Imperialist aggression has divided the nations of the world into two categories — oppressor and oppressed. After World War I, Lenin made an analysis of these two categories of nations as follows: “A billion and a quarter oppressed in the colonies — countries which are being cut up alive, like Persia, Turkey and China; and countries which have been vanquished and flung into the position of colonies. Not more than a quarter of a billion inhabit countries which have retained their old positions, but have fallen into economic dependence upon America, and all of them during the war, were in a state of military dependence, for the war affected the whole world and did not permit a single state to remain neutral. And finally, we have not more than a quuarter of a billion inhabitants of countries in which only the upper stratum, of course, only the capitalists benefited by the partition of the world.” [A]
This is the national question of the modern world. This is the question of the imperialists of a small number of countries (the upper stratum and the capitalists) mercilessly oppressing and plundering the colonial and semi-colonial countries the world over. This is the situation in the sphere of the national question, reflecting the sharpening of the contradictions in the capitalist world and the sharpening of the uneven development of capitalism in different countries in the epoch of imperialism. This situation, on the one hand, cannot but lead to a sharp struggle of the imperialist countries for colonies; on the other hand, to an upsurge of the world-wide national liberation movements of all the oppressed peoples fighting against imperialism and for liberation.
During the latter period of the First World War, the Russian proletariat pierced the imperialist front over one sixth of the earth’s surface and carried out the great October Socialist Revolution. Thus the world was divided into two different economic systems. The First World War and the October Revolution led to the general crisis of capitalism. Under the conditions of this general crisis, bourgeois nationalism became even more lop-sided, more cruel and more aggressive. Fascism in Germany, Italy, Japan and other countries, aimed at enslaving the peoples of the world, was the product of the most decadent and most reactionary monopoly capital under conditions of the sharp contradictions in the general crisis of capitalism. During World War II, the German-Italian-Japanese fascists were defeated by the international anti-fascist forces, headed by the Soviet Union. With the help of the Soviet Union, the peoples of various Eastern European countries broke through the front of imperialism and established their New Democratic states.
The Communist Parties in all countries of the world proved to be the most heroic leaders and the strongest forces in the defence of their fatherland during the great Anti-Fascist War; therefore their prestige among the peoples was extremely high and they became unprecedentedly powerful. The national revolutionary struggles of the East are sweeping like wild fire through China, Viet-Nam, Indonesia, Burma, Malaya and other countries. Thus the world situation after World War II underwent a new basic change signifying a new and sharper development of the general crisis of capitalism compared with that which followed the First World War. At present, American imperialism, replacing Hitler and the Japanese warlords, has mapped out even more vicious plans for dominating and enslaving the various peoples of the world and has formulated its expansionist policy on a world-wide scale. Needless to say, this is another product of the most decadent and most reactionary monopoly capital in the period of a new accentuation of the general crisis of capitalism.
The basic situation of the nations of the world after the Second World War was roughly as follows: On one side, there is the Socialist Soviet Union, the leader of all the peoples of the world in the struggle against imperialism and fascism. After defeating German-Italian-Japanese fascism, the Soviet Union continues to advance towards ever-greater prosperity, to struggle for the defence of world peace, democracy and the independence of all peoples. It has a population of 200 million. Next it is the Mongolian People’s Republic which has a population of one million and was liberated long ago. Then, there are the New Democratic countries in Southeastern Europe — Czechoslovakia, Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Rumania, Albania and Yugoslavia — with a total population of 85 million. These countries following their liberation from German and Italian fascist slavery are marching toward socialism under the leadership of their Communist Parties. However, in one of these countries, Yugoslavia, as a result of the betrayal of the Tito clique, the proletariat is waging a struggle against those who have betrayed them.
In addition, there is liberated North Korea and Eastern Germany, with a population of approximately 30 million. Besides these, there are the peoples who are still directly engaged in the struggle against foreign imperialism and against the betrayers of their countries. These include the Liberated Areas of China which have a population of 168 million (1) who have completely shaken off imperialist oppression and are carrying on New Democratic construction under the leadership of the Communist Party of China. If we add to these the already liberated parts of the population of Viet-Nam, Indonesia, Greece and other countries, then, up to the present time, over 500 million people out of the total global population of two billion people have already been liberated from imperialist oppression. These people have realy attained the position of independent and free masters.
The liberated peoples already exceed one-fourth of the population of the globe. This signifies a regeneration of the world and bears testimony to the scope and level that mankind has already attained in its struggle for emancipation. Undoubtedly the number of the liberated peoples from now on will grow day by day. It will not be long before the whole of mankind will be freed from imperialist domination. No matter what setbacks the struggle may sustain, its general trend toward liberation is an inevitable and irresistible law of history.
The prospect of the complete liberation of China’s 475 million population is especially clear, in view of the series of victories by the great People’s Liberation Army.This is one side of the situation.
On the other hand,, with the defeat of German, Italian and Japanese fascism, three of the world’s six greatest imperialist powers (the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan) have been smashed.
At the present time, the imperialist powers still possessing colonies (of varying sizes and number) comprise the United States, Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal and others. The number of imperialist powers has decreased. But the enslavement of the peoples of the world by one imperialist country, the American imperialism, has assumed an unprecedented scale. Even such countries as Great Britain and France have been weakened as a result of the enormous losses sustained in the war, not to mention the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal and others. It is true that reactionaries of these countries continue to use violent, sanguinary and imperialist methods to strangle the liberation movement of the colonial peoples. Nevertheless, since the bourgeoisie have sold out their own nations, and as a result of the treacherous policy of the Right-wing of the Social-Democratic Parties and of the British Labour Party [B], these countries have become dependent nations and protectorates under the domination of American imperialism.
Thus, besides the above mentioned 500 million people already liberated, more that 1,300 million people throughout the world (exclusive of the United States) find themselves directly or indirectly under the single domination of American imperialism. The reactionaries in Great Britain, France, the Netherlands and other countries have in effect turned traitor to their nations and have become junior partners of the American imperialists. The United States has a population of 140 million, who are harnessed to the chariot of eight notorious financial groups, including those of Morgan, Rockefeller, Du Pont, Mellon, etc., and their reactionary representatives amount to only a handful, only about one thousand people.
These eight major financial groups, having one thousand people, on the one hand rule the 140 million American people within their country, while on the other hand, on the basis of the American capitalist social system, they directly or indirectly enslave all the nations of the world, with the exception of the Soviet Union and other liberated nations. If we include the American people, the domination of the eight big American financial groups directly or indirectly extends to almost three-quarters of the population of the globe — that is, to more than 1,400 million people. Moreover, these groups are trying in every way to impose their system of imperialist enslavement on the Soviet Union and the other liberated areas.
This is the present-day situation with reference to the national question on a world scale.
1. This article was written in November, 1948, when only a part of China was liberated
A. Errata. To the last sentence of the quotation of Lenin on Page 20 - "And finally we have nto more than a quarter of a billion inhabitants of countries in which only the upper stratum, of course, only the capitalists benefited by the partition of the world." - should be added the following: "The total is 1,750,000,000 people, constituting the entire population of the world."(Report delivered in 1920 at the Second Congress of the Communist International on the international situation and the main tasks of the Communist International)
B. Errata. For Social Democratic Parties and of the British Labour Party read socialist parties and labour parties
Next: IV. The Two Great Camps in the World of Today and the Path of the National Liberation Movement