Since nationalism is nothing to do with class struggle, then the question is
“What is nationalism” and “what does this question means in various era of
capitalism”? Also, What is the Marxist definition of state, nation and imperialism?
What kind of approach and believes the Marxists had such as Marx, Engels, Lenin and
Rosa Luxemburg? What was the communist left's position in this issue? When will man's
oppression of human beings disappear? In this text (which will be in three parts),
we try to formulate some answers to all these questions. Therefore, we will try to
use the past experiences effectively by applying the real Marxists believes.
The national issue during the period of the rise of capitalism
In the development process of capitalism, the creation of new nations was a progressive
step in the development of productive forces. This meant that the new nations were able
to develop in a social framework, i.e. world market. Therefore, gave often Communists
and proletarian internationalists their support to the national liberation movement.
This aid was given in the rise of capitalism, are used today by leftists as an argument
for their support to the "national liberation movements" in the present historical epoch.
In the mean time, the bourgeoisie remained a progressive and revolutionary class that
struggled against feudalism fetters. The bourgeois revolution against feudal portrayed
in a national form. Lenin describes this as the following:
“A precise formulation of this question, which no Marxist can avoid, would at once
destroy nine-tenths of Rosa Luxemburg’s arguments. This is not the first time that
national movements have arisen in Russia, nor are they peculiar to that country alone.
Throughout the world, the period of the final victory of capitalism over feudalism has
been linked up with national movements. For the complete victory of commodity production,
the bourgeoisie must capture the home market, and there must be politically united
territories whose population speak a single language, with all obstacles to the
development of that language and to its consolidation in literature eliminated.
Therein is the economic foundation of national movements. Language is the most
important means of human intercourse. Unity and unimpeded development of language
are the most important conditions for genuinely free and extensive commerce on a
scale commensurate with modern capitalism, for a free and broad grouping of the
population in all its various classes and, lastly, for the establishment of a close
connection between the market and each and every proprietor, big or little, and
between seller and buyer.
Therefore, the tendency of every national movement is towards the formation of
, under which these requirements of modern capitalism are
Yet Marx already revealed the fraudulent nature of "national war" in 1871. He wrote
for the International Council on the occasion of the Paris Commune cases of this:
"The fact that the two armies from the largest military showdown in modern times,
after the war, can be united to crush the proletariat is a thing of immense importance.
But it does not as Bismarck imagines to work for the new form of society that has been
made impossible for all time; on the contrary, it shows how the old bourgeois society
is heading towards its total decomposition. The National War symbolized the first form
of heroism as the old type of society was powerful, and now this war has proven to be a
The sole purpose was to divert attention away from class struggle and as
soon as class struggle developed into civil war was any deceptive scenes aside. Class
domination could no longer hide in the nationalist disguise: the national governments
have come together to fight against the proletariat.” [Our translation]
The full support for self-determination of nations or conditional aid
Marx, Engels and other communists did not support all national movements during the
period of the rise of capitalism, but only those movements that were progressive.
On the twenty-first of July, 1870, Wilhelm Liebknecht and August Bebel made the
following historical declaration before the Reichstag:
“The present war is a dynastic war in the interest of the Bonaparte dynasty as
the war of 1866 was conducted in the interest of the Hollenzollern dynasty.
We cannot vote for the funds which are demanded from the Reichstag to conduct this war because
this would be, in effect, a vote of confidence in the Prussian government. And we know that
the Prussian government by its action in 1866 prepared this war. At the same time we
cannot vote against the budget, lest this be construed to mean that we support the
conscienceless and criminal policies of Bonaparte.”
What was the Second International position on this issue at its Congress in London in
1896? Before looking their position, we need to notice that even Second International
had lack of clarity on this issue. The following is Second International’s decision
beside other things:
“This Congress declares that it stands for the full right of all nations to self-determination
[Selbstbestimmungsrecht] and expresses its sympathy for the workers of ever country now
suffering under the yoke of military, national or other absolutism. This Congress calls
upon the workers of all these countries to join the ranks of the class-conscious
[Klassenbewusste -those who understand their class interests] workers of the whole
world in order jointly to fight for the defeat of international capitalism and for
the achievement of the aims of international Social-Democracy.” 
Proletarian of all countries, unite! Instead of “unification of Proletarian in
developed countries!" &"Classes in non-developed countries as well!"
When Marx and Engels had the task to write the Communist Manifesto in 1848,
the capitalism was developed only in a few countries, mainly in England. One
could say that today's capitalism in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, etc. is more
developed than in England in 1848 years. Yet was not in the Communist
Manifesto "Proletarian of developed countries unite!” and “Classes in
non-developed countries unite!” but instead Marx and Engels with a
historical perspective wrote”Proletarian of all countries unite!"
The whole capitalist system enters in its decadence
”Side by side with England, one nation after another stepped into the world market, capitalism
developed automatically, and with gigantic strides, into world economy.”
Rosa Luxemburg described a global historical process of capitalist development
a single and unit process. She did not divide the world in different historical
parts, namely a senile capitalism, a youthful and dynamic capitalism. Capitalism
is a unified system that has its rise and decadence periods. Also, the entire of
the system has moved into its decadence. International Communist Current explains
as the following:
“But as capitalist social relations became generalized throughout the original
enclaves of capitalism the ‘push’ of capitalist production towards the rest
of the world accelerated. Instead of competition between individual capitals
for markets within the national framework, the emphasis was now on competition
between national capitals for the remaining non-capitalist areas of the globe.
