The Right of Nations to Self Determination

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Oct 31 2011 12:19

S. Artesian, you argue “Do Marxists oppose the expansion of imperialism, the maintenance of imperialism? The answer to that is yes, of course, just as Marxists oppose the expansion of capitalism.

But that is a much different question than maintaining that the struggle against imperialism is a struggle for national self-determination. It is not”.

You also argue “Does this mean you support "national liberation struggles" but not the "right of nations to self-determination"? If so that's a pretty fine line you're walking-- not that it can't be walked, or it isn't even correct, it just leads to a lot of puzzlement”.

Yes, I think this is an important distinction, in that ‘national liberation’ implies that the aim of a struggle is to detach the anti-imperialist forces from imperialism’s and capitalism’s domination and exploitation. ‘Self-determination’ implies taking your place within the contemporary geopolitical order – as a nation state linked into alliances and disadvantageous economic relationships with bourgeois (or, until 1990, nominally communist) nation states.

I argue from this that outcomes of national liberation struggles vary but nearly always have the potential to de-stabilise capitalism. The potential resides in the determination within them to detach themselves from imperialism’s and capitalism’s domination and exploitation.

However, not all forces in such a struggle will share this intention; some will oppose it because of their aspiration to run or have some power within a nominally independent client state, others because they are very clear about what they oppose but not about what they want. The national liberation potential can get squeezed very early in some struggles, later on in others and, sometimes, not at all; in the majority of outcomes, it loses out.

However, unless and until we have an ideological framework which allows us to predict how anti-imperialist struggles will turn out, looking for, identifying and supporting the potential within them to seriously destabilise capitalism and imperialism seems logical to me. Take the so-called Arab Spring – in Egypt, this has involved the collective loss of fear, a rebellion by young people against a system that has squeezed their hopes for decent jobs, the re-emergence of workers’ struggles and the creation of political space in which all sorts of political alternatives are openly and freely discussed. This is the anti-imperialist potential of the developing situation; ranged against it is NATO, the UN, the IMF and imperialism’s Arab client states, as well as an army which has been groomed and funded for decades by the USA. Tough odds, but should we abandon hope and support just yet?

You are right, that anti-imperialist struggles nearly always fail to cause permanent damage to international capitalism, but there is nothing in their nature which makes this predictable from the outset, and nothing which automatically prevents them from making imperialism weaker in the short term. Zionism and the US system for managing and controlling Middle East oil is correctly worried about the consequences if they cannot successfully manage the Arab Spring, and even moderate islamist governments in Tunisia, Egypt, etc will no longer be available as de facto supporters of the US and Zionism.

You have correctly argued that “capitalism didn't exploit the resources and labor power outside its boundaries, but rather that exploitation long preceded the establishment of the first capitalist states”. I agree and have argued this myself on this thread and I expressed myself too loosely in trying to summarise the form that imperialism took once the first tranche of capitalist states had emerged; to clarify, I don’t think there was anything particularly new in this mode of domination and exploitation which didn’t exist before these states came into being.

Another point of contention between us seems to be about whether or not the existence of settlers has distinguished instances with a lesser potential for rocking imperialism. You seem to discount the reactionary role of settlers in Latin America, but, in ‘Marxism and Imperialism’, Victor Kiernan argues convincingly that it was Latin America’s ethnic mix which resulted in Cuba being the only anti-imperialist struggle which permanently set back international capitalism. Specifically, he argued that the Bolivarian Independence wars of the early 19th century were just a takeover by local Spanish landowner elites, not dissimilar to US independence, and that the native Amerindians thenceforth formed a bottom layer of a society which was meaningless to them. The working class which emerged in Latin America, he argues, was, as in the North, composed of ex-slaves and immigrant settlers from Spain, Portugal, China and the East Indies. No struggle against imperialism has been possible which leaves the indigenous people at the bottom; in Cuba, the indigenous Amerindians were wiped out early doors, so this potential for division was absent.

Regarding South Africa, your own example – of Zulu foremen – proves the wider point – that ethnic divisions, whatever their origin, militate against anti-imperialist struggle and tend to tip the balance towards national self-determination.

In France, there was a clear and protracted crisis as a result of the Algerian war; just because it didn’t smash French capitalism does not mean it couldn’t have done, if other factors had been present at the same time.

Finally, you argue “The "lopsided" nature of the imperial relationship, this uneven and combined development certainly means that "national liberation" does not have both a bourgeois and proletarian dimension. The lopsided relation means national liberation, rather than destabilize capitalism, "destabilizes" the prospect for proletarian revolution, and has done so "nearly always" ‘.

I don’t agree that the uneven and combined development acts in such a deterministic way or has in practice. It is a crucial factor, but it can take forms with a smaller or larger client strata, depending on the specific ways in which exploitation takes place, how far away the territory is from the imperialist core, the level of technology involved, etc. The proletariat may be all or mostly immigrants or indigenous and, as I have argued, this is particularly important.

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Oct 31 2011 18:32
Pengwern wrote:
that ‘national liberation’ implies that the aim of a struggle is to detach the anti-imperialist forces from imperialism’s and capitalism’s domination and exploitation. ‘Self-determination’ implies taking your place within the contemporary geopolitical order

Now I suspect liberation and self-determination mean the same thing. The difference is between the right to nat. lib/self-det and struggle for nat. lib/self-det. This may seem a talmudic distinction, but actually there are many underlying assumptions posited here on how socialists best go about spreading propaganda.

Penwern wrote:
When the victorious bourgeois leaders of France and Britain were confronted in 1918-20 with the break-up of European land empires,
...
later intensified this international project, which culminated in a post-'decolonisation' world in which the nation state has become the norm,
....
I believe that nationalism and nationhood has no place in the world I would like to see and that nation states are capitalist constructs. That is the basis of my rejection of the right to self-determination.

The principle was included in the 1896 International congress resolutions (hence way before Wilson), with Luxemburg and Kautsky standing opposed to each other. For the people like Luxemburg and Bosch-Bukharin-Pyatakov, the right to self-det. is utopian, and not practical. Here's Lenin's reply to the latter objection:

Lenin wrote:
The bourgeoisie, which naturally assumes the leadership at the start of every national movement, says that support for all national aspirations is practical. However, the proletariat’s policy in the national question (as in all others) supports the bourgeoisie only in a certain direction, but it never coincides with the bourgeoisie’s policy. The working class supports the bourgeoisie only in order to secure national peace (which the bourgeoisie cannot bring about completely and which can be achieved only with complete democracy), in order to secure equal rights and to create the best conditions for the class struggle. Therefore, it is in opposition to the practicality of the bourgeoisie that the proletarians advance their principles in the national question; they always give the bourgeoisie only conditional support. What every bourgeoisie is out for in the national question is either privileges for its own nation, or exceptional advantages for it; this is called being “practical”. The proletariat is opposed to all privileges, to all exclusiveness. To demand that it should be “practical” means following the lead of the bourgeoisie, falling into opportunism.

The demand for a “yes” or “no” reply to the question of secession in the case of every nation may seem a very “practical” one. In reality it is absurd; it is metaphysical in theory, while in practice it leads to subordinating the proletariat to the bourgeoisie’s policy. The bourgeoisie always places its national demands in the forefront, and does so in categorical fashion. With the proletariat, however, these demands are subordinated to the interests of the class struggle. Theoretically, you cannot say in advance whether the bourgeois-democratic revolution will end in a given nation seceding from another nation, or in its equality with the latter; in either case, the important thing for the proletariat is to ensure the development of its class. For the bourgeoisie it is important to hamper this development by pushing the aims of its “own” nation before those of the proletariat. That is why the proletariat confines itself, so to speak, to the negative demand for recognition of the right to self-determination, without giving guarantees to any nation, and without undertaking to give anything at the expense of another nation.

