by Ray O. Light
In his Critical Remarks on The National Question, written shortly before the outbreak of World War I, Comrade Lenin made the following profound observation:
"Developing capitalism knows two historical tendencies in the national question. First: the awakening of national life and national movements, struggle against all national oppression, creation of national states. Second: development and intensification of all kinds of intercourse between nations, breakdown of national barriers, creation of the international unity of capital, of economic life in general, of politics, science, etc.
"Both tendencies are a world-wide law of capitalism. The first predominates at the beginning of its development, the second characterizes mature capitalism that is moving towards its transformation into socialist society."
The developments in the world political economy in the almost ninety years since have only given greater substance to Lenin's observations. For "mature capitalism," i.e. imperialism, has led to a truly global economy. (Jack Welch, CEO of the General Electric Company, has stated that, ''Ideally, you'd have every plant you own on a barge.") GATT-WTO along with the IMF and the World Bank have emerged as a significant global political power wielded by international capital directly over sovereign nation-states, including even the imperialist states. This phenomenon has occurred at an accelerated pace with the demise of the socialist camp as an economic entity (Comecon/Warsaw Pact countries, etc.)
In the past few years, especially in the wake of the anti-WTO protests in Seattle and Prague, "serious" bourgeois liberal and social-democratic political experts have begun to discuss the need for a form of global governance that would give the "people" of all nations a voice alongside international capital in determining the fate of the world. Of course, this petty bourgeois democratic trend objectively undermines the struggle of the international working class and its allies against imperialist globalization. In particular, such proposals for world government "power-sharing" with the imperialists help divert the proletarian revolutionaries away from utilizing the national question in the struggle against international capitalism.
In addition, there are those on the left, especially in Europe, who see in the development of the European Union, a positive antidote to US imperialism. While such a formidable economic, political, and ultimately military union seems destined to challenge US imperialist hegemony; nevertheless, the polemics of comrade Lenin against the Kautsky-Trotsky "United States of Europe" conception of 100 years ago remains valid for communists in Europe today. Lenin observed then that, "... the opportunists (social-chauvinists) are working hand in glove with the imperialist bourgeoisie precisely towards creating an imperialist Europe on the backs of Asia and Africa... " (p.8, Imperialism and the Split in Socialism)
Furthermore, many so-called "Marxists" of today, traumatized by the demise of the Socialist Camp and/or corrupted and overwhelmed by the short run power of imperialism, headed by US imperialism, have fallen prey to a fascination with economic globalization. Such opportunists of today, in line with Kautsky's teachings in Lenin's time, propose that globalization is good for the international working class. Reflecting this view, Steve Zeltzer, a well known left-wing activist in the USA wrote a critical article regarding WTO but concluded with the petty bourgeois democratic projection that "internet and communication technology" will enable the workers of the world to build a "new internationalism without borders and with complete democratic communication". (Revolutionary Democracy, April 2000) To such opportunists it means that "mature capitalism" is moving towards its transformation into socialist society" in a peaceful, evolutionary way. Among these revisionists are also the current Chinese Communist Party leadership which has fought for more than a decade to be brought into the World Trade Organization orbit as well as the predominant wing of the current Vietnamese Communist Party leadership which has ardently pursued rapprochement with its former US imperialist enemy. Of course, this was never Lenin's position.
With the outbreak of World War I, comrade Lenin deepened his teachings on imperialism--the highest stage of capitalism. In The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination (1916) Lenin wrote: "Just as mankind can achieve the abolition of classes only by passing through the transition period of the dictatorship of the oppressed class, so mankind can achieve the inevitable merging of nations only by passing through the transition period of complete liberation of all the oppressed nations, i.e., of the freedom to secede."
A year after writing these words, comrade Lenin, at the head of the Bolshevik Party, led the working class and the oppressed nations and peoples of Tsarist Russia to victory in the Great October Revolution. The most backward imperialist country had been ripped out of the hands of international imperialism. And when a dozen imperialist armies were sent to the Soviet Union to aid the white Russian army in the civil war that followed, the Soviet working class and peasantry and oppressed nationalities, under Bolshevik Party leadership, victoriously defeated them and kept the new Soviet proletarian state alive.
