R. F. Andrews
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain, No Date
Transcription\HTML Markup: Brian Reid
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THE Jewish workers all over the world know the name of Lenin. Not because of his nation, for Lenin was not a Jew; nor merely because he specially championed the cause of the Jews. Millions of Jews all over the world know and respect the name of Lenin, because Lenin was the leader of the victorious Socialist revolution of 1917 which overthrew Russian Tsarism. And in all the centuries of persecution of the Jews—until the civilised savages known as “Nazis” appeared in Germany—has there ever been any blacker record than that of Russian Tsarism. Lenin is rightly revered as the leader and teacher of the movement which put an end to pogroms and national persecution in the former Russian Empire—now the Soviet Union.
But Lenin’s part in the Russian Revolution did not begin in 1917. Twenty years of determined revolutionary struggle against fearful odds preceded the victory of 1917. Without that struggle there would have been no November Revolution. Those who want to understand how that great event came about, and its subsequent development, must make an effort to trace and understand the principles which guided Lenin during those long years of obscure but dogged and determined struggle. And there could be no better guide than Lenin’s own writings.
In this pamphlet we have brought together a few extracts from Lenin’s articles and speeches on the Jewish question. They are intended first and foremost for Jewish workers, because Lenin in his writings before the Revolution was chiefly combating the prejudices and confused ideas deliberately sown by Jewish capitalists among the workers. To expose the horror of Jewish persecution was easy enough, and every honest person was bound to do it, even a middle-class liberal. But to fight the poisonous ideas instilled into the victims of that persecution by false friends—ideas which paralysed the will and blinded the intelligence of the oppressed Jewish workers—was a more difficult task. Lenin’s greatness lies, incidentally, in the fact that he never shirked such tasks. And because such ideas are still rampant among Jewish workers in Britain—spread by Zionists, Bundists, and other “truly national” pedlars of capitalist poison—we British followers of Lenin do not shirk the task either.
We fight with all our strength against all justification of the oppression of other nationalities—which means, not only against anti-Semitism in all its hateful forms, but against all propaganda of race inequality and race hatred. We fight for brotherhood and solidarity between the British and the Indian peasants and workers, between the British and the Negro workers, between the Arab and the Jewish masses. We do so because, like Lenin, we are profoundly convinced that “the capitalists are tireless in their endeavours to stir up enmity between the workers of different faiths, different nations and different races”—and this in order to maintain their own rule the better. And whenever a British worker borrows the language or supports the actions of his masters and exploiters, in reviling or oppressing the Negro, the Indian, or the Jew, he is thereby only settling the British boss more firmly than ever on his own back. Like Lenin, we believe that “all forms of liberal nationalism carry corruption into the midst of the workers.”
For the very same reason, we British Communists fight the corruption when we see it being carried by the Jewish capitalists and their political spokesmen into the midst of the Jewish workers. We fight the swindling propaganda of “national culture”—in the name of which British Jews are asked to support the present régime in Palestine—for the very same reason that Lenin had to fight it.
There are two cultures among the Jews, just as among all peoples ruled by capitalism. There is the suppressed culture of the Jewish workers and peasants, who have no quarrel with the Arabs of Palestine, but get no chance to develop their culture either in Palestine or in this country, while capitalism rules. And there is the prevailing “national culture,” which, as in Tsarist Russia, is “the culture of the landowners, priests and bourgeoisie”—because they have the monopoly of education and the arts, and the means of expressing them. They use it to set the Jewish workers against the Arab peasants (just as the rich Arab landowners do with the Arab poor), and thus consolidate their own predominant position. For the sake of the chance to exploit the Arab workers as well as their own, the Jewish capitalists quite willingly sell their own nation, and help to maintain Palestine as the “Seventh Dominion” of their patrons and paymasters, the British capitalist class.
Only when all the workers and peasants—Jewish and Arab, British and Indian, Negro and white—unite in struggle against the parasites who afflict and exploit them all, can progress be made towards real freedom of “national culture” for the masses. So long as Rothschild and Samuel, Weizmann and Laski, are the exponents of Jewish “national culture,” culture will remain their exclusive prerogative, and the Jewish workers and peasants will only enjoy the doubtful privilege of slaving in their factories and plantations, or having their throats cut, from time to time, in a revolt of the exploited and desperate Arabs. But when the Jewish and British and Arab masses unite to get rid of the Rothschilds—British and Jewish—as the Russian masses did under Lenin’s leadership in 1917, then they will not only be able to develop the untapped resources of their various “national” cultures, but build up out of them an inexhaustibly rich and fertile international culture.