This was the essence of imperialism, which is simply the expression of ‘normal’
capitalist competition on an ‘international’ scale, backed up of course by the
armed state power which is the distinguishing characteristic of competition at
As long as this imperialist development was restricted to a few advanced capitals
expanding towards a still considerable non-capitalist sector of the world, competition
remained relatively peaceful, except from the point of view of the pre-capitalist
peoples who were being plundered wholesale by imperialist cartels (i.e. China and Africa).
But as soon as imperialism integrated the whole world into capitalist relations, as soon
as the world market became completely divided up, then global capitalist competition
could only assume a violent and openly aggressive character from which no nation,
advanced or backward, could ‘hold aloof’, since every nation had been irresistibly
drawn into the rat-race of competition over a saturated world market.”
The natural of the First World War
The First World War marks a historic turning point in the history of capitalism.
It shows the capitalism turnaround from its rise period to its decadence period.
The First World War was the result of the decadence of capitalism throughout the
world. The war altered the conditions of working class struggle but the war did
not change the fundamental laws of capitalist society, namely the struggle between
capital and work. As Lenin said, our epoch is the epoch of proletarian revolution.
Rosa Luxembourg describes the process leading up to World War very well:
“The events that bore the present war did not begin in July 1914 but reach back
for decades. Thread by thread they have been woven together on the loom of an
inexorable natural development until the firm net of imperialist world politics
has encircled five continents. It is a huge historical complex of events, whose
roots reach deep down into the Plutonic deeps of economic creation, whose outermost
branches spread out and point away into a dimly dawning new world, events before
whose all-embracing immensity, the conception of guilt and retribution, of defence
and offence, sink into pale nothingness.”
The First World War was a consequence of the entire of the capitalist system throughout
, in decadence and the trade unions, parliaments, and national movements and
so on, throughout the world
joined to the bourgeoisie. This means that no further
reform is possible under capitalism's decadence in the world. Rosa Luxemburg explains
skilfully this historic:
“To the leading elements in the labour movement, the vote in favour of the war credits by the
Reichstag group was a cue for the immediate settlement of all labour controversies. Nay more,
they announced this to the manufacturers as a patriotic duty incurred by labour when it
agreed to observe a civil peace. These same labour leaders undertook to supply city
labour to farmers in order to assure a prompt harvest. The leaders of the social
democratic women’s movement united with capitalist women for “national service”
and placed the most important elements that remained after the mobilisation at
the disposal of national Samaritan work. Socialist women worked in soup kitchens
and on advisory commissions instead of carrying on agitation work for the party.
Under the anti-socialist laws the party had utilised parliamentary elections to
spread its agitation and to keep a firm hold upon the population in spite of the
state of siege that had been declared against the party and the persecution of
the socialist press. In this crisis the social democratic movement has voluntarily
relinquished all propaganda and education in the interest of the proletarian class
struggle, during Reichstag and Landtag elections. Parliamentary elections have
everywhere been reduced to the simple bourgeois formula; the catching of votes
for the candidates of the party on the basis of an amicable and peaceful settlement
with its capitalist opponents.”
National question in the decadence of capitalism
The discussion on the national question has been very hard over the last hundred years.
What is a communist perspective on the national question during the decadence of capitalism?
Let's see what Kautsky has to say to us on this question before, he became renegade.
Kautsky wrote in the brochure entitled "Patriotism and Social Democracy" from 1907
(p. 24) the following:
"Meanwhile, it is becoming more and more unlikely that the proletarian and bourgeois
patriotism again will join together to protect their own people freedom .... As long
as the situation as is, no longer, in any country envisage the possibility of a national
defense war, where the bourgeois patriotism can be reconciled with the proletariat." [Our translation]
In fact, during the decadence of capitalism cannot be any national defense war. Rosa
Luxemburg was one of the first Marxists who analyzed this in her various works. When
Kautsky became renegade and joined to the bourgeoisie, Rosa Luxemburg together with
Lenin had a big responsibility to defend Marxism against revisionism. Rosa Luxemburg’s
portrayal of this issue is very clear:
“The national phrase, to be sure, has been preserved, but its real content, its function,
has been perverted into its very opposite. Today the nation is but a cloak that covers
imperialistic desires, a battle cry for imperialistic rivalries, the last ideological
measure with which the masses can be persuaded to play the role of cannon fodder in
The Communist Left explains very clearly in its magazine Bilan (No. 14), nation, state,
and their role in the decadence of capitalism after the degeneration of the Third
International. The explanation of Bilan is very similar to Rosa Luxemburg's depiction of this issue:
"The nation is no “one domain” of the 'who was born there', but belongs to the capitalists
as the nation state by organizing the exploitation of workers and defending their interests
against the competing states. The capitalist state and nation are two inseparable concepts.
A nation without a state is as impossible as a state without a nation. Truth is that the
latter is a social tool that is necessary to mobilize all classes of society for the
bourgeoisie in their struggle for world supremacy. As an expression of the ruling class
interests of the nation may have no basis other than to carry out repression, in another
word, a State."
More than 50 years later, one of Bilan successor describes, "the national liberation wars"
as a pawn of imperialist conflicts with 'socialist' harangues. International
Communist Current writes:
"The phrase that was called 'national liberation wars’ are included in the fight to the
death between large and small imperialist powers to gain control over world markets.
The slogan 'support the struggling people' is in fact a defense for an imperialist
power against another with the help of nationalist or 'socialist' phrases.” [Our translation]