Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Marxist-Leninist Party of the USA

The nationalist program of the RCP of Britain (ML) violates the ABC’s of Marxism-Leninism

Published: The Workers’ Advocate, Vol. 12, No. 12, December 30, 1982.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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In recent months the leadership of the RCPB(ML) has adopted a program of struggle for the national rights and sovereignty of Britain. The Communiqué of the Tenth Plenum of the Central Committee of the RCPB(ML) announced that the “national question” of British sovereignty rights ”is an extremely important democratic question to take up for solution” and that this thesis has been adopted as part of “the general line of the Party.” (Workers’ Weekly, organ of the Central Committee of the RCPB(ML), June 5, 1982) Meanwhile, agitation for a struggle for British national rights and sovereignty has emerged as a key front of the RCPB(ML)’s agitation and tactics.

In our opinion, this change in the general line of the RCPB(ML) is a serious mistake. The RCPB(ML) has introduced a nationalist program for the socialist revolution in Britain, a socialist revolution ignoring the fact that the proletarian revolution in Britain is not a struggle against foreign oppression but first and foremost a struggle for the overthrow of the British bourgeoisie. This can only cause immense harm.

Already we have seen the negative consequences of this change in line during the Falklands war. As we discussed in detail in our article “Why Does the RCPB(ML) Reject the Slogan ’The Main Enemy Is at Home’?,” these nationalist tactics led to a non-revolutionary stand against British imperialism and Thatcher’s aggression. These tactics led to blunting the exposure of their “own” British imperialist ruling class, they obscured the idea of class struggle with that of a struggle for the British national interests. The entire agitation of the Workers’ Weekly on the Falklands war was gravely marred by petty-bourgeois pacifism and nationalism, showing a tendency to adapt to the line of social-democracy of the left wing of the British Labor Party. Reflecting the liquidationist spirit of cavalier disregard for the well-known Marxist-Leninist principles, the RCPB(ML) repudiated the fundamental revolutionary concept that for the proletariat “The Main Enemy Is at Home” in a reactionary war, and rejected other cardinal axioms of Marxism-Leninism on war and revolution. (See The Workers’ Advocate of September 5, 1982)

In a sense the Falklands war provided a practical test for the new nationalist tactics of the RCPB(ML), a test which they failed miserably. Beyond a doubt these tactics can only lead to more and greater fiascos in the future. This is because they are based on the fundamental fallacy of trying to oppose imperialism from within the imperialist heartlands with a nationalist program. In his article “The Junius Pamphlet,” Lenin describes how the German revolutionary Marxist, Rosa Luxemburg, fell into this same fallacy when she put forward the idea of a “truly national program” to “oppose the imperialist war program” of the German bourgeoisie at the time of the First World War. In discussing the fallacious reasoning that determined Rosa Luxemburg’s national tactics, Lenin made an observation that sheds light on the present mistake of the RCPB(ML). Lenin pointed out that:

Secondly, Junius [Rosa Luxemburg had written under this pen name – ed.] apparently wanted to achieve something in the nature of the Menshevik “theory of stages,” of sad memory; he wanted to begin to carry out the revolutionary program from the end that is ’more suitable,’ ’more popular’ and more acceptable to the petty bourgeoisie. It is something like a plan ’to outwit history,’ to outwit the philistines. He seems to say, surely, nobody would oppose a better way of defending the real fatherland; and the real fatherland is the Great German Republic, and the best defense is a militia, a permanent parliament, etc. Once it was accepted, that program would automatically lead to the next stage – to the socialist revolution.

Probably, it was reasoning of this kind that consciously or semi-consciously determined Junius’s tactics. Needless to say, such reasoning is fallacious.” (Collected Works, Vol. 22, p.319, emphasis as in original)

Apparently, the leadership of the RCPB(ML) has fallen prey to this same fallacious reasoning. A decade ago, the predecessors of the RCPB(ML) openly upheld the programmatic line that the revolution in England was at a national democratic anti-imperialist stage which would lead to the development of the proletarian socialist revolution. (See ”On the History of the Nationalist Deviations of the RCPB(ML): The Struggle Against the Theory of ’Three Worlds’ Must Not Be Forgotten,” The Workers’ Advocate, September 5, 1982) Today, in a more refined form the RCPB(ML) has revived this very same “theory of stages” of sad memory.

