocate.

But there’s our separatists and their separatists. Left-wingers around the world were reflexively pro-Serbian and anti-Kosovan simply because the Kosovars had the misfortune to be supported by the US. The Russians also opposed Kosovan separatism, claiming it would set dangerous precedents throughout Eastern and Western Europe.

Now the Russians are backing separatists in South Ossetia with all the might of its revitalised military – while the “international community”, including Australia, regards South Ossetia as belonging to Georgia – nice, pro-Western, anti-Russian Georgia.

Australia has happily flip-flopped on separatism before. We long regarded East Timor as the property of the Indonesians. But now we prop up what is in essence a wholly unviable micro-state.

Is it too much to ask for a little less hypocrisy about nationalism?

Peter Fray

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