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Oct 31 2011 20:01

NR, you argue that 'the right to Self-Determination' and 'National Liberation struggles' are the same thing. If so, then you are in effect saying that there is no form of anti-imperialist resistance which can go further than the specific class ambitions of the local bourgeoisie, assuming it exists.

Lenin does not say how this can occur; in fact, I think Lenin is far from clear & consistent in the extended quote you give. I don't blame him for this - he had a limited experience of anti-imperialism in his era.

You have already pointed out that the principle of SD was included in the 1896 International congress resolutions way before Wilson but that does not take away from the way that international capitalism went on to use it in order to construct and justify the world order it required in the 'post-decolonisation' world. The document I quoted earlier on this thread shoed how SD became enshrined, in a conflicted form, in international law.

I think there is more to be gained from exploring the question of class forces and antagonisms within anti-imperialist struggles by looking at Franz Fanon's analysis of this in the case of Algeria.

Fanon sets out the main aspects of colonial life – the division of the colony into two distinct worlds, each with its own mindset, incompatible with the other. The settler “lives in a strongly-built town, made of stone and steel, with brightly-lit streets covered with asphalt”. “The settler’s feet are never visible, except in the sea, but you are never close enough to see them”. “The settler’s town is a well-fed town, an easy-going town; its’ belly is always full of good things. The settler’s town is a town of white people – of foreigners”. In the town of the colonised people, “is a world without spaciousness, men live there on top of each other, and their huts re built one on top of the other. The native town is a hungry town, starved of bread, of meat, of shoes, of coal, of light. The native town is a crouching village, a town on its knees, a town wallowing in the mire. It is a town of niggers and dirty Arabs. The look which the native turns on the settler’s town is a look of lust, a look of envy; it expresses his dreams of possession – all manner of possession, to sleep at the settler’s table, to sleep in the settler’s bed, with his wife if possible. The colonised man is an envious man. And this the settler knows very well; when their glances meet he ascertains bitterly, always on the defensive ‘They want to take our place’. It is true for there is no native who does not dream at least once a day of setting himself up in the settler’s place”.

In line with this, Fanon believes that the industrial proletariat, even though they are under colonial rule, has enough independence and financial security that they cannot successfully rebel against the colonialists. Therefore, Fanon believes that the peasants that are living outside of the cities are the only group that can successfully mobilise and revolt against oppressive colonial conditions. This group of peasants also needs to revolt against the industrialised proletariat; if the industrialised group is allowed to lead the newly freed country, the oppressive conditions of colonialism will only continue. This has been seen historically when colonial powers leave the country in the hands to a metropolitan elite, so that the colonial power can continue to reap financial benefits from the previously held colony.

Fanon goes further, arguing that, in anti-colonial struggles, bourgeois rule is a phase of the revolution that can be, in effect, skipped on the road to real independence from imperialism.

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Oct 31 2011 21:07

Common knowledge no doubt, but your document says:

Quote:
The proposal made by President Wilson was challenged by a ‘powerful opposition, not least among some of
Wilson’s own advisors, and was defeated’

.

Quote:
it was not until the San Francisco consultations
that the Soviet Union proposed an amendment which included in the text of
[Article 1(2) and Article 55] the words ‘based on respect for the principle of
equal rights and self- determination of peoples’

.

Pengwern wrote:
you argue that 'the right to Self-Determination' and 'National Liberation struggles' are the same thing.

I argue that the right to self-det. and struggle/support for self-det. are two different things. Self-determination and liberation seem to have the same meaning. Autonomy is another word with the same meaning.

Pengwern wrote:
you are in effect saying that there is no form of anti-imperialist resistance which can go further than the specific class ambitions of the local bourgeoisie, assuming it exists.

Lenin does not say how this can occur;

You mean how it's possible for "anti-imperialist resistance" to go further than mere following local nationalist interests. Well, yes, Lenin supports the right to self-determination because it is not practical, i.e., because it does not force the proletariat to tie itself to the local interests. It's so to speak, a negative demand. So indeed, he does not say how "good" anti-imperialist resistance could occur, because he knows that once you support self-determination as a practical demand, you tie the proletariat to the local interest.

Pengwern wrote:
in fact, I think Lenin is far from clear & consistent in the extended quote you give. I don't blame him for this - he had a limited experience of anti-imperialism in his era.

Clear and consistent internationalism. And there was already enough experience apropos "anti-imperialist resistance" for Kautsky to write in 1909:

Kautsky wrote:
Just as the Boers were the closest skinners of the people, so the Japanese rulers are the worst persecutors of Socialists and the Young Turks have already felt themselves compelled to proceed against striking workers. We must not take an uncritical attitude to the non-European opponents of European capitalism.
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Oct 31 2011 23:26

NR, I'm unsure of your reason for detailing the sequence of discussion on the R of SD, since we all seem to agree that it functions as a counterpart to the capitalist construct of the nation state.

I agree with you that an analytical distinction needs to be made between what drives anti-imperialist struggles and what they are taken to be aiming for, which will be less obvious in many cases, but liberation implies the process of freeing yourself as a people from oppression - it is essentially a negative, not a clearly mapped alternative, except insofar as people know the forms of oppression which they want taken away. Self-determination is only superficially the same thing - it is part of the lexicon of geopolitics, of international relations. That is how I see it, anyway.

I suppose that puts me alongside the Lenin you quote, in that "once you support self-determination as a practical demand, you tie the proletariat to the local interest".

Far from steeling themselves against taking an uncritical attitude, as Kautsky says, I think Marxism up to Kautsky's day had the opposite problem - it inherited a eurocentirc worldview from Marx, which Lenin, Luxembourg and Kautsky only moved very gingerly and unconvincingly away from.

There is an enormous amount of unanalytical and unmethodical stuff put out about imperialism nowadays by the so-called post-colonialists, but their useful contribution has been to research a huge amount of knowledge about imperialism as experienced by its direct and main victims. Communists and anarchists need to use this to complete the analytical tasks which Marx barely even dabbled in. Re-treading what was written in and around 1914 to 1933 is not good enough, primarily because of how little even the best of those people knew about the rest of the world. I think your ruse of the Kautsky quote says it all in terms of what we have to move beyond.

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Oct 31 2011 23:28

should read 'your use of the Kautsky quote'.

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Nov 1 2011 05:05
Quote:
NR, I'm unsure of your reason for detailing the sequence of discussion on the R of SD, since we all seem to agree that it functions as a counterpart to the capitalist construct of the nation state.

Well, it was only as a matter of record that Wilson's point was defeated, and besides, the provision that Wilson added gutted it entirely:

Wilson wrote:
5. A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined.

My point is not that there's a "distinction between what drives anti-imperialist struggles and what they are taken to be aiming for". Apparently it's difficult to grasp, but the distinction I'm stressing is between the right to do something, and actually advocating/doing that something. Now I think we should agree on words; self-determination and liberation mean the same. Probably what you understand as liberation is national sovereignty. Sovereignty has nothing to do with self-determination. It's just normal that the internal affairs of any nation are influenced by outside forces (take the case of NATO intervention, that's a violation of sovereignty, not a question of the self-determination of people - unless one sees no difference in the case of Iraqis, Serbians and Libyans with that of the Kurds, Chechens and Palestinians). So I don't think you understood what Lenin meant by RtSD being a negative demand, but I appreciate that at least you engage with the quotes I gave.

