The Right of Nations to Self Determination

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Alexander Roxwell
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Jan 27 2011 03:54
The Right of Nations to Self Determination

I have been posting some of my thoughts on the the right of nations to self determination on topics that already exist and this has irritated a number of people because they feel I am changing the subject they opened up or at least steering it off in a direction they do not wish it to go. So I am now creating my own here.

I support the right of nations to self determination. I support the right of the Kurdish people to an independent country of Kurdistan. I support the right of the Palestinian people to their own country altho I really think that they cannot settle for some bantustan surrounded by Israel. I support the right of the people of Eire, including the people of Northern Ireland, to have their own country outside the orbit of England. Mostly I support the right of Third World peoples to independence from their colonial or neo-colonial overlords and this has caused many people to call me a Maoist, which I am not.

I would like people to post their views on the right of nations to self-determination here on this topic. I got the idea from the Ireland topic that there were people who thought that while the principle of the right of nations to self determination is sound that it did not apply to Ireland altho no one said that specifically. I am most interested in hearing from people who believe that any claims of any people to the right of nationhood is "nationalism" and "nationalism" is by definition reactionary and that we should never, under any circumstances support it. I am less interested is hearing how "the Maoists" or "the Trotskyists" or "the Pabloite revisionists" support the right of nations to self determination as a cynical ploy to ..........................................

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devoration1
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Jan 27 2011 04:38
Quote:
I am most interested in hearing from people who believe that any claims of any people to the right of nationhood is "nationalism" and "nationalism" is by definition reactionary and that we should never, under any circumstances support it.

I feel this way as it applies to the present (meaning I do not support the right of the Kurds, Basques, Southern Sudanese, Tamil's, etc to an independant nation-state). I think the turning point where 'national liberation' & 'right of nations to self-determination' went from a (possibly) progressive event/cause for the proletariat to support alongside the revolutionary national bourgeoisie to being simply a tool of national imperialism to extend ones sphere of influence at the expense of another as being around the turn of the 20th century. At the latest, the period around WWI; the debates between Luxemburg and Lenin are very, very instructive on this point. Luxemburg being against 'the right of nations to self-determination' and National Liberation generally (based largely on her experiences in Polish Social Democracy and the Polish nationalist movement) and Lenin being for it (later put into practice via Soviet foreign policy through the Comintern- for example China, Turkey, Gilan/Iran, Georgia, Ukraine, etc).

EDIT:

Here's a link to an article from the International Socialist Review (published by the ridiculous ISO), though it appears to highlight the debate between the two regarding this point well:

Quote:

The first part of this article appeared in ISR 13 (August-September 2000). The article discussed Marx' and Engels' approach to the national struggles of their day and summarized the important debates on nationalism that took place at the 1903 Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party. Lenin's position that socialists are duty-bound "to conduct an implacable struggle" against all those who at any time "defend or sanction national oppression or the denial of the right of nations to self-determination" was explained in detail. The Bolshevik Party understood self-determination as the right to secession. Yet the idea that self-determination expresses a political right, instead of an economic or cultural right, led Lenin into heated debates. From one side, Otto Bauer and the Austro-Marxists advocated a cultural interpretation of the right to self-determination. From the other, Rosa Luxemburg and the Polish Marxists argued that capitalist economic development had eliminated the very possibility of self-determination. Part One ended with Lenin's criticisms of Bauer and cultural nationalism. Part Two begins with the debate between Lenin and Luxemburg.

http://www.isreview.org/issues/14/marxism_nationalism_part2.shtml

Samotnaf
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Jan 27 2011 05:58
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I support the right of the Kurdish people to an independent country of Kurdistan.

Which Kurds exactly? Those of the nationalist parties that collaborated with Saddam Hussein when they weren't at war with him, and then collaborated with the US? Check out this..

The ideology of self-determination has nothing to do with the reality of it. Used by Woodrow Wilson after WWI, it has nothing to do with the determination of the masses of selves to determine their own lives - as has been said a million tilmes before, it's just an ideology of would-be ruling classes, in conflict with the dominant imperialist forces, aiming to develop national capital, against and independently of these forces. But even at that level it ends up submissive to global capital (eg Vietnam, where MacDonalds can super-exploit the super-poor decades after the inauguration of "self-determination").

There are no half-ways to the emancipation of the working class - it's always the task of the working class itself. Always.

Jason Cortez
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Jan 27 2011 08:00

First off, what are these 'Nations' you talk of, how are you defining them. And secondly where do they gain these rights from, who confers them upon these 'Nations'. Human Rights only have meaningful value for individuals in as far as they can be enforced, but at least they refer to living beings not abstract constructs.

LBird
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Jan 27 2011 10:27

Let's keep this civilised, eh? And try to get to the heart of the disagreement, and leave off the abuse, personal and political.

Alexander Roxwell wrote:
I support the right of the people of Eire, including the people of Northern Ireland, to have their own country outside the orbit of England.

The problem here, Alexander, is that the state of Eire is a historic product, consisting of 26 of the counties of the island of Ireland. It doesn't include the other 6 counties of Northern Ireland. The majority of the people of Northern Ireland don't want to be part of Eire. In any free vote, Northern Ireland would choose to be part of 'England' (in your terms, the 'UK' actually).

Now, we all know that the British throughout history in all their colonies have used 'divide and rule' tactics. And that the Eire/NI split is a historic product of that strategy. Unless we use class analysis to unpick the creation of all nation-states, we end up 'supporting' bourgeois-created categories, like 'the Irish', 'the Ulstermen' [and before anyone can't control themselves, I know Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal are in the South; 'Ulster' is both a 9 county geographic province and a 6 county political gerrymander, Alexander], 'the Kurds' etc.

Alexander Roxwell wrote:
Mostly I support the right of Third World peoples to independence from their colonial or neo-colonial overlords...

