The National Question in Russia: Marxism and the National Question

by Joseph Stalin

It remains for us to suggest a positive solution of the national question.

We take as our starting point that the question can be solved only in intimate connection with the present situation in Russia.

1. Russian SFSR, 2. Ukrainian SSR, 3. Byelorussian SSR, 4. Tajik SSR, 5. Kirghiz SSR, 6. Georgian SSR, 7. Azerbaijan SSR, 8. Armenian SSR, 9. Uzbek SSR, 10. Kazakh SSR, 11. Lithuanian SSR, 12. Latvian SSR, 13. Estonian SSR, 14. Moldavian SSR, 15. Turkmen SSR

Russia is in a transitional period, when “normal,” “constitutional” life has not yet been established and when the political crisis has not yet been settled. Days of storm and “complications” are ahead. And this gives rise to the movement, the present and the future movement, the aim of which is to achieve complete democratization.

It is in connection with this movement that the national question must be examined.

Thus the complete democratization of the country is the basis and condition for the solution of the national question. Continue reading

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The Economic Basis of the Withering Away of the State: The State and Revolution

by Vladimir Lenin

Marx explains this question most thoroughly in his Critique of the Gotha Programme (letter to Bracke, May 5, 1875, which was not published until 1891 when it was printed in Neue Zeit, vol. IX, 1, and which has appeared in Russian in a special edition). The polemical part of this remarkable work, which contains a criticism of Lassalleanism, has, so to speak, overshadowed its positive part, namely, the analysis of the connection between the development of communism and the withering away of the state.

1. Presentation of the Question by Marx

From a superficial comparison of Marx’s letter to Bracke of May 5, 1875, with Engels’ letter to Bebel of March 28, 1875, which we examined above, it might appear that Marx was much more of a “champion of the state” than Engels, and that the difference of opinion between the two writers on the question of the state was very considerable.

Engels suggested to Bebel that all chatter about the state be dropped altogether, that the word “state” be eliminated from the programme altogether and the word “community” substituted for it. Engels even declared that the Commune was long a state in the proper sense of the word. Yet Marx even spoke of the “future state in communist society”, i.e., he would seem to recognize the need for the state even under communism.

But such a view would be fundamentally wrong. A closer examination shows that Marx’s and Engels’ views on the state and its withering away were completely identical, and that Marx’s expression quoted above refers to the state in the process of withering away. Continue reading

The Experience of 1848-51: The State and Revolution

by Vladimir Lenin

1. The Eve of Revolution

The first works of mature Marxism — The Poverty of Philosophy and the Communist Manifesto — appeared just on the eve of the revolution of 1848. For this reason, in addition to presenting the general principles of Marxism, they reflect to a certain degree the concrete revolutionary situation of the time. It will, therefore, be more expedient, perhaps, to examine what the authors of these works said about the state immediately before they drew conclusions from the experience of the years 1848-51.

The Frankfurt Parliament

In The Poverty of Philosophy, Marx wrote:

“The working class, in the course of development, will substitute for the old bourgeois society an association which will preclude classes and their antagonism, and there will be no more political power groups, since the political power is precisely the official expression of class antagonism in bourgeois society.” (p.182, German edition, 1885)

It is instructive to compare this general exposition of the idea of the state disappearing after the abolition of classes with the exposition contained in theCommunist Manifesto, written by Marx and Engels a few months later–in November 1847, to be exact:

“… In depicting the most general phases of the development of the proletariat, we traced the more or less veiled civil war, raging within existing society up to the point where that war breaks out into open revolution, and where the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie lays the foundation for the sway of the proletariat…. Continue reading

Is the French Communist Party Back?

by Zoltan Zigedy

After years of retreat and opportunism and consequent loss of support and influence, the French Communist Party (PCF) is showing signs of life. Aligned with smaller parties in the Left Front (Front de Gauche, FG), the PCF has rallied around the presidential candidacy of Jean Melenchon for the forthcoming first round of French elections. The latest polls show Melenchon with over 14% of the prospective voters, ahead of all other candidates excepting Hollande (PS) and Sarkozy (UMP).

This once dynamic party succumbed to the allure of reformism, anti-Sovietism, and compromise with its embrace of the so-called “Euro-Communist” stance in the seventies. With over half a million members immediately after World War II, and garnering more votes than any other party at that time, the PCF was poised to become the dominant force in French politics, if not the first CP to launch a Western European country onto the road to socialism. Continue reading

Trotsky’s Day in Court

by Harry Haywood

Apart from our academic courses, we received our first tutelage in Leninism and the history of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in the heat of the inner-party struggle then raging between Trotsky and the majority of the Central Committee led by Stalin. We KUTVA students were not simply bystanders, but were active participants in the struggle. Most students — and all of our group from the U.S. — were ardent supporters of Stalin and the Central Committee majority.

