In Defence of Marxism - Reply to Israel Shamir – Part Two

In the second part, Alan Woods explains that far from playing a revolutionary role, the ideas of Stalinism were disastrous for the world Communist movement. They led to the defeat of the 1926 Chinese Revolution. Stalinism was also steeped in racism and nationalism, an example of which was the terrible treatment of the Jews in Russia. The “two stages” theory led to a series of disasters in the colonial revolution, and the official Communists in Cuba, instead of backing Castro actually supported the Batista regime, all in the name of supporting some imaginary progressive national bourgeoisie. Today, these same ideas, if followed in Venezuela, risk the derailment of the revolution. Israel Shamir understands none of this.

In the second part, Alan Woods explains that far from playing a revolutionary role the ideas of Stalinism were disastrous for the world communist movement. They led to the defeat of the 1926 Chinese Revolution. Stalinism was also steeped in racism and nationalism, an example of which was the terrible treatment of the Jews in Russia. The “two stages” theory led to a series of disasters in the colonial revolution, and the official Communists in Cuba instead of backing Castro actually supported the Batista regime, all in the name of supporting some imaginary progressive national bourgeoisie. Today, these same ideas, if followed in Venezuela, risk the derailment of the revolution. Israel Shamir understands none of this. (October 20, 2004)


The Stalin School of Falsification

“This thesis of Woods means that in no country should Communists attempt to take over power; because if they will, it will be ‘socialism in one country’. Communists a-la Woods would peacefully wait until the world bourgeoisie surrenders its power on a planetary scale. If Woods were in the place of Joseph Stalin he would quietly return Russia to the Tsar or to Kerensky, in order to avoid this abomination of ‘socialism in one country’.”

This is a classic example of the Stalin School of Falsification. When and where has he ever found any article, book or sentence of mine that could be interpreted to mean that Communists should “peacefully wait until the world bourgeoisie surrenders its power on a planetary scale”?

Here and now I challenge Shamir to produce just one phrase from my “prolific writings” to justify this ridiculous affirmation. If he can do so, I will publicly say that Israel Shamir is right. But if he cannot, he must stand exposed before the world Communist movement as a liar and a charlatan.

What is the real position of Marxism on this question? It was already explained by Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto, where they wrote that the proletarian revolution, though national in form is international in content. The workers must first settle accounts with their own bourgeoisie and carry out the revolution in their own country. How could it be otherwise?

But here Shamir makes a major theoretical blunder. He confuses the building of socialism with the socialist revolution. As we have seen, the two things are not at all the same. The Russian workers, led by the Bolshevik Party under Lenin and Trotsky took power in Russia, not because the objective conditions for socialism existed (they did not) but because it was possible and necessary for them to overthrow tsarism.

The German Revolution

In one of my articles I wrote: “Lenin knew very well that unless the proletarian revolution triumphed in Western Europe, especially in Germany, the October Revolution would ultimately be doomed... How was it possible to construct a national socialism in a single country, let alone an extremely backward country like Russia?”

Israel Shamir says that “Woods ascribes this view to Lenin” That is to say, he claims I am putting words into Lenin’s mouth that he never said. What is the truth about Lenin’s attitude to the German Revolution?

Lenin’s internationalism was not the product of sentimentality or utopianism, but on the contrary, of a realistic appraisal of the situation. Lenin was well aware that the material conditions for socialism did not exist in Russia, but they did exist on a world scale. The world socialist revolution would prevent the revival of those barbarous features of class society which Marx referred to as “all the old crap” by guaranteeing at its inception a higher development than capitalist society.

This was the reason why Lenin placed such strong emphasis on the perspective of international revolution, and why he devoted so much time and energy to the building of the Communist International. Lenin saw the defeat of the first wave of the European revolution as a terrible blow that served to isolate the Soviet republic for a period. This was no secondary matter, but a matter of life or death for the revolution. Lenin and the Bolsheviks had made it abundantly clear that if the revolution was not spread to the West, they would be doomed.

