Capitalism transforms social life from the material foundations up to the top – the cultural aspects. It has produced a whole series of entirely new economic phenomena: big industry, machine production, proletarization, concentration of property, industrial crises, capitalist monopolies, modern industry, labor of women and children, etc. Capitalism has produced a new center of social life: the big city, as well as a new social class: the professional intelligentsia. Capitalist economy with its highly developed division of labor and constant progress of technology needs a large specialized staff of employees with technical training: engineers, chemists, architects, electricians, etc. Capitalist industry and commerce need a whole army of lawyers: attorneys, notaries, judges, etc. Bourgeois management, especially in big cities, has made health a public matter and developed for its service large numbers of physicians, pharmacists, midwives, dentists, as well as public hospitals with appropriate staffs. Capitalist production requires not only specially trained production managers but universal, elementary, popular education, both to raise the general cultural level of the people which creates ever growing needs, and consequently demand for mass articles, and to develop a properly educated and intelligent worker capable of operating large-scale industry. Hence, bourgeois society everywhere, popular education and vocational training are indispensable. Consequently we see public schools and numerous elementary, secondary, and college teachers, libraries, reading rooms, etc.
Capitalistic production and participation in the world market are impossible without appropriately extensive, speedy, and constant communication – both material and cultural. Bourgeois society has thus created on the one hand railroads and modern postal and telegraph services, and on the other based on these material foundations – a periodical press, a social phenomenon which before was entirely unknown. To work for the press there has come into being in bourgeois society a numerous category of professional journalists and publicists. Capitalism has made any manifestation of human energy, including artistic creativity, an object of commerce, while on the other hand, by making art objects accessible to the broad masses of the people through mass production, it has made art an everyday need of at least urban society. Theater, music, painting, sculpture, which, in the period of natural economy had been a monopoly and private luxury of individual, powerful sponsors, are in bourgeois society a public institution and part and parcel of the normal daily life of the urban population. The worker’s cultural needs are met in the taverns or beer gardens and by cheap book illustrations and junky ornaments; he adorns his person and his lodging with artistic tawdriness, while the bourgeoisie has at its disposal philharmonics, first-rate theaters, works of genius, and objects of elegance. However, the one and the other kind of consumption calls forth a numerous class of artists and artistic producers.
In this way capitalism creates a whole new culture: public education, development of science, the flowering of learning, journalism, a specifically geared art. However, these are not just mechanical appendages to the bare process of production or mechanically separated lifeless parts. The culture of bourgeois society itself constitutes a living and to some extent autonomous entity. In order to exist or develop, this society not only needs certain relationships of production, exchange, a nd communication, but it also creates a certain set of intellectual relations within the framework of contradictory class interests. If the class struggle is a natural product of the capitalist economy then its natural needs are the conditions that mike this class struggle possible; hence not only modern political forms, democracy, parliamentarianism, but also open public life, with an open exchange of views and conflicting convictions, an intense intellectual life, which alone makes the struggle of classes and parties possible. Popular education, journalism, science, art – growing at first within the framework of capitalist production – become in themselves an indispensable need and condition of existence of modern society. Schools, libraries, newspapers, theaters, public lectures, public discussions grow into the normal conditions of life, into the indispensable intellectual atmosphere of each member of the modern, particularly urban society, even outside the connection of these phenomena with economic conditions. In a word, the vulgar material process of capitalism creates a whole new ideological “superstructure” with an existence and development which are to some extent autonomous.
However, capitalism does not create that intellectual spirit in the air or in the theoretical void of abstraction, but in a definite territory, a definite social environment, a definite language, within the framework of certain traditions, in a word, within definite national forms. Consequently, by that very culture it sets apart a certain territory and a certain population as a cultural national entity in which it creates a special, closer cohesion and connection of intellectual interests.
Any ideology is basically only a superstructure of the material and class conditions of a given epoch. However, at the same time, the ideology of each epoch harks back to the ideological results of the preceding epochs, while on the other hand it has its own logical development in a certain area. This is illustrated by the sciences as well as by religion, philosophy, and art.
The cultural and aesthetic values created by capitalism in a given environment not only assume a certain national quality through the main organ of cultural production, i.e., the language, but merge with the traditional culture of society, whose history becomes saturated with its distinct cultural characteristics; in a word, this culture turns into a national culture with an existence and development of its own. The basic features and foundations of modern culture in all bourgeois countries are common, international, and the tendency of contemporary development is doubtless toward an ever greater community of international culture. However, within the framework of this highly cosmopolitan, bourgeois culture, French is clearly distinguished from English culture, German from Dutch, Polish from Russian, as so many separate types.
The borderlines of historical stages and the historical “seams” are least detectable in the development of an ideology. Because the modern capitalist culture is an heir to and continuator of earlier cultures, what develops is the continuity and monolithic quality of a national culture which, on the surface, shows no connection with the period of capitalist economy and bourgeois rule. For the phrasemonger of the “National Democracy,” or mindless “sociologist” of social patriotism, the culture of present-day Poland is, in its core, the same unchanged “culture of the Polish nation” as at the time of Batory or Stanislas Augustus, while Straszewicz, Swiatochowski, and Sienkiewicz are direct-line spiritual heirs of Rey of Nagtowice, Pasek, and Mickiewicz. In fact, however, the literature and the press in modern, bourgeois Poland are appallingly trivial; Polish science and the entire Polish culture are appallingly poor: they belong in a new historical stage completely alien in spirit and content to the old culture of feudal Poland, mirrored in its last monumental work, Pan Tadeusz. Present-day Polish culture, in all its destitution, is a modern product of the same capitalist development that chained Poland to Russia and placed at the head of society, in the role of ruling class, a rabble of heterogeneous money-makers without a past, without a revolutionary tradition, and professional traitors to the national cause. The present-day bourgeois learning, art, and journalism of Poland are in spirit and content ideological hieroglyphs from which a materialist historian reads the history of the fall of gentry Poland, the history of “organic work,” conciliation, National Democracy, deputations, memoranda, up to the “national” elections to the tsarist Duma under a state of emergency, and “national” teens to murder Polish Socialist workers. Capitalism created modern Polish national culture, annihilating in the same process Polish national independence.
