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League of Revolutionary Struggle (Marxist-Leninist)

Marxist-Leninist Study Series

Session 6: The national question

Following is the sixth part of an eleven-part series of study columns on the theory of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought.

The study series was originally developed for study groups conducted by the League of Revolutionary Struggle (M-L) and is the product of a number of years of practice in leading study groups in Marxism-Leninism among workers and students.

Among the topics covered in the series are classes and class struggle; the crisis of capitalism and the inevitability of socialism; imperialism; the national question; the state and revolution; the communist party; and Marxist philosophy.

Reading for Session 6:

Stalin, “The National Question,” in Foundations of Leninism.

Lenin, “The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination,” and “Preliminary Draft Theses on the National and Colonial Questions,” in Marxism and the National and Colonial Questions.

(Supplementary Readings: Stalin, Marxism and the National Question, Sections I-V; League of Revolutionary Struggle, Statements on the Founding of the LRS, pp. 27-117; Forward No. 2 on the Chicano national question, especially pp. 91-94; and Forward No. 3 on the Black national question and the history of the Revolutionary Communist League (MLM), all.)

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The national question concerns the attitude of Marxist-Leninists toward nations and national minorities in different historical periods and how they are related to the working class and the proletarian revolution. National oppression is the oppression of the masses of entire nationalities by the reactionary ruling class in order to reap greater wealth for itself and weaken the struggle of the working people of all nationalities.

The correct solution to the national question is vital for the socialist revolution in the U.S. U.S. capitalism developed to a large degree through the oppression of many peoples, beginning with the Native Americans. National oppression has become a pillar of U.S. imperialism, which today oppresses whole nations and national minorities at home and abroad in order to continue its existence.

The oppressed nationalities in the U.S. have the same enemy as the working class, that is, the imperialist bourgeoisie. Only with the overthrow of the bourgeoisie will the oppressed peoples be able to win complete liberation. Thus the masses of oppressed peoples in the U.S.–Afro-Americans, Chicanos, Asians, Puerto Ricans, Native Americans and others – constitute a powerful revolutionary force that must be united with to overthrow the bourgeoisie. The working class of these nationalities is an especially militant force, suffering both class and national oppression.

The working class in the U.S. is a multinational one, and the correct resolution of the national question is necessary in order to forge class unity. Furthermore, the alliance of the movements of the multinational working class and the oppressed nationalities is the core of the revolutionary forces that will overthrow imperialism.

In the U.S. today, there are oppressed national minorities and nations, such as the Afro-American and Chicano nations. Lenin, Stalin and other Marxists explained that the working class must be the strongest fighter for justice and democracy for the oppressed peoples. The working class must uphold the right of self-determination for oppressed nations and full equality for national minorities. The working class, in upholding the national rights of the oppressed peoples, will help unleash the revolutionary potential of the national movements and build the greatest possible unity between the workers of all nationalities in the fight for socialism.

Discussion questions:

1. Why are communists opposed to national oppression? Why do communists support the right of self-determination for oppressed nations and equal status for national minorities?

2. Why are the struggles of the oppressed peoples in the era of imperialism revolutionary and a part of the proletarian revolution? What is the relationship between the national struggles and the proletarian socialist revolution in the U.S.?

3. Progressive Labor Party, a Trotskyite organization in the U.S., once stated, “All nationalism is reactionary,” since nationalism was the “opposite” of internationalism. Why are these views wrong? How can there be identity at times between national sentiments and internationalism? Give examples.

4. Why must the national question be considered ̶a part of the general problem of the proletarian revolution, subordinate to the whole,” and why must it be considered “from the point of view of the whole?” (Stalin in “The National Question,” Foundations of Leninism.) Why should communists unite into a single multinational communist party and try to build multinational unity of the working class?