WeeklyWorker

23.07.2015
self-determination a tactic

Self-determination and communist policy

Mike Macnair highlights important differences of nuance

In the first article in this series, I argued that the democratic principle we should fight for is the equality of nationalities within a multinational state. In the second, I stated that the claim that nations have a right to self-determination is both a response to the inequality of nations within capitalism and also inherently replicates this inequality. In this article, I argue that even ‘tactical’ use of self-determination slogans is problematic. Though tactically justifiable in certain circumstances, it cannot function as a principled ‘red thread’, but the precise use must depend on concrete analysis.

Before 1914

In the first two articles, I addressed the slogan of self-determination in terms of its abstract principles, how far it can properly be considered democratic, and what it requires us to say about ‘nations’. In the second article, I adverted to Stalin’s famous definition of the nation. But, of course, this definition was part of a debate in the Second International on the national question; and the Bolshevik nationalities policy was an aspect of what Lars T Lih has called (in relation to the war question) Lenin’s “aggressive unoriginality”. It is worth looking a little at this debate before considering the use of the slogan of the right of self-determination as a tactic and how it worked out for the Bolsheviks.

The starting point was Poland. The First International was founded in 1864 from a meeting which was called to build a working class campaign in solidarity with a Polish nationalist revolt against Russia. Friedrich Engels’ 1866 articles, ‘What have the working classes to do with Poland?’1 offered a justification of this policy, and a polemic against the objections of the Proudhonists, who argued that support for “the restoration of Poland”, which the International had raised as a demand, amounted to buying into Napoleon III’s “principle of nationalities”. The articles argued that what was in question was

the right of every one of the great national subdivisions of Europe to dispose of itself, independently of its neighbours, in all internal matters, so long as it did not encroach upon the liberty of the others. This right was, in fact, one of the fundamental conditions of the internal liberty of all. How could, for instance, Germany aspire to liberty and unity, if at the same time she assisted Austria to keep Italy in bondage, either directly or by her vassals?

In contrast, Engels argued:

The “principle of nationalities” leaves entirely untouched the great question of the right of national existence for the historic peoples of Europe; nay, if it touches it, it is merely to disturb it. The principle of nationalities raises two sorts of questions; first of all, questions of boundary between these great historic peoples; and, secondly, questions as to the right to independent national existence of those numerous small relics of peoples, which, after having figured for a longer or shorter period on the stage of history, were finally absorbed as integral portions into one or the other of those more powerful nations, whose greater vitality enabled them to overcome greater obstacles ...

What underlies this Hegelian great-nations argument (of a sort Marx and Engels had deployed in 1848-49) is, in fact, a kind of mid-19th century west-European-radical geopolitics directed against the tsarist regime as the ultimate military guarantor of the post-Congress of Vienna restored ancien régime.2

The fact that “Restoration of Poland” was inscribed on the banner of the First International, but not the reasoning that lay behind this demand, means that ‘self-determination for Poland’ became, more or less automatically, a demand of the Second International. And the 1896 London Congress of the International generalised the principle (thereby moving halfway from Engels’ position towards that which he condemns as Napoleon III’s).

The same congress saw the beginning of the open opposition to this general policy by Rosa Luxemburg speaking on behalf of the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland. Luxemburg’s underlying argument was that the parts of partitioned Poland were now integrated into the larger economies of Russia, Austria-Hungary and Germany. ‘Restored Poland’ would break these economic links and hence suffer economic regression and be a creature of the szlachta, the Polish feudal nobility.3 This was, in reality, the result of ‘restored Poland’ in 1919-38.4

Meanwhile, the Austrian Social Democracy faced the regime of the Austrian ‘dual monarchy’, in which the Austrian elite, on the one hand, and the Hungarian aristocracy, on the other, agreed to hold a variety of nations or nationalities - Czechs, Slovaks, Slovenes, Croats, Bosnians, etc - in subordination; and in which the Austrian monarchy’s concessions to the Hungarians promoted nationalism in all the other nationalities. Yet here, too, the Danubian monarchy was a large economic space, which was industrialising. Austro-Marxist Karl Renner argued in 1899 not for the SDKP’s anti-nationalism, but for national-cultural autonomy through non-territorial national corporations controlling education and some other policy aspects within a common state.5

