T. Cliff

The Problem of the Middle East

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Part IV
The National Movement in the Arab East

Chapter XIV
The Arab National Movement
(Mainly Analytical)

I. Introduction

The relations which existed between the feudal lord and his serfs conformed to the primitive means of production of the peasant in the Middle Ages. This backwardness of the productive powers determined also the relations between the different estates, between their respective feudal lords, and between their respective peasants. Almost complete segregation was quite in accordance with the backward economy of the time.

The feudal estate does not suit the development of industry and commerce. These need a greater expanse for activity. And as language is the most important means of communication between men, the national state rose with the rise of capitalism. The main milestones on the path of the erection of national states were the war of liberation of the Netherlands, the English Revolution, the French Revolution, the unity of Italy and finally the establishment of the German Reich.

At the end of the last century and beginning of the present, it became quite clear that the productive powers had developed to such an extent that they had outgrown the framework of capitalist property relations and the national state. The great monopolies attempt to ‘regulate’ production in accordance with the power of consumption which is based on capitalist relations of property and distribution and on the limits of the national state (hence high protective tariffs, attempts at autarchy etc.), this, as also International trusts, pass beyond national frontiers but at the same time are a field for a hidden and open struggle between the different national bodies. Finance capital makes the independence of many industrial enterprises merely an outer signboard and knows how to turn ‘independent’ national states into satellites of the big Powers – all these together with the endeavour of capitalism to overcome its contradictions by imperialist expansion and wars, prove clearly that the national state is outworn, and that the productive powers of today need a world state.

But capitalism develops unevenly. And side by side with very well developed capitalist states there are countries less developed, very backwardly developed or not developed at all. At the same time as the nations of Europe are confronted with the necessity of getting rid of the burden of the national state and of building the United Socialist States of Europe, the people of the East are confronted with the necessity of overcoming feudal particularism and national oppression. It must, however, be understood that this war of national liberation goes beyond the bounds of a pure anti-feudal, bourgeois-revolutionary struggle, primarily because in our epoch the existence of backward colonial countries, and of super-exploitation which is based on the preservation and regeneration of feudal barbarism is the sine qua non for the existence of world capitalism, and this makes the anti-imperialist national struggle a component part of the world socialist revolution. And so the struggle of Abd al-Karim against French imperialism is a component part of the socialist revolution, while the French reformists who do not help the national liberatory struggle of Morocco objectively help capitalism to preserve itself.

But what form the connection between the immediate aims of the national movement and its essence as a part of the world socialist revolution takes is dependent first and foremost on the class structure of the oppressed nation. Thus although the struggle of the Abyssinian nation against Italian imperialism weakened the rule of finance capital, this struggle thus being part of the world socialist revolution, its immediate aim was very far from socialism and even from a revolutionary democratic struggle against feudalism. Of course the connection between the immediate aim of the national movement and the objective world results of its struggle is different to this in a nation which has a developed stratum of merchants and even more so in a nation which has a developed working class. In the last case immediate aims and the objective world results can be one and the same – socialist.

The law of unequal development manifests itself not only in the back- <p. 122> wardness of the Arab East compared with Europe and the USA, but also in the uneven development of the different Arab countries themselves (the second unevenness in mainly a result of the first primary unevenness). The class composition of the Arab national movement is therefore different in Egypt and Palestine, Syria and Iraq. And the immediate aims and methods of struggle of the national movements are therefore also different. Before describing and analyzing the national movements in the different countries we shall analyze in general terms the position of the different classes towards the anti-imperialist national-liberatory struggle in its various stages.

