Lenin, secession and the national question

Ghebremichael Woldeselassie ghebremichael at SPAMhotmail.com
Thu Dec 30 18:45:50 MST 1999

>Norm Dixon
>Lenin on the right of oppressed nation to national to >self-determination

>The Leninist theory was set out most clearly in Stalin's 1913
>work `Marxism and the National Question', which was written in
>close collaboration with Lenin and summed up the Leninist side of
>the debate with the reformists. The Leninist definition of a
>nation was summarised as ``a historically evolved, stable
>community of people, formed on the basis of a common language,
>territory, economic life and psychological make-up manifested in
>a common culture.''

Considering some comrades' fears for the 'balkanization' of Ethiopia, and
other 2/3 World countries, this comes as a surprise.  Clearly Lenin knew
little outside of Europe, for by this definition, most African countries do
not constitute 'nations', not even little Eritrea, which shares 9 separate
language groups - Tigrigna, Kunama, Saho, Afar, Hedarb, Arabic, Tigre, Bilen
and Rashaida.  Most surprising of all, it justifies the catastrophic
division of the Indian sub-continent in 1947, and the present split between
the Hindi north of India and the Dravidian south (forgetting for the moment
Bengal!).  And what on Earth are we to make of "psychological make-up"?

That being said, the article needs careful study, bearing in mind that it is
based on considerations of the early 20th century.  There is always the
danger that what was said under very different conditions from now could be
transformed into a dogma that refuses to take into account the new.  Without
a great deal of knowledge of those conditions in the colonial and
semi-colonial world of the early 20th century, these statements of principal
have a mystical air about them today.

One problem is over alliances with national bourgeois forces today, when
most are the open agents of imperialism, or when imperialism is only a minor
factor in immediate events because of its effective abandonment of huge
areas because they do not present any ready source of surplus value- both
apply to the Horn today.

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