Moissaye J. Olgin

The Soviet Union and National Liberation

Speech delivered by M. J. Olgin before 22,000 in Madison Square Garden, New York, November 13, 1939, in celebration of the twenty-second anniversary of the Socialist Revolution

Source: M.J. Olgin: Leader and Teacher
Published: Workers Library Publishers, New York, December 1939.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: Chris Clayton
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive ( 2006. You can freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive as your source.

The Soviet Union and National Liberation

ON THIS twenty-second anniversary of the October Revolution we greet the people, the government, the leadership of that country in which exploitation of man by man is no more, and in which national oppression has been supplanted by unity and brotherly cooperation of scores of nationalities adhering to the principle that the well-being and the cultural growth of each is the guarantee of the happiness of all.

Well do I remember the time when tsarist Russia was “the prison of nations.” Myself a member of one of the most oppressed and persecuted peoples of Russia, I witnessed ruthless suppression of Jews, Ukrainians, Byelo-Russians, Tartars, Turkmen, Georgians, Armenians and other nationalities who were not even accorded the name of “people” but were contemptuously labelled “inorodtsy” (“those differently born”). The inorodtsy were treated as colonial peoples within the Russian Empire: they were subjected to a more severe economic exploitation and they were deprived of political rights even more brutally than were the Great-Russian people; their languages and cultures were not recognized and the use of the mother tongue often punished.

The Social-Democrats, the Socialist-Revolutionaries spoke of “self-determination” of nationalities. But when the February Revolution of 1917 came and the Social-Democrats and Socialist-Revolutionaries gained power through the Kerensky government, they continued the oppression of over forty per cent of the populations of Russia — in the interests of the Russian capitalists and landlords. There was only one party which as early as April, 1917, framed a program, declaring the right of self-determination to mean real freedom for all nationalities, including the right to secede if its people wished to do so. That party was the Bolshevik Party under the leadership of Lenin. The revolutionist who framed the April thesis about national liberation was Joseph Stalin.


When the Bolsheviks seized power in October, 1917, when the Soviets became the government of Russia, one of the first acts of the new regime was to establish full freedom, full equality for the numerous peoples within the frontiers of the Soviet state.

By this a new principle was introduced in the interrelation of peoples — the principle of peaceful and friendly co-existence and cooperation of various nationalities, not only not fighting each other, not only not oppressing each other, but on the contrary, aiding each other both culturally and economically. The Soviet Union has become a league of nations of its own. And while the League of Nations organized at Versailles suffered one ignominious defeat after the other, the family of nations established within the U.S.S.R. grew in strength, developed its members materially and spiritually and now holds out to the world an example of how it is possible to do away with national oppression, how it is possible to solve the national problem to the mutual benefit of all concerned.

This was possible only in consequence of the fact that economic exploitation was abolished by the October Revolution. Where there are no ruling classes there can be no ruling nations either. Where there is no capitalism there can be no imperialist tendencies, no desire for imperialist domination-and no national oppression. Where the people, the toiling people, workers, farmers, intellectuals, are masters of their own destinies through a freely chosen government — as is the case in the Soviet Union — there the flourishing of the life of the toiling people is the major common aim, the raising of the economic status of everybody is the collective task, and this can be best achieved when the cultures of every nationality and the culture of every individual toiler within the nationality are developed, when every nationality is given the right to live its own cultural life.


“A culture national in form and socialist in substance” is the program formulated for all the nationalities within the Soviet Union by the leader of nations, Stalin. A culture national in form and socialist in substance could develop most vigorously only where the material well being was improved. Under the leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and Comrade Stalin, the Russian nationality, being more advanced economically than many others within the framework of the U.S.S.R., has contributed of its financial and other resources to help the development of the formerly exploited and oppressed nationalities.

The new principle, the socialist principle in the interrelation between nationalities, is that of friendship instead of hatred, mutual aid instead of suppression, equality of all races instead of the division into “superior” and “inferior” races insidiously preached by spokesmen of imperialism and made into an official dogma by fascism.

