Jim Blaut on Lenin and the National Question

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at SPAMosu.edu
Mon Nov 20 15:19:15 MST 2000

Richard Fidler replied:

>  >>I wish Jim lived long enough to update the book on the National Question. I
>think that (1) & (3) still hold with a little modification but that
>(2) demands
>further elaboration, given the waning of national liberation movements in
>colonies & semi-colonies. How might we reformulate (2) with regard
>to the cases
>of Fiji (with its division between Fijians & Indo-Fijians), East
>Timor/Indonesia, Yugoslavia, Chechnya/Russia, the Central African region, etc.
>for instance?<<
>My comment:
>No doubt Jim (like most of us) would have wanted periodically to
>"update" things
>we wrote years ago. However, I find Yoshie's comment not altogether
>clear. Point
>2 deals with the nationalism of colonies and semicolonies. That would tend to
>rule out the relevance of Yugoslavia and its component national groupings.
>Russia's war on Chechnya, I would think, is a classic case of great nation
>chauvinism, and thus comes within category 1(Russia) or category 2 (Chechnya,
>which is now a semi-colony if not a colony of Russia). East Timor was a colony
>first of Portugal, then of Indonesia. Isn't that clearly category 2?
>What do you
>mean by the reference to Central African region? That leaves Fiji. Are you
>suggesting that the division between ethnic Fijians and Indo-Fijians is a
>national question or a colonial question, in addition to a question
>of race and

No, I'm not trying to push the aforementioned groupings into the
pre-existing schema, Jim Blaut's or otherwise.  Jim's category (2)
basically referred to the phenomenon of anti-colonial &
anti-neo-colonial nationalisms with strong working-class content on
the periphery, many of which gravitated toward the Soviet Union,
sometimes becoming nominally or substantially socialist.  I'm saying
that with the passing of the Soviet Union, the era that Jim described
well is basically over (hence the transformation of East Timor
nationalism, for instance), and now "nationalisms" on the periphery
are much more politically complex & ambiguous affairs -- hence
frequent impassioned debates on the aforementioned groupings (&
others) among Marxists (and leftists in general as well).  I think
that many Marxists suffer from a sense of confusion & disorientation
here (naturally, I don't know about you, and what I say here may not
apply to you personally).

BTW, by the Central African region, I'm speaking of the struggle over
Congo (renamed from Zaire), with many African nations & the USA
involved in warfare.  Your comments on the subject?

>Yoshie also raises the issue of the Chinese bureaucracy's use of
>nationalism as
>a tool to attract the collaboration of its capitalist diaspora in
>introducing a
>market economy and attracting capitalist investment. The nationalism of
>postcapitalist regimes is an interesting phenomenon, albeit outside
>the scope of
>Blaut's book. But I think it is more complex than is indicated in the extract
>from Arrighi cited by Yoshie.

Exactly.  I cited Arrighi merely to open discussion on the
phenomenon: the interpenetration of the People's Republic of China
under the market reforms and the "Overseas Chinese capitalist

>For example, opposition to the ongoing
>attempts of  world imperialism, and in the first place, U.S. imperialism, to
>overturn postcapitalist property relations naturally assumes a
>nationalist form,
>as a defence of state sovereignty. Cuba's intense nationalism has
>primarily this
>content. On the other hand, a bureaucratic caste, itself deeply
>divided between
>overtly procapitalist and more traditional petty-bourgeois and even socialist
>tendencies, may find nationalism a convenient device to paper over differences
>and rally popular support as a cover for its procapitalist orientation. But in
>either case, I am not sure that a generalized concept of nationalism
>is of much
>use in defining or explaining the underlying process.

No.  Actually, as you suggest, I believe that analysis has to be very
concrete & that a generalized concept of nationalism may obscure,
instead of illuminate, what is underway.

>Nor is "world systems" analysis of much assistance here. For example, Arrighi
>states: "For what we know, the present rise of East Asia to most
>dynamic center
>of processes of capital accumulation on a world scale may well be the preamble
>to a recentering of the regional and world economies on China as they were in
>pre-modern times." That leaves out a hell of a lot, starting with
>the outcome of
>the developing class struggle in China itself.

Right -- the world systems analysis a la Arrighi has a tendency to
leave out exactly that.  Take a look at this, for instance:

*****   Date: Sun, 19 Nov 2000 05:07:46 -1000
From: Stephen E Philion <philion at hawaii.edu>
Subject: [PEN-L:4634] China: State companies urged to pull out (fwd)


Thursday, November 9, 2000

State companies urged to pull out


State firms should withdraw from most mainland industries, a research
report by the National Bureau of Statistics recommends.

The report identified 196 industries and said state firms should
withdraw from 146 of them, Xinhua reported.  Of the remaining 50, the
state should keep "control" of 35 and a "monopoly" in 15.

The Shanghai-based China Securities newspaper said the 35 industries
over which the state should maintain control could be grouped into
three categories: mining, including coal and minerals; hi-tech
businesses like aerospace that could have a direct bearing on the
country's competitiveness; and "pillar industries" such as cars,
electronics and petrochemicals.

The report said industries from which the state could withdraw
gradually were those which were not capital or technology-intensive,
such as textiles, food and beverages, and home appliances.

It explained that companies in these lines of business could improve
through market competition. Defence and electricity would both remain
state monopolies.

The National People's Congress passed a constitutional amendment in
March last year affirming the role of the private sector in the
economy.  The amendment followed a decision made by the Communist
Party congress in late 1998.

Foreign economists have said that the concession by the Communist
Party, which technically still claims to be a party of the
proletariat, is already a done deed.

They pointed out that after two decades of economic reforms, state
firms had lost much of their superiority in most businesses.

Huge privately owned companies and joint ventures with international
firms had taken control of more than half of the economy on the

Despite their steady decline, state firms often still enjoy
advantages over private businesses in areas such as obtaining bank
loans.   *****


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