Workers Vanguard No. 910

14 March 2008


For the Right of All Nations to Self-Determination!

(Quote of the Week)

In fighting for an American proletarian revolution, we combat national chauvinism and all forms of national oppression, and we insist on the right of self-determination for the U.S. colony of Puerto Rico. We are guided by the proletarian internationalism of Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin. The Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Trotsky led the multinational working class of the Russian “prison house of peoples” to power in the 1917 October Revolution, and afterward forged the Third (Communist) International to build new communist parties committed to struggle for international socialist revolution.

In the internationalist education of the workers of the oppressor countries, emphasis must necessarily be laid on their advocating freedom for the oppressed countries to secede and their fighting for it. Without this there can be no internationalism. It is our right and duty to treat every Social-Democrat of an oppressor nation who fails to conduct such propaganda as a scoundrel and an imperialist. This is an absolute demand, even where the chance of secession being possible and “practicable” before the introduction of socialism is only one in a thousand.

It is our duty to teach the workers to be “indifferent” to national distinctions. There is no doubt about that. But it must not be the indifference of the annexationists. A member of an oppressor nation must be “indifferent” to whether small nations belong to his state or to a neighbouring state, or to themselves, according to where their sympathies lie: without such “indifference” he is not a Social-Democrat [i.e., communist]. To be an internationalist Social-Democrat one must not think only of one’s own nation, but place above it the interests of all nations, their common liberty and equality. Everyone accepts this in “theory” but displays an annexationist indifference in practice. There is the root of the evil.

On the other hand, a Social-Democrat from a small nation must emphasise in his agitation the second word of our general formula: “voluntary integration” of nations. He may, without failing in his duties as an internationalist, be in favour of both the political independence of his nation and its integration with the neighbouring state of X, Y, Z, etc. But in all cases he must fight against small-nation narrow-mindedness, seclusion and isolation, consider the whole and the general, subordinate the particular to the general interest.

People who have not gone into the question thoroughly think that it is “contradictory” for the Social-Democrats of oppressor nations to insist on the “freedom to secede,” while Social-Democrats of oppressed nations insist on the “freedom to integrate.” However, a little reflection will show that there is not, and cannot be, any other road to internationalism and the amalgamation of nations, any other road from the given situation to this goal.

—V.I. Lenin, “The Discussion on Self-Determination Summed Up” (July 1916)