Let us again allow Lenin to speak for himself. On the 7th March 1918, Lenin weighed up the situation:

“Regarded from the world-historical point of view, there would doubtlessly be no hope of the ultimate victory of our revolution if it were to remain alone, if there were no revolutionary movements in other countries. When the Bolshevik Party tackled the job alone, it did so in the firm conviction that the revolution was maturing in all countries and that in the end – but not at the very beginning – no matter what difficulties we experienced, no matter what defeats were in store for us, the world socialist revolution would come – because it is coming; would mature – because it is maturing and will reach full maturity. I repeat, our salvation from all these difficulties is an all-European revolution.” (LCW, Vol. 27, p. 95.)

He then concluded: “At all events, under all conceivable circumstances, if the German Revolution does not come, we are doomed.” (LCW, Vol. 27, p. 98.) Weeks later he repeated the same position: “Our backwardness has put us in the front-line, and we shall perish unless we are capable of holding out until we shall receive powerful support from workers who have risen in revolt in other countries.” (Ibid., p. 232. my emphasis.)

Is this not perfectly clear? Lenin attached extreme importance to the German revolution, which he considered fundamental to the survival of the Russian revolution. His standpoint was as far removed from the narrow nationalism of Israel Shamir as North from South. But let us let Lenin rest in peace! Shamir cheerfully continues: “In Woods’ view, this means that after the defeat of the revolution in Germany in 1920, the Russian communists were to crawl back underground.”

Israel Shamir cannot even get the dates of the German revolution right. There was indeed a revolution in Germany – but not in 1920. That was the year of the Kapp Putsch, which was actually not a revolution but a counterrevolution, although in general Israel Shamir does not seem to know the difference between the two.

The German revolution took place in November 1918. There was a general strike, the workers set up soviets, the army mutinied and the German fleet entered Hamburg and Kiel with red flags on the mast. In effect, power was in the hands of the German working class at that time. But there was no Bolshevik Party, and the leadership was in the hands of the Social Democrats who betrayed it.

The failure of the German revolution left the Russian revolution isolated. This was a heavy blow, but what conclusions should be drawn from it? Certainly not that the Russian communists should “crawl back underground.” (Where does he get this stuff from?). Under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky the Bolsheviks held onto power and did their best to develop the economy, while simultaneously striving to develop the Communist International and promote the world socialist revolution. Anything less like “going underground” it is difficult to imagine.

As a matter of fact, the revolutionary movement in Germany continued throughout this period, with the Spartakist uprising in 1919, the Kapp Putsch in 1920, the March Action in 1921 and last but not least the revolutionary situation in 1923, when the French army occupied the Ruhr.

This could have led to a socialist revolution in Germany, but when the German Communist leaders went to Moscow to ask for advice they met Stalin and Zinoviev, who advised them to do nothing and allow the German fascists to come to power first! The defeat of the German revolution in 1923 (which I imagine is what Israel Shamir means to say) did play an important role in encouraging the rise of the bureaucracy in Russia – and the Stalin tendency that represented it.

Counterrevolutionary role of Stalinism

The anti-Marxist theory of socialism in one country was only put forward by Stalin and Bukharin after Lenin’s death. They would not have dared to advance such an idea during Lenin’s lifetime. As early as 1928 Trotsky predicted that if this line were to be accepted by the Communist International, it would be the beginning of a process that could only end in the national-reformist degeneration of every Communist Party in the world. We shall show later how this worked out in practice. Meanwhile, let us return to our friend in Jaffa, who continues his diatribe:

“Such positions of the Trots turns them into dear friends of Western imperialism, for in their view, the nations of the world should endure their regimes until the Second Coming, i.e. the world revolution. Real Communists – branded as ‘Stalinists’ in the Trots’ vocabulary – were and are for revolution, a takeover of power and socialism everywhere – now! Mao and Lenin, Castro and Ho Chi Minh did not shy away from power, they did not say: ‘Oh no, we won’t seize power, our countries are too backward, we shall wait for the world revolution’; for they felt responsibility and love for their countries – for China and Russia, for Cuba and Vietnam.”

Having discovered, with some surprise, that I am violently opposed to socialist revolution, and therefore a counterrevolutionary, I now learn, with even greater surprise, that I am a dear friend of imperialism. I was rather under the impression that for the last 44 years I had been fighting against both capitalism and imperialism. But comrade Shamir says the opposite, and who am I to argue? But let us look at the record of Stalinism in relation to the revolution in the colonial countries, to which Shamir now refers.

