Chapter 2. Nationalities and International Relations

Submitted by Juan Conatz on December 21, 2010

National rights are not a principle in themselves, but a result of the principle of freedom. No nation or nationality, as a natural association of individuals on the basis of common language, can find suitable conditions for its normal development within the confines of a capitalist environment and State organization. Stronger nations conquer the weaker ones and make every effort to dismember them by means of artificial assimilation. For that reason national domination is a constant companion of the State and of capitalism. The criminally mercenary interests of the ruling classes impel them to sow hatred and hostility between nations, two emotions which lie at the root of patriotism, which in turn is so essential to the State and to capitalism.

So-called national interests, which today are always part and parcel of economic and political affairs from the viewpoint of the State, are in fact the interests of the ruling classes. Hence they are contrary to the needs of the people, and lead to hostility between nations and to war. Therefore, in capitalist State society, the national problem is a partial aspect of the general problem -- i.e. the problem of freedom, and cannot be solved in the -interests of the working people.

"The right of a nation to self-determination" and to independent sovereign existence, is nothing but the right of the national bourgeoisie to the unlimited exploitation of its proletariat; the actualization of this right in a multi-national country which raises the banner of the social revolution and thus finds itself encircled by capitalism, becomes in fact the right to self-defense of the national bourgeoisie against the revolution, and a weapon of the international bourgeoisie. This was demonstrated convincingly by the Russian experience in the years between 1917 and 1922. The realization of the "right to national self-determination" is thus a realization only of extraneous freedom -- that of nationalities -- from which the exploited classes gain too little, if anything at all.

Furthermore, the slogan of the "right of each nation to self-determination", if followed to its logical conclusion, becomes an absurdity. To realize it on the territory of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics, for instance, would have led to the establishment of a multitude of States, which would be inadmissable from the viewpoint either of the interests of the proletariat or of those of freedom and the social revolution.

This does not mean that the Anarchists are opposed to national freedom. On the contrary, they have always stood for the rights of all oppressed nationalities. Nationality, like die individual, is a natural social and historic fact, and recognition of it is a vital principle. Every nation, however large or small and on whatever cultural level it may be, has the right, just like the individual, to think, feel, desire, speak and act in its own ways. That, in fact, is what national right really means -- the right to be oneself; this right is a natural consequence of the principles of liberty and equality.

Nationality itself, however, is not a principle but a fact. To advance it as an ideal for all movements of the exploited classes would be criminal. The Anarchists stand above the narrow and petty national ambitions "for which one's country is the center of the world, which sees greatness in its capacity to terrify its neighbors." International freedom and equality, world-wide justice, are higher than all national interests. National rights cease to be a consequence of these higher principles if, and when, they place themselves against liberty and even outside liberty. Every State is an enemy of liberty and equality. Nations which achieve their right to self-determination and which become states, in their turn begin to deny national rights to their own subordinate minorities, to persecute their languages, their desires and their right to be themselves. In this manner, "self-determination'* not only brings the nation concerned none of that internal freedom in which the proletariat is most interested, but also fails to solve the national problem. On the contrary, it becomes a threat to the world, since States must always aim to expand at the expense of their weaker neighbors.

For that reason the Anarchists, in rejecting the State, also reject its ways and means of solving the national problem; a real and full solution will be possible only in conditions of Anarchy, in a Communism emanating from the liberty of the individual and achieved by the free association of individuals in communes, of communes in regions, and regions in nations -- - associations founded in liberty and-equality and creating a natural national unity in plurality.

The International Confederation, freely established by the voluntary federation of self-governing parts in a single whole, will solve the national problem completely on the basis of full liberty and equality, without which any solution of the problem would necessarily bear a bourgeois character, and hence become either secretly or openly aggressive. Only the Communal Confederation will determine the world order in international relations, removing all causes for war and oppression. The International Confederation cannot consist of States, since an association of States, like the contemporary League of Nations, is nothing more than an international association of the exploiting classes directed against the international proletariat, and utilizing as weapons the denial of freedom and the constant threat of war.

The organization of the International Confederation must be preceded by the Communalistic Revolution, replacing the State by communes and Trade Unions which, uniting freely from below, are the only organizations capable of establishing a real international unity based on the recognition of the right to self-determination not only for every nation (regardless- of size), but also for all communes and provinces within nations. There will be only two conditions to such self-delermination: that their internal structure shall not threaten the freedom and self-determination of their neighbors and that the fact of voluntary association does not permanently bind a member.

On the basis of the points outlined above, and in the light of their final goal, the current policy of the Anarchists in the sphere of national problems and international relations is directed toward drawing together the international proletariat, and the working peasantry of all nations, in a common struggle for the abolition of private property (the struggle for communism); in a common struggle lor the destruction of the State (the struggle for anarchy) ; in a common struggle for the destruction of all national prejudices, frontiers and privileges, for equality and self-determination for all nations. Hence propaganda for the idea of an International Workingmen's Association, active co-operation in its organizational efforts and participation in its work are an obligation for every Anarchist.

As for the national right to "self-determination", Anarchists do not deny a nation's right to separation, since it is part of the principle of freedom which they recognize. They deny only the usefulness to the proletariat, not of self-determination as such, but of self-determination according to State concepts. Acknowledging that a strong patriotism is developing among the enslaved nations and, with it, a distrust of the proletariat in the ruling nationalities (a fact which has a pernicious effect on the struggle of the international proletariat for full and universal liberation), the Anarchists demand the liberation of all colonies and support every struggle for national independence as long as it is an expression of the will of the revolutionary proletariat and the working peasantry of the nation concerned.