Comrade Stalin, as the first Soviet Commissar of Nationalities led in the principled proletarian resolution of the National Question in the former prisonhouse of nations. In The National Question and Leninism, comrade Stalin wrote: "the period of the victory of socialism in one country does not create the necessary conditions for the amalgamation of nations and national languages ... on the contrary, this period creates favorable conditions for the renaissance and flowering of the nations that were formerly oppressed by tsarist imperialism and have now been liberated from national oppression by the Soviet revolution." (p.13)
The triumphant Bolshevik Party, under Lenin and Stalin, took a dialectical approach to the national question---including within the former Tsarist Russia. They did not skip over necessary stages in historical and political development. This dialectical approach to the national question was also consistently applied to the world situation by Lenin and Stalin.
While the other revolutions which broke out in imperialist Europe in the wake of WWI were ultimately unsuccessful, when communist-led revolutions were again successful in the course of and in the aftermath of World War II, these revolutions in Albania, China, Vietnam, Korea, and elsewhere took the form of national democratic revolutionary movements against imperialism. They were principally national liberation wars of oppressed peoples in Asia, Africa and Latin America against imperialism, headed by US imperialism. (It remains the view of the ROL Group that these latter struggles have represented the focal contradiction in the world during the more than 50 years that have passed since the end of WW II.)
In the post World War II period, the struggles for national independence among the oppressed peoples of Asia, Africa, and Latin America were so insistent and strong that imperialism, headed by US imperialism, was forced to grant some level of political independence in order to be able to maintain its economic control over the hundreds of millions of colonial and dependent peoples of the world. In place of the old colonialism, neo-colonialism became the main form of imperialist control in this post WW II period, in the face of the rising of the worlds peoples under the leadership of the Stalin-Mao led world communist movement.
Beginning in the late 1960's with the US imperialist-sponsored "era of negotiations" with the revisionist led USSR and People's China, such world financial institutions as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have been able to increasingly dictate to sovereign nation states. Over the past ten to fifteen years, with the demise of the socialist camp, imperialism, headed by US imperialism, has been able to stride forth in an even more openly tyrannical way. And the establishment of WTO has reflected this development. Yet nothing fundamental has changed.
As Martin Wolf, Chief Economics Commentator at the Financial Times points out, "the proportion of world production that is traded on global markets is not that much higher today than it was in the years leading up to World War I. ...In fact, among today's five biggest economies, the only one in which trade has a remarkably greater weight in output than it had a century ago is the United States, where the ratio has jumped from 11 percent in 1910 to 24 percent in 1995." ["Will the Nation-State Survive Globalization?" p. 179-80, Foreign Affairs Jan-Feb 2001]
Bruce R. Scott, a Harvard Business School professor, recently wrote: "Average incomes have indeed been growing, but so has the income gap between rich and poor countries. Both trends have been evident for more than 200 years.... although international markets for goods and capital have opened up since World War II and multilateral organizations now articulate rules and monitor the world economy, economic inequality among countries continues to increase. Some two billion people earn less than $2 per day." [Our emphasis-"The Great Divide in the Global Village," p. 160, Foreign Affairs, Jan-Feb 2001]
Comrade Jose Maria Sison, chairman of the Center for Social Studies and a leading Filipino revolutionary over the past thirty years, addressed the People's Assembly gathered in Seattle a few days before the Battle of Seattle with these words: "Globalization is imperialism. Globalization is a slick and shallow term. It glosses over the reality of modern imperialism or monopoly capitalism ... Corporate executives, bureaucrats, bourgeois academic pedants and imperialist-funded NGOs have circulated the term globalization as if it meant a new shiny amazing thing. They try to pass off monopoly capitalism as an irresistible fact of life. In fact, they recycle the old jargon of the laissez faire doctrine to misrepresent monopoly capitalism as free enterprise, free market and free trade. We are still in the era of monopoly capitalism and proletarian revolution..."
Yes indeed! We are still in the era of Leninism, as comrade Stalin described it. And the three most important contradictions elaborated by Stalin in Foundations of Leninism are still as relevant today. These include: 1. the contradiction between labor and capital; 2. the contradiction among the various financial groups and imperialist powers; and 3. the contradiction between the handful of ruling 'civilized' nations and the hundreds of millions of the colonial and dependent peoples of the world.
