Lenin, secession and the national question

David Bruce dave_bruce at SPAMryelands.co.uk
Thu Dec 30 19:07:45 MST 1999

At 30/12/99, you wrote:
>Norm Dixon wrote:
> >Comrades,
> >
> >I am posting a fairly lengthy section (sorry Louis) from an article
> >I wrote for the latest issue of Links, the international journal for
> >socialist renewal, which I think is very relevant to the many discussions
> >we have had on this list this year over Kosova, East Timor, Ethiopia and,
> >lately, Nigeria.
>Oh, good. Maybe you can elaborate on what you've written here with respect
>to the hotly debated question in Ethiopian Marxism as to whether the
>Amharas are an oppressor nationality, such as defined by Lenin.
>As Hegel said, the truth is concrete. Also, Lenin said the devil is in the
>details. And I say, "A brokh tsu dayn lebn," which roughly translates into
>"You have to know something about a country before assuming that your
>Marxist template applies to it."

It is my experience that the "National Question" is generally a debate in
which people from very small parties in big countries instruct people from
big parties in small countries as to whether they have a language or merely
a dialect, a literature or merely folklore, an army or merely guerrillas,
etc etc etc.

If, in the course of what can be a one-sided debate, permission is granted,
the people from the big parties in the small countries may then fight and
die for aims which, while thoroughly admirable, are nevertheless only
partial. They are expected eventually to see this and then to express, in
English only please, their eternal loyalty to the people from the very
small parties in the big countries who have, in the meantime, got mighty
fine jobs at universities or even with big parties in the big countries.

As long as I live, I will not forget the British "Trotskyist" who,
discussing the efforts of Republican prisoners in British jails to learn
the Irish language and Irish history, said that, while it was all very
well, he would be much happier if they "were to spend the time studying
*Capital*". He pointed out (no doubt correctly) that this was not available
in Irish.


David Bruce, Woodside Cottage, Ryelands,
Strathaven, Lanarkshire,  ML10 6QF
Tel:+44(0)1357 440459 Fax:+44(0)1357 440464

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