Presumably, the idea behind adopting a nationalist program for imperialist Britain is that this will make life easier; it will provide a shortcut to popularity and to the “broad masses.” But by taking this shortcut the RCPB (ML) has fallen into a grave error. It is reflecting the liquidationist and renegade spirit which has overcome various revisionist and opportunist forces in a number of countries. It is reflecting the spirit of weariness with the arduous and painstaking work of building up the independent revolutionary class movement of the proletariat. It is reflecting the abandonment of the proletariat in favor of appealing to the petty bourgeoisie and labor bureaucracy, and, in particular, the liquidationist groping towards merger with social-democracy. No, this is not a shortcut at all, but a liquidationist and petty bourgeois nationalist deviation from the Marxist-Leninist road of the class struggle and the socialist revolution.

From the ideological standpoint, this deviation is identical to Maoist “three worlds-ism.” Mao Zedong Thought consistently denigrated the revolutionary capacity of the proletariat. This was graphically expressed in the skepticism which the Maoists held about the prospects of the working class struggle for socialism in the developed capitalist countries. This skepticism led the Chinese revisionists and their followers to promote the idea of a nationalist appeal to the non-proletarian strata as an alternate program to the proletarian socialist revolution in the imperialist states such as Britain. This Maoist nationalism was eventually carried to the logical conclusion of a complete social-chauvinist alliance with the imperialist ruling classes as spelled out in the counter-revolutionary theory of “three worlds.”

The British Party had been deeply influenced by this Maoist nationalism. As we documented in our article “On the History of the Nationalist Deviations of the RCPB(ML),” this Party had not only fought for the program of a national anti-imperialist revolution for Britain but also, by the mid-1970’s it had adopted the ”three worldist” program of subordinating the British and West European proletariat to the British and European monopoly bourgeoisie in the name of preserving national independence against the two superpowers. For a period between 1977 and 1979, the British Party took positive measures to criticize the Maoist concepts of a nationalist struggle for such a major imperialist power as Britain. But unfortunately, they all too rapidly abandoned this criticism. Thus it can only be a matter of great concern that the RCPB(ML) has once again revived this petty-bourgeois nationalist and Maoist deviation of sad memory.

Here it should be noted that in 1980 the Central Committee of the RCPB(ML) unilaterally and in flagrant violation of the Marxist-Leninist norms severed all contact with our Party, trampling a decade of fraternal relations into the mud. In our September 5 issue we carried the relevant correspondence between our two Parties and an introduction to this correspondence. Among other things, this material reveals how it was their disapproval of the irreconcilable struggle that our Party was waging here in the U.S. against social-chauvinism and Maoism which compelled the leadership of the RCPB(ML) to break with our Party. As it turns out, this break coincides directly with the RCPB (ML)’s own abandonment of the struggle against nationalism and Maoism in their own country.

For our part, we wish no harm to the RCPB(ML). We have always and we continue to stand for the close fraternal unity between the American and British Marxist-Leninists and we rejoice at the successes of the British revolutionaries as if they were our own. This is why we consider it our communist duty to express our criticisms of the liquidationist and Maoist deviations which are not only the source of the rupture between our two Parties, but which are bringing so much damage to the cause of the RCPB(ML) itself. Lenin and Stalin’s teaching on Bolshevik criticism and self-criticism underscore that we must not cover up such deviations with a false front of official well-being. No, shortcomings must be dealt with head on. This is the road of tempering the Marxist-Leninist parties and the militant unity of the Marxist-Leninist communist movement. And it is in this spirit which we have written this article to continue our criticism of the petty-bourgeois nationalist and Maoist deviation of the RCPB(ML).

On What Basis Has the RCPB(ML) Put Forward a Platform of Struggle for the National Rights of Imperialist Britain?

In this article we would like to examine the basis upon which the RCPB(ML) has put forward a platform of struggle for the national rights and sovereignty of Britain. Such an examination shows that this platform has been built on rotten planks. It shows that there is no objective basis for such a program of nationalist struggle and that such a thing can only cause immense harm. It can only reinforce petty-bourgeois nationalist prejudices, turning the workers’ eyes away from the tasks of the class struggle against their “own” British bourgeoisie. And it can only obscure the fact that British imperialism is itself a monstrous and a bloodstained oppressor nation.