Capitalism annihilated Polish national independence but at the same time created modern Polish national culture. This national culture is a product indispensable within the frame-work of bourgeois Poland; its existence and development are a historical necessity, connected with the capitalistic development itself. The development of capitalism, which chained Poland to Russia by socio-economic ties, undermined Russian absolutism, united and revolutionized the Russian and Polish proletariat as a class called upon to overthrow absolutism, and in this way created, under the Tsars, the indispensable preconditions for achieving political freedom. But within the framework and against the background of this general tendency toward the democratization of the state, capitalism at the same time knit more closely the socio-economic and cultural-national life of the Polish kingdom, thus preparing the objective conditions for the realization of Polish national autonomy.
As we have seen, the requirements of the capitalist system lead with historic necessity in all modern states to the development of local self-government through the participation of the people in carrying out socio-political functions on all levels, from the commune to the district and province. Where, however, inside a modern state there exist distinct nationality districts constituting at the same time territories with certain economic and social distinctions, the same requirements of the bourgeois economy make self-government on the highest, country-wide level, indispensable. On this level, local self-government is also transformed, as a result of a new factor, national-cultural distinctness, into a special type of democratic institution applicable only in quite specific conditions.
The Moscow-Vladimir industrial district, with its economic achievements, local specific interests, and concentration of population, differs certainly as much from the vast Russian space surrounding it as does the Kingdom of Poland. However, the factor distinguishing our country from the central district of Russia in a decisive way, is the distinctness of the cultural-national existence, which creates a whole sphere of separate common interests besides purely economic and social ones. Just as an urban or village commune, district, department or gubernia, province or region must possess, in keeping with the spirit of modern self-government, a certain range of local legislation contained within the framework of state laws, national self-government, in the spirit of democracy, must be based on the representation of the people and their power of local legislation within the framework of state laws, to satisfy the national socio-economic and cultural-national needs.
The entire modern culture is, above all, a class, bourgeois culture. Learning and art, school and theater, professional intelligentsia, the press – all primarily serve the bourgeois society, are imbued with its principles, its spirit, its tendency. But the institutions of the bourgeois system, like the capitalist development itself, are, in the spirit of the historical dialectic, twofold, double-edged phenomena: the means of class development and rule are at the same time so many means for the rise of the proletariat as a class to the struggle for emancipation, for the abolition of bourgeois rule. Political freedom, parliamentarianism are, in all present-day states, tools for building up capitalism and the interests of the bourgeoisie as the ruling class. However, the same democratic institutions and bourgeois parliamentarianism are, at a certain level, an indispensable school of the proletariat’s political and class maturity, a condition of organizing it into a Social Democratic party, of training it in open class struggle.
The same applies to the sphere of the intellect. The basic school, elementary education, is necessary for bourgeois society in order to create appropriate mass consumption as well as an appropriate contingent of able working hands. But the same school and education become the basic tools of the proletariat as a revolutionary class. The social, historical, philosophical, and natural sciences are today the ideological products of the bourgeoisie and expressions of its needs and class tendencies. But on a certain level of its development the working class recognizes that for it also “knowledge is power” – not in the tasteless sense of bourgeois individualism and its preachings of “industriousness and diligence” as a means of achieving “happiness,” but in the sense of knowledge as a lever of class struggle, as the revolutionary consciousness of the working masses. Finally, socialism, which links the interest of the workers as a class with the development and future of mankind as a great cultural brotherhood, produces a particular affinity of the proletarian struggle with the interests of culture as a whole, and causes the seemingly contradictory and paradoxical phenomenon that the conscious proletariat is today in all countries the most ardent and idealistic advocate of the interests of learning and art, the same bourgeois culture of which it is today the disinherited stepchild.
The national autonomy of the Kingdom of Poland is primarily necessary for the Polish bourgeoisie to strengthen its class rule and to develop its institutions in order to exploit and oppress with no restrictions whatsoever. In the same way as the modern state-political parliamentary institutions, and, as their corollary, the institutions of local self-government are on a certain level an indispensable tool of bourgeois rule and a close harmonization of all state and social functions with the interests of the bourgeoisie, in a narrower sense, national autonomy is an indispensable tool of the strict application of the social functions in a certain territory to the special bourgeois interests of that territory. Absolutism, which safe-guarded the crudest although the most important vital interest of the ruling classes, viz., the limitless exploitation of the working strata, naturally, at the same time, sacrificed to its own interests and working methods all subtle interests and forms of bourgeois rule, i.e., treated them with Asiatic ruthlessness. Political liberty and self-government will eventually give the Polish bourgeoisie the possibility of utilizing a number of presently neglected social functions – schools, religious worship, and the entire cultural-spiritual life of the country – for its own class interests. By manning all offices of the administration, judiciary, and politics, the bourgeoisie will be able to assimilate genuinely these natural organs of class rule with the spirit and home needs of bourgeois society, and so turn them into flexible, accurate, and subtle tools of the Polish ruling classes. National autonomy, as a part of all-state political freedom, is, in a word, the most mature political form of bourgeois rule in Poland.
However, precisely for this reason, autonomy is an indispensable class need of the Polish proletariat. The riper the bourgeois institutions grow, the deeper they penetrate the social functions, the more ground they cover within the variegated intellectual and aesthetic sphere, the broader grows the battlefield and the bigger the number of firing lines wherefrom the proletariat conducts the class struggle. The more unrestrictedly and efficiently the development of bourgeois society proceeds, the more courageously and surely advances the consciousness, political maturity, and unification of the proletariat as a class.
The Polish proletariat needs for its class struggle all the components of which a spiritual culture is made; primarily, its interests, essentially based on the solidarity of nations and striving toward it, require the elimination of national oppression, and guarantees against such oppression worked out in the course of social development. Moreover, a normal, broad, and unrestricted cultural life of the country is just as indispensable for the development of the proletariat’s class struggle as for the existence of bourgeois society itself.
National autonomy has the same aims as are contained in the political program of the Polish proletariat: the overthrow of absolutism and the achievement of political freedom in the country at large; this is but a part of the program resulting both from the progressive trends of capitalist development and from the class interests of. the proletariat.