But, in reality, 'independence' means, not 'peoples independence' but 'Third World workers having Third World overlords' - 'overlords' come in all shapes and sizes, indigenous as well as colonial.

'Independence', without class content, is a liberal construct, not a Communist one, for a nation-state.

Samotnaf wrote:
There are no half-ways to the emancipation of the working class - it's always the task of the working class itself. Always.

But what happens if 'the working class' of a Third World country (under the influence of bourgeois historical development and ideas) freely choose to be 'Kurdish' or 'Vietnamese'? Of course, we know it'll all end in tears, perhaps in 40 years when the reality of capitalist development removes any 'national/linguistic' illusions that those workers had, but what happens in the meantime? I think Alexander would say we should (critically?) support those workers who organise and fight, even if temporarily they aren't fully class conscious, because the alternative is to abstain from real-life politics, which are always messy.

Do we only, as I ventured on the other thread on Ireland, only support already class conscious workers? Is all we can do is to offer propaganda? I'm unsure myself where this argument is going.

What should be our Communist tactics for the 'Irish' workers, 'Kurdish' workers, etc.?

Further thought for Alexander

Why should a geographical island provide the borders for a nation-state?

In history, the sea, not the land provided the means of both communication and political organisation. There was a thalassocracy spread over western Scotland and northern Ireland. And Ancient Greece was centred upon the Aegean Sea, hence the Greek cities and culture on western Asia Minor. The Frogs?

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Joseph Kay
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Jan 27 2011 12:10

The whole concept has nothing to do with any kind of broadly socialist politics. It comes from liberalism and bourgeois revolutions. It gets imported via Lenin to plug the gap left by Marx not really theorising international relations (which is why he can so easily synthesise the liberal Hobson with the Marxist Bukharin), and completely fucks his analysis by shifting the protagonists from classes to nations (he even talks of 'nations' "exploiting" one another, a non-sequitur in Marxian terminology).

The whole modern concept of a nation, let alone 'national self-determination' doesn't even exist until the French Revolution (although it retrospectively gets projected back to Westphalia, the parties there were Princes not 'nations'). It's thoroughly bourgeois in origin and purpose; to create a unity within a population congruent with a bourgeois state. Subsequently the period of formal colonialism made the idea attractive to those in the colonies, the more sophisticated of whom (Fanon etc) saw it was a way to fight colonialism on it's own terms, seeing a violent struggle for national sovereignty as both emancipatory and formative of a national community.

And what happened? Uniformly new post-colonial elites took power in the name of the nation, and continued to lack 'self-determination' in any meaningful sense because they headed weak states amongst powerful ones. Which of course is the nature of the states system which 'national self-determination' rests on. The concept is utterly vacuous, like other liberal abstractions that emerge from the same period like 'the general will', it has no substantive existence in the real world, serving only as intellectual cover for state power over the people it claims congruity with. So the 'right' doesn't mean anything. There is no self-determination in a world of competing, unequal states. A formally recognised Palestinian state would still be subject to Israeli domination. An independent Northern Ireland wouldn't be "outside Britain's orbit" and so on. All states project power beyond their borders insofar as their capabilities allow. Meaningful 'self-determination' means the destruction of the state system, not the (impossible) granting of sovereign territory to every self-described nation (of which there are infinitely more than available territory, the very process of 'nation-building' means repressing national minorities etc - like the Kurds in fact - ad infinitum).

LBird
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Jan 27 2011 14:47
Joseph Kay wrote:
The whole concept has nothing to do with any kind of broadly socialist politics. It comes from liberalism and bourgeois revolutions. It gets imported via Lenin to plug the gap left by Marx not really theorising international relations...
devoration1 wrote:
I think the turning point where 'national liberation' & 'right of nations to self-determination' went from a (possibly) progressive event/cause for the proletariat to support alongside the revolutionary national bourgeoisie to being simply a tool of national imperialism to extend ones sphere of influence at the expense of another as being around the turn of the 20th century. At the latest, the period around WWI; the debates between Luxemburg and Lenin are very, very instructive on this point. Luxemburg being against 'the right of nations to self-determination' and National Liberation generally (based largely on her experiences in Polish Social Democracy and the Polish nationalist movement) and Lenin being for it...
Samotnaf wrote:
The ideology of self-determination has nothing to do with the reality of it. Used by Woodrow Wilson after WWI, it has nothing to do with the determination of the masses of selves to determine their own lives - as has been said a million tilmes before, it's just an ideology of would-be ruling classes...

So, to sum up so far, we know 'why' it originated, 'when' it lost any relevence (if it ever had any), and 'what' in means in reality today.

That is, Marx lived in the 19th century, perhaps when it was still possible to argue the benefits of supporting emerging 'small nations' opposing the strong, but he didn't theorise enough or live to see the political effects in the 20th century. If Marx's views ever had any relevence, they were obsolete by 1918, given capitalism's economic and political development (empire and its stooges). We now recognise that Lenin was a man of the past (he lived in undeveloped, peasant Russia) whereas Luxemburg was a women of the future (she lived in industrial, proletarian Germany). Our experience of the 20th century has given us the delights of 'actually existing Socialist nation-states', Russia, China, the nation-states of Eastern Europe, Vietnam, Cuba, North Korea, Kampuchea, etc, as well as the wannabe nation-states of the Kurds, a 32-county Ireland, and none of them have, or intend, to introduce proletarian democracy.

I think I'd make two observations, so far.

Alexander, I think you have to start talking about 'nation-states', rather than just 'nations', because that might clarify what the reality of a 'nation' is - it's a (capitalist) state. So, rather than saying you support 'Kurdish self-determination', to say that you support 'Kurdish statehood'. This might make clear the opposition to your position, that you seem to support the oppression of workers in the future Kurdistan (perhaps even the ethnic cleansing of non-Kurdish workers from Kurdistan).