II. The Feudal Lords and the National Movement

The invasion by imperialism of a pre-capitalist country undermines the independence and the absolute rule of the feudal class. The revolt of 1857 in India, the Rif revolt in Morocco or Abyssinia’s struggle against Italian imperialism are examples of the resistance of the feudal lords to the invasion of imperialism. The feudal character of the resistance movement to imperialism hinders the establishment of close and firm national unity, and internal collisions, rivalry and hatreds are incessant. A recent clear example of this was the conflicts, fully exploited by Italian imperialism, between the Rases in Abyssinia. At the same time, as long as the country is very backward, and patriarchal relations exist between the toilers and their feudal lords, the former blindly follow the latter. With the development of commercial relations the unity of the feudal lords consolidates, but on the other hand, the relations between the classes lose their patriarchal character; so that the degree of the existence of a popular mass basis for the feudal anti-imperialist movement is in the inverse proportion to the unity between the different feudal chiefs. This must not be taken as an absolute law, firstly because the ideological superstructure does not develop at the same rate as the economic base, and therefore even after the development of commerce, the patriarchal relations between peasants and feudal landlords can continue, the former supporting the latter; secondly the sensitivity of the feudal chiefs to the change in the economy – the development of commerce – is much greater than that of the suppressed peasants, and thirdly, outward imperialist pressure can for a while diminish the antagonism between the different feudal chiefs even though in the long run it increases it by inciting one against another. This temporary unity itself can be a reaction to the development by imperialism of commerce, the building of railways etc.

Besides the inner social weaknesses of the feudal anti-imperialist movement – lack of cohesion of the different feudal lords, the antagonism between the masses and them, their corruptibility and the lack of any popular control over them etc. – there is another very important weakness, military backwardness, which makes the feudal lords revolting against one imperialist Power more and more dependent on another imperialist Power.

Real and lasting nationalism is foreign to the feudal lords, as this is born of the rise of capitalism whose development stands in contradiction to the independence of the little baronies and the feudal estates, the rivalry between the different feudal lords and their arbitrariness. For hundreds of years, therefore, the feudal lords were enemies of real nationalism. Their struggle against the ascending third estate was waged not in the name of patriotism but in the name of tradition and the church. Nationalism as an expression of the contradiction between the ‘nation as a whole’ (the class contradictions between the proletariat and bourgeoisie were then in embryo) and the feudal class, had nothing to do with tradition. It was in fact its complete negation. The nationalism of the feudal classes in the colonies is not more sincere and lasting than it was in Europe at the beginning of the rise of the third estate.

While in the first stage of the contact between imperialism and feudal patriarchal society the feudal lords wage their war in the name of tradition alone, in the second stage, when commercial capitalism reaches a certain stage, tradition is aided by nationalism. The combination of nationalism and tradition by the feudal class very frequently causes fierce chauvinism (especially if there are national or religious minorities) which many times, notwithstanding high-sounding national phrases, plays directly into the hands of imperialism. In the third stage, with the appearance of an industrial <p. 123> bourgeoisie, intelligentsia and proletariat as factors of greater and greater importance, and with the elimination of the influence of the feudal lords in the nation, these latter feel themselves to be more and more estranged from the national movement and they find their support in imperialism which is interested in hampering the economic, social and political progress of the country. And so the feudal lords become the truest allies of imperialism in its struggle against national insurrection.

The development of the East is a combined development. The position of the feudal class therefore changes very rapidly, which causes a combination of different trends in their position. While every broad anti-imperialist upheaval of the peasantry under the leadership of the proletariat drives the feudal lords directly to the side of imperialism (the third stage), so long as there is no independent class-conscious proletariat the first two stages are combined in the position of the feudal class. Till now the combinations of these stages has been different in the different Arab countries. Thus the third stage already now has the decisive weight in the position of the landowners in Egypt (with a certain combination of the second stage); the majority of the landowners in Syria are mainly in the second stage (with a combination of the third); the majority in Jebel Druze, Latakia and al-Jezira are mainly in the first stage; in Iraq there is a combination of the first and second, and in Palestine likewise. There are no clear lines of demarcation between the different stages, and the change in the position of the feudal lords towards the anti-imperialist struggle depends first and foremost on the class struggle of workers and peasants. It is sure that any really serious revolutionary struggle against imperialism will drive the feudal lords entirely on to the side of imperialism.

III. The Bourgeoisie and the National Movement

What is the place of the bourgeoisie in the national liberatory struggles in the colonies?

