Manual The Bolsheviks and the National Question, 1917–23

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As such, moderate socialist scepticism regarding worldwide anti-capitalist upheaval, far from being a neutral analysis, was a political intervention and to a significant degree a self-fulfilling prophecy. Put simply, the Bolsheviks were in favour of the former but not the latter until revolution in the West. Disputing bourgeois ownership or administration of the workplace was not the goal—indeed, the word kontrol in Russia actually translates better as supervision or checking.

The goal was to ensure that the bosses respected the rights of employees and, above all, that they did not continue to dislocate and sabotage production. In his classic study, S. In a context marked by the rapid dislocation of industry and a capitalist offensive against the committees, workplaces across the empire were the sites of bitter battles for authority throughout the Fall. Indeed, the mutual intransigence of workers and bosses pushed the workplace struggle further and faster than even most Bolshevik leaders, including Lenin, had desired.

Indeed, Lenin and the Bolshevik leadership for months after October sought to reach some sort of working arrangement with the owners of industry. Nevertheless, as Trotsky had predicted in , upon leading workers to power the Bolsheviks were compelled to go much further than they had initially planned. Though there was likely no other viable option in the given context, this wave of Soviet nationalisations deepened the catastrophic collapse of production and played a central role in the massive growth of a privileged state bureaucracy. And ultimately it was this question that was decisive for the course of the revolution and for practical party politics.

Though my preceding analysis has overlapped in important respects with the pioneering work of Lars Lih, in my view his stress on the continuity of Bolshevism in has led him to minimise the importance of this debate. Ever since the Bolsheviks had insisted on the need for a Soviet government of workers and peasants, without specifying which class and its corresponding party should be hegemonic in such a power. Crucially, this meant that Bolshevik strategy could be concretised in a number of different directions.

In contrast, Trotsky argued that the proletariat had to be the hegemonic current within any government capable of leading the democratic revolution to victory. From onwards, Bolsheviks at different times projected distinct concrete governmental visions for the democratic revolution. It is generally overlooked that these sometimes included support for a form of proletarian state hegemony virtually identical to that of Trotsky. For most of , the Bolsheviks upheld this open-ended approach regarding whether proletarian Bolshevik governmental leadership would prove to be necessary for the victory of the democratic revolution or whether the petty-bourgeois moderate socialists——Mensheviks and SRs—could be compelled to break with the bourgeoisie.

Underlying the ambiguities of the April resolutions was the fact that a wide range of different views had been articulated during the conference. This stance pointed in the direction of proletarian hegemony in revolutionary government, a form of power that Lenin tended throughout to describe as a government of workers and poor peasants. Throughout the year, the defining attribute of Bolshevik moderates was that they were the most consistently oriented towards winning the SRs and Mensheviks to jointly form a broad multi-party socialist government. There were compelling reasons to orient in this direction.

Since the working class was a minority in Russia, a politically broad Soviet government seemed to offer the best possible prospects for cementing a worker-peasant alliance and a solidly majoritarian social base against the bourgeoisie. The Bolsheviks lacked strong rural support and rural class differentiation apart from Latvia was far less prevalent than Lenin claimed in April.

The approach of Bolshevik moderates, in other words, differed considerably from the Mensheviks and it should not be lightly dismissed as doctrinairism or reformism. These distinct Bolshevik expectations coexisted well past April. Given the ambiguities of the April party discussions, and the fact that Lenin himself did not deny the potential for a SR-Menshevik rupture with the liberals, the Bolsheviks overwhelmingly continued to conceive of and agitate for Soviet power within a strategic framework open to all eventualities about its potential class leadership.

Neither the post-April internal discussions nor the party press indicate that the Bolsheviks were specifically oriented towards establishing Soviet power through first winning a majority for their party. Bolshevik agitation for this demand was not primarily a tactical ruse to expose their rivals, but a serious push to form a broad non-capitalist power committed to meeting the demands of working people. But the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries feared to break with the bourgeoisie, [they] turned their backs on us.

To preserve the authority of the Soviet as a representative of the Revolution, and to secure for it a continuance of its functions as a directive power, is now within the power only of the present minority of the Soviet. The first major break within Bolshevik approaches to Soviet power came not in April, but after the July Days.

Without that the victory of the revolution is impossible. But on the whole this line proved to be far more disputed in the Bolshevik leadership and ranks than the April Theses. But top Bolshevik leaders at the Sixth Congress sharply disputed the call for a proletarian seizure of power independent of the Soviets, as well as the related description of the revolution as socialist in nature. Dropping the fight to transform the Soviets into organs of power, in their view, dangerously risked isolating the party and the working class.

They insisted that it was premature to write off the current Soviets and the alliance with the petty-bourgeois masses that these bodies represented. This revealing discussion has largely been overlooked in the historiography since it contradicts the prevailing misunderstanding of the demand for Soviet power. It is highly instructive to examine the reaction of the party as a whole to the new line espoused by Lenin and in more attenuated form the Sixth Congress. This was the case not only in the main provincial and borderland cities, but also in Moscow and Petrograd.

The defeat of Kornilov at the hands of a broad multi-party resistance in late August radically changed the political situation. Contrary to what Lenin had been insisting for the past month, the anti-Kornilov struggle had demonstrated that the existing Soviets were not obsolete and that the SRs and Mensheviks had not definitively subordinated themselves to the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie.