Renner elaborated the argument in 1902, and Otto Bauer greatly developed it in his The question of nationalities and social democracy (1907).6 Bauer’s book triggered new polemics on the issue. Kautsky argued for the indispensable role of the nation-state in ‘Nationality and internationality’ (1908).7 Luxemburg offered a response to both Bauer and Kautsky in ‘The national question and autonomy’ (1908-09);8 and both Stalin’s 1913 Marxism and the national question9 and Lenin’s 1913 Critical remarks on the national question and its 1914 sequel, The right of nations to self-determination,10responded to Bauer and Luxemburg.

Though the International had slid into the general self-determination slogan via the Polish question, Kautsky’s argument for the necessity of the nation-state in ‘Nationality and internationality’ was intimately connected to his argument in The class struggle (1892) for socialism in a single (reasonably large) country and that socialism would result in a reduction in international trade and the international division of labour.11 In contrast, both Luxemburg’s and the Austrians’ arguments responded to the recognition that the ‘national’ economies were, in fact, not national, but economic networks developed on the basis of state territories, with the result that the breaking up of existing states would result in economic regression. The Austrians in particular therefore attempted to think - crudely and legalistically - about how to run a non-national or multinational state. Lenin to some extent engaged with this issue in 1914, recommending a Swiss model, as opposed to that proposed by the Austrians.12

Imperialist war

The outbreak of World War I shifted the terms of debate. On the one hand, the Bolsheviks found themselves in a small minority in the world movement, along with Luxemburg and her co-thinkers, as unambiguous advocates of the working class using the war to fight for power. On the other, the self-determination of nations became a staple of Entente propaganda - as far as it applied to alleged Austrian and German violations of ‘plucky little Serbia’ and ‘bleeding Belgium’, not, of course, as an objection to British and French colonialism ... Meanwhile, the Die Glocke group, whose members had become ‘pro-war Marxists’, denounced national self-determination; the Zimmerwald centre adopted the ‘United States of Europe’ as a pacifist slogan, and Lenin in reaction moved against the idea. In 1915-16 this led to a new debate on the issue among the Bolsheviks, in which Nikolai Bukharin, Yuri Pyatakov and Evgeniya Bosh put forward Theses which linked to the Polish SDKP view.13

Lenin argued extensively against this view in his famous polemics against these “imperialist economists”.14 Three lines of argument are involved. The first broadly follows Kautsky on the question of socialism in one country and provided ‘proof-texts’ for advocates of this line in the 1920s.15 This can be discarded because socialism in one country can be categorically treated as disproved by the course of events since 1917.

The second is Lenin’s famous point about the 1916 Dublin Easter Rising:

The socialist revolution in Europe cannot be anything other than an outburst of mass struggle on the part of all and sundry oppressed and discontented elements. Inevitably, sections of the petty bourgeoisie and of the backward workers will participate in it - without such participation, mass struggle is impossible, without it no revolution is possible - and just as inevitably will they bring into the movement their prejudices, their reactionary fantasies, their weaknesses and errors. But objectively they will attack capital ...

This is true enough, but not in itself a guide to the programmatic orientation of the workers’ party: if we are concerned with a real petty-proprietor utopia - like the Khmer Rouge idea of getting rid of the corrupt and westernised cities - the fact that the petty bourgeoisie will mobilise behind it is not a good reason for the proletarian party to support it.

The third and most fundamental argument is the point that politics does not reduce to economics, and hence imperialism does not abolish the question of political democracy. This is again true. But it takes us back to the question discussed in the first article in this series: what approach to the national question is posed by political democracy?

‘Self-determination’ as a tactic

The Bolshevik line of asserting the right of nations to self-determination, but fighting politically against actual secession, is overlaid with false theory about the ‘democratic and national’ character of the bourgeois revolution. It is also affected by the appropriation of a liberal concept (rights talk); and if rights talk is taken seriously, it leads to a complete impasse of politics. But the core idea is on its face defensible not as a strategic principle, but as a limited tactic towards concrete nationalist movements.