The Soviet Union—with its full equality for the Jews in every direction, with its policy of training an enlightened industrial working class out of millions of former pedlars, hucksters and petty artisans, and with its building up of a self-governing Jewish territory of Birobidjan in co-operation with other peoples, and not at their expense—shows what the workers and peasants can do, even in a poor and undeveloped country, provided they follow the leadership of Lenin.
Needless to say, non-Jewish workers can learn as much as Jewish from the writings of Lenin. The growing difficulties of the capitalists in all countries, multiplied by their ever-sharpening international rivalries, are prompting them to seek a way out through Fascist and nationalist dictatorships in their respective countries. Nearly all the Fascist propaganda bodies which are preparing the way for Fascism in Great Britain are quite openly anti-Semitic. This is not merely blind imitation of Hitler. The Fascists and the capitalist class generally would pay dearly for the chance of setting the British workers against some fancied “alien intruder” and thus diverting attacks from themselves. Those who imagine that there are no backward jingo sentiments among the British workers, on which the Fascists can play, are only fooling themselves. All the more reason, then, for every class-conscious worker realising the nature of the capitalist trap that lies behind the stinking bait of anti-Jew propaganda.
R. F. ANDREWS
RUSSIA in respect of nationality is a very variegated country. The policy of the Government, the policy of the landowners supported by the bourgeoisie, is permeated throughout with Black Hundred nationalism.
This policy is sharply directed against the majority of the peoples inhabiting Russia. And alongside of this the bourgeois nationalism of other nations (Polish, Jewish, Ukrainian, Georgian, etc.) raises its head, striving to distract the working class from its great world tasks, to a struggle over nationalism or so-called national culture.
The national question demands the clearest presentation and decision by all conscious workers.
When the bourgeoisie was struggling for emancipation alongside the people, alongside the toiling masses, it fought for the fullest freedom and the fullest equality among the nations. Advanced countries like Sweden, Belgium, Norway, etc., provide us with examples of how free nations live peacefully together, or peacefully separated from each other, in a genuine democratic system.
To-day the bourgeoisie, fearing the workers, seek union with reaction, betray democracy, defend oppression and inequalities between the nations, and corrupt the workers by nationalist slogans.
To-day the proletariat alone champions the true freedom of nations and the unity of the workers of all nations.
In order that different nations may freely and peacefully live in harmony, or separate one from the other when it suits them, and set up different States—complete democracy is necessary, and this is being fought for by the working class.
Not a single privilege for any nation or any language! Not the slightest oppression of or unfairness to national minorities! These are the principles of workers’ democracy.
The capitalists and landowners wish at all costs to divide the workers of different nationalities, yet themselves live in the most blissful unity, as, for example, the shareholders of profitable millionaire businesses like the Lena Goldfields—where Orthodox Christians and Jews, Russians and Germans, Ukrainians and Poles, etc., all who have capital, harmoniously exploit the workers of all nationalities.
Class-conscious workers stand for the complete unity of the workers of all countries in each and every educational, industrial, and political organisation.
Let the bourgeoisie of all nations amuse themselves with lying phrases about national culture, national tasks, etc., etc.
The workers will not permit themselves to be divided by sweet phrases and speeches about national culture or “national-cultural autonomy.” The workers of all nations defend firmly, in all their organisations, the fullest freedom and the fullest equality—the pledge of the culture.
The workers are creating throughout the world their own international culture, for which the advocates of liberty and enemies of oppression have long been preparing the way. To the old world of national oppression and national animosity, national strife or national separatism, the workers oppose the new world of the unity of all toilers, in which there is no room for a single privilege or for the slightest oppression of man by man.
AMONG the various representatives of Marxism1 in Russia the Jewish, or, to be more exact, some of them—those known as the Bundists—are carrying out a policy of separatism.
From the history of the working-class movement it is known that the Bundists left the Social-Democratic Party in 1903, when the majority of the Party of the working class refused to accept their demand to be recognised as the “sole” representatives of the Jewish proletariat.