Pengwern wrote:
Far from steeling themselves against taking an uncritical attitude, as Kautsky says, I think Marxism up to Kautsky's day had the opposite problem - it inherited a eurocentirc worldview from Marx, which Lenin, Luxembourg and Kautsky only moved very gingerly and unconvincingly away from.

I don't think they were dismissive of national liberation struggles due to ignorance or anything like that. Perhaps they were euro-centric, to use a buzzword, but why is that not justified, considering that self-determination is an issue for them (unless you think Irish, Poles, Balkan nations, Norwegians, etc. don't come into consideration for self-det., hey that rhymes!).

Their analysis of national struggles outside of Europe was on a higher level than nowadays I would argue:

in 1909 Kautsky wrote:
To be sure, we must not forget that while they are fighting the same enemy they are not fighting it with the same object – not in order to gain a victory for the proletariat over capital, but in order to substitute an internal national capitalism for an external one they are rising. We must not have any illusions on this point.
...
the East is now entering upon a revolutionary period of a similar character – a period of conspiracies, coup d’etats, insurrections, reactions and renewed insurrections and continuous transformations that will continue until the conditions of a peaceful development and a secured national independence is obtained for this portion of the world.

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Nov 1 2011 12:37

NR, I'll reply in full later, but I think the crucial problem of eurocentrism with Marx was his concept of the 'Asiatic Mode of Production' and his view that the extension of capitalism into this continent was a necessary and vital part of such backward places being brought closer to their potential for socialism. This ignored the possibility (and reality) that imperialism brought 'combined and uneven development' - an assymetric world order and division of labour which was actually an obstacle and barrier to these places realising their potential for socialsim.

If Marx had had access to the findings of modern Archaeology and world history, he would have known that China & South East Asia was way ahead of Europe in technological development until the late 18th century. He didn't and Marxists have been trying to fill his gaps ever since. I don't think we've done anything like the job yet.

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Nov 1 2011 17:05
wikipedia wrote:
The term Eurocentrism was coined relatively late, during the decolonisation period following World War II, based on an earlier adjective Europe-centric which came into use in the early 20th century. The term appears in precisely this form in the writings of the right-wing German writer Karl Haushofer during the 1920s.

of course

Pengwern, I see where you're coming from (or going to) with this, but it has no connection to a discussion on RtSD. Maybe it's my fault for distracting too much by going along with the issue of a second wave in the Kautsky quotes. I can understand that you aren't interested in what some socialist people in the early 20th century thought, so to be honest, I just am trying to be informative on the historical meaning of the RtSD for other people who might read this thread, not to start a political polemic with you (which would be boring for both sides).

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Nov 1 2011 17:43

That's fine, NR. In the meantime, I have read some interesting articles about Marx's written views on slavery, racism, alienation and oppression which should be balanced against my reference to eurocentrism.

After eating I will finish reading Joe Slovo's "The South African Working Class and the National Democratic Revolution" (http://www.marxists.org/subject/africa/slovo/1988/national-democratic-revolution.htm) and get back on how this might move the debate forward.

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Nov 1 2011 18:54

I think Slovo gets to the heart of the matter. Here are some key extracts: -

“A tendency, loosely described as ‘workerism’, denies that the main content of the immediate conflict is national liberation which it regards as a diversion from the class struggle. Even if it admits the relevance of national domination in the exploitative processes, ‘workerism’ insists on a perspective of an immediate struggle for socialism”.

A transitional stage of struggle, involving inter-class alliances, is alleged to lead to an abandonment of socialist perspectives and to a surrender of working class leadership. The economic struggles between workers and bosses at the point of production (which inevitably spill over into the broader political arena) is claimed to be the ‘class struggle’. This is sometimes coupled with a view that the trade union movement is the main political representative of the working class.

At the other end of this debate there are views which tend to erect a chinese wall between the struggle for national liberation and social emancipation. Our struggle is seen as ‘bourgeois-democratic’ in character so that the immediate agenda should not go beyond the objective of a kind of ‘de-raced’ capitalism. According to this view there will be time enough after apartheid is destroyed to then turn our attention to the struggle for socialism. Hence there should be little talk of our ultimate socialist objectives. The working class should not insist on the inclusion of radical social measures as part of the immediate agenda because that would risk frightening away potential allies against apartheid.

For South African communists the questions and debates we have mentioned above have not arisen for the first time. For over 66 years we have attempted to find the answers and to apply them in the actual arena of struggle.

The South African Communist Party, in its 1984 constitution, declares that its aim is to lead the working class towards the strategic goal of establishing a socialist republic ‘and the more immediate aim of winning the objectives of the national democratic revolution which is inseparably linked to it’.

‘...the national liberation of the African people in particular, and the black people in general, the destruction of the economic and political power of the racist ruling class, and the establishment of one united state of people’s power in which the working class will be the dominant force and which will move uninterruptedly towards social emancipation and the total abolition of exploitation of man by man’.

The national democratic revolution — the present stage of struggle in our country is a revolution of the whole oppressed people. This does not mean that the oppressed ‘people’ can be regarded as a single or homogeneous entity. The main revolutionary camp in the immediate struggle is made up of different classes and strata (overwhelmingly black) which suffer varying forms and degrees of national oppression and economic exploitation. The camp of those who benefit from, and support, national domination is also divided into classes.

Some ‘learned theorists’ are continuously warning workers against talk of a ‘revolution of the whole oppressed people’, accusing those who use such formulations of being ‘populists’ rather than revolutionaries. Let us hear Lenin on this question since he was also in the habit of using the same words to describe the upsurge in Russia:

‘Yes, the people’s revolution. Social Democracy ... demands that this word shall not be used to cover up failure to understand class antagonisms within the people ... However, it does not divide the “people” into “classes” so that the advanced class becomes locked up within itself ... the advanced class ... should fight with all the greater energy and enthusiasm for the cause of the whole people, at the head of the whole people’ (Selected Works, Volume 1, p.503).

Of course, the long-term interests of the diverse classes and strata of the revolutionary camp do not necessarily coincide. They do not have the same consistency and commitment even to the immediate objectives of the democratic revolution. It is obviously from within the ranks of the black middle and upper strata that the enemy will look for sources of collaboration. We will return to this question.
But, in general, it remains true that our National Democratic Revolution expresses the broad objective interests not only of the working class but also of most of the other classes within the nationally-dominated majority, including the black petit- bourgeoisie and significant strata of the emergent black bourgeoisie. This reality provides the foundation for a struggle which aims to mobilise to its side all the oppressed classes and strata as participants in the national liberation alliance.

We believe that the working class is both an indispensable part and the leading force of such a liberation alliance. But its relations with other classes and strata cannot be conditional on the acceptance by them of socialist aims. The historic programme which has evolved to express the common immediate aspirations of all the classes of the oppressed people is the Freedom Charter. This document is not, in itself, a programme for socialism, even though (as we argue later) it can provide a basis for uninterrupted advance to a socialist future.

The recent surge in workers’ organisation and socialist thinking has highlighted some important questions.
• Does the immediate emphasis on the national democratic revolution imply that the working class should abandon class struggle in favour of national struggle?
• Are socialist objectives being shelved in favour of a struggle for so-called bourgeois democracy?
• Which class must play the vanguard role in our democratic revolution?
• Above all, how can the independent class role of the working class be safeguarded in a period demanding inter-class alliances?

The answer to these questions and the key to a correct determination of strategy and tactics in our present situation requires a correct grasp of the relationship between class and national struggle.
If we pose the question by asking only whether our struggle is a national struggle or a class struggle, we will inevitably get a wrong answer. The right question is: what is the relationship between these two categories. A failure to understand the class content of the national struggle and the national content of the class struggle in existing conditions can hold back the advance of both the democratic and socialist transformations which we seek.