The national separateness of a certain territory in a modern state is not by itself a sufficient basis for autonomy; the relationship between nationality and political life is precisely what calls for closer examination. Theoreticians of nationalism usually consider nationality in general as a natural, unchangeable phenomenon, outside social development, a conservative phenomenon resisting all historical vicissitudes, In accordance with this view bourgeois nationalism finds the main sources of national vitality and strength not in the modern historical formation, i.e., urban, bourgeois culture, but, on the contrary, in the traditional forms of life of the rural population. The peasant mass with its social conservatism appears to the romantics of nationalism as the only genuine mainstay of the national culture, an unshakable fortress of national distinctness, the stronghold of the proper national genius and spirit. When, in the middle of the last century, there began to flourish, in connection with the nationalist trend in the politics of Central Europe, so-called folklorism, it turned above all to the traditional forms of peasant culture as to the treasury in which every nation deposits “the threads of its thoughts and the flowers of its feelings.” In the same way at present, the recently awakened Lithuanian, Byelorussian, and Ukrainian nationalism bases itself entirely on the rural population and its conservative forms of existence, significantly starting the cultivation of this age-old and virgin national field with spreading primers and the Holy Scripture in the national language and national orthography. Already, in the 1880s, when the pseudo-socialistic and pseudo-revolutionary Glos [Voice] was published in Warsaw, the Polish National Democracy too, following its infallible reactionary instinct, turned its peculiar national sentiments, happily married to the anti-Semitism of the urban bourgeoisie, toward the rural population. Finally, in the same way, the most re-cent “nationalist” current in Russia, the party of Mr. Korfanty and Company, is based mainly on the conservatism of the rural population of Upper Silesia, exploited as a foundation for economic and political success by the reactionary Polish petite bourgeoisie.
On the other hand, the problem of which social strata constitute the proper guardians of national culture has recently caused an interesting exchange of views in the Social Democratic camp.
In the study of the “nationality question, “ quoted by us several times, Karl Kautsky, criticizing the work of the Austrian party publicist Otto Bauer on the same subject, says:
Class differences lead Bauer to the paradoxical opinion that only those portions of a nation constitute a nation which participate in the culture: consequently, until now, only the ruling and exploiting classes.
”In the period of the Staufers” – writes Bauer – “the nation existed only in the cultural community of knighthood ... A homogeneous national character produced by the homogeneity of cultural influences, was only the character of one class of the nation ... The peasant did not share in anything that united the nation. Therefore the German peasants do not at all constitute the nation; they are the Hintersassen of the nation. In a society based on the private ownership of the means of production, the ruling classes constitute the nation – formerly the knighthood, today the educated people, as a community of people in whom uniform education developed by the nation’s history, with the help of a common language and national education, develops an affinity of characters. On the other hand the broad popular masses do not constitute the nation.”
According to Bauer only the socialist system, by making the masses of the working people participants in the entirety of the culture, will turn these masses into a nation. Kautsky replies to these arguments as follows:
This is a very subtle thought with a very right core but in the nationality question it leads to a false road, for it treats the concept of nation in such a way as to make simply impossible the understanding of the force of the national thought in all classes in the present, and the bases of the present national contradictions of entire nations. Bauer conflicts here with the observation made by Renner that it is precisely the peasant who is the preserver of nationality. Renner demonstrates that in Austria (including Hungary), during the last century, a number of cities changed their nationality, becoming Hungarian or Czech rather than German. On the other hand German cities, specifically Vienna, absorbed an immense influx of foreign nationalities and assimilated them to the German nation. However, in the countryside the linguistic boundaries have practically not shifted. Actually, in Austria’s major cities, the process of Germanization has achieved its goal; at the beginning of the nineteenth century they had all been German cities, with the exception at the most of Galicia, Croatia, and the Italian towns. By contrast, the peasant population is the one that remained national; the tendencies toward making Austria a national state shattered against the peasantry. The peasant firmly adheres to his nationality as to any tradition, while the city dweller, especially the educated one, assimilates much more easily.
In the course of his study, Kautsky is forced to considerably revise his reasoning. Examining more closely the foundations of modern national movements, he points out that precisely the bourgeois development calling into existence a new social class, the professional intelligentsia, creates in this form the main fact of the contemporary national idea and a pillar of national life. It is true that the same development simultaneously leads the social and cultural life of present-day nationalities, and particularly of the intelligentsia to international paths, and from this standpoint Kautsky rightly reverses the perspective outlined by Bauer, by explaining that the task of the great socialist reform in the future will not be the nationalization, i.e., the national separation of the working masses, but, on the contrary, blazing the trail for one universal, international culture in which distinct nationalities will disappear. However, in present-day conditions, the role of the urban, or strictly speaking, bourgeois element, is decisive for the fate of nationalities. If Kautsky in agreement with Renner points to a whole series of Slavic critics Germanized at the beginning of the nineteenth century in the Hapsburg monarchy as an example of the national non-resistance of the urban element, these facts may actually serve only as an illustration of the petit bourgeois conditions of the pre-capitalist era by which doubtless the urban life in the Slavic lands of Austria was characterized at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The further development of events, a definite swing of the same type of critics to their own nationality in the last few decades, which is confirmed by Kautsky and Renner, is, on the other hand, a striking example of how far the rise of its own bourgeois development in a country, its own industry, its own big city life, its own “national” bourgeoisie and intelligentsia, as it occurred for example in Bohemia, can form the basis for a resistant national policy and for an active political life connected with it.
The emphasis on the peasant element in connection with the fate of nationality is correct so far as the quite passive preservation of national peculiarities in the ethnic group is concerned: speech, mores, dress, and also, usually in close connection with this, a certain religion. The conservatism of peasant life makes possible the preservation of nationality within these narrow bounds and explains the resistance for centuries to any denationalization policy, regardless of either the ruthlessness of the methods or the cultural superiority of the aggressive foreign nationality. This is proved by the preservation of speech and national type among the South Slavic tribes of Turkey and Hungary, the preservation of the peculiarities of the Byelorussians, Ruthenians, Lithuanians in the Russian empire, of the Masurians and Lithuanians in East Prussia, or the Poles in Upper Silesia, etc.
