The national question is closely linked with the question of classes and the national struggle is linked with the class struggle. “In different periods,” Comrade Stalin has stated, “different classes appear on the arena of struggle and each class has its own conception of the national question.” For this reason, “the national question in different periods serves different interests, and assumes different aspects, depending upon which class poses this question and in what period.”
So, in order to understand bourgeois nationalism, we must first understand the bourgeoisie as a class. The bourgeois-nationalist concept of the nation - the bourgeois approach to the nation - and its programme and policy in dealing with the national question, are based upon the class foundation of the bourgeoisie and flows from its narrow class interests.
It is common knowledge that the class interests of the bourgeoisie are built on the foundation of capitalist exploitation. It seeks profits and still more profits.
The bourgeois class itself is divided into several strata, and each of those into several groups. In their pursuit of profits, the capitalists not only unscrupulously exploit the proletariat; even within their own class the capitalists do not scruple to swallow up their rivals in competition - the big fish swallows the little fish, the big bourgeoisie swallows the petty an middle bourgeoisie, one group squeezes out and swallows another group.
The bourgeoisie strives to possess the means of production and the market of its own country. And since its greed for profits knows no limits, the bourgeoisie strives to expand beyond its own country, to seize foreign markets, sources of raw materials and areas for capital investment, thus subjugating other nations and exploiting them. At the same time it squeezes out the bourgeoisie or rival capitalists of other countries.
The exploitation of wage labour, competition, the squeezing out, suppressing and swallowing of rivals among the capitalists themselves, the resorting to war and even world war, the utilisation of all means to secure a monopoly position in its own country and throughout the world - such is the inherent character of the profit-seeking bourgeoisie. This is the class basis of bourgeois nationalism and of all bourgeois ideologies.
Conforming to this class basis, the bourgeois-nationalist programme and policy concerning the national question are as follows: At home, the bourgeoisie subordinates the interests of the nation as a whole to its own class interests. It places its class interests or the interests of a certain top stratum of society above the interests of the whole people. Moreover, it tries to monopolize the concept of the nation, posing as the spokesman of the nation and the defender of national interests in order to deceive the people. Abroad, at the same time, it counterposes the interests of its own nation (in essence, of its bourgeois top stratum) to the interests of other nations. The bourgeoisie strives to place its own nation above other nations and, whenever possible, to oppress and exploit other nations, completely disregarding their interests. It uses part of the loot gathered abroad to buy off certain groups of the population within its country in order to weaken and split the resistance of the people in its homeland.
The most vicious manifestations of the development of bourgeois nationalism include the enslavement of the colonial and semi-colonial countries by the imperialist powers, the First World War, the aggression of Hitler and Mussolini and the Japanese warlords during the Second World War, and the schemes for the enslavement of the whole world undertaken by the international imperialist camp, headed by American imperialism.
When a given nation is held in subjection by another nation or when oppressed by the feudalism of its own country, the bourgeoisie, because of the threat to its own interests by such subjugation or oppression, may join with the people under certain conditions in conducting a struggle to a certain extent against such subjugation or oppression.
Instances of this are, the American bourgeoisie in the War of Independence and in the American civil war; the French bourgeoisie at the time of the French Revolution; the Italian bourgeoisie during the movement for the unification of Italy. [A] At the present time the bourgeoisie in the colonial and semi-colonial countries are also taking part in national revolutions. But as soon as the bourgeoisie of any nation obtains power and becomes capable of subjugating other nations, it immediately makes a volte-face and begins to oppress them. This was the case with the nationalist movements of the bourgeoisie in Great Britain, the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, etc. In these cases, the bourgeoisie, upon gaining power, changed its position, and began oppressing other nations and sacrificing the interests of those nations.
When capitalism reaches the stage of imperialism, the ruling group in the capitalist countries becomes numerically smaller and smaller. The extremely small clique of big bankers, financial magnates and autocrats on the one hand turns its own country into a financial empire, cruelly exploiting and oppressing the people, and on the other hand, it conquers other nations one by one, converting them into colonies and dependencies of a few financial empires and resorting to the most brutal means of exploitation and oppression. The more wealth the predatory bourgeoisie amasses, the greater becomes its greed and ambition to absorb and seize new wealth, and the more it intensifies its oppression of the people within its own country and steps up its aggression against other nations.. Such domestic oppression and foreign aggression will be all the more carried out under the cloak of nationalism, which, even arbitrarily boasts of its own nation as a “superior race” endowed with the right to dominate other nations and to suppress the “inferior races.”
When several imperialist powers seek to plunder the weaker nations of the world, the result is an imperialist world war for the redistribution of colonies. And this crime, the most monstrous in world history, is committed by the bourgeoisie under the banner of “nationalism.”
As we have shown, bourgeois-nationalists in different countries, upon gaining power, do not hesitate to peruse a policy of aggression against other nations. But under certain conditions, they will sell out their own nation, help the imperialists and rulers of other nations to oppress the people of their own country and sacrifice their own people for the sake of safeguarding their possessions and preserving their political power. Such may be the case when their own nation is suppressed by the mighty pressure of foreign imperialism or when the class interests of the bourgeoisie or of a certain upper stratum of the bourgeoisie come into sharp conflict with the basic interests of the people of its own country, or when the people rise in defence of their interests and threaten the power of the bourgeoisie, or when the bourgeoisie is intimidated or bribed by the rulers of other nations or foreign imperialists.
A well known historical instance of this kind is the case of the representative of the French bourgeoisie, Thiers who betrayed France to Germany at the time of the Paris Commune. More recent examples are the betrayals by big bourgeois Chiang Kai-shek and Wang Ching-wei of semi-colonial China; and during Hitler’s invasion, the betrayals by Daladier and Petain of France, Pilsudski and Beck of Poland, Hacha of Czechoslvakia, Quisling of Norway. Furthermore, since the end of the Second World War, owing to the critical state of capitalism, the reactionaries of Great Britain, France, Italy and other European countries are kowtowing even more readily to American imperialism and acting as its lackeys.
Only when it is to its own advantage does the bourgeoisie use the slogan of nationalism to arouse the people. But when it is against its interests, the bourgeoisie completely discards the integrity of their nation and turns traitor to their people.
Such is the bourgeois-nationalist concept of the nation and the class foundation upon which it is based. Such is the basic principle and programme of bourgeois nationalism for dealing with national questions throughout the world.. This bourgeois-nationalist concept of the nation also represents the world outlook of the bourgeoisie.
[A] Errata. For movement for the unification of Italy. At the present time the bourgeoisie in the colonial and semi-colonial countries are also taking part in the national revolution. read movement for the unification of Italy, and at the present time the bourgeoisie in the colonial and semi-colonial countries who are taking part in national revolution.
Next: II. The Proletarian-Internationalist Concept of the Nation