The substance of the idea of self-determination slogans as a tactic can be conceived in two ways, one of which is mistaken in a simple way. This first concept is that by creating nation-states we ‘clear the way’ for the emergence of class conflict within the nation, which has been ‘submerged’ in national oppression.

The problem with this idea is that the hierarchy/inequality of nations under capitalism does not consist only (or even primarily) in the fact that some nations have states and others do not. It is given by the character of capitalism as a world political order and the world pecking order of states headed by the hegemon state (Britain in the past, US in the present). The creation of a nation-state by a subordinated people therefore does not eliminate the underlying ground of nationalism: this is merely redirected onto border disputes, ‘foreign influence’, the terms of trade, military power, and so on. This should be familiar from the experience of the post-colonial regimes.

The second concept is to treat self-determination as analogous to Marx’s and Engels’ approach to the land question in France and Germany. This approach was to say to the peasantry: the workers’ party, if it wins power, will not expropriate you. We cannot promise to preserve your smallholdings from the pressures of competition and indebtedness; nor can we promise to protect you from the wages and conditions demands of agricultural labourers. We think that the only way for you to remain farmers is to begin to engage in cooperation: ie, to give up your private-proprietor autonomy. But we will not force this on you: we are not for taking your property away by force.

So, similarly, communists might say to the nationalists: in our view the only real way to overcome national inequality is directly, through a struggle for the equality of nations within a common state. National inequality grows out of the world capitalist order, and the creation of separate states will not overcome it. For this reason we are opposed to secession. On the contrary, we fight for broader international unification - for the radically democratic united states of Europe, for instance. But if you - with majority backing in your territory - insist on creating a separate state, we will not use force against you to prevent it.

When we say that we stand for the ‘right’ to self-determination in this sense we are not in the least saying that there is a right to self-determination in natural or international law, or using the liberal concept of rights. We are saying merely that if we get power, we will legislate to give minority nations a right in positive domestic law to secede if a majority in their territory wishes to do so. We need not even be saying that: we might be saying simply that if a territory does secede, and a majority in it appears to back secession, we will not use force.

The promise that could not be kept

Among the first acts of the Soviet government in 1917 was the proclamation of the right of the nations of the former tsarist empire to self-determination. A large array of national-secessionist regimes rapidly emerged.16

The promise of self-determination was almost immediately broken. Over the course of 1918-23 the Bolsheviks by main force reconquered most of the territory of the former tsarist empire - the exceptions being Finland, the Baltics, eastern Poland and some portions of territory annexed by Poland and Romania. In place of the seceded states, and in some other areas, they set up theoretically autonomous Soviet republics with the formal right to secede.17 But the real state power was held and monopolised by the unitary, centralist Communist Party, backed by a unitary, centralist Red Army. Why did the Bolsheviks break their promise to the nationalists?

The first aspect is a problem of democracy. In the conditions of 1917-18 it was impossible to ascertain majorities by electoral means, partly because of the disintegration of the tsarist state, and partly because of the extreme fluidity of mass political opinion under conditions of revolutionary crisis. The Bolsheviks overthrew the Provisional Government in October by a coup, on the basis of an assessment that they had the majority in the Soviets (correct) and that the Provisional Government had lost the support of the countryside and the soldiers (also correct).

Bolsheviks in Finland, the Baltics, Ukraine and elsewhere made similar assessments and attempts, but the military balance of forces was adverse to them. The local Soviet regimes had limited democratic political authority, but so did the nationalist alternative regimes. Under these conditions political authority could only be obtained by the trial of force. At the end of the day, except in Finland and the Baltics (where Ebert and Scheidemann kept German troops in place, with the agreement of the Entente powers, after the 1918 armistice and German revolution), the Whites’ and nationalists’ fragmentation, corruption, incompetence and warlordism gave enough political authority to the Reds to allow them to win the civil war.

To some extent these problems are specific to the Russian Revolution; to some extent (the fluidity of mass political opinion, and the attempts of pro-capitalist parties to ‘stop the clock’ of elections, etc, at the moment they are on top) they are inherent in revolutions.

