Sunday, 5 March 2023

Social-Imperialism and Ukraine - Part 2 of 37

Conscious that the bourgeoisie and their allies amongst the social-chauvinists of the social-democratic and reformist parties were using the bourgeois-democratic demand for national self-determination, as cover for “defence of the fatherland”, and support for such bourgeois-defencism, as against the policy of revolutionary defeatism, Lenin and the Bolsheviks dropped the demand for national self-determination from their programme, and replaced it with the clearer demand for “the right of free secession”.

“Instead of the word self-determination, which has given rise to numerous misinterpretations, I propose the perfectly precise concept: "the right to free secession"...

On the other hand, we do not at all favour secession. We want as vast a state, as close an alliance of the greatest possible number of nations who are neighbours of the Great Russians; we desire this in the interests of democracy and socialism, to attract into the struggle of the proletariat the greatest possible number of the working people of different nations. We desire proletarian revolutionary unity, unification, and not secession. We desire revolutionary unification...

But we want unification, and this must be stated; it is so important to state it in the programme of a party of a heterogeneous state that it is necessary to abandon custom and to incorporate a declaration. We want the republic of the Russian (I am even inclined to say Great-Russian, for this is more correct) people to attract other nations to it. But how? Not by violence, but solely by voluntary agreement. Otherwise the unity and the brotherly ties of the workers of all countries are broken. Unlike the bourgeois democrats, we call for the brotherhood of workers of all nationalities, and not the brotherhood of nations, for we do not trust the bourgeoisie of any country, we regard them as our enemies.”

In other words, the demand that nations that were annexed, such as many of those within the huge Tsarist Empire, should have the right to leave, if they so chose, without being violently prevented from doing so. But, even here, whilst they argued this right to free secession, and, in large part, it was raised as a tactical demand, to attract revolutionary elements, in those annexed territories, to the overall struggle the Bolsheviks were waging against Tsarism, the Bolsheviks argued against any such annexed territories actually exercising that right.

“As the party of the proletariat, the Social-Democratic Party considers it to be its positive and principal task to further the self-determination of the proletariat in each nationality rather than that of peoples or nations. We must always and unreservedly work for the very closest unity of the proletariat of all nationalities, and it is only in isolated and exceptional cases that we can advance and actively support demands conducive to the establishment of a new class state or to the substitution of a looser federal unity, etc., for the complete political unity of a state.”

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