The RCPB(ML) puts forward its nationalist platform on the basis of the literal claim that Britain is not an independent, sovereign state, but that it is a subjugated state much like the neo-colonies of Asia, Africa and Latin America. The RCPB(ML) has adopted the thesis that “The British Bourgeoisie is a Reactionary Class of Traitors Who Have Sold Out the Sovereignty of Britain to U.S. Imperialism.” (See Workers’ Weekly, June 5, 1982) It is important to note here that the RCPB(ML) also claims that this sovereignty has been sold out to not only U.S. imperialism, but to “other foreign imperialist powers” as well. For example, Workers’ Weekly speaks of the sellout of “the sovereignty of the nation... to the U.S. imperialists and other foreign imperialist powers.” (May 29, 1982) And it refers to the sellout of “the sovereignty rights of Britain to the U.S. imperialists... as well as to the European monopolies.” (June 15,1982)

According to Workers’ Weekly, this destruction of British sovereignty has been thoroughgoing and complete. It argues, “that actually the sovereignty of Britain is not in parliament or anywhere else in Britain but is carried around in the hands of the White House staff.” (Workers’ Weekly, June 12, 1982) Moreover, it theorizes on the ”denial of national self-determination for Britain as a result of the U.S. domination of the country.” (May 22,1982)

Such theorizing verges on the unreal. How is it even conceivable that someone in the latter part of the 20th century could be theorizing about a struggle for “national self-determination” for imperialist Britain? Isn’t Britain among the very oldest of the independent capitalist nations? Isn’t Britain a nation that fully realized its national self-determination at least several centuries ago? Maybe it could be understood if some zealous nationalist crackpot spoke of the “denial of national self-determination for Britain” and then it could be dismissed as a bad joke. But here it is being put forward in all seriousness as a programmatic thesis by the leadership of the RCPB(ML). Therefore it is obligatory to examine this question more carefully.

The Arguments to Prove the Loss of British National Self-Determination Are Totally Unfounded

The RCPB(ML) has produced only the scantiest shell of an argument to prove its thesis that Britain is a subjugated state which has been denied its rights to national self-determination. But the shoddy fragment of an argument that they have produced has been repeated several times over in their most important documents and articles in recent months. The sum total of their argument was presented in their May First Statement, which was said to represent the general line of the RCPB(ML). This May Day Statement declares: “The British bourgeoisie presents itself as the ’defender’ of the nation; but nothing could be further from the truth. Besides the ruin and disasters which it is bringing to the workers and people as a result of the crisis, there is also the important political question of the increasing domination of United States, in the political, economic, military and social affairs of Britain.

This fact is manifested in the fact that around 30% of manufacturing industry in Britain is U.S.-owned and controlled; that there are over 100 U.S. military bases and thousands of U.S. troops in Britain; that respective governments since World War II have been the zealous supporters of the reactionary and warmongering global policy of the United States (so clearly in evidence in the most obscene manner with the present Thatcher government); that Britain is a center of U.S. imperialist culture; that the American CIA and other agencies freely operate in Britain against the people. It is also manifested in the way that the assassin Reagan is being invited and welcomed to Britain in June.” (Workers’ Weekly, May 1, 1982) The two most important arguments here are the economic and the military-strategic. Let us begin with the economic.

To imply, as this statement does, that the British lords of finance and industry do not firmly dominate and firmly control the British economy is a grave distortion of the facts. The powerful monopoly capitalist groups as seen in the big London banks and financial houses are the true masters of Britain’s economy. British finance capital has allowed foreign multinationals to make certain investments in British manufacturing industries, but the British bourgeoisie remains, as always, king of British manufactures. With the possible exception of auto production where U.S. monopolies control a 50% share, the British monopolies, including the giant state capitalist monopolies, command a dominant position in every major branch of industry. At the same time, as compared to the purely British finance capital, foreign investments are an insignificant fraction in such important economic sectors as banking and finance or transportation and infrastructure.

Thus the claim, which Workers’ Weekly repeats over and over again, that Britain is increasingly dominated by the U.S. because ”30% of manufacturing industry in Britain is U.S.-owned and controlled,” is a deliberate misrepresentation of reality. Moreover, this 30% figure itself is neither substantiated nor is it true. So far, our investigation shows that conceivably total foreign ownership and control in British manufacturing may approach this level, but the U.S. share is at most only one half of 30%. Obviously, for U.S. multinationals to control some 15% of British manufacturing can in no way mean the “domination” or “subjugation” of the British economy. No amount of figure juggling can hide the plain truth that it is British finance capital which is the supreme sovereign over the British economy and that British imperialism, though weakened, remains one of the principal financial and economic pillars of world capitalism.

From the military-strategic angle as well, the RCPB (ML)’s theorizing on the “denial of national self-determination for Britain” is again turning reality upside down. From the time of the Second World War, the Anglo-American alliance has been a bulwark of the Western imperialist bloc. At the conclusion of the war, U.S. imperialism and British imperialism, as the two most powerful imperialist states, formed a close alliance in their common crusade to strangle socialism and enslave the peoples all over the globe. The Anglo-American alliance continues to play a major international role as U.S. imperialism and British imperialism closely coordinate their global strategies: they work hand in glove in relation to NATO and Europe, in relation to both of their imperialist and aggressive activities in Latin America, Southern Africa, Southeast Asia, etc. One feature of this alliance is that since the days of the last world war the American and British armed forces, the CIA and British intelligence, and other instruments of imperialist slavery and aggression have been closely linked.

