Marxist journal `Links' on the national question

Green Left Parramatta glparramatta at
Tue Sep 28 07:29:02 MDT 1999

The following article appears in the latest
issue of Green Left Weekly (,
Australia's radical newspaper.


Links explores the national question

Links #13
Sept-Dec 1999. $6.50

Review by Richard Ingram

“Socialism and nationalism” is the theme of the new
issue of Links, the “international journal of socialist
renewal”. It is a timely one. Over the last year,
events have provided almost daily reminders of the
central importance of the national question -- perhaps
most dramatically in Serbia and Kosova (until the
recent events in East Timor), but also in Ireland, the
Middle East and Kashmir, to name only a few.

Norm Dixon -- a name that will be familiar to Green
Left Weekly readers -- opens the issue with “Marx,
Engels and Lenin on the national question”. The
article, based on a talk to an educational conference
of the Democratic Socialist Party, begins by discussing
the bourgeois revolutions of 1848 in Europe.

Dixon then goes on to describe the development of the
modern Marxist theory of nationalism by the Bolsheviks
under Lenin's leadership. Dixon shows how the Leninist
view took shape in the course of debate among Marxists
about changes brought about by the development of

Particularly useful in Dixon's presentation is the
discussion of the distinction between racial and
national oppression and its implications for political

As is well known, the national struggle of the
ethnically Albanian people of Kosova and NATO's war
against Serbia produced sharply divergent analyses and
positions in left and socialist organisations around
the world. In “National oppression and the collapse of
Yugoslavia”, Michael Karadjis explains how the
situation in the Balkans reached the nadir it did in
early 1999.

Karadjis traces the gradual disintegration of the hopes
for a free and equal federation of Yugoslav nations,
which burned brightly at the time of the triumph of
Tito's Communist partisans in 1945. In particular, he
documents the Slobodan Milosevic regime's use of
national chauvinism as a cover for its privatisation of
the previously nationalised Serbian economy.

This is a clear and convincing presentation of the
interactions between imperialism, national conflicts
and the Stalinist ruling bureaucracy in Belgrade.

An interview with Irish republican Bernadette McAliskey
reminds us both how much and how little have changed in
the century and a quarter since Marx and Engels dealt
with the Irish question (a topic covered in Dixon's

McAliskey is known as among the most trenchant critics
of the “peace process” in Northern Ireland. In reality,
she says, this is “a pacification process ... not a
resolution of conflict ... It is the same agenda the
British created in 1972. Its purpose was to demoralise,
demobilise and demilitarise the resistance movement.”

The “border war” between Indian and Pakistani armies in
Kashmir in June and July also relates to a case of
national oppression. While the establishment media and
the two governments concerned present the issue as
simply a conflict between India and Pakistan, the
reality is more complex.

Farooq Sulehria, a leader of the Labour Party Pakistan,
writes that the national wishes of the people of the
region have been ignored by both sides and explains the
call for the right to self-determination for the people
of Jammu-Kashmir.

Developments in the Middle East since the Israeli
elections are analysed by Adam Hanieh. Writing from the
West Bank, he describes a mood of disillusionment among
ordinary Palestinians.

The left, he writes, has failed to provide an
alternative political leadership to the Palestinian
Authority. “At no critical juncture ... has there been
any attempt by the left to mobilise the population
independently of the PA. For this reason, the
opposition role has fallen to the Islamist movement.”

Taking up socialism and nationalism from a more
theoretical standpoint, Doug Lorimer provides a
polemical review criticising the views propounded in
Michael Löwy's Fatherland or Mother Earth? Essays on
the National Question. Löwy, Lorimer argues, abandons
Lenin's materialist treatment of the national question
for a subjective or idealist view.

Other topics covered in Links #13 are developments in
the Philippine left, where there has been an ongoing
process of splits and regroupments since the break-up
of the Communist Party of the Philippines, a brief
history of the Pakistani left and the development of
the Labour Party Pakistan, and a review of Doug
Lorimer's book Trotsky's Theory of Permanent
Revolution: A Leninist Critique.

Links subscriptions in Australia are $20 for three
issues (one year) or $33 for six issues and can be
ordered from PO Box 515, Broadway NSW 2007. E-mail
links at or visit



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