The Third International after Lenin

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Bolsheviks’ policy on national self-determination and voluntary federation

Bolshevik policy on rights of oppressed nations
The excerpt printed below is from the resolution “U.S. Imperialism Has Lost the Cold War,” which was adopted by the Socialist Workers Party at its 35th national convention in 1990. The resolution appears in New International no. 11.

(1) The socialist revolution sounds the bell of “nation time” for oppressed nations and nationalities.

(2) This course was advanced by the Bolshevik leadership under Lenin’s guidance following the October 1917 revolution.

(a) As the October victory in Russia gave an impulse to revolutionary uprisings elsewhere throughout the old tsarist empire, the communist leadership began to forge a voluntary federation of the various republics organized on the basis of soviet power—both where the dictatorship of the proletariat had been established (as in Russia and the Ukraine), as well as where it could not yet be established but revolutionary workers and peasants governments had come to power (as in most of the Central Asian and Transcaucasian republics).

(b) Lenin insisted on a Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, not a new “Soviet” nationality with patriotism used as cover for maintenance and expansion of Great Russian chauvinism and bourgeois nationalism; not a new “socialist nation-state” suppressing minority nationalities… .

(c) National self-determination, like other democratic rights, is subordinate to defense of the workers state in face of counterrevolutionary assault and imperialist aggression. The denial of national rights, however, weakens rather than strengthens the defense of a workers state… .

2. The Bolsheviks’ policy on national self-determination and voluntary federation began to be reversed in the early 1920s by the political course of the emerging bureaucratic caste, led by Stalin. In 1922 Lenin opened a political battle against this counterrevolution, but Stalin’s reactionary policies prevailed following Lenin’s death.

a) Stalin’s course was intensified and institutionalized with the consolidation of the caste’s counterrevolution in the early 1930s. The “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics” reemerged in fact as a prison house of nations inherited from tsarism and imperialism.

(1) The USSR was no longer a voluntary federation, but a “Soviet” super-state.

(2) The resurgence and domination of Great Russian nationalism within this “Soviet” state obliterated proletarian internationalism… .

e) Once Stalinism had transformed the Soviet Union into the opposite of a voluntary federation of workers and peasants republics, its break-up, its disintegration from within, was inevitable. This became a precondition to a new advance of the worldwide struggle for national liberation and socialism… .

3. Communists and other revolutionists unconditionally support the right to national self-determination.

a) Mass struggles for national rights in the oppressed republics of the USSR, regardless of their initial leadership, reflect not imperialist-inspired counterrevolution, but the aspirations and interests of workers and farmers.

b) Given the break in communist continuity in the Soviet Union and European workers states, national struggles there will not begin with revolutionary proletarian leadership; they are today taking place under petty-bourgeois leadership.

c) Only through the fight for and conquest of the right to national self-determination can space open to develop communist leadership of the toilers in the oppressed nations; to open the road once again toward a voluntary union of soviet republics; and to forge links with anti-imperialist and anticapitalist struggles worldwide.


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