The larger problem was the intervention of the imperialists. A considerable number of the ‘nationalist’ regimes were either simple puppets of the Germans (between the Russian October and the end of the war in November 1918), or of the Entente powers, or rapidly became for all practical purposes dependencies of these powers. The British are known from official documents to have sought the break-up of the former tsarist empire, on the explicit basis that the British would be better able to control a multitude of fragments.18

Even without this goal of the interventionists, for survival and all the more for the conduct of modern warfare, the Reds required supplies of food (primarily sourced in Ukraine and Siberia), fuel (primarily in Ukraine and the Transcaucasus) and other raw materials (again, often sourced in areas taken by the nationalists).

The Soviet regime in the heartlands of European Russia could survive under one of two conditions. The first was the overthrow of the central imperialist states in favour of workers’ regimes, which would both have removed the military and economic backing of the nationalists and forced them to abate their hostility to the Soviet power, and provided military and industrial backing to the Soviet regime. That did not happen. The second was the reconquest of territory of the former tsarist empire, which would allow enough autarkic military and economic coherence to let the regime survive. This was the path taken.

International character of class struggle

The point here is not to ‘pick’ at how the Bolsheviks acted (as comrade Jack Conrad suggested in a 2006 article might be an issue19). The real underlying problem is that the capitalist class is an international class and the capitalist state order is a hierarchically integrated world system of states; and the proletariat is also an international class. Under these conditions, the class struggle is inherently international. To promise to stop it at your national borders is thus to deny urgently needed solidarity to insurgent workers in neighbouring countries, while giving the world-hegemon capitalist state the freedom to prepare on your borders bastions either for a counterrevolutionary invasion or for a strangling blockade.

The promise of self-determination thus is not analogous to a promise not to expropriate the peasantry: it is more analogous to a promise not to support small business employees when they go on strike to resist their exploitation.

The promise of self-determination therefore cannot be guaranteed to be kept by a proletarian revolutionary regime, as long as there exists even one capitalist great power in the world which will provide a haven and world-hegemon for capital and reorganise the seceded nationalists into subordinate elements of its world system. This is not a ‘specifically Russian’ problem.

We should not make promises we know in advance we will not be able to keep. The sort of promise we could be reasonably confident of keeping in this area is a lot narrower and in the nature of ‘We won’t shoot first’:

If you (the nationalists) secede, we will not invade you unless (a) you make war on us, (b) you participate in economic blockades against us, (c) you harbour imperialist or counterrevolutionary troops who are engaged in war or blockade or preparing war or blockade against us, or (d) you engage in violent repression of the local workers’ movement.

It is unlikely that nationalists would regard such promises as amounting to the right to self-determination.

‘Anti-imperialist front’

The Bolsheviks knew as well as anyone else that they had in practice broken the promise of self-determination they made before and in 1917 - though they were unwilling to admit it openly and attempted to create formal ‘self-determination’ and ‘national’ soviet republics within the territory of the old tsarist empire. But the changed practice was reflected in 1920-21 in a new theorisation of the communist approach to the national question.

This theorisation was the line of the ‘anti-imperialist front’. It started from Lenin’s Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism,and the explicit recognition that imperialist capitalism creates a global hierarchy with the imperialist capitals at the top. On this basis it was possible to discriminate between imperialist nationalism, which was the core enemy of the working class, and anti-imperialist nationalism, which was a potential ally of the working class.

This approach provided theoretical support for the Comintern’s ‘turn to the peoples of the east’ and alliances with Turkish, Chinese, Indian, etc, nationalists. Its logic also implied that the nationalists allied with the imperialist centres, even if they were nationalists of small or historically oppressed nations, were enemies of the workers’ movement. This, in turn, could give a justification for Red Army action against nationalist governments in Finland, the Baltics, Poland, Ukraine, and so on.

I argued in my 2004 Weekly Worker articles on imperialism that the ‘anti-imperialist front’ is proved by the fate of the USSR and the results of ‘anti-imperialist nationalism’ in the colonial world since 1945 to have been a radically false strategy for the working class.20 I do not propose to repeat that argument here.