It is only in the light of this Anglo-American alliance of worldwide counter-revolution, aggression and plunder that the military, intelligence and other relations between Washington and London can be understood. This alliance has been and remains a partnership of hangmen and executioners of the world’s people. Of course, in any such partnership, the weaker will often find itself being dragged around by the stronger. But on no account can this justify portraying British imperialism as a poor subjugated and dominated victim that has been stripped of its sovereignty and national rights. No, as the Falklands war so graphically demonstrated, the Anglo-American military/strategic alliance is comprised of not just one, but of two world imperialist marauders, each closely linked to the other for its own enslaving, plundering aims.

As for the other claims, such as Britain being “a center of U.S. imperialist culture” or the way in which Reagan was “invited and welcomed to Britain,” these can hardly be taken as serious arguments showing the denial of British national self-determination. Indeed, as for the cultural claim, the infamous cultural products of Liverpool and London have ensured Britain’s own status as a foremost center of degenerate imperialist culture – closely allied with the U.S. superpower of cultural depravity, but nevertheless a decadent cultural “power” in its own rights.

In short, the thesis that imperialist Britain has been denied its national self-determination, i.e., that Britain is not a politically independent and sovereign state, simply does not hold water. All the concrete facts of the intimate partnership between U.S. and British imperialism show that this is but a typical example of an imperialist alliance between independent and sovereign states. Such an intimate alliance is not an unprecedented or unusual phenomenon among imperialist powers. Within such imperialist alliances varying degrees and forms of economic, financial, and military dependence are inevitable. This applies to the Anglo-American alliance as well. But to draw the conclusion that this alliance has liquidated imperialist Britain as a powerful and politically independent and sovereign state is simply a travesty of Marxism-Leninism and of common logic.

Is Britain on “The Path of Becoming a Vassal State”?

The RCPB(ML) not only asserts that the political self-determination of Britain has been liquidated by the U.S. domination but also that this domination is steadily and qualitatively increasing. Thus Workers’ Weekly puts forward the following thesis:

Just as U.S. imperialism dominates the countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America, so too it increasingly dominates the countries of Europe, Oceania, North America, Japan, etc.

The increasing domination of the U.S. in the political, economic, military and social affairs of Britain shows that the British imperialist bourgeoisie and all its political representatives are a complete fraud when they present themselves as ’patriotic’ and as ’defenders of the nation’ – for in reality they are selling out the sovereignty of Britain, of the British working class and people.

The present Thatcher government and all previous governments have been amongst the most zealous allies and supporters of U.S. imperialism and its warmongering, global policy. All this has more and more restricted the national sovereignty and any independent action on the part of Britain, moving it step by step onto the path of becoming a vassal state of U.S. imperialism.” (“The British Bourgeoisie is a Reactionary Class of Traitors Who Have Sold Out the Sovereignty of Britain to U.S. Imperialism,” Workers’ Weekly, June 5, 1982, emphasis added)

In other words, according to the RCPB(ML), the big imperialist powers of Europe, Japan, Canada, etc., are increasingly being reduced to the status of the enslaved neo-colonies – “just as U.S. imperialism dominates the countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America.” As for Britain, the claim is made that it is “moving... step by step onto the path of becoming a vassal state of U.S. imperialism.” And on this basis the leadership of the RCPB(ML) speculates that the “national question” of British sovereignty looms up as the pressing issue of the day.

Even if the U.S. imperialist domination were increasing over these countries, this still would not justify the nationalist tactics of the RCPB(ML). But let’s take a look at what the historical trend actually is. Workers’ Weekly has got the historical trends reversed. This is why it cannot print any evidence of substance to back up its thesis. In fact, Workers’ Weekly itself writes about the steady strengthening of the might of the EEC imperialist powers and their efforts to transform the EEC into a superpower. No one can deny these things because the economic and financial strengthening of the West European, Japanese, Canadian and other imperialists in relation to the U.S. imperialists is an indisputable phenomenon. It is precisely this strengthening that has intensified the inter-imperialist conflicts that we are witnessing today within the U.S.-led Western imperialist bloc.

In 1952, Comrade Stalin pointed out that to believe that the imperialist countries that had been put on rations by the USA after the Second World War would not get back on their feet and force their way to independent development was to “believe in miracles.” (Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, “6. Inevitability of Wars Between Capitalist Countries”) Thirty years later, it is more than self-evident that Stalin was right. But clearly this phenomenon which Stalin had predicted and which is taking effect in force today cannot be reconciled with the RCPB (ML)’s thesis that the big imperialist powers of Western Europe, Japan, etc. are being step by step reduced to the status of neo-colonies.

