On the National Question

Marksist Tutum

September 1994





Introduction


The importance of theoretical struggle on national question springs essentially from the need to take a correct political attitude based on Marxist foundations in the face of the liberation struggle of oppressed nations. Marxism is not an impressionist or positivist philosophy limiting itself only with interpreting the world, but an integral world view which strives to change the world and develops in an inextricably dialectical relationship with revolutionary practice.

At the time of Marx and Engels, when ideological foundations of the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat were being established, the historical framework of national question was dealt with in the context of bourgeois democratic revolutions and formation of nation-states. Marx and Engels focused their attention on the downfall of old feudal political structures and the formation of nation-states which clear the way for the development of modern capitalist society. In the transition period from feudalism to capitalism “national republic” as the embodiment of demands for bourgeois democratic transformations and “civil rights and bourgeois nationalism” as a current of thought, both had a progressive content. The fact that founders of Marxism credited bourgeois democratic struggles and establishment of nation-states in Europe from the standpoint of general historical perspective was a reflection of their revolutionary attitude.

While Polish nationalism struggling against Tsarist Russia which is the closest ally of reactionary powers at that time in Europe was supported by Marx and Engels, those like southern Slavs that were serving reactionary forces were bitterly criticised by them. In a historical period when West Europe was an arena of bourgeois democratic struggles, Marx and Engels, considered national question in this same context with the perspective that these struggles would bring the proletariat’s turn.

While capital creates a historical tendency toward economic integration on a world scale, the bourgeois ideology is politically “nationalist” since the bourgeois world is divided into different nation-states. While regarding bourgeois nationalism historically as a step forward compared with feudal society, Marxism also reveals how it would acquire a reactionary content once the capitalist world-system is formed. As the revolutionary world view of the proletariat, the final goal of Marxism is to smash all nation-states, end national privileges and form a world community of humanity on a voluntary basis; that is true internationalism.

For this reason, it is incompatible with the essence of Marxism to identify national liberation movements that aim to establish a nation-state with the proletarian struggle that aims to end the nation-state phenomenon. Although a national liberation movement has a limited revolutionary character, it is clear that proletariat cannot shape its revolutionary policy on the basis of national liberation movement and limit itself with this.

Thus national question can have only a secondary and limited place in the whole body of Marxism and there’s nothing strange about it. However, Marxism could not stay and has not stood indifferent, as long as a national question stands out as a political problem which must be resolved in relation to the interests of the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat. Therefore Marx and Engels’ attitude when they supported national liberation movement in Ireland and Poland is still a guiding attitude of historical importance.

On the national question, as on other political questions, we can assume a correct political attitude only on the basis of internationalist communist principles provided by Marxism and which we must always uphold. Thus in this work we will put forward our main principles on national question.