The question of nationalities and social democracy - Otto Bauer

Austro-Marxist, Otto Bauer's contribution to the problems of the 'national question'. First published in German in 1907, this text has been cited in countless discussions of nationalism, from the writings of Lenin to Benedict Anderson’s 'Imagined Communities'. The issues Bauer addressed almost a century ago still challenge current debates on diversity and minority rights. Bauer advocated an early concept of multiculturalism and called for a system of self-determination for ethnic communities in which extensive autonomy would be granted within a confederal, multicultural state - Bauer's words, a "United States of Europe", with remarkable similarities to the contemporary European Union.

Submitted by Craftwork on August 31, 2016


Alias Recluse

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Alias Recluse on August 31, 2016

Thank you for uploading this book. An important contribution.

There is a text by Pannekoek published in 1912 that was in part inspired by, and in part a critique of, Bauer's book. A translation of Pannekoek's pamphlet is available on Libcom (see: Here is an excerpt:

"This, then, is our position in regard to Bauer's study: in other times, the nation played no role at all in the theory and practice of social democracy. There was no reason to take it into consideration; in most countries it is of no use to the class struggle to pay any attention to the national question. Obliged to do so by Austria's situation Bauer has filled this gap. He has demonstrated that the nation is neither the product of the imagination of a few literati nor is it the artificial product of nationalist propaganda; with the tool of Marxism he has shown that it has sunk its material roots into history and he has explained the necessity and the power of national ideas by the rise of capitalism. And the nation stands revealed as a powerful reality with which we must come to terms in our struggle; he gives us the key to understand the modern history of Austria, and we must thus answer the following question: what is the influence of the nation and nationalism on the class struggle, how must it be assessed in the class struggle? This is the basis and the guiding thread of the works of Bauer and the other Austrian Marxists. But with this approach, the task is only half-finished. For the nation is not simply a self-contained and complete phenomenon whose effect on the class struggle must be ascertained: it is itself in turn subjected to the influence of contemporary forces, among which the proletariat's revolutionary struggle for emancipation is increasingly tending to become a factor of the first order. What effect, then, does the class struggle, the rise of the proletariat, for its part exercise upon the nation? Bauer has not examined this question, or he has done so in an insufficient manner; the study of this issue leads, in many cases, to judgments and conclusions which diverge from those he provided."