Today, under the banner of "fighting globalization", many opportunist and Trotskyite forces have attempted to exaggerate the changes that have been brought about by the continued "maturing" of capitalism, in its last dying stage of imperialism. They want to bury the fact that the imperialist enemy has not changed in nature. They want to bury the fact that the same fundamental contradictions that plagued imperialism since Lenin's time are still at work. [Last year at the Brussels Seminar, a representative of the Trotskyite Workers World Party, in assessing the anti-WTO protests in Seattle, paid no attention to the significant opposition which tens of thousands of US workers had finally demonstrated against US imperialist globalization. By focusing instead on youth fighting the police -- as if "youth" as a thing in itself had come into fundamental contradiction with capital in the globalized world -- Workers World buried the contradiction between labor and capital in the US multinational state.]
By skillfully utilizing these contradictions the international communist and workers movement can lead the world's peoples in the defeat of global capitalism and the establishment of world socialism.
In December 1999, in the immediate aftermath of the significant, popular anti-WTO protests on the streets of Seattle, Washington, we drew two conclusions:
"1. Henceforth, national sovereignty which originally arose with the rising bourgeoisie in the period of nascent capitalism will be threatened everywhere by moribund international finance capitalism in the global capitalist (imperialist) economy of the present and future!" ["No to WTO!--The US Working Class Takes A Step Forward in Seattle", December 1999]
We pointed out that, through the WTO, a panel of three corporate honchos has the power to overthrow the laws of any country if such laws are found to be in restraint of "free trade". We cited the example of the US meatpacking and beef industries on whose behalf the US government through the WTO "...was able to compel the European Union countries to accept US beef (with all the growth hormones they contain) into the markets of Europe and into the bodies of the European peoples, despite the EU's effort to bar such beef." Our other example was of how the Venezuelan government, acting on behalf of the powerful oil interests there "...opposed the US Clean Air Act with its mandate for cleaner gas from their refineries, [and] brought this US law before the WTO which decided that the US law did indeed impede free trade. The US Environmental Protection Agency was forced to back off to where they admit there is 'potential for adverse environmental impact'. While on the surface this latter example seems to represent another country finally getting the better of the US imperialists, in reality, international finance capital, with the US in the lead, is quite content to have such US laws overthrown in the interests of maximum profits for the 'free traders' of WTO."
Hence, capitalism in its relationship to national sovereignty has turned into its opposite! In its new and rising period capitalism represented "the awakening of national life and national movements, struggle against all national oppression, creation of national states...", as Lenin described it. Today, capitalism has matured and become overripe for revolution. The economic system and its principal perpetrators in the form of international finance capital have become a menace to national sovereignty. They have erected and will continue to create instruments which rip apart national sovereignty any time it gets in the way of their maximum profits.
"2. Henceforth, also, national sovereignty will be inextricably linked with the struggle for proletarian power against international capital. And such proletarian power will only be victorious to the extent that it is fought for on a proletarian internationalist basis!"
In the struggle between labor and capital, the struggle for national sovereignty is no longer a reserve for capital; on the contrary, it is now a reserve for the proletarian revolution in the struggle against capital. Since the dominant form of capitalist economy, international finance capital, has now become hostile to national sovereignty everywhere, it stands to reason that the one implacable foe of international capitalism, namely, the international working class, is in the best position to lead the fight for national sovereignty against international capital, the WTO, etc. everywhere in the world. In addition, since the proletariat is an international class with a common interest in crushing its imperialist enemy and in erecting a socialist and communist future, it also stands to reason that to most effectively lead successful struggles in defense of national sovereignty and against international capitalism the proletarian leadership in any given country needs proletarian internationalist solidarity from the entire international proletariat. Furthermore, the international communist movement will have to struggle for maximum unity of the international working class and for working class unity with the oppressed peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America.
In the USA, the Seattle events represented the first time in 50 years that a significant section of organized labor in the USA demonstrated opposition to important international policies of the US ruling class. We pointed out that the organized section of the US working class which has tragically been broken away from the rest of the international working class for the past half century and has been allied instead with its own imperialist bourgeoisie has begun, at long last, with the anti-WTO struggle in Seattle, to break with its own bourgeoisie and make links once again with the rest of the international working class.