It had not always been thus. Otto told me that in 1924, a year before he arrived, a majority of the students in the school had been supporters of Trotsky. Trotsky was making a play for the Party youth, in opposition to the older Bolshevik stalwarts. With his usual demagogy, he claimed that the old leadership was betraying the revolution and had embarked on a course of “Thermidorian reaction.”1 In this situation, he said, the students and youth were “the Party’s truest barometer.”2

But by the time the Black American students arrived, the temporary attraction to Trotsky had been reversed. The issues involved in the struggle with Trotsky were discussed in the school. They involved the destiny of socialism in the Soviet Union. Which way were the Soviet people to go? What was to be the direction of their economic development? Was it possible to build a socialist economic system? These questions were not only theoretical ones, but were issues of life and death. The economic life of the country would not stand still and wait while they were being debated. Continue reading

Understanding the Victory of Thomas Mulcair

by Judy Rebick

Most of the mainstream media, with the help of the Mulcair and Topp campaigns, constructed the leadership battle at the NDP convention as a battle between those who wanted to move to the centre to win government and those who wanted to win maintaining the “traditional” social democratic values of the NDP.

Brian Topp’s bold-sounding declaration that he was a proud social democrat made those of us who have spent decades on the left of the party cringe. Isn’t the NDP a social democratic party? Hasn’t the history of the party been the struggle between a democratic socialist left —  best represented by the Waffle but succeeded by a series of progressive groups, ending with the New Politics Initiative — with the social democratic establishment? Is that establishment now in the position of opposition pushing the party to the left? If it is true, it is depressing on the one hand and deliciously ironic on the other.

What is left out of this narrative is that there is a new force in the party that I would consider the new left and it was best represented in this campaign by Nathan Cullen. Cullen’s language was very close to the politics of the New Politics Initiative. He speaks of social struggles and the alliance between the party and First Nations and environment groups. He speaks from the heart without the spin that has infected almost everyone else. He is at heart a democrat. This left is less sectarian. Many of them supported strategic voting in past elections and this time the more strategic electoral alliance with the Liberals. I don’t agree with them on that but there is no question that they are the most progressive force in the party right now and the one closest to the social movements who are flooding into the streets and the parks across North America.

The strength of Cullen’s campaign came from the power of this youthful movement  represented by Lead Now’s support for his proposal on an electoral alliance as much as from his winning personality and charisma. No one mentioned that Lead Now got 5, 500 people to join with the NDP to support what they call “co-operation.” There were days when the women’s movement had this kind of power in the party, reflected especially in Audrey McLaughlin’s victory as leader. Peggy Nash’s unjust defeat early in the balloting showed that this movement is much less a force today.

It is too bad that Peggy Nash or Paul Dewar didn’t seize the chance of an alliance with this group or that Brian Topp, seeing that he couldn’t win, didn’t throw his support to Cullen who could have won. But then I think the party establishment represented by Topp, with a couple of important exceptions like Libby Davies, are more worried about Cullen’s politics than Mulcair’s.

The other narrative promoted by the Mulcair campaign, Chantal Hebert and Gerry Caplan, is that a defeat of Mulcair would have been seen as a slap in the face to Quebec. After all, polls showed that Quebecois massively supported Mulcair as the leader of the NDP and he had majority support from the Quebec caucus of the party and a lot of endorsements and financial contributions from outside the party.

This is more complicated. It may be true that the initial reaction to the vote will be positive and that most media in Quebec supported Mulcair, but there is also intense criticism of him here. What people in the NDP don’t seem to understand is that the massive move from the PQ to the NDP in the last election was less a move to federalism and more a move to the progressive party most Quebecois thought could defeat Harper. If the NDP moves to the right of BQ under Mulcair, it risks losing a lot of that support. Since no one including Chantal Hebert has any idea what the Quebec electorate will do in the next federal election, supporting Mulcair or opposing him for this reason makes no sense. It is positive that the NDP membership showed that they understood the importance of the gains in Quebec by giving their support only to the candidates who are fluent in French.

The third narrative is what has been called a whisper campaign against Mulcair. It was a pretty loud whisper turned into a shout by Ed Broadbent. No one can get along with this guy. He is a bully who doesn’t brook opposition. Kind of like a certain Prime Minister we know. It was also suggested that Mulcair had nothing to do with the victory in Quebec. Quieter but just as widespread was the knowledge that not a single woman who has worked with him for more than a few months was supporting him. Some of these whispers are true from what I can tell. On Quebec, he did establish a foothold in Quebec but he was not a major player in recruiting candidates or organizing the last election campaign. He is, however, the only one of the leadership candidates who is known in Quebec.

NDPers don’t like whisper campaigns, which is to their credit. They may also have figured that we need a bully to face a bully or that Brian Topp’s lack of charisma or ability to connect with a crowd was as big a problem as Mulcair’s authoritarian streak.

My view is that the NDP has elected an old-style patriarchal politician who has the same politics vis-a-vis Quebec as the pre-Jack NDP, seeing sovereigntists as bitter enemies instead of potential allies, is more of a liberal than a social democrat and who will move the party to the right especially on international issues, including free trade and Israel, two issues at the centre of Harper’s agenda.

I didn’t participate in this campaign because I see the hope for change in the new movements that are emerging around the globe rather than in electoral politics. That is where I am putting my energy these days but it always helps if the social movements can see their reflection in the social democratic political party. This hasn’t been true in Europe for a long time which is why we see just a dramatic contradiction between what is happening in the Parliament there and what is happening in the streets.

In Canada, whatever the weaknesses of the NDP, we have always managed to have a strong alliance between them and the social movements. That alliance strengthened the women’s movement, the anti-war movement, the labour movement and others. I fear under the leadership of Thomas Mulcair, that alliance will be lost and it will be a loss for all of us.

*note: Originally posted on Rabble.ca. Original article available here.