However, a national culture preserved in this traditional-peasant manner is incapable of playing the role of an active element in contemporary political-social life, precisely because it is entirely a product of tradition, is rooted in past conditions, because – to use the words of Marx – the peasant class stands in today’s bourgeois society outside of culture, constituting rather a “piece of barbarism” surviving in that culture. The peasant, as a national “outpost,” is always and a priori a culture of social barbarism, a basis of political reaction, doomed by historical evolution. No serious political-national movement in present-day conditions is possible solely on a national peasant foundation. And only when the present urban classes-bourgeoisie, petite bourgeoisie, and bourgeois-intelligentsia – become the promoters of the national movement, will it be possible to develop, in certain defined circumstances, the seeming phenomenon of the national contradictions and national aspirations of “entire nations,” referred to by Kautsky.
Thus, local autonomy in the sense of the self-government of a certain nationality territory is only possible where the respective nationality possesses its own bourgeois development, urban life, intelligentsia, its own literary and scholarly life. The Congress Kingdom demonstrates all these conditions. Its population is nationally homogeneous because the Polish element has a decisive preponderance over other nationalities in the country’s whole area, with the exception of the Suwalki gubernia in which the Lithuanians prevail. Out of the overall population of 9,402,253 the Poles constitute 6,755,503, while of the remaining nationalities the Jews and Germans are mainly concentrated in the cities where, however, they do not represent a foreign bourgeois intelligentsia, but, on the contrary, are considerably assimilated by Polish cultural life, while the Russians, except in the Lublin and Siedlce regions, represent mainly the influx of bureaucratic elements alien to Polish society. The percentage of total population of these nationalities in the respective provinces, with the exception of Suwalki, appears, according to the census of 1897, as follows:
Thus, in all the gubernias except two, and in the country as a whole, the Polish element constitutes more than 70 percent of the population; it is, moreover, the decisive element in the socio-cultural development of the country.
However, the situation looks different when we turn to the Jewish nationality.
Jewish national autonomy, not in the sense of freedom of school, religion, place of residence, and equal civic rights, but in the sense of the political self-government of the Jewish population with its own legislation and administration, as it were parallel to the autonomy of the Congress Kingdom, is an entirely utopian idea. Strangely, this conviction prevails also in the camp of extreme Polish nationalists, e.g., in the so-called “Revolutionary Faction” of the PPS, where it is based on the simple circumstance that the Jewish nationality does not possess a “territory of its own” within the Russian empire. But national autonomy conceived in accordance with that group’s own standpoint, i.e., as the sum of freedoms and rights to self-determination of a certain group of people linked by language, tradition, and psychology, is in itself a construction lying beyond historical conditions, fluttering in mid-air, and therefore one that can be easily conceived, as it were, “in the air,” i.e., without any definite territory. On the other hand, an autonomy that grows historically together with local self-government, on the basis of modern bourgeois-democratic development, is actually as inseparable from a certain territory as the bourgeois state itself, and cannot be imagined without it to the same extent as “non-territorial” communal or urban self-government. It is true that the Jewish population was completely under the influence of modern capitalistic development in the Russian empire and shares the economic, political, and spiritual interests of particular groups in that society. But on the one hand, these interests were never territorially separated so as to become specifically Jewish capitalist interests; rather, they are common interests of the Jewish and other people in the country at large. On the other hand, this capitalist development does not lead to a separation of bourgeois Jewish culture, but acts in an exactly opposite direction, leading to the assimilation of the Jewish bourgeois, urban intelligentsia, to their absorption by the Polish or Russian people. If the national distinctness of the Lithuanians or Byelorussians is based on the backward peasant people, the Jewish national distinctness in Russia and Poland is based on the socially backward petite bourgeoisie, on small production, small trade, small-town life, and – let us add parenthetically – on the close relation of the nationality in question to religion. In view of the above, the national distinctness of the Jews, which is supposed to be the basis of non-territorial Jewish autonomy, is manifested not in the form of metropolitan bourgeois culture, but in the form of small-town lack of culture. Obviously any efforts toward “developing Jewish culture” at the initiative of a handful of Yiddish publicists and translators cannot be taken seriously.
The only manifestation of genuine modern culture in the Russian framework is the Social Democratic movement of the Russian proletariat which, because of its nature, can best replace the historical lack of bourgeois national culture of the Jews, since it is itself a phase of genuinely international and proletarian culture.
Different, though no less complicated, is the question of autonomy in Lithuania. For nationalist utopians, obviously the existence of a certain territory inhabited by a population of distinct nationality is a sufficient reason to demand for the nationality in question, in the name of the right of all nationalities to self-determination, either an independent republic, or one federated with Russia, or the “broadest autonomy.” Each of these programs was advanced in turn by the former “Lithuanian Social Democracy,” then by the PPS in its federative phase, and finally by the recently organized “Byelorussian Socialist Commune” which, at its Second Congress in 1906, adopted a somewhat vague program of a “federal republic in Russia with a territorial-autonomous diet in Vilna for the territory of the Western country.” Whether the “Byelorussian Commune” demands the proclamation of the “Western country” as one of the republics into which the Russian Empire is to be split, or a “territorial autonomy” for that “Western country” is difficult to figure out; since an “autonomous” diet is demanded for Vilna, it would seem that the latter version is intended, or else, what is in complete harmony with the whole utopian-abstract treatment of the question, no basic distinctions are made between an independent republic, a federal system, and autonomy, but only qualitative distinctions. Let us examine the matter from the standpoint of territorial autonomy. The “Western country,” according to the terminology in the Russian administrative division, is a preponderantly agrarian and small-industry district comprising areas with considerable variations in conditions. Apart from the local interests of the rural, municipal, and provincial self-governments, this territory is much less of as distinct production and trading district, with a less distinctive character and a less distinct grouping of interests, than the Kingdom of Poland or the industrial Moscow district. On the other hand it is a distinct nationality district. But it is precisely with regard to this question of nationality that the greatest difficulties arise from the standpoint of potential autonomy. The “Western country,” i.e., the territory of former Lithuania, is an area occupied by several different nationalities, and the first question that arises is: which nationality is to be served by the territorial-national autonomy that is at stake, which language, which nationality is to be decisive in the schools, cultural institutions, the judiciary, legislation, and in filling local offices? The Lithuanian nationalists obviously demand autonomy for the Lithuanian nationality. Let us look at the actual conditions of that nationality.