For 300 years the task of the bourgeoisie was to build the national state and to smash feudalism. Nevertheless even during this time the bourgeoisie showed its readiness to compromise with feudalism and the monarchy when faced with the menacing populace. The storming of the Bastille drew from the throats of the bourgeoisie the declaration: Rather the King and the nobles than the rabble. On the 4th August 1789, the National Assembly hastened to rebuke the peasantry who had revolted in the wake of the fall of the Bastille. It decided to affirm only a very small part of what the peasants had already achieved; if any peasant wanted to get rid of the feudal yoke, according to a decision of the National Assembly he had to pay a sum thirty times greater than the annual rent (while the usual price of the land was only 20 or even 17 times greater than the annual rent.) The representatives of the bourgeoisie were not satisfied with working hand in glove with the feudal class in the National Assembly, but in the following three years they also helped to suppress with blood and fire the various peasant revolts throughout the country. During those three years the bourgeoisie struggled against every republican democratic movement in the towns and villages. Only the perpetual renewal of the insurrection of the Parisian sans-culottes – the proletariat in embryo – who were organised in sections of their own, drove the revolution to its final victory. Only the insurgent sans-culottes dragged France out of the path that the bourgeoisie wished her to follow – that of the constitutional monarchy and compromise with the nobility. It was not the National Assembly of 1789 which abolished feudalism and laid a firm foundation for the French bourgeoisie-national republic, but the Jacobin Convention which leant upon the alliance of the Parisian sans-culottes, the poor of the provincial towns and the masses of peasants under the leadership of the lowest layers of the urban petty bourgeoisie.

Later the contradictions between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat became greater and the former proved ever readier to compromise with feudalism. The revolution of 1848 taught the bourgeoisie that the proletariat was liable to be not only the steam of the revolution, but also the locomotive which directs it. It became aware of the fact that the proletariat was liable not only to take to the barricades but also to take over the state power. It therefore looked for other allies which would serve it. And so we get the support of the Italian bourgeoisie for the king of Sardinia, the ruler of the most reactionary Jesuit state in the country. Hence the compromise of the German bourgeoisie with the Prussian dynasty that stood at the head of the Junkers east of the Elbe. And in place of the revolutionary alliance of the democratic <p. 124> bourgeoisie of France, Germany and Italy with the national democratic movement of Hungary and Poland, in place of the permanent revolution, came the permanent betrayal by every bourgeois group of its fellow. The German bourgeoisie extended its hand towards the Austrian government in its suppression of the Italian revolution, its brutal actions against the Czech workers and artisans in Prague and its bloody suppression of the Polish insurrection. The French bourgeoisie revealed more predatory lust towards Italy than will to help the Italian revolution. Kosuth, the leader of the Hungarian bourgeoisie which struggled for national liberation in alliance with the Hungarian nobility, did not show any opposition to the Kaiser of Austro-Hungary’s fight against the revolting Italians. The narrow-minded nationalist egotism of the bourgeoisie, together with its hatred for the mass of the people, determined the counter-revolutionary role of the bourgeoisie in the revolution of 1848.

If there was need for any new proof of the counter-revolutionary character of the bourgeoisie, and of its incapability of standing at the head of the anti-feudal democratic revolution, it was given by the Russian revolutions of 1905 and 1917.

The colonial bourgeoisie is not a homogeneous class. Commercial and banking capital intertwines with different modes of production. In the East the major part of this capital in connected with the feudal mode of production, with the enterprises of foreign capital, or with the import of commodities from abroad, and only the minor part is connected with economic activity of the local industrial bourgeoisie.

It is quite clear that the comprador bourgeoisie or the bourgeoisie closely connected with the feudal mode of production is not capable of leading an anti-imperialist struggle. On the contrary, it is the most faithful agent of imperialism.

The industrial bourgeoisie which rose in the Arab East at a time when the world economy ruled by concentrated finance capital is in decline, could not build up its industry, stand in competition with the industries of the ‘mother’ country, accumulate sufficient quantities of capital and so on – except by the harsh exploitation of the workers and peasants and the purchase of cheap labour and raw materials, which is made possible for them as the result of the existence of feudalism and imperialism. The framework of the rule of finance capital on the background of declining world capitalism together with the existence of feudal property relations, also determine the weakness of the colonial industrial bourgeoisie and its dependence to a major extent on foreign capital. This is shown in partnerships of foreign and local capital and the reliance of local enterprises on being financed by foreign banks. The existence of the colonial bourgeoisie, the industrial bourgeoisie included, is therefore conditioned by the super-exploitation of the workers and peasants – which is the result and the sine qua non of imperialism – and by direct economic dependence on foreign capital and imperialism. The colonial bourgeoisie is not the antipodes of imperialism and feudalism, but the antipodes of the workers and peasants. The connection of the colonial bourgeoisie with foreign capital and feudalism on the one hand and the class struggle of the proletariat and peasantry on the other (which two factors are mutually dependent) determine the limits of the struggle of the colonial bourgeoisie for concessions from imperialism.