This exit from the Party was a manifestation of separatism deeply harmful to the working-class movement.
But, in fact, the Jewish workers have entered and continue to enter the Party everywhere in spite of the Bund. Besides, side by side with the separate organisations of the Bundists, there have always existed general organisations of the workers—Jewish and Russian, Polish and Lithuanian, and Lettish, etc.
From the history of Marxism in Russia we know, furthermore, that when the Bund in 1906 again returned to the Party, the Party put forward the condition of no separatism, i.e., unity in all localities of all the Marxist workers of whatever nationality. But this condition, though accepted, was not fulfilled by the Bundists, despite its special confirmation by a special decision of the Party in December, 1908.
That, shortly, is the history of Bundist separation in Russia, Unfortunately, it is little known to the workers, and little thought is given to it.
Those having the nearest practical acquaintance with this history are the Polish Marxists, the Lithuanian (especially in Vilna in 1907), the Lettish (at that time and in Riga), and those of South and Western Russia. It is well known, moreover, that the Caucasian Marxists, including all the Caucasian Mensheviks, have until quite recently displayed local unity and even fusion of the workers of all nationalities, and have condemned the separatism of the Bundists.
We should also note that the prominent Bundist, Medem, in the well-known book, “Forms of the National Movement” (1910), admits that the Bundists have never brought about unity in the localities, i.e., they have always been separatists.
In the international working-class movement, the question of separatism came to the front most urgently in 1910, at the Copenhagen Conference.
The Czechs came forward as separatists in Austria, and destroyed the former unity that existed between the Czech and German workers. The International Congress at Copenhagen unanimously condemned separatism, but the Czechs have unfortunately remained separatists right up to the present.
Feeling themselves lonely in the proletarian International, the Czechish separatists have long and fruitlessly sought supporters. Only how they have found them—in the person of the Bundists and liquidators. . . . Unanimously condemned by the International, the Czech separatists cling to the skirts of the liquidators and Bundists.
THE Government’s policy is saturated with a spirit of nationalism. It tries to confer every kind of privilege upon the “ruling,” i.e., the Great-Russian nation, even though the Great-Russians represented a minority of the Russian population, to be exact, only 43 per cent.
It tries more and more to cut down the rights of all the other nations inhabiting Russia, segregate one from the other and stir up hatred between them.
The extreme expression of present-day nationalism is the scheme for nationalisation of the Jewish schools. The scheme arose with the educational officer of the Odessa district, and has been sympathetically considered by the Ministry for National “Enlightenment.” What does this nationalisation consist of?
Of wanting to separate out the Jews into special Jewish secondary schools. In all the other educational establishments—both private and State-run—the doors are to be completely closed to the Jews. This “brilliant” plan is rounded off by the proposal to limit the number of pupils in the Jewish secondary schools to the notorious “percentage standard.”2
In all European countries such measures and laws against the Jews existed only in the sinister epoch of the Middle Ages, the Inquisition, the burning of heretics and similar delights. In Europe the Jews have long been granted complete equality and are fusing more and more with the nation in whose midst they live.
In our political life generally, and in the scheme described particularly, apart from the oppression and persecution of the Jews, the most harmful feature of all is the striving to fan the flames of nationalism, segregate one of the nationalities in the State from another, increase their particularism, separate their schools.
The interests of the working class—like the interests of political liberty generally—require, on the contrary, the fullest equality of all the nationalities in the State without exception, and the elimination of every kind of barrier between the nations, the bringing together of children of all nations in the same schools, etc. Only by casting off every savage and foolish national prejudice, only by fusing together into one alliance the workers of all countries, can the working class become a force, inflict a rebuff upon capitalism, and achieve a serious improvement of its life.
Look at the, capitalists! They try to inflame national strife among the “common people,” while themselves they manage their business affairs remarkably well, Russians, Ukrainians, Poles, Jews, and Germans together in one and the same limited liability company. Against the workers the capitalists of all nations and religions are united, but they strive to divide and weaken the workers by national strife!
