Bolsheviks and the national question, 1917-23

Mark Jones markjones011 at
Tue Aug 27 14:31:30 MDT 2002

At 27/08/2002 13:51, Richard Fidler wrote:
>The current (Spring 2002) issue of International Socialism Journal has a
>review of a book that will be of considerable interest to many list
>The seeds of national liberation
>A review of Jeremy Smith, The Bolsheviks and the National Question,
>1917-1923 (Macmillan, 1999), £45
>About the time that the Soviet Union ceased to be a union ten years ago,
>historians became more interested in the origins of the forces tearing apart
>the world's largest state. How successful had the Bolsheviks been in
>resolving national tensions? ......
>For almost 50 years the standard work on this aspect of Soviet history has
>been Richard Pipes's The Formation of the Soviet Union. Pipes analysed vast
>quantities of Russian language literature from this period, and his book is
>still a valuable reference.

It's sadly no surprise that the International Socialism Journal , which 
evidently long ago abandoned Marxism, is shamelessly promoting as a 
'valuable reference' the work of that rabid cold warrior and anti-soviet 
hack, Richard Pipes. However, there are more useful sources of analysis of 
Soviet nationalities policy including Jim Blaut, much of whose online work 
Lou has archived for us.

Another interesting take is that of Jose Maria Sison, founder of the 
Communist Party of the Philippines,  recently designated by the US State 
Department, along with its armed wing, the New People's Army, as terrorist 
groups (this is a fate which will surely never happen to the British 
Socialist Workers' party or to the editors of ISJ). Here is how Sison 
begins (I won't include the whole thing to save bandwidth but I have just 
posted it to the A-List and it can be viewed on the A-List website at



By Jose Maria Sison
Founding Chairman
Communist Party of the Philippines
May 1997

Comrades and friends,

I wish to convey to all of you sincere greetings of solidarity
on the occasion of this year's Brussels International Seminar,
which is sponsored by the Workers' Party of Belgium and has as
its theme the road of the October revolution, in advance
celebration of the 80th anniversary of this great socialist

I thank the Workers' Party of Belgium for inviting me to
participate in this seminar and to deliver the main report on
Lenin and Stalin and on the relationship of the democratic and
socialist revolution in colonies and semicolonies.

My presentation covers the teachings of Lenin on the two
stages of the Russian revolution, the implementation of these
teachings by Lenin and Stalin, the extension and further
development of these in colonies and semicolonies, the
violation of these by the modern revisionists and the
continuing validity of the Marxist-Leninist theory and
practice of the two stages.

I.  Introduction

Colonial and semicolonial countries have large survivals of
feudalism.  Thus, they are susceptible to imperialist
domination.  In countries where feudalism or semifeudalism
reigns, there is categorically the need for a bourgeois-
democratic revolution before there can be a socialist
revolution.  This is mainly in terms of taking into account
the socioeconomic conditions in the revolutionary process and,
as a matter of course, the antidemocratic character of the
counterrevolutionary state.

Where there is a certain degree of industrial capitalist
development as in the case of Germany during the time of Marx
in 1856 or Russia during the time of Lenin in 1917 or due to
imperialist domination as in the case of colonies and
semicolonies, the industrial proletariat must forge an
alliance with the peasantry to carry out an uninterrupted
revolution from the stage of bourgeois-democratic revolution
to that of socialist revolution.

At the end of the 1840's, Marx put forward the thesis of such
an uninterrupted revolution in the "Address to the Communist
League"; and subsequently pointed out the necessity of
combining the peasant revolutionary movement with the
proletarian revolution in a letter to Engels in 1856 by
stating:  "the whole thing in Germany will depend on the
possibility of backing the proletarian revolution, by some
second edition of the Peasant War."

The foregoing ideas of Marx were not developed in the
subsequent works of Marx and Engels.  Neither did the
theoreticians of the Second International and the West
European social-democratic parties.  They did their utmost to
bury the ideas of Marx connecting the bourgeois-democratic
revolution with the socialist revolution.  They became
obsessed with the Eurocentric notion of waiting for the
industrial proletariat to become the majority of the
population as the precondition to socialist revolution
anywhere.  They also took it for granted that after the
bourgeois revolution the peasant masses would betray the
revolution and a long "lull" of fifty or a hundred years would
follow during which the proletariat would be "peacefully" and
"lawfully" exploited by the bourgeoisie until the time came
for the socialist revolution.

Lenin brought to light the forgotten ideas of Marx.  He did
not merely repeat them but developed them further.  He molded
them into a harmonious theory of socialist revolution by
regarding the alliance of the proletariat with the peasantry
and other semiproletarian elements of town and country as an
indispensable factor of socialist revolution and as a
condition for the victory of the proletarian revolution.

