[Marxism] Jim Blaut on Stalin

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Dec 31 07:24:19 MST 2006

Jim Blaut:

In Stalin's theory, nations came into existence in two ways. West 
European nations formed themselves as nation-states from the moment 
of their birth at the beginning of the capitalist era. Hence they had 
no national problem, to speak of, within their borders. In Eastern 
Europe however, the great territorial empires (Russia, 
Austria-Hungary, Turkey) emerged before the ethnic groups within 
their boundaries had formed into nations; hence these states were 
multi-national almost from the start; and hence the gravity of their 
national problem.

Ireland, according to Stalin, was an anomaly: it followed the 
East-European route, forming itself as a nation after its absorption 
into the British Empire. But Stalin was wrong about Ireland; it was a 
classical colonized nation; and this significant error shows that he 
really had no theoretical model (in 1913) for colonial nations in 
general. He did not, as a matter of fact, discuss them in 'Marxism 
and the National Question'. Had he done so, or had he at least taken 
account of the Marx-Engels analysis of Ireland in relation to 
England, Stalin would have seen that his model for Western European 
nation-states was also imperfect. Countries like Britain, France, 
Holland, etc., emerged as integral nation-states not by chance, but 
because they were colonizing nations. They exported their national 
problem, as it were, to their colonial empires. Thus to understand 
England one must understand Ireland, India, and so on. One must 
understand imperialism. But Marxism had not yet analyzed imperialism in 1913.

Stalin's theory of nations was not therefore wrong. It was simply not 
world-wide in scope. It was adequate for the multi-national states of 
Eastern Europe, partly so for the nation-states of Western Europe, 
and wholly inadequate for the world of colonies and semi-colonies -- 
all of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

This brings us at last to Stalin's theory of national minorities. It 
is merely the obverse of his theory of nations: An ethnic group is a 
national minority if it does not possess the defining attributes of a 
nation. Four sorts of national-minority communities are discussed in. 
Stalin's paper, and it will be a straightforward matter to show that 
none of them resembles the Puerto Rican community in the United States today.

full: http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/Blaut/national_question.htm

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