As for the particular case of Britain, it is well known that British imperialism has been weakened as compared to its position prior to the Second World War and that today it remains in the throes of a deep crisis. Over the last decade and more, both U.S. and British capitalism have been in the grips of a severe stagnation and have continued to weaken in relation to their West European, Japanese and other rivals. But as far as British-U.S. relations go, Britain appears to be holding its own. The propaganda about Britain being step by step reduced to a vassal state or a neo-colony not only defies all facts; it is simply absurd as Britain remains politically, financially, and militarily one of the strongest and most ferocious of the imperialist wolves in the Western alliance.

The Struggle Against U.S. Imperialism Mast Be Waged From the Class Standpoint

From the conclusion that imperialist Britain has been and remains an independent and sovereign power it does not follow that the British revolutionaries should therefore abandon the struggle against U.S. imperialism. Quite the contrary. The British proletariat and people, like the peoples all over the world, have a deep hatred for U.S. imperialism. Necessarily the slogans and agitation against the crimes of U.S. imperialism, and the close complicity of the British imperialists in these crimes, play an important role in the revolutionary movement. For example, the opposition to the stationing of U.S./NATO missiles in Britain has played a major part in the development of the mass struggle against imperialist war preparations. And for our part, our Party and its supporters have always enthusiastically welcomed the sight of millions of proletarians around the world denouncing U.S. imperialism.

But the question at stake is in what direction should the agitation against U.S. imperialism be aimed: Either it should be aimed in the direction of a struggle for British national rights and British sovereignty, as the leadership of the RCPB(ML) holds; or it should be aimed in the direction of the class struggle, in the direction of advancing the class battles of the proletariat and the oppressed masses against their “own” exploiters and oppressors, the British imperialist ruling class.

Let us take the struggle against U.S./NATO war preparations as an example. The revolutionaries must utilize the burning hatred of the masses for U.S. imperialism and NATO to put in focus the class issues at stake. They must explain to the workers and anti-imperialist activists that the U.S.-led NATO alliance is a class alliance of capitalist-imperialist powers against the workers and oppressed of all countries. They must explain the role of British imperialism as a pillar of this counter-revolutionary alliance. And they must point out that the road of struggle against the U.S.-led NATO alliance is the road of revolutionary class battles of the proletariat and working masses against their “own” British government and bourgeoisie. Only from this class perspective can the indignation of the masses against the U.S./NATO missiles, etc., be channeled in a revolutionary direction, in a direction that can advance the revolutionary movement for the overthrow of British imperialism and hence also for the overthrow of the U.S. imperialist yoke.

The leadership of the RCPB(ML) has rejected this class standpoint. Instead they agitate that NATO shows the need to struggle for British national rights and sovereignty. Whatever their intentions, objectively in contemporary politics this means one of two things: either opposing NATO on the grounds that London should have a bigger voice and greater national rights within the imperialist alliances; or, advocating the petty-bourgeois nationalist Utopia of a neutral and non-aligned imperialist Britain. In either case, this error can only dull class consciousness. It can only turn the workers away from the class struggle against their “own” imperialist ruling class towards a nationalist struggle against the foreign threat.

The Nationalist Struggle Against “Other Foreign Imperialist Powers”

As we noted earlier, when the RCPB(ML) speaks of the struggle against “the sellout of the sovereignty of the nation” they frequently refer not only to the sellout to the U.S. imperialists, but also to “other foreign imperialist powers,” or to the “European monopolies.” In many ways, this agitation against the sellout of the sovereignty of the British nation to ”other foreign imperialist powers” underscores the inherent falseness of the RCPB(ML)’s entire program for a nationalist struggle for British sovereignty. It shows that the inherent logic of such a nationalist struggle leads nowhere but to the dead end of bourgeois nationalism.

Of course, the RCPB(ML) is only being consistent when it directs its nationalist struggle also against the “other foreign powers.” After all, if the nationalist struggle against the U.S. imperialists is based solely on tabulations (and exaggerations) of the investments of U.S. companies in British manufactures and the integration of imperialist Britain within the U.S.-led NATO alliance, then it is only logical that the other imperialists which invest in Britain and which are powers in the NATO alliance should also be made targets of the nationalist struggle for British sovereignty. For example, behind the U.S., it is the Dutch, French and Canadian multinationals which are the biggest investors in British industry. Therefore it is only logical that the struggle against the “sellout of the British nation” must also be directed against the “other foreign powers” – such as the Dutch, French, Canadian and other capitalists.

