The National Question

kurdish rally

The tremendous crisis of capitalism is bringing to the surface all the system’s old contradictions. Instability, polarisation and huge political shifts are on the order of the day. As part of this process, unsolved national questions are erupting once more around the globe. Millions of oppressed people are striving for a way out of the impasse. This striving can take the form of renewed national movements. On the other hand, as the struggle between the national gangs of capitalists becomes more intense, the ruling class pollutes the atmosphere of the whole world with the fumes of national hatred.

For Marxists, the national question is one of the most challenging we face. There is no simple, magic formula for all times and all places. Rather, it is necessary to study each national question in its historical evolution. Marxists must carefully distinguish between what is progressive and what is reactionary in any national movement, as a surgeon carefully distinguishes between healthy and diseased tissue. Above all, we take as our starting point the need to unite the working class on a worldwide scale for the overthrow of international capital.

From Marx’s writings on Ireland and India, to Lenin’s extensive writings on the national question, to the works of James Connolly, there is a tremendous treasure trove of Marxist literature dealing with the subject. For today’s revolutionaries, it represents an indispensable arsenal in the struggle to overthrow capitalism.

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 fundamental turn in the situation.

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.

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 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.

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.