J. V. Stalin
Source: J. V. Stalin Works, Vol. X, August-December 1927, pp. 154-157
Publisher: Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, U.S.S.R., 1954
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2008). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
The other day I received from you a copy of Comrade Mikhelson’s letter on the national question. Here is my answer in a few words.
1) The Buryat comrades asked me: “How is one to conceive the transition to a single universal culture through the national cultures which are developing within the limits of our individual autonomous republics?” (See Stalin, Problems of Leninism, p. 259.1) I answered that this transition is conceived not as a transition through a “single universal language and the dying away of all other languages in the period of socialism,”2 but through the assimilation by the nationalities of a universal culture that will be proletarian in content, but in forms corresponding to the languages and manner of life of these nationalities (see Problems of Leninism). To explain this I quoted a number of facts about the development of our revolution, which led to the awakening and strengthening of the nationalities formerly pushed into the background, and of their cultures. That is what the controversy was about.
Comrade Mikhelson has failed to understand the essence of the controversy.
2) Comrade Mikhelson, cavilling at my words “in the period of socialism” (see above), and at my statement that the process of assimilation of some nationalities does not imply the disappearance of nations in general, asserts that some of Stalin’s formulations can give grounds for interpreting them as “a revision of Leninism” on the national question. Moreover, he quotes Lenin’s statement that “the aim of socialism is not only to abolish the division of mankind into small states and all isolation of nations, not only to draw the nations together, but to merge them.”3
I think, firstly, that Comrade Mikhelson is diverging from the presentation of the question given by the Buryat comrades in their letter and from which Stalin could not possibly diverge in his speech at the Communist University of the Toilers of the East. The Buryats had in mind precisely a transition through national cultures to a universal culture, moreover the Buryat comrades evidently thought that first there will be national cultures and later a universal culture. In his answer, Stalin objected to this and said that this transition will not take place in the way the Buryats imagine, but that among the nationalities of the U.S.S.R. there will be a simultaneous development both of national culture (in form) and of a universal culture (in content), and that only with such a way of this transition can the assimilation of the universal culture by the nationalities take place (see Problems of Leninism).
I think, further, that Comrade Mikhelson has failed to grasp the meaning of my answer. When speaking of the “period of socialism” in our country, I had in mind not the “final” victory of socialism, a victory which can be achieved only on an international scale, when socialism is victorious in all or in a number of the major countries, but the period of the building of socialism in our country. That is obvious from the entire presentation of the question in my speech at the Communist University of the Toilers of the East. Can it be asserted that during the period of the building of socialism in our country (the “period of socialism”), i.e., before the victory of socialism in other countries, the nations in our country will unfailingly disappear, that they will merge into one common nation with one common language? I think that it cannot be asserted. More than that. Even after the victory of the proletarian dictatorship on a world scale, even after that, for a long time national and state differences will still exist.
Lenin was quite right when he said that “national and state differences among peoples and countries . . . will continue to exist for a very, very long time ever after the dictatorship of the proletariat has been established on a world scale” (see Vol. XXV, p. 227).
How, then, are we to understand the passage from Lenin quoted by Comrade Mikhelson, which states that the aim of socialism is, in the long run, the merging of nations? I think we should understand it differently from the way Comrade Mikhelson does, for it is obvious from what has been said above that in this passage Lenin had in mind the merging of nations as the ultimate aim of socialism, to be achieved as a result of the victory of socialism in all countries “a very, very long time . . . after the dictatorship of the proletariat has been established on a world scale.”
It follows, therefore, that Comrade Mikhelson does riot understand Lenin. 3) I think that there is no need to make Stalin’s “formulations” “more precise.” I am waiting impatiently for the opposition to dare to touch upon the principle of the national question in an open controversy at the Party congress. I am afraid it will not dare to do that, for after Zinoviev’s unsuccessful speech at the plenum of the Central Committee and Central Control Commission, the opposition preferred to say absolutely nothing about the question of national culture in its recent “platform.” If, however, the oppositionists do pluck up courage and raise the question, all the better far the Party, for the Party will only gain by it.
September 16, 1927
Published for the first time
1. J. V. Stalin, “The Political Tasks of the University of the Peoples of the East” (see Works, Vol. 7, p. 142).
2. J. V. Stalin, “The Political Tasks of the University of the Peoples of the East” (see Works, Vol. 7, p. 141).
3. V. I. Lenin, The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination (see Works, 4th Russ. ed., Vol. 22, p. 135).