Nowhere has Stalinism played a more counterrevolutionary role than in the colonial revolution. After Lenin’s death, Stalin and his supporters revived the old Menshevik theory of “two stages” in the colonial revolution. That is to say, the workers must enter into a bloc with the so-called “progressive non-comprador bourgeoisie” to carry out the bourgeois-democratic revolution. The socialist revolution must be postponed – relegated to a dim and distant future.

That was precisely the position adopted by Stalin, Kamenev and Zinoviev in 1917, which Lenin castigated so mercilessly. It is the same position that comrade Shamir has fished out of the dustbin of history, dusted down and now presents to us as the last word in political realism. What have been the results of this policy? Wherever it has been applied in the colonial world, the Stalinist theory of the “two stages” has led to one catastrophe after another.

In China the young Communist Party, which had a mass base in the working class, was forced into the ranks of the national bourgeois Kuomintang of Chiang Kai Shek, who, to use comrade Shamir’s language, was accepted by Stalin as a progressive representative of the national, non-comprador bourgeoisie. The Kuomintang was even accepted as a sympathising section of the Communist International, with only one vote against on the International Executive Committee – that of Trotsky.

Having used the Communists to cover his left flank, Chiang then proceeded to liquidate physically the Communist Party, the trade unions and the peasant soviets during the 1925-27 Chinese revolution. The reason why the second Chinese revolution took the form of a peasant war in which the working class remained passive was to a large extent determined by the crushing of the Chinese proletariat as a result of Stalin’s policies which Trotsky characterised as “a malicious caricature of Menshevism.”

By the way, it is entirely false to say that Mao took power in China on the base of a “Patriotic Alliance” with the nationalist bourgeoisie. He took power on the basis of a classical revolutionary peasant war that included a war of national liberation against Japanese imperialism. The national bourgeoisie led by Chiang Kai Chek was theoretically allied with Mao in this struggle, but in practice played a completely counterrevolutionary role. The nationalist army spent most of its time fighting the Red Army and hardly any fighting the Japanese.

The same is true of all the other national liberation movements – including the resistance movements against the Nazis in Europe during World War Two. In every case the real struggle against the Nazis was led by the Communists. The so-called bourgeois allies in Yugoslavia, Greece, France etc., played an insignificant role in fighting the German invaders and spent most of their time fighting the Communists.

The two stage theory and the Middle East

The effects of the “two stages” theory have been particularly catastrophic in comrade Shamir’s own part of the world – the Middle East. In Iraq in 1958 the Communist Party was a mass force, able to call a demonstration of a million people in Baghdad. But instead of pursuing a Leninist policy of class independence and leading the workers and peasants to the taking of power, they looked for alliances with the “progressive non-comprador” bourgeoisie and the “progressive” sections of the army. The latter, having taken power on the backs of the Communist Party, then proceeded to eliminate it by murdering and jailing their members and leaders. The end result was the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein and the present mess.

In Sudan, the same process happened not once but twice. In 1967 the CP was able to call a demonstration of two million people in Khartoum. Yet, instead of taking power, they supported the “progressive national non-comprador” bourgeois Nimeiri, who thanked them by smashing them. As in Iraq this policy led to the victory of the counterrevolutionary forces and the destruction of the CP. That is where the policies advocated by Israel Shamir have led the Communist Movement in the Middle East, where it has lost the powerful base it once had and is reduced to a shadow of its former self.

Even now the Sudanese Communist Party has a policy of a “Patriotic Alliance” with the guerrillas in the South (now backed by US imperialism) and the “progressive” bourgeoisie in the North against the fundamentalist regime. These so-called Communist leaders are like the Bourbons of old who “forget nothing and learn nothing.” Their policies are a finished recipe for one bloody defeat after another.

The most tragic example of the disastrous consequences of the two stages theory is that of Indonesia. In the 1960s the Indonesian Communist Party was the main mass force in the country. It was the biggest Communist Party in the world outside the Soviet Bloc, with 3 million members, as well as 10 million affiliated to its trade union and peasant organisations and even claimed the support of 40 per cent of the army (including sections of the officers). The Russian Bolsheviks did not have as much organised support at the time of the October revolution!