Lenin guided the Third Congress of the Russian Social-
Democratic Party in London in April 1905, to differentiate the
Bolsheviks from the Mensheviks, on the basic tactics and line
of class leadership of the proletariat in the bourgeois-
democratic and socialist stages of the Russian revolution and
the necessity of the worker-peasant alliance. In their own
rump congress, the Mensheviks conceded to the bourgeoisie the
class leadership in the bourgeois-democratic revolution and
wanted the proletariat to be a mere appendage of the liberal
bourgeoisie and a mere beggar of economistic reforms in the
course of the bourgeois-democratic revolution.

Subsequently, in June and July 1905, Lenin wrote Two Tactics
of Social  Democracy in the Democratic Revolution to clarify
in a comprehensive, profound and thoroughgoing manner the
bourgeois-democratic and socialist stages of the revolution
and set forth the tactics of continuous proletarian class
leadership through its revolutionary party, the alliance of
the proletariat and the peasantry, the armed uprising for
seizing political power, the provisional revolutionary
government , the democratic dictatorship of the workers and
peasants, the confiscation of land from the landlords and the
realization of the 8-hour day and other immediate demands of
the working class.

Stalin immediately and consistently followed the Leninist
theory and tactics of revolution, with such works as:  "Armed
Insurrection and Our Tactics", "The Provisional Revolutionary
Government and Social Democracy" (1905), "Two Clashes,"  "The
Present Situation and the Unity Congress of the Workers'
Party" (1906), Preface to the Georgian edition of Karl
Kautsky's Pamphlet, The Driving Forces and Prospects of the
Russian Revolution" (February 1907).

II.  The Precision of Lenin's Work

Lenin's Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic
Revolution was precise in applying Marxism on the concrete
conditions of Russia.  It served as the programmatic guide of
the Bolsheviks and the proletariat for the entire period from
1905 to their victory in the Great October Socialist
Revolution in 1917.

Within that period, Russia could be correctly described in
several ways.  It was a military-feudal imperialist power,
especially in relation to the many nationalities that it
oppressed and exploited.  It had a few industrial enclaves,
surrounded by an ocean of feudalism and medievalism.  It could
produce industrial fuel and basic metals and chemicals but not
machine tools and was therefore a weak capitalist country.  It
was a semicolony of British, French and Belgian imperialism
which provided the finance capital and capital equipment for
the exploitation of the proletariat and the people.

The industrial proletariat was a minority of the population
and could not make revolution of any kind without the alliance
with the small peasantry and other semiproletarian masses who
composed the overwhelming majority of the people.  It could
not aim for the socialist revolution without passing through
the bourgeois-democratic revolution and without seizing the
initiative and leadership of the revolution from the liberal
bourgeoisie who acted as the agents of the big bourgeoisie and
who courted the support of the peasantry.  The wisdom of Lenin
was to declare forthrightly that the proletariat was to seize
the leadership of the bourgeois-democratic revolution so that
this could pass on to the socialist revolution.

It was of decisive importance to define the basic tactics of
the Bolsheviks and the proletariat because the Russian
situation and the Russian revolution were complex and they
were confronted with several types of opponents:  the tsarist
autocracy, the big bourgeoisie, the liberal bourgeoisie and
the opportunists in the Russian Social-Democratic Party and
the "socialist revolutionary" descendants of the Narodniks.

The tsarist autocracy, together with the landed aristocracy,
blew hot and cold in countering the revolution, at one time
pretending to make reforms and another time unabashedly
escalating brutal reaction.  The big bourgeoisie used the
liberal bourgeoisie, the constitutional democrats, in an
attempt to outwit the Bolsheviks and dupe the people with the
proposal of a constitutional monarchy and bourgeois-democratic

At the same time, there were the opportunists, the Mensheviks,
who were avowedly for the overthrow of tsarism but who were
open to compromise with the liberal bourgeoisie and who posed
as Marxists but who wished the liberal bourgeoisie to lead the
bourgeois-democratic revolution and make the proletariat its
subsidiary.  Further, there were the petty-bourgeois socialist
revolutionaries, who advocated a populist nonclass kind of
socialism and who were deeply hostile to the Bolsheviks and
the proletariat.

While conducting ideological and political struggle against
the Mensheviks, Lenin also resolutely conducted a parallel
struggle against the opportunists and revisionists of other
parties in the Second International on a comprehensive range
of issues pertaining to imperialism and the proletarian
revolution.  He combated Kautsky's theory of "ultra
imperialism" and the social-imperialist, social-chauvinist and
social-pacifist position of the social-democratic parties,
which collaborated with the blatantly bourgeois parties in
supporting imperialism, increasing the war budget and the

PLEASE clip all extraneous text before replying to a message.

More information about the Marxism mailing list