The Jews were among the most oppressed in tsarist Russia. The Jews were practically removed from most of the sources of making a living. The Jews were treated like pariahs. The Jews were subjected to pogroms. The Soviet government had to do a tremendous amount of reconstruction work in order to transform millions of Jews into productive elements of society. That work was accomplished with an immense amount of care and consideration. In order that the Jews may be able to develop statehood within the Soviet Union, a Jewish Autonomous Region was designated to them in one of the most fertile territories in the Far East. That region is known as Biro-Bidjan. In due time it will be transformed into the J.S.S.R. (Jewish Soviet Socialist Republic).


Every step of the Soviet Union was a hard blow at capitalism. The seizure of power over one-sixth of the surface of the earth was more than a slap. It eliminated capitalist rule, capitalist mismanagement, capitalist inefficiency, capitalist bloody brutality over one-sixth of the earth’s surface. Every subsequent act was a new defeat for world capitalism.

Socialism is impossible, said the “best” minds among capitalist theoreticians. Socialism has been constructed and is a fact which even the blind must take notice of.

Industrial progress is impossible without the “master minds” of private owners, said the same and other theoreticians. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union, under the leadership of Comrade Stalin, has lifted Russia from the status of the most backward to that of the most advanced industrial country in Europe, second only to the United States of America.

Hate among nations is a principle of human nature, said bourgeois theoreticians. The Bolsheviks only laughed. The Bolsheviks said that human nature too could be changed, and they set out to change it. What seemed impossible in relation to nationalities is now a fact. National hatreds are a thing of the dark past in the U.S.S.R. National hatreds cannot be even comprehended by the new Soviet generations. National cultures blossomed up in a manner unknown anywhere in the world.

Every step of the Soviet Union has been a challenge to imperialism. Every move of the socialist state has met with slander, abuse, intrigue and attempts at thwarting and weakening the challenger. Thus it has been during the twenty-two years of the existence of the U.S.S.R. Thus it is today. Out of the first World War emerged the Soviet Union. Out of the second World War there has emerged, so far, the establishment of Soviets in a territory inhabited by thirteen million formerly oppressed people.


What new advances the Soviet principle will make in the course of the present war the coming months will show. The Sovietization of Western Ukraine and Western Byelo-Russia has thrown into the boldest relief the difference between capitalist rule and Soviet people’s rule. There, oppression aggravated by war; here, liberation. There, the attempt to turn conquered nations into slaves; here, all resources of a powerful country set in motion to make the lives of the new citizens happier, to open before them the great opportunities that only a socialist system can offer. There, the lash, the bayonet, the concentration camp, the pogrom; here, a helping friendly hand, an upswing of cultural activities, encouragement to people to think, to develop, to govern themselves in their native tongue, to rise to the highest levels of art, science, education, creative thought.

Western Ukraine and Western Byelo-Russia stand in a clear socialist light as a beacon for bleeding humanity. This is the way out. This is she solution for the problems which capitalism can only sharpen but never solve.

When we see capitalist propagandists raging; when we hear Social-Democratic, Trotskyite, Lovestoneite lackeys of imperialism barking at the new active policy of the Soviet Union in world affairs; when we see the press unloosing a barrage of hostile comment against the Soviet Union, when we are surrounded by poison-pen and poison-mouth befoulers of the Soviet Union of the Dies-Coughlin-Waldman-Krivitsky and other stoolpigeon and provocateur type, we only realize how deeply capitalism is hurt by the Soviet Union. These attacks, friends and fellow-workers, are the surest sign that the Soviet Union is marching ahead, that it is bringing to larger and larger numbers of millions the message of liberation, that by its acts of freeing the Ukrainians, the Byelo-Russians, the Jews, brought about by its immensely increased strength, it is bringing in a new life, a new vision, a new hope into a world which the imperialists have thrust into an abyss of blood and tears.

The Soviets are marching on. The light of the Soviets is illuminating the world. The actions of the Soviets have opened new sunlit vistas before the eyes of mankind. Let the enemies rage. Freedom is marching on. National liberation is making new gains.

We greet the Soviet Union. I am quite confident I am speaking not only in my own name but in the name of millions of those belonging to national groups in the United States when I say:

Long live the Soviet Union, the liberator of oppressed nationalities!