[edit]Furthermore, 'self-determination' is a contradiction which in practice for workers can mean two things: either 'national self-oppression' or 'class-determination'; you appear to support the former, whereas I think the rest of us support the latter (but I'm open to correction!).[end edit]

Joseph, Samotnaf, Jason, devoration, now we know what we are against (the negative), what should our policy be towards the Kurds, Irish, Basques, etc.(the positive)?

I seem to have been arguing for a policy of 'propaganda and advice for oppressed workers everywhere', which seems to mean abstention from active politics, given that in many of the proto-states (Palestine, Kurdistan, etc.) only pro-bourgeois parties are allowed to physically survive. Open, class conscious, workers parties are eliminated - should we support the factions of existing 'national' parties that show some proletarian tendencies, or steer well clear until the dust has settled, and the new nation-state has emerged (or been destroyed by ethnic cleansing)?

These are serious questions, because at the moment, I'm buggered if I can answer them.

Samotnaf
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Jan 27 2011 14:47

LBird:

Quote:
what happens if 'the working class' of a Third World country (under the influence of bourgeois historical development and ideas) freely choose to be 'Kurdish' or 'Vietnamese'?

In Vietnam, the workers of Saigon created some kind of commune, but were crushed by the combined forces of Ho Chi Minh's Stalinists and the French State; in 1956 the peasants of North Vietnam rose up and at the very least 50,000 of them were slaughtered. I suppose you could put this down to "bourgeois development", though that's such a neutral phrase, it doesn't quite capture the nastiness. Not even sure that a majority of the working class and peasantry supported "national liberation" or whatever even under the reign of US bombing terror - all they knew was that they didn't support the USA. Besides, I don't go along with "supporting" this, that or the other; I support struggles (verbally or in writing or in action) in which i can see something of what i myself am struggling for. But everything begins with yourself, you fight for yourself and with others in whom you recognise yourself. I have never recognised myself in any of the hierarchical movements for National liberation. But Alexander Roxwell has, apparently.
LBird:

Quote:
Joseph, Samotnaf, Jason, devoration, now we know what we are against (the negative), what should our policy be towards the Kurds, Irish, Basques, etc.(the positive)?

This is put in a way I have never felt at all at ease with: I've known (and in some cases still know) Kurds, Irish and Basque proletarians and have never had a "policy" towards "them". I treat "them" as contradictory individuals like me who sometimes contribute to social movements and sometimes have very conservative, even wierdly and often unpleasantly, nationalist, points of view, who have sometimes been my friends and sometimes not. "Policy" is for politicians.
When it comes to social movements, it's as I said above - a question of where you recognise yourself in such social movements (eg in the Kurdish uprising at the end of the Gulf war in 1991, which, though having illusions in the allied United Nations forces, still involved some significant proletarian subversion; and I remember in the Basque country in 1980 there was a general strike launched by the working class that had nothing nationalist about it: it was a protest against the killing of a South American woman by the cops on an anti-nuclear demonstration; and in Ireland there have been quite a few strikes and other movements that have not been at all sectarian or had a nationalist perspective).

Samotnaf
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Jan 27 2011 14:53

Just to add - I'm totally against the whole notion of

Quote:
class conscious, workers parties
Quote:
, which still expresses a political mentality (organising the organisation, the fixed notion of "class consciousness" that assumes an arrogant attitude that consciousness is something already achieved, and can only be extended by getting others to agree to the line), when the essential thing is to be anti-political.

Samotnaf
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Jan 27 2011 14:56

That came out wrong; in case it wasn't clear, I meant:

Just to add - I'm totally against the whole notion of

Quote:
class conscious, workers parties

which still expresses a political mentality (organising the organisation, the fixed notion of "class consciousness" that assumes an arrogant attitude that consciousness is something already achieved, and can only be extended by getting others to agree to the line), when the essential thing is to be anti-political.

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Juan Conatz
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Jan 27 2011 15:04

What is "support" even mean? You plan on funneling arms & cash? Volunteering for an insurgency group? Starting a "Friends Of the [enter oppressed nation here]" public relations organization? It all seems rhetorical and pointless. Your support is meaningless anyway.

LBird
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Jan 27 2011 15:33
Samotnaf wrote:
In Vietnam, the workers of Saigon created some kind of commune, but were crushed by the combined forces of Ho Chi Minh's Stalinists and the French State...

Yeah, and I know that the British Army helped to prop-up the French colony of Indo-china at the end of the war, until the French could send some troops from Europe. In September 1945, the British released the Japanese soldiers it had captured and armed them to help fight the Vietnamese nationalists, who, until then, had been on the same allied side against the Japanese during the War. This was at the same time as British POWs were still under the control of the Japanese Army and its well-known commitment to the Geneva Convention. You'd have thought that the British Army would have made a priority of finding and releasing the thousands of working class British soldiers from starvation, torture and execution, rather than holding down the newly-liberated Vietnamese, but there you go.

I'd never met anyone who even knew of these events, when in about 2003 I was walking through Bath with my better half, when we sat down on a bench next to an 'old' guy ('old' being relative!). We got talking to him, and it turned out he was an old soldier (as am I, well, an ex-soldier, not 'old'), and after he told me he'd served in the Far East at the end of the war, I mentioned my bit of knowledge and the fact that I was a Commie, so that he could keep quiet if he felt uncomfortable. But he just said that he had been a Mortar Platoon commander with a battalion which served in the Dutch East Indies, and that they'd done the same thing with Japanese troops there, too. And that he sympathised with the ideals of Communism, as did many of his generation of officers! Only an anecdote, I know, but very interesting.

Samotnaf wrote:
...I...have never had a "policy"..."Policy" is for politicians...