This shows clearly how mistaken is the opportunist conception of the Stalinists which sees in imperialist oppression the justification for a ‘national front’ of all classes of the colonial people. This conception is based on the consideration of imperialist rule as a mechanical external frame which suppresses the colonies. In reality imperialist rule is connected with every fibre of the body of colonial economy and society and it by no means objectively weakens the class differentiation in the colonial people but on the contrary strengthens it.

At the same time the war itself against imperialism does not weaken, but strengthens, the class differentiation in the colonial people. The conflict with imperialism arouses large-scale strikes in the enterprises belonging to the foreign capital. The masses of workers and peasants become more self-confident through the struggle, and it is clear that every conflict which brings the downtrodden masses out on their feet, drives the colonial bourgeoisie more and more into the arms of imperialism.

<p. 125> We must avoid making two fundamental errors in our estimation of the place of the colonial bourgeoisie in the national liberatory struggle: the one seeing in the colonial bourgeoisie a revolutionary factor, the antipodes of imperialism, the other seeing in it a factor identical with imperialism and incapable of any wrestling with it. An analysis of these two errors which received their really classic expression in the somersaults of the Stalinist policy in China in the years 1925–28 shows us clearly the place of the bourgeoisie in the national movement.

Lenin differentiated between oppressing and oppressed nations. He raised the national liberatory wars, the wars of oppressed nations against their oppressors, to the level of revolutionary wars with bourgeois democratic tasks. But Lenin was not ready to draw the Menshevist conclusion from this that, seeing that the overthrow of feudalism and the monarchy is a revolutionary-democratic task which was realised in the youth of capitalism by the revolutionary petty-bourgeoisie, therefore also in the period when the working class appears as an independent power, the realisation of this task is imposed upon the bourgeoisie. He wrote:

‘Our revolution is a bourgeois revolution. The workers must support the bourgeoisie – say the worthless politicians from the camp of the liquidators. Our revolution is a bourgeois revolution – say we who are Marxists. The workers must open the eyes of the people to the fraud of the bourgeois politicians, teach them not the place trust in promises and to rely on their OWN forces, on their OWN organizations, on their OWN unity and on their OWN weapons alone.’ (Lenin, Works, Vol. XIV, Part I, p. 11)

Lenin never claimed, nor ever could claim, that the bourgeoisie of a colonial or semi-colonial country must be more progressive and more revolutionary during the anti-imperialist revolution than the bourgeoisie of a non-colonial country during a democratic, anti-feudal revolution. The Polish bourgeoisie, although suffering from national oppression, was not less reactionary than the Russian bourgeoisie, and in the royal duma it inclined more to the Octobrists than the Cadets. The Estonian, Lithuanian or Armenian bourgeoisie were not more revolutionary than the Russian. There is no basis whatever to the assumption that the colonial bourgeoisie is any more revolutionary. And if the 1905 and 1917 revolutions proved the utter bankruptcy of the Menshevik conceptions as regards the Russian bourgeoisie, the unsuccessful Chinese revolution proved the utter bankruptcy of the Stalinist ‘theory’ as regards the revolution in the colonies.

But although there are very narrow limits to the anti-imperialist activity of the colonial bourgeoisie, it is incorrect to say that it can escape once and for all from any wrestle with imperialism. In 1928 the Stalinists came to the conclusion that the Chinese bourgeoisie could and even did do so after the Chiang Kai-Shek debacle in Shanghai. Then in place of opportunism in the policy of the Stalinists came adventurism, which was intended to save the prestige of the Stalinist leadership through ‘revolutionary’ activity – and this after the revolutionary wave had passed. It was not incidental therefore that Trotsky severely criticized not only the opportunist position of the Stalinists during the Chinese revolution (1925–27) but also their ‘ultra-left’ position during the ‘Third Period’. He wrote:

