Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line


Response to John Reinecke: Hawaii As A Sovereign Nation

First Published: Modern Times, Vol. V, Nos. 7-8, October-December 1981.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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A brief multiple choice test:

Which of the following Pacific Islands would have the best chance to survive a nuclear war without devastation? a) Kwajalein b) Guam c) Fiji d) Lanai e) Oahu f) Tonga.

What does this question have to do with the “non-existent” Hawaii National Question? Everything!

After glibly referring to the Hawaii national question as a “non-question,” John Reinecke wrote a substantial article on a supposedly “non-existent” issue, making some valuable distinctions along the way. One such valid distinction is that, between what he calls “Island nationalism” and “Native nationalism,” i.e., between a) those of all races who see Hawaii sharply distinguished from mainland USA and b) those who identify themselves as native Hawaiians and see nationhood in strictly ethnic terms. Reinecke is correct in saying these are two distinct but interrelated phenomena. Likewise, his narration of some important historical background stands on solid ground and makes a positive contribution to the issue, the “non-existent” argument notwithstanding.

It is good that his article was written and published. It is from competing ideas that progress in intellectual matters can be made. However, if Reinecke is purporting to represent a Marxist view on the national question as it relates to Hawaii, then such a claim must be challenged and rebutted.

I would beg to differ with Reinecke, first on his claim that except for “a small minority of Native (part-) Hawaiians, a sense of Island nationalism is almost nonexistent.” I frankly doubt the truth of that claim, unless it is taken in the most narrow sense to mean people who have consciously come to the conclusion that Hawaii is a nation despite being the 50th State. On the other hand, would the numbers be so few if all island people were given an informed choice of genuine sovereignty in a plebiscite? Such a choice is the last thing the bourgeoisie of Hawaii or the mainland would permit, so the very idea is ridiculed immediately as “preposterous” or “an idle dream”, which seems to be Reinecke’s view as well. One might note that it is also Margaret Thatcher’s view with respect to Northern Ireland, and the Shah’s as well as Khomeini’s view with respect to the Kurdish people, and the French government’s view with respect to Tahiti and other “Pacific provinces”. How is it that Hawaii is regarded so “inevitably” linked to the USA while Fiji has become a sovereign nation? Would anyone seriously argue that Tahiti (or Morocco and Algeria earlier) is truly “part of” France? While it is true that close ties exist between the US and Hawaii culturally, economically and politically, there is nothing inevitable or necessarily desirable about the continuation of such a bond. Colonies and oppressed nations have been known to change their status.

Colonial empires disintegrate. That is a historical fact which even the mighty US cannot escape. During the course of such a collapse, those who were forcibly assimilated usually begin to assert themselves and clamor for independence. During the past 100 years, how many such wars of national liberation have been fought precisely to escape imperialist domination! In a few cases, a weakened imperial power has had to concede independence with little struggle, e.g., India from England right after WW 2.

If one regards integration with a great imperial power as desirable, as apparently Reinecke does (“Statehood has unquestionably brought a greater sense of political security ...”), then one is free to express the opinion, but please let not such a view masquerade as “leftist”, much less “Marxist”! Such a view is the antithesis of Marxist teachings on the national and colonial question.

Over the years, Hawaii has certainly been drawn more closely into the web of US imperialism. It is one thing to state the fact; it is quite another to celebrate it. Without doubt, there has been some economic and political progress in this close association with the US. One could say the same thing about the 13 colonies under England! But the time then came when real progress meant a revolutionary break with the past. Imperialism on its death bed or in the throes of inter-imperialist rivalry (war) will inevitably drag Hawaii down with it if such an association persists.


It is common knowledge among Marxists that nations have the right to self-determination, not within the bourgeois legal system, of course, but in the sense of a historically justified right arising from the circumstances of having settled and consolidated in a region. One classic example often cited is Ireland in opposition to British imperialism. Countless others could be cited. This elementary Marxist principle cannot be rejected without rejecting Marxism itself. Marx and Lenin wrote at length on the subject.

However, the erroneous conclusion, “if they are not nations, they have no right to self-determination” does not follow! A logical parallel for illustration would be: Hawaiians have the right to fish in the Pacific Ocean; therefore, if you are not Hawaiian, you do not have the right to fish in the Pacific Ocean. The logic is terrible, yet for many years the left has not seen through what is patently unjustifiable. The question needs close study to extend Marxist principles and avoid promoting dogma.

What of groupings that may not have (or been permitted to have) consolidated into nations? For example, what about native American tribes (not to ignore the idea that some tribes did consolidate into nations), or Aborigines in Australia? Anyone with an ounce of social justice can see that such groups are striving for and have the right to demand self-determination in place of the degrading status of wards or “foster children” of the dominant imperial power. So while Marxists have, in recent years, spoken at great length about the rights of nations to self-determination and what constitutes a nation, little attention has been paid to the legitimate claims of “non-nation” or “pre-nation” groups which have much in common with classic national liberation struggles.

The question is not so much whether Hawaii can currently be called a nation, as whether its future can best be secured as a military outpost for US imperialism or as an independent nation. (There ace many members of the United Nations smaller than Hawaii). As a sovereign nation, Hawaii probably would have a difficult time economically at first, just as most nations do when they sever the umbilical cord. But with the abundance of resources here and a self-developed trade capability, Hawaii would be in a far better position to secure that independence than most other nations that start out from grinding poverty and a mass of illiterate starving peasants.

Far from feeling “nationally secure” (the official justification for the military presence – and how many dozen bases do we need to feel “secure”?), we should heave a gigantic sigh of relief if they were all to leave precisely because such a fact would remove the almost inevitable need for a Soviet attack on Hawaii should war reach a nuclear stage....

Far, far more (not less, Mr. Reinecke) needs to be said about the Hawaii National Question, for it is a question, even if none of us yet has the answer. –J.D.