dan at rjtorres.net
Thu Nov 13 10:28:33 MST 2003
On Nov 13, 2003, at 6:33 AM, Jose G. Perez wrote:
> Daniel Peyser writes:
> "The problem seems to be that national liberation struggles exist at
> expense of the struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat.
> of class struggle, there is national struggle. National struggle, it
> seems, is commonly viewed as the struggle for self-determination, but
> can real self-determination happen without socialism?"
> This captures the very distilled quintessence of the "Marxist"
> sectarians' opposition to the national movements of oppressed peoples,
> and very clearly shows that it is a position that has nothing to do
> For Marxists, all political struggles *are* class struggles, and this
> applies with a vengeance when you're dealing with such a widespread
> phenomenon as the struggle of colonial and semicolonial peoples against
> imperialism. Thus to say, "instead of class struggle, there is national
> struggle" is simply a nonsensical statement, from a Marxist point of
> view. National struggles must be expressions of the class struggle or
> Marxism must be considered to be seriously flawed. We should remember
> that Marx did not claim to be presenting a description of what *ought*
> to be but of what *is*.
I agree with you here that Marx claims to represent what "is" and not
what "ought to be." I also certainly agree that all political struggles
are, indeed, class struggles. However, the nature of this class
struggle is a relevant issue at this juncture. What I mean is, granted,
class struggle is evident daily in all nations, both core and
peripheral (or any other denotation one choses here: North/South,
Developed/Developing, etc. -- all of which are fairly loaded terms).
But, class struggle manifests itself at different levels of intensity.
In the U.S., for example, there is certainly class struggle everywhere.
However, this class struggle, I would argue, is not necessarily a
conscious one yet. This is to say, one must distinguish between a class
in itself and a class of itself. The working class in the U.S. may be
"class aware" to an extent, but this certainly does not mean that they
are "class conscious." Since we are talking about oppressed nations,
however, keep in mind I am only using the U.S. working class as an
illustrative example. One could point to strikingly similar, if not the
same, phenomena in oppressed nations. In this respect, to say that
national struggle assumes primacy over class struggle in many
national(ist) movements is not so nonsensical. A national consciousness
may be quite strong, and class consciousness hardly as wide-spread or
developed. The result, often times, is that Marxist or Marxist-oriented
movements in these national struggles all too often, again, subordinate
class struggle (which in this case means trying to raise class
consciousness, or push beyond an awareness of class) to broader
nationalist demands and sentiments. This is sort of the point that I am
trying to get at. I am not saying that national struggles are not to be
supported, by any means; I am simply pointing out--I think--that
national liberation movements serve a limited purpose, and that
communists within such movements can only be truly effective insofar as
they do not lose sight of the goal of communism, and the elevation and
intensification of class struggle. I am not suggesting that they
abstain from national liberation struggles, or judge them as though
they were something other than a historical phenomenon, but that they
can play a great role in shaping these movements, and both militantly
support them without losing their own independent role as communists.
> Peyser quotes approvingly Stalin's "Marxism and the National Question,"
> that the national struggle "is to the advantage and profit mainly of
> bourgeoisie." On this, as and on so many other things, Stalin's work on
> the national question, which reflected the positions of Lenin and the
> Bolsheviks at the time, is simply wrong.
I should say here that this particular quote was used in support of, or
rather, to make the point made in the quote, not to suggest that I
necessarily agree with everything in this particular work of Stalin's,
although I do agree with much of it. However, I think that you are also
right in pointing out the Eurocentric nature of the work, and of the
communist movement in general at this point in time.
> people not to take it seriously. But it should be taken seriously. This
> wasn't Stalin's special position, in broad outlines it was the common
> position of Stalin, Lenin and their comrades. The Bolsheviks at that
> time still largely shared a common outlook on the national question
> large parts of the mainstream of left social democracy (Kautsky, etc.).
> That is what this pamphlet registers.
While I do not have that much to say about this, I do think that you
are making what is an extremely important point here, which I think is
> For example, Stalin writes, "A nation is not merely a historical
> category but a historical category belonging to a definite epoch, the
> epoch of rising capitalism." Is that really true? Then how to account
> for the national struggles of the 20th century, with the national
> awakening of billions of people of the colonial and semicolonial world?
I do think that this particular quote is correct. The rise of the
nation, or at least its consolidation, does very much coincide with the
rise of capitalism as a historical phenomenon. I don't this has any
particular implications for the 20th century, as such, and is not meant
to imply that in a colonial oppressed nation in which capitalism has
not developed or fully developed that the nation has not yet been fully
formed. Or, perhaps I have simply misunderstood you, which is quite
> Notice that the handful of west European imperialist powers are cited
> the norm. Ireland is cast as the exception that proves the rule. Now
> look at the world. How many Britains, Frances and Italys are there? And
> how many Irelands are there and have there been?
Well, frankly I think there have been quite a few Irelands, although
this is probably another discussion in and of itself. The point here
has to do with the development of core nations, and the way in which
their own development necessarily defined that of peripheral nations.
> This alliance is objective; by this I mean it flows from the actual
> positions of the different classes, it is not made up of invented or
> result of bad Leninist politics. And this struggle then becomes the
> framework for the fight for the political independence of the working
> class and the toilers generally.
> And to counterpose the proletarian struggle to the national struggle
> only leads to the complete isolation of the communists from the
Here I think that we are also in agreeance. I am not so much trying to
counterpose the proletarian struggle to the national struggle at all,
as I would like to examine the role of communists within the national
struggle, specifically as outlined in portions of Tom's piece online.
I do apologize for not being able to respond to other portions of your
very thoughtful email, but I am late for a class. If you feel that I
have not addressed an aspect of those portions adequately in my
response here, please let me know and I will try to clear that up.
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