This most harmful scheme for the nationalisation of the Jewish schools shows, incidentally, how mistaken is he plan for so-called “cultural-national autonomy,” i.e., the removal of education from the hands of the State and its handing over to each nation separately. It is not this we should strive for at all, but for the unity of the workers of all nations in struggle against any nationalism, in struggle for a truly democratic common school and political liberty generally. The example of the advanced countries of the world—say, Switzerland in Western Europe or Finland in Eastern Europe—shows us that only consistently-democratic State institutions ensure the most peaceable and human (not bestial) co-existence of various nationalities, without the artificial and harmful separation of education according to nationalities.
As the reader will see, my article in the “Northern Truth” makes use of one example, precisely that of a general State language, to explain the inconsistency and opportunism of the Liberal bourgeoisie, which on this issue of the national question joins hands with the landowners and the police.
Everybody understands that, quite apart from this question of a general State language, the Liberal bourgeoisie behaves just as treacherously, hypocritically and stupidly (even from the standpoint of Liberalism) in relation to quite a number of similar questions.
What conclusion do we draw from this? The conclusion is that every form of Liberal Nationalism carries the greatest corruption into the ranks of the workers. It inflicts the greatest damage on the cause of freedom and the proletarian class struggle.
And it is all the more dangerous because it masks its bourgeois (and bourgeois-serf-owning) tendencies with the slogans of “national culture.” In the name of “national culture”—Great Russian, Polish, Jewish, Ukrainian, etc.—the Black Hundreds and clericals, and then the bourgeoisie of all nations, do their reactionary and dirty work. Such are the facts of present-day national life, if we look at the question in a Marxist fashion, i.e., from the standpoint of the class struggle, if we compare slogans with the interests and policies of social classes, and not with empty “general principles,” declamations and phases.
The slogan of national culture is a bourgeois (and frequently a Black Hundred-bourgeois) fraud. Our slogan is the international culture of democracy and the world working-class movement. . .
International culture is not non-national. Nobody ever stated that was so. In every national culture there are, even if undeveloped, the elements of a democratic and Socialistic culture, because in every nation there are toilers and exploited masses, whose conditions of life inevitably give rise to a democratic and Socialistic ideology.
But in every nation there is also a bourgeois culture (and in the majority still a Black Hundred-clerical culture), which moreover is not merely in the form of “elements,” but in the form of the dominant culture. Therefore “national culture” generally is the culture of the landowners, priests, and bourgeoisie. This basic truth, which is elementary for a Marxist, the Bundists leave in the shade, and in practice oppose the opening up of the class gulf in society, instead of exposing and explaining it. In practice the Bundists have become like the bourgeoisie, whose interests all demand the spreading of faith in a non-class national culture.
In putting forward the slogan of “the international culture of democracy and the world-wide working-class movement,” we take from every national culture only its democratic and Socialistic elements, and only these, and then only in contradistinction to the bourgeois culture, the bourgeois nationalism of every nation. Not a single democrat, and all the more not a single Marxist, denies the equality of language or the necessity of conducting polemics in one’s own language against one’s “own” bourgeoisie, or spreading anti-clerical or anti-bourgeois ideas amongst one’s “own” peasantry and lower middle class, etc. There is no room for argument about these matters, and the Bundists use these indisputable truths to conceal the real question at issue.
The question at issue is, whether it is permissible for the Marxist to put forward the slogan of national culture, or is it obligatory for him to preach against it in all languages, adapting himself to all local and national peculiarities, advancing the slogan of workers’ internationalism.
The meaning of the slogan of “national culture” is not determined by the promises or good intentions of the intellectual who explains the slogan “in the sense of leading through national culture up to international culture.” To look at the question in this manner would be childish subjectivism. The meaning of the slogan of national culture is determined by the objective relationship between all the classes of a given country and of all the countries of the world.
The national culture of the bourgeoisie is an accomplished fact (moreover, I repeat, the bourgeoisie everywhere strikes bargains with the landowners and priests). Militant bourgeois nationalism stupefies, swindles and disrupts the workers, in order to lead them on a string after the bourgeoisie. That is the outstanding fact to-day.
He who would serve the proletariat must unite the workers of all nations, and struggle unwaveringly with bourgeois nationalism, both his “own” and foreign. He who defends the slogan of national culture has his place among the middle-class nationalists and not among the Marxists.
