The national question

In the period of capitalism's decadence, it is no longer possible for the working class to given any support of any kind whatever, to so-called movements of "national liberation". All states are equally imperialist.

10. THE COUNTER REVOLUTIONARY MYTH OF 'NATIONAL LIBERATION'

National liberation and the formation of new nations has never been a specific task of the proletariat. If in the nineteenth century revolutionaries gave their support to certain national liberation movements, they did not have any illusions that these were anything but bourgeois movements; neither did they give their support in the name of ‘the rights of nations to self determination’. They supported such movements because in the ascendant phase of capitalism the nation represented the most appropriate framework for the development of capitalism, and the establishment of new nation states, by eliminating the constricting vestiges of pre-capitalist social relations, represented a step forward in the development of the productive forces on a world scale and thus in the maturation of the material conditions for socialism. (see note)

As capitalism entered its period of decline, the nation together with capitalist relations of production as a whole, became too narrow for the development of the productive forces. Today in a situation where even the oldest and most powerful countries are incapable of developing, the juridical constitution of new countries does not lead to any real progress. In a world divided up by the imperialist blocs every ‘national liberation’ struggle, far from representing something progressive, can only be a moment in the continuous conflict between rival imperialist blocs in which the workers and peasants, whether voluntarily or forcibly enlisted, only participate as cannon fodder.

Such struggles in no way ‘weaken imperialism’ because they do not challenge it at its roots: in the capitalist relations of production. If they weaken one imperialist bloc it is only to strengthen another; and the new nations set up in such conflicts must themselves become imperialist, because in the epoch of decadence no country, whether large or small, can avoid engaging in imperialist policies.

In the present epoch a ‘successful’ struggle for ‘national liberation’ can only mean a change in imperialist masters for the country concerned; for the workers, especially in the new ‘socialist’ countries, it means an intensification, a systematisation, a militarisation of exploitation by the statified capital which - because it is an expression of the barbarism of the system - proceeds to transform the ‘liberated’ nation into a concentration camp. Contrary to what some people claim, these struggles do not provide the proletariat of the Third World with a springboard for class struggle. By mobilising the workers behind the national capital in the name of ‘patriotic’ mystifications, these struggles always act as a barrier to the proletarian struggle which is often extremely bitter in such countries. Over the last fifty years history has amply shown, contrary to the assertions of the Communist International, that ‘national liberation’ struggles do not serve as an impetus to the struggle either of the workers in the advanced countries or of the workers in the backward the workers in the backward countries. Neither have anything to gain from such struggles, nor any camp to choose. In these conflicts the only revolutionary slogan against this latter-day version of ‘national defence’ dressed up as so-called ‘national liberation’, is the one revolutionaries took up during World War I: revolutionary defeatism, "turn the imperialist war into a civil war". Any position of ‘unconditional’ or ‘critical’ support for these struggles is, whether intentionally or not, similar to the positions of the ‘social chauvinists’ of the First World War. It is thus totally incompatible with coherent communist activity.

The national question 100 years after the Easter Rising

How the failure to understand that changing conditions invalidated the Second International's stand on democracy and the national question led the internationalist James Connolly into support for the Irish nationalist uprising in Dublin, 1916.

The bunkerisation of world capitalism

Borders as a demarcation of the ownership of land are as old as the existence of property itself. There simply is no existence of property without the demarcation and defence of it. With the advent of major empires such as the Rome or China, gigantic fortified borders were set up: Hadrian’s Wall, Limes, the Great Wall of China. So the existence of such borders to defend an empire against the invasion of rivals is nothing new. 

Milliband and the Mail: Marxists are not patriots

It does not require a very radical starting point to expose the Daily Mail’s attack on Ed Miliband through the medium of a thoroughly nasty and very poorly argued hack-job on Ed’s father Ralph. The Daily Mail piece was so unpleasant that top Tories rushed to condemn it, and it emerged rather rapidly that the Mail had ‘shot itself in the foot’ with this one. If the paper had hoped to whip up a new panic about ‘Red Ed’ following Miliband Junior’s announcement, at the Labour conference, of a plan to freeze energy prices, it mainly succeeded in directing the fire on itself while simultaneously embarrassing the Conservative Party.