In the wake of this united victory it seemed to many across the political spectrum that the Soviet leadership would finally break with the liberals. Then break with the Kerensky government, support the Soviets in their struggle for power, and there will be unity. But the SR-Menshevik leaderships—despite the strong growth of anti-coalition wings within both parties—set up yet another government with the liberals.

Only days after the Bolshevik leadership made their proposed compromise to the moderate socialists, a major new development entered into the political equation: the Bolsheviks for the first time won the leadership of the Petrograd and Moscow Soviets. Soviets across the empire soon followed.

Now that the Bolsheviks were the strongest current within these bodies, the demand for Soviet power took on a whole new political content. A Soviet government henceforth likely meant a Bolshevik-led government; in terms of Bolshevik class analysis, it would be a regime in which the proletariat was the hegemonic force. Had the moderate socialists agreed to accept the legitimacy of such a Bolshevik-led Soviet regime, its broad social base would have represented the vast majority of the population. Most people continued to envision Soviet power as a multi-party regime representing workers, peasants, soldiers, the left intelligentsia and their political representatives.

But the continued opposition of the SRs and Mensheviks to Soviet power raised the spectre that a Bolshevik-led Soviet government might be primarily or exclusively based on the working class. Left wings in the SR and Mensheviks were growing, but it was unclear where their political allegiances would ultimately fall. In this context, the assumption of power by the Soviets without the agreement of other socialist currents brought with it the potential danger of proletarian isolation and civil war.

In such a context, the political success of the Bolsheviks required that they challenge the moderates for the mantle of unity. Like Lenin, the party majority now wagered that upon assuming power they would subsequently be able to win over the broad mass of peasants, a dynamic hopefully foreshadowed by the growing Bolshevik-Left SR collaboration. Instead, the Bolsheviks under the leadership of Trotsky sought to promote the overthrow of the government through a more cautious and defensive approach that would tie armed actions to legitimacy of the Soviet, its institutions, and its Second Congress.

Ultimately, it was the latter method that prevailed, though it would appear that Lenin played an important role in pushing these ongoing military manoeuvres into a more offensive mode a few hours before the Second Congress opened on 25 October. As is well known, a minority of two in the Bolshevik Central Committee, Kamenev and Zinoviev, voted against the October 10 resolution and proceeded to argue against an armed uprising in the non-Bolshevik press.

The essence of their case—which was shared by many Bolshevik party cadres across the empire—was that the proletariat and its party was still too weak and isolated for an armed conquest of power to succeed. As the preceding months of debates had demonstrated, there was no obvious answer to the question of if and when attempts to reach an agreement with the moderate socialists should be abandoned. Lenin, Trotsky, the Bolshevik Central Committee had not abandoned the latter goal, but its realisation in practice was now based more on a wager on future developments than on a political certainty. Perhaps the main criticism to be levelled against Kamenev and Zinoviev is that they failed to make a political turn when conditions warranted it.

Though they pointed to real political dilemmas and dangers, their initial opposition to the uprising cannot be reduced to a simple difference in tactics. Their tendency towards treating an alliance with moderate socialists as a precondition for Soviet government threatened to subordinate the Bolsheviks to political forces who themselves remained subordinate to Capital.

By mid-October the other top Bolshevik leaders had become convinced that the establishment of a proletarian-led Soviet government was necessary and possible despite the opposition of the SRs and Mensheviks and the related threat of Civil War. Side by side with the dynastic-conservative opposition to Austria of the Piedmontese, there was also a radical and revolutionary nationalist movement, involving a heterogeneous mixture of republicans, democrats and socialists.

These forces were present in every state of Italy as well as in exile. The most visible representative of this trend was Mazzini, whose confused and amorphous ideas corresponded to the nature of the movement he represented. By contrast, Cavour, who stood at the head of the independent North Italian state of Piedmont, was a wily and unprincipled manoeuverer. In a typical diplomatic intrigue, he first got the permission of Britain and France to join them in their Crimean expedition against Russia in Then, secretly promising the French emperor Napoleon III the territorial concession of Nice and Savoy, Cavour obtained a treaty pledging the French to come to the aid of Piedmont, in the event of hostilities with Austria.

The war broke out in and was the starting-point for the unification of Italy. There were uprisings in all the Italian duchies and Papal states.

Together with the French, the Piedmontese troops won a signal victory against Austria at Solferino. The unification of Italy seemed to be imminent. But that did not correspond to the interests of Louis Bonaparte, who promptly signed an armistice with the retreating Austrian armies, thus abandoning the Piedmontese and revolutionaries to their fate. Finally, the Italian war of liberation was saved by the uprising in Sicily which greeted the landing of Garibaldi's expeditionary force of 1, red-shirted volunteers.

After winning the battle for Sicily, Garibaldi's rebel force invaded Southern Italy and made a triumphal entry into Naples. Italian unity was thus brought about by revolutionary means from below, but the fruits were harvested elsewhere. The perpetual intriguer Cavour persuaded London and Paris that it would be better to accept the rule of a conservative Piedmont over a united Italy than to wait for all Italy to fall under the control of revolutionists and republicans. The army of Piedmontese dynastic reaction marched into Naples unopposed.

