Tom O'lincon, Ed George and others and national self determination and nationalism

Gould's Book Arcade ggouldsb at
Sun Jul 20 20:41:44 MDT 2003

By Bob Gould

The erudite chit-chat about the exact details of the Lenin-Hegel-Goethe
quote are of considerably less importance than the political issues raised
by Ed George. In my view, Ed George's contribution on the national question,
and nationalism in general, is of great value.

Tom O'Lincoln's response that he has some Lenin quotes, too, but he won't
bother pitching them at us is a just a bit on the coy side. The point about
Ed George's carefully selected quotes from Lenin, and the further expression
of his own opinions, is that George did what is quite unusual when quoting
Lenin in a sectarian environment, in that he meticulously puts the quotes in
context. That is the way such quotes ought to be used, but rarely are.

As I've asserted on a couple of other occasions, this is often slippery
territory. Some Marxist sectarians routinely toss off what they call Marxist
principles, sometimes buttressed by the odd out-of-context quote, but which
are really only the opinion of the people making the assertions.

Nowhere is this done more frequently than in the discussion of the national
question and nationalism, where most assertions that I've seen on Marxmail,
other than from Ed George and a couple of others, seem to me to be just
opinionated hot air.

A while back I raised some of these issues at some length in a serious and
careful way, and made some references. The only serious response I got was
from Nestor. Tom, who follows Marxmail fairly carefully, didn't bite, which
doesn't however stop him continuing to toss off summary little barbs and
assertions from time to time about nationalism.

Ed George's sustained argument, with which I find myself in almost total
agreement, really requires a serious and thorough response from Tom, DMS and
others of a similar viewpoint, if they are to be taken seriously.

At the risk of being boring, I would refer Marxmail readers once again to my
own contributions, titled East Timor, Luxembourg and Lenin

Norm Dixon's seminal piece in Links,
Marx, Engels and Lenin on the National Question, is of the greatest
importance in this discussion. My articles,
Multiculturalism and Australian National Identity, and Racism and the
Australian Labor Party, are also of some interest, particularly in relation
to Australian nationalism.

I would be very interested to see Tom, DMS and others make some sort of
sustained response to Dixon, Ed George and myself on these questions, rather
than just tossing off assertions. In this context, I'd be very interested to
hear Tom's Lenin quotes and to look at their context.

These questions of national self-determination are very current politically
because of the way US, British and Australian imperialism set themselves up
demogogically as defenders of democracy and sometimes of national
self-determination for small nations such as the Kurds, Albanians and
Bosnian Muslims, while the Russian ex-Stalinist national state belts the
Chechens into the ground. It's necessary to fight very hard against the
global hegemonic aspirations of US imperialism, but in my view the project
of combating US imperialism is not aided at all by a contemptuous and
dismissive attitude towards the right of nations to self-determination.

In my view, ostensible Leninists do a lot of damage, often, by turning Lenin
's enormous and useful political legacy into some kind of reified religion.
Nevertheless, Lenin was the greatest practitioner and theorist of socialist
politics of all time, so far. In particular, his legacy to us on the
national question is among his most important. I'm not impressed at all by
DMS on Marxmail yesterday who blithely rejected Lenin's views on the
national question without any attempting to refute them in a serious and
sustained way, other than the DMS's own assertions.

Over the past couple of months, I've been intrigued by the lengthy and
heated discussions on Marxmail of a number of very abstruse questions of
higher Marxist theory, while on the other hand sustained and serious
argument on major current political questions, such as Zane Boyd's
Intellectuals and Cuba, is allowed to go through to the keeper, so to speak,
and gets no sustained critical response whatever, despite the fact that a
number of people on Marxmail clearly disagree with him.

It's to be hoped that Ed George's reasoned and careful article on the
national question doesn't get the same treatment. It's to be hoped that
those who disagree with Ed George, Norm Dixon and myself, such as Tom O'
Lincoln and others, take this opportunity to put forward a serious
exposition of their views, rather than the chummy, dismissive asides that
seems to pass for discussion so much of the time.

Gould's Book Arcade
32 King St, Newtown, NSW
Ph: 9519-8947
Fax: 9550-5924

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