Boris Ziherl

Communism and Fatherland


The fatherland is first of all a "definite political, cultural and social community" (Lenin). By a community called the fatherland, we understand today a definite country with a nation that inhabits it, a country with monuments of national labour and struggle, a nation with a common national language, national traditions and national culture.

This identification of the fatherland with the national community did not always exist. In the old times, for instance under feudalism, the concept of fatherland was much narrower, it was limited to provinces, principalities, duchies etc. The identification of the fatherland with the national, political, cultural and social community appeared in the days when the classical bourgeois national states were formed in Western Europe (on the basis of the development of capitalist production relationships, on the basis of ever-closer economic, political and cultural connections between provinces, through the struggle that the third estate — the "nation" — was leading for the overthrow of feudalism), the slate territories of the said states coinciding almost entirely with the national territories.

Such a concurrence of the state and the national in the concept of the fatherland did not exist in the multi-national states of Central and Eastern Europe, e. g. in Austria and Russia, which were founded on national oppression. The ruling classes of the oppressing nation were endeavouring to force upon the oppressed nations the foster-state as their "common fatherland". The oppressed nations identified (heir fatherland with their national community, longing to liberate it and form a national state, either by seceding from the old state, or by creating federal relationships, based on national equality with the other nations of the said state.

All attempts at transforming the bourgeois multi-national state, based on national oppression and inequality, into a "common fatherland" of all its peoples met with utter failure.

When the classical bourgeois national states of the West were transformed, at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, into multi-national colonial empires, into imperialistic states, then the contradictions between the "fatherland" of the oppressors and the fatherland of the oppressed peoples broke out with great violence in these states also.

The struggle of the disunited and oppressed peoples for their fatherland and for the free development of all creative forces of the nation into an independent national state was considered by the classics of Marxism-Leninism as a progressive struggle, even more so when this struggle in the epoch of imperialism was objectively linked more and more closely with the struggle of the proletariat and other working masses for the overthrow of the capitalist social system, and for the building of socialism. Pointing out that the slogan calling for the defense of an imperialist "fatherland" is nothing but a call for the defense of the right to oppress other nations and amounts to a deception of the working masses, Lenin stressed:

"In a genuinely national war the words 'defense of the fatherland' are not a deceit and we are by no means against such a defense."1

The wars for the liberation and unity of European peoples from 1789 to 1871 and the anti-imperialist wars in the colonies and dependent countries were considered by Lenin its progressive wars for the overthrow of foreign yokes.

"War (e. g. of the colonial peoples) against the imperialists, i. e. Oppressor states, is a genuinely national war."2

However, a long time before the classical bourgeois states of the West became multi-national imperialist powers, there were deep contradictions in them as to the concept of the fatherland, as to the relationship to the fatherland. Each class force participating in the fight against feudalism injected its own social ideals into the concept of fatherland.

For the bourgeoisie the fatherland was, above all, the undisturbed right to exploit the nation, i.e. its huge majority — the working class and other working strata, the right to dispose with the land, i.e. to appropriate its natural resources in the name of unrestricted private ownership, the right to undisturbed manipulation of the nation and country in the fight against other nations and countries in the struggle for the domination of others.

In the West and in the East, wherever the bourgeoisie alone, or in the company of the landed aristocracy, established its class rule, it established, in the state, its own "ideal" of the fatherland.

Lenin wrote that "in each contemporary nation there are two nations". Opposed to the bourgeois "nation" and its fatherland is the "nation" and fatherland of the working people, headed by the proletariat, the most progressive class of contemporary society. For the working people the concept of the fatherland as an object of patriotism is quite different from the concept of the bourgeoisie.

The patriotism of the working people is not merely love for the native land, for its natural beauties and riches; the patriotism of the working people includes the idea and aspiration that the natural beauties and riches should cease to he a source of enrichment and pleasure for a handful of capitalists and big landowners, and become a material source of the well-being and progress of all the working people of the country.

The love of the working people for their national past is the attitude of the creator towards his own creation, the intimate attitude of the people towards the accumulated results of their own physical and intellectual work, the heritage of their own struggle for freedom and progress.

The love of the people for their national language is love for a mighty means for the education and enlightenment of the working masses, enabling them to carry on the struggle for freedom and progress more successfully. Speaking about the significance of the struggle for the free development of the national language, Comrade Stalin stressed in 1913:

"...obstruction of the use of language, reduction of the number of schools and other repressive measures hit the workers not less, if not more, than the bourgeoisie. Such conditions cannot but paralyse the free development of the spiritual forces of the proletariat of the subjugated nations."3

The love of the working people for their fatherland is love for its future which is to emerge from the revolutionary struggle of the working masses themselves. The great Slovene proletarian writer, Cankar, expressed this idea with the following words:

"Our fatherland is struggle and future; this fatherland is worthy of the sacrifice of the most noble blood and best lives. From the sufferings and slavery of countless millions a new fatherland shall emerge: the whole of this beautiful land with all of its boundless riches. This present fatherland of the prosperous, built on slavery, fertilized by blood and tears, a shame for mankind and a mockery of justice, shall be only a bitter and ugly memory…The song about 'our beautiful fatherland' shall sound differently then!"4

These words contain the idea of the inseparable interdependence of revolutionary patriotism and internationalism.