Now, for the difficult bit. This, to me as a Marxist Libertarian Communist, is very unsatisfying for an answer. Our answers should begin 'We...', not 'I...'. Even Workers' Councils will have 'policies' - a 'policy' is the stated, democratically decided position of any Council, to which opposing stances are taken by those disagreeing. If I was an elected, mandated, revokable delegate to a higher level body, I would only be permitted to outline the 'policy' of my lower-level Council on any issue up for debate. We are all 'politicians', in the sense that we are all dealing with 'politics'.

I wouldn't use 'policy' or 'politicians' as terms of abuse, unless I was a 'free-thinking individual'. I thought you were a Class Struggle Anarchist, but if you're not, to me that would explain your stance. I nearly wrote 'your policy', but I thought better of it!

Anyway, I think we agree about the negatives of Alexander's position. But your 'positives' are... err, not really positive, are they? What do we do? What is our policy?

LBird
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Jan 27 2011 15:41
Juan Conatz wrote:
What is "support" even mean? You plan on funneling arms & cash? Volunteering for an insurgency group? Starting a "Friends Of the [enter oppressed nation here]" public relations organization? It all seems rhetorical and pointless. Your support is meaningless anyway.

Juan, why not try being civil and constructive? Especially as Alexander seems to be in the minority, not you, so you've no reason to be so aggressive.

A tip for workers trying to influence other workers - try diplomacy. It might get other workers to actually change their views and agree with you.

Unless you're not a Communist 'worker', but an 'individual' Anarchist, so you don't give a shit.

LBird
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Jan 27 2011 15:44
Samotnaf wrote:
...when the essential thing is to be anti-political.

What does this mean? I thought this was a political site, dealing with political ideas and organising political acts?

You've lost me here, mate.

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jesuithitsquad
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Jan 27 2011 16:25

LBird- sometimes I think you misunderstand political disagreement with personal attack. I don't think anyone on this thread has been even remotely rude. It is okay to make a clear distinction between one's politics, even if this means sometimes using language that crystalizes the differences.

You keep asking about "our policy" and without getting into the semantics of the question, as people have pointed out, our support or lack thereof is pretty much meaningless at this point. We can do propaganda; the AF piece about Palestine from a year or two ago is really awesome in this regard. Most importantly, where we support our fellow workers in these struggles is where they organize on class lines which is exactly the point in which the notion of a national struggle breaks down. When the new ruling class crushes strikes the same way the old ruling class did, it makes it pretty blatent what a dead-end struggling on a national basis is for the working class. So, the bottom line is we support workers' struggles in these regions the same way we support workers' struggles in any other area: with solidarity. Sometimes this can feel impotent, but it is the only option at our disposal. Besides, how is an individual in the West anymore empowered if they support national struggles? By voting for the guy who supports Hamas? Or like Juan suggested above starting a "friends of . . ."

The notion of anti-politics is the idea that communism (generally, most of us prefer this to be lower-case as a distinction from Communism, i.e. Stalinism, just fyi) is the negation of the existing social structure, including politics. The prole.info Work.Community.Politics.War addresses anti-politics pretty well I think

prole.info wrote:
Anti-Politics
When we start to fight against the conditions of our lives, a completely different kind of activity appears. We do not look for a politician to come change things for us. We do it ourselves, with other working class people.

Whenever this kind of working class resistance breaks out, politicians try to extinguish it in a flood of petitions, lobbying and election campaigns. But when we are fighting for ourselves, our activity looks completely different from theirs. We take property away from landlords and use it for ourselves. We use militant tactics against our bosses and end up fighting with the police. We form groups where everyone takes part in the activity, and there is no division between leaders and followers. We do not fight for our leaders, for our bosses or for our country. We fight for ourselves. This is not the ultimate form of democracy. We are imposing our needs on society without debate—needs that are directly contrary to the interests and wishes of rich people everywhere. There is no way for us to speak on equal terms with this society.

This tendency of working class struggles to go outside and against the government and politics, and to create new forms of organization that do not put our faith in anything other than our own ability, has at times been called “anarchism”.

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Steven.
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Jan 27 2011 16:26
LBird wrote:
Juan Conatz wrote:
What is "support" even mean? You plan on funneling arms & cash? Volunteering for an insurgency group? Starting a "Friends Of the [enter oppressed nation here]" public relations organization? It all seems rhetorical and pointless. Your support is meaningless anyway.

Juan, why not try being civil and constructive? Especially as Alexander seems to be in the minority, not you, so you've no reason to be so aggressive.

A tip for workers trying to influence other workers - try diplomacy. It might get other workers to actually change their views and agree with you.

LBird, I think you are misunderstanding Juan here. I don't think he's being rude (I'm not sure I recall him ever being rude to anyone on here, he is an extremely constructive contributor to the site).

I think he's trying to get at what Alexander actually means by "support", which is an important question. It was put to him by several individuals on another thread where he stated support for Irish nationalism. They asked him whether that means then that Alexander supports the largest nationalist party, Sinn Fein, which is part of the government pushing forward austerity measures, or whether he supports the tiny dissident republican armed groups? How, and whom, does he actually support that is part of this supposedly nationalist movement?

I think other people here, like Joseph have answered very well in ways I would agree with. In general though, I would recommend Alexander take a look at the following excellent texts:
Third worldism or socialism, by solidarity, and against nationalism by the Anarchist Federation

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georgestapleton
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Jan 27 2011 16:53

The discussion of nationalism on libcom is always disappointing. A critique of national liberation movements is taken as a stand in for a critique of the nation. And in so far as there is a critique of the nation it treats the nation as though its historical contingency is proof of its non-existence and therefore once you know that nations don't 'really' exist you have the problem dealt with.The trouble with this is that you can no more think your way out of the nation than you can think your way out of value, class, property, exchange, gender, race etc. All these social forms really exist.

