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Report on the National Question

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Comrades coming into or around the Communist League are constantly bombarded with advanced conceptions of the National Question without getting the necessary historical and theoretical basis to understand either the concept or why we Communists take such a serious approach to the question.,/p>

All of the writings of the Communist leaders – Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin and Mao on the question of the general strategy and tactics of the revolution are basically addressing themselves to one central point. That is: what are the necessary saves that must be taken to unite the working class, establish the leadership of the proletariat over the rest of the toiling masses, overthrow the capitalist class, establish the dictatorship of the proletariat and proceed to build socialism.

None of these questions can be answered simply from the standpoint of history or of experience, but from the standpoint of a dialectical analysis of the question.

To basin with, there is no such thing today as a simple national question. In history, the national question presented itself as a question that hung over from the democratic revolutions of the past century. The more politically and organisationally advanced bourgeois classes (for example, France) overthrew the feudal classes in a complete way. The result of the overthrow of feudalism was the erection of the purely national state – that is, states that represented the ruling class of one nation end oppressed the toilers of that nation. However, in the more backward countries of Eastern Europe the bourgeois democratic revolution did not make a clean sweep of the feudal classes. There the bourgeoisie was weak and was compelled to compromise with the feudal classes. There the compromises with the nobility – or outright defeat of the revolution left many nations and peoples under the yolk of either feudalist relations, or a combination of the feudal-landlord system and the new aggressive imperialist system, Thus Ireland, Poland, the Balkan countries represented a special question for the democratic revolutions. At this pre 1917 period, no one paid any attention to the billion slaves of Asia, Africa, and Latin America who provided the real basis for the expansion of the imperialist system. So we see, during this period the “national” question was a question of completing the democratic revolutions amongst the “cultured” peoples of Europe.

The proletarian revolution of 1917 put an end to this political state of affairs. The analysis of imperialism by Lenin showed that the imperialist system cannot survive without colonies. The Soviet revolution proved that the colonies cannot emancipate themselves without the overthrowal of imperialism. World War I and the proletarian revolution showed that far from being a question of reform and far from being a question apart from the proletarian revolution, the question of the colonies was a most revolutionary question, a question that presented itself in such a way that the proletarian revolution cannot succeed without the simultaneous emancipation of the colonies. So we see that the proletarian revolution transformed the national question into the National Colonial question and made it into a question of the highest importance.

Stalin teaches that the solution of the national question proceeds from these propositions: (see page 195, Marxism and the National and Colonial Question, International Publishers; see also Foundations of Leninism chapter VI.).

a) The world is divided into two camps: this camp of a handful of civilized nations which possess finance capital and exploit the vast majority of the population of the globe, and the camp of the oppressed and exploited peoples of the colonies and dependent countries that comprise that majority;
b) The colonies and the dependent countries, oppressed and exploited by finance capital, constitute an enormous reserve power and a most important source of strength for imperialism;
c) The revolutionary struggle of the oppressed peoples in the dependent and colonial countries against imperialism is the only road that leads to their emancipation from oppression and exploitation;
d) The principal colonial and dependent countries have already entered on the path of the national liberation movement, which is bound to bring about a crisis in world capitalism;
e) The interests of the proletarian movement in the advanced countries and of the national liberation movement in the colonies require the fusion of these two aspects of the revolutionary movement into a common front against the common enemy, Imperialism;
f) The victory of the working class in the developed countries and the liberation of the oppressed peoples from the yolk of imperialism are impossible without the formation and the consolidation of the common revolutionary front;
g) The formation of a common revolutionary front is impossible unless the proletariat of the oppressor nations renders direct and determined support to the liberation movement of the oppressed peoples against the imperialism ‘of its own country’; for ’no national can be free if it oppresses other nations’ (Marx);
h) This support implies the advocacy, defense and realization of the slogan of the right of nations to secession and to independent political existence;
i) Unless this slogan is put into effect, the amalgamation and collaboration of nations within a single world system of economy, which constitutes the material basis for the victory of socialism, will be impossible;
j) This amalgamation can only be a voluntary one and must be based on mutual confidence and fraternal relations between the nations.

