File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/97-01-21.060, message 12

Date: Sun, 19 Jan 1997 19:42:32 -0500 (EST)
Subject: M-I: Nationalism & Internationalism in Marx


Andrew writes: 

>Marx is ambiguous in his writings as to the proper unit of analysis. At
>times he spoke about a world market, at other times the nation-state was
>clearly the unit of analysis. 

The two were inseparable.    Like Mazzini and other nineteenth century
thinkers,  Marx thought of nationalism as a natural stepping-stone to
internationalism.    In Marx's view (which corresponded to the facts of
English and French history),  nationalism grew up as an attribute of
bourgeois society at a time when the bourgeoisie was a revolutionary and
progressive force.    "With the victory of the proletariat," Marx wrote in
the *Manifesto*,  national sentiment "will vanish....[together with] the
disappearance of classes."   Hence the first step was for the proletariat of
every country to "settle accounts with its own bourgeoisie".     And
remember Marx's famous dictum that "our party can come to power only under
some such form as a democratic republic",  the concomitant assumption being
that the full development of capitalism was of course necessary for such a
denouement,  since capitalism was the essential expression of bourgeois
society and inseparable from it.

In short,  Marx's analysis of revolution would have foundered if he had
separated the symbiotic link between the nation-state (which was already
becoming obsolete) and the growing reality of internationalism which,  with
its "free trade",  and "uniformity of industrial production",  was merely a
prelude of the true internationalism which would be inaugurated with the
victory of the proletariat.    

My caveat -- to which you are apparently responding -- is that the national
pattern of Marx,  far from being universal, proved difficult to extend
beyond the narrow limits of Western Europe during the age of Cobden in which
it was designed.   Beyond Western Europe the same conditions which prevented
the development of an orderly bourgeois nationalism also prevented the
development of an orderly bourgeois nationalism.    Marx never really fitted
his analysis of revolution to countries where the bourgeoisie was incapable
of making its own revolution.

But,  more importantly,  Marx's theory of nationalism,  in addition to being
peculiar to western -- and not to central or eastern -- Europe,   has
equally failed to stand the test of time.    The coming to power of the
proletariat -- or in most cases,  its historical surrogate -- did not mean
the end of national feeling,  nor could Marx have foreseen that rise to
national consciousness of innumerable "unhistorical" nations (of which,  for
example, the Austrian Slavs had been the harbinger).    The Soviet theory of
nationality,  in which the colonial question and the question of small
nations divide the honors between them,  can derive only a pale and
faltering light from the simple and far-away formulation of classical

Louis Godena    

     --- from list ---


Driftline Main Page


Display software: ArchTracker © Malgosia Askanas, 2000-2005