National domination is maintained by a ruling class whose state apparatus protects the economic interests and social privileges of all classes among the white minority. It denies the aspiration of the African people towards a single nationhood and, in its place, attempts to perpetuate tribalism and ethnicity. These, and a host of related practices, are the visible daily manifestations of national domination. These practices affect the status and life of every black in every class. It is, however, the black working class which, in practice, suffers the most intense form of national domination. And those who dismiss the fight against national domination as the key immediate mobilising factor of our working class are living in an unreal world of their own.

It is encouraging to observe the recent spread of an understanding of the link between national domination and class exploitation among organised sectors of the working class. This spread is due primarily to the heightened experiences of the struggle against race domination in the recent period.
Socialist ideas take root not just through book knowledge but through struggle around day-to-day issues. And, for those who have to live the hourly realities and humiliations of race tyranny (at the point of production, in the townships, in the street, etc.) there is no issue more immediate and relevant than the experience of national oppression. This is certainly the starting point of political consciousness for every black worker.

It is mainly in the actual struggle against national oppression that its class roots can be grasped most effectively. It is that struggle which illuminates most brightly the underlying relationship in our country between capitalism and national domination.
Those who would like to restrict the meaning of class struggle to a trade union struggle against the bosses, and who see political struggle only through narrow economistic spectacles, would do well to heed Lenin’s words on these questions:

‘Is it true that, in general, the economic struggle is “the most widely applicable means” of drawing the masses in to political struggle? It is entirely untrue. Any and every manifestation of police tyranny and autocratic outrage, not only in connection with the economic struggle, is not one whit less “widely applicable” as a means of drawing in the masses ... Of the sum total of cases in which the workers suffer (either on their own account or on account of those closely connected with them) from tyranny, violence and lack of rights, undoubtedly only a small minority represent cases of police tyranny in the trade union struggle as such’ (Selected Works, Volume 1, p.136).

When workers engage in the national struggle to destroy race domination they are surely, at the same time, engaging in class struggle.

National liberation is, at the same time, a short-term class imperative for the working people. Because the tyranny of national oppression weighs more heavily on South Africa’s doubly- exploited working class than on any other working class, its destruction by the shortest route possible is, in itself, in the deepest class interests of our proletariat. Both immediately and in the long-term, our working class stands to gain more from the ending of national domination than any other class among the oppressed.

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Nov 1 2011 21:51

Noa, I think the extra information you've provided on WIlson, taken together with the document on the RtSD in International Law which I put up, demonstrate the quandary which capitalism has been in over this, particularly in the era (1919 to around 1970) when France and Britain were weaning themselves off and being shoved off formal colonialism. At the same time the US was reluctant to be seen as a colonial power, hence their rejection of the British suggestion that they take the Palestine Mandate (the point of which was only to secure the proposed Haifa pipeline from the Iraqi oilfields) and, particularly after 1945, the US ruling class saw the great benefits to informal imperialism, the place of nation states as nominally free puppets within that framework and the way they could use the Bretton Woods instruments and loans to exploit and dominate these states (Carl Perkins' "I was an economic hit-man' is a classic account of this).

I think I sort of follow what you are saying - that Lenin's 'negative demand' is a bit like a Trotskyist 'transitional demand', which I always thought was a load of metaphysical bollocks. The essenc of your point seems to be that "once you support self-determination as a practical demand, you tie the proletariat to the local interest", meaning the local bourgeois interest. I think Joe Slovo's article shows that this is not necessarily the case at all:

Quote:
If we pose the question by asking only whether our struggle is a national struggle or a class struggle, we will inevitably get a wrong answer. The right question is: what is the relationship between these two categories. A failure to understand the class content of the national struggle and the national content of the class struggle in existing conditions can hold back the advance of both the democratic and socialist transformations which we seek.

NR wrote:

Quote:
Now I think we should agree on words; self-determination and liberation mean the same. Probably what you understand as liberation is national sovereignty. Sovereignty has nothing to do with self-determination.

Not to me, as I have, I think, explained - SD is, or has become, a capitalist construct which does equate with the bourgeois concept of sovereignty, whereas liberation is a negative, as in liberation from the national domination, class exploitation and racial domination which Slovo explains and which applies to virtually all instances where a dominant settler population is present as a factor.

NR wrote:

Quote:
Perhaps they were euro-centric, to use a buzzword, but why is that not justified, considering that self-determination is an issue for them (unless you think Irish, Poles, Balkan nations, Norwegians, etc. don't come into consideration for self-det., hey that rhymes!).

I really do think the instances you quote and on which they relied are unrepresentative of how imperialism impacts on the other 4 continents. No racial dimension, no significant use of these territories as a source of raw materials, imperialism at the hands of an adjacent land power - all untypical!

Kautsky argued:

Quote:
To be sure, we must not forget that while they are fighting the same enemy they are not fighting it with the same object – not in order to gain a victory for the proletariat over capital, but in order to substitute an internal national capitalism for an external one they are rising. We must not have any illusions on this point.

Again, I think Joe Slovo, from a position inside an anti-imperialist struggle, saw the nuances within these struggles in a far more useful way than this simple, quite high-handed generalisation.

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Nov 1 2011 23:23

NR, if I have misunderstood this Kautsky quote - i.e. because he was referring in it just to the national bourgeoisie - then I withdraw my comment above.

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Nov 2 2011 14:43

Pengwern, our conversation will become very funny if everyone uses his own meaning for the words. I think there's no difference between national self-determination and national liberation, but if you want to insist, let's agree on their meaning given by socialists, not least Lenin:

Lenin wrote:
The Right of Nations to Self-Determination

The most widespread deception of the people perpetrated by the bourgeoisie in the present war is the concealment of its predatory aims with “national-liberation” ideology. The English promise the liberation of Belgium, the Germans of Poland, etc. Actually, as we have seen, this is a war waged by the oppressors of the majority of the nations of the world for the purpose of fortifying and expanding such oppression.

Socialists cannot achieve their great aim without fighting against all oppression of nations. Therefore, they must without fail demand that the Social-Democratic parties of oppressing countries (especially of the so-called “great” powers) should recognise and champion the right of oppressed nations to self-determination, precisely in the political sense of the term, i.e., the tight to political secession. The Socialist of a ruling or colony-owning nation who fails to champion this right is a chauvinist.

The championing of this right, far from encouraging the formation of small states, leads, on the contrary, to the freer, fearless and therefore wider and mote widespread formation of very big states and federations of states, which are more beneficial for the masses and more fully in keeping with economic development.

The Socialists of oppressed nations must, in their turn, unfailingly fight for the complete (including organisational) unity of the workers of the oppressed and oppressing nationalities. The idea of the juridical separation of one nation from another (so-called “cultural-national autonomy” advocated by Bauer and Renner) is reactionary.

Imperialism is the epoch of the constantly increasing oppression of the nations of the world by a handful of “great” powers and, therefore, it is impossible to fight for the socialist international revolution against imperialism unless the right of nations to self-determination is recognized. “No nation can be free if it oppresses other nations” (Marx and Engels). A proletariat that tolerates the slightest violence by “its” nation against other nations cannot be a socialist proletariat.

(Btw, for quotations, you paste the text you want to quote in the box, select the text and then press the quote button on top)

The real distinction to be made though, as I've been saying, is the right to self-det. and the use of that right.

