The national question

no bordersThe question of nationalities - that is, the oppression of nations and national minorities, which has characterised capitalism from its birth till the present time - has always occupied a central position in Marxist theory. Once again, the historical materialist approach of Marxism dissolves the apparent “natural” role of the nation as a necessary expression of human society. Nations have by no means always existed, nor will they always exist in the future.

The nation as we know it today is a product of the development of capitalism and its need to unify peoples into units of a certain size (depending on the level of the system’s development – e.g. more recently formed nations tend to be much bigger) to consolidate the market. The contradictions and tensions between nations are a result of capitalism’s “combined and uneven” development. The contradictions of the capitalist mode of production itself force each ruling class to expand outwards, developing a global market and imperialism in the process.

The violent tensions that this process breeds in turn give rise to nationalism, racism and wars. There is no way a successful world revolution, abolishing the global capitalist system, can take place without a careful and nuanced understanding of the national question, with all the sensitivities and complexity it brings. Therefore this section is of the utmost importance for revolutionaries.

Yesterday, 16 people were arrested by Spanish police in Girona (Catalonia) without a warrant. Amongst those arrested were two local mayors of the anti-capitalist pro-independence CUP, a photojournalist and several activists of the CDRs (Committees for the Defence of the Republic), ANC (Catalan National Assembly), La Forja (pro-independence youth organisation) and SEPC (Catalan Students’ Union).

In Spain, achieving the right to self determination is a revolutionary task. Any attempt to exercise it will meet the frontal opposition of a powerful imperialist state, inherited wholesale from the Francoist dictatorship. This regime will not tolerate any attempt to put into question the sacrosanct unity of Spain. Only mass, militant struggle against the state and the capitalist system on which it rests will conquer the right of national minorities (Catalans, Basques, and Galicians) to

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Image: Flickr, War on Want

Since the beginning of the crisis of 2008, anti-immigrant parties and movements have made headway in Europe and the United States. They have even managed to win over certain layers of the working class to their programme. This has led a section of the labour movement to adapt itself to these ideas, calling for stricter border controls, justifying its position with quotations from Marx. Such short-sighted policies have nothing to do with Marx or the traditions of the First, Second or Third

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The former Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, once again resides in Belgium. He first fled to the country in order to escape conviction for sedition and rebellion by the Spanish state after he (formally) declared the independence of Catalonia on 27 October 2017. Ever since, the Spanish government and judiciary have tried to convince other European states to arrest him and send him back to Spain for trial. So far, they have been unsuccessful. Following a short period during which he was

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One year ago, the Catalan independence referendum on 1 October became a turning point in the whole political situation in Catalonia and throughout the Spanish state. What we call the “Republican October” was characterised by an abrupt entry of the masses into the political arena. It saw an impressive mobilisation from below that challenged the apparatus of the state and the hesitation of the leaders of the Generalitat, becoming one of the most important challenges faced by the 1978 regime

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One year ago, the Catalan independence referendum on 1 October became a turning point in the whole political situation in Catalonia and throughout the Spanish state. What we call the “Republican October” was characterised by an abrupt entry of the masses into the political arena. It saw an impressive mobilisation from below that challenged the apparatus of the state and the hesitation of the leaders of the Generalitat, becoming one of the most important challenges faced by the 1978 regime

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Recent events in Catalonia, Scotland, Kurdistan and so on, have brought the question of national self-determination back onto the political agenda. It has become a key element in the development of the class struggle. In this recorded discussion, Fred Weston (from In Defence of Marxism) explains the Marxist approach to the national question.

At a recent public meeting at Queen Mary University in London (hosted by the Marxist Student Federation), Hamid Alizadeh of marxist.com provided a history of the Kurdish national liberation struggle, looking at how Kurdish fighters have consistently been used as pawns by the imperialist powers in their belligerent games.

Hundreds-of-thousands took to the streets of Barcelona once again on Sunday 15 April to reject Spanish state repression. A key demand was freedom for Catalan political prisoners – the demonstrators marched under the slogan “Us Volem a Casa” (“We want you home”). This came at the end of a week in which the state attempted (and failed) to charge members of the Committees for the Defence of the Republic (CDRs) with terrorism. The massive demonstration revealed the resilience of the

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The Catalan Committees for the Defence of the Republic (CRDs) have come under a sustained campaign of criminalisation. The state prosecutor, the mass media and the political parties of the Spanish regime have all ganged up to brand them as “violent”, demanding that “action should be taken” against them and threatening them with prosecution for “rebellion”. Why are they so afraid of the CDRs?

A new Pashtun movement has erupted in Pakistan, mobilizing hundreds-of-thousands of people across the country, with tens-of-thousands attending its public meetings. The state apparatus and the entire ruling class, including all establishment political parties, are trembling at the sight of this huge movement, which originated from the most backward areas of the country – where it was least expected.