But doesn’t this demonstrate the utter absurdity of the RCPB(ML)’s nationalist program? Hasn’t the RCPB (ML) forgotten the fact that British imperialism remains one of the principal bulwarks of world capitalism; that it too is a major international exploiter; that it is a big power within the EEC; and that British imperialism also sucks the blood of the toilers not only in the neo-colonial countries but also in Western Europe, etc.? Hasn’t the RCPB(ML) devised a program to set the proletarians of Britain, Holland, France, Canada, etc., at loggerheads against one another in a struggle for national rights against the “other foreign imperialists”? Hasn’t the RCPB(ML) taken a position which can only lead to the dead end of unrestrained bourgeois nationalism?

More Nationalistic Than the Bourgeoisie Itself

With its nationalist program the leadership of the RCPB(ML) has found itself tangled up in a web of irreconcilable contradictions. One of its most acute problems is to find some way to distinguish their program of struggle for the national rights of Britain from the filthy reactionary nationalism of the British bourgeoisie. The only way that the RCPB(ML) has been able to resolve this problem is to counterpose the alleged insincerity of the bourgeoisie’s nationalism to the RCPB (ML)’s true patriotism and genuine loyalty to the national interests.

This has emerged as a major theme in Workers’ Weekly. A good example of this was provided by a recent editorial on the question of economic protectionism. Entitled “False ’Patriotism’ of the Bourgeoisie,” this editorial exposes how the bourgeoisie’s calls for economic protectionism are used ”to line up the workers behind the British monopoly capitalists in their rivalry with their competitors.” It explains how this is part of the British capitalists’ efforts to strengthen their position in relation to the U.S., Japanese and other capitalist powers, that this is part of the growing inter-imperialist contradictions, and so on. {Workers’ Weekly, August 7, 1982)

Since the time of Marx, class conscious workers have combated the capitalists’ chauvinist appeals with appeals for the international solidarity of the working class. They have fought the attempts of the bourgeoisie to enlist the workers in their nationalist strivings with appeals for the joint class struggle of the workers of all countries against world capitalism.

But for Workers’ Weekly patriotic appeals for economic protectionism are not patriotic enough! This editorial denounces the patriotic calls for protectionism on the grounds that protectionism is allegedly only “false patriotism,” and that it is not “in the interest of the nation as a whole” – i.e., it is not truly nationalistic! Workers’ Weekly goes on to explain that in regard to protectionism “The ’patriotic’ phrases of the bourgeoisie ring especially hollow when it is this selfsame bourgeoisie...which is more and more handing over sovereignty to the U.S., as well as the EEC. It is the long-established habit of the British bourgeoisie to brand whosoever opposes them as ’acting against the national interest,’ but it is precisely they who are the most anti-national, traitorous force. They sell the national interest for the sake of their own class interest.” What an amazing argument!

First Workers’ Weekly reveals how the British monopolies are resorting to nationalistic economic warfare in their inter-imperialist rivalries against the U.S. and other imperialist powers. Then it turns around and declares that this is not real nationalism. Oh no. You see, the bourgeoisie only wants people to think that it is engaging in a nationalistic struggle to strengthen British imperialism’s position. But really the bourgeoisie is “the most anti-national, traitorous force,” because really it is only “more and more handing over sovereignty to the U.S., as well as the EEC.”

How can anyone possibly make heads or tails of such convoluted nonsense? What possible meaning can this have except that Workers’ Weekly is denouncing the British monopolies for being half-hearted and irresolute in their nationalistic economic warfare against their U.S., Japanese and EEC competitors?

In its patriotic enthusiasm, Workers’ Weekly has overlooked the fact that economic nationalism is a most naked expression of the capitalists’ struggle for the British national interests. Economic protectionism is nothing but a struggle for the interests of British national industry, finance, etc., against the national interests of the U.S., Japanese, EEC and other capitalists. Undaunted by such an elementary truth, Workers’ Weekly simply repeats its refrain about how the capitalists “sell the national interest for the sake of their own class interest.” But to criticize economic protectionism on such grounds is not only ludicrous in the extreme; it also places the authors in the absurd position of being the true champion of the interests of British finance and industry against the “other foreign imperialist” rivals. In short, it places the authors in the absurd position of putting the national interests of capitalist Britain ahead of the internationalist class interests of the proletariat.