Of course the right to self-determination is a bourgeois democratic slogan, but as your Slovo-text, points out, it was not one invented by Wilson, rather it was abandoned by the bourgeoisie in modern times because the bourgeoisie is no longer a revolutionary class:

Slovo wrote:
It could, of course, be said that we are struggling at this stage for some of those political rights which were articulated by the ideologists of the rising bourgeoisie at the dawn of capitalism (the franchise for all, civil equality, national unity, self- determination, etc.). These have become traditionally labelled ‘bourgeois-democratic rights’. The banner of ‘democracy’ helped the emerging bourgeoisie to mobilise the working people in the towns and the serfs in the countryside against the old feudal order and to establish its own hegemony.

Today, in general, it has become an anachronism to link democratic aspirations with the bourgeoisie. A struggle for democracy in the modern era has little, if anything, to do with the ‘bourgeois-democratic revolution’. Wherever democracy threatens the basis of capitalist economic exploitation the bourgeoisie are the first to abandon it.

And further Slovo writes:

Slovo wrote:
National self-determination correctly remains part of the Holy Grail of Marxist learning. But, for most parts of Africa, the invocation of this right for regional or ethnic entities (either for secessionary purposes or for creating ethnically-defined political groupings) usually serves to undermine rather than to advance the right to national self-determination. And nowhere is this more so than in the context of the South African struggle.

So Slovo is against the invocation (or practical demand) of this right for every regional groups, because it undermines the right to national self-determination! Something like that. Obviously this is confused and I don't agree with him, if only because he liquidates the internationalist sense (hence 'negative') that the slogan had for earlier socialists.

You interpreted Kautsky correctly the first time. In advocating national liberation (not the right to, but the actual struggle), the proletariat becomes tied to the national interests. Maybe Kautsky meant it less categorically; the proletariat runs a higher danger of losing its independent policy, or it becomes more difficult to keep an independent proletarian policy. That's just an indisputable observation I think.

The reason I mentioned the European cases, was to show that RtSD for the early socialists was not an exclusively colonial question (as you want it to look like).

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Nov 2 2011 15:42

NR, I agree that communication depends on the same usage of words or concepts. The trouble is, though, is that SD seems to have been used by quite different people for different purposes, which is why I prefer the concept of liberation, particularly as used by most black Marxists.

You quote Lenin on the size of liberated states:

The championing of this right, far from encouraging the formation of small states, leads, on the contrary, to the freer, fearless and therefore wider and mote widespread formation of very big states and federations of states, which are more beneficial for the masses and more fully in keeping with economic development.

Quote:

You quote Slovo to much the same effect, which surprised me - as an African, he should have been very aware of how colonial borders cut across identities and how imperialism worked through putting ethnic minorities in charge (Sunnis in Iraq, Christians in the Lebanon, etc) in most of these. Amy Chu's book recent, which I have but have yet to read, focuses on this as a massively negative legacy borne today by the ex-colonised of the world, in most of whose countries there is invariably an ethnic divide between the group in possession of the state and the rest.

NR wrote:

You interpreted Kautsky correctly the first time. In advocating national liberation (not the right to, but the actual struggle), the proletariat becomes tied to the national interests. Maybe Kautsky meant it less categorically; the proletariat runs a higher danger of losing its independent policy, or it becomes more difficult to keep an independent proletarian policy. That's just an indisputable observation I think.

Quote:

I think this shows the yawning gap between the European and 'Black' perspectives on fighting imperialism - the latter (people like Cedric Robinson, Fanon, CLR James, Slovo etc) are from inside of the anti-imperialist struggle and understand why, in the colonial context, the working class is often composed either of settlers or those native closest in sympathy to the settler state (Fanon makes this very clear about Algeria) and are not only thereby debarred from being part of the anti-imperialist struggle but unfit for making alliances with. I really do think you are extrapolating a European template onto a very different colonial reality.

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Nov 2 2011 16:35

NR, I think Europe is important, too. The phenomenon of the imperialist powers drawing borders at their own convenience. with no regard for ethnic and linguistic realities. around new nations they regarded as fit to be granted SD is also European.

After the First World War, the multi-ethnic patchwork between Germany and Russia was manufactured into nation states by France and Britain - most of these new states were multi-ethnic, yet included members of those same ethnicities beyond their borders.The Paris Treaty gave 60 million Europeans a state of their own but tuned another 25 million into minorities within these states. Discrimination and internal division resulted and militated against anti-capitalist unity in all of these, just as it had in the African colonies created on a similar basis following the Congress of Berlin in the 1880s and in the Middle East Mandates.

This was the age in which the bourgeoisie forced its nation state template onto the world, all the better to rule it by. It revisited the same template in Eastern Europe and Central Asia after 1990 and fought against Pan-Arabism in the 1960s because it represented a threat to this template.

Its in this sense that I have some sympathy with Lenin and Slovo and feel less than enthusiastic about the R to SD.

Having said that, I do think that anti-imperialist struggle, precisely because it emerges among conditions like this which are not of its own choosing, is almost bound to have periods when it de-stabilises capitalism but, equally, periods when it fails to reach its potential because of such conditions.

Ethnic and linguistic reality on the ground is not something which Marxists have usually been aware of or willing to consider as anywhere near as important as class composition, but, outside of a handful of well-established nation states in West Europe, North America and East Asia, it frequently trumps class as the determining factor in deciding the outcome of anti-imperialist resistance. That's why I like Slovo's re-formulation of the question - "A failure to understand the class content of the national struggle and the national content of the class struggle in existing conditions can hold back the advance of both the democratic and socialist transformations which we seek".

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Nov 2 2011 16:37
Quote:
I think this shows the yawning gap between the European and 'Black' perspectives on fighting imperialism - the latter (people like Cedric Robinson, Fanon, CLR James, Slovo etc) are from inside of the anti-imperialist struggle and understand why, in the colonial context, the working class is often composed either of settlers or those native closest in sympathy to the settler state (Fanon makes this very clear about Algeria) and are not only thereby debarred from being part of the anti-imperialist struggle but unfit for making alliances with. I really do think you are extrapolating a European template onto a very different colonial reality.

Well, let's look at this a bit more closely-- like CLR James allying with Dr. Eric E. Williams in Trinidad/Tobago and what happened there.

Cedric Robinson's experience should also be seen in the context of his being an academic.

Fanon's work really offers no critical analysis of the limitations of the elements, and agents he endorses. And Algeria makes those limitations painfully clear to the most casual observer.

Slovo-- yes, he's a South African, but not exactly a member of the indigenous people is he? And again, we need to grasp the limitations of what he is advocating. Those limitations have been exposed time after time-- the separation of a "national" or "democratic" or "bourgeois democratic" phase from proletarian class struggle has been shown to be at best artifice. In reality it's a method for suppressing that independent class struggle.

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Nov 2 2011 17:46
Quote:
The phenomenon of the imperialist powers drawing borders at their own convenience. with no regard for ethnic and linguistic realities. around new nations they regarded as fit to be granted SD is also European.

But that was a violation of the RtSD. A RtSD can't be granted by the victorious powers on to the population, that's a contradiction in terms. And Lenin is not asking for RtSD to be included in international law (RtSD was, again, NOT what Wilson had proposed, and his proposal was DEFEATED anyway). Lenin is addressing the social-democratic parties.

Quote:
in the colonial context, the working class is often composed either of settlers or those native closest in sympathy to the settler state (Fanon makes this very clear about Algeria) and are not only thereby debarred from being part of the anti-imperialist struggle but unfit for making alliances with. I really do think you are extrapolating a European template onto a very different colonial reality.

Similar situation existed with a mostly Russian proletariat in parts of Ukraine. Actually there was a lot of experience with pan-slavism (sort of precursor to pan-arabism) and its reactionary role was already then recognized by the socialists. Kautsky of course was himself from a minority nationality, the Czechs (don't know if German workers predominated there, but I imagine that was likely).