Yesterday, the Spanish regime’s strategy of repression against the Catalan independence movement suffered a serious blow, when a German court in Schleswig-Holstein decided there were no grounds to extradite Catalan President Carles Puigdemont for rebellion. Additionally, a series of decisions by the Belgian justice system further undermined the position of the Spanish regime.

Lucha de Clases (section of the International Marxist Tendency in the Spanish state) opposes the arrest of Carles Puigdemont in Germany and demands his immediate release. We also demand the release of five Catalan independence leaders arrested on Friday, including the last candidate for the presidency of the Generalitat, Jordi Turull; along with all Catalan political prisoners. Original statement in Spanish ...

The arrest of Carles Puigdemont in Germany on Sunday morning was an escalation of a strategy of repression against those who dared call an independence referendum in Catalonia on 1 October. On Friday, five other politicians were jailed and another went into exile. These moves were met with a surge of anger from below, with mass demonstrations and road blockades on Friday and Sunday. Tens-of-thousands in the streets had two main slogans: "General strike" and "Parliament should decide who’s

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Alek Atevik, a member of the Central Committee of the Macedonian organization Levitsa(Left) and a leading figure in the Yugoslav section of the International Marxist Tendency (IMT), spoke to Epanastasi [‘Revolution’] about nationalist myths and the need for internationalist class solidarity.

When the Catalan government declared a republic, the Spanish regime answered by sacking it, dismissing the Catalan Parliament and calling fresh elections on 21 December. That election was another defeat for the Spanish regime as it delivered, again, a pro-independence majority. Unable and unwilling to respect the democratic will of the Catalan people, the Spanish regime is now using all means at its disposal to prevent Carles Puigdemont from being elected as Catalan president. In the

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The decision to jail eight members of the Catalan government, and to issue an arrest warrant for the Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, along with a further four members of his government, is an unprecedented and very serious violation of basic democratic rights that has revived the Catalan independence movement.

After a week of about turns, indecision and last minute attempts to find a negotiated way out, the Catalan Republic was proclaimed on Friday, October 27. Tens of thousands celebrated in the streets of Barcelona and other Catalan towns and cities.

450,000 marched on Saturday, October 21, in Barcelona (according to local police) with tens of thousands gathering in other towns and cities across Catalonia, to demand freedom for the two Jordis (held without bail on sedition charges) and to reject the Article 155 coup announced by Spanish president Rajoy in the morning.

We publish here an interview by the Catalan paper of the IMT, Revolució.Vidal Aragonés is a town councilor in Cornellà, for Cornellà en Comú-Crida per Cornellà; a labour lawyer linked to different militant class struggle unions (especially to the dockers); professor of labour law at the UAB and one of the most eloquent advocates of independence from a Marxist point of view.

Jorge Martin reports on how the arrest of two Catalan officials has reignited the mass movement for independence. The whip of oppression wielded by the Spanish state has driven the masses back into action, the mood is incendiary, and Puigdemont has been left little room for maneuver.

Monday morning, October 16 at 10 am was the first deadline the Spanish government had given the Catalan government to clarify whether it had declared independence or not. That summons sent last week, was part of the legal requirements to implement article 155, suspending Catalan autonomy. Once again, Catalan president Puigdemont gave another inconclusive answer.

It seemed as if everything had been decided in advance. Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, was going to go to the Catalan Parliament and announce the formation of an independent republic, as he was bound to do by the results of the 1 Oct referendum.

#BenvingudaRepública (Welcome Republic): this is the hashtag being used to organise mobilisations today, Oct 10 in Barcelona, when the Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, will address Catalan Parliament about the results of the independence referendum on Oct 1. Those organising the mobilisations have two aims: to push Puigdemont to actually declare the Catalan Republic

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This year is the 97th anniversary of the 1920 Kiev Offensive by the Polish Army and the decisive defeat of the Soviet troops at the Battle of Warsaw: an event of great historic importance that marked a turning point in the course of the European revolution. This front of the Russian Civil War was a grave and important test for the Bolshevik Party, sparking daily and intense debate throughout its ranks.

Brutal police repression failed to stop the Catalan independence referendum faced with the determination of hundreds of thousands to overcome all obstacles to participate. What we saw yesterday in Catalonia was on the one hand the real ugly face of the Spanish regime created during the so-called “Transition” at the end of the Franco regime, and on the other the mass mobilisation and self-organisation of the Catalan people to exercise their right of self-determination.

Like a hydra-headed monster, once again, ethnic tension has risen to near boiling point, threatening to tear Nigeria apart. This time around, it is the renewed call for secession of the South Eastern region (the Igbos) from Nigeria by the “Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)” to form the Republic of Biafra, that is haunting the nation. Similar agitation for Biafra in the late sixties eventually led to three years of civil war from 1967 to 1970, in which over two million men, women and

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Tsarist Russia was known as the "prison house of nations". More than half of the its population was composed of different oppressed nationalities. In this speech from the Summer School of the International Marxist Tendency, Jorge Martin explains the role of national question during the Russian Revolution and how the Bolsheviks approached the question.