Let us deal with some questions concerning the national question.

1) Are nations still possible under the conditions of a world market rather than a national market?

Absolutely yes. Of course in reality we see around us the development of colonial countries into nations and further aggravation of the relations between the oppressed nations and the imperialist powers. However, the question should also be answered from the standpoint of theory.

Marx showed in Capital that capital isn’t machinery or buildings. Capital is a social relationship – a relationship where the owners of labor power are forced to sell their only commodity (their power to labor) to the owners of machinery, land, etc., in exchange for the necessaries of life – i.e., food, shelter, and clothing.

The basis of modern imperialism is the export to the backward countries of finance capital. Finance capital is the capital that is necessary to open mines, buy or build the necessary machinery to clear forests or till the soil. In a word, finance capital is the capital that is invested in the colonies. This finance capital is the instrument for extracting super profits. So in modern imperialism the owners of money don’t simply export money, they export this social relationship that we call capital, Now, after the money is exported to the colonies it has to be put to “work”. The only way that this can be done is to commence to break up the old feudalistic and tribal structures of the countries that they have taken over. This is dine by creating a crisis in the countryside which forces landless or poor famers into the cities as proletarians in search of work. But since these new proletarians must be fed and clothed a new market is created in the cities. The cities immediately begin to dominate the countryside and there is established an unequal trade between town and country with the result that more and more starving peasants are forced into the cities as proletarians. In carrying out this trade between term and country (an economic area which is of no concern to the imperialists) a native merchant class arises. In the beginning, this new capitalist class provides mainly services to the proletarian class, but more and more they are forced to collide with the imperialists. This new National bourgeoisie begins to split in two. Opposing the newly developed native bourgeoisie there arises, chiefly from the intelligencia, a section of the national bourgeoisie that is dependent upon the imperialists for their livelihood. This new section called the “compradore” bourgeoisie got its name in the Portuguese colonies in China. The word means “one who buys” and the original compradors was a labor gang recruiter who sold the workers to the imperialists. At the same time the area held by the imperialists is becoming more and more economically organised by the buying and selling of the native bourgeoisie. Thus the objective forces for the development of a nation are set into notion. The main difference between the old type national movement and the modern national movement is that in the old movement the bourgeoisie could and did lead. Under the conditions of modern imperialism in order for a colonial nation to be free it has to overthrow not simply foreign capital, but all capital including the native capitalists. This is proven by the experience of, for example, Indonesia on the one hand and China on the other.

Nations and national development are products of the capitalist era. Nations are historical categories end no one can will them into or out of existence. So we see that even under the conditions of advanced imperialism a nation emerges as a historically evolved community of people based on a common language, territory, a common economy and a common culture.

It is inevitable that nations will reach their highest development under socialism end then will die away with the elimination of all the hangovers of capitalism.

2) How does cultural nationalism differ from the Marxist conception?

Cultural nationalism is a cheap concession of the imperialists to the revolutionary movement or the oppressed people. Basically cultural nationalism is the denial of territory – it leaves the imperialists in full control of the economy and natural resources of a country while the people get the right to the national peculiarities.

Cultural nationalism is basically an ideal of the petty bourgeoisie. This concept, would secure for the national bourgeoisie a market, but at the same time would not interfere with the imperialists in such a way that they would be caught between the political pressure of the imperialists and the proletariat. This is clearly shown in the recent programs of the imperialists such as “Black Capitalism” and such nonsense.

It is also clear that the right to self-determination is absolutely excluded by cultural national autonomy (cultural nationalism). The cultural nationalists declare that any person of or from the oppressed nation is a member of that nation. For example, a Puerto Rican in New York would be considered a member of the Puerto Rican nation. Or Negroes living in Bangor, Maine would be considered members of the Negro Nation. It Is plain that with this approach the idea of the emancipation of the national territory is impossible. The concept of cultural national autonomy is flatly against science. This idea is based in the incorrect conception that nations are further extensions of tribes. As Stalin proved, nations are historically evolved communities of peoples based on a community of territory, language, economic cohesion and culture. Nations are the product of the capitalist era and cannot be an extension of a tribe.