Today this article was added to the Libcom library, which concludes

Radical chains issue no.3 wrote:
Now Lenin cannot be held fully responsible for the use to which his words have since been put, but his relatively sophisticated differentiation between the right of self-determination and the actual event (or is it mere sophistry?), and his demand that socialists should support elements of 'revolutionary' bourgeois nationalist movements have been cheapened and coarsened. The left has all too frequently assumed that it is leftist to support national struggles per se, no matter what brutality they might mete out to the working class, no matter what check they are on the formation of that class, and no matter what ludicrously economically inadequate piece of territory they claim. There is no real historical excuse; even before the First World War, Anton Pannekoek pointed out that bourgeois nationalists in the colonies were injecting their own interests into socialist ideology due to the bankruptcy of bourgeois ideology. This process has continued until now it is accepted wisdom that support for national bourgeois regimes is inherent in socialism. And so it may be to socialism, the outdated ideology of the Second International. But it has little or nothing to do with proletarian revolution.

This is the typical attitude that I sought to address in this thread. Pannekoek is not saying anything different from Kautsky, and how can Lenin be blamed for the way his words have been distorted?

Also Pannekoek (after the Second International) seemed not to have a problem about RtSD:

Pannekoek wrote:
The Russian revolution is the beginning of the great revolt by Asia against the Western European capital concentrated in England. As a rule, we in Western Europe only consider the effects which it has here, where the advanced theoretical development of the Russian revolutionaries has made them the teachers of the proletariat as it reaches towards communism. But its workings in the East are more important still; and Asian questions therefore influence the policies of the soviet republic almost more than European questions. The call for freedom and for the self-determination of all peoples and for struggle against European capital throughout Asia is going out from Moscow, where delegations from Asiatic tribes are arriving one after another.
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Nov 2 2011 19:40

NR, you argue:

Quote:
The phenomenon of the imperialist powers drawing borders at their own convenience. with no regard for ethnic and linguistic realities. around new nations they regarded as fit to be granted SD is also European.
But that was a violation of the RtSD. A RtSD can't be granted by the victorious powers on to the population, that's a contradiction in terms. And Lenin is not asking for RtSD to be included in international law (RtSD was, again, NOT what Wilson had proposed, and his proposal was DEFEATED anyway). Lenin is addressing the social-democratic parties.

It's the creation of, not a violation of sovereignty, but, yes, a violation of the RtSD. If, as under the bourgeois definition, SD (not the Right to SD)equates with sovereignty, then you have my basis for using these concepts as I have, though not as Lenin intended. Since your distinction is between process and outcome, then maybe you agree?

Quote:
Kautsky of course was himself from a minority nationality, the Czechs (don't know if German workers predominated there, but I imagine that was likely).

S.A might not bother reading what Kautsky had to say then, since his main point seems to be that Slovo wasn't part of the indigenous black South African population.

Quote:
Actually there was a lot of experience with pan-slavism (sort of precursor to pan-arabism) and its reactionary role was already then recognized by the socialists.

I don't think Pan-Arabism was reactionary per se - it was a response to the defeat of the old imperial oppressors at Suez and the union of Egypt and Syria was moving in the direction that Lenin and Slovo both advocated - larger anti-imperialist polities + it was saying 'No' to the artificial borders imposed on the Middle East after the First World War. It fell apart, with a little help from the west. Pan-slavism had been part of Tsarist foreign policy before the war, chiefly as a means to getting Russia naval access to the Mediterranean, so I think it was quite different.

I think Lenin was quite right in this quote from the article you cite:

Quote:
Lenin's last writings on the matter before the outbreak of the war The Rights of Nations to Self-Determination (CW20) represented his final version of orthodoxy on the subject; 'the formation of independent, national states is a tendency of all bourgeois-democratic revolutions' which the proletariat should support and the denial by ruling nations of the right of self-determination was a flouting of the principle of equality among nations to which the proletariat must not be an accomplice. He also reiterated the get-out clause, that recognition of the right to agitate for self-determination was different to actual support for it in any specific situation.

The last sentence of this is almost what you, NR, are arguing (process versus outcome) and I think I would agree with it. I don't think its sophistry.

This is interesting:

Quote:
Anton Pannekoek pointed out that bourgeois nationalists in the colonies were injecting their own interests into socialist ideology due to the bankruptcy of bourgeois ideology

.

Slovo, of course, talks about the importance of the penetration of the national struggle by the class struggle. Both this and what Pannekoek is on about probably happen simultaneously and produce confusion.

So, where does that leave us? Cameron and Sarkozy talk earnestly even today about the right of the Libyan (though not the Bahrainian) people to decide their own fate, and this seems to me to be the preponderant and most pernicious use of the concept of SD. However it was used by Lenin et al and the basis for this at the time as well as by revolutionaries from the colonised world, it provides, like 'humanitarian intervention', a ready excuse for modern imperialism.

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Nov 2 2011 19:52
S. Artesian wrote:
Quote:
I think this shows the yawning gap between the European and 'Black' perspectives on fighting imperialism - the latter (people like Cedric Robinson, Fanon, CLR James, Slovo etc) are from inside of the anti-imperialist struggle and understand why, in the colonial context, the working class is often composed either of settlers or those native closest in sympathy to the settler state (Fanon makes this very clear about Algeria) and are not only thereby debarred from being part of the anti-imperialist struggle but unfit for making alliances with. I really do think you are extrapolating a European template onto a very different colonial reality.

Well, let's look at this a bit more closely-- like CLR James allying with Dr. Eric E. Williams in Trinidad/Tobago and what happened there.

Cedric Robinson's experience should also be seen in the context of his being an academic.

Fanon's work really offers no critical analysis of the limitations of the elements, and agents he endorses. And Algeria makes those limitations painfully clear to the most casual observer.

Slovo-- yes, he's a South African, but not exactly a member of the indigenous people is he? And again, we need to grasp the limitations of what he is advocating. Those limitations have been exposed time after time-- the separation of a "national" or "democratic" or "bourgeois democratic" phase from proletarian class struggle has been shown to be at best artifice. In reality it's a method for suppressing that independent class struggle.

S.A, I'm disappointed in you. This is nowhere near 'looking closely'; it's innuendo!

Marx - the First International didn't go very well, did it?

Tariq Ali - not exactly a member of the indigenous British, eh?

Fanon was breaking new ground and focused, understandably, on pointing out what had been overlooked about anti-imperialist struggle on the Left; how many thinkers have always remembered to self-critique? (Not many on here).

David Harvey - not only an academic but also not born in the country where he works.

Do you get my issue with your argument?

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Nov 2 2011 21:19

Actually, I was trying to be restrained dealing with Slovo and the course of the CP in South Africa. I know he's idolized an all that [as is Mandela], but look, nobody gets a free ride here. You want to endorse nationalism and class collaboration, then when the class collaboration materializes you don't get to say "that's not what I meant."

Doesn't matter what he meant, matters what historical product has developed from what he said and did.[yeah, in this regard, Lenin gets no passes either]

I haven't read Fanon's book in 43 years or so, but I remember that it gave no material explanation, no accounting of the economic organization of imperialism, the process of accumulation and where and what kind of class antagonisms were developing.

And James and Eric Williams-- well how do you account for James working with Williams [who had no problem using James for his own purposes, then throwing him in the clink and expelling him]? Indeed a perfect little compressed history, and example, of the relationship of the "national" struggle, and the struggle for the emancipation of labor. As a matter of fact, I think Trinidad/Tobago and Williams' role in that "national struggle" tells us more than all the texts by Fanon and Slovo put together... as does the "evolution" of the ANC.