And saying that national hierarchies don't matter because we are all workers is not less problematic than saying racial hierarchies don't matter because we are all workers. Or not less problematic than saying sexual and gendered hierarchies don't matter because we are all workers. Nor is it qualitatively different to the liberal who says class doesn't matter because we are all human.

But yeah I know, by saying the above I simply must support bourgeois national liberation movements to create new nation states. I couldn't mean anything else. Clearly, I have a semi for national liberation movements when I should be hard on, no wait I'm soft on national liberation movements. That's it, isn't it?

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Jan 27 2011 17:07
quote of devoration wrote:
Lenin's position that socialists are duty-bound "to conduct an implacable struggle" against all those who at any time "defend or sanction national oppression or the denial of the right of nations to self-determination" was explained in detail. The Bolshevik Party understood self-determination as the right to secession.

Yes, a very interesting debate. The slogan of right to self-determination was certainly not meant as an endorsement of every national struggle (a metaphysical Yes). Its use was meant as educative propaganda against reactionary attitudes of the workers in the oppressing countries. I think Lenin's point of view makes sense that efforts should mainly go to convincing/educating Israeli workers, Turkish workers, etc. It's not a "practical" position. That a future Kurdish state would oppress its workers, be subservient to more powerful states, etc. Lenin would call these remarks banalities (true, but skirting the issue).

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devoration1
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Jan 27 2011 17:26

The concept of national self-determination is linked to slogans of a 'peoples revolution', 'national democratic revolution', etc. I was reading some of Trotsky's letters and articles on Fascism last night and thought this bit was relevant to this topic:

Quote:
Thanks for the quotation about the “people’s” revolution from Thaelmann’s speech, which I glanced through. A more ridiculous and maliciously confused manner of putting the question cannot be imagined! "The people’s revolution” – as a slogan and even with a reference to Lenin. Yet every issue of the paper of the fascist Strasser [1] is embellished with the slogan of the people’s revolution as opposed to the Marxist slogan of the class revolution. It is understood that every great revolution is a people’s or a national revolution, in the sense that it unites around the revolutionary class all the virile and creative forces of the nation and reconstructs the nation around a new core. But this is not a slogan; it is a sociological description of the revolution, which requires, moreover, precise and concrete definition. As a slogan, it is inane and charlatanism, market competition with the fascists, paid for at the price of injecting confusion into the minds of the workers.

. . .

Now the new turn: the people’s revolution instead of the proletarian revolution. The fascist Strasser says 95 percent of the people are interested in the revolution, consequently it is not a class revolution but a people’s revolution. Thaelmann sings in chorus. In reality, the worker-Communist should say to the fascist worker: of course, 95 percent of the population, if not 98 percent, is exploited by finance capital. But this exploitation is organized hierarchically: there are exploiters, there are subexploiters, sub-subexploiters, etc. Only thanks to this hierarchy do the superexploiters keep in subjection the majority of the nation. In order that the nation should indeed be able to reconstruct itself around a new class core, it must be reconstructed ideologically and this can be achieved only if the proletariat does not dissolve itself into the “people,” into the “nation,” but on the contrary develops a program of its proletarian revolution and compels the petty bourgeoisie to choose between two regimes. The slogan of the people’s revolution lulls the petty bourgeoisie as well as the broad masses of the workers, reconciles them to the bourgeois-hierarchical structure of the “people" and retards their liberation. But under present conditions in Germany, the slogan of a “people’s revolution” wipes away the ideological demarcation between Marxism and fascism and reconciles part of the workers and the petty bourgeoisie to the ideology of fascism, allowing them to think that they are not compelled to make a choice, because in both camps it is all a matter of a people’s revolution. These wretched revolutionists, in a conflict with any serious enemy, think first of all of how to imitate him, how to repaint themselves in his colors, and how to win the masses by means of a smart trick and not by revolutionary struggle. A truly shameful posing of the question!

http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/germany/1931/310414.htm

The movement towards a 'people's revolution' (which is at the heart of national liberation movements in general; all classes, strata, of a 'nation' are rallied for the effort together) is movement away from the proletariats class terrain where it can struggle for its emancipation.

Quote:
Joseph, Samotnaf, Jason, devoration, now we know what we are against (the negative), what should our policy be towards the Kurds, Irish, Basques, etc.(the positive)?

I seem to have been arguing for a policy of 'propaganda and advice for oppressed workers everywhere', which seems to mean abstention from active politics, given that in many of the proto-states (Palestine, Kurdistan, etc.) only pro-bourgeois parties are allowed to physically survive. Open, class conscious, workers parties are eliminated - should we support the factions of existing 'national' parties that show some proletarian tendencies, or steer well clear until the dust has settled, and the new nation-state has emerged (or been destroyed by ethnic cleansing)?

Workers should struggle as workers and identify as workers everywhere. It is not an either/or proposition to either critically support leftist bourgeois parties or simply do nothing (because 'class conscious workers parties would be eliminated'). The only alternative for the working class in these areas (and everywhere else) is to struggle as workers, organize as workers however possible (there are numerous organizational alternatives to a Party). Workers everywhere are affected by ruling class ideology- it is not surprising that Kurdish or Basque or N.Irish workers hold reactionary beliefs. But this does not affect their revolutionary potential or their capacity to make positive gains. The Tekel strike last year in Turkey is an example of an ethnic group affected very openly by national liberation struggle (Kurds) struggling as workers first- ignoring and rising above ethnic and national divisions; acts of class solidarity were reported widely in the militant press.

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Steven.
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Jan 27 2011 17:34
georgestapleton wrote:
The discussion of nationalism on libcom is always disappointing. A critique of national liberation movements is taken as a stand in for a critique of the nation. And in so far as there is a critique of the nation it treats the nation as though its historical contingency is proof of its non-existence and therefore once you know that nations don't 'really' exist you have the problem dealt with.The trouble with this is that you can no more think your way out of the nation than you can think your way out of value, class, property, exchange, gender, race etc. All these social forms really exist.

