First published in the magazine Bolshevik No. 2, 1935.
Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 23, pages 271-277.
Translated: M. S. Levin, The Late Joe Fineberg and and Others
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive 2002 (2005). 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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Of the essays here presented for the reader’s attention, some are published for the first time, others appeared in various periodicals before the war. They deal with a question which now, naturally, arouses especial interest—the significance and role of national movements, the relationship between the national and the international. The biggest drawback, one most frequently encountered in all the arguments on this question, is lack of concreteness and historical perspective. It has become customary to smuggle in every manner of contraband under cover of general phrases. We believe, therefore, that a few statistics will prove anything but superfluous. A comparison with the lessons of the war of what we said before the war is not, in our view, unuseful. Unity of theory and perspective gives the essays continuity.
Facts are stubborn things, runs the English saying. It comes to mind, in particular, when a certain author waxes enthusiastic about the greatness of the “nationality principle” in its different implications and relationships. What is more, in most cases the “principle” is applied Just as aptly, and is just as much in place, as the exclamation “many happy returns of the day” by a certain folk-tale character at the sight of a funeral.
Precise facts, indisputable facts—they are especially abhorrent to this type of author, but are especially necessary if we want to form a proper understanding of this complicated, difficult and often deliberately confused question. But how to gather the facts? How to establish their connection and interdependence?
The most widely used, and most fallacious, method in the realm of social phenomena is to tear out individual minor facts and juggle with examples. Selecting chance examples presents no difficulty at all, but is of no value, or of purely negative value, for in each individual case everything hinges on the historically concrete situation. Facts, if we take them in their entirety, in their interconnection, are not only stub born things, but undoubtedly proof-bearing things. Minor facts, if taken out of their entirety, out of their interconnection, if they are arbitrarily selected and torn out of context, are merely things for juggling, or even worse. For instance, when an author who was once a serious author and wishes to be regarded as such now too takes the fact of the Mongolian yoke and presents it as an example that explains certain events in twentieth-century Europe, can this be considered merely juggling, or would it not be more correct to consider it political chicanery? The Mongolian yoke is a fact of history, and one doubtlessly connected with the national question, just as in twentieth-century Europe we observe a number of facts likewise doubtlessly connected with this question. But you will find few people—of the type the French describe as “national clowns”—who would venture, while claiming to be serious, to use this fact of the Mongolian yoke as an illustration of events in twentieth-century Europe.
The inference is clear: we must seek to build a reliable foundation of precise and indisputable facts that can be con fronted to any of the “general” or “example-based” arguments now so grossly misused in certain countries. And if it is to be a real foundation, we must take not individual facts, but the sum total of facts, without a single exception, relating to the question under discussion. Otherwise there will be the inevitable, and fully justified, suspicion that the facts were selected or compiled arbitrarily, that instead of historical phenomena being presented in objective interconnection and interdependence and treated as a whole, we are presenting a “subjective” concoction to justify what might prove to be a dirty business. This does happen ... and more often than one might think.
Proceeding from these considerations, we have decided to begin with statistics, fully aware of course that statistics are deeply antipathetic to certain readers, who prefer “flattering deception” to “base truths”, and to certain authors, who are prone to smuggle in political contraband tinder cover of “general” disquisitions about internationalism, cosmopolitanism, nationalism, patriotism, etc.
For a proper survey of the whole complex of data on national movements, we must take the whole population of the earth. And in so doing, two criteria must be established with the utmost accuracy and examined with the utmost fullness: first, national homogeneity or heterogeneity of the population of various states; second, division of states (or of state-like formations in cases where there is doubt that we are really dealing with a state) into politically independent and politically dependent.
Let us take the very, latest data, published in 1916, and rely on two sources: one German, the Geographical Statistical Tables compiled by Otto Hübner, and one English, The Statesman’s Year-Book. The first source will have to serve as a basis, for it contains much more comprehensive data on the question that interests us; the second we shall use to check and in some, mostly minor, cases to correct the first.
We shall begin our survey with the politically independent and nationally most homogeneous states. First and foremost among these is a group of West-European states, i.e., situated to the west of Russia and Austria.
Here we have 17 states of which five, however, though very homogeneous in national composition, are Lilliputian in size and population. These are Luxembourg, Monaco, San Marino, Liechtenstein and Andorra, with a combined population of only 310,000. Doubtlessly, it would be much more correct not to include them among the states under examination. Of the remaining 12 states, seven are absolutely homogeneous in national composition: in Italy, Holland, Portugal, Sweden and Norway, 99 per cent of the population are of one and the same nationality; in Spain and Denmark the proportion is 96 per cent. Then come three states with a nearly homogeneous national composition: France, England and Germany. In France, the Italians make up only 1.3 per cent, in areas annexed by Napoleon III by violating and falsifying the will of their people. England’s annexed territory, Ireland, has a population of 4.4 million, which is less than one-tenth of the total (46.8 million). In Germany, out of a population of 64.9 million, the non-German element, which in practically all cases is just as nationally oppressed as the Irish in England, is represented by the Poles (5.47 per cent), Danes (0.25 per cent) and the population of Alsace-Lorrain (1.87 million). However, part of the latter (the exact proportion is not known) undoubtedly incline towards Germany, due not only to language, but also to economic interests and sympathies. All in all, about 5 million of Germany’s population belong to alien, unequal and even oppressed nations.