Take a concrete example. Can a Great-Russian3 Marxist accept the slogan of a national Great-Russian culture? Of course not! Such a person would need to be placed among the nationalists, and not among the Marxists. Our business is to struggle against the national culture of the Great-Russians, the culture of the ruling Black Hundreds and bourgeoisie. Our task is to develop, in a purely international spirit, and in close alliance with the workers of other countries, those seeds of a democratic and working-class movement which are contained in our history also.
The same applies to the most oppressed and down-trodden nation, the Jews. Jewish national culture is the slogan of the Rabbis and the bourgeoisie—the slogan of our enemies. But there are other elements in Jewish culture and in the whole history of Jewry. Out of some 10½ million Jews in the world, a little more than half live in Galicia and Russia, backward and semi-barbarian countries which keep the Jews by force in the position of an outlawed caste. The other half live in the civilised world, where there is no caste segregation of the Jews. There the great and universally progressive features of Jewish culture have made themselves clearly felt; its internationalism, its responsiveness to the advanced movements of our times (the percentage of Jews in democratic and proletarian movements is everywhere higher than the percentage of Jews in the general population).
Whoever directly or otherwise puts forward the slogan of national culture (however well intentioned he may be) is the enemy of the proletariat, the defender of the old and caste element in Jewry, the tool of the Rabbis and of the bourgeoisie. On the contrary, those Jewish Marxists who join up in the international Marxist organisations with the Russian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian and other workers, adding their mite (both in Russian and in Jewish) to the creation of an international culture of the working-class movement, are continuing (in the teeth of Bundist separatism) the best traditions of Jewry, and struggling against the slogan of “national culture.”
Bourgeois nationalism and proletarian internationalism—here are two hostile and irreconcilable slogans, corresponding to the two great class camps throughout the capitalist world and reflecting two distinct policies—and, more than that, two philosophies—in the national question. By defending the slogan of national culture, and building upon it an entire plan and practical programme of so-called “cultural-national autonomy,” the Bundists in practice act as the propagators of bourgeois nationalism in the workers’ ranks.
DEVELOPING capitalism knows two historical tendencies in the national question. The first is the awakening of national life and national movements, the struggle against any national yoke, the setting up of national States. The second is the development and making more frequent of every kind of relationship between nations, the breaking down of national barriers, the creation of the international unity of capital, of economic life generally, politics, science, etc.
Both tendencies constitute a world law of capitalism. The first prevails at the beginning of its development, the second is characteristic of capitalism which has reached maturity and is moving towards its transformation into Socialist society. The national programme of the Marxists reckons with both tendencies when it asserts in the first place, the equality of nations and languages, the intolerable nature of any privileges whatsoever in this respect (and likewise the right of nations to self-determination of nations, of which more later), and, secondly, the principle of internationalism and irreconcilable struggle against the infection of the proletariat with bourgeois nationalism, even the most refined.
What, then, is the Bundist talking about when he shouts to heaven against “assimilation”? He could not be referring to violence against nations, privileges of one of the nations, since “assimilation” would not be the right word in that connection at all—for all Marxists, both individually and as an official united whole, have quite definitely and unambiguously condemned the very least national violence, inequality. . . . But does anything real remain in the conception of assimilation after excluding any violence and any kind of inequality?
Unquestionably yes! There remains that universal historical tendency of capitalism to smash down national barriers, to erase national differences, to assimilate nations, which with each decade shows itself more powerfully, and which constitutes one of the greatest motive forces transforming capitalism into socialism.
He who does not acknowledge and defend the equality of nations and languages, he who does not fight against all forms of national oppression or inequality, is not a Marxist nor even a democrat. That is certain. But it is just as certain that he who pretends to be a Marxist, but violently attacks the Marxist of another nation or “assimilation” in practice, is just a petty bourgeois nationalist. . . .
The people who are shouting most against the “assimilationism” of the Russian orthodox Marxists4 are the Jewish nationalists in Russia, and in particular the Bundists. Yet, as can be seen from previously quoted figures, out of 10½ million Jews in the world about half live in the civilized world, in conditions of the greatest “assimilation,” while only the unfortunate, downtrodden, outlaw Jews of Russia and Galicia (crushed by the Purishkeviches,5 Russian and Polish), live in conditions of the least “assimilation,” the greatest segregation, including “Pales,” “percentage standards,” and other reactionary delights.
