THE STRUGGLE FOR NATIONAL SELF-DETERMINATION
IN THE IMPERIALISTIC STAGE OF CAPITALISM
From 1914, Lenin and the Bolsheviks kept the political line of the First International for the struggles for national self-determination in the imperialistic stage of capitalism, but only for countries where capitalist relations of production were not sufficiently widespread, as was the case of China, India, Persia or Egypt before World War II. In those cases, the struggles against the political hardship of any foreign power, were objectively part of the world socialist strategy, independently of the fact that they were not only not directed, but not even organized by the proletariat. Arguing with the Bolsheviks that supported the struggle for self-determination of the colonial bourgeoisies against the oppression of the colonialist powers , Kíevski supported in 1916 the alleged absurd fact that the revolutionaries <<Pose the slogan of self-determination in relation to the colonies, because, as a rule, it is absurd to pose the slogans of the workers party for the countries where there are no workers>>>>.Lenin answered that the slogan of self-determination was just whether there were or whether there were not workers that could drive it forward politically, because it was not solely directed to the wage earners of the colonial countries but to all the working population, including the workers of the colonialist metropolis:
<<The democratic part of our programme—Kievsky has given no thought to its significance “in general”—is addressed specifically to the whole people and that is why in it we speak of the “people”. (Some curious opponents of “self-determination of nations” try to refute our views with the argument that “nations” are divided into classes! Our customary reply to these caricature Marxists is that the democratic part of our programme speaks of “government by the people”.)
The colonial and semi-colonial nations,
we said, account for 1,000 million people, and P. Kievsky has not taken the
trouble to refute that concrete statement. Of these 1,000 million, more than
700 million (China, India, Persia, Egypt) live in countries where there are
workers. But even with regard to colonial countries where there are no workers,
only slave-owners and slaves, etc., the demand for “self-determination”, far
from being absurd, is obligatory hit every Marxist. And if he gave the matter
a little thought, Kievsky would probably realize this, and also that “self-determination”
is always advanced “for” two nations: the oppressed and the oppressing. >>
(V.I. Lenin “A caricature of Marxism an imperialist economism”)
One of the demands of the national movement of self-determination in the countries oppressed by capitalist colonialism, has been the right to the free exercise and development of the language and the autochthonous culture, that the oppressive capitalist powers forbade or refused to promote. Nor does this national aspiration floats in midair. The language and the common culture, without doubt, form part of the national identity of the different peoples and, in many cases, more than the geography of the territorial delimitations of its dominances. But, furthermore, they are the indispensable vehicles that first contribute to transform the simple mercantile production and the peasant subsistence economy into a capitalist economy, and then serve to delimit the different internal markets that give sense to the modern national states, where employers and workers speak the same language and share the same customs. Therefore, the struggle to preserve and cultivate the language and common culture of a common people, is part of the "defence of the fatherland" by being a bourgeoisie democratic right:
<< As far as the Ukrainians and Byelorussians, for instance, are concerned, only a Martian dreamer could deny that the national movement has not yet been consummated there, that the awakening of the masses to the full use of their mother tongue and literature (and this is an absolute condition and concomitant of the full development of capitalism, of the full penetration of exchange to the very last peasant family) is still going on there. The “fatherland” is historically not yet quite a dead letter there. There the “defence of the fatherland” can still be defence of democracy, of one’s native language, of political liberty against oppressor nations, against medievalism>> (V.I. Lenin “A caricature of Marxism an imperialist economism” Point 2)
According to this political line of reasoning that we share, the bourgeois democratic right to the "defence of the fatherland” is determined by the objective trend to extend the capitalist relations to a national scale, determination that is weakened and tends to disappear according to the progress of accumulation of capital in its last stage. In a first moment of this process, the various languages and national cultures are nothing more than means that the national bourgeoisies defend and cultivate to give fulfilment to the historical trend of spreading - until turning predominant - the capitalist relations of production in each country, given the historical trend of capital to seize all the existing mass of exploitable work.
But when the mass of capital accumulated in the most advanced countries surpasses the limits of its exploitable autochthonous population - as the metabolism of the salaried work becomes more rapid and intensive - those national surplus capitals become multinational. It is the moment in which the condition of its enlarged reproduction stops from being only the language and the peculiar social idiosyncrasy of its nationality, so that where those already structured capitals transcend its frontiers - not any more to acquire cheap raw materials overseas in exchange for manufactures, but to exploit available foreign labour - what is rational of modern imperialism is not anymore to political and culturally oppress the host country, but the need to adapt to its own laws, language, uses and customs.
From this moment on, the task of completing the formation of the capitalist internal market in peripheral regions of the system is also assumed by foreign capital, and the working class grows until it becomes the absolute majority of the population, thus national self-determination becomes completely compatible with modern imperialism, with the economic colonialism of peripheral countries and, so, perfectly achievable, as we will explain a little later.
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