Garibaldi, instead of fighting them, opened the gates and greeted the King of Piedmont, Victor Emmanuel, on October 26, hailing him as "King of Italy". Thus, the people of Italy only won one half a victory, instead of the complete triumph over the old order which they had paid for with their blood. Instead of a republic, Italy got a constitutional monarchy. Instead of a democracy, it got a limited franchise which excluded 98 per cent of the people from voting.

The Pope was allowed to continue his rule in the Papal states a concession to Louis Bonaparte. Yet, despite this, the unification of Italy was a giant step forward. All Italy was united, except for Venice, which remained under Austrian control, and the Papal states. In , Italy joined Prussia in its war against Austria and received Venice as a reward. Finally, after the defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian war the French troops were withdrawn from Rome. The entry of the Italian army into that city marked the final victory of Italian unification.

By the latter half of the 19th century, the national question in Western Europe had largely been resolved. With the unification of Germany and Italy, after the national question in Europe appeared to be confined to Eastern Europe and, in a particularly explosive sense, in the Balkans where it was inextricably entangled with the territorial ambitions and rivalries of Russia, Turkey, Austro-Hungary and Germany, a fact that led inexorably to the First World War.

During the first period—approximately from to —the national question still played a relatively progressive role in Western Europe. Even the unification of Germany under the reactionary Junker Bismarck was considered as a progressive development by Marx and Engels, as we have seen. But already by the second half of the 19th century the development of the productive forces under capitalism was beginning to outgrow the narrow limitations of the nation state. This was already manifested in the development of imperialism and the irresistible tendency towards war between the major powers.

The Balkan wars of marked the completion of the formation of the national states of south-eastern Europe. The First World War and the Treaty of Versailles which was held, incidentally, under the slogan of the "right of nations to self-determination" finished the job by dismantling the Austro-Hungarian empire and granting independence to Poland. The national question has a very long history in the theoretical arsenal of Marxism. Already in the writings of Marx and Engels, we can find some very interesting and penetrating remarks on the national question. Lenin later based himself also on those writings in working out his own classical theory of nationalities.

For example, Marx examined in great detail the question of Poland and Ireland which throughout the 19th century occupied the attention of the European workers' movement. It is interesting to see that Marx, who approached the national question not as a shibboleth, but dialectically, changed his position in relation to both issues. The difference between revolutionary dialectics and abstract thinking was strikingly shown in the debates that took place on the national question between Marx and Proudhon at the time of the First International. Proudhon, the French socialist and precursor of anarchism, denied the existence of the national question.

Throughout the history of the movement there have always been sectarians who present an abstract conception of the class struggle. They do not proceed from the concrete reality of society as it exists, but they move in the lifeless abstractions of their own imaginary world. The Proudhonists on the General Council of the First International considered the struggles of the Poles, Italians and Irish for national emancipation to be unimportant. All that was necessary was a revolution in France, and all would be perfect; everyone must wait. But oppressed people cannot wait, and they will not wait.

In Marx wrote to Engels denouncing the "Proudhonist clique" in Paris which "…declares nationalities to be an absurdity and attacks Bismarck and Garibaldi. As polemics against chauvinism their tactics are useful and explicable. But when the believers in Proudhon my good friends here, Lafargue and Longuet also belong to them think that all Europe can and should sit quietly and peacefully until the gentlemen in France abolish poverty and ignorance—they become ridiculous. Henceforth referred to as MESC. On the General Council of the First International or International Workingmen's Association IWA , Marx had to fight on two fronts; on the one hand against the petit-bourgeois nationalists like Mazzini, and on the other hand against the semi-anarchist followers of Proudhon who denied the existence of the national question altogether.

On June 20th, , Marx wrote: "Yesterday there was a discussion in the International Council on the present war… The discussion wound up, as was to be expected, with 'the question of nationality' in general and the attitude we take towards it… The representatives of 'Young France' non-workers came out with the announcement that all nationalities and even nations were antiquated prejudices.

Proudhonised Stirnerism… The whole world waits until the French are ripe for a social revolution…" But although Marx and Engels gave due consideration to the national question, as against Proudhon, they always considered it as subordinate to "the labour question" —that is, they always considered it exclusively from the point of view of the working class and the socialist revolution.

Like Lenin, Marx had a very flexible position on the national question, which he always approached from the standpoint of the general interests of the proletariat and the international revolution. At one stage in the s, s and s, Marx advocated not just the right of self-determination for Poland, but outright independence. This was in spite of the fact that the independence movement in Poland at the time was led by the reactionary Polish aristocrats.

But the reason why Marx took that position was not some sentimental attachment to nationalism, and least of all because he saw the right of self-determination as some kind of universal panacea. In one of his last works, The Foreign Policy of Russian Tsarism , Engels points out that the Polish people, by their heroic struggles against tsarist Russia, on several occasions saved the revolution in the rest of Europe, as in when Poland was defeated by Russia but saved the French revolution. But there was another side to the Polish question. Since the beginning of the century it had existed only, as the Poles themselves said, through disorder…; the whole country was commonly occupied by foreign troops, who used it as an eating and drinking house…in which they usually forgot to pay.

Henceforth referred to as MECW. Throughout the 19th century, the question of Poland occupied a central place in European politics and also deeply affected the working class movement. In January the Poles rose in revolt. The insurrection spread all over Poland and led to the formation of a national government. But the leadership of the insurrection was in the hands of the lesser nobility who were incapable of arousing the masses to participate in the revolt. When power passed into the hands of the big landowners, the latter, hoping for diplomatic intervention from France and Britain, reached a deal with the tsar—which he promptly broke.