The Jews in the civilised world are not a nation, they have become most of all assimilated, affirm Karl Kautsky and Otto Bauer. The Jews in Galicia and Russia are not a nation, they unfortunately (and not through their fault, but owing to the Purishkeviches) are still a caste. This is the unquestioned conclusion of people who are unquestionably well informed in the history of the Jews.
What do these facts indicate? They indicate that “assimilation” can be denounced only by the Jewish reactionary petty bourgeois, who wish to turn back the wheel of history, and to force it to move, not from the conditions of Russia and Galicia to the conditions of Paris and New York, but in the opposite direction. . . .
There are two nations in every modern nation, we shall say to all the National-Socialists. There are two national cultures in every national culture. There is the Great-Russian culture of Purishkevich, Guchkov and Struve—but there is also the Great-Russian culture characterised by the names of Chernishevsky and Plekhanov. There are just the same two cultures in Ukraindom as there are in Germany, France, England, Jewry, etc. If the majority of the Ukrainian workers are under the influence of Great-Russian culture, we know for certain that, side by side with the ideas of Great-Russian priestly and bourgeois culture, there are also at work the ideas of Great-Russian democracy and social-democracy. Fighting against the first kind of “culture,” the Ukrainian Marxist will always distinguish it from the second culture and say to his fellow-workers: “Every opportunity of contact with the Great-Russian class-conscious worker, with his literature, with his outlook, must be seized upon with all energy, utilised, consolidated. For this is required by the vital interests of both the Ukrainian and the Russian workers’ movement.”
If the Ukrainian Marxist allows himself to be stampeded by quite legitimate and natural hatred of the Great-Russian oppressors into transferring even a tiny part of that hatred—even in the form of estrangement—to the proletarian culture and proletarian cause of the Great-Russian workers, that Marxist will slip down by that very act into the morass of bourgeois nationalism. And similarly the Great-Russian Marxist will slip into the morass of not merely bourgeois but Black Hundred nationalism, if he forgets even for a moment the demand for full equality of the Ukrainians, or their right to set up an independent State.
THE question of the slogan of “national culture” is of vast importance for Marxists, not only because it determines the ideas contained in all our propaganda and agitation on the national question, as distinct from the propaganda of the bourgeoisie, but also because the entire programme of the notorious cultural-national autonomy has been built up out of this slogan.
The basic error of principle of this programme is that it endeavours to embody the most refined and most absolute logical conclusions of nationalism. The essence of this programme is, that every citizen should be registered as a member of this or that nationality, and every nation should constitute a legal whole, with the right to impose taxation upon its members, with a national Parliament and national “State Secretaries.”
Such an idea applied to the national question resembles the idea of Proudhon as applied to capitalism. Not the destruction of capitalism and of its foundation—commodity production—but its purification from abuses, excrescences, etc.; not the abolition of exchange and exchange value, but, on the contrary, making it “constitutional,” universal, absolute, “just,” freed from waverings, crises, abuses—this was the idea of Proudhon. Just as Proudhon is petty-bourgeois, just as his theory makes an absolute of exchange and commodity production, so equally petty-bourgeois is the theory and programme of “cultural-national autonomy” which makes an absolute and a quintessence of bourgeois nationalism, purifying it of violences and injustices, etc.
Marxism is irreconcilable with nationalism, be it ever so “just,” “nicely-washed,” refined and civilised. Marxism puts forward internationalism to replace all forms of nationalism, the fusion of all nations into a highest unity, which we can see growing, under our very eyes, with every mile of railway that is being built, every international trust, with every workers’ union (international in its economic activity, and then in its ideas and aims).
The principle of nationality was historically inevitable in bourgeois society, and, reckoning with the latter, the Marxist fully acknowledges the historical legitimacy of the national movements. But in order that this acknowledgement may not be turned into an apology for nationalism, it is necessary to limit it most strictly to that which is progressive in these movements—so that this recognition should not obscure proletarian consciousness with bourgeois ideology.
The progressive awakening of the masses from feudal sleep, their struggle against all forms of national oppression, for national sovereignty—this is necessary. But arising from this is the absolute necessity for every Marxist to fight for the most resolute and consistent democracy in all spheres of the national question. This task is in the main of a negative character. But further the proletariat cannot go in the support of nationalism; for further begins the “positive” activity of the bourgeoisie, which strives to strengthen nationalism.