The fate of the strategy is, however, important. After 1936 it became assimilated by ‘official’ communism as part of the more general idea of the people’s front. In this form, it remained - and remains after the fall of the USSR - a fundamental defining feature of ‘official communism’, Maoism and the sub-Guevarist left. It retained until the fall of the USSR the definition it had been given by uses in the early 1920s: that is, that nationalists who formed a political bloc with Moscow (or, for the Maoists, with Beijing) or equivocated between the ‘global camps’ could be seen as anti-imperialist nationalists, while other nationalists could be regarded as ‘pro-imperialist’. The full theory has, however, tended to become degraded as the international ‘official communist’ and Maoist movements have gradually lost their ‘Marxist’ orthodoxies.

The Trotskyists shared with the ‘official communists’ both a formal commitment to the policy of the anti-imperialist front and a practical commitment to its ‘application’ in 1918-21. However, they could not use the nationalists’ diplomatic policy towards Moscow (or Beijing) as a touchstone of ‘anti-imperialism’, and the link between the anti-imperialist front/people’s front and the ‘official communists’ and Maoists tended to make the idea problematic for Trotskyists. It therefore tended to become attenuated towards the idea that in concrete wars between imperialist and colonial or semi-colonial countries Trotskyists should support the victory of the colonial country.

‘Siding with the oppressed’

Over the course of the 1950s-70s the national question re-emerged as a contradiction within the imperialist states. This was partly because of the emergence of the nationalism of subordinated nationalities within these states in response to the latter’s declining political authority resulting from capitalist pressure, from the late 1960s, to take back concessions to the working classes (Scotland, Wales, Quebec, Brittany, Corsica, Euzkadi, Catalonia, the indigenous peoples of North America, etc). It was partly because of the emergence of nationalism of migrant groups, starting with black nationalism in the US, and also propagated by the influence of dilute forms of Maoism, leading to ‘identity politics’ in the student left of the late 1960s and 1970s. The ‘anti-imperialist front’ was a useless classificatory framework for dealing with these movements within imperialist countries.

It was similarly useless in dealing with the contemporaneous rise of nationalism in the so-called ‘socialist’ countries. This was primarily a sectionalist ideology, by which sections of the bureaucracy endeavoured to give themselves room for manoeuvre against the Moscow centre.

The result was a tendency both among ‘official communists’, sub-Maoists and Trotskyists to converge on a degraded version of the anti-imperialist front - reduced to the idea that communists should support the oppressed and thus the ‘nationalism of the oppressed’, and oppose the ‘nationalism of the oppressor’.

This idea has, in fact, no connection with Marxism, but is merely an ethical judgment based on ‘corrective justice’ ideas, which could be either liberal or religious. Marxists seek not to make (impotent) ethical judgments of this sort about particular inequalities, but to find a strategic way out of the global regime of inequality.

It is also hopeless. We may agree that Britain should not oppress Ireland and thus that the Irish are “the oppressed”. But then the question is posed: Irish Catholics should not oppress Irish Protestants, so that in a hypothetical future the ‘British-Irish’ might become the oppressed. But that leads to a third level: even if the border was redrawn in order to prevent oppression of the ‘British-Irish’, there would be Catholics (‘Irish-Irish’) within a Protestant (‘British-Irish’) statelet.

The equality of nationalities within the framework of a non-national state provides us with clear answers to problems of this sort. The self-determinationof nations provides no answers short of street-by-street redefinition of borders and ethnic cleansing. ‘Standing by the oppressed’ does not tell us whose oppression counts, or counts for most.

Identical problems affect - for example - Iran and Iraq. Both are countries oppressed by the global power of the imperialist centres. Both include national minorities - Kurds, Azerbaijanis and Arabs, among others, in Iran; Kurds in particular in Iraq; Turkmen in Iraqi Kurdistan. Are the Kurdish peshmergas the oppressed (in relation to Iraq as a whole) asserting their rights, or another group of oppressors?