And saying that national hierarchies don't matter because we are all workers is not less problematic than saying racial hierarchies don't matter because we are all workers. Or not less problematic than saying sexual and gendered hierarchies don't matter because we are all workers. Nor is it qualitatively different to the liberal who says class doesn't matter because we are all human.

But yeah I know, by saying the above I simply must support bourgeois national liberation movements to create new nation states. I couldn't mean anything else. Clearly, I have a semi for national liberation movements when I should be hard on, no wait I'm soft on national liberation movements. That's it, isn't it?

apart from coming up with strawmen, what are you actually saying?

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Juan Conatz
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Jan 27 2011 17:40

It wasn't my intention to be interpreted as rude. I just wonder what "support" means. If we acknowledge that we are a small tendency, with almost no ability to effect geopolitical scenarios, we aren't talking material support. Instead we're discussing the concept of support. But why? There are plenty of ideologies (even stronger ones) that already do this. Why is it necessary to import this sentiment into libertarian politics?

I'll admit, before I had formed politics, national liberation was very appealing to me, particularly of the Puerto Rican variety. I had aunts & uncles who were independentistas, had a family member who was shot in the Ponce Massacre and am supposedly related to some who tried to assassinate Truman or opened fire in the U.S. House of Representatives.

To this day, I'm still somewhat sympathetic to the jailed members of the FALN and Macheteros and still feel there are things to be learned from the Young Lords. In the abscence of an exsisting anarchist or libertarian communist alternative on the island, combined with actually knowing the history of yanqui mistreatment (forced sterilization, discrimination, etc), it's easy to find the authoritarians appealing.

However, I eventually came to the conclusion that independence would mean little in Puerto Rico. Although, technically part of the United States, the island already has an indigenous ruling class that is just as brutal towards the working class as the Americans are and were.

Also, independence could only happen in two foreseeable ways.

1)A bourgeois liberal or social democratic ruling class (such as the Puerto Rican Independence Party) becomes powerful enough to accomplish this, in which case, they would probably still be closely aligned with the U.S., including continuing the disproportionate development that characterizes the U.S. rule over the island.

2)The Marxist-Leninist and nationalist guerrilla groups surge in popularity and effectiveness and succeed in their war for independence. PR would most likely be established as a socialist republic and align with Cuba and Venezuela, thus resulting in a invasion or economic blockade by the U.S.

I just don't see those two scenarios as particularly appealing. The positive aspects of them don't seem much to fight for and the negative aspects of them are either absolutely devastating or similar to what an authentic communist upheaval would face, why not just fight for the authentic communist upheaval? I think when it comes down to it, every national liberation movement boils down to this.

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georgestapleton
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Jan 27 2011 19:40
Steven. wrote:
georgestapleton wrote:
The discussion of nationalism on libcom is always disappointing. A critique of national liberation movements is taken as a stand in for a critique of the nation. And in so far as there is a critique of the nation it treats the nation as though its historical contingency is proof of its non-existence and therefore once you know that nations don't 'really' exist you have the problem dealt with.The trouble with this is that you can no more think your way out of the nation than you can think your way out of value, class, property, exchange, gender, race etc. All these social forms really exist.

And saying that national hierarchies don't matter because we are all workers is not less problematic than saying racial hierarchies don't matter because we are all workers. Or not less problematic than saying sexual and gendered hierarchies don't matter because we are all workers. Nor is it qualitatively different to the liberal who says class doesn't matter because we are all human.

But yeah I know, by saying the above I simply must support bourgeois national liberation movements to create new nation states. I couldn't mean anything else. Clearly, I have a semi for national liberation movements when I should be hard on, no wait I'm soft on national liberation movements. That's it, isn't it?

apart from coming up with strawmen, what are you actually saying?

It's odd that you can both not know what I'm saying and know that it's a straw man.

I mean what I wrote, and fair enough its a bit abstract. But I don't know which bit you want me to explain. Do you have a problem with any bit in particular? I'm happy to explain something.

But then again, I've written enough on this on here before and its normally been a bit like talking to a wall. And since you ask what I'm saying while simultaneously dismissing it, what ever it is, I can't really see what my motivation would be in explaining what I've said. You've already dismissed whatever it is I might say.

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Ed
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Jan 27 2011 20:16

George, I think what Steven. is saying is that, apart from the straw-men that you've successfully argued against in your above posts (I'l get to that in a bit), it's just not really clear what it is you're on about.. it's like you've developed a persecution complex about people on libcom calling you 'soft on nationalism' (which would obviously be a daft persecution complex to have hence the confusion of why you are acting like some offended panto-dame: "ooh miss, am I soft on national liberation.. ooh er, no I'm really hard!".. cue trumbone..)..

As for the rest of your post, pretty much all of it is just not true..

Quote:
And in so far as there is a critique of the nation it treats the nation as though its historical contingency is proof of its non-existence and therefore once you know that nations don't 'really' exist you have the problem dealt with.The trouble with this is that you can no more think your way out of the nation than you can think your way out of value, class, property, exchange, gender, race etc. All these social forms really exist.

Come on, this is just taking the piss a little bit.. do you honestly think that our opposition to Hamas and Fatah is that 'the nation is all in the mind'? Is that what you've been reading in our arguments?

Quote:
And saying that national hierarchies don't matter because we are all workers is not less problematic than saying racial hierarchies don't matter because we are all workers.

Again, this is just not true. This is no one's opinion that I've ever given a shit about..

EDIT: found this discussion, remember it being good.. read my post #19, is that about the nation being in the mind?

LBird
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Jan 27 2011 20:37
Juan Conatz wrote:
It wasn't my intention to be interpreted as rude.