According to the census of 1897 – the last one that has taken place and whose results in the area of nationality relations have been available to the public since 1905 – the genuine Lithuanian nationality in the Russian empire numbers 1,210,510 people. This population inhabits mainly the Vilna, Kovno, Grodno, and Suwalki gubernias. Besides, there live almost exclusively in the Kovno gubernia, 448,000 persons of Samogitian nationality, who by no means identify with the Lithuanians. If we were to outline the territory that might serve as a basis for an autonomous Lithuania, we would have to eliminate part of the present “Western country,” and on the other hand go beyond its borders and include the Suwalki gubernia which today belongs to the Congress Kingdom. We would obtain a territory approximately corresponding to the voyvodship of Vilna and Troki which, in pre-partition Poland, constituted “Lithuania proper.” The Lithuanian population is distributed in that territory as follows: out of the sum total of 1,200,000 Lithuanians almost half, i.e., 574,853, are concentrated in the Kovno gubernia. The second place with regard to the concentration of Lithuanians is occupied by the Suwalki gubernia, where 305,548 live; somewhat fewer are to be found in the Vilna gubernia, viz., 297,720 persons; finally, an insignificant number of Lithuanians, about 3,500, inhabit the northern portion of the Grodno gubernia. Actually, the Lithuanian population is doubtless more numerous, because in the census the language used by the respective populations was the main point taken into consideration, while a sizable proportion of Lithuanians use the Polish language in everyday life. However, in the present case, from the standpoint of nationality as a basis of national autonomy, obviously only the population wherein national distinctness is expressed in a distinct native language can be taken into account.
The distribution of the Lithuanian population becomes apparent only when we ascertain its numerical ratio to the remaining population in the same territory. The over-all population figure in the gubernias mentioned (always according to the 1897 census) is as follows:
|In the Kovno gubernia||1,544,569||37.0|
|In the Vilna gubernia||1,591,207||17.0|
|In the Grodno gubernia||1,603,409||0.2|
|In the Suwalki gubernia||582,913||52.0|
Out of a total population of 5,322,093 in that territory, the Lithuanians constitute less than 23 percent. Even if we were to include, as do the Lithuanian nationalists, the entire Samogitian population with the Lithuanians, we would obtain the ratio of 31 percent, i.e., less than a third of the total population. Obviously, setting up the former “Lithuania proper” as the area of the Lithuanian nationality is, in present-day conditions, an entirely arbitrary and artificial construction.
The total population of the four “north-western” gubernias included because of the Byelorussian nationality is as follows:
Together with the population of the four gubernias inhabited by Lithuanians, this adds up to the considerable figure of 12,171,007. However, among this population, the Byelorussians constitute less than half, i.e., about 5.85 million (5,855,547). Even considering only the figures, the idea of fitting Lithuania’s autonomy to the Byelorussian nationality seems questionable. However, this difficulty becomes much greater if we take into consideration the socio-economic conditions of the respective nationalities.
In the territory inhabited by them the Byelorussians constitute an exclusively rural, agrarian element. Their cultural level is extremely low. Illiteracy is so widespread that the “Byelorussian Commune” was forced to establish an “Education Department” to spread elementary education among the Byelorussian peasants. The complete lack of a Byelorussian bourgeoisie, an urban intelligentsia, and an independent scholarly and literary life in the Byelorussian language, renders the idea of a national Byelorussian autonomy simply impractical.
The social conditions among the Lithuanian nationals are similar. To a preponderant degree farming is the occupation of the Lithuanians. In the cultural heart of Lithuania, the Vilna gubernia, the Lithuanians constitute 19.8 percent of the total population, and 3.1 percent of the urban population. In the Suwalki gubernia, the next with regard to Lithuanian concentration, the Lithuanians constitute as much as 52.2 percent of the gubernia population, but only 9.2 per-cent of the urban population. It is true that the cultural conditions among the Lithuanians are quite different from those in Byelorussia. The education of the Lithuanian population is on a relatively high level, and the percentage of illiterates is almost the lowest in the Russian Empire. But the education of Lithuanians is preponderantly a Polish education, and the Polish language, not the Lithuanian, is here the instrument of culture, which fact is closely connected with the fact that the possessing classes, the rural landed gentry, and the urban intelligentsia are genuinely Polish or Polonized to a high degree. The same situation prevails to a considerable degree in Ruthenia. Indeed, in Lithuania and Ruthenia the only nationality culturally fit to manage national autonomy is the Polish, with its urban population and its intelligentsia. Therefore, if the national autonomy of the “Western country” were to be considered, it would have to be neither a Lithuanian nor a Byelorussian autonomy, but a Polish one: the Polish language, the Polish school, Poles in public offices would be the natural expression of the autonomous institutions of the country.
Given this situation, culturally and nationally, Lithuania and Ruthenia would constitute only an extension of the Kingdom, not a separate autonomous region; they would form, with the Kingdom, a natural and historical region, with Polish autonomy over the Kingdom plus Lithuania.
Such a solution of the question is opposed by several decisive considerations. First of all, from the purely national point of view, this would be the rule of a small Polish minority over a majority of Lithuanians, Byelorussians, Jews, and others. In Lithuania and Ruthenia, the Jews and the Poles make up most of the urban population; together they occupy what would be the natural social centers of autonomous institutions. But the Jewish population decisively outnumbers the Polish, whereas in the Congress Kingdom there are 6,880,000 Poles (according to the 1897 census) and only 1,300,000 Jews. The percentage of each in the four gubernias of Lithuania proper in terms of the over-all population is as follows:
Only in the Suwalki gubernia is the Jewish population smaller than the Polish, but even here this ratio is quite different when we take the towns into consideration: then the Poles constitute 27 percent, the Jews 40 percent of the urban population. It should also be taken into consideration that Jews in the Kingdom, if assimilated – more so in the urban areas – reinforce the Polish nationality; whereas in Lithuania the assimilation process, which is anyway much slower, occurs – when it does at all – among Jews who belong to the Russian culture; in both cases confusion among nationalities grows and the question of autonomy becomes more and more entangled. Suffice it to say that in the heart of Lithuania and the seat of the planned autonomous diet, Vilna, out of the 227 schools counted in 1900, 182 are Jewish!
Another consideration no less important is the circumstance that the Polish nationality is in Lithuania and Ruthenia precisely the nationality of the ruling strata: the gentry landowners and the bourgeoisie; while the Lithuanian and particularly the Byelorussian nationality is represented mostly by landless peasantry. Therefore, the nationality relationship is here – generally speaking – a relationship of social classes. Handing over the country’s autonomous institutions to the Polish nationality would here mean the creation of a new powerful instrument of class domination without a corresponding strengthening of the position of the exploited classes, and would cause conditions of the kind that would be brought about by the proposed autonomy of Galicia for the Ruthenians.