Only two small states in Western Europe are of mixed national composition: Switzerland, whose population of somewhat less than four million consists of Germans (69 per cent), French (21 per cent) and Italians (8 per cent)—and Belgium (population less than 8 million; probably about 53 per cent Flemings and about 47 per cent French). It should be observed, however, that in spite of the high national heterogeneity in these countries, there can be no question of national oppression. In both countries all nationalities are equal under the constitution; in Switzerland this equality is fully implemented in practice; in Belgium there is inequality in relation to the Flemish population, though they make up the majority, but this inequality is insignificant compared, for instance, with what the Poles have to put up with in Germany, or the Irish in England, not to mention what has become customary in countries outside this group That is why, incidentally, the term “state of nationalities”, to which the Austrian authors Karl Renner and Otto Bauer, opportunists on the national question, have given such wide currency, is correct only in a very restricted sense. Namely, if, on the one hand, we remember the special historical place of the majority of the countries of this type (which we shall discuss later) and, on the other, if we do not allow this term to obscure the fundamental difference between genuine national equality and national oppression.
Taking all the countries we have discussed, we get a group of 12 West-European states with a total population of 242 million. Of these 242 million only about 9.5 million, i.e., only 4 per cent, represent oppressed nations (in England and Germany). If we add together those sections of the population in all these countries that do not belong to the principal nationalities, we get about 15 million, i.e., 6 per cent.
On the whole, consequently, this group of states is characterised by the following: they are the most advanced capitalist countries, the most developed both economically and politically. Their cultural level, too, is the highest. In national composition most of these countries are homogeneous or nearly homogeneous. National inequality, as a specific political phenomenon, plays a very insignificant part. What we have is the type of “national state” people so often refer to, oblivious, in most cases, to the historically conditional and transitory character of this type in the general capitalist development of mankind. But that will be dealt with in its proper place.
It might be asked: Is this type of state confined to Western Europe? Obviously not. All its basic characteristics—economic (high and particularly rapid capitalist development), political (representative government), cultural and national—are to be observed also in the advanced states of America and Asia: the United States and Japan. The latter’s national composition took shape long ago and is absolutely homogeneous: Japanese make up more than 99 per cent of the population. In the United States, the Negroes (and also the Mulattos and Indians) account for only 11.1 per cent. They should be classed as an oppressed nation, for the equality won in the Civil War of 1861–65 and guaranteed by the Constitution of the republic was in many respects increasingly curtailed in the chief Negro areas (the South) in connection with the transition from the progressive, pre-monopoly capitalism of 1860–70 to the reactionary, monopoly capitalism (imperialism) of the new era, which in America was especially sharply etched out by the Spanish-American imperialist war of 1898 (i.e., a war between two robbers over the division of the booty).
The white population of the United States makes up 88.7 per cent of the total, and of this figure 74.3 per cent are Americans and only 14.4 per cent foreign-born, i.e., immigrants. We know that the especially favourable conditions in America for the development of capitalism and the rapidity of this development have produced a situation in which vast national differences are speedily and fundamentally, as nowhere else in the world, smoothed out to form a single “American” nation.
Adding the United States and Japan to the West—European countries enumerated above, we get 14 states with an aggregate population of 394 million, of which 26 million, i.e., 7 per cent, belong to unequal nationalities. Though this will be dealt with later, I might observe that at the turn of the century, i.e., in the period when capitalism was being transformed into imperialism, the majority of precisely these 14 advanced states made especially great strides in colonial policy, with the result that they now “dispose” of a population of over 500 million in dependent and colonial countries.
The group of East-European states—Russia, Austria, Turkey (which geographically should now be considered among the Asian slates, and economically a “semi-colony”), and the six small Balkan states—Rumania, Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia, Montenegro and Albania—clearly reveal a fundamentally different picture. Not a single nationally fully homogeneous state! Only the small Balkan countries can he described as national states, though we should not forget that here, too, other nationalities comprise from 5 to 10 per cent, that very great numbers (compared with the total number of people belonging to the given nation) of Rumanians and Serbs live outside their “own” states, and that, in general, the bourgeois-national development of Balkan statehood was not completed even by “yesterday’s” wars of 1911–12. There is not a single national state like Spain, Sweden, etc., among the small Balkan countries. And in the big East European states, in all three, the proportion of their “own”, principal nationality is only 43 per cent. More than half the population of each of these three big states, 57 per cent, is made up of other nationalities (or, to use the official Russian term, of “aliens”). Statistically, the difference between the West-European and East-European groups of states can be expressed as follows:
In the first group we have ten homogeneous or near homogeneous national states with an aggregate population of 231 million. There are only two heterogeneous states, but without national oppression and with constitutional and factual equality; their population is 11.5 million.
In the second group 6 states, with a population of 23 million, are nearly homogeneous; three states, with a population of 249 million, are heterogeneous or “mixed” and without national equality.
On the whole, the proportion of the foreign-nationality population (i.e., not belonging to the principal nation of the given state) is 6 per cent in Western Europe, and 7 per cent if we add the United States and Japan. In Eastern Europe, on the other hand, the proportion is 53 per cent!
 The Great Hessians in Russia, the Germans and Hungarians in Austria. the Turks in Turkey. —Lenin
 The manuscript breaks off here.—Ed.
 Statistics and Sociology was meant for publication, legally, as a separate pamphlet under the pen-name P. Pirynchov. The article was never finished.