V. I. Lenin

Theses for a Lecture on the National Question{15}

National Question
(Theses from Memory)

Written: Written between January 10 and 20 (January 23 and February 2), 1914
Published: First published in 1937 in Lenin Miscellany XXX. Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 41, pages 313.2-323.1.
Translated: Yuri Sdobnikov
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Copyleft: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) © 2004 Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.
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  1. {{
    A) Importance of the national question at the present time.
  2. B) Place of national movements in history (resp. historical approach to the national question).
  3. C) Two theories on the national question.
  4. D) Self-determination of nations.
  5. E) Equality and guarantee of minority rights. Autonomy.
  6. F) Cultural-national autonomy.
  7. G) National principle in Party organisation.

A. Introduction.
Importance of the National Question
at the Current Historical Moment
  1. 1. Government’s nationalism. All counter-revolution is dyed in nationalistic colours.
  2. 2. Idem—bourgeois liberalism (Struve & Co.).
  3. 3. With incredible, unprecedented oppression of non-Russian nations (57 per cent of the population of Russia)—nationalism in oppressed nations (pan European fight).
  4. 4. Breach of R.S.D.L.P. programme (distortion of self-determination +cultural-national autonomy).
  5. 5. Split of Jewish separatism. National isolation.
  1. 6. National question must be viewed historically and economically. National question is a world wide phenomenon.
  3. 7. Epoch of national movements—end of Middle Ages and start of new period, epoch of b o u r g e o i s- d e m o c r a t i c revolutions. At the time, national movements everywhere.
  4. 8. Economic foundations? Capitalism demands consolidation of domestic market. The market is the centre of commercial relations. Language is the chief instrument of human commercial relations.
  5. 9. Consolidation of national areas (restoration of language, national awakening, etc.) and establishment of n a t i o n a l s t a t e. Economic necessity of it.
  6. 10. Political superstructure over the economy. Democracy, sovereignty of nation. H e n c e, “n a t i o n a l state”....
  7. 11. National state is t h e r u l e t h r o u g h o u t t h e w o r l d = (K. Kautsky in I, 18{1} , pp. 23 and 23–25, Internationalit\"at), while “state of nationalities is the exception”.{16}
    K. Kautsky about 0. Bauer: Bauer u n d e r e s t i m a t e s the urge for national state. (“the strength of the Drang”)
    [BOX:] NB
    [BOX ENDS:] In brackets: some people believe that the national state means g r e a t e r nationalism than cultural-national autonomy. That is a naive and ridiculous delusion! The national state is the rule in the record of world history. Cultural-national autonomy is an invention of rather poor intellectuals which has not been realised anywhere.
  8. 12. Epoch of national (bourgeois-democratic) revolutions of the nineteenth century (Italy, Germany). It is over in Western Europe. I t h a s j u s t s t a r t e d i n t h e E a s t a n d i n A s i a....
C. Two theories of Marxism on the national question.
  1. 13. Emergence of proletarian parties in national states.  
    Backward East. “Theories” of national question. (Little attention given to theoretical basis. K. Kautsky+0. Bauer.)
  2. 14. 0. Bauer. Nation=Kulturgemeinschaft{2} . “National culture” slogan ((red thread)). The main thing is the national character. (Mass of reservations, but that is not important.)
    (Kautsky’ s assessment: Kulturgemeinschaft=0. Bauer’s main mistake.)
  3. 15. “Socialism will put more emphasis on the principle of nationality” (0. Bauer I, 5{3} —p. 532 of his book).
  4. 16. Bauer’s basic mistake is refined nationalism, a nationalism which is clean, without exploitation and without fighting.
    NB |||
    Proudhon used to clean up, idealise and embellish NB capitalism, 0. Bauer does the same to nationalism.
  5. 17. The policy of the ruling classes is “conservative-national”, ours is “evolutionary-national” (0. Bauer).
  6. 18. “We are not satisfied with the old internationalism”
    (0. Bauer)
    (0. Bauer I, 6).
  7. 19. σσ of 0. Bauer
    (α) idealistic theory of nation
    (β) national culture slogan (== bourgeois)
    (δ) nationalism purified, refined, absolute, right up to socialism
    (γ) internationalism completely forgotten.
    σ=n a t i o n a l o p p o r t u n i s m (Pannekoek).
  8. 20. Confused 0. Bauer, exposed by K. Kautsky.
    1. (α) Eigent\"umlich und hinf\"allig{4} in that 0. Bauer keeps talking about national culture. (I, 17) (p. 15, Internationalit\"at.
    2. (β) “Nie ist eine rein nationale Kultur weniger m\"oglich gewesen” (ibidem, 15, Internationalit\"at){5}  
      Br. Fr. Ger.
      — Example: 1800: 20 —30 —30 (Σ= 80)
      1900: 125 —40 —70 (Σ=235)