Spain never saw a genuine bourgeois revolution, and today important democratic tasks are still pending: the abolition of the monarchy, the separation between church and state, the cleansing of the state apparatus of Francoist residues… But undoubtedly the most pressing issue is the national question.

The recent rally in Jaffna, a Tamil populated capital in the Northern province of Sri Lanka, under the banner “Ezhuka Tamil” (Rise Up Tamils!) has once again posed the question of Tamil self-determination to the fore since the bloody defeat of Tamil Tigers 7 years ago. This demonstration is an indicator of swelling discontent among the Tamil minorities. Despite Sri Lankan State’s victory over the armed separatist Tigers the national question has not been solved in Sri Lanka and the misery

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The European debt crisis of 2009 marks a decisive turning point in the history of European capitalism. Across the continent, the economic, diplomatic and political situation is characterised by uncertainty, instability and collapse. Everywhere, contradictions which had built up under the surface for decades have exploded onto the scene.

We have entered into a new period on an international scale: a period of deep economic crisis, social and political instability. The masses everywhere are beginning to question things that were previously taken for granted. The whole political scene is a seething cauldron. In such a period sharp and sudden changes are implicit in the situation. The Scottish referendum was just such a sudden change, a political earthquake that upset all the calculations of the politicians. It represented a

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Friday 9th of August the forces of loyalism directed by the UVF and the Belfast Lodges of the Orange Order took over the main street in Belfast, Royal Avenue to block an anti-internment march. They rioted attacked the police, burnt cars and tried to attack the marchers.

The idea that an independent Scotland on a capitalist basis would solve the problems of the Scottish people is false to the core. On the contrary, it would result in falling living standards as wages were driven down to boost competitiveness.

The recent quarrel over the timing and constitutional validity of the proposed independence referendum in Scotland has again pushed the national question to the forefront of British politics. Such developments give us a fresh opportunity to revisit this important issue.

We received this interesting comment on the recent brutal crushing of the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. It highlights the responsibilities firstly of the Sri Lankan ruling elite and its imperialist backers, but also of the leaders of the labour movement in failing to offer an alternative in the past, and of the LTTE leaders, who organised their war from a purely nationalist point of view, offering nothing concrete to the workers and peasants.

The war in Georgia represents yet another turning point in world relations. Like a heavy rock thrown into a lake it has caused waves that will affect the whole world. Overnight the overweening arrogance of US imperialism, which had learned to look complacently at the entire planet as its sphere of influence, was been dealt a hard knock from which it may not recover.

The manoeuvres of the various big powers in the region are leading to calls for “independence” for Kosovo, which in actual fact hide the naked material interests of the imperialists. The Serbian ruling elite however is now threatening to raise the stakes, potentially throwing the whole region into turmoil once more. The only solution can be offered by a working class struggling across the national borders for a Socialist Federation of the Balkans.

The process of capitalist restoration in Serbia has been brutal. Hundreds of thousands of workers in the old industries have lost their jobs. The old social buffers provided by the planned economy have been dismantled. In this atmosphere a sombre mood dominates the working class. The only outlet the ruling class can offer is to keep whipping up nationalist sentiment.

At a meeting in London recently Linda Clarke of the Socialist Appeal talks about Marxism in relation to the national question. Linda talks about the history and evolution of the nation state, the meaning of bourgeois nationalism, and deals with the particular circumstances of the national question in relation to Scotland, Ireland and the position of the Marxists during the Falklands war.

Today August 31, Malaysia celebrates half a century of independence from British colonial rule.  At the age of 50, Malaysia still suffers from a deep ethnic and religious divide sown by imperialism. Today's problems are the legacy of colonial rule and continuing capitalist interests pitting ordinary working people against each other.

This audio file, recorded on the 11th June at the Socialist Appeal London aggregate, hears Rob Lyon talk on the National Question in relation to the current and historical situation in Quebec.

In the morning hours of Saturday, March 11, Slobodan Milosevic, was found dead in his prison cell at the Hague. With his death, the bourgeois media began once again to dig through the recent history of the Balkans in an attempt to make sense of the break-up of former Yugoslavia. But what was the role played by Milosevic, and what is the feeling over his death in Serbia?

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.

“I think that after five years of the Russian Revolution the most important thing for all of us, Russian and foreign comrades alike, is to sit down and study... We must take advantage of every moment of respite from fighting, from war, to study, and to study from scratch.” Lenin

Marxism is based on internationalism or it is nothing. This approach has nothing to do with sentimentality, but is rooted in the international

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What happened in Kosovo last week was not a spontaneous outbreak of hostilities between Serb and Albanian Kosovars, but a planned and well-orchestrated manouevre by nationalists to "ethnically cleanse" the province and push towards some kind of ethnically "pure" Kosovo. Workers on either side will lose out from such a scenario.

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

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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.