To overthrow every feudal yoke, every oppression of a nation, every privilege, for one particular nation or one language, is the undoubted duty of the proletariat as a democratic force, undoubtedly to the interest of the proletarian class struggle, which is confused and retarded by national strife. But to assist bourgeois nationalism beyond this limit—rigidly determined and placed within a definite historical framework—means betraying the proletariat and taking the side of the bourgeoisie. . . .
A struggle against all forms of national oppression—unquestionably, yes! A struggle for every kind of national development, for “national culture” in general—unquestionably, no! . . .
There cannot be the slightest doubt that “national culture” in the accepted sense of the word, i.e., the schools, etc., at the present time is under the predominating influence of the priests and bourgeois jingoes in all countries of the world. When the Bundists are defending “cultural-national” autonomy, they, say that the constituting of nations as separate units makes the class struggle inside them free from any outside considerations. But this is obvious and ridiculous sophistry. A serious class struggle in any capitalist society is carried on in the first place in the economic and political spheres. To separate from these the schools is, in the first place, a stupid utopia, since the schools (like “national culture” generally), cannot be separated from economics and politics, and, secondly, it is precisely the economic and political life of the capitalist countries which forces us at every step to break down the senseless and obsolete national divisions and prejudices, while the separating out of education, etc., would preserve, intensify and strengthen “pure” clericalism and “pure” bourgeois jingoism.
. . . It was not the Austrian or Russian Social-Democrats that introduced “cultural-national” autonomy into their programme. But the bourgeois parties of Jewry in the most backward country of all, along side a number of petty-bourgeois allegedly-Socialist groups, adopted it in order to carry the ideas of bourgeois nationalism, in their most refined form, into the ranks of the workers. This fact speaks for itself.
IN No. 48 of the “Put Pravdy” (for March 28) the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Fraction6 published its bill on “National Equality,” or, as the official text reads: “A Bill to remove all limitations of rights placed upon the Jews, and all limitations whatsoever connected with descent from or membership of any particular nationality.”
Amidst the alarms and agitation produced by the struggle for existence—for a crust of bread—the Russian workers cannot and must not forget that national oppression under the yoke of which are tens and tens of millions of “non-Russians” which inhabit Russia.
The ruling nation—the Great-Russians—comprise some 43 per cent. of the total population of the Empire. Out of every 100 inhabitants more than 50 belong to the “non-Russians.” And all this huge population of non-Russians is compelled to live under even more inhuman conditions than those of the Russian worker.
The policy of oppressing nationalities is the policy of dividing the nations. It is equally the policy of systematically corrupting the people’s consciousness. Upon opposing to one another the interests of different nations, upon poisoning the mind of the illiterate and downtrodden masses, depend all the calculations of the Black Hundreds. Take any Black Hundred rag and you will see at a glance, that the persecution of “non-Russians,” the kindling of mutual distrust between the Russian peasant, Russian lower middle class, Russian artisan, and the peasant, artisan, and lower middle class of Jewish, Polish, Finnish, Georgian, Ukrainian nationality, is the bread upon which the whole Black Hundred gang thrives.
The working class requires unity, not disunity. It has no more bitter enemy than the savage prejudices and superstitions which are being sown among the uneducated masses by their enemies. The oppression of the non-Russians is a stick with two ends. With one end it beats the “non-Russian,” with the other the Russian people. Therefore the working class must express itself in the most decisive fashion against any kind whatsoever of national oppression.
To the agitation of the Black Hundreds, which endeavour to turn the workers’ attention to the persecution of non-Russians, the worker must present his conviction of the necessity for complete equality, for complete and final renunciation of any special privileges, for any particular nation.
The Black Hundreds are conducting a particularly hateful agitation against the Jews. The Purishkeviches try to make the Jewish people a scapegoat for all their own sins. The Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Fraction have therefore rightly given pride of place in their Bill to the position of the Jews.
The schools, the Press, the Parliamentary tribune—everything and anything is being utilised in order to sow ignorant, evil and savage hatred against the Jews.
In this black, blackguardly business there engage not only the scum of the Black Hundreds, but also reactionary professors, scientists, journalists, deputies, etc. Millions, even milliards, of roubles are spent in order to poison the mind of the people.