The movement was crushed by the Russians. Naturally, the British and French did not lift a finger. But the Polish revolt aroused the sympathy and solidarity of the workers of Europe. The First International was set up in directly as a result of an international initiative to assist the revolutionary movement of the Poles. Engels pointed out that the only hope for the Polish insurrection was the working class of Europe: "If they hold out," he wrote to Marx on 11 June , "they may yet be involved in a general European movement which will save them; on the other hand if things go badly Poland will be finished for ten years—an insurrection of this kind exhausts the fighting strength of the population for many years.

Marx's attitude to the Polish question was determined by his general revolutionary strategy for world revolution. At that time tsarist Russia was the main enemy of the working class and democracy—a monstrous reactionary force in Europe, particularly in Germany. Since there was no working class in Russia at that time, there was no immediate possibility of revolution in Russia. As Lenin later expressed it, "Russia was still dormant and Poland was seething". Therefore Marx supported Polish independence as a means of striking a blow against the main enemy, Russian tsarism.

But by Marx had drawn pessimistic conclusions about "knightly-indolent" Poland, that is to say, he was sceptical about the prospects of success for insurrections led by the Polish aristocracy.

The Bolsheviks and Islam

From this alone it is absolutely clear that for both Marx and Lenin the demand for self-determination and the national question in general always occupied a subordinate position to the class struggle and the perspective of the proletarian revolution. It was never an absolute obligation for Marxists to support each and every movement for self-determination. The same Marx who originally supported Polish independence was radically opposed to the independence of the Czechs and was also opposed to the so-called liberation movements in the Balkans in the latter half of the 19th century.

These two apparently contradictory positions were, in fact, motivated by the self-same revolutionary considerations. Marx understood that, whereas a victory of the Poles would have represented a blow against Russian tsarism which would have revolutionary implications, the national movement of the South Slavs was used by tsarism as a tool of its expansionist policy in the Balkans. As so often occurs in history, the struggles of small nations were used as small change for the manoeuvres by a reactionary big power.

Whoever fails to grasp this side of the national question will inevitably fall into a reactionary trap. At the end of his life, Engels, with extraordinary far-sightedness, predicted revolutionary upheavals in Russia: "And here we come to the very kernel of the matter. The internal development of Russia since , furthered by the Government itself, has done its work. The social revolution has made great strides. Russia is daily becoming more and more occidentalised; modern manufactures, steam, railways, the transformation of all payments in kind into money payments, and with this the crumbling of the old foundations of society are developing with ever greater speed.

But in the same degree is also evolving the incompatibility of despotic tsardom with the new society in course of formation. Opposition parties are forming—constitutional and revolutionary—which the Government can only master by means of increasing brutality. And Russian diplomacy sees with horror the day on which the Russian people will demand to be heard, and when the settlement of their own internal affairs will leave them neither time nor wish to concern themselves with such puerilities as the conquest of Constantinople, of India and of the supremacy of the world.

The revolution of that halted on the Polish frontier, is now knocking at the door of Russia and it now has, within, plenty of allies who can only wait the right moment to throw open that door to it. What extraordinary lines! As early as —15 years before the first Russian revolution, and 27 years before October—Engels was predicting these great events, and also linking the fate of the national question in Europe to the Russian revolution.

Events showed that Engels was right. As Lenin later explained, from the s onward the slogan of Polish independence was not an appropriate slogan because of the development of the working class in Russia raised the prospect of revolution in Russia itself. Under the influence of Marx and Engels the First International took a principled internationalist stand on all the fundamental issues.

The International's position was not merely theoretical but also practical. For example, during a strike in one country, members of the International would agitate and explain the issues in other countries to prevent the use of foreign scabs. As we have already seen, one of the central problems facing the working class in the first half of the 19th century was the unification of Germany. Marx and Engels were compelled to give critical support to the unification of Germany, even though this objectively progressive act was carried out by reactionary means by Bismarck. But in no sense did this signify a capitulation to Bismarck or the abandonment of a class position.

The First International initially regarded the Franco-Prussian war of as a defensive struggle of Germany. That was undoubtedly correct. The reactionary Bonapartist regime of Napoleon III was intent upon blocking Germany's national unification by the use of force. But he miscalculated. The Prussian army cut through the demoralised French forces like a hot knife through butter. The case of the Franco-Prussian war is a good example of Marx's flexible and revolutionary position on the national question. He gave critical support to Prussia in the first phase of the war, when it had a strictly defensive character.

Here Marx's position was determined, not by superficial or sentimental considerations he hated the reactionary Prussian Bismarck , but strictly from the standpoint of the interests of the proletariat and the international revolution. On the one hand, the victory of Prussia would bring about the unification of Germany—an historically progressive task. On the other hand, the defeat of France would mean the overthrow of the Bonapartist regime of Louis Bonaparte, opening up the perspective of revolutionary developments in France.

It would also represent a blow against Russian tsarism which was basing itself on the Bonapartist government in Paris to keep Germany weak and divided. That is why Marx initially supported Prussia in its war with France, despite the fact that a Prussian victory would have the effect of strengthening Bismarck—at least for a time. But this general statement does not exhaust the question of the Marxist attitude to war.

