There can be no more talk in the workers’ movement of any right to national self-determination either before, during, or after the victory of the proletarian revolution. The extension of the revolution means the speediest possible destruction of national frontiers, the establishment of the power of the workers’ councils over wider and wider areas of the globe. The real creation of communist social relations can only take place on a world scale.
In the old workers’ movement it was possible to have the confused idea that socialism was to some extent realisable behind national frontiers, that the world community could be created by a process of gradual fusion of ‘socialist economies’. But the experience of Russia has shown that not only is the construction of socialism difficult in one country, it is actually impossible. As long as global capital exists, it will continue to dominate all the rhythms of production and consumption everywhere. No matter how far the workers in one country go towards the elimination of the forms of capitalist exploitation in one area, they continue to be exploited by world capital. Before communism can be definitively created, capitalism must be definitively destroyed everywhere. Communism cannot be built ‘within’ capitalism.
Rosa Luxemburg and Lenin could speak of national self-determination under socialism and still remain revolutionaries. Today those who use the same terms are advocates of the capitalist counter-revolution. This applies to the Stalinists with their socialism in one country; to the Trotskyists with their fantasy of ‘workers’ states’ happily co-existing on a near-eternal world market. It also applies to libertarians and anarchists who favour ‘self-management in one country’. The retention of the nation state means national frontiers, international exchange, international competition – in short, capitalism. The construction of socialism/communism is nothing less than the construction of the world human community. It is the liberation of the productive forces from the fetters imposed by national divisions and commodity exchange. It is the worldwide, socialisation of production and consumption. It is the proletariat’s abolition of itself as an exploited class and the integration of all classes into a real social humanity that will appear for the first time.
In the transition period between capitalism and the classless society, the immense social dislocation and suffering bequeathed to the working class by capitalism can only begin to be abolished through the worldwide generalization of communist relations of production. On this basis alone can the problems that ravage the Third World and humanity as a whole be resolved. Unemployment, starvation, destruction and pillage of the natural environment, imbalance of the international industrial infrastructure – these fundamental problems are integral to the capitalist mode of production and can only be eliminated through the conscious planning of the world’s productive activity by the producers themselves.
In the reconstruction and transformation of a world ravaged by decades of capitalist decay, the proletariat will inevitably confront problems of national, racial, and cultural divisions within its own ranks and within humanity as a whole. All these divisions will have to be faced, and discussed freely and openly within the workers’ councils and the territorial councils through which the proletarian power will deal with the rest of the population. But the final liquidation of these divisions can only be achieved by the continuous revolutionizing of the social fabric, which will undermine the material basis of such divisions and render them obsolete. As it moves towards the human community, the proletariat will initiate the fusion of all existing cultures into a truly universal culture, a higher synthesis of every previous human cultural achievement into the new culture of communism. With the emergence of this universal culture, the ‘tribal’ phase of human prehistory ends, and the real history of humanity begins.