It must be a point of honour for the Russian workers that the Bill against national oppression should be reinforced by tens of thousands of proletarian signatures and declarations. . . . That will best of all consolidate complete unity and amalgamation among all the workers of Russia, without distinction of nationality.
THE hatred of Tsarism was directed particularly against the Jews. On the one hand, the Jews provided a particularly high percentage (compared to the total of the Jewish population) of leaders of the revolutionary movement. In passing, it should be said to their credit that to-day the Jews provide a relatively high percentage of representatives of internationalism compared with other nations. On the other hand, Tsarism knew perfectly well how to play up to the most despicable prejudices of the most ignorant strata of the population against the Jews, in order to organise, if not to lead directly, the pogroms—those atrocious massacres of peaceful Jews, their wives and children, which have roused such disgust throughout the whole civilised world. Of course I have in mind the disgust of the truly democratic elements of the civilised world, and those are exclusively the Socialist workers, the proletarians.
It is calculated that in 100 cities at that time 4,000 were killed and 10,000 were mutilated. The bourgeoisie, even in the freest republican countries of Western Europe, know only too well how to combine their hypocritical phrases about “Russian atrocities” with the most shameful financial transactions, particularly with financial support of Tsarism, and with imperialist exploitation of Russia through the export of capital, etc.
From a Lecture on the 1905 Revolution, delivered in Zurich.
ANTI-SEMITISM is defined as the spreading of enmity against the Jews. When the damnable Tsarist monarchy was living out its last hours, it attempted to divert the illiterate workers and peasants into pogroms against the Jews.
The Tsar’s police in union with the landlords and capitalists organised Jewish pogroms. They attempted to divert the natural hatred of the workers and peasants for the exploiters against the Jews.
Even in other countries one often experiences that the capitalists stir up enmity against the Jews, in order to divert the attention of the workers from the real enemy of the working masses, capital.
Enmity against the Jews can only exist where the landowners and capitalists have kept the workers and peasants in complete illiteracy through bondage.
Only entirely uneducated and completely oppressed people can believe the lies and slanders which are being spread about the Jews. These are survivals from the times of serfdom, when the priests burnt heretics at the stake, when peasants were trampled upon and were blind. But these dark survivals of serfdom are disappearing, the people are beginning to see.
It is not the Jews who are the enemies of the toilers. The enemies of the workers are the capitalists of all lands. Among the Jews there are workers, toilers, they are in the majority. They are our brothers, comrades in the struggle for Socialism, because they are oppressed by capitalism. Among the Jews there are Kulaks, exploiters, capitalists, just like amongst us all.
The capitalists are tireless in their endeavours to stir up enmity between the workers of different faiths, different nations and different races. The rich Jews, just like the rich Russians and the rich of all countries, are united in trampling upon, oppressing and dividing the workers.
Disgrace and infamy to the damnable Tsarism which tortured and persecuted the Jews! Disgrace and infamy to whoever sows enmity against Jews and hatred against other nations! Long live brotherly faith and unity in struggle of all nations, for the overthrow of capitalism!
From a gramophone record made during the Civil War, in 1919.
1. Translator’s Note. The very severe censorship prevailing in Tsarist Russia forced Lenin and other revolutionary writers to use substitute words for terms which the police censors would otherwise seize on as an excuse for prohibiting the whole publication. Thus in the present pamphlet the reader will find “Marxist” for “Social-Democrat,” “workers’ democracy” for “Social-Democracy,” “democrat” for “revolutionary,” etc. This method of writing was known as “Æsopian,” from Æsop, the blind storyteller of Greek fable.
2. Translator’s Note. According to which the percentage of Jewish children compared with the total number of schoolchildren should be the same as the percentage of Jews in the population. The same principle was introduced by Hitler in Germany.
3. “Great-Russia” was the term used under Tsardom to denote the purely Russian territory of the Tsarist Empire, i.e., that inhabited by the dominant Russian race (from the example of Great Britain, the country whose people are the dominant nation in the British Empire.)
4. An “Æsopian” term, used to deceive the police censor, for “Bolsheviks.”
5. The notorious reactionary.
6. Translator’s Note. The official title of the Bolshevik group in the Russian Duma (or Parliament).