At all times it is necessary to approach the national question from a class point of view. Even when a particular national struggle has a progressive content, it is always necessary for the proletariat to maintain its class independence from the bourgeoisie. In the course of the war Marx changed his position. Once Louis Bonaparte had been overthrown in October and a republic had been declared in France, the character of the war on Prussia's part changed from a war of national liberation to an aggressive campaign directed against the people of France.

It ceased to have a progressive character and Marx therefore denounced it. The seizure of Alsace-Lorraine by Prussia was likewise a thoroughly reactionary act which could not be justified by referring to the progressive task of uniting Germany. It merely served to stir up national hatreds between France and Germany and prepare the ground for the imperialist slaughter of The defeat of the French army led immediately to revolution in France and the glorious episode of the Paris Commune.

Marx had advised the workers of Paris to wait, but once they took action he immediately threw himself into the defence of the Paris Commune. At this point the nature of the war was transformed. The national question for Marx was always subordinate to the class struggle the "labour question". The correctness of this position is revealed in mirror-image by the conduct of the ruling class in every war. No matter how great the degree of national antagonism between the ruling class of warring states, they will always unite to defeat the workers.

Thus, the Prussian generals stood aside while their enemies, the reactionary Versaillese forces, attacked Paris and slaughtered the Communards. As with Poland, so on the question of Ireland Marx's position was also determined exclusively by revolutionary considerations. While naturally sympathising with the oppressed Irish people, Marx always subjected the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois nationalist leaders to an implacable criticism.

From the beginning, Marx and Engels explained that the national liberation of Ireland was inseparably linked to the question of social emancipation, particularly to a revolutionary solution to the land problem. This far-sighted analysis has a great bearing on the national liberation struggle in general, and not only in Ireland. In a letter to Eduard Bernstein dated June 26 , Engels pointed out that the Irish movement consisted of two trends: the radical agrarian movement that erupted into spontaneous peasant direct action and found its political expression in the revolutionary democracy, and "the liberal-national opposition of the urban bourgeoisie".

This is true of the peasant movement in all periods. It can only succeed to the degree that it finds a leadership in the urban centres. Under modern conditions, that means either the bourgeoisie or the proletariat. But the bourgeoisie has demonstrated throughout history its total inability to solve any of the fundamental problems posed by the bourgeois-democratic revolution—including the problem of national independence.

Ireland is the classic example of this. At the heart of the position of Marx and Engels was the perspective of a voluntary federation of Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales. And this perspective was always linked to the perspective of the workers taking power. This, in turn, demanded the unconditional defence of the unity of the working class.

Thus, Engels wrote in January Only after these six points are won will the Repeal [of the Union] have any advantage for Ireland. From the very first, Marx and Engels waged an implacable struggle against the Irish middle-class nationalist liberals like Daniel O'Connell, whom they denounced as a charlatan and a betrayer of the Irish people.

Later on, they gave critical support, for a time, to the petty-bourgeois Fenians. This was natural and correct at a time when the workers' movement did not yet exist in Ireland which remained an overwhelmingly agrarian society until the early years of the 20th century. But Marx and Engels never acted as the cheer-leaders of the Fenians but always adopted an independent class position.

They severely criticised the adventurist tactics of the Fenians, their terrorist tendencies, their national narrowness and their refusal to accept the need to link up with the English workers' movement.

Joseph Stalin

Despite the fact that the Fenians were the most advanced wing of the Irish revolutionary democratic movement, and even showed socialist inclinations, Marx and Engels did not have any illusions in them. On November 29th, , Engels wrote to Marx:. The beastliness of the English must not make us forget that the leaders of this sect are mostly asses and partly exploiters and we cannot in any way make ourselves responsible for the stupidities which occur in every conspiracy.

And they are certain to happen. Engels was soon proved right. Just two weeks later, on the 13th December , a group of Fenians set off an explosion in London's Clerkenwell Prison in an unsuccessful attempt to free their imprisoned comrades. The explosion destroyed several neighbouring houses and wounded people. Predictably, the incident unleashed a wave of anti-Irish feeling in the population. The following day Marx wrote indignantly to Engels:. The London masses, who have shown great sympathy for Ireland, will be made wild by it and driven into the arms of the government party. One cannot expect the London proletariat to allow themselves to be blown up in honour of the Fenian emissaries.

There is always a kind of fatality about such a secret, melodramatic sort of conspiracy. A few days later, on December 19th, Engels replied as follows: "The stupid affair in Clerkenwell was obviously the work of a few specialised fanatics; it is the misfortune of all conspiracies that they lead to such stupidities, because 'after all, something must happen, after all something must be done'.

In particular, there has been a lot of bluster in America about this blowing up and arson business, and then a few asses come and instigate such nonsense. Moreover, these cannibals are generally the greatest cowards, like this Allen, who seems to have already turned Queen's evidence, and then the idea of liberating Ireland by setting a London tailor's shop on fire! If Marx and Engels could write in such withering terms about the Fenians just imagine what they would have said about the terrorist tactics of the IRA over the past 30 years, compared to which the "Clerkenwell atrocity" was mere child's play.

The most reactionary feature about this individual terrorism, which does not weaken the bourgeois state, but only strengthens it, is that it serves to divide the working class and weaken it in the face of the exploiters. This was undoubtedly the weakest point of the Fenians which Engels criticised when he wrote scathingly that "to these gentry the whole labour movement is pure heresy and the Irish peasant must not on any account be allowed to know that the socialist workers are his sole allies in Europe.

