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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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...
“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.
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.
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.
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
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).
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.
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.
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.
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:
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
At the beginning of 2004, we had an exchange of e-mails with
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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
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.
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.