V. I.   Lenin

More About “Nationalism”

Published: Put Pravdy No. 17, February 20, 1914. Published according to the text in Put Pravdy.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 20, pages 109-110.
Translated: Bernard Isaacs and The Late Joe Fineberg
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2004). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.README

In our day”, when attempts are being made to stage another Beilis case, the nationalists’ propaganda could bear more frequent scrutiny. The nature of this propaganda was revealed with striking clarity at the recent second congress of representatives of the “All-Russia National Association”.

It would be highly erroneous to think that the significance of this propaganda is negligible inasmuch as this entire “All-Russia Association”, which was represented only by 21 delegates from all over Russia, is negligible and fictitious, a mere shadow. The “All-Russia National Association” is insignificant and a shadow, but its propaganda is backed by all the parties of the right and by all the official institutions; its propaganda is conducted in every village school, in every military barrack, and in every church.

The following is a press report of a paper read at this congress on February 2.

Savenko, a member of the Duma, read a paper on ‘Mazeppism’,[1] as the Ukrainian movement is called in the jargon of the nationalists. Savenko expressed the opinion that the separatist tendencies [i. e., for secession from the state] among the Byelorussians and the Ukrainians were particularly dangerous. The Ukrainian movement constituted a specially great and real menace to the integrity of Russia. The immediate programme of the Ukrainians was federalism and Ukrainian autonomy.

The Ukrainians linked their hopes of autonomy with the defeat of Russia in a future war with Austria-Hungary and Germany. On the ruins of Great Russia an autonomous Poland and an autonomous Ukraine would be founded under the sceptre of the Habsburgs and within the boundaries of Austria-Hungary.

If the Ukrainians really succeeded in tearing their 30,000,000 away from the Russian people, it would mean the end of the Great-Russian Empire. (Applause.)”

Why is this “federalism” no obstacle to the integrity of the United States, or of Switzerland? Why is “autonomy”   no obstacle to the integrity of Austria-Hungary? Why has “autonomy” even cemented the ties between Britain and many of her colonies for a long time to come?

Mr. Savenko has presented his case for “nationalism” in such a ridiculous light that he has made it extremely easy to refute his ideas. The integrity of Russia, if you please, is “menaced” by the autonomy of the Ukraine, whereas the integrity of Austria-Hungary is cemented by universal suffrage and the autonomy of her various regions! Is not this very strange? Will it not occur to those who read and hear this “nationalist” propaganda to ask why it is impossible to cement the integrity of Russia by granting autonomy to the Ukraine?

By persecuting “subject peoples”, the landlord and bourgeois nationalists try to split and corrupt the working class the better to be able to dope it. The class-conscious workers retaliate by demanding complete equality and unity for the workers of all nationalities in practice.

In declaring the Byelorussians and Ukrainians to be subject peoples, the nationalist gentry forget to add that the Great Russians (the only non-“aliens” in Russia) constitute only 43 per cent of the population. Hence, the “subject peoples” are in the majority! How then can the minority keep its hold on the majority if it offers the latter no benefits, the benefits of political freedom, national equality, and local and regional autonomy?

By persecuting the Ukrainians and others for their “separatism”, for their secessionist strivings, the nationalists are upholding the privilege of the Great-Russian landlords and the Great-Russian bourgeoisie to have “their own” state. The working class is opposed to all privileges; that is why it upholds the right of nations to self-determination.

The class-conscious workers do not advocate secession. They know the advantages of large states and the amalgamation of large masses of workers. But large states can be democratic only if there is complete equality among the nations; that equality implies the right to secede.

The struggle against national oppression and national privileges is inseparably bound up with the defence of that right.


[1] Mazeppa, J. S. (1644–1709)—Hetman of the Ukraine in 1687–1709. For a number of years conducted treasonable negotiations with the king of Poland and subsequently with the kin g of Sweden for the secession of the Ukraine from Russia. In 1708 he openly sided with Charles XII. After the defeat of the Swedes at Poltava in 1709, Mazeppa escaped to Turkey with Charles XII.

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