MARX ON INTERNATIONALISM - LENIN ON NATIONAL PRIDE

hariette spierings hariette at easynet.co.uk
Fri Apr 5 09:38:31 MST 1996


In order to begin laying the ground for a real understanding of the
relationship between "national interest" and "proletarian class interests",
which has been the subject of many ill-informed and sweeping generalisation
on the part of the friends of cut and dried schemes, I am here transcribing
two important appreciations from our Classics in relation to the issue.

KARL MARX ON INTERNATIONALISM (proletarian and bourgeois)

>From the Deutsche-Brusseler-Zeitung  of 9 December 1847

"The unification and brotherhood of nations is a phrase which is nowadays in
the lips of all parties, particularly the bourgeois free traders. A kind of
brotherhood does exist between the bourgeois classes of all nations.  It is
the brotherhood of the oppressors against the oppressed, of the exploiters
against the exploited.  Just as the bourgeois class of one country is united
in brotherhood against the proletariat of that country, despite the
competition and struggle of its members among themselves, so the bourgeoisie
of all countries is united in brotherhood against the proletarians of all
countries, despite their struggling and competing with each other in the
world market.  In order for peoples to become really united their interests
must be common. For their interests to be common the existing property
relations must be abolished, since the exploitation of one nation by another
is caused by the existing property relations.  And it is only in the
interest of the working class to abolish the existing property relations;
only they have the means to achieve it. The victory of the proletariat over
the bourgeoisie represents at the same time the victory over national and
industrial conflicts, which at present create hostility between the
different peoples.  Therefore, the victory of the proletariat over the
bourgeoisie also signifies the emancipation of all downtrodden nations".


LENIN ON THE NATIONAL PRIDE OF THE GREAT RUSSIANS:

(V.I. Lenin Collected Works, Russian Edition, Vol XVIII - written in 1914)

"Are we class conscious Great-Russian proletarians impervious to the feeling
of national pride?  Certainly not!.  We love our language and our
motherland; we, more than any other group, are working to raise ITS
labouring masses (i.e., nine-tenths of ITS population) to the level of
inteligent democrats and Socialists.  We, more than anybody, are grieved to
see and feel to what violence, oppression and mockery our beautiful
motherland is being subjected by the tsarist hangmen, the nobles and the
capitalists.  We are proud of the fact that those acts of violence met with
resistance in our midst, in the midst of the Great Russians; that THIS MIDST
advanced Radischev, the Decembrists, the declasse revolutionaries of the
"seventies"; that in 1905 the Great Russian working class created a powerful
party OF THE masses..... We are filled with national pride because of the
knowledge that the Great Russian nation, TOO, has created a revolutionary
class; that it, TOO, has proven capable of giving humanity great examples of
struggle for freedom and for socialism; that its contribution is not
confined solely to great pogroms, numerous scaffolds, torture chambers,
great famines and great servility before the priests, the tsars, the land
owners and the capitalists".

"We are filled with national pride, and therefore we PARTICULARLY hate OUR
slavish past.... and our slavish present, in which the same landowners,
aided by the capitalists, lead us into war to stiffle Poland and the
Ukraine, to throttle the democratic movement in Persia and in China, to
strenghten the gang of Romanovs, Bobrinskys, Purishkeviches that cover with
shame our GREAT RUSSIAN NATIONAL DIGNITY"


There are here the basis for a proper understanding both of "national
interests" and "internationalism" and the mutual relationship between
proletarian internationalism and the anti-imperialist struggle of the
oppressed peoples in the defence of their "national interests".  The role of
the proletariat in the oppressor and oppressed countries is essentially the
same although it takes two different political forms in accordance with the
relative international position and social composition of all nations.

After hearing a few comments on the above, and more about the suppossedly
"menshevik" theory I have advanced - our comrades will know that if teachers
by negative example - mensheviks themselves - claim this theory as a
"revisionist/menshevik theory", - remeber that such teachers should be
regarded as "infallible compasses always pointing in the wrong direction" -
the chances are that this "theory of subordination" must indeed contain
quite an important lesson in Marxism, if not more!

It should be our task to bring this lesson out from the debate and clash of
ideas. Let's hear some opinions.  No one is above criticism, and certainly
not me - here I mean that my own comrades should criticise if they feel that
there is something which is not very clear on my formulation of the question
of the subordination of the immediate interests of the proletariat and the
Party to the general "national interests".

I know that the formulation as I have hitherto upheld, can in fact be
improved, if by the national interest in the oppressed countries we are to
understand the interests of the classes that actually compose such nations -
i.e. the masses of the people; and in the oppressor countries, we are to
understand the nation as the proletariat "constituted into the nation not in
the bourgeois sense of the word" - as Lenin had it, as oppossed - and in
actual contradiction with - the "national interests" of the "nation IN THE
BOURGEOIS SENSE OF THE WORD".  This can be a very illuminating way of
understanding these related issues so that the wooden simplicities of the
doctrinaires and their unjustified and superficial critiques can be laid bare.


Adolfo Olaechea



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