[Marxism] Re: The Kurdish question

Ozleft Ozleft at optusnet.com.au
Fri Mar 24 20:18:55 MST 2006

Louis Proyect, Fred Feldman and Jim Blaut. The mountain trembles and out 
comes a mouse

By Bob Gould

In an enigmatic way Louis responds to my request to explain the defects 
of Lenin’s 1913 approach to the national question by putting up a 
document from the late Jim Blaut, saying that Lenin hadn’t anticipated 
Puerto Ricans as a nationality in the United States.

This is a bit of a red herring concerning the broad thrust of Lenin’s 
general perception, and it avoids a forthright answer about the right of 
the Kurds and the Albanians to national self-determination. I would 
again refer Louis and Fred to the careful exposition and modernisation 
of Lenin’s views, which both Dixon and I consider still have fundamental 
validity, in Norm Dixon’s articles in Links a couple of years ago in his 
exchange with Malik Miah.

Dixon makes a reasonable case, with which I agree, that in Lenin’s 
framework African Americans are probably not a nationality. Like Dixon, 
I don’t want to be too forceful about this, because I am not an expert 
on the national question in the US.

Blaut’s example of the Puerto Ricans is in some ways a slightly stronger 
case. The obvious problem with it, is that the Puerto Ricans, being 
Spanish speakers, tend to blend in pretty rapidly with the other Spanish 
speakers, Mexicans, Central Americans, Cubans, etc.

There is a reasonable argument that, in some sense all the Spanish 
speakers taken together are a kind of second nationality in the US. 
Blaut, narrowing the question of Spanish speakers to the Puerto Ricans, 
confuses the issue somewhat.

Are the Cubans in Florida and other places a separate nationality, or is 
it more sensible to treat all the Spanish speakers together? Even with 
the Spanish speakers, the same problem arises as arises with African 
Americans. A very large number of them seem to, from a distance, 
identify as Spanish speakers, and also as American citizens. It’s this 
phenomenon that has given rise in Australia and Canada to the fairly 
modern notion of what is called multiculturalism within a nationality, 
which is the bete noir of the right in Australia.

I have written at length about the question of multiculturalism in 
Australia, and my material on this question can be found on the Ozleft 

It’s worth noting in this context, that there is an enormous diaspora in 
England, Scotland, Wales, Australasia, the US and Canada, the Irish, who 
over many years up to the present time, have largely identified with the 
politics of their imperially oppressed country. This identification with 
Irish nationalism hasn’t prevented them from staking a considerable 
claim to be part of the nation in their countries of current residence.

All of this aspect of Lenin’s general theory about nationality is of 
considerable current interest, but it is obviously not the main reason 
that the assorted Luxembourgists on various email lists ridicule the 
general thrust of Lenin’s theory. Their main reason is that Lenin’s 
forthright assertion of the rights of nationalities such as the Kurds 
and the Albanians to full self determination, including the right of 
secession, cuts across their varied geopolitical concerns.

To take the matter further, and to give some other examples, various 
nationalist leaders such as the Burmese leaders, Sukarno in Indonesia, 
and Subhas Chandra Bose and the Indian National Army, collaborated with 
the Japanese, during World War II and in the case of Bose, with the 
Germans during the Second World War.

I defend the progressive nature of the military struggle of the Soviet 
Union and of the various resistance movements in many countries against 
Hitler, the German Nazis, and Japan. This does not lead me to 
automatically condemn the alliances of convenience of Bose, Sukarno etc. 
As the Irish said: “England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity.” 
Bose, for instance is now a hero in Bengal, including a hero of the 
various communist parties in Bengal. Sukarno is a hero of the Indonesian 

To bring us to an issue of immediate relevance. Most anti-imperialists 
in Australia now support the struggle of the West Papuan people for 
independence, and the implied struggle to form a united Melanesian state 
with Papua New Guinea. A sharp diplomatic split has developed between 
Indonesia and Australia because under Australian law the Tory 
government, much to its embarrassment, has been forced to grant refugee 
status to 42 West Papuan asylum seekers, a number of whom have been 
leaders of the Papuan independence movement.

The unfortunate background to this struggle is that the whole of the 
left in Australia, including the smallish revolutionary socialist group 
that I was part of at the time, share some responsibility for this 
situation. We supported the anti-imperialist revolution of the 
Indonesian people, which was entirely valid.

The Stalinists at the time forcefully peddled the realpolitik view that 
anti-imperialism necessitated the integration of West Papua with 
Indonesia (the Dutch held on to West Papua for 10 years after Indonesian 
independence). To our considerable shame in retrospect, anti-Stalinist 
socialists went along with that idea, and the so-called Act of Free 
Choice, which was no choice at all, was forced on the West Papuan 
people, overseen by the United Nations.

In Australia, there was a considerable bourgeois and Labourite opinion, 
quite powerful in government circles, that favoured uniting West Papua 
and New Guinea, and supporting rapid independence for that united entity 
as an independent united state. In retrospect, it is quite clear that 
the left should have supported that option, but our preoccupation with 
generalised leftist geopolitics, considerably influenced by Stalinism, 
led us to completely ignore Lenin’s general ideas about the right of 
nations to self-determination, with disastrous results for the West 
Papuan people.

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