Consequently, both for nationality and for social reasons the joining of Lithuania to the autonomous territory of the Kingdom or the separation of Lithuania and Ruthenia into an autonomous region with an unavoidable preponderance of the Polish element is a project which Social Democracy must combat in principle. In this form, the project of Lithuania’s national autonomy altogether falls through as utopian, in view of the numerical and social relations of the nationalities involved.
Another outstanding example of the difficulties encountered by the problem of nationality autonomy in practice is to be found in the Caucasus. No corner of the earth presents such a picture of nationality intermixture in one territory as the Caucasus, the ancient historical trail of the great migrations of peoples between Asia and Europe, strewn with fragments and splinters of those peoples. That territory’s population of over nine million is composed (according to the 1897 census) of the following racial and nationality groups:
The territorial distribution of the largest nationalities involved is as follows: The Russians, who constitute the most numerous group in the whole Caucasus, are concentrated in the north, in the Kuban and Black Sea districts and in the northwest part of Tersk. Moving southward, in the western part of the Caucasus the Kartvelians are located; they occupy the Kutai and the south-eastern part of the Tiflis gubernias. Still further south, the central territory is occupied by the Armenians in the southern portion of the Tiflis, the eastern portion of the Kars and the northern portion of the Erivan gubernias, squeezed between the Georgians in the north, the Turks in the west and the Tatars in the east and south, in the Baku, Elizabetpol and Erivan gubernias. In the east and in the mountains are located mountain tribes, while other minor groups such as Jews and Germans live, intermingled with the autochthonous population, mainly in the cities. The complexity of the nationality problem appears particularly in the linguistic conditions because in the Caucasus there exist, besides Russian, Ossetian, and Armenian, about a half-dozen languages, four Lezgin dialects, several Chechen, several Circassian, Mingrel, Georgian, Sudanese, and a number of others. And these are by no means dialects, but mostly independent languages incomprehensible to the rest of the population.
From the standpoint of the problem of autonomy, obviously only three nationalities enter into consideration: Georgians, Armenians, and Tatars, because the Russians inhabiting the northern part of the Caucasus constitute, with regard to nationality, a continuation of the state territory of the purely Russian population.
The relatively most numerous nationality group besides the Russians are the Georgians, if we include among them all varieties of Kartvelians. The historical territory of the Georgians is represented by the gubernias of Tiflis and Kutai and the districts of Sukhum and Sakatali, with a population of 2,110,490. However, the Georgian nationality constitutes only slightly more than half of that number, i.e., 1,200,000; the remainder is composed of Armenians to the number of about 220,000, concentrated mainly in the Akhalkalats county of the Tiflis gubernia, where they constitute over 70 percent of the population; Tatars to the number of 100,000; Ossetians, over 70,000; Lezgins represent half of the population in the Sakatali district; and Abkhazes are preponderant in the Sukham district; while in the Borchalin county of the Tiflis gubernia a mixture of various nationalities holds a majority over the Georgian population.
In view of these figures the project of Georgian nationality autonomy presents manifold difficulties. Georgia’s historical territory, taken as a whole, represents such a numerically insignificant population – scarcely 1,200,000 – that it seems insufficient as a basis of independent autonomous life in the modern sense, with its cultural needs and socio-economic functions. In an autonomous Georgia, with its historical boundaries, a nationality that comprises only slightly more than half of the entire population would be called on to dominate in public institutions, schools, and political life. The impossibility of this situation is felt so well by the Georgian nationalists of revolutionary hue that they, a priori, relinquish the historical boundaries and plan to curtail the autonomous territory to an area corresponding to the actual preponderance of the Georgian nationality.
According to that plan, only sixteen of Georgia’s counties would be the basis of the Georgian autonomy, while the fate of the four remaining ones with a preponderance of other nationalities would be decided by a “plebiscite” of those nationalities. This plan looks highly democratic and revolutionary; but like most anarchist-inspired plans which seek to solve all historic difficulties by means of the “will of nations” it has a defect, which is that in practice the plebiscite plan is even more difficult to implement than the autonomy of historical Georgia. The area specified in the Georgian plan would include scarcely 1,400,000 people, i.e., a figure corresponding to the population of a big modern city. This area, cut out quite arbitrarily from Georgia’s traditional framework and present socio-economic status, is not only an extremely small basis for autonomous life but moreover does not represent any organic entity, any sphere of material life and economic and cultural interests, besides the abstract interests of the Georgian nationality.
However, even in this area, the Georgians’ nationality claims cannot be interpreted as an active expression of autonomous life, in view of the circumstance that their numerical preponderance is linked with their pre-eminently agrarian character.
In the very heart of Georgia, the former capital, Tiflis, and a number of smaller cities have an eminently international character, with the Armenians, who represent the bourgeois stratum, as the preponderant element. Out of Tiflis’s population of 160,000 the Armenians constitute 55,000, the Georgians and Russians 20,000 each; the balance is composed of Tatars, Persians, Jews, Greeks, etc. The natural centers of political and administrative life as well as of education and spiritual culture are here, as in Lithuania, seats of foreign nationalities. This circumstance, which makes Georgia’s nationality autonomy an insoluble problem, impinges simultaneously on another Caucasian problem: the question of the autonomy of the Armenians.
The exclusion of Tiflis and other cities from the autonomous Georgian territory is as impossible from the standpoint of Georgia’s socio-economic conditions as is their inclusion into that territory from the standpoint of the Armenian nationality. If we took as a basis the numerical preponderance of Armenians in the population, we would obtain a territory artificially patched together from a few fragments: two southern counties of Tiflis gubernia, the northern part of Erivan gubernia, and the north-eastern part of Kars gubernia, i.e., a territory cut off from the main cities inhabited by the Armenians, which is senseless both from the historical standpoint and from the standpoint of the present economic conditions, while the size of the putative autonomous area would be limited to some 800,000. If we went beyond the counties having a numerical preponderance of Armenians we would find the Armenians inextricably mixed in the north with the Georgians; in the south – in the Baku and Elizabetpol gubernias – with the Tatars; and in the west, in the Kars gubernia, with the Turks. The Armenians play, in relation to the mostly agrarian Tatar population which lives in rather backward conditions, partly the role of a bourgeois element.