The Indonesian CP could have easily taken power and started the socialist transformation of society which would have had a tremendous effect in the whole of the colonial world, setting off a chain of revolutions in Asia. Instead of that, the leaders of the CP (under the control of the Chinese Maoists) had an alliance with Sukarno, a bourgeois nationalist leader who at that time had adopted a “left” phraseology. Those policies left the Communist Party completely unprepared when the bourgeoisie (under direct instructions from the CIA) organised a massacre of Communist Party members and sympathisers in which at least 1.5 million people were slaughtered.

Now comes the most monstrous of all Shamir’s numerous slanders. He claims that (“objectively”) Alan Woods is on the side of the US imperialists in Iraq:

“Now in Iraq, the US occupation forces have effectively opened up the Iraqi economy for a Western takeover by granting equal access rights to the foreign companies. This act brings Iraqi nationalist forces into greater conflict with the imperialists. Objectively, Woods is on the side of Western TNC, as he precludes nationalist defence of people. Communists a-la Woods won’t cooperate with Iraqi nationalists against American imperialism, for nationalism is their main enemy.”

What is this nonsense? In the first place, everybody knows that we have consistently fought against the monstrous imperialist aggression in Iraq and that I have written dozens of articles, documents and manifestos on this question. We stand for the unconditional right of self-determination and the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq, including British troops. (I imagine that this is yet another example of my inability to appreciate the good works of my fatherland).

So much for the record of “Communists a-la Woods”. What about “Communists a-la Shamir”. Where are they? Well, the Iraqi Communist Party is certainly collaborating with somebody. They are members of the puppet government of Allawi! In what way this can be construed as cooperating with Iraqi nationalists against American imperialism is not quite clear, since America controls this government and all its works. Still, as our friend in Jaffa tells us, one must always be practical!

Stalinism and the Cuban revolution

The crimes of Stalinism are a matter of historical record. But Shamir knows nothing about them. He praises the Stalinists in glowing term and resurrects the old slander of “counterrevolutionary Trotskyism”. He makes a big issue of Cuba, which is natural since the whole polemic arose out of the decision of comrade Celia Hart to defend publicly the ideas of Trotsky.

Unfortunately, he could not have picked a worst example from his point of view. He evidently does not know what the role of the Cuban Stalinists was. Did the Cuban Stalinists support Fidel Castro? No, they did not. They supported the dictator Batista. Why? On grounds that our friend in Jaffa would surely approve of: they said that Batista was a progressive bourgeois nationalist. They regarded Fidel as an ultraleft – a Trotskyist, in fact. Only after the revolution had taken place did they change their tune.

The collaboration of the Cuban Stalinists with Batista began even before the Second World War. In November 1939, in the elections to the Constituent Assembly, there were coalitions: Batista and the Communists on one side and Grau’s Auténticos and the ABC on the other. The latter won, and the CP obtained aproximately 10 percent of the votes.

In the election campaign of 1940 when Batista enjoyed the total support of the Cuban Stalinists, who regarded him as a “national non-comprador bourgeois.” Batista was elected president by obscure means and in return by 1942 two Communists, Juan Marinello and Carlos Rafael Rodríguez, entered the government. This is how the Cuban Stalinists understood the policy of “Patriotic Alliances”!

The Stalinists abandoned all pretence of an independent policy. Their support for Batista was completely uncritical and slavish. This is what they wrote at the time:

Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar, one hundred percent cuban, a jealous guardian of the freedom of the fatherland, eloquent tribune of the people... foremost figure of our national, ídol of a people that thinks and cares for his wellbeing... the man who embodies the sacred ideals of a new Cuba and who, by his democratic activity, identified with the needs of the people, carries within him the seal of his valour...” (“Hoy”, organ of the PSP, July 13, 1940).

On the 28 January 1941 Blas Roca (General Secretary of the Cuban Comunist Party) wrote: “We remain faithful to the platform of Batista in every repect”. Juan Marinello declared a few days later: “The only ones loyal to the platform of Batista are those who are members of the Unión Revolucionaria Comunista”.

The dictator recognised the invaluable services of the Stalinists, when he wrote to the CP leader Blas Roca in the following terms:

“Dear Blas,

With respect to your letter which our mutual friend, Dr. Carlos Rafael Rodriguez, Minister Without Portfolio, passed to me, I am happy to again express my firm unshakeable confidence in the loyal cooperation the People’s Socialist Party [the then official name of the Communist Party of Cuba] its leaders and members have given and continue to give myself and my government. . .