      ((English, or perhaps + Russian, may be a world language))
    3. NB ||
      (γ) “Our internationalism is not a special NB type of nationalism, differing from bourgeois by non-aggressiveness, equa lity, etc., but an economically and culturally united social organism” (ibidem, p. 17).
      NB ||
      In 0. Bauer this view has disappeared behind the “Betonung der nationalen Kultur”.
    4. (σ) The nation is not Kultur-, not Schicksal-, but Sprachgemeinschaft.{7}
    5. (ε) What 0. Bauer has is “m o r e e m p h a s i s o n t h e n a t i o n a l a s p e c t”....
    6. NB |||
      (ζ) ΣΣ (in K. Kautsky)—gewaltige Uebersch\"atzung des nationalen ... Momentes (35, Internationalit\"at). V\"ollige Vernachl\"assigung internationalen.{8}
  9. 21. K. Kautsky has Sprache und Territorium{9}
    t h e n

    n o w
    historico-economic theory
    national state
    in bourgeois-democratic
    internationalism at present.
D. § 9 of the programme=political self-determination.
  1. 22. What it means in principle and as used by the whole of international democracy since 1848=political separation, formation of national state.
  3. 23. What it means from the standpoint of the h i s t o r y of national movements throughout the world=establishment of national state.
  4. 24. Funny attempts to give this paragraph a different interpretation (ridiculous!)!! The d e m o c r a t i c p r i n c i p l e in the national question
(α). (α) is i n d i s s o l u b l y bound up with the h i s t o r i c o- e c o n o m i c conditions of national movements.
  1. 25. Departure from the democratic principle is betraying and forgetting the whole of history.
    Bourgeois revolution incomplete.
(β) (β) Russia==national state at bottom, at base.
the centre
Outlying areas—non-Russian.
Extreme oppression.
Incompleteness of bourgeois-democratic revolution, which is i m p o s s i b l e without a national movement and the urge to set up n a t i o n a l states in general.
  1. 26. Russia’s international position: next to it is Austria
(γ) (γ) (with an unfinished bourgeois revolution in respect of the national question) and an awakened Asia (republican China).
Tsarism is the most reactionary state system. Hence the particular inevitability of the national movement, and the demand that the Great Russians recognise the right to self-determination.
  1. 27. Concrete example. Norway (six centuries under Denmark). At the beginning of the nineteenth century [BOX ENDS:] Epoch of Napoleonic wars handed over to Sweden (under a treaty between Sweden, Britain and Russia). Taken through a w a r between the Swedes and the Norwegians.
    Annexed by Sweden. Retained c o m p l e t e autonomy (parliament, army, taxes, duties, etc.). Decades of friction and fighting.
    1905. Start of the great revolution in the east of   Europe—close by an unfinished bourgeois-democratic revolution in a neighbouring, West-European, very free state. Result? Norwegian revolution of 1905.
    August revolution in Norway. Decision of the parliament (August 17, 1905). Agitation by priests and landowners in Sweden.
    5 million Swedes
    and 2 million Norwegians.
    Treaty with neighbouring state. Peace and lull completion.
    Swedish worker’s duty? Stand not only for freedom in general, not only for autonomy, but without fail, for the r i g h t to secede.
  2. 28. 1905. Finland and Poland.
    Deals between the national bourgeoisie and the Russian bourgeoisie. Tasks of the class parties: struggle against nationalistic deals, for an a l l i a n c e w i t h t h e r e v o l u t i o n a r y p r o l e t a r i a t i n R u s s i a.
  3. 29. Result:
    1. (α) Importance of § 9 from the entire history of national movement.
    2. (β) National oppression in Russia under the national state at the base and national oppression in the border areas.
    3. (γ) Unfinished bourgeois-democratic revolution in Russia.
    4. (δ) Russia’s international position.
    5. (ε) Independent decision on the question of secession, but there must be propaganda.

