The national question

no bordersThe question of nationalities - that is, the oppression of nations and national minorities, which has characterised capitalism from its birth till the present time - has always occupied a central position in Marxist theory. Once again, the historical materialist approach of Marxism dissolves the apparent “natural” role of the nation as a necessary expression of human society. Nations have by no means always existed, nor will they always exist in the future.

The nation as we know it today is a product of the development of capitalism and its need to unify peoples into units of a certain size (depending on the level of the system’s development – e.g. more recently formed nations tend to be much bigger) to consolidate the market. The contradictions and tensions between nations are a result of capitalism’s “combined and uneven” development. The contradictions of the capitalist mode of production itself force each ruling class to expand outwards, developing a global market and imperialism in the process.

The violent tensions that this process breeds in turn give rise to nationalism, racism and wars. There is no way a successful world revolution, abolishing the global capitalist system, can take place without a careful and nuanced understanding of the national question, with all the sensitivities and complexity it brings. Therefore this section is of the utmost importance for revolutionaries.

The process of capitalist restoration in Serbia has been brutal. Hundreds of thousands of workers in the old industries have lost their jobs. The old social buffers provided by the planned economy have been dismantled. In this atmosphere a sombre mood dominates the working class. The only outlet the ruling class can offer is to keep whipping up nationalist sentiment.

At a meeting in London recently Linda Clarke of the Socialist Appeal talks about Marxism in relation to the national question. Linda talks about the history and evolution of the nation state, the meaning of bourgeois nationalism, and deals with the particular circumstances of the national question in relation to Scotland, Ireland and the position of the Marxists during the Falklands war.

Today August 31, Malaysia celebrates half a century of independence from British colonial rule.  At the age of 50, Malaysia still suffers from a deep ethnic and religious divide sown by imperialism. Today's problems are the legacy of colonial rule and continuing capitalist interests pitting ordinary working people against each other.

This audio file, recorded on the 11th June at the Socialist Appeal London aggregate, hears Rob Lyon talk on the National Question in relation to the current and historical situation in Quebec.

In the morning hours of Saturday, March 11, Slobodan Milosevic, was found dead in his prison cell at the Hague. With his death, the bourgeois media began once again to dig through the recent history of the Balkans in an attempt to make sense of the break-up of former Yugoslavia. But what was the role played by Milosevic, and what is the feeling over his death in Serbia?

As part of our commemoration of the centenary of Lenin's death, we are publishing a series of articles about his life and ideas. Lenin not only led the first succesful socialist revolution, but he also made an enourmous contribution to Marxist theory. The present article deals with the important contribution he made on the national question, and how such a correct stand on this issue guaranteed the success of the Bolshevik Party in October 1917.

Marxism is based on internationalism or it is nothing. This approach has nothing to do with sentimentality, but is rooted in the international character of capitalism itself. From 1914 onwards Lenin conducted an open struggle against those leaders who had betrayed the cause, social-chauvinists, as he called them. Together with a handful of internationalists, he fought to maintain the clean banner of international socialism and prepare the ground for a new International of the working class.

The bloodshed that took place throughout the former Yugoslavia in the last decade has been interpreted in many different ways by many different bourgeois theoreticians. The only common threads throughout all these pearls of wisdom were those of the sometimes naïve, but mostly calculated, interest driven prejudices and nonsense. In an attempt to explain the ongoing war, the media labelled it as “ethnic”, “religious”, “civil” and in some cases even “tribal”. As Marxists we fight against these misinterpretations which flow from a basic misunderstanding of the causes and nature of the wave of violence which hit the Balkans in the nineties.

Almost five years since the fighting ceased and NATO troops were sent in to pacify the region, conflict between Serbs and Kosovar Albanians has flared up once again. This renewed conflict confirms everything we have said about Kosovo and the wider problems affecting the whole of the Balkans. The fundamental problems have not been resolved. They have been simmering below the surface.

In the three articles that Luis Oviedo has written in answer to my article published on January 7 (Marxism versus Sectarianism - Reply to Luis Oviedo) a number of very important issues are raised. These questions deserve the most careful consideration by Marxists in Britain, Argentina and internationally. However, in order to clarify the issues raised and to educate the cadres (which ought to be the aim of every polemic) it is necessary to avoid heated language, distortions and personal attacks that only serve to divert attention away from the political questions. Such an approach will only confuse matters

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My attention was recently drawn to an article signed by Luis Oviedo, entitled The Counterrevolutionary Position of Socialist Appeal(in Prensa Obrera nº 826).Having read the article, I could not decide whether it was the product of bad faith or simple ignorance. Certainly, the method used is contrary to every basic principle of Marxism and above all Trotskyism, which comrade Oviedo and the Partido Obrero (PO) claim to defend.

John Maclean was undoubtedly a class fighter and Marxist, but he made one important mistake, and that was to succumb to the idea that a socialist revolution would be possible in Scotland, separate from the rest of Britain. Ted Grant briefly comments on why this was.

On March 30, 1982, in response to Argentina's deepening economic crisis, and the repression of General Galtieri's military-police dictatorship, the workers had taken to the streets of Buenos Aires. The regime was staring overthrow in the face. It responded by starting a war, one of the principal aims of which was to distract the attention of the masses.

The national question was of primary importance in the process of revolution and counter-revolution in the 1930s, from which important lessons can be learned. Today, the national question of the Spanish state continues without resolution. The bourgeoisie have been historically incapable of successfully completing the task of a bourgeois-democratic revolution of national unification. On the contrary, 40 years of horrible centralism, exercised by the Francoist dictatorship, exacerbated the centralist tendencies. Upon the fall of Francoism, these tendencies became even more defined.

A 4 part document by Alan Woods and Ted Grant. The question of nationalities has always occupied a central position in Marxist theory. In particular, the writings of Lenin deal with this important issue in great detail. It is true to say that, without a correct appraisal of the national question, the Bolsheviks would never have succeeded in coming to power in 1917. This document reviews the rich Marxist literature on this issue and applies it to today's conditions.

This article looks at the effects of the war in Kosovo on international relations, the perspectives for the opposition movement in Serbia, the situation in Kosovo and the relations between the KLA and NATO, and stresses the need for an independent working class internationalist policy.

This short article by Alan Woods, was originally written for the Galician language magazine "Onte e Hoxe" and it deals with the general position of Marxism in relation to the national question and also explains the situation in relation to Kosovo.

NATO has not achieved a "victory" in Kosovo. It has not achieved its war aims. The TV and the press are attempting to convince public opinion that the bombing campaign has achieved its objectives. But as in all wars the first casualty is the truth itself. Anyone who wants to understand what is really happening must be careful not to be blown off track by the propaganda machine of the bourgeoisie.

History repeats itself, wrote Karl Marx. First as tragedy, then as farce. After the most inept military campaign since the Crimean War, we are now treated to the spectacle of the most ridiculous diplomatic bungling in history.

"Something must be done" is the understandable feeling of workers watching the harrowing scenes on our TV screens every evening. The sight of thousands of people herded into giant camps, the pictures of the displaced, the dispossessed and the dead, the screaming children, the helpless pensioners, the hungry and the diseased cannot but stir our emotions.

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