Believe me, as always, Your very affectionate and cordial friend,

Fulgencio Batista”

These lines were quoted by the CP paper Hoy on the 13th June 1944.

They even changed their name to the People’s Socialist Party (Partido Socialista Popular), which was one of the most right wing parties in the Communist International. In its II Congress, the PSP considered it opportune to salute Batista with the following words: “(...) We wish to reiterate that you can count on our respect, love and esteem for your principles of democratic and progressive government.” (S. Tutino, L'Ottobre cubano, page 171).

They dropped their criticism of US capitalism, and in place of the nationalization of foreign property, they proclaimed “collaboration in a programme of economic expansion that would accept the payment of reasonable interest rates on foreign investments, principally English and North American.” (Ibid., page 179).

Such a programme and policy could have no appeal for the young revolutionaries who hated the Batista regime and were determined to fight against it. So when Fidel Castro raised the flag of revolt in Cuba, he did so not only outside the “Communist” party but against it.

But maybe the Cuban Stalinists changed their mind later and supported Fidel Castro? Far from it! They backed Batista all along. In line with their policy of national unity and forming blocs with the “progressive non-comprador bourgeoisie, they joined Batista in condemning Fidel Castro’s attack on the Moncada Barracks (July 1953):

“... the life of the People’s Socialist Party (communist)... has been to combat... and unmask the putschists and adventurous activities of the bourgeois opposition as being against the interests of the people...” (reported in Daily Worker, U.S organ of the Communist Party, August 10, 1953)

Because of the betrayal of the Stalinists, other forces led the revolution. They were courageous revolutionaries, but in the beginning they did not have a clear idea of where they were going. The Cuban revolution, much as the Venezuelan revolution, started as a national democratic revolution. The leaders did not at first pose the question of socialism or of socialist revolution. But their actions were a thousand times more revolutionary than those on the island who called themselves Communists.

Fidel Castro delivered a speech in reply to accusations by Batista of being a Communist. In which he says the following: “What right does Senor Batista have to speak of Communism? After all, in the elections of 1940 he was the candidate of the Communist Party... his portrait hung next to Blas Roca’s and Lazaro Pena’s; and half a dozen ministers and confidants of his are leading members of the CP” (H.M. Enzenburger, Raids and Reconstructions, London, 1976, p.200.)

Even after they had overthrown the corrupt and reactionary Batista government, the programme of the leaders of the revolution did not go beyond a democratic capitalist regime. But, as the Russian proverb goes, “life teaches.” Castro’s programme of progressive reforms was opposed by the Cuban bourgeois, behind whom stood the might of US imperialism.

The Cuban revolution shows the correctness of Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution very clearly. It was not possible to carry out the programme of the bourgeois democratic revolution in Cuba within the limits of the capitalist system. Faced with the implacable opposition and sabotage of US imperialism, Fidel Castro expropriated the means of production. Without this, the Cuban revolution would have been lost.

Cuba and Venezuela

There are many parallels between the Cuban revolution and the Venezuelan revolution. The latter has inspired the workers, peasants and youth of all Latin America and on a world scale. The revolutionary masses have achieved miracles. But the Venezuelan revolution is not completed. It cannot be completed until it expropriates the oligarchy and nationalizes the land, the banks and the key industries that remain in private hands.

Like Fidel Castro at the beginning of the Cuban revolution, Hugo Chavez bases himself on the programme of the national democratic revolution. He has shown himself to be a fearless anti-imperialist fighter and a consistent democrat. But this is not enough. The Venezuelan oligarchy is bitterly opposed to his reforms. Behind it stands the might of US imperialism.

Sooner or later the Venezuelan revolution will be faced with the alternative: either, or. And just as the Cuban revolution was capable of carrying through the expropriation of landlordism and capitalism, so the Venezuelan revolution will find the necessary resolve to follow the same road. That is really the only way.

Once the Venezuelan revolution passes the point of no return, eliminating landlordism and capitalism for good, it can very rapidly spread to other countries in Latin America. That is the inner meaning of the Bolivarian revolution: the objective necessity to unite the divided continent of Latin America and raise it to a qualitatively new and higher level of development in accordance with its colossal economic potential.