Internationalism is the only response to the Kurdish issue

In early August 2012, an international anarchist meeting was held in the commune of St Imier (Swiss Jura). One of the speakers was the spokesperson of Fekar. The initiative to let this person speak at the meeting was taken by the Swiss group of the Forum of German-speaking Anarchists, which aims to bring together Turkish/Kurdish anarchists in a single federation.

Introduction to the 2nd English edition of the “Left Wing of the Communist Party of Turkey”

The purpose of this article is to introduce the new English edition of our pamphlet on the Left Wing of the Turkish Communist Party (Türkiye Komünist Partisi, TKP), which will be serialised in the following issues of the Review. The first edition of the pamphlet was published in 2008 by the Turkish group Enternasyonalist Komünist Sol (Internationalist Communist Left, EKS), which had already at the time adopted the ICC's basic positions as a statement of principle, and had begun to discuss the ICC's Platform.

The Chinese question (1920-40): The communist left against the treason degenerated Communist International

We have already published in our Review a series of articles on so-called Communist China, in which we showed the counter-revolutionary nature of Maoism. If we return here to the fight waged by the Chinese proletariat during the 1920s, up until the terrible defeat it suffered in Shanghai and Canton, it is not only because this was a significant expression of the balance of forces between bourgeois and proletariat at the international level, but also because it played an important role in the revolutionary movement itself, owing to the decisive political battles which it engendered.

Revolutionary milieu: Theses of the Alptraum Communist Collective (Mexico)

Correspondence: National and democratic demands yesterday and today

We have recently had an exchange of correspondence with a reader in Quebec which has led us once again to present our view not only of “national liberation” struggles, a subject we have dealt with at some length in our publications, but also of “democratic demands” in general which we have not previously dealt with in a specific, developed text on our part. To the extent that the arguments we present here have a general import and respond to a real questioning within the working class, especially because of the influence of the parties of the left and far left, we thought it would be useful to publish large extracts from this correspondence.

Luxemburg's critique of the Bolsheviks

Luxemburg’s critique of national liberation struggles in general and the Bolsheviks’ nationalities policy in particular was the most penetrating of any at the time because it was based on an analysis of world imperialism which went far deeper than the one developed by Lenin. In texts such as The Accumulation of Capital (1913) and The Junius Pamphlet (1915) she showed that imperialism was not merely a form of thievery perpetrated by the advanced capitals on the backward nations but was an expression of a totality of world capitalist relations...

Nation or Class?

The ICC's pamphlet on the national question is now available on-line here.

Part 1: The debate on the national question at the dawn of decadence

Workers of countries, unite.” This call at the end of the Communist Manifesto written by Marx and Engels in 1848 was not just an exuberant exhortation; it expressed one of the most vital conditions for the victory of the working class. From its very birth the movement of the working class proclaimed its international class character against the national boundaries which marked the development of the domination of the capitalist class over the proletariat.

Communists and the National Question, Part 2 (1900-1920): The debate during the years of imperialist war

In the first article in this series in International Review 34, we examined the attitude of communists to the national question on the eve of capitalism’s decadent epoch, and in particular the debate between Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg on whether the working class should support ‘the right of nations to self determination’. We concluded that even when some national liberation struggles could still be considered progressive vis a vis the interests of the working class, such a slogan had to be rejected.

Communists and the National Question, Part 3: The Debate during the Revolutionary Wave and the Lessons for Today

In this third and last articles we want to examine the most crucial testing time for the revolutionary movement: the historic events between the seizure of power by the Russian workers in 1917 and the Second Congress of the Communist International in 1920; from the first optimistic step towards the destruction of capitalism to the first signs of defeat of the workers’ struggles and the degeneration of the movement in Russia.