Naturally, Marx and Engels defended the Fenian prisoners against ill-treatment by the English state. They always defended the rights of the Irish people to determine their own destiny. But they did this from a socialist and not a nationalist standpoint. As consistent revolutionaries and supporters of proletarian internationalism, Marx and Engels always stressed the link between the fate of Ireland and the perspective of proletarian revolution in England.

In the s and s, Marx thought that Ireland could gain her independence only through the victory of the English working class. Later, in the s, he changed his mind and adopted the standpoint that it was more probable that a victory in Ireland could be the spark that ignited the revolution in England.

Even the most cursory reading of Marx's writings on the Irish question shows that his defence of Irish independence after was determined exclusively by the general interests of the proletarian revolution, above all in England, which he considered the key country for the success of the world revolution. In a confidential communication to members of the General Council, written in March , Marx explains his views thus:. It is the only country where there are no more peasants and where land property is concentrated in a few hands. It is the only country where the capitalist form , i.

It is the only country where the great majority of the population consists of wages labourers. It is the only country where the class struggle and organisation of the working class by the Trades Unions have acquired a certain degree of maturity and universality.

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It is the only country where, because of its domination on the world market, every revolution in economic matters must immediately affect the whole world. If landlordism and capitalism are classical examples in England, on the other hand, the material conditions for their destruction are the most mature here. From this point of view, the Irish national question was only part of the broader picture of the perspective of world socialist revolution. It is impossible to understand Marx's attitude to Ireland outside this context.

The reason why Marx favoured Irish independence after was that he had come to the conclusion that English landed interests, which had their most important base in Ireland, could most easily be defeated by a revolutionary movement based on the Irish peasantry in which the demand for national self-determination was inextricably linked to a radical solution of the land question. In the same memorandum, Marx explained: "If England is the bulwark of landlordism and European capitalism, the only point where one can hit official England really hard is Ireland.

If it fell in Ireland it would fall in England. In Ireland this is a hundred times easier since the economic struggle there is concentrated exclusively on landed property , since this struggle is at the same time national, and since the people there are more revolutionary and exasperated than in England. Landlordism in Ireland is maintained solely by the English army. The moment the forced union between the two countries ends, a social revolution will immediately break out in Ireland, though in outmoded forms.

English landlordism would not only lose a great source of wealth, but also its greatest moral force , i. On the other hand, by maintaining the power of their landlords in Ireland, the English proletariat makes them invulnerable in England itself. The revolutionary fire of the Celtic worker does not go well with the nature of the Anglo-Saxon worker, solid, but slow.

On the contrary, in all the big industrial centres in England there is profound antagonism between the Irish proletariat and the English proletariat. The average English worker hates the Irish worker as a competitor who lowers wages and the standard of life. He feels national and religious antipathies for him. He regards him somewhat like the poor whites of the Southern States of North America regard their black slaves. This antagonism among the proletarians of England is artificially nourished and supported by the bourgeoisie.

It knows that this scission is the true secret of maintaining its power. And Marx concludes: "The General Council's resolutions on the Irish amnesty serve only as an introduction to other resolutions which will confirm that, quite apart from international justice, it is a precondition to the emancipation of the English working class to transform the present forced union i. Note how carefully Marx chooses his words here, and how scrupulously he expresses the proletarian position on the national question. First, the Irish question cannot be seen in isolation from the perspective of the world socialist revolution, of which it is seen as an integral part.

More particularly, it is seen as the starting-point for socialist revolution in England. And afterwards? Marx does not take it for granted that the national liberation struggle in Ireland will necessarily end in separation from Britain. He says that there are two possibilities: either an " equal and free confederation "—which he clearly regards as preferable "if possible" —or " complete separation ", which he considers as possible but not the most desirable outcome.

Which of the two variants would come into being would clearly depend, above all, on the conduct and attitude of the English proletariat and the perspective of a victorious socialist revolution in England itself. Thus, the standpoint of Marx was always that of the proletarian revolution and internationalism.

This, and this alone, was what determined his attitude to the Irish question, and every other manifestation of the national question. For Marx and Engels, the " labour question " was always the central one. It would never have occurred to them to reduce their propaganda and agitation on the Irish question to a simple, one-line slogan like "troops out!

On the contrary, they waged a stubborn struggle against the harmful demagogy of the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois Irish nationalists, and for the revolutionary unity of the Irish and English working class. History has shown that Marx and Engels were correct in their appraisal of the bourgeois and petty bourgeois nationalists in Ireland. In , the Irish nationalist bourgeoisie betrayed the national liberation struggle by agreeing to the partition between North and South.

Ever since then the petty bourgeois nationalists have demonstrated their utter inability to solve the "border question". The tactic of individual terrorism, so sharply criticised by Marx and Engels, has been shown to be both counter-productive and impotent. After 30 years of so-called "armed struggle" in Northern Ireland, the unification of Ireland is further away than ever.

The only way to solve what is left of the national question in Ireland is on the basis of a class, socialist and internationalist policy—the policy of Marx, Lenin and that great proletarian revolutionary and martyr, James Connolly. Only the working class can solve the problem by uniting around a class programme to conduct an implacable struggle against the bourgeoisie in London and Dublin.


