When to support nationalism?

Philip Ferguson plf13 at SPAMit.canterbury.ac.nz
Thu Feb 1 02:44:00 MST 2001

I really enjoyed (and agreed with) Johannes' post on the Kurds - including
his point about Quebec.

The two 'oppressed nations' that I have never been convinced really are
oppressed are the Scottish and the Quebecois.  Perhaps it has something to
do with me finding it very hard to believe that white people from
imperialist countries are 'racially' or 'nationally' oppressed.  I have
just never been able to see how these regions of imperialist powers bear
any resemblance to oppressed nations like the Palestinians, Irish (Europe's
blacks), Kurds et al.

I think Johannes' point about how immigrants (mainly black) in Quebec voted
against independence is interesting too.  About a year or two ago I read
some stuff on Canada and the Quebec question in 'New Internationalist', the
magazine produced by Oxfam.  NI is actually a very good magazine in many
ways - lots and lots of usueful data, presented in a really lively and
interesting way, great photos and art work etc.

Anyway, the piece on Quebec argued against Quebec nationalism on exactly
the point that it is xenophobic towards black and other minorities,
including Native canadians, and that these groups would be much worse off
if the Quebec nationalists ever got their way.  This doesn't surprise me.
It seems to me that the French-Canadians' gripe is that they missed out on
getting to rule imperialist Canada.  That's what they're pissed about.  It
has nothing to do with being an historically oppressed people.

But to return to the Kurds - I think Johannes' point is very true.  That
the Kurds are clearly an historically constituted nation, with their own
history and language and national territory.  The only reason that the
Kurds don't have a national state is that when the French and British
imperialists carved up the Middle east after WW1, it didn't suit the
imperialist powers to allow them one and they weren't strong enough to
achieve one.  Since then various Kurdish factions have been played off
against each other by local reactionary regimes.

But the struggle for a Kurdish state is a progressive one, which could
undermine imperialist domination in the Middle East.  A Kurdish state would
have some chance of maintaining independence and, with a radical
leadership, could offer support to other struggles in the region (like the

Partitioning the Kurdish struggle by maintaining the Kurdish people within
the existing states of Iran, Iraq and Turkey, leaves imperialist domination
completely intact and gives a big break to the reactionary regimes in power
in each of those countries.

Philip Ferguson

"Don't Dream It - Extreme It" (Lana Coc Kroft)

More information about the Marxism mailing list