Well, first up, I'd like to apologise to you, Juan. I was wrong to consider you rude or aggressive. My only excuse is that there has been, in the past, a lot of pointless sidetracking into personal and political abuse, which I'm keen to prevent, if possible. I wrongly construed your brief post as too brief, and tending in the wrong direction. Once again, I'm sorry.

I hope this covers jesuithitsquad's and steven's justified criticism of me.

Now, for the substantive issue.

jesuithitsquad, quoting prole.info wrote:
This is not the ultimate form of democracy. We are imposing our needs on society without debate—needs that are directly contrary to the interests and wishes of rich people everywhere. There is no way for us to speak on equal terms with this society.

This appears to me to be one of the most dangerous things I've read on this site - I'm sure I must be missing something, because I would expect to read this sort of thing on a Fascist site. 'Imposing without debate'? 'Society' defined as 'Rich Society'? What about society? Y'know, the one we all help make up?

I'm beginning to think that there is a secret code here on LibCom, using everyday words like politics, politician, policy, society and democracy which mean something else to Anarchists, than they do to me (and, I presume, to others who are also Communists).

jesuithitsquad wrote:
You keep asking about "our policy" and without getting into the semantics of the question, as people have pointed out, our support or lack thereof is pretty much meaningless at this point. We can do propaganda; the AF piece about Palestine from a year or two ago is really awesome in this regard. Most importantly, where we support our fellow workers in these struggles is where they organize on class lines which is exactly the point in which the notion of a national struggle breaks down.

So, in effect, your policy is the same one I outlined earlier: Propaganda only, aimed at non-class national movements, and support for class-based workers' movements. A policy. Our policy. Mine and yours. Next question: is this anybody else's policy?

steven wrote:
I think other people here, like Joseph have answered very well in ways I would agree with.

Yes, I agree too, as far as it goes - but Joseph doesn't go any further than the negative. We all oppose Alexander's position. But do you or he have any suggestions for a policy? Y'know, perhaps an organisational agreement, or even a personal opinion, like jesuithitsquad? You can both adopt my policy if you want - I got it from you two in the first place. You've been influencing me - y'know, politics.

georgestapleton and Noa Rodman - I'm not really sure what you're saying. Do you agree with Alexander or with me (which, I maintain, is the general policy for LibCom, as far as I understand it so far), or do you have a third position?

devoration1 - your post seems to fall between the two stools, or rather, you're hunting with the hounds and running with the hares - perhaps it's my fault for being a bit thick. Could you clarify it, please?

Can I make a statement of what I think the two positions are? Anyone can correct, reject, replace or modify if they disagree.

1. Alexander's (and others?) - support (critical?) for national liberation struggles;

2. Mine (and LibComs?) - propaganda only for national liberation struggles, but support for class conscious liberation movements.

Obviously, the actual meaning of 'support' (Juan gives a comprehensive list of possibilities!) is a further issue, but I think for now people can decide for themselves what they mean by it.

And let's have no more silly talk of 'non-politics'. Even Workers' Councils will have policies. Or are we all just going to do as we like, as individuals? That sounds more like our right-wing US libertarian friends.

Finally, another grovel to Juan - sorry mate, for my mis-characterisation.

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Jan 27 2011 21:36
Quote:
This appears to me to be one of the most dangerous things I've read on this site - I'm sure I must be missing something, because I would expect to read this sort of thing on a Fascist site. 'Imposing without debate'? 'Society' defined as 'Rich Society'? What about society? Y'know, the one we all help make up?

without derailing the thread too much--if you want to have a conversation about that maybe we should have another thread--the passage above is referring to the working class imposing our needs on the rich and not debating them about it which is more or less what a revolution would look like. it's not about anarchists or some small group doing this; it's the working class, the vast majority of society.

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Jan 27 2011 22:16
Ed wrote:
George, I think what Steven. is saying is that, apart from the straw-men that you've successfully argued against in your above posts (I'l get to that in a bit), it's just not really clear what it is you're on about.. it's like you've developed a persecution complex about people on libcom calling you 'soft on nationalism' (which would obviously be a daft persecution complex to have hence the confusion of why you are acting like some offended panto-dame: "ooh miss, am I soft on national liberation.. ooh er, no I'm really hard!".. cue trumbone..)..

Its not a persecution complex. Seriously read any of the ridiculously long threads on nationalism on this forum that I've participated in an count the number of times I've been called a nationalist.

The point with the hard/soft thing was just to jocularly point out how stupid the notion that the spectrum of analyses of the national question can be simplified to hard on nationalism versus soft on nationalism.

Quote:
As for the rest of your post, pretty much all of it is just not true..
Quote:
And in so far as there is a critique of the nation it treats the nation as though its historical contingency is proof of its non-existence and therefore once you know that nations don't 'really' exist you have the problem dealt with.The trouble with this is that you can no more think your way out of the nation than you can think your way out of value, class, property, exchange, gender, race etc. All these social forms really exist.

Come on, this is just taking the piss a little bit.. do you honestly think that our opposition to Hamas and Fatah is that 'the nation is all in the mind'? Is that what you've been reading in our arguments?

I'm not going to bother going looking for examples in other threads. But on this very page you can read this. The nation is not just some "concept" that emerges at a certain point in time. If it was then yeah the nation would be all in the mind. But it isn't. Nor is it simply some concept that is only embodied in a state. Not should the nation be conflated with the nation state.

Quote:
Quote:
And saying that national hierarchies don't matter because we are all workers is not less problematic than saying racial hierarchies don't matter because we are all workers.

Again, this is just not true. This is no one's opinion that I've ever given a shit about..