Workers’ Weekly carried a similar nationalist theme during the recent Falklands war. For example, at the height of the British aggression and the accompanying chauvinist hysteria, it carried a major editorial entitled “Fraudulent Manipulation of National Slogans.” (May 22, 1982) This editorial was written in reply to a bloodcurdling national chauvinist speech that Thatcher had given to glorify the slaughter in the South Atlantic. But did the Workers’ Weekly take this jingo patriotism by the horns and spell out the class interests of the proletariat in the Falklands conflict? Did it counterpose Thatcher’s bourgeois patriotism to proletarian internationalism and the solidarity of the working class of Britain and Argentina against the reactionary nationalism of their governments? Did it declare that the British workers do not want a nationalist struggle but a class struggle against their “own” bourgeoisie? Not a single word! Not even a hint of such things!

Instead the Workers’ Weekly editorial only challenged the sincerity of Thatcher’s nationalism! Instead it posed the question “What of the ’nationalism’ of the Thatcher government? How ’patriotic’ is Thatcher?” The editorial then proceeded to chastise Thatcher for being untrue to her nationalist image, for “sell(ing) the nation for dollars and pounds,” and for having “nothing to say about the denial of national self-determination for Britain.” In other words, it accuses the ultra-jingo “Iron Lady” for being insincere about her rabid nationalism, for failing to put her nationalist words into deeds with a genuine struggle for the “national rights of Britain.”

The RCPB(ML) attempts to justify such nationalist tactics on the grounds that they are necessary to prevent the bourgeoisie from “manipulating the national question.” Apparently the idea behind this tactic is that, by attacking the bourgeoisie from a nationalist standpoint, this will allegedly allow the revolutionaries to outwit the wily British capitalists; it will allegedly allow the revolutionaries to remove the nationalist fangs from the British imperialist wolves. But with this tactic, it is the RCPB(ML) itself which is being “manipulated by the national question.” It is the RCPB(ML) which is being outwitted and which is lapsing into absurd, petty-bourgeois nationalist arguments, arguments which would better find their place among the lords and ladies of true-blue British patriotism.

Negation of the ABC’s of Marxism-Leninism on the National Question

The RCPB(ML)’s platform for a national struggle for the national rights and sovereignty of Britain inevitably leads into a quagmire. The concrete situation in Britain simply does not conform to such a national struggle. This is why the leadership of the RCPB(ML) has so much difficulty trying to contrive a national struggle that will fit into the framework of British imperialism. Moreover this is why its speculations on the “national question in Britain” cannot be anything other than a direct negation of the ABC’s of Marxism-Leninism on the national question.

In his famous “Preliminary Draft Theses on the National and Colonial Questions” which were prepared for the Second Congress of the Communist International, Lenin set forth the foundations of communist policy on the national question. In his thesis Lenin stressed that communist policy must proceed from concrete realities:

...the Communist Party, as the avowed champion of the proletarian struggle to overthrow the bourgeois yoke, must base its policy, in the national question too, not on abstract and formal principles but, first, on a precise appraisal of the specific historical situation and, primarily, of economic conditions; second, on a clear distinction between the interests of the oppressed classes, of working and exploited people, and the general concept of national interests as a whole, which implies the interests of the ruling class; third, on an equally clear distinction between the oppressed, dependent and subject nations and the oppressing, exploiting and sovereign nations, in order to counter the bourgeois-democratic lies that play down this colonial and financial enslavement of the vast majority of the world’s population by an insignificant minority of the richest and advanced capitalist countries, a feature characteristic of the era of finance capital and imperialism.” (Collected Works, Vol. 31, p. 145, emphasis added)

From every conceivable angle, the RCPB(ML)’s program for a national struggle in Britain violates each of the above concrete requirements.

First of all, it violates the specific historical and economic conditions that have prevailed in Britain for a long, long time. Britain is one of the most bourgeois of all countries, where for centuries the sovereign power of the bourgeois has been fully consolidated. And for many decades Britain has been a country of fully mature and decadent monopoly capitalism. In this historical epoch of the proletarian revolution, if there are any countries in the world besides the superpowers where it is not the national question but the socialist revolution which is on the agenda, imperialist Britain is one of those countries.

In this regard, discussing the different types of countries in relation to the self-determination of nations, Lenin made a clear division between the countries of highly developed capitalism and the countries where the bourgeois democratic and national revolutions were still on the agenda. In “the advanced capitalist countries of Western Europe and the United States” Lenin explained, “the progressive bourgeois national movements came to an end long ago. Every one of these ’great’ nations oppresses other nations both in the colonies and at home. The tasks of the proletariat of these ruling nations are the same as those of the proletariat in England in the nineteenth century in relation to Ireland.” (“The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination,” Collected Works, Vol. 22, pp. 150-151)

In his article “A Caricature of Marxism” Lenin flayed the idea of a national movement in the developed capitalist countries of the West.