  1. 30. Special stand of P.S.D.
    Development of capitalism has bound up Poland and Russia closely together. Lodz factories working for the Russian market. It is not our business to set up a new class state. Is that all?
    (α) Failure to say: is the bourgeois-democratic revolution in Russia and in the Eastcompleted? No.  
    (β) The whole point is not Poland or her secession, but the Russian muzhik.
    November 1905
    Rebuttal of the nationalism of the Russian muzhik is more than the demand for the non-oppression of nations, more than autonomy, it is, without fail, the right to secede.
    To deny or weaken this is absurd and reactionary.
    To deny the right to secede is to help tsarism and to indulge the Russian muzhik’s nationalism.
    ]] NB
  2. (γ) Example: Marx’s attitude to Poland (Lopatin) and to Ireland....{17}
    Marx on Ireland. No nation oppressing the freedom of another nation can be free.
    ]] NB
  • Whence the P.S.D.’s absurdity?
    Inside-out nationalism.
    Scared by the Papuans.
    Cracow—an example.
    Along the wrong line.
  • The history of the P.S.D.’s promotion of its absurd and reactionary idea.
    1895: K. Kautsky
    (α) Materialismus einseitig{10}
    (β) are you afraid of indulging the nationalism of the petty bourgeoisie? You are helping the Russian reactionaries!
    1903. Second Congress committee vs. Warski.{18}
E. Equality of nations and minority rights....
  1. 31. No privileges for any nation or language.
    That is necessary from the standpoint of elementary democracy and working-class solidarity.
  3. 32. State language. Why it is not necessary.
    43 per cent Great Russians
    17 per cent Little Russians
    6 per cent White Russians
    6 per cent Poles
    72 per cent Slavs.
  4. 33. Example of Switzerland. Separate sheet.
    [HORIZONTAL ‘{’:]
    (α) Three languages (70–22–7 per cent).
    (β) Graub\"unden 100,000 inhabitants
    <30,000 Romanics [BOX:] 1 %
    (γ) Minority rights and fundamental law.
    (δ) Specimen solutions for national question in bourgeois society.
    (Belgium, Finland, etc.)
    Not inventions
  5. 34. Regional autonomy and local self-government=general principle of democratic system. Borders?
    National + economic + traditional, etc.
  6. 35. Is it feasible? F o r t u n a t o v versus Medern.
    National centres should be assessed by territorial minimum, not maximum.
    [BOX ENDS:]
    Standpoint of Medem’s “ungratified”: absolute nationalism of petty national islets!!!
  7. 36. “If the economic bonds are to be broken” (Medem).
  8. 37. Guarantee of minority rights. Fundamental law of the state (cf. Br\"unn § 4).
  9. 38. Medem’s objections I, 2{12} NB))
  10. 39. Necessity for such a general, central law (cf. Switzerland).
  11. 40. The only guarantee is a generally democratic and c e n t r a l i s e d democratic system.
F. C u l t u r a l- n a t i o n a l a u t o n o m y.
{{ extraterritorial
national }}
  1. 41. What is the plan? (1) Cadastre
    (2) Sejm
    (3) Compulsory taxation.
  2. 42. Austria’s experience (Br\"unn).
    Programme for cultural-national autonomy. Failure. Clericalism. Unfeasibie.
    Half-way programme adopted. Absurdity stands out at once.
  3. 43. Principles behind the plan.
    1. (0) Absolute, purified nationalism. Brought to completion.
    2. (α) National culture slogan. Reactionary bourgeois slogan versus working-class movement and internationalism.
      National culture and international culture:
      {{ isolation — unity
      union with the bourgeoisie, clericals, etc. — union with democracy and socialists of other nations.

      [BOX ENDS:]
      National museum in Lvov=“national culture”!!
    3. (β) “Exemption from competence.” Utopia! Its petty-bourgeois basis. Invention of poor intellectual.
      [BOX ENDS:]
      “No seizure, no victimisation, no struggle”
      (Medem). Cf. K. Kautsky.
    4. (γ) National curias in education. Harm. Negroes in America.
    5. (δ) Objective logic: “not instead, but together” with centralised democracy. Austria versus Switzerland.
    6. (ε) [LEFT-HAND BOX END:]
      Uneven class content of different nations.
      Not division, but separation.   { _ muzhik nations _
      _ and towns _ }
    7. (ζ) Jews—mainly traders.
      Sophism of Bundists: we isolate for p u r e class struggle.
  4. 44. National autonomy for the Jews?
    0. Bauer and K. Kautsky. “Caste."
    Jewish contribution to world culture and t w o trends among the Jews.
  5. 45. In Russia Jews isolated as a caste.
    Way out?
    1. (1) freezing isolation in one way or another
    2. (2) bringing them closer to the d e m o c r a t i c and s o c i a l i s t movement of the Diaspora countries.{19}

