File spoon-archives/marxism-general.archive/marxism-general_1997/current, message 13

Date: 15 May 97 02:26:11 EDT
Subject: M-G: FOL, VI.  National Question (1/3)

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>From the transcriber: The following is reproduced from Bruce 
Franklin's The Essential Stalin: Major Theoretical Writings, 
1905-1952 (Garden City: Doubleday & Co., 1972) pp. 145-54, 
ISBN 0-385-09192-3.  Any typographical errors appearing 
below are my own. According to Mr. Franklin, The Foundations 
of Leninism first appeared in April and May of 1924 as a 
series of lectures at Sverdlov University; however, it is 
unclear from which printed edition this translation is 

***** Begin (1/3)*****

>From this theme I take two main questions:

a) the presentation of the question;

b) the liberation movement of the oppressed peoples and the 
proletarian revolution.

1) The presentation of the question. During the last two 
decades the national question has undergone a number of very 
important changes. The national question in the period of 
the Second International and the national question in the 
period of Leninism are far from being the same thing. They 
differ profoundly from each other, not only in their scope, 
but also in their intrinsic character.

Formerly the national question was usually confined to a 
narrow circle of questions, concerning, primarily, 
"civilised" nationalities. The Irish, the Hungarians, the 
Poles, the Finns, the Serbs, and several other European 
nationalities - that was the circle of unequal peoples in 
whose destinies the leaders of the Second International were 
interested. The scores and hundreds of millions of Asiatic 
and African peoples who are suffering national oppression in 
its most savage and cruel form usually remained outside of 
their field of vision. They hesitated to put white and 
black, "civilised" and "uncivilised" on the same plane. Two 
or three meaningless, lukewarm resolutions, which carefully 
evaded the question of liberating the colonies - that was 
all the leaders of the Second International could boast of. 
Now we can say that this duplicity and half-heartedness in 
dealing with the national question has been brought to an 
end. Leninism laid bare this crying incongruity, broke down 
the wall between whites and blacks, between Europeans and 
Asiatics, between the "civilised" and "uncivilised" slaves 
of imperialism, and thus linked the national question with 
the question of the colonies. The national question was 
thereby transformed from a particular and internal state 
problem into a general and international problem, into a 
world problem of emancipating the oppressed peoples in the 
dependent countries and colonies from the yoke of 

Formerly, the principle of self-determination of nations was 
usually misinterpreted, and not infrequently it was narrowed 
down to the idea of the right of nations to autonomy. 
Certain leaders of the Second International even went so far 
as to turn the right to self-determination into the right to 
cultural autonomy, i.e., the right of oppressed nations to 
have their own cultural institutions, leaving all political 
power in the hands of the ruling nation. As a consequence, 
the idea of self-determination stood in danger of being 
transformed from an instrument for combating annexations 
into an instrument for justifying them. Now we can say that 
this confusion has been cleared up. Leninism broadened the 
conception of self-determination, interpreting it as the 
right of the oppressed peoples of the dependent countries 
and colonies to complete secession, as the right of nations 
to independent existence as states. This precluded the 
possibility of justifying annexations by interpreting the 
right to self-determination as the right to autonomy. Thus, 
the principle of self-determination itself was transformed 
from an instrument for deceiving the masses, which it 
undoubtedly was in the hands of the social-chauvinists 
during the imperialist war, into an instrument for exposing 
all imperialist aspirations and chauvinist machinations, 
into an instrument for the political education of the masses 
in the spirit of internationalism.

Formerly, the question of the oppressed nations was usually 
regarded as purely a juridical question. Solemn 
proclamations about "national equality of rights," 
innumerable declarations about the "equality of nations" - 
that was the stock-in-trade of the parties of the Second 
International, which glossed over the fact that "equality of 
nations" under imperialism, where one group of nations (a 
minority) lives by exploiting another group of nations, is 
sheer mockery of the oppressed nations. Now we can say that 
this bourgeois-juridical point of view on the national 
question has been exposed. Leninism brought the national 
question down from the lofty heights of high sounding 
declarations to solid ground, and declared that 
pronouncements about the "equality of nations" not backed by 
the direct support of the proletarian parties for the 
liberation struggle of the oppressed nations are meaningless 
and false. In this way the question of the oppressed nations 
became one of supporting the oppressed nations, of rendering 
real and continuous assistance to them in their struggle 
against imperialism for real equality of nations, for their 
independent existence as states.

Formerly, the national question was regarded from a 
reformist point of view, as an independent question having 
no connection with the general question of the power of 
capital, of the overthrow of imperialism, of the proletarian 
revolution. It was tacitly assumed that the victory of the 
proletariat in Europe was possible without a direct alliance 
with the liberation movement in the colonies, that the 
national-colonial question could be solved on the quiet, "of 
its own accord," off the highway of the proletarian 
revolution, without a revolutionary struggle against 
imperialism. Now we can say that this anti-revolutionary 
point of view has been exposed. Leninism has proved, and the 
imperialist war and the revolution in Russia have confirmed, 
that the national question can be solved only in connection 
with and on the basis of the proletarian revolution and that 
the road to victory of the revolution in the West lies 
through the revolutionary alliance with the liberation 
movement of the colonies and dependent countries against 
imperialism. The national question is a part of the general 
question of the proletarian revolution, a part of the 
question of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

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