Self Determination. Support It! / A Reply to Anthony

Tony Abdo aabdo at
Thu Aug 31 13:02:08 MDT 2000

Anthony, I found your article about nationalism and self determination
to be very interesting, and a good summary of many of the difficulties
facing marxists in examining these issues.

It is precisely the differences in national structure to be found
confined behind national boundaries, that makes me support a different
concept of............. 'How should we decide?'...... than what you did.

To just say..... 'we support the oppressed against the oppressor, no
matter what' is very appealing, if we are just to freeze into a still
shot a portion of what is going on.     To illustrate......

If we freeze the camera and state that we support Kosovo against
Yugoslavia, and then we go out and take another still shot where we
support Yugoslavia against NATO, we are distorting the fundamental
reality that both events are taking place simultaneously.

Plus, this eliminates context.     The Bolsheviks didn't take positions
on national feuds outside their range of knowledge and region.
However, many of today's marxists want to do just that.

They want to make litmus tests (Lou's favorite bugaboo) about Kashmir,
Kosovo, East Timor, Chechnya, and so on.....and whether support for self
determination is offered, or not.      But at the same time, these same
marxists are amazingly resilient against concretizing real support for
self -determination struggles that are relevant to their own context and

Verbal support for struggles of racial or national groupings oppressed
by others outside one's region, are counterposed to the hard and
unpopular work of opposing the imperialist armies from within the
imperilaist countries.

Let's face it, the public in the imperialist countries loves their
'boys' and 'girls' in uniform.      Or at least the overwhelming
majority do.      Rather than working to effectively organize that
minority that is opposed to militarism into an effective tool to change
majority opinion,  many marxists want to go ito battle for enemies of
the enemies.      And they use this short definition of..... 'How should
we decide? as their excuse.    'We support the oppressed aginst the
oppressor.'      And they call this 'unconditional support for the right
of self determination'.

Because the issue of what is a nation, or what is a nationality is so
complex, it seems absolutely obvious that the major focus from the
imperialist countries should be in supporting REGIONAL self
determination, not tiny national struggles between enemies, and the
enemies of enemies.

That is just simply because it is the reality in our own political
contexts.     Our armies are being used to suppress regional autonomy
throughout the world.      It is our own governments' militaries we are
concerned with, not the other guy's army.

Colombia is a litmus test for US activists.     And we are as a group
failing badly.    The demonstrations and opposition in the streets to
Plan Colombia, so far, is non-visible.     Why?    It's simply that the
people worried about self determination of groups they know nothing
about, are out working up a sweat over supporting Ralph Nader and/or
doing union work obsessively.      And Nader is a guy will not speak out
stongly against US interventionism, just as he has made no effort to
struggle against police brutality or the death penalty.

The Right Wing Social Democractic approach to the national question
takes its foundation from conservative trade unions, that want to
organize cops and prison guards, and that are not interested in opposing
the capitalist government in its foreign policies.

And the Trotskyist influenced currents following in their footsteps, are
not pushing the labor movement to the left, rather they are being pushed
into inactivity and reactionary posturing on self-determination issues
themselves,  by the conservatized, patriotic trade unions.

That's why the national question and questions of ..... How should we
decide? is a true litmus test for marxist groups in the imperialist
countries.     Because without a position of concrete opposition to the
use of the military by one's own government,  a socialist group is
supporting self determination for nobody, and nowhere.

Tony Abdo
Anthony wrote-
<How should we decide?

My own not very precise measuring stick has two sides: we support the
oppressed against the oppressor, no matter what. Argentina against Great
Britain. East Timor against Indonesia. Chechnia against Russia. Russia
against the USA and NATO. Vietnam against the USA. Kosovo against
Serbia. Yugoslavia against NATO.

Second, we judge these struggles by how they affect the growth and
development of the working class, as an independent, self-conscious
force in society. At this point in history this may seem like a pipe
dream - but it isn't. Any defeat for US imperialism, and to a lesser
extent any defeat for the second rank imperialisms- demonstrates to the
workers that there enemy can be defeated - and thus encourages the class
struggle. So even a victory by a reactionary theocratic movement, like
the one in Iran, can advance the class struggle in some small measure.

Following these guidelines is of course, not very easy. As in the case
of Kosovo. Imperialism - especially its most advanced and adroit
representative in the USA - has made an art, and almost a science, of
using petty bourgeois nationalism to its advantage against its
imperialist rivals, and against the real interests of the people of the
countries whose nationalisms - at this or that moment - coincide with
the interests of imperialism.>

More later.

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