Self Determination- Support It!

Tony Abdo aabdo at
Fri Aug 18 10:49:44 MDT 2000

About two years ago, an explosion of emotion burst forth, as certain
comrades began to incessantly talk about the need to support the 'right
to self determination'.     They hawked back to Moses, no make that
Lenin, to justify the sermons that they launched against others.    
Those others, were supposedly renegade socialists that had supposedly
violated fundamental laws of Marxism by not supporting oppressed groups
searching for self determination.

Lenin, according to this literature, had written the final words on the
question, based on theoretical situations that confronted Russian
marxists a century ago.     Trotsky had then come along, and rubber
stamped total authorization for the one and only correct political
orientation possible, for all time to come.     Or at least, that seemed
to be the vein of argument offered so often.

It soon became apparent, that these emotionally distraught Marxists,
became only overwraught in the cases of 3 national struggles.    
Other struggles seemed to not provoke any real interest at all.    
The three cases were....Kosovo, Chechnya, and East Timor.     Why
weren't these comrades cheering so wildly for the self determination
struggles of other groups?

Why Kosovo, Chechnya, and East Timor?   Why not for The Basques,
Kurds, or Kashmir?     Why didn't they ever talk about self
determination for anybody other than the 3 favorites above?

The answer is quickly apparent, in that the imperialist countries and
their propagandqa machinery had focused world attention on the human
rights problems in these areas of the world, but not on others. These
emotionally distraught comrades were only meekly following along, and
debating what was in the newspaper or on their television sets..

Their attention span in supporting a struggle in favor of self
determination, only had the life span of whatever was the capitalist
media time spent focused on these areas.     No focus by the
imperialist media, then there would be no focus by these socialists.
After all, who, in the industrialized world, follows the self
determination struggles in Africa, India, or even the Philippines?  
  If it's not in the imperialist media, it's just not worthy of
attention, so it seems.

Whereever one turned, it seemed that some Leftist or another, was
talking about the need to support self determination.    But it was
always for one of the above forementioned groups.    Was the concept of
supporting self determination worthy of support, if the imperialist
media could hijack liberal and left attention so easily for their own
goals?    One could begin to think not.

Also, there was the less than sterling record of Russian and Chinese
marxists in having supported self determination for oppressed groups in
their empires.     Even from the earliest times, they didn't really.
The core of world international struggle, was build on the core of
Russian nationalism.     It's just silly to deny that communist
advocates historically based their internationalism, on the greater
nationalisms of Russia and China. They did so without a doubt.

True, there were some struggles to mitigate the most offensive aspects
of national chauvinism by these dominant national groupings.    
Still, there was much that was left to be desired.       Especially from
the point of view of non Russians and non Chinese inside those borders
controlled by these ethnic groups.
But as one thought about the concept of 'self determination' as The
Balkans were being bombed, it couldn't really be said that socialists
should oppose the 'right to self determination'.     Everybody
should have a say about what goes on in the neighborhoods, cities,
countries, and regions where they live.      Socialists can't oppose

It's basic support for democracy, just as basic also, as the right of
women to control their own bodies, just as men do.
So what was wrong with this imbalanced situation of Leftists cheering
for 'self determination', while bombs were falling from imperialist
planes?     Why did the pro-self determinationists, limit themselves
only to propagandizeing around the cases of these 3 out of the way
locales?     Was that all that there was to socialist support to
self determination?

The question that arose is.... don't marxists also support self
determination for regions?     Don't they also support self
determination for multi-national countries under the gun? Do we voice
support for self determination of oppressed, but only principally when
our own capitalists seem to be pushing for it, for some group or

The most natural thing in the world for a socialist that truly supported
fighting for the self determination of oppressed minorities, would be to
support self determination for entire countries, and not just fractions
of populations in far away regions.   What do I mean by this?

Let's pose a question.   When was the last time one heard of
socialists supporting the right to self determination of The Balkans
(what used to be called Yugoslavia, though that was not the entire
Balkan region)? Has anyone been on the bandwagon advocating the right to
self determination for Russia, or for Indonesia?

Do multi-national countries have no right, in their entirity, to self
determination free from imperialist control?     Of course they do.
How about an even simpler question?
Why don't American socialists ever talk about supporting self
determination of those societies opposing US control?     Is self
determination something that we support in Kosovo, East Timor, and
Chechnya, but not in Colombia?

That's right, Colombia is in a life or death struggle fighting for its
own self determination.     Isn't it rather puerile, to use Lenion
and Trotsky's names to support self determination of minority groupings
in multi-national countries, where the majority nationality is being
attacked by imperialism?    And then be unable to use this concept in
support of defending Colombia?