Thus, the drawing of a boundary between the main nationalities of the Caucasus is an insoluble task. But even more difficult is the problem of autonomy in relation to the remaining multiple nationalities of the Caucasian mountaineers. Both their territorial intermingling and the small numerical size of the respective nationalities, and finally the socio-economic conditions which remain mostly on the level of largely nomadic pastoralism, or primitive farming, without an urban life of their own and with no intellectual creativity in their native language, make the functioning of modern autonomy entirely inapplicable.
Just as in Lithuania, the only method of settling the nationality question in the Caucasus, in the democratic spirit, securing to all nationalities freedom of cultural existence without any among them dominating the remaining ones, and at the same time meeting the recognized need for modern development, is to disregard ethnographic boundaries, and to introduce broad local self-government – communal, urban, district, and provincial – without a definite nationality character, that is, giving no privileges to any nationality. Only such a self-government will make it possible to unite various nationalities to jointly take care of the local economic and social interests, and on the other hand, to take into consideration in a natural way the different proportions of the nationalities in each county and each commune.
Communal, district, provincial self-government will make it possible for each nationality, by means of a majority decision in the organs of local administration, to establish its schools and cultural institutions in those districts or communes where it possesses numerical preponderance. At the same time a separate, empire-wide, linguistic law guarding the interests of the minority can establish a norm in virtue of which national minorities, beginning with a certain numerical minimum, can constitute a basis for the compulsory founding of schools in their national languages in the commune, district, or province; and their language can be established in local public and administrative institutions, courts, etc., at the side of the language of the preponderant nationality (the official language). Such a solution would be workable, if indeed any solution is possible within the framework of capitalism, and given the historical conditions. This solution would combine the general principle of local self-government with special legislative measures to guarantee cultural development and equality of rights of the nationalities through their close co-operation, and not their mutual separation by barriers of national autonomy.
An interesting example of a purely formalistic settlement of the nationality question for the entire Russian empire is provided by the project of a certain K. Fortunatov published by the group “Trud i Borba” [Work and Struggle], an attempt at a practical solution of the problem in accordance with the principles of the Russian revolutionary socialists. On the basis of the census, the author first arranges a map of the empire according to nationalities, taking as a basis the numerical preponderance of each nationality in the respective gubernias and counties. The numerically strongest nationality is the Great Russians who are preponderant in thirty gubernias of European Russia. They are followed by the Little Russians who have a majority in the Ukraine in the gubernias of Poltawa, Podolia, Kharkov, Kiev, and Volhynia, and are represented also in the gubernias of Ekaterinoslav, Chernigov, Kherson, Kuban, and Taurida, while in Bessarabia the Moldavians and in the Crimea the Tatars are preponderant. Apart from the Poles, the third nationality is the Byelorussians, who have a majority in five gubernias: Mogilev, Minsk, Vilna, Witebsk, and Grodno, with the exception of eight counties (Bialystok, inhabited mainly by Poles; Bielsk, Brzesc, and Kobryn, in which the Little Russians are preponderant; the Dzwinsk, Rezyca, and Lucin counties, where the Latvians are in the majority; and finally Troki, in which the Lithuanians prevail). On the other hand, the Krasne county of Smolensk gubernia has to be included in Byelorussia because of the preponderance of that nationality. The Lithuanians and Samogitians prevail in the Kovno and Suwalki gubernias, with the exception of the Suwalki and Augustow counties in which the Poles are in the majority. The Latvians in Courland and the Estonians in Estonia have a decisive majority, and between them they divide Livonia into practically two equal parts, southern and northern. Including the Congress Kingdom, with the exception of the Suwalki gubernia, we obtain, in sixty-two gubernias of European Russia, the following picture of nationality relations:
|Great Russians preponderant in||30 gubernias|
|Little Russians||10 gubernias|
Having examined the territorial distribution of nationalities in the Caucasus according to gubernias and counties, the author in turn moves to Asiatic Russia. In Siberia, the Russian element is in a decisive majority, forming 80.9 percent of the population besides the Buriats, 5 percent; Yakuts, 4 per-cent; Tatars, 3.6 percent; other nationalities, 6.5 percent. Only in the Yakut gubernia do the Russians constitute a minority of 11.5 percent while the Yakuts form 82.2 percent of the whole. In Central Asia, the most numerous nationalities are the Kirgis, who are in a majority in all gubernias with the exception of the three southern ones: Trans-Caspia, in which the Turkomans number 65 percent, Samarkana, inhabited by the Uzbekhs (58.8 percent) and Tadzikhs (26.9 percent), and the Fergan Valley, in which the Sarts form half, the Uzbekhs 9.7 percent, the Kirgis 12.8 percent of the population.
Thus, taking as a basis the gubernias and counties with a preponderance of one nationality or another, Mr. Fortunatov ranges the following scheme of nationality districts in the whole empire, as shown in the appendix below.
In this scheme we are struck by great numerical differences, e.g., between the tremendous Great Russian and Little Russian districts and such tiny ones as the Lithuanian, Estonian, or individual Caucasian, let alone the Yakut. This circumstance apparently offends the sense of symmetry of the admirers of the principle of “Federation.” It also evokes in them some doubts as to whether nationalities so unequal in strength and size could enter into idyllic coexistence as autonomous districts possessing equal rights. Therefore, our statistician, without much thought, obviates the evil with scissors and glue by combining several small districts into one and simultaneously dismembering two big ones into smaller ones. Apparently taking a population of six to nine million as a normal measure of a nationality district – although it is unknown on what basis – he considers that it is “easy” to split the Little Russian district into three and the Great Russian into seven, separating for instance the Don, Astrakhazan, Kuban, Stavropol, and Black Sea gubernias and two counties of Tersk with a population of 6.7 million as a “Cossack” district, and the Kazan, Ufa, Orenburg, Samar gubernias and two counties of Symbir gubernia with nine million population as a Tatar Bashkir district, finally simply dividing the remaining territory of twenty-five gubernias with forty-two million people into five more or less symmetrical parts with eight million people, with no regard to the nationality principle.
