Friday, 9 April 2021

Marxism, Zionism and the National Question - Voluntary Federation, and Workers Self-Activity (1/3)

Marxism, Zionism and the National Question

Voluntary Federation, and Workers Self-Activity (1/3)

In the area of the Middle-East and North Africa, the way forward, as with Trotsky's analysis of the Balkans, is for the small nations to come together as a federation.

“Petersburg's diplomacy has no business in the Balkans, and the Balkan peoples can expect nothing to their advantage from the diplomatic chancelleries of Petersburg. The peoples of the Near East must organise a democratic federation on their territory, on principles of independence from both Russia and Austria-Hungary.

This standpoint unites us closely both with you and with the fraternal parties in the Balkans, whose fight against local dynastic and militarist reaction will be the more rewarding and successful the more vigorously and uncompromisingly we wage our struggle against any and every interference by the Great powers in Balkan affairs.”

(Trotsky Writings On The Balkan Wars, p 319-20)

But, for the liberal-interventionists, and petty-bourgeois nationalists, such a political struggle, on this basis, is too hard, compared to the solution offered at the end of a barrel of a gun.

“And tangled knots exist in plenty in the Balkans...A customs union, federation, democracy, a united parliament for the whole peninsula – what were all these pitiful words beside the unanswerable argument of the bayonet. They had fought the Turks in order to 'liberate' the Christians, they had massacred peaceful Turks and Albanians in order to correct the ethnographical statistics of population, now they began to slaughter each other in order to 'finish the job'.”

(ibid, p 329)

But, such federations must be the consequence of the voluntary agreement of the people themselves, not the consequence of some larger nation forcing others into such a framework. It is impossible to see how such voluntary agreement would arise without some long period of prior cooperation and struggle for political rights and freedoms in general.

“... 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.”

(Lenin, The Discussion On Self-Determination Summed Up)

Such voluntary associations do not have to arise fully formed. The EU, for example, is a voluntary association that has grown from an original six nations to its current 27. Similarly, voluntary associations might arise out of compulsory ones. Norway was originally forcibly retained by Sweden, but remained voluntarily tied to Sweden during the period of autonomy, prior to secession. In a different context, the British Empire forcibly retained millions of people and dozens of nations within its remit, but most of those nations have remained voluntarily within the Commonwealth. Wales was forcibly subdued by England, but the Welsh have repeatedly shown little desire for independence or even autonomy, though Brexit seems to have increased such separatist sentiments. Scotland and England fought repeated wars, as each sought dominance, but the 1706 Act of Union was a voluntary act of union between two nations both of which shared in the gains created by a British nation state, and in its exploitation of other nations via the Empire.

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