‘If yesterday the Chinese bourgeoisie was enrolled in the united revolutionary front, then today it is proclaimed to have “definitely gone over to the counter-revolutionary camp” … It is absolutely self-evident that the bourgeoisie in joining the camp of the revolution does so not accidentally, not because it is light-minded, but under the pressure of its own class interests. For fear of the masses the bourgeoisie subsequently deserts the revolution or openly displays its concealed hatred of the revolution. But the bourgeoisie can go over “definitely to the counter-revolutionary camp”, that is free itself from the necessity of “supporting” the revolution again, or at least of flirting with it, only in the event that its fundamental class aspirations are satisfied either by revolutionary means or in another way (for instance, the Bismarckian way). Let us recall the history of the period 1848–71. Let us recall that the Russian bourgeoisie was able to turn its back so bluntly upon the revolution of 1905 only because the revolution gave it the State Duma, that is, it received the means whereby it could bring direct pressure to bear on the bureaucracy and make deals with it. Nevertheless, when the war of 1914–18 revealed the inability of the “modernised” regime to secure the basic interests of the bourgeoisie the latter again turned towards the revolution, and made its turn more sharply than in 1905.

‘Can anyone maintain that the revolution of 1925–27 in China has at least partly satisfied the basic interests of Chinese capitalism? No. China today is just as far removed from real national unity and from tariff auton- <p. 126> omy as it was prior to 1925. Yet, the creation of a unified domestic market and its protection from cheaper foreign goods is a life-and-death question for the Chinese bourgeoisie, a question second in importance only to that of marinating the basis of its class domination over the proletariat and peasant poor. But, for the Japanese and British bourgeoisie the maintenance of the colonial status of China is likewise a question of no less importance than economic autonomy is for the Chinese bourgeoisie. That is why there will still be not a few leftward zigzags in the policy of the Chinese Bourgeoisie.’ (Leon Trotsky, The Third International After Lenin, New York 1936, p. 111)

If the Chinese bourgeoisie notwithstanding the experience of the 1925–27 revolution is compelled to enter into some limited struggle with imperialism which it conducts hesitantly, being ready every moment to betray it, the Egyptian or Syrian bourgeoisie us surely compelled to do so too.

The industrial bourgeoisie in the colonies finds itself in the fundamental dialectical contradiction between its needs and imperialism on the one hand and between it and the masses of toilers on the other. The more capitalism is developed in the colonies and the more world capitalism is placed in inner contradictions, the greater are the conflicts between the interests of the colonial bourgeoisie and imperialism notwithstanding the independence of the former on the latter. At the same time the same factors deepen the abyss between the colonial proletariat and the imperialist and ‘nationalist’ bourgeoisie. The overwhelming weight that the second contradiction has as against the first, together with the direct links connecting the colonial bourgeoisie to imperialism do not entirely eliminate the conflicts between the colonial bourgeoisie and imperialism but fix the narrow limits within which the zigzags in the policy of the colonial bourgeoisie are bound.

The imperialist world war by creating a wide market for the industry of the ‘mother’ country as also of the colonies temporarily blunted the conflict between the needs of colonial industry and imperialism and made them latent but at the same time much deeper. The cessation of the war, however, brings them to the surface. At the same time the super-exploitation of the colonial masses reached its peak during the war and the conflicts between the exploited and the exploiters are already breaking out most fiercely now with the end of the war which causes even greater suffering than the war itself did. And so while the colonial bourgeoisie showed great loyalty to imperialism during the war, understanding that it can profit more from an imperialist than an anti-imperialist war, the end of the war forced it to a ‘leftward’ turn. But this is on a very small scale and ephemeral. It is clear that the upsurge of a socialist wave on a world scale will bring into the open the compete dependence – dependence despite antagonism – of the colonial bourgeoisie on imperialism. Its fear of the proletariat will paralyse its ‘revolutionary’ enthusiasm.

Another factor hinders and will hinder the colonial bourgeoisie form being a revolutionary factor – its incapability of overcoming nationalist, narrow mindedness and egotism. If the revolutionary movement of 1848 could not succeed except through the unity of the revolutionary masses of Italy, Hungary, Poland, Germany, France and England, now, in the epoch of imperialism, when one Power rules over hundreds of millions of men in scores of nations, it is impossible for any national liberatory movement to achieve its aims without an alliance with other national liberatory movements in the colonies and with the revolutionary proletariat in Europe and the USA. If the European bourgeoisie of the 19th century was incapable of overcoming nationalist narrow-mindedness, the colonial bourgeoisie in the 20th century, tied with the chains of gold to imperialism, can much less do so.