100 years ago: the Russian revolution of 1905 and the Soviet of workers' deputies

In this issue, we continue the article begun in International Review n°122, where we highlighted the change in period which formed the backdrop to the events of 1905 in Russia, as capitalism entered the watershed between its ascendant and decadent periods. We also described the conditions that had favoured the radicalisation of the struggle in Russia: the existence of a modern, concentrated and highly conscious working class confronted by the attacks of a capitalism whose situation had been worsened by the disastrous effects of the war with Japan. The working class was thus led into a direct confrontation with the state in order to defend its living conditions, and organised in soviets to undertake this new historic phase in its struggle. The first part of this article recounted how the first workers’ councils were formed, and what needs they answered. This second part analyses in more detail how the soviets were formed, how they were linked to the movement of the whole working class, and their relationship with the trades unions. In fact, the unions – which already in 1905 no longer corresponded to the organisational needs of the working class in the new period, only played a positive role inasmuch as they were pulled along by the movement’s dynamic, in the wake of the soviets and under their authority.

ICC public meeting in Moscow: Decadence of capitalism means all national struggles are reactionary

In October the ICC held a public meeting in Moscow to present our pamphlet on the decadence of capitalism, recently published in the Russian language.

This meeting and the publication of the pamphlet in Russian are an expression of the emerging revolutionary milieu in Russia, which the ICC has written about extensively (see for example International Review 111).

Correspondence with International Communist Union: There are no more national liberation wars

ICC Introduction

We are publishing the platform of one of the new groups in Russia, which is moving towards the positions of the communist left. The ICU originated as the Kirov Marxist group in 1997 following a strike by teachers in that city. Initially the group attempted to work with the official Communist Party, later with various leftist groups, but more and more found that such activity was a “useless waste of time”. The current title of their paper in Russia is World Revolution.

For workers' unity against all racial divisions

At the end of the 19th century Frederick Engels called anti-semitism "the socialism of fools".

You're poor, you're exploited, your life is miserable - so blame it on another group, the vast majority of whom are also poor, miserable and exploited, in the case Engels was talking about, the Jews. Who can benefit from this except the exploiters? It's exactly the same in Britain today with all the hatred being stirred up against 'asylum seekers', or Asians, or blacks - a hatred that has burst out into 'race riots' in a number of northern towns.

Middle East: Spiral of nationalist hatred

At the time of writing, the latest atrocity in Israel/Palestine is the suicide bombing at a Tel Aviv disco, which left at least 17 young people dead and scores more injured. By the time this paper comes back from the printer, it is more than likely that the Israeli state will have exacted its revenge � perhaps another air raid on a refugee camp charged with harbouring the terrorists of Islamic Jihad who have claimed responsibility for the Tel Aviv bombing. Sharon will pretend that this is an attack on a military target, but as ever it will be defenceless civilians who will die or see their homes reduced to rubble. This in turn will provoke new acts of revenge by the Islamic groups or even by hapless, despairing individuals, like the Palestinian bus driver who drove his bus into a line of Israeli passengers.

Class struggle in the periphery of capitalism

The IBRP has published Theses on Communist Tactics for the Periphery of Capitalism which put forward its position on the existence within capitalism of a division between the central and peripheral countries, and its consequences for the class struggle between bourgeoisie and proletariat. The Theses give a response to the different questions about the national question and the proletariat, such as:

The 'Serbian Revolution': a victory for the bourgeoisie, not the working class

As we put this issue together, there have been major upheavals in ex-Yugoslavia and we want to take position on them immediately . It is our responsibility as a revolutionary organisation to do so . even if we can only be brief here. Our readers can be sure that we will quickly develop our analysis of these events, and our intervention in general, in particular through our various territorial publications.

The national question today: response to the CRI

At the beginning of 2004, we had an exchange of e-mails with the CRI which claims to be breaking from the logic of official Trotskyism in the name of a return to “authentic” Trotskyism. This group also sent us a collection of documents, which we studied along with the texts published on its web site. As a result, we sent the group a detailed reply, which we reproduce below. In it, we demonstrate on the basis of Lenin’s writing that there is no possibility of defending proletarian positions within Trotskyism today. Breaking with a particular Trotskyist organisation without making a complete break with the whole logic of Trotskyism, can only, as far as the question of war is concerned, lead to supporting one bourgeois faction against another.