This is the only possible perspective if we wish to put an end to the domination of Latin America by US and world imperialism. But it is a perspective that stands radically opposed to nationalism. It stands for the radical abolition of frontiers that have artificially divided and balkanised Latin America for 200 years. It is also of necessity an anti-capitalist (socialist) perspective, since it can only be achieved by breaking with the bourgeoisie. Power must pass to the working class and its natural allies, the poor peasants and the urban poor and semi-proletarians.

The idea of the Socialist United States of Latin America is a book sealed with seven seals for nationalists and Stalinists. But it is an idea that can unite and mobilize the masses of workers, peasants and revolutionary youth of Latin America. It is the slogan of the present that holds the key to the future.

Whale No. 2. No to Patriotism

Our friend Shamir, however, is blind to all this. He is not interested in revolutionary internationalism. Instead he sings rhapsodic hymns to the virtues of patriotism:

“Patriotism, love of one’s country, is a great force; this force should be fully utilised in our struggle against the enemy. Communism a-la Woods positions itself in favour of globalisation; love for one’s country, this proud ‘Patria o Muerte’ [Motherland or Death] is anathema for a Trot. A Woods Communist should dislike or ignore his country and his people, should wish to have its very name erased; and should never attempt to bring his compatriots together to fight a foreign invasion or imperialist takeover.”

As usual, our friend in Jaffa gets everything mixed up. It is an ABC proposition that Marxism is internationalist by its very nature. Marx, Engels, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht never stood for the creation of a purely German party, any more than Lenin regarded the Bolshevik Party as a purely Russian Party. All of them stood for the creation of an International that would fight for world socialism. That much would also be known by a six year old. That it is not known to comrade Shamir is his misfortune, not ours.

Marx and Engels were not internationalists out of sentimentality but for scientific reasons. In the pages of the Communist Manifesto they explained that capitalism, which arises as a series of national markets and nation states, inevitably develops a world market. The crushing domination of the world market is the most important manifestation of the epoch in which we are living. No country, no matter how big, can cut itself off from the world market. Russia and China have discovered this. The old idea of building socialism in national isolation has everywhere ignominiously collapsed.

Does this mean we “support globalization”, as Shamir asserts? It does not mean that at all. But the tendency of capitalism to develop a world market, which was predicted in the Communist Manifesto, is a fact. What is the alternative to capitalist globalisation – that is, to the domination of the entire world by a handful of gigantic corporations and imperialist states? Shamir counterposes to globalization – bourgeois nationalism. We counterpose to it the class struggle and the fight for socialism nationally and internationally.

The fight for world socialism involves a fight against imperialism. Marxists will always distinguish between oppressor and oppressed nations. It is self-evident that we defend the latter against the former. But does that mean that we must defend nationalism and abandon internationalism? Such an assertion means the complete abandonment of Marxism-Leninism. It signifies the abandonment of the proletarian standpoint in favour of bourgeois or petty bourgeois national philistinism. That is precisely the standpoint of Israel Shamir.

As we know, Israel Shamir does not like us to quote Lenin for the obvious reason that everything Lenin ever wrote is completely opposed to his standpoint. Lenin always opposed imperialism and the national oppression of small nations but he was also implacably opposed to the national philistinism of small nations. The national question, like all other social questions, is at bottom a class issue. This was Lenin’s standpoint – and the standpoint of any genuine Marxist. In his work Critical Remarks on the National Question, Lenin explains this elementary proposition of Marxism with admirable clarity:

“Every national culture contains elements, even if not developed, of democratic and socialist culture, for in every nation there are toiling and exploited masses, whose living conditions inevitably give rise to the ideology of democracy and socialism. But every nation also has a bourgeois culture (and most nations also have a Black Hundred and clerical culture, too) that takes the form, not merely of “elements”, but of the dominant culture. Therefore, the general ‘national culture’ is the culture of the landed proprietors, the clergy and the bourgeoisie.” (LCW, Critical Remarks on the National Question, October-December 1913, vol. 20.)

Isn’t that clear? The national question is a class question. But one looks in vain in all the articles of comrade Shamir for even the slightest glimmerings of a class position.