Ok again on this very page devoration1 writes:

Quote:
Workers should struggle as workers and identify as workers everywhere. It is not an either/or proposition to either critically support leftist bourgeois parties or simply do nothing (because 'class conscious workers parties would be eliminated'). The only alternative for the working class in these areas (and everywhere else) is to struggle as workers, organize as workers however possible (there are numerous organizational alternatives to a Party).
Quote:
EDIT: found this discussion, remember it being good.. read my post #19, is that about the nation being in the mind?

I don't really see how that post is relevant. Palestinian nationalists want a state and kill other palestinians in order to defend national unity. Ok but whats the point here about from that we don't like palestinian nationalists? I mean if you are saying look the palestine nation exists in the actions of palestinian nationalists you've totally missed my point. Because if that is where the palestine nation exists then the reason the palestine nation exists is because of the misconceptions of palestine nationalists. Which is precisely what I disagree with. The reason nations exist is no more because of nationalists than the reason race exists is because of racists.

radicalgraffiti
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Jan 27 2011 22:30
georgestapleton wrote:
Which is precisely what I disagree with. The reason nations exist is no more because of nationalists than the reason race exists is because of racists.

but race is entirely a idea that people believe in, it has no real scientific basis.

LBird
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Jan 27 2011 22:40
jesuithitsquad wrote:
without derailing the thread too much--if you want to have a conversation about that maybe we should have another thread--the passage above is referring to the working class imposing our needs on the rich and not debating them about it which is more or less what a revolution would look like. it's not about anarchists or some small group doing this; it's the working class, the vast majority of society.

No, no need to derail or do another; I just can't understand why...

Quote:
This is not the ultimate form of democracy. We are imposing our needs on society without debate—needs that are directly contrary to the interests and wishes of rich people everywhere. There is no way for us to speak on equal terms with this society.

...doesn't say...

"This is not the ultimate form of democracy - proletarian democracy is. We are imposing our proletarian needs on the rich part of society without debate with the rich—needs that are directly contrary to the interests and wishes of rich people everywhere. There is no way for us to speak on equal terms with this society of the rich."

A bit of class content and clarification was needed, that's all.

For the future, I think it's dangerous to use phrases like 'imposing on society without debate' - it sounds like a Nietzschean fantasy. It can be taken out of context and misread by a potential supporter, or wilfully mis-quoted by those with the intention of damaging us.

Call me picky...

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Joseph Kay
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Jan 27 2011 23:43

George, what does the materiality or otherwise of 'nations' have to do with whether to support "the right of nations to self-determination"? The rejections of it on this thread (certainly for my part) have been based on the fact it's inherently bourgeois politics, not because it's 'all in the mind' or something. Why not argue with what people are actually saying instead of shadowboxing the ghosts of arguments past?

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Jan 28 2011 00:27
Quote:
devoration1 - your post seems to fall between the two stools, or rather, you're hunting with the hounds and running with the hares - perhaps it's my fault for being a bit thick. Could you clarify it, please?

I'm not sure what to make of your comment. I'm trying to be as clear as possible- I oppose national liberation/the right of nations to self-determination; the debates and polemics between Lenin and Luxemburg explain (in Marxist terms) the arguments for and against (I side with Luxemburg); I don't believe removing all traces of reactionary ideology from any population of workers (including those affected by proto-states, NL, such as the Kurds, Palestinians, etc) is necessary for the struggle for socialism (and would say that this is true of all workers everywhere) and in the era of capitalist decadence and the 'epoch of imperialism', there are no reasons to settle for or support half-measures, or watered down politics of various leftist and nationalist tinged groups in Third World or developing areas.

Quote:
Can I make a statement of what I think the two positions are? Anyone can correct, reject, replace or modify if they disagree.

1. Alexander's (and others?) - support (critical?) for national liberation struggles;

2. Mine (and LibComs?) - propaganda only for national liberation struggles, but support for class conscious liberation movements.

Obviously, the actual meaning of 'support' (Juan gives a comprehensive list of possibilities!) is a further issue, but I think for now people can decide for themselves what they mean by it.

And let's have no more silly talk of 'non-politics'. Even Workers' Councils will have policies. Or are we all just going to do as we like, as individuals? That sounds more like our right-wing US libertarian friends.

More either/or scenarios. I think the confusion lies in treating the workers from areas where minority religious/ethnic/national groups are engaged in conflict (Turkey, Russia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Sudan, etc) differently than workers in first world or more industrialized or more homogenous nation-states.

I don't think anyone who opposes national liberation/right of nations to self-determination on Libcom wants a "class conscious liberation movement"- which sounds to me like saying if the Kurdish Workers Party or the National Liberation Front of Eritrea had 'more communist/libertarian' policies we'd support them.The point is to oppose these groups and movements as opportunistic deviations from the working class' political 'turf', and that the only way to achieve real freedom and prosperity is the international proletarian socialist revolution.

I think Juan summed it up the best:

Quote:
The positive aspects of them don't seem much to fight for and the negative aspects of them are either absolutely devastating or similar to what an authentic communist upheaval would face, why not just fight for the authentic communist upheaval?

To me this is the heart of Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution; that we have the material basis for socialism, so we can and should fight for complete liberation (instead of stopping at creating a new nation-state, a new bourgeois democratic instead of authoritarian government, etc)- especially in the Third World/developing world/post-colonial world, which has been lead over many decades to believe partial struggles, half-way measures, were the best they could hope for or the most they could accomplish.

Alexander Roxwell
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Jan 28 2011 04:58

Wow.

I just posted that last night. After that I went home and went to bed. I got up and went to work. After work I did some errands and then came back here to find 30 responses. I read thru them and now it is 5 minutes before the place closes.

I feel buried.

I think some people made some good points and I don't feel that anybody was as rude as some of the comments I've gotten on other sites. I was going to comment on what LBird wrote on the Ireland site tonight but it seems that that has been eclipsed.

I just do not think I will be able to respond to everyone, ever. But I will probably have some time to post on Saturday.

I am actually flattered to have gotten 30 responses.