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The prior condition for success is the unity of the working class. This can never be achieved on nationalist lines. Petty bourgeois nationalism has done untold damage to the cause of workers' unity in Northern Ireland. The wounds can, and must, be healed. But this can only be done on the basis of a clean break with nationalism and the adoption of class policies, by a revival of the spirit and ideas of Larkin and Connolly. The national question in Ireland will be solved through the socialist transformation of society, or it will not be solved at all.

Launched in the Socialist International, unlike the First International, was composed of mass organisations in the form of the mass Social Democratic parties and the trade unions. The misfortune of the Second International was to be born in a period of prolonged capitalist upswing. In the period world oil output rose two and a half times. The railways expanded two and a half times. Germany and the United States began to challenge the hegemony of Great Britain.

The Bolsheviks and Islam – International Socialism

A scramble began to divide the world into spheres of influence and colonies. The rapid growth of industry also meant a parallel growth of the working class and its organisations in the developed capitalist countries. In the last three decades of the 19th century the working class in the United States and Russia grew by more than three-fold. In Britain the trade unions grew by four times between and In Germany trade union membership grew from tens of thousands to millions.

And parallel to this there was a steady growth in the membership, votes and influence of the mass Social Democratic Parties. But from the outset, although in theory it stood for Marxism, the new International lacked the theoretical clarity that were guaranteed by the presence of Marx and Engels. A clear case of this was its attitude to the national question. The Second International did not really understand the national question, which received an unsatisfactory treatment at its congresses.

In the London congress of the International passed the following resolution:. However, the position of the Second International on the colonial question was ambiguous and vague. The Left tended to an anti-colonialist position, but there were those who were prepared to justify colonialism on the grounds of its alleged "civilising mission". Thus in the debates on the colonial question in the Amsterdam congress of , the Dutch delegate van Kol openly defended colonialism.

He moved a resolution that stated:. The congress gave an enthusiastic welcome to Dadabhai Naoroji, founder and president of the Indian National Congress, but in its resolution on India, while calling for self-rule, specified that India would remain under British sovereignty. It neither endorsed nor rejected the views of van Kol. In the debate on immigration, a racist resolution was moved by the American Hillquit and supported by the Austrians and the Dutch.

But it caused such a storm of protest that it had to be withdrawn. Nevertheless, the fact that such a resolution could be moved in an International congress was a symptom of the pressure of bourgeois and nationalist ideas on the Socialist Parties. The Russian revolution of gave a mighty impulse to the colonial revolution, inspiring the masses to act in defence of their national aspirations in Persia, Turkey, Egypt and India. This served to sharpen the differences in the ranks of the Socialist International on the colonial and national question. At the Stuttgart congress of , where Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg moved their famous amendments on war, there was a sharp struggle between the Lefts in reality centrists represented by Lebedour and the Right, led by the revisionist Eduard Bernstein, on the colonial question.

Many of them were fairly well-off economically, owning homes, cars, farm equipment, and the like. They paid their own way to the Soviet Union, and they emigrated with entire families. For many, the decision was based in politics. It has to be understood that we were the children of idealists. Their idealism was worded in communist ideals—that there should be equality for all. The Finnish-American community in the United States was often politically radical, heavily influenced by left-wing socialist and communist movements.

This trend was rooted, in part, in the Finnish national awakening. The national revival took place from to , a time period corresponding to the main wave of Finnish immigration to America. Their anger at the exploitation they and other immigrants suffered from found its outlet in radical political movements—the labor union movement, socialism, and eventually communism.

In , delegates at a conference in Hibbing, Minnesota, formed the Finnish Socialist Federation and affiliated themselves with the American Socialist party. The initial group was formed from socialist clubs with approximately 2, members. A few years later, in , the Federation had grown to 13, members. There, Finns could dance, watch theater, and absorb and discuss leftist politics. They attended the Finnish halls regularly with their parents, but they also participated in summer camps, demonstrations, protests, and non-religious Finnish Sunday Schools.

The Finnish Socialist Federation on several occasions experienced dissension and even splits. The Federation was strongly influenced by communism after the founding of the Communist Party in the United States. The socialist and communist Finns split over these influences, and communist Finns formed their own Finnish halls. These publications represented a range of political views across the leftist spectrum.

Because newspapers are almost always shared with others, this represents a substantial radical movement within an immigrant community of roughly , Not all Finns in the United States, of course, were members of radical political movements. The movement claimed to be the true voice of Finnish-Americans and asked the mining companies not to judge all Finns as radical.

Department of Immigration deny Finnish socialists entrance to the country. Despite the divisions within the community, speakers traveling among Finnish-American communities to recruit immigrants to Karelia found a welcome there. She recalls that he told Finns in his recruiting speeches that:. Karelia …needs strong workers who know how to chop trees and dig ore and build houses and grow food.

Just workers toiling together for the common good. The vast majority of immigrants arrived in Soviet Karelia in these years; few immigrants arrived after We the undersigned, leaving behind this country of capitalistic exploitation, are headed for the Soviet Union where the working class is in power and where it is building a socialistic society. We appeal to you, comrades, who are staying behind, to rally round communist slogans, to work efficiently to overthrow capitalism and create the foundation of a Republic of Labor.

In order to be accepted to go to Soviet Karelia, potential emigrants did not have to be members of the Communist Party. They only had to be in good health, be willing to work hard and endure difficulties, and receive a reference from a Communist-affiliated organization. It is a matter of some debate within the historical community whether ideology or ethnicity more strongly motivated the Karelian fever.