I'll point out that in criticizing Fanon, Slovo, James, I did a bit more than simply slam their professional or ethnic background.

And besides you were the one who brought up the "distinction" of being directly impacted by colonization:

Quote:
I think this shows the yawning gap between the European and 'Black' perspectives on fighting imperialism - the latter (people like Cedric Robinson, Fanon, CLR James, Slovo etc) are from inside of the anti-imperialist struggle

I do think the "academic" was a cheap shot at Robinson, and I apologize and withdraw it.

Wouldn't do the same for Harvey though, whose stature as a Marxist measures only the impoverished state of Marxism and the class struggle.

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Nov 2 2011 21:48
Quote:
If, as under the bourgeois definition, SD (not the Right to SD)equates with sovereignty, then you have my basis for using these concepts as I have, though not as Lenin intended

However, to the best of my knowledge, under the bourgeois definition SD doesn't equate with sovereignty, so the idiosyncrasy here has been on your part, not Lenin's. When you equate national liberation with sovereignty, a NATO intervention in Libya would in your words be an attack on Libya's national liberty, correct? It's very confusing.

Quote:
Since your distinction is between process and outcome, then maybe you agree?

Let's stick to the distinction between "the right to agitate for self-determination was different to actual support for it in any specific situation." I doubt whether your understanding of "process vs. outcome" captures the meaning of Lenin's distinction.

Quote:
Cameron and Sarkozy talk earnestly even today about the right of the Libyan (though not the Bahrainian) people to decide their own fate, and this seems to me to be the preponderant and most pernicious use of the concept of SD. However it was used by Lenin et al and the basis for this at the time as well as by revolutionaries from the colonised world, it provides, like 'humanitarian intervention', a ready excuse for modern imperialism.

I really think you're being idiosyncratic, because the usual third-world leftist defenders of places like Libya, imagine themselves to be defending the RtSD of the "people of Libya". Alex Roxwell has been interpreting the RtSD on this thread as national sovereignty. It's getting silly.

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Nov 3 2011 10:38
S. Artesian wrote:
Actually, I was trying to be restrained dealing with Slovo and the course of the CP in South Africa. I know he's idolized an all that [as is Mandela], but look, nobody gets a free ride here. You want to endorse nationalism and class collaboration, then when the class collaboration materializes you don't get to say "that's not what I meant."

Doesn't matter what he meant, matters what historical product has developed from what he said and did.[yeah, in this regard, Lenin gets no passes either]

I haven't read Fanon's book in 43 years or so, but I remember that it gave no material explanation, no accounting of the economic organization of imperialism, the process of accumulation and where and what kind of class antagonisms were developing.

And James and Eric Williams-- well how do you account for James working with Williams [who had no problem using James for his own purposes, then throwing him in the clink and expelling him]? Indeed a perfect little compressed history, and example, of the relationship of the "national" struggle, and the struggle for the emancipation of labor. As a matter of fact, I think Trinidad/Tobago and Williams' role in that "national struggle" tells us more than all the texts by Fanon and Slovo put together... as does the "evolution" of the ANC.

I'll point out that in criticizing Fanon, Slovo, James, I did a bit more than simply slam their professional or ethnic background.

And besides you were the one who brought up the "distinction" of being directly impacted by colonization:

Quote:
I think this shows the yawning gap between the European and 'Black' perspectives on fighting imperialism - the latter (people like Cedric Robinson, Fanon, CLR James, Slovo etc) are from inside of the anti-imperialist struggle

I do think the "academic" was a cheap shot at Robinson, and I apologize and withdraw it.

Wouldn't do the same for Harvey though, whose stature as a Marxist measures only the impoverished state of Marxism and the class struggle.

S.A. I think me and you were having a fr more productive argument one page ago, which culminated in my post 212, at the start of this page. For some reason you never replied to it and , although NR took up some points in it, my subsequent discussion with NR has been mostly about definitions.

DIscussing the new points you have raised about the contribution of particular thinkers has some interest, but I hope you agree that it is the ideas and analyses themselves which need debating, otherwise we end up judging everyone's intellectual contribution on the basis of what they achieved in a political environment not of their choosing; unfortunately, most of us on the Left have achieved far less than we hoped, so I don't know where that takes us.

It's up to you, anyway.

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Nov 3 2011 12:05

NR, I think I have got myself in some knots, too, but I also think you are inadvertently proving my underlying point -- that we have a genuine definitional problem because, on the one hand & as you say, Lenin (and others around that same time) was addressing the Second International on the pressing question of how to respond to anti-imperialist struggles, whereas, on the other, your contention that "A RtSD can't be granted by the victorious powers on to the population, that's a contradiction in terms" - an attempt to keep to the logic of a single definition - fails, because that is exactly what NATO and the EU did in the Balkan wars of the 1990s, by manipulating the creation of new, smaller states – ‘Balkanisation – specifically to facilitate ethnicity as a basis for national sovereignty in south east Europe, which in turn was a means of replacing a relative strong, influential and at times threatening state (NB Yugoslavia’s leadership of the ‘unaligned’ states) by a group of client states locked into military alliance and economic relations with their sponsors.

In so doing, international capitalism also broke with its concept of 'the integrity of territory', which was meant to ensure that nominal independence did not involve changing the borders from those operative under colonialism; during the Cold War, the concept of ‘sovereignty’ was taken, in practice, to equate with the maintenance of colonial borders. (I suggest we park 'sovereignty' off-limites for this discussion).

These are two utterly different uses of the term SD'. To international capitalism it is a term of convenience (Bourgeois international law has failed to agree on a satisfactory definition of ‘peoples’) and I think it best that, in trying to understand and analyse the modern world, we use it in this way and critique the hypocrisy involved in the term and its usage.

Which raises the question - what do we assert against this and how do we refer to it?

Erica Benner’s book (‘Really Existing Nationalisms’) is referenced by Wikipedia, as identifying arguments in Marx and Engels' writings that “can help us to think more clearly about national identity and conflict today. These arguments are located in a distinctive theory of politics, which enabled the authors to analyse the relations between nationalism and other social movements and to discriminate between democratic, outward-looking national programmes and authoritarian, ethnocentric nationalism. The book suggests that this approach improves on accounts, which stress the 'independent' force of nationality over other concerns, and on those that fail to analyse the complex motives of nationalist actors “.

I might try to get this book, but, for now, I see my argument as

a) accepting that anti-imperialist struggles contain a potential for weakening capitalism,

b) that this is not a simple matter of counterposing a separate class struggle element to the overall national struggle, but accepting Slovo's approach to this - working in alliance for a national solution which contains the potential to move on to a higher level of struggle,

c) accepting that ethnic and linguistic reality on the ground is as important as class composition in determining the potential and problems of anti-imperialist struggle.

d) (a new point) long, drawn-out national liberation struggles against a vicious imperialist power can, perversely, result, as in South East Asia, Zimbabwe and Algeria, in political movements coming to power in the name of SD or liberation which have been brutalised by what they had to do to defeat the imperialist enemy and go on to employ these methods in relation to the people of the newly independent country. In practice, they are outnumbered on most continents, but particularly in Africa, by corrupt and exploitative local elites who came to power via a neo-colonial settlement which did not involve any major struggle.

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Nov 3 2011 12:36

Pengwern,

I agree. To me here's the issue:

Quote:
You want to endorse nationalism and class collaboration, then when the class collaboration materializes you don't get to say "that's not what I meant."

