Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Gregor on Marxist Notions of Nationalism



One of the best chapters in Gregor's book is the Marxist treatment of the subject of nationalism. It alone is worth the price of the book. What becomes apparent following the death of Marx and Engels is that, with regard to the nationalism, Marxist intellectuals split into two main schools, those who embrace nationalism and those who don't. What becomes apparent