However, there are many other reasons for opposing cultural nationalism. It is a fact that is observed every day that the groups that leave the oppressed nations for better economic conditions in the imperialist “motherland” find it impossible to maintain the same cultural activity as the people in the homeland. Culture is based in history. In social life and in labor. In the new locations the conditions are different, the motivating forces are different and it is easily observable how the Negro people of several generations in the north find it impossible to unite in a real way with the culture of the Negro Nation. The Negro minorities of the North and West and East are not longer close to the soil and a historical continuity that emerged from slavery is broken forever. New habits, new ideas are formed that arise from and serve their new life in the slum areas of the big cities where they now reside.

This is also observable with the Puerto Ricans and the Mexican minority. In this respect it is clear that only the idiot who pretends to turn back the wheels of history can embrace national cultural autonomy. The fact of the matter is that there is two tendencies under imperialism. One is to hasten the development of nations; the other is to disperse the nations due to the unbearable brutality and poverty in the colonial world.

We Marxists also reject the concept of National Cultural Autonomy from the standpoint that it tends to unite the hostile classes on the basis of culture. But how is it possible to unite the rich bourgeois Negro of Detroit with the 15 dollar a week cotton chopper in Mississippi? They hardly speak the same language, let alone have any broad common interests.

It hardly need be pointed out that we Communists do not want to create nations (If they could be created). We want to unite the class as a class in such a way as to cripple imperialism. Regional autonomy is the slogan of the Communists; cultural autonomy is the slogan of the compromised national petty-bourgeoisie.

Stalin points out,

But this does not exhaust the harm caused by national autonomy. It tends not only to create aloofness, but also to break up a united working class movement. The idea of national autonomy creates the psychological conditions that make for the division of a united workers party into separate parties built on national lines. The breakup of the party is followed by the breakup of the trade unions and complete isolation la the result. In this way a united class movement is broken up into separate national rivulets. (page 34, Marxism and the National Question).

3) Why doesn’t the Communist League use the slogan of “The Sight to Self-Determination”?

At one time the slogan “The Right to Self-Determination” was a really progressive slogan. This slogan was raised in defense of oppressed people of Europe who lived in the multi-national states such as the Irish, the Poles, the peoples of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, etc. World War I was fought under this slogan. Our president at that time, Woodrow Wilson illegally plunged the U.S. into war against Germany to guarantee the right of nations to self-determination. The U.S. aggression into Korea and Vietnam was also under that slogan. It is clear that the vague slogan of the right of nations to self-determination had become a political weapon in the hands of the imperialists by the outbreak of the first world war. During the Soviet revolution, the Bolsheviks recast the slogan. The call of the Communist International was, “The Right To Political Secession.” This formula was more in accord with the fact that the revolution was dealing not simply with the national question, but much more so with the National Colonial question. The revolutionary movement has gained considerable experience since the October Revolution. This experience shows that under conditions of modern imperialism the oppression and exploitation of the colonial people is carried out thru neo-colonialist, as well as, the old colonialist regimes.

Historically, the United States has had three direct colonies as well as some conquered territories that they ruled directly. The three colonies were Puerto Rico, the Philippines and the Negro Nation. Some of the important territories were the Hawaiian Islands, the South West, the West Indies, Alaska, Guam, etc. Some of the territories have been forcibly incorporated into the United States and the Philippine Islands has become a Neo-colonialist regime. This leaves the question of direct national oppression in the Negro Nation and in Puerto Rico. In these colonies the imperialists like to brag that they have not only the right to self-determination, but every four years there is an election that actually is a self-determination election or plebiscite. History shows us that under the conditions of modern Imperialism there is no possibility for real self-determination or of securing the right to political secession unless the people are actually free to make the choice. That is why the revolutionary movement all over the world has raised the cry: “U.S. Imperialism get out of Asia, get out of Africa, get out of Latin America.” We in the Anglo-American nation have to be more concrete – we have to ad to these slogans, “U.S. imperialism get out of Puerto Rico, Get out of the Negro Nation, get out of the Virgin Islands, Get out of all the colonial and dependent countries.” It is clear that the only political conditions for a people determining their own future is the condition ’of independence – i.e., the withdrawal of all organs of force from the national territory.