The strategic way out Marxists suggest is the struggle for the unity and independent interests of the working class as a global class - not the solution to the world’s national divisions and inequalities as a precondition for the class struggle between workers and capitalists.

The line of ‘siding with the oppressed’ should have met its Waterloo in the catastrophe of the Iranian workers’ movement in 1979-81. Its persistence after that disaster is testimony to the unwillingness of much of the left to think outside the frame of its historical positions.

Principles, strategy and tactics

It should now (I hope) be possible to draw together some of the threads of this rather extended argument.

The struggle for political democracy is a principle for communists. It is a principle because it is only through political democracy that the working class can rule.

We should mean by ‘democracy’ a political order in which it is commonly agreed that everyone gets to participate in collective decision-making. Within this framework majority rule is a subordinate convention for decision-making: a majority decision to exclude some minority group from decision-making is anti-democratic.

From this principle it follows that the equality of national groups - whether or not they live in compact territories - is a principle for communists; and that a democratic workers’ republic should recognise an individual right to participate in political affairs in one’s mother tongue - including, for example, Romani.

It is perfectly illusory to imagine the overthrow of capitalism through a series of separate national revolutions. Capitalism is an international economic order and the system of nation-states is an international military-political order tied to capitalism. Each separate national revolution would therefore be strangled more or less rapidly after its birth, either by immediate overthrow or economic strangulation or (in the best alternative, applicable only to great powers of a geographical size analogous to the old USSR and with relatively weak links to the world economy and a large domestic arms industry) by bureaucratic degeneration.

Our positive goal is therefore a world democratic republic, within which continents, territories and localities all the way down to the level of the ward have self-government. Within this goal, our strategic orientation has to be at a minimum at continental level: a European, a North American, a Latin American, a pan-African, and so on, movement. It is only by going beyond the nation-state that the working class can hope to overthrow the capitalist political-economic order. Greece and Venezuela both in different ways provide evidence for the degree of control retained by international capital, and hence the very severe limits on national projects of reform, not just projects of revolution.

For this reason, we should in general oppose national secessionism and socialist variants of secessionism: they travel in the opposite direction to that in which the workers’ movement and society at large needs to go.

Within this framework, approaches to nationalist movements are neither ethical questions nor direct questions of principle. They pose a principled question to the workers of bourgeois states which hold other nationalities in subordination: that of the class independence of the workers from the bourgeois ‘national’ state under which they live, and thus defeatism in relation to that state’s efforts to win and hold colonies and national minorities.

We can further say that as a matter of principle communists do not favour either (a) reversing the poles of national oppression (so that a formerly dominant national minority becomes an oppressed national minority) or (b) large, involuntary population movements in order to create nationally or ‘ethnically’ homogenous states (‘ethnic cleansing’). The only solutions which can avoid this result are not those of self-determination, but the struggle for the equality of nationalities within a multinational state.

Beyond this point, the question is one almost purely one of tactics. The use of a self-determination slogan may be appropriate where a part of the territory of a state has a distinct history and a strong nationalist political movement, as a way of expressing the strength of communists’ commitment to local self-government and hostility to Bonapartist state centralism.

But even then this is not always true: it was manifestly not appropriate, for example, in relation to the reactionary nationalism of the US Confederacy, and it is similarly not appropriate in relation to the Italian Lega Nord, or in relation to the landlord-based lowlands secessionist movement in Bolivia in 2007-08.21

What are the implications of this general approach for the concrete issues in relation to which the CPGB has recently used self-determination slogans? I have argued for views connected to the arguments made above in debates on CPGB policy in relation to Ireland and the Six Counties in 2005-06,22 and in relation to Israel-Palestine in 2007, 2009 and 2011.23 I would refer readers to these discussions for the details.

The resulting differences are nuances - albeit ones which may turn out to be important - in relation to the lines adopted by the CPGB as a whole. My point in these arguments is mainly that we should avoid over-committing to the self-determination tactic: in the course of events, it may turn out to be necessary to support the coercion of minority national groups backed by global capital. We should not, therefore, write as if there can be no solution, or no democratic solution, which does not respect national self-determination.

