What is nationalism for Giuseppe Mazzini


Mazzini's attempt to define the nation


Guiseppe Mazzini (1805-72) was one of the most important pioneers of Italian nationalism and fighter for a democratic unification of Italy during the Risorgimento.

The following text, cited here in excerpts, is directed against the division of the Italian peninsula into different, autocratically governed principalities. On the other hand, it sets the principle of the nation, which calls for a democratic, free, unitary state. It is taken from:

Mazzini, Giuseppe
Political writings / by Giuseppe Mazzini. - Leipzig: Reichenbach
Signature (s): A 16648


... By the people we understand the totality of the people who form a nation.

The mass of wandering people does not form a nation if it is not guided by common principles, fraternized in a unified striving, governed by the same laws. Nation is a word that represents unity. Unity of principles, goal and law is the only thing that unites a mass of people in common. Without this there is no nation, only tribes. ... The Italians, denied any manifestation of principles, purpose and rights, are tribes to this day.

On the other hand, a society of people who are united by an egoistic principle for a purely material goal is therefore not yet a nation. A band of robbers, at times united for a conquest, is therefore not yet a nation. For a nation to exist, the principles, goal, and law out of which it is formed must have an enduring foundation. The principle in which she believes must therefore be inviolable and progressive, so that neither time nor people's moods consume it. The goal must be thoroughly moral because a purely material goal is limited in its nature and therefore offers no basis for permanent union. Law must be derived from human nature, the only thing that centuries will not destroy.

Unity of principles can only be understood as free and immediate, not ruled by violence or deceit.

The own perfecting, the orderly development of the own abilities is the common goal for all individuals.

The goal of the nation is the perfecting and progressive development of forces and social activity.

The means is union.

The union of forces multiplies the forces themselves. The growth or decline of these forces, and consequently the moral and material products which they accumulate, is directly related to the power of the bond of union. The weakening of this bond marks the decline of nations and the need for revolution to revitalize them. When the Roman Empire fell, provinces fought provinces; few or none remained obedient to the capital; Praetorians fought with senators, Christians with pagan priests, philosophers against both, plebeians against patricians. In every country before the great revolutions, history shows that spectacle of dissolution and of the conflicting interests in the various classes, in the various strata of the state.

True union exists only between equals in rights and duties. Where the unity of law is not a general law there is caste, rule, privilege, superiority, helotism, bondage, dependence, no equilibrium, no freedom, no association based on free harmony. ...

Equality, freedom, union, these three elements alone make up a nation!

By nation we mean the totality of citizens speaking the same language who are united for the equality of civil and political rights, for the common goal of progressively developing and perfecting the social forces and the activities of these forces.

The first consequence of the union and the equality of the United is that no family, no individual can take exclusive control over all or part of the forces and social activity. The second consequence is that no class or individual can take over the administration of forces and social activity without a direct mandate from the nation.

Hence the abolition of every hereditary privilege. Consequently, all individuals who make up the ruling hierarchy are recalled agents of the nation, not appointed to a right, office, or authority for themselves but for the nation.

The nation alone is absolute ruler.

Any power not emanating from it is misappropriation. Every individual who goes beyond the scope of his duties by even one line is an unfaithful proxy. The nation alone has the inviolable right to choose, improve and change its state institutions when they no longer meet its needs and the advancement of the social spirit.

But since the nation cannot fully unite in an assembly to deliberate and determine its state institutions, it acts by means of delegation, in that it. Choosing a certain number of men in whom she has confidence to represent the expression of her needs and will and to make it law.

The will of the nation, uttered by agents elected by it, forms the law for the citizens.

The national representation must therefore reflect in itself all conditions of the existence of the nation.


Unity of the nation, unity of national representation. The unity of one draws that of the other.

The nation in its broad unification embraces all social elements and forces. So for representation to be truly national, it must contain the expression of all those elements, all those forces.

Where one of these forces is neglected, representation is not national. The pursuit of that force to be represented creates the need for complete transformation. Hence struggle and the need for revolution, not calm, peaceful progress. ...

In order for the representation to be truly national, it is necessary for every citizen to contribute through his or her vote to form it. Anyone who did not exercise the right to vote in some way would cease to be a citizen. He would have violated the treaty of the association if the expression of his will were not taken into account, and any law would be tyrannical to him. ...

The assembled voters act as representatives of the nation. The power of the nation is unlimited, and therefore the restrictions placed on the exercise of that power and the election of representatives are contrary to the principle of national rule. ...


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