4) Why are the national colonial revolutions part of the world proletarian revolution?

The central enemy of the proletariat is the circle of financial capitalists who drive for the enslavement of the peoples abroad and strive to impose fascism at home. The proletarian revolution has to have as its first goal the overthrow of the imperialist state and the seizure of state power. In this sense the first blow has to be aimed at the imperialists. It is also evident that the colonial peoples have to strike at the imperialists in order to achieve any measure of freedom. Thus the aims of the colonial movement and the movement of the proletariat are united. There are also the military and economic aspects. The colonies cannot break free from imperialism so long as there is a common front between the workers and the imperialists of the oppressor nation. By the same token the workers of the oppressor nation cannot break free so long as the imperialists have the colonies as a source of military, political and economic strength. Added to this is the fact that today, it is impossible for the colonies to gain their freedom without the overthrow of all, capital – not simply imperialist capital. Thus we see that, the colonial movement is an integral and inseparable part of the proletarian movement.

5) How do colonies differ from semi-colonies?

Basically, the semi-colonies are colonies that have achieved political independent in one way or another. For example, the Algerians gained their political independence by the overthrow of the French. The Indonesians won their political independence for the Dutch. The Philippines were cunningly “granted” their political independence from the USNA. However all of these examples show that if the semi-colonies do not rapidly move to overthrow the economic control of the country by the imperialists they are bound to slip into a neo-colonial status. The new-colony is a US imperialist invention where the compradors bourgeoisie fronting for the US imperialists, constructs a state that appears to be independent, but in reality is an even more dangerous and brutal form than direct colonial rule. An example of this is the compradors state of South Vietnam, or South Korea, or Brazil.

The direct colony is the old style – where the imperialists rule directly and not through the compradore bourgeoisie. Examples of this are the Negro Nation and Puerto Rico. In both Puerto Rico and the Negro Nation, it should be noted that the compradore bourgeoisie is used and are quite indispensible to the rule of imperialism. The reason for this is that even in the most direct colony there is on alliance between the feudalists, the landlords and the imperialists. In the Negro Nation the alliance is expressed as between the bureaucrats (i.e., the politicians, educators, administrators of social welfare, etc.) and the imperialists. However, in both Puerto Rico and in the Negro Nation the rule is direct – not channeled through the compradores through a state form.

6) What is the difference between a State, a country, and a nation?

First of all, a state is the result of the will of people. It arises on the basis of the productive relations. For example when men first enslaved other men there was a need for people whose job was to discipline the slaves, enforce the rules of work and behavior, etc. This was the beginning of the state. The modern capitalist state is an organ of violence and oppression that is a weapon in the hands of she ruling class. For example, it is well known that the cops protect private property above human rights. Every time a new class takes power there is s new state fashioned to suit the needs of that class. Thus we have had Slave states, Feudal states, Capitalist states and Socialist States. There was administration and leadership before there was a state. Under Communism there will be a government – i.e., administration and leadership but there will not be and cannot be class violence, therefore there will not be a state.

A country is an area governed by a state. For example there are many areas that are not national formations. Countries are basically boundaries of state rule and history shows, some countries have come into existence and then disappeared with the defeat of the rulers. Boundaries expand and shrink according to the fortunes of war.

Nations, unlike countries and states belong in the category of history and not of politics. National formations are the result of the consolidation of markets and of historical evolvement. Basically a nation is the result of the capitalist era. Before commodity exchange there were no nations and when commodity exchange dies out, when there is exchange and consumption according to need, then of course nations will have disappeared, We are obviously heading for a world community, one market, one language and consequently one highly developed culture. There is no room for nations in this development.