Imperialism and the national question

8. Imperialism and the national question

Imperialism divides the world into oppressed and oppressor nations. The national liberation struggles against colonialism and neo-colonialism are an essential part of the struggle for socialism. Marx and Engels’ changing analysis of Ireland and its relation to Britain demonstrated how a nation that oppresses another could not itself be free. A pre-condition for the advance of the proletariat in Britain was support for the emancipation of Ireland. This analysis provided a model for Lenin to develop a communist position on the right of nations to self-determination.

The revolutionary waves that have swept throughout the twentieth century demonstrate the significance of the struggle for self-determination and the national democratic revolution in the struggle for socialism: China, Yugoslavia, Korea, VietNam, Cuba and Southern Africa. Communists must, if they are to remain communists, give the national liberation struggle support for we face the same enemy and ultimately have the same goal.

Opportunists impose conditions on support for national liberation movements and seek to deny the revolutionary and democratic content of the struggles and the role of the working class and oppressed within them. More often than not the left will ignore these movements or dismiss them as irrelevant or invalid. This has particularly been the case with the Irish republican movement.

National liberation movements combine different social and class forces. Communists support the movements and try to strengthen their working class and socialist content. This is an essential step if such movements are to achieve their objective: where bourgeois forces remain ascendant, they will seek a compromise with imperialism, as in Palestine or South Africa.


Lenin: The rights of nations to self-determination

David Reed: Ireland - the key to the British revolution, Larkin Books, Chapters 1 and 2.

RCG: Manifesto of the Revolutionary Communist Group - Part 2 pp35-50

FRFI 170: Class and the national liberation struggle in Palestine

FRFI 134 & 35: Israel: Its role in the Middle East

FRFI 62: Communists and the South African Revolution

FRFI 52: Communists and national liberation movements: same goal, different paths

Supplementary reading

Lenin: A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism

Imperialism, National Oppression and the New Petit Bourgeoisie by David Yaffe, Editorial Revolutionary Communist 9 June 1979

The Holocaust industry by Jaqui Kaye, from Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 157

Yugoslavia: The shape of wars to come Editorial from Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 148


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