IV. The Petty Bourgeoisie and the National Movement

The urban petty bourgeoisie is also incapable of waging an independent anti-imperialist struggle. As against its position during the rise of capitalism, it now has no independent political tasks.

The important place that the lower layers of the petty bourgeoisie took in the French revolution was the result of two factors: firstly the upper layers of the urban bourgeoisie were not ready to lead any popular anti-feudal uprising and secondly the Parisian proletariat was too weak and undeveloped to constitute and independent power, as the industrial revolution <p. 127> had taken only its first weak steps by the eve of the French revolution. The lower layers of the urban petty bourgeoisie, part of the new ascending class, the third estate, assumed a disproportionally great weight because of the sharp antagonism between the French people and feudalism on the one hand and because of the lack of independence of the proletariat on the other. These conditions made it possible for Robespierre to put himself at the head of the Parisian sans-culottes in the struggle against feudal reaction and the Girondist conciliators.

The Jacobins, by abolishing feudalism, opened wide the door for the development of capitalism and class polarisation, i.e. it opened wide the door for the victory of that very bourgeoisie which was afraid of the Jacobin revolution and struggles against it, for the victory of Thermidor. Dialectical law decided that the victory of Robespierre should be his defeat.

In the colonial countries where the weight of foreign and concentrated capital is very great, the class polarisation is very marked even before any revolution. Under such conditions and during the period when the proletarian revolution is on the order of the day throughout the world, the colonial ‘Robespierres’ cannot reach revolutionary victory even for an hour, and are incapable of fulfilling any independent task whatsoever.

To the extent that the working class does not show initiative and faith in its own forces, and is incapable of inspiring faith in itself in wide layers of the people, the petty bourgeoisie, not only in the ‘mother’ country, but also in the colonies, comprises an excellent basis for anti-popular dictatorships, and material for the instigation of communal conflicts. And just as German finance capital found popular support for itself among the petty bourgeoisie, which was its victim, a blind victim, so also the feudal class and rich bourgeoisie, allies of imperialism, can find support for themselves among the colonial petty bourgeoisie whose bitterness over its lot and blindness, can lead it into a cul-de-sac.

The peasantry accounts for the overwhelming majority of the populations of the colonial countries. In all revolutions and counter revolutions, from the peasant wars until today, the peasantry has filled an important and even decisive role. The backwardness of the village as compared with the town, the concentration of the economic, political and cultural life in the town, causes the village to tail behind it. The only question is, which of the urban classes will lead the village.

‘The peasantry, the largest class, the most dispersed, the most backward and oppressed, is capable of local uprisings and partisan wars, but it needs a more progressive and concentrated class in order for its struggle to rise to a general national struggle. Naturally this task falls on the shoulders of the colonial proletariat, which from its first steps stands in opposition not only to the foreign bourgeoisie, but also to its own national bourgeoisie.’ (Trotsky)

V. The Proletariat and the National Movement

The strength of the proletariat in every capitalist country is much greater than its numbers in the general population show. This is due to the fact that the proletariat controls the junction of economic life and the heart of the capitalist system as a whole, and that it expresses the real interests of all toilers.

In the colonial countries the proletariat gets added weight because its development is not an accompaniment of the development of local capitalism, but a product of the import of foreign capital. It is therefore more centralised in big enterprises and in large towns and its weight among the colonial people is therefore disproportionately greater than that of the bourgeoisie. And seeing that its main counter-force is not ‘national’ but foreign capital, the degree of its influence on the middle classes, especially the peasantry, is disproportionately great.

As a great part of the colonial proletariat is brutally exploited by foreign capital, it finds itself in direct, irreconcilable and open antagonism to imperialism. And as this regime of terrible exploitation is made possible by the fact that the extent of pauperisation, of the peasantry far surpasses the extent of its proletarianisation, the colonial proletariat is vitally interested in the abolition of feudalism and imperialism which hamper the development of the forces of production. This interest becomes <p. 128> more direct and open owing to the urban proletariat’s origin being peasant. The colonial proletariat is thus not only concentrated in the nerve-centres of the economic system, which alone gives it great weight, but it also has a reserve army of millions of embittered peasants ready for the greatest sacrifices.

