Friday, 23 July 2010

The Politics And Programme Of The First International - Part 7

Polish question

[The French subtitle reads: "Necessity of annihilating Russian influence in Europe by implementing the right of nations to self-determination and restoring Poland on a democratic and social basis." German subtitle reads similarly.]

(a) Why do the workmen of Europe take up this question? In the first instance, because the middle-class writers and agitators conspire to suppress it, although they patronise all sorts of nationalities, on the Continent, even Ireland. Whence this reticence? Because both, aristocrats and bourgeois, look upon the dark Asiatic power in the background as a last resource against the advancing tide of working class ascendancy; That power can only be effectually put down by the restoration of Poland upon a democratic basis.

(b) In the present changed state of central Europe, and especially Germany, it is more than ever necessary to have a democratic Poland. Without it, Germany will become the outwork of the Holy Alliance, with it, the co-operator with republican France. The working-class movement will continuously be interrupted, checked, and retarded, until this great European question be set at rest.

(c) It is especially the duty of the German working class to take the initiative in this matter, because Germany is one of the partitioners of Poland.

The debates over questions of Nationalism and Colonialism were really only beginning at this time. Dealing with this question requires more space and time than is available here, and my intention is to deal with this section separately along with a wider discussion on Nationalism and Colonialism. What is important here, however, is again the basic approach. The starting point is not any question of bourgeois democratic right for self-determination. The starting point is what is in the best interests of the working-class movement. The establishment of an independent, democratic Poland is not argued for, for its own sake – a movement that is internationalist, and seeks to abolish nation states, can hardly base itself on the creation of new ones! - but, because of what that means in terms of the power of Russia (the dark Asiatic power in the background), whose continual intervention into the affairs of Europe, had set back not only the workers movement, but even the development of bourgeois democracy. It is this method of starting from the interests of the working-class, rather than abstract notions about bourgeois democratic freedoms and rights – which ultimately comes down to a question of moral judgements – which much of the Left today, which bases itself on ideas of “anti-imperialism”, has abandoned. It is one of the areas where Lenin was to not only stand in Marx's footsteps, but, to mix metaphors, to stand on his shoulders, and develop Marx's ideas for use in the twentieth century.

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