On the National Question

Marksist Tutum

September 1994





The Viewpoint of the Proletariat on Defence of National Culture


1- The demand for educating and raising consciousness of workers on the basis of national cultural differences prevents the class from assimilating an international revolutionary culture and eventually serves bourgeois nationalism. And ideas like preserving national culture under the revolutionary power of the working class can only be attractive for petty-bourgeois leftism whose one leg rests on a pseudo socialism and the other on bourgeois nationalism.

Every national culture is made of different elements depending on the class divide, the character of class struggles within that nation and the impact of these struggles on the society. Depending on the level of economic and political development it involves feudal-reactionary, imperialist-chauvinist, bourgeois democratic and socialist cultural elements in different compositions. But whatever the composition, in the final analysis the dominant culture of a society is the culture of the ruling class. Thus the ”national culture” is generally the culture inculcated by big landowners, the bourgeoisie and the religious caste. Thus defending the national culture is not the problem of the proletariat. Demanding that the proletariat who aims to create a social order without classes and exploitation on a world scale reconcile with feudal provincialism or bourgeois nationalism or its tail-ender petty-bourgeois nationalism on defence of culture means demanding rolling back the wheel of history.

2- There are two main tendencies of capitalism. First the development capitalism leads to the birth of national movements and bourgeois democratic struggles to establish nation states. This tendency makes possible for the bourgeois culture to carry in cultural elements to the society, which are progressive in comparison to the past. But it is not only “progressive” elements that comes with the bourgeoisie in its process of rising to the level of ruling class. This process is also marked by its conciliations with reaction in varying degrees (depending on the transition from feudalism to capitalism is accompanied by radical bourgeois democratic revolutions or takes place in a Prussian way), with religious caste, repression exerted on oppressed classes and nations and, most important of all, the fact that the bourgeoisie itself is an exploiting class (which means a lot of reactionary elements). Therefore although the bourgeois culture involves progressive elements compared with the past, the proletariat can accept only the progressive elements and must reject the reactionary elements.

The second tendency of capitalism is the development of economic life that destroys various barriers between nations with the need of internationalisation of capital. However, this tendency under capitalism in its imperialist stage and unless capitalism is surpassed by a working class revolution, is driving humanity into barbarism and decadence. Therefore it would surely be wrong to examine the capitalist trend only from the angle of economic development and describe it as “progressive”.

3- The response of the working class to the advocates of “national culture” is a defence of international culture which will be created by the world revolutionary working class movement. This culture is a synthesis of the cultural heritage of humanity and democratic and socialist elements of various national cultures. While defence of “national culture” serves nothing but reinforcing bourgeois nationalism, the idea of proletarian internationalism adopted to all languages and local characteristics can pave the way to socialism.

4- In conclusion, tendency to give the proletariat a national consciousness is a reactionary one. And it is has been the attitude of all petty-bourgeois revolutionary leaderships who, on the one hand, proclaim themselves as “Marxist-Leninist” and on the other hand defend “national culture” in their all ideological and political practice. Rejecting the defence of “national culture” as part of proletarian internationalism is not only the task of the communists of the oppressing nation. This task is equally up to the communists of the oppressed nation.