The national question

Both the US and British governments have recently launched a barrage of criticism against China’s treatment of the Uyghurs. The US has gone as far as imposing sanctions on top Chinese state officials responsible for Xinjiang, and the oppression of the Uyghurs by the Chinese state is now regularly featured in the news in the West. According to reports by the capitalist press, hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs are being detained in prison camps, whilst others face extremely repressive conditions. But why only now have western imperialists hypocritically taken up the plight of the Uyghurs?

The Dutch King has apologised for violence committed by the Netherlands during Indonesia’s independence struggle. The crocodile tears of hypocritical elites do not make up for 300 years of brutal subjugation. The only real justice and road forward can come from the expropriation of Dutch capital: the common enemy of the Dutch and Indonesian workers.

The International Marxist Tendency, along with its publishing house, Wellred, is proud to publish for the first time the Indonesian edition of “Marxism and National Question” by Alan Woods and Ted Grant. Released under the title “Socialism and the Right of Nations to Self-determination”, this work is of a particular significance for the revolutionary movement in Indonesia. It is our hope that the publication of this work will provide class-conscious workers and youth with a guide to navigating the political landmine that is the national question.

The media, bourgeois and reformist leaders have all been whipping up a “wartime” spirit of national unity against the threat of COVID-19. Recently elected leader of the British Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer, has even made overtures about joining a government of national unity with the Conservatives. But the coronavirus pandemic is exposing the class lines in society more than ever. National unity is a reactionary fiction. What is needed is workers’ unity in the face of this crisis, and against the rotten system responsible.

After years of debate, state discrimination against religious minorities has been enshrined in law in Quebec with the adoption of Bill 21. Unfortunately, opposition to this bill has been confused to say the least. While the left and the workers movement have generally opposed this law, no one seems to know what to do. Up until March last year, Quebec solidaire was arguing for a compromise position and

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Today there is a general strike planned in Catalonia and a massive mobilisation, with five columns marching throughout Catalonia to converge in Barcelona. This day of action is organised under slogans rejecting the judgement of "Procés", and calling for the freedom of the Catalan political prisoners and the right to self-determination. The International Marxist Tendency in the Spanish State, Lucha de Clases, unconditionally supports this day of struggle.

Nine Catalan political prisoners, who have been held in remand for almost two years, have been given lengthy jail sentences of between 9 and 13 years by the Spanish Supreme Court for sedition and misuse of public funds. And what was their “crime?” The organisation of the Catalan independence referendum on 1 October 2017. This is a scandalous, undemocratic ruling that reveals the rottenness of the Spanish 1978 regime. The International Marxist Tendency rejects these outrageous sentences and calls on the labour, socialist and democratic forces of the world to mobilise against them with all their might.

As the capitalist system lurches from one crisis to the next, old contradictions are re-emerging. Instability, polarisation and huge political shifts are taking place all over the world. As part of this process, unsolved national questions are erupting once more with renewed force around the globe - from Catalonia to Kurdistan to Ireland.

And it is not just on the national question that these giant shifts are taking place. The emergence of new political movements and formations, from Sanders to Corbyn to Podemos, reflect the impasse of the system and the fact that the masses - deprived of a party with a clear, revolutionary programme - are searching for a way out.

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 International, as we shall demonstrate.

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 under arrest in Germany, Puigdemont is now back in Belgium.

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 in 40 years. It could have gone much further. What was missing?

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.