V. I.   Lenin

Corrupting the Workers with Refined Nationalism

Published: Put Pravdy No. 82, May 10, 1914. Signed: V. I.. Published according to the text in Put Pravdy.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 20, pages 289-291.
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.
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The more strongly the working-class movement develops the more frantic are the attempts by the bourgeoisie and the feudalists to suppress it or break it up. Both these methods—suppression by force and disintegration by bourgeois influence—are constantly employed all over the world, in all countries, and one or another of these methods is adopted alternately by the different parties of the ruling classes.

In Russia, particularly after 1905, when the more intelligent members of the bourgeoisie realised that brute force alone was ineffective, all sorts of “progressive” bourgeois parties and groups have been more and more often resorting to the method of dividing the workers by advocating different bourgeois ideas and doctrines designed to weaken the struggle of the working class.

One such idea is refined nationalism, which advocates the division and splitting up of the proletariat on the most plausible and specious pretexts, as for example, that of protecting the interests of “national culture”, “national autonomy, or independence”, and so on, and so forth.

The class-conscious workers fight hard against every kind of nationalism, both the crude, violent, Black-Hundred nationalism, and that most refined nationalism which preaches the equality of nations together with ... the splitting up of the workers’ cause, the workers’ organisations and the working-class movement according to nationality. Unlike all the varieties of the nationalist bourgeoisie, the class conscious workers, carrying out the decisions of the recent (summer 1913) conference of the Marxists, stand, not only for the most complete, consistent and fully applied equality   of nations and languages, but also for the amalgamation of the workers of the different nationalities in united proletarian organisations of every kind.

Herein lies the fundamental distinction between the national programme of Marxism and that of any bourgeoisie, be it the most “advanced”.

Recognition of the equality of nations and languages is important to Marxists, not only because they are the most consistent democrats. The interests of proletarian solidarity and comradely unity in the workers’ class struggle call for the fullest equality of nations with a view to removing every trace of national distrust, estrangement, suspicion and enmity. And full equality implies the repudiation of all privileges for any one language and the recognition of the right of self-determination for all nations.

To the bourgeoisie, however, the demand for national equality very often amounts in practice to advocating national exclusiveness and chauvinism; they very often couple it with advocacy of the division and estrangement of nations. This is absolutely incompatible with proletarian internationalism, which advocates, not only closer relations between nations, but the amalgamation of the workers of all nationalities in a given state in united proletarian organisations. That is why Marxists emphatically condemn so-called “cultural-national autonomy”, i. e., the idea that educational affairs should be taken out of the hands of the state and transferred to the respective nationalities. This plan means that in questions of “national culture” educational affairs are to be split up in national associations according to the nationalities in the given state federation, each with its own separate Diet, educational budgets, school boards, and educational institutions.

This is a plan of refined nationalism, which corrupts and divides the working class. To this plan (of the Bundists, liquidators and Narodniks, i. e., of the various petty-bourgeois groups), the Marxists contrapose the principle of complete equality of nations and languages and go to the extent of denying the necessity of an official language; at the same time they advocate the closest possible relations between the nations, uniform state institutions for all nations, uniform school boards, a uniform education policy   (secular education!) and the unity of the workers of the different nations in the struggle against the nationalism of every national bourgeoisie, a nationalism which is presented in the form of the slogan “national culture” for the purpose of deceiving simpletons.

Let the petty-bourgeois nationalists—the Bundists, the liquidators, the Narodniks and the writers for Dzvin—openly advocate their principle of refined bourgeois nationalism; that is their right. But they should not try to fool the workers, as Madam V. 0.[1] does, for example, in issue No. 35 of Severnaya Rabochaya Gazeta, where she assures her readers that Za Pravdu is opposed to instruction in schools being given in the native languages!

That is gross slander. The Pravdists not only recognise this right, but are more consistent in recognising it than anyone else. The Pravdists, who identified themselves with the conference of Marxists, which declared that no compulsory official language was necessary, were the first in Russia to recognise fully the right to use the native language!

It is crass ignorance to confuse instruction in the native language with “dividing educational affairs within a single state according to nationality”, with “cultural-national autonomy”, with “taking educational affairs out of the hands of the state”.

Nowhere in the world are Marxists (or even democrats) opposed to instruction being conducted in the native language. And nowhere in the world have Marxists adopted the programme of “cultural-national autonomy”; Austria is the only country in which it was proposed.

The example of Finland, as quoted by Madam V. 0., is an argument against herself, for in that country the equality of nations and languages (which we recognise unreservedly and more consistently than anybody) is recognised and carried out, but there is no question there about taking educational affairs out of the hands of the state, about separate national associations to deal with all educational affairs, about partitioning up the school system of a country with national barriers, and so forth.


[1] V.0.—author of the article “The Deterioration of School Education” published in Severnaya Rabochaya Gazeta No. 35, March 21, 1914.

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