In this way we obtain the plan of the division of the whole of Russia into the following sixteen “states” or autonomous districts on the basis of nationalities:
|1 Poland with a population of||8,696,000|
|1 Byelorussia with a population of||7,328,000|
|1 Baltic with a population of||5,046,000|
|3 Little Russia with a population of||27,228,000|
|a. South-western (Podolia, Volhynia and Kiev, and 3 counties of Grodno) with a population of||10,133,000|
|b. Little Russia Proper (Poltawa, Kharkov, Chernigov without the northern counties as well as the Little Russian counties of Kursk and Voronezh gubernia) with a population of||8,451,000|
|c. New Russia (Bessarabia, Kherson, Taurida, Ekaternoslav and Taganrog county) with a population of||8,644,000|
|l Caucasus (without the Russian counties)||6,157,000|
|1 Kirgis in Central Asia (without 2 counties of Akmolin province) with a population of||7,490,000|
|1 Siberia (with 2 counties of Akmolin province) with a population of||6,015,000|
|7 Great Russia with a population of||57,680,000|
In setting up the above scheme the author was obviously not restrained by any historical or economic considerations, or by the divisions of production or commercial communication created by modern development and natural conditions. It is well known that such pedestrian considerations can only hamper the political concoctions of people professing the “Marxist” doctrine and a materialistic world view. They do not exist for the theorists and politicians of “truly revolutionary socialism,” who have in mind only the “rights” of nations, freedom, equality, and other such lofty matters. The separation of two Lithuanian gubernias – Kovno and Suwalki – with the exclusion of the Polish counties – from the historico-cultural heart of Lithuania, the Vilna gubernia and other neighboring regions with which economic relations were of long standing, and on the other hand the joining of these two curtailed gubernias with Livonia, Courland, and Estonia, with which the historical links, as well as present-day economic ones, are quite loose, clearly demonstrates this point. Although the cutting up of the Ukraine for the sake of symmetry into various divisions, despite the continuity of its natural and economic character, and on the other hand, combining into one autonomous region of Siberia a country comprising 12.5 million square kilometers, i.e., by one-third bigger than the whole of Europe, a country representing the greatest natural economic and cultural contrasts, is a demonstration that that method is free of any “dogmas.” At the same time, the nationality autonomy in this scheme is treated free of any connection with the economic and social structure of the given nationality. From this standpoint other peoples are equally prepared for regional autonomy – that is, they evince a certain permanent territory and administration, legislation, and cultural life centralized in that territory. There are, on the one hand, the Poles, and on the other the Kirgis, the Yakuts, and the Buriats, who are still partly nomadic and are still living according to the traditions of tribal organization, thwarting to this very day the efforts of the territorial administration of Russian absolutism. The autonomous regional construction, in accordance with the “socialist-revolutionary” views, is thus entirely “free,” unconnected with any real bases in time and space, and all the existing historical, economic, and cultural conditions play only the role of material out of which, by means of “revolutionary” scissors, artful nationality plots are to be cut out.
What is the result of this solely and exclusively ethnographic method of the political dismemberment of Russia? Mr. Fortunatov’s scheme reduces the principle of nationality to an absurdity. Although the Lithuanians are cut off from the Polish nationality with which they coalesce culturally, still they are linked on the basis of ethnographic affinity into one “Baltic” nationality with the Latvians and the Estonians with whom they identify as little as with the Poles: thus they gravitate toward the completely Germanized cultural centers of Livonia and Estonia. Combining the Georgians, Armenians, Tatars, and a few dozen other tribes of the Caucasus into one “Caucasian” nationality smacks of a malicious satire against national autonomous aspirations. No greater regard for these aspirations is evidenced by the inclusion of the Moldavians, situated in Bessarabia, in the Little Russian nationality, of the Crimean Tatars in the very same nationality, and finally by the combining of Samoyeds, Ostiaks, Tunguz, Buriats, Yakuts, Chuckchees, Kamchadals, and many other tribes, each living an entirely separate life, differing among themselves in the level of cultural development, language, religion, even partly race, with the Russian population of Siberia into one mysterious “Siberian” nationality with common legislative, administrative, and cultural institutions. Fortunatov’s scheme is basically a simple negation of the nationality principle. It is also interesting as an example of the anarchistic approach to nationalism, unrestricted as it is by any considerations of objective social development. Having thrown its weight around in that valley of tears, it eventually returns to the results, very much resembling the same ugly history of reality which it had undertaken “to correct,” i.e., the systematic violations of the “nationality rights” and their equality. The whole difference consists in the fact that the trampling of the “rights” of nationalities imagined by the ideology of liberalism and anarchism is, in reality, the result of the process of historical development which has its inner sense and what is more important – its revolutionary dialectic, while revolutionary-nationalistic bungling tends, in its zealous cutting up of what had grown together socially, and in its gluing of what socially cannot be glued together, to trample eventually the nationality “rights” celebrated by it, merely for the sake of schematic pedantry deprived of any sense and blown up with political buffoonery.
 Incidentally, this is the only reason why histories of philosophy such as those of Zeller or Kuno Fischer are possible, in which the development of “ideas” takes place in a void, with no relation to the prosaic history of society. Original note by R.L.
 Otto Bauer, Die Nationalitätenfrage und die Sozialdemokratie (Vienna 1907), pp.49-50, 136. Original note by R.L.
 Another Austrian Social Democratic publicist who, under the pseudonym Springer, wrote a number of works on the nationality question in Austria: Der Kampf der österreichischen Nationen um den Staat (1902); Grundlagen und Entwicklungsziele der österreichisch-ungarischen Monarchie (1906). Original note by R.L.
 Kautsky, Nationalität and Internationalität, pp.3, 4. Original note by R.L.
 Proceedings of the Russian National Socialist Parties (St. Petersburg: 1908), p.92. Original note by R.L.
 K. Fortunatov, Natsonalniia Oblasti Rossii (St. Petersburg: Knigoizdatelstvo Trud i Borba, 1906). The author is not the well-known statistician, Professor A. Fortunatov, as was erroneously surmised by the reviewer in Humanity, nos.76 and 77, 1907. Original note by R.L.
|Districts||Population of gubernia
forming part of district
with preponderance of
|Population of all
counties with a
majority of a
|Overall figure of
persons in a given
nationality in the
|15.||Sarts, Uzbekhs, and
Last updated on: 11.12.2008