VI. The Social Content of the National Movement

The immediate social aims of the national liberation struggle are decided by the classes which take part in it and lead it. On the other hand the class which leads the struggle, by laying down its social aims, determines also what other classes, and to what extent these classes take part in the struggle. Thus while in the French revolution the millions participated and did not cease their activity until the agrarian revolution was finally consummated, in the war of unification of Italy the masses took almost no part and real widespread enthusiasm was entirely lacking. The fact the Savoy dynasty stood at the head of the nation unity movement robbed it of any anti-feudal revolutionary character and so left the millions of peasants unmoved. The sans-culottes of Lombardy, the most developed region of Italy which showed so much devotion and enthusiasm in the clash with Austria, were at best indifferent to the King’s war of unification. If Robespierre could stand at the head of a popular anti-feudal revolution, the Savoy monarchy could only kill it.

If the Italian unity movement succeeded in building a united state without and agrarian democratic revolution and mobilisation of the masses, it can not be concluded that the colonial peoples can achieve liberation from imperialism without the full activity of the masses of the people. The organisational-military and financial power of imperialism is so incomparably greater than that of the semi-feudal Austrian monarchy that national independence cannot be achieved without the struggle of millions. The time of national movements of the type of those existing in the Austrian or Turkish empires has long passed. And it is clear that without putting agrarian democratic aims before the national movement, millions of oppressed, backward and downtrodden peasants will not enter into the struggle and it is bound to fail. The history of the national movements in China, India, Egypt and so on, proves this conclusively. The deepening of the revolution is therefore the condition for it broadening. The class struggle is the only way to achieve national liberation.

The social content of the national liberation struggle however cannot be agrarian-democratic alone, but must be also socialist, firstly because the proletariat is the leader in this struggle; secondly because the expropriation of foreign capital gives a socialist character to the struggle; thirdly because the colonies tail so far behind the countries of Europe and USA that economic private initiative alone cannot bridge the gap between them even if the colonies achieved their freedom, planned and state intervention being necessary, and fourthly because the anti-imperialist struggle would spur on the socialist revolution in the ‘mother’ countries, and this would have a reflex influence on the colonies. The liberation of the colonies from the yoke of imperialism must therefore be realised as a proletarian revolution.

From this flows also the antithesis. Under these objective condition, if the proletariat, because of subjective causes (misleading by its leaders, the lack of an influential revolutionary party etc.) does not rise to hegemony over the national movement, then the national movement becomes its own negation – a weapon in the hands of imperialism, a socio-political, reactionary power which in our time often takes fascist forms. The backwardness of the colonies does not prevent the rule of fascism. Fascism, being the extreme of capitalist reaction, entrenches itself first in the weak links of capitalism (hence fascism in Italy, Spain, Latin America etc.). It is of course clear that the foundations of fascism in a colonial or semi-colonial country are much weaker than in an independent country, because of the small weight of the local bourgeoisie and because of the social and national antagonism between the masses on the one hand and imperialism and its puppets – the local dictatorship – on the other. Nevertheless in spite of the instability of their class, the Batistas and Vargases who rose on the background of the revolutionary crisis pre- <p. 129> vailing in Latin America and the backwardness of the subjective proletarian factor in utilising this crisis, caused great suffering and harm to the masses of Latin America and the interests of the proletariat of the USA. This same contradiction between the objective and subjective factors received a no less blatant and reactionary from in the support that the Moroccans gave to France in suppressing the Spanish working class. The fact that during the great Moroccan national uprising (1925–6) the Spanish proletariat did not appear as an independent factor allied with the Moroccan, the fact that even when Franco mobilised them against the Spanish workers the Stalinists, Social-Democratic and Anarchist leaders did not declare for the national independence of Morocco, and the fact that even when the Moroccan leader, Abd al-Karim, who has been sitting in a French prison in Madagascar since the 1925 revolt) appealed to Léon Blum and promised that if the independence of Morocco, both French and Spanish were declared, he would do everything possible to arouse the Moroccans to revolt against France, his appeal, however, being rejected – all these facts brought about the transformation of the Moroccans from anti-imperialist liberatory fighters to a tool in the hands of Franco against the liberation movement of the workers.

Thus the rise of a revolutionary party is essential for advantage to be taken of the socio-national crisis with which the colonial countries are confronted. If this force does not arise the revolutionary crisis will inevitably be transformed into a counter-revolutionary one.

Last updated on 28.5.2011