The myth of national sovereignty

"Iraq is sovereign" declared Condoleza Rice on 29 June in a note to President Bush when the US coalition officially handed over to the new provisional government of Iraq. "Let freedom reign" was Bush's triumphant note in the margin.

South Africa: A proletarian voice against the ANC

In May the media was full of stories about the success of 10 years of 'democracy' in South Africa. The pictures of tens of thousands of workers queuing up to vote for the first time in May 1994 were dragged out the vaults to remind us of what a benefit democracy is for humanity. The reality for the working class has been worsening living and working conditions: 76% of households in South Africa live below the poverty line, an increase of 15% since 1996; unemployment has doubled since 1994; income in black households fell by 19% between 1995 and 2000 (Insights, issue 46). All of this presided over by the 'liberators' of the African National Congress.

Spain 1936 and the Friends of Durruti

Presentation

Anarchism today has the wind in its sails. Anarchist ideas, in the form both of the emergence and strengthening of anarcho-syndicalism, and of the appearance of numerous small libertarian groups, are getting off the ground in several countries (and are getting more and more attention from the capitalist media). This is perfectly explicable inperfectly explicable in the present historic period.

India and Pakistan: capitalism's lethal folly

Introduction: Capitalism has no future to offer

Since the events of 11th September, the war in Afghanistan, and the renewed massacres in the Middle East, two more alarming events have come to the forefront of the world situation: the threat of war between India and Pakistan, who have been fighting for control of Kashmir ever since their creation and who now are armed with nuclear weapons, and the electoral success of far-right parties in Western Europe, which has provided the bourgeoisie with the opportunity to resurrect the fascist bogey and build up enormous campaigns in favour of "democracy".

Iraq, Kosovo: the whole of capitalism is responsible

The war which has just broken out in ex-Yugoslavia, with the bombardment of Serbia by NATO forces, is the most serious event on the scene of world imperialism since the collapse of the Eastern bl of world imperialism since the collapse of the Eastern bloc in 1989. Although the forces in operation remain far fewer, for the moment, than during the Gulf War in 1991, the significance of the present conflict is of a different order of magnitude altogether. Today, the barbarity of war is unleashed in the heart of Europe, no more than a couple of hours away from its major capitals. This was already true during the previous conflicts which have ravaged ex-Yugoslavia since 1991 and which have already claimed hundreds of thousands of victims. But this time, it is the great capitalist powers themselves, including the USA, which are the direct protagonists of the war.

Reply to the MLP: Proletarian Socialist Revolution Against the 'Right of Nations to Self-Determination'

In previous issues of the International Reviewwe have published a considerable amount of correspondence with the Marxist Labour Party in Russia. The main focus of this exchange has been our disagreements about the problem of capitalism’s decadence and its implications for certain key questions, notably the class nature of the October revolution and the problem of “national liberation”.

Balance sheet of 70 years of 'national liberation' struggles, Part 3

In the first article of the series (International Review 66) we demonstrated how ‘national liberation’ acted as a deadly poison for the international revolutionary wave of 1917-23; in the second part (IR 68) we showed how ‘national libera­tion’ wars and the new states form inseparable cogs of impe­rialism and imperialist wars. In this third part we want to demonstrate the tragic economic and social disaster caused by the existence of the 150 nations created in the 20th cen­tury.

 

"National liberation" in the 20th century: a strong link in the chain of imperialism

Marx said that the truth of a theory is demonstrated in practice. For the proletariat, 70 years of bitter experience have clearly resolved the debate on the national question in favour of the position developed by Rosa Luxemburg and then by the groups of the Communist Left, especially Bilan, Internationalisme and our Current. In the first part of this article we saw how support for "national liberation of the people" played a crucial role in the defeat of the first international proletarian revolutionary wave between 1917 and 1923 (see International Review no 66). In this second part we will see that the "national liberation" struggles have been an instrument of the imperialist wars and confrontations that have wracked the planet for the last 70 years.
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