The national question

As part of our commemoration of the centenary of Lenin's death, we are publishing a series of articles about his life and ideas. Lenin not only led the first succesful socialist revolution, but he also made an enourmous contribution to Marxist theory. The present article deals with the important contribution he made on the national question, and how such a correct stand on this issue guaranteed the success of the Bolshevik Party in October 1917.

Marxism is based on internationalism or it is nothing. This approach has nothing to do with sentimentality, but is rooted in the international character of capitalism itself. From 1914 onwards Lenin conducted an open struggle against those leaders who had betrayed the cause, social-chauvinists, as he called them. Together with a handful of internationalists, he fought to maintain the clean banner of international socialism and prepare the ground for a new International of the working class.

The bloodshed that took place throughout the former Yugoslavia in the last decade has been interpreted in many different ways by many different bourgeois theoreticians. The only common threads throughout all these pearls of wisdom were those of the sometimes naïve, but mostly calculated, interest driven prejudices and nonsense. In an attempt to explain the ongoing war, the media labelled it as “ethnic”, “religious”, “civil” and in some cases even “tribal”. As Marxists we fight against these misinterpretations which flow from a basic misunderstanding of the causes and nature of the wave of violence which hit the Balkans in the nineties.

Almost five years since the fighting ceased and NATO troops were sent in to pacify the region, conflict between Serbs and Kosovar Albanians has flared up once again. This renewed conflict confirms everything we have said about Kosovo and the wider problems affecting the whole of the Balkans. The fundamental problems have not been resolved. They have been simmering below the surface.

In the three articles that Luis Oviedo has written in answer to my article published on January 7 (Marxism versus Sectarianism - Reply to Luis Oviedo) a number of very important issues are raised. These questions deserve the most careful consideration by Marxists in Britain, Argentina and internationally. However, in order to clarify the issues raised and to educate the cadres (which ought to be the aim of every polemic) it is necessary to avoid heated language, distortions and personal attacks that only serve to divert attention away from the political questions. Such an approach will only confuse matters

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My attention was recently drawn to an article signed by Luis Oviedo, entitled The Counterrevolutionary Position of Socialist Appeal(in Prensa Obrera nº 826).Having read the article, I could not decide whether it was the product of bad faith or simple ignorance. Certainly, the method used is contrary to every basic principle of Marxism and above all Trotskyism, which comrade Oviedo and the Partido Obrero (PO) claim to defend.

John Maclean was undoubtedly a class fighter and Marxist, but he made one important mistake, and that was to succumb to the idea that a socialist revolution would be possible in Scotland, separate from the rest of Britain. Ted Grant briefly comments on why this was.

On March 30, 1982, in response to Argentina's deepening economic crisis, and the repression of General Galtieri's military-police dictatorship, the workers had taken to the streets of Buenos Aires. The regime was staring overthrow in the face. It responded by starting a war, one of the principal aims of which was to distract the attention of the masses.

The national question was of primary importance in the process of revolution and counter-revolution in the 1930s, from which important lessons can be learned. Today, the national question of the Spanish state continues without resolution. The bourgeoisie have been historically incapable of successfully completing the task of a bourgeois-democratic revolution of national unification. On the contrary, 40 years of horrible centralism, exercised by the Francoist dictatorship, exacerbated the centralist tendencies. Upon the fall of Francoism, these tendencies became even more defined.

A 4 part document by Alan Woods and Ted Grant. The question of nationalities has always occupied a central position in Marxist theory. In particular, the writings of Lenin deal with this important issue in great detail. It is true to say that, without a correct appraisal of the national question, the Bolsheviks would never have succeeded in coming to power in 1917. This document reviews the rich Marxist literature on this issue and applies it to today's conditions.

This article looks at the effects of the war in Kosovo on international relations, the perspectives for the opposition movement in Serbia, the situation in Kosovo and the relations between the KLA and NATO, and stresses the need for an independent working class internationalist policy.

This short article by Alan Woods, was originally written for the Galician language magazine "Onte e Hoxe" and it deals with the general position of Marxism in relation to the national question and also explains the situation in relation to Kosovo.

NATO has not achieved a "victory" in Kosovo. It has not achieved its war aims. The TV and the press are attempting to convince public opinion that the bombing campaign has achieved its objectives. But as in all wars the first casualty is the truth itself. Anyone who wants to understand what is really happening must be careful not to be blown off track by the propaganda machine of the bourgeoisie.

History repeats itself, wrote Karl Marx. First as tragedy, then as farce. After the most inept military campaign since the Crimean War, we are now treated to the spectacle of the most ridiculous diplomatic bungling in history.

"Something must be done" is the understandable feeling of workers watching the harrowing scenes on our TV screens every evening. The sight of thousands of people herded into giant camps, the pictures of the displaced, the dispossessed and the dead, the screaming children, the helpless pensioners, the hungry and the diseased cannot but stir our emotions.