    “Expelling the Jews from the ranks of nations”....
  6. 46. 10.5 million throughout the world. Two halves
    [BOX ENDS:]
    [[Asher about Vienna—150,000 ]].
  7. 47. A l l bourgeois parties of the Jews have adopted cultural-national autonomy in Russia {{ + petty-bourgeois democracy 1907 +Bund? (section) }}
    What sort of grist has Bauer’s (petty-bourgeois, opportunist) invention become?
G. National principle in the organisation of socialist parties.
A u s t r i a.
Only since Wimberg (1907). (Otto Bauer. I, 7. 1907.)
Otto Bauer I, 7 about her opponents
idem I, 8.{13}
Split and c o l l a p s e. Czech separatists (1910 Copenhagen Congress) and their sympathies for the Bund.
R u s s i a

“Federation of the worst type”
1898–1903. Bund’s withdrawal from the Party.
1907–11. Medem
[BOX:] separate sheet
Integration (Caucasus, Riga, Vilna).
Unity from below.
_ _ _ _
Language{14} :
1) C f. s p r e a d o f l a n g u a g e s.

Liége: February 2, 1914

Rabinovich: National question=“invention”.


{1} Reference to p. 18 of the first notebook on the national question. —Ed.

{2} Cultural community.—Ed.

{3} Here and below the reference is to pages 5, 6 and 17 of the first notebook on the national question.—Ed.

{4} Peculiarity and weak spot.—Ed.

{5} “Never before has a purely national culture been less possible” (ibidem, 15, Internationality).—Ed.

{6} “Emphasis on national culture.”—Ed.

{7} Not a community of culture, of destiny, but a community of language.—Ed.

{8} Enormous exaggeration of the national ...aspect (35, Internationality). Complete neglect of the international aspect.—Ed.

{9} Language and territory.—Ed.

{10} Materialism one-sided.—Ed.

{11} See present edition, Vol. 20, pp. 20–21.—Ed.

{12} Reference to p. 2 of the first notebook on the national question.—Ed.

{13} Reference to pp. 7 and 8 of the first notebook on the national question.—Ed.

{14} From here on the entry is in pencil on the back cover of the notebook. There is also this address: “Parvis St.-Grilles. Maison du Peuple.
[BOX:] No. 15
[BOX:] 10.00 ”.—Ed.

{15} The theses were apparently written by Lenin after his lecture in Paris on January 10 (23), 1914 (see Lenin Miscellany XXX, pp. 51–57). The inscription on the cover of the “National Question III” notebook is an indication that Lenin repeated his Paris lecture at Liége on February 2, 1914. p. 313

{16} Lenin analyses Kautsky’s pamphlet Nationalit\"at und Internationalit\"at (Nationality and Internationality) in his work The Right of Nations to Self-Determination (see present edition, Vol. 20, pp. 397–99). p. 314

{17} See Lenin’s extract from the book Der Briefwechsel zwischen Fr. Engels u. K. Marx, Bd. IV, Stuttgart, 1913, S. 292, in Lenin Miscellany XVII, p. 291 (cf. Marx’s letter to Engels, written on July 5, 1870). p. 319

{18} At the third sitting of the Programme Committee of the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P., the delegate of the Social-Democracy of Poland and Lithuania motioned the adoption of the item on guarantees for “freedom of cultural development of all nations making up the state” (see Lenin’s note of it in Lenin Miscellany VI, p. 105). p. 319

{19} Diaspora (Gk. for dispersal)—the Jews living outside Judea. In the early 6th century B.C., there were Jewish communities in Egypt, Babylon and other countries of the Mediterranean. From the 3rd century B.C., the Diaspora grew rapidly, so that in the 1st century B.C., their number came to 4.5 million. In the Roman Empire, the Jews lived in communities, sometimes forming public-law corporations (as in Alexandria), or private religious societies (as in Rome). On the one hand, the Jews of the Diaspora successfully conducted the propaganda of Judaism, and on the other, they   wore gradually losing their national traits and language. p. 322

{20} Federation of the worst type” was the term used in the decisions of the Prague Party Conference of 1912 to characterise the relations with non-Russian national Social-Democratic organisations in the R.S.D,L.P. after the Fourth (Unity) Congress, when the “non-Russians” worked “in total isolation from Russian organisations”, which had an extremely negative effect on the whole work of the R.S.D.L.P. While the Social-Democratic organisations of Poland and Lithuania, the Latvian Territory and the Bund were formally part of the R.S.D.L.P., they actually held themselves aloof. Their representatives did not take part in the direction of Party work throughout Russia, and promoted, directly or indirectly, the anti-Party activity of the liquidators (see present edition, Vol. 17, pp. 464–65, and Vol. 18, pp. 411–12). p. 323

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