In sum. It is legitimate to use limited self-determination slogans as a tactic to deal with the ascendancy of nationalist ideas. However, the use of such slogans is not a general rule, but a subordinate tactic. It has to be in the highest degree adapted to a concrete assessment of the concrete situation. The regional/continental dimension has to be brought into the picture; and hence, our positive strategic orientation has to be mainly about the equality of nations within the state, rather than about the right to a nation-state l

mike.macnair@weeklyworker.co.uk

Notes

1. www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1866/03/24.htm.

2. Various sources at www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/subject/russia.

3. Some useful discussion of Luxemburg’s and the SDKP’s views in the 1890s and the London Congress discussion are available in English in JP Nettl Rosa Luxemburg Vol 1, Oxford 1966, pp70-77, 90-100 - though this book has to be read with one critical eye on Nettl’s psychobabble and ‘realist’ spin.

4. RM Watt Bitter glory: Poland and its fate 1919-1939 New York 1979 is sympathetic to some of the endeavours of the new Polish nation-state, but cannot avoid providing evidence for the point.

5. E Nimni Marxism and nationalism London 1991, pp119-31 provides basic information on the developments in the Austrian social democracy, though it should be read with the ‘spin warning’ that Nimni is anti-Marxist in his basic analyses.

6. J O’Donnell (translator) Minneapolis 2000.

7. B Lewis (translator) Critique No37, pp317-89 (2009); pp38, 143-63 (2010).

8. HB Davis (ed) and others The national question New York 1976, pp101-287.

9. www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1913/03.htm.

10. www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1913/crnq/index.htm ; https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1914/self-det.

11. The class struggle chapter 4: www.marxists.org/archive/kautsky/1892/erfurt/ch04.htm (section on ‘Socialist production’).

12. Critical remarks sections 5 and 6; cf also ‘Theses on the national question’ (1913): www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1913/jun/30.htm; Notes for a speech (1914): www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1914/jan/20.htm#fwV41E379.

13. http://thecommune.wordpress.com/ideas/imperialism-nationalism-and-wars/theses-on-the-right-of-nations-to-self-determination.

14. There is extensive material. Most systematic is ‘The discussion on self-determination summed up’: www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1916/jul/x01.htm.

15. E van Ree, ‘Lenin’s conception of socialism in one country, 1915-17’ Revolutionary Russia No23, pp159-81 (2010).

16. The ‘Russian civil war polities’ page (www.worldstatesmen.org/Russia_war.html) contains an extensive list.

17. http://constitution.sokolniki.com/eng/History/RussianConstitutions/10266.aspx - part 2, chapter 2, section 4. “Each one of the member-republics retains the right to freely withdraw from the union ... (section 6). “The territory of the member-republics cannot be modified without their consent; also, any limitation or modification or suppression of 4 must have the approval of all the member-republics of the union.”

18. Eg, Lloyd George, quoted in RK Debo Survival and consolidation: the foreign policy of Soviet Russia 1918-21 Kingston 1992, p132.0

19. ‘The determination of revolution’ Weekly Worker August 30 2006.

20. July 29, August 5, August 12, September 23 2004.

21. There is a convenient brief account at www.counterpunch.org/2008/05/06/u-s-is-promoting-secession-in-bolivia; irrespective of whether the alleged US role is true (it is hardly unlikely), the movement’s class character is perfectly clear.

22. M Macnair, ‘Ireland’s British problem and the tasks of British communists’ Weekly Worker September 28 2005; see also J Conrad, ‘Self-determination and the British-Irish’ Weekly Worker 16 2006; M Godwin, ‘Ireland debate continues’ Weekly Worker May 31 2006. I do not recollect us bringing this debate to the point of a vote; if we did, a search through subsequent aggregate reports in the paper has not found it.

23. M Macnair, ‘Strategic lines and tactical slogans’ Weekly Worker April 15 2009; see J Conrad, ‘The debate on Israel-Palestine assessed’ Weekly Worker May 13 2009; the Theses agreed by a CPGB aggregate on June 25 2011, and the report of that meeting are both in Weekly Worker June 29 2011.