First, recruiters to Karelia did not target churchgoing, Suomi Synod Finns. The recruiters generally spoke in Finn halls, where radical politics reigned supreme. This seems to indicate that it was not simply Finns who were wanted in Karelia, but a certain kind of Finns—those who would support the aims of the Soviet Union. Second, it was indeed Finnish Communists or Communist sympathizers who were targeted for recruitment. Recruiters did not target any other nationality for settlement in Karelia; they preferred Finns.

Arguing that nationalism was the primary factor, as Pogorelskin does, ignores the fact that most Finns in the United States did not go to Karelia. If nationalism were such a compelling factor, then one would expect a larger portion of the entire Finnish-American community to emigrate. Arguing that political ideology was the dominant motivator, as Hudelson and Sevander do, also leaves something to be desired.

After the Russian Revolution and subsequent Civil War, the victorious Bolsheviks faced two pressing questions: How should they unify the various peoples residing within the boundaries of their new country? Understandably, perhaps, the non-Russian nationalities of the new U. Many nationalities of the U. By , The amount of governmental power ranged from significant Union republics to very limited autonomous soviets.

This complex subdividing of territory was based on the theory that each national minority deserved a territory of its own, and it was by this rationale that Karelia existed as an autonomous republic. In Karelia, however, much of the population was illiterate, and inexperienced at industrial work. Because of the general lack of education among the ethnic Karelian population, Finns—refugees from capitalist Finland and immigrants from North America—dominated the government. They resolved to develop local dialects through improved education and to eventually use standard Finnish throughout the region.

According to the census, the population of the Karelian Workers Commune was , Of these, In , when the area became the Karelian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, several primarily Russian districts were annexed to the republic. This, along with persistent Russian immigration, shifted the population ratio considerably. In , only Gylling persuaded government authorities to recruit Finnish workers from North America and Finland; in this way, much of the culture of the region could be preserved as Finns and Karelians are ethnically similar.

Because many Finnish-Americans were also skilled lumberjacks and industrial workers, their presence would help Karelia fulfill its quotas for the first Five Year Plan. Upon their arrival in Karelia, the Finnish-Americans found a culture that was not very different from the one they had left behind.

The Finns had concert halls, theaters, social clubs, and schools; they could and often did spend most of their time in Finnish-language venues. The Karelian Pedagogical Institute, based in the regional capital of Petrozavodsk, trained teachers for both Finnish-speaking and Russian-speaking middle schools and secondary schools. One such tour in took eight actors by skis on a kilometer trek to isolated settlements and lumber camps.

Petrozavodsk also boasted a Finnish opera company; Jukka Ahti and Katri Lammi, husband and wife singers who had emigrated from the United States, were among its brightest stars. Lauri Hokkanen, another immigrant, was a trumpeter in a ski factory band that was composed primarily of Finnish-Americans. The group was called on to perform at funerals, dances, and civic functions. Despite their achievements, life was not easy for the new arrivals. All the stations were packed with hordes of exiled peasants from the steppes of Russia and the Ukraine…. They were literally dying of starvation before our eyes; rags hung on one, and the silent entreaty of the children was unbearable as they went back and forth through the train begging for bread….

But it was easier to joke about broken eggs than to see broken people and hear their pitiful cries. Faced with the realities of Soviet living conditions, between one-third and one-half of the immigrants returned to America. Those who made it past the train station encountered living conditions far below what they were accustomed to. Most families were initially assigned one spartan room in a barracks; some families even had to share rooms. The barracks had no running water, no indoor plumbing, no central heating, and an abundance of bedbugs and roaches.

Americans working on collective farms in , for example, subsisted on soup and black bread, with occasional porridge or dried fish. They arranged Finnish schools and activities, socialized with other Finns, were active in music and sports in the republic, and were tolerated—even welcomed—by the government. This was not to last.

Changes in nationality policy in the mids marked the beginning of much harder times. Efforts to achieve proportional representation of nationals ceased, the Russian language was emphasized again, national military units were disbanded, and local cadres were punished for nationalism. This dramatic change marked the beginning of the Stalinist terror.

In a address at the 16th Party Congress, Stalin explained:. But there is nothing strange about it. The national cultures must be allowed to develop and unfold, to reveal all their potentialities, in order to create the conditions for merging them into one common culture with one common language in the period of the victory of socialism all over the world. Before cultures could assimilate, Stalin argued, they first paradoxically had to develop on their own. The first step was removing local leaders who were seen as too nationalistic. In and , 1. The purge was especially concentrated in rural areas.

Christianity under the Bolsheviks

Non-Russian republics suffered 12 to 14 percent more expulsions than industrial areas. In , a plenum of the Central Committee in Karelia decreed that local nationalism was the greatest danger in the republic. Kustaa Rovio, the secretary of the Communist Party in Karelia, was ousted from his post that same summer. Edvard Gylling was removed from his post in November of the same year. Accused nationalists, whatever their credentials, were removed from the Party.

Throughout the Soviet Union, similar events occurred as nationality policy shifted. National military units were abolished on March 7, which effectively made Russian the sole language of the Red Army. Until then, the units had made it possible to draft young men who knew no Russian, since the official language of each of these units was the language of the republic which the unit was from.