Marxists must not gloss over the class contradictions, but on the contrary, bring them to the fore. This is no less obligatory in the case of an oppressed nationality as in that of an oppressor nation. As Lenin explains in Critical Remarks on the National Question “On the boards of the joint-stock companies capitalists of different nations sit together, completely amalgamated with each other. In factories workers of different nations work side by side. On all really serious and profound political issues sides are taken according to classes and not according to nations.” (Ibid.)

In another work he writes: “The interests of the working class and of its struggle against capitalism demand complete solidarity and the closest unity of the workers of all nations; they demand resistance to the nationalist policy of the bourgeoisie of every nationality.”

Lenin always wrote in a clear and unambiguous way. There is no way his meaning can be misunderstood. And his meaning is this: that for Marxists, at all times and under all conditions, the class question comes first. We stand for the sacred unity of the working class, irrespective of nationality, language, colour or religion. We are opposed to nationalist poison wherever it comes from.

Nationalism or internationalism?

Shamir goes on:

“This discussion of nationalism is not a new one, [true!] Marx and Lenin stated that communists should support nationalism of the oppressed nations and fight nationalism of the oppressors [also true!]. However, the New World Order introduced a new keynote in the old discourse, for even the nations of the First World – of North America and Western Europe – are being undermined by the new policies of their masters [aha!].

“For instance, Sweden, an extremely developed West European nation, is now losing its industry: the famous SAAB car plants were bought by the TNC, closed down and the production moved into more profitable areas. Tens of thousands of skilled workers lost their jobs, while thousands of local owners were proletarianised. The same process is taking place in the US, where industries migrate south, while their profits migrate to the Eastern Seaboard. Workers and small owners may now create a new nationalist coalition against their new trans-national masters.”

Despite all his Talmudic twists and turns, and the occasional nod to the memory of Marx and even Lenin, Shamir always get back to the same idea: Marxism is out of date. The class struggle is out of date. The working class must forget about socialism and socialist revolution for the next hundred (better thousand) years. They must not try to have an independent policy but must tie themselves firmly to the chariot of Capital and support their “own” (good) bourgeoisie against the (bad) foreigners.

Reading this, we see just how far the Communist movement has been thrown back. It is as if Lenin had never lived or written a single line! What Lenin never said is that Marxists must support the national bourgeoisie or the nationalist petty bourgeoisie. On the contrary, the fundamental premise of Lenin’s position on the national question was of absolute class independence.

The first principle of Leninism was always the need to fight against the bourgeoisie – the bourgeoisie of both the oppressor and of the oppressed nations. In all of Lenin’s writings on the national question there is an implacable criticism not just of the nationalist bourgeoisie, but that of the nationalist petty bourgeoisie also. This is no accident. The whole idea of Lenin was that the working class must put itself at the head of the nation in order to lead the masses to the revolutionary transformation of society. Thus in Critical Remarks on the National Question he writes:

“The awakening of the masses from feudal slumber, their struggle against all national oppression, for the sovereignty of the people and the sovereignty of nations is progressive. Hence, it is the bounded duty of a Marxist to uphold the most resolute and consistent democracy on all points of the national question. The task is mainly a negative one. But the proletariat cannot go beyond this in supporting nationalism, for beyond it begins the ‘positive’ activity of the bourgeoisie striving to fortify nationalism.” (Our emphasis.)

A little later he adds, for the sake of greater emphasis: “Fight against all national oppression – yes, certainly. Fight for any kind of national development, for ‘national culture’ in general – certainly not.” (Ibid.)

In order to combat the pernicious illusions peddled by the nationalists, Lenin warned that: “The proletariat cannot support any consolidation of nationalism, on the contrary, it supports everything that helps to obliterate national distinctions and remove national barriers, supports everything that makes the ties between nationalities closer and closer or leads to the amalgamation of nations. To act differently means taking the side of reactionary nationalist philistinism.” (Ibid.)

Is this not clear? The workers are duty bound to oppose all forms of national discrimination and oppression. But they are also duty bound to refuse to support nationalism in any shape or form. What a contrast with those like Shamir who pretend they are pursuing a Communist policy while advocating nationalist poison of the worst type. To blur the line of division between Marxism and nationalism is a violation of everything Lenin ever stood for.