Doesn't matter what he meant, matters what historical product has developed from what he said and did.[yeah, in this regard, Lenin gets no passes either]

What has been the result concretely of the "national liberation" destabilization of capitalism. Just the opposite-- the reconstitution of capitalism.

Yes, we can say the same thing about the Russian Revolution. Exactly the point-- we need to come to grips with how that real history transpired.

And that's my answer to #212. Plus this: we don't need an "ideological framework." Marxism is the end to ideology.

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Nov 3 2011 13:05
Quote:
concept of 'the integrity of territory', which was meant to ensure that nominal independence did not involve changing the borders from those operative under colonialism; during the Cold War, the concept of ‘sovereignty’ was taken, in practice, to equate with the maintenance of colonial borders. (I suggest we park 'sovereignty' off-limites for this discussion)

yeah, I see that in the bourgeois definition sovereignty is in fact used synonymously with SD, so my mistake, but what you wrote here shows you got my drift. It's just awkward to hear someone say that the sovereignty of the Basques or Kurds is violated, when they don't even have a state, but you can say it nonetheless I guess.

Quote:
an attempt to keep to the logic of a single definition - fails, because that is exactly what NATO and the EU did in the Balkan wars of the 1990s, by manipulating the creation of new, smaller states

I will bite the bullet, and say that the use, or abuse in this case, of the RtSD doesn't mean it should be abandoned. I think when you write that we should critique the hypocrisy of the use of RtSD, you're not essentially disagreeing. I wonder what Alex's reply is to your point, because he defends RtSD and yet you said you largely were in agreement with each other.

Quote:
Which raises the question - what do we assert against this and how do we refer to it?

Practically, the opponents of RtSD among the marxists, were saying the same thing; get out of the colonies. Like the Radical chains article says, it's seems thus quite strange why the debate was so strong and why Lenin went so far with it.

Lenin probably was so adamant about RtSD for its international aspect (the attitude of the workers in the oppressing central countries must be anti-chauvinst, and that the people who are oppressed should link up with the workers in the oppressing countries, i.e. they must act internationally). That's the framing you and Alex don't focus on, despite your different attitudes to RtSD.

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Nov 3 2011 16:07

NR, you say

Quote:
I think when you write that we should critique the hypocrisy of the use of RtSD, you're not essentially disagreeing. I wonder what Alex's reply is to your point, because he defends RtSD and yet you said you largely were in agreement with each other.

No, I think, though this debate, that the concept of SD is nowadays too flawed and, more importantly, too important to international capitalism and its justifications for its interventions for us to do anything short of relentlessly showing that they don't really mean it.

Quote:
Lenin probably was so adamant about RtSD for its international aspect (the attitude of the workers in the oppressing central countries must be anti-chauvinst, and that the people who are oppressed should link up with the workers in the oppressing countries, i.e. they must act internationally). That's the framing you and Alex don't focus on, despite your different attitudes to RtSD.

In the sense that Lenin used the term, it became redundant anyway. in July1935, the sixth congress of the Communist International in Moscow stated that its priority was the fight against fascism rather than anti-colonialism – a shift in the PCF’s position. The French PCF had already taken a reformist line on Algeria, arguing for a minimum programme of equality and civil rights at the International Congress against Colonial Oppression and Imperialism in Brussels in February 1927, while, at the same event, the Algerian anti-imperialist leader Messali Hadj denounced France’s violent colonial oppression in Algeria, the Native Code and the dispossession and humiliation endured by Algerian Muslims since 1830. He presented a programme that included general demands focusing on Algerian independence and the end of French ‘military occupation’.

It was this experience of faint-hearted anti-imperialism that drove Hadj away ffrom the PCF and towards a rapprochement with the Islamic Party. The PCF went on to support the French Violette Plan, designed to extend French citizenship with full political equality to certain classes of the Muslim "elite, although it was clearly an instrument of divide and rule.

By the end of the Second World War, Lenin's concept of workers in the imperialist heartland joining with workers in the colony on the basis of anti-imperialism was dead and buried where it mattered - the Algerian Communists joined the Islamic Party and others in an Algerian Front for the Defence and Respect of Liberty and from 1952 was fully committed to independence, while the PCF still supported France’s claim that Algeria was part of France.

So, I can't see the problem in distancing ourselves from imperialist polemics about self-determination and counterposing an internationalism based on liberation from ALL aspects of the imperialist relationship.

Whether or not Alex ses things this way I have no idea. We may have started out in broad agreement but engaging in debate is all about getting clearer than you were at the beginning.

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Pengwern
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Nov 3 2011 16:22

S.A,

I think you are being very deterministic about both anti-imperialism and revolution.

AsI said in 212, you are right, that anti-imperialist struggles nearly always fail to cause permanent damage to international capitalism, but there is nothing in their nature which makes this predictable from the outset, and nothing which automatically prevents them from making imperialism weaker in the short term. Zionism and the US system for managing and controlling Middle East oil is correctly worried about the consequences if they cannot successfully manage the Arab Spring, and even moderate islamist governments in Tunisia, Egypt, etc will no longer be available as de facto supporters of the US and Zionism.

Imperialism is why capitalism has been able to globalise its operations and create an inter-continental division between producers and consumers; the network of tax havens run from the City of London is based upon imperialism, past and present. Anti-imperialist struggles keep setting imperialism new challenges all the time and, like capitalism and class struggle, its in the nature of imperialism to produce its own gravediggers. WHat we haven't had yet is prolonged concerted action and the reason why this has been so difficult is how imperialism divides as it expands, just like a cancer.

Pengwern's picture
Pengwern
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Joined: 18-10-11
Nov 3 2011 16:23

S.A,

I think you are being very deterministic about both anti-imperialism and revolution.

AsI said in 212, you are right, that anti-imperialist struggles nearly always fail to cause permanent damage to international capitalism, but there is nothing in their nature which makes this predictable from the outset, and nothing which automatically prevents them from making imperialism weaker in the short term. Zionism and the US system for managing and controlling Middle East oil is correctly worried about the consequences if they cannot successfully manage the Arab Spring, and even moderate islamist governments in Tunisia, Egypt, etc will no longer be available as de facto supporters of the US and Zionism.

Imperialism is why capitalism has been able to globalise its operations and create an inter-continental division between producers and consumers; the network of tax havens run from the City of London is based upon imperialism, past and present. Anti-imperialist struggles keep setting imperialism new challenges all the time and, like capitalism and class struggle, its in the nature of imperialism to produce its own gravediggers. WHat we haven't had yet is prolonged concerted action and the reason why this has been so difficult is how imperialism divides as it expands, just like a cancer.

Pengwern's picture
Pengwern
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Joined: 18-10-11
Nov 3 2011 16:24

S.A,

I think you are being very deterministic about both anti-imperialism and revolution.

AsI said in 212, you are right, that anti-imperialist struggles nearly always fail to cause permanent damage to international capitalism, but there is nothing in their nature which makes this predictable from the outset, and nothing which automatically prevents them from making imperialism weaker in the short term. Zionism and the US system for managing and controlling Middle East oil is correctly worried about the consequences if they cannot successfully manage the Arab Spring, and even moderate islamist governments in Tunisia, Egypt, etc will no longer be available as de facto supporters of the US and Zionism.

Imperialism is why capitalism has been able to globalise its operations and create an inter-continental division between producers and consumers; the network of tax havens run from the City of London is based upon imperialism, past and present. Anti-imperialist struggles keep setting imperialism new challenges all the time and, like capitalism and class struggle, its in the nature of imperialism to produce its own gravediggers. WHat we haven't had yet is prolonged concerted action and the reason why this has been so difficult is how imperialism divides as it expands, just like a cancer.