Of course, US imperialism was not going to allow the US workers to make this dramatic and potentially world shaking political shift without a struggle. US imperialism used President John Sweeney and the other social democratic union leaders on the AFL-CIO Executive Council to mislead and mobilize organized union workers to participate in the imperialist sponsored April 12th (2000) China-bashing demonstration. The AFL-CIO's April 12th China-bashing demonstration diverted the 15,000 organized workers away from the debt relief demonstration of April 9th and the more ant-imperialist, anti-monopolist demonstration against the World Bank-IMF on April 16th. Thus it broke them away from their new allies discovered in Seattle. And broke the momentum which the participation of significant sections of organized labor on April 9th and especially April 16th would have represented.
More importantly, the April 12th "No Blank Check for China" demonstration successfully pitted the US section of the international working class against the Chinese section of the class and the rest of the international working class, once again making the US working class an ally of its own worst enemy-imperialism, headed by US imperialism. Sweeney et al were able to use the anti-WTO, anti-Clinton momentum of the Seattle spirit to rally the workers to the great nation chauvinist protectionist position ("anti-China") on April 12th, objectively weakening the international working class opposition to WTO, and paving the way to a US imperialist victory (pro WTO) on May 24th! The "Republicrats" in Congress were now strong enough to pass the May 24th resolution, on behalf of US imperialism, providing Permanent Normal Trade Relations to China. Thus the demonstration accomplished the exact opposite of what the workers intended!!
Among the revolutionary proletariat in the USA, Canada, Japan, and Western Europe, proletarian defense of national sovereignty against international capitalist encroachment and domination in the form of the WTO, the World Bank, IMF and other supranational instruments of international finance capital must be carefully framed so as not to become a support for "their own" imperialists and the accompanying great nation and other chauvinisms. Instead they must expose the connections of their own imperialist bourgeoisie with WTO, et al, and how it betrays the national sovereignty of their country. It is clear that the fascists in these countries will increasingly try to channel the resentment of the workers in these countries against foreign workers and against foreign capitalist encroachment into their national sovereignty, their traditions, culture, etc. while largely concealing the role of their own bourgeoisie and the capitalist system in the process.
The communists in the imperialist countries must promote and fight for equality of all nations beginning with the right of the nations oppressed by "their own" imperialists to self determination, including the right to secede. At the same time they must become skillful in rallying the best elements of the society to their own national democratic defense on the basis of proletarian internationalism.
In the oppressed nations of Asia, Africa, Latin America and Afro-America, among others, the communists need to boldly wield the national question in the fight to mobilize almost every class and strata of their respective nation into a National Liberation Front under proletarian class leadership. (This is with the notable exception of the comprador bourgeoisie which serves imperialism, the WTO, etc.)
The Leninist theory of the two-stage revolution should be implemented along the lines of the Chinese Revolution at least through the first stage which culminated in its 1949 national democratic victory led by the Chinese Communist Party and its chairman Mao Tse-tung. And prospects for passing the rifle from one shoulder to the other, as Lenin described the passing on of the national democratic to the socialist stage of the revolution can be made less difficult by the increased proletarianization of the oppressed nations and the globalization of the world economy. Today, protracted people's wars, following this path, are being successfully waged in Nepal, the Philippines, and in the Bolivarian countries of South America among others.
Finally, as we stated elsewhere, "In the past several decades, with the domination of the international communist movement by anti-Stalinist revisionism in state power, precisely the opposite has been the case. The imperialists, and chiefly US imperialism have boldly used the national question as a reserve of imperialist reaction around the globe. From India-Pakistan to Yugoslavia to China-Taiwan the US imperialists have become masterful at fomenting ethnic hatred in the name of national struggle to advance their aims of conquest and maximum profit. Today the Kurdish people, the Somali people, the Bengali people, the Tamil people, the Palestinian people, the Serbian people, and so many others cry out for Stalinist leadership to unite the oppressed and exploited against their international imperialist enemy." ("Mumia Abu-Jamal and the Proletarian Revolution" (International Newsletter, No. 21, July 2000)
The Stalin-led Comintern was not afraid to challenge the imperialist drawn state boundaries around the world. We should follow their lead.
IN CONCLUSION: Despite the advent of new technology, and especially the revolution in telecommunications and computers, and despite the more pronounced global character of the world capitalist economy, the answers for a better life for working people around the world have remained basically the same –
Workers of the World and Oppressed Peoples Unite and Fight Against Imperialism, headed by US imperialism!!!
Oppose Imperialist Globalization!!!
Fight For Global Socialism and Communism!!!
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