Colombia has an oppressed minority being attacked by a dominant ethnic
group, the Anglo-Saxon capitalists that run the US.     This is what
supporting self determination is all about.     Call for it,
Comrades.     Label Colombia's struggle as being one for self
determination.     Colombians, Black, Indigenous, in between, and all
others, are all struggling for their self determination from US

What happened to this principle of marxism, where it has now become so
degraded in usage?     One of the old arguments used to support the
Vietnamese in their resistance to the US, was that they simply had the
right to self determination.       They had the right to be free
of the French, and free of the United States.       End of

This is different from the argument that nations have the right to be
allied with Australia, to be allied with the US, etc. .... by splitting
off from the nation bloc they are in.       This is a degradation
and distortion of the idea of supporting self determination.

The simple world reality, is that most self determination struggles in
the world involve the US.     That's because the US seeks to run the
affairs of the rest of the world.     But many World socialist
groups don't ever talk about the struggle for self determination in such
terms.     Why not?       Many have reduced down this concept
of supporting self determination, to supporting only those national
groups in alliance with the US.

Comrades in the US need to support the struggle of Mexico for self
determination from the US.     Mexicans are currently losing this
struggle.    There are also struggles for self determination from
Okinawa to Vieques to Turkey to Korea.     Communists need to
reclaim this concept from the Social Democratic Left allies of US
imperialism.       And they need to reclaim the concept away from
the degenerated Trotskyist groups that hang around the tails of the
labor union leaderships.

These Trotskyist grouplets, were the ones most adamant about lecturing
on the need to support self determination for Albanian Kosovars,
Chechens, and Timorese, yet most silent to use the concept anywhere
else.    Either support self determination consistently, or get off the
soapbox of piled up Trotsky writings.     Supporting self
determination is more than just a concept to pull out when your nation
is pummelling another. Or even when your nation is merely taking
advantage of the disintegration of another.

Support for self determination should call for NATO troops out of the
former Soviet Union and The Balkans.     And it should be for a call
to get the Australians out of Timor, not a call to send the Aussies in.

Support for self determination is a call for the imperialist countries
to dismantle their militaries, tear up their foreign bases, and go home.
It is not a call to build new bases in Bosnia, Timor, or Kosovo.    
It is not a call for Indonesia to dismantle it's military, while
Australia keeps theirs.

Recently, the same charged emotions about supporting Chechen self
determination flared again.     These comrades just seem to be
sitting arround, waiting for the capitalist media to emotionalize a
propaganda attack against Russian brutality.       Then they willl
start their hysteria about how socialists have to support the defeat of
the Russians.

I'm sorry, Comrades.       I support the right of Russia to self
determination.     Why don't you?       I support the right of
Yugoslav self determination.     Why don't you?       Putin, Saddam
Hussein, and Milosevic are terrible leaders, but their countries have
the right of self determination, free of imperialist efforts to
dismantle, or weaken, national sovereignty.

These comrades sliding into the Labor Party by way of Nader (or the
equivalents elsewhere), have no monopoly on supporting self
determination.       Not only that, it's doubtful that you do
support self determination of nations struggling against US and European

You only voice support for those nationalities allied with your
countries' governments.     This to you, IS supporting self
determination.     Self determination has been reduced to the right
to join the imperialist bandwagon, not to be free of it.
In the years to come, this battle within the movement will be seen to be
a true low point of the degeneration of the socialist movement at the
end of the 2oth Century. It will be the story of how the majority of the
Left, trying to be a respectable component of a respectable labor
movement, supported a neutral postion as their governments waged war

Luckily, the low point is just that, a low point.     And a
is now under way.    Support for self determination of groups oppressed
by imperialism is something that activists in the industrialized
countres need to lead.

If the activists in the Green Parties, Social Democratic Parties, or
even the various Troskyist groups and Anarchist groups appear
uninterested, this doesn't mean that Marxists should just stop pushing
so hard for international solidarity.     It might be of disinterest to
the workers, so mums the word....?    NOT.

We call for support to self determination for Colombia.    That's the
issue now.     Let the others belabor Russian attacks on
Chechnya,calling on the name of supporting self determination there.
They want us to forget about the fight to maintain some semblance of
Russian self determination.    And they are not going to use this very
same theoretical concept to defend Colombia from US attack.

This liberal tendency to only talk about self determination in line with
imperial aims is the modern day equivalent to the bankruptcy of the
Social Democrats in the World Wars when these groups supported their own

Self Determination for Colombia!     And stop the US efforts to destroy
self determination in Russia, China, Iraq, and The Balkans.

Tony Abdo

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