The patriotism of the working people has nothing in common with the nationalism of the bourgeoisie. Bourgeois nationalism means one's "own" nation above all others, underestimating, belittling and negating the social-economic, political and cultural achievements of other peoples and the international significance of these achievements, praising one's own achievements and their international significance to the heavens, most often by means of ordinary forgery, falsification and inflation of historical facts.

As far back as 1841 Engels, in his article on the German poet Arnt, referred to bourgeois nationalism as negative patriotism. The bourgeoisie conceives of love for its fatherland as a struggle for the exceptional privileges of its "own" people, i. e. for itself as the ruling class of that people. However, as the privileges for its "own" people can be obtained only at the expense of other peoples, bourgeois negative patriotism inevitably includes chauvinism, hatred of other peoples, and in its development passes through various stages until it reaches the bestial racism of contemporary bourgeois reaction.

The positive patriotism of the working masses embodies genuine internationalism. This connection between patriotism and internationalism is conditioned by two circumstances:

1) insofar as the nations with their national, ethnical and political-economic territories, national traditions and national cultures are "historically formed, stable communities of people" (Stalin), the universal, international, can be concretely, practically accomplished only through the national, in national forms;

2) the working masses of a country, led by the most progressive class of contemporary society, the working class, whose social aim is the abolition of all exploitation and all oppression. by their social, non-exploitive, non-oppressive character, tend towards peaceful collaboration with other peoples.

The great Russian democrat and thinker, Byelinsky, wrote the following as early as 1840:

"Love for the fatherland must issue from love for humanity, as the particular emerges from the general. To love one's fatherland means ardently to wish for the achievement of the ideals of mankind in it and to contribute with all one's forces towards their achievement.''5

The patriotism of the working masses represents, consequently, a unity of the national and international, and the correctly understood national interests of one's own country as stressed by Lenin in his well-known article on the national pride of Great-Russians, written in 1914, which cannot be opposed to the socialist interests of the international proletariat, but must be concurrent with them.

The revolutionary patriotism and internationalism of the working people cannot be imagined without national equality.

Even before the establishment of the fatherland of the working people, i. e. before the overthrow of the rule of the bourgeoisie and big landowners, before the liquidation of their "fatherland", the international revolutionary proletariat must, in its own ranks, give the masses of various nationalities and countries an example of national equality.

The underestimation, belittling and even denial of the actual significance of a revolutionary movement in a country for the common cause, or the unjust and baseless emphasis of "merits" which, in fact, do not exist, or the exaggerated praise of one's own actual merits, — all this is grist for the mill of bourgeois nationalistic prejudices, creates distrust and weakens the international solidarity of the working people. In his letter to Kautsky of February 7/15, 1882, Engels pointed out the importance of national equality in the international working class movement:

"The international movement of the proletariat is possible only among independent nations. The little republican internationalism that existed from 1830-1848 was centered in France, which was to liberate Europe, and it increased French chauvinism to such an extent that this all-liberating mission of France and her inherent right to be the leader still represents a block in our way… It was events that showed them — and many others — and must show them every day that international cooperation is possible only among equals and that even on primus inter pares does not come into consideration, except in direct action."6

In the time of Engels, French chauvinism in the working class movement was harmful for the development of the movement in Germany and other countries. The harm later caused to the development of the revolutionary movement among Austrian Slays by German chauvinism in social-democracy is well known. The words of Engels are even more important today when, apart from the capitalist world, where the communists, heading the masses of the people are still fighting for the establishment of a genuine fatherland of the working people, there are a series of socialist countries, gathered around the Soviet Union, whose mutual relations should be an example and incentive for the peoples in the capitalist countries.


1. Lenin: Works, III Edition, Vol. XIX, page 197.

2. Idem. page 200.

3. Stalin: "Marxism and the National-Colonial Question", p. 20, published by "Kultura", Belgrade, 1947.

4. Cankar: Collected Works, Ljubljana, 1930, Vol. XI, 299--300.

5. Byelinsky: Selected Works (in one volume). Moscow 1947, p. 131.

6. Marx-Engels "Letters to Bebel, Liehknecht, Kautsky and others", Moscow-Leningrad, 1935. Vol. 1, p. 251 (in German).

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