“In these countries,” Lenin pointed out, “the process of forming national states has been consummated. In these countries the national movement is a thing of an irrevocable past, and it would be an absurd reactionary Utopia to try to revive it. The national movement of the French, English, Germans has long been completed. In these countries history’s next step is a different one: liberated nations have become transformed into oppressor nations, into nations of imperialist rapine, nations that are going through the ’eve of the collapse of capitalism.’...

“In the Western countries,” Lenin continued, “the national movement is a thing of the distant past. In England, France, Germany, etc., the fatherland’ is a dead letter, it has played its historical role, i.e., the national movement cannot yield here anything progressive, anything that will elevate new masses to a new economic and political life. History’s next step here is not transition from feudalism or from patriarchal savagery to national progress, to a cultured and politically free fatherland, but transition from a fatherland’ that has outlived its day, that is capitalistically overripe, to socialism.” (Collected Works, Vol. 23, pp. 38-39)

Lenin did not absolutely exclude the possibility of the emergence of national wars waged by the big nations of Europe. During the imperialist First World War Lenin pointed out that such a national war should not be proclaimed impossible:

...if the European proletariat remains impotent, say, for twenty years; if the present war ends in victories like Napoleon’s and in the subjugation of a number of viable national states; if the transition to socialism of non-European imperialism (primarily Japanese and American) is also held up for twenty years by a war between these two countries, for example, then a great national war in Europe would be possible. It would hurl Europe back several decades. That is improbable. But not impossible, for it is undialectical, unscientific and theoretically wrong to regard the course of world history as smooth and always in a forward direction, without occasional gigantic leaps back.” (“The Junius Pamphlet,” Collected Works, Vol. 22, p. 310)

At the time of the Second World War, the emergence of the fascist axis represented an attempt at just such a “gigantic leap back.” The German imperialists dispatched their Nazi hordes with the aim of destroying the nations of Europe and of reducing the European proletariat to slaves of Nazi barbarism. As a result, genuinely liberating national wars broke out across the European continent. But the specific historical conditions which gave rise to these anti-fascist national wars against the Hitlerite yoke only further underscore the total lack of conditions for a national struggle in present-day Britain.

In contemporary conditions, just as in Lenin’s day, to try to revive a movement for the national self-determination and sovereignty of Britain is “an absurd and reactionary Utopia.” The pressing task of “the national question in Britain” is not the rights of the British nation against alien oppression, as the RCPB(ML) contends, but the ruthless national oppression of the Irish people, the national minorities, etc., by the British bourgeoisie. The struggle for the sovereignty of Britain, on the other hand, has been a dead letter for many centuries and can yield nothing progressive. To the contrary, it can only divert the proletariat from its historic task, it can only play the role of a brake on the class struggle for the overthrow of overripe capitalism and for the triumph of socialism in Britain.

Second, the RCPB(ML)’s program of struggle for the national interests of Britain violates the necessary “clear distinction between the interests of the oppressed classes, of working and exploited people, and the general concept of national interests as a whole, which implies the interests of the ruling class.” As we have already seen, in practical agitation, it is impossible to wage a struggle for British national interests which can be separated from the predatory and exploiting national interests of the British imperialist ruling class.

Third and finally, the RCPB(ML)’s program for a national struggle for British sovereignty violates the mandatory “clear distinction between the oppressed, dependent and subject nations and the oppressing, exploiting and sovereign nations.” Lenin underscored that, “The characteristic feature of imperialism consists in the whole world, as we now see, being divided into a large number of oppressed nations and an insignificant number of oppressor nations, the latter possessing colossal wealth and powerful armed forces.” (“Report of the Commission on the National and Colonial Questions” to the Second Congress of the Communist International, Collected Works, Vol. 31, p. 240) And Lenin stressed that this distinction “is the cardinal idea underlying” the Comintern’s theses on the national question.

But the RCPB(ML)’s speculations on the so-called national question of British sovereignty have completely obliterated this distinction in regard to British imperialism. As we have seen, it bases its national program on the ludicrous thesis that Britain is not a sovereign power, but a nation denied its self-determination, a country being reduced to a mere “vassal state” subjugated just like the neo-colonies of Africa, Asia and Latin America. In this way the RCPB(ML) obscures the undeniable reality that British imperialism has in the past and continues today to take a prominent place among the handful of “oppressing, exploiting and sovereign nations” which enslave ’ “the vast majority of the world’s population.”

In short, the RCPB(ML) is basing its national program on a myth, on the silly fairy tale that the bloodstained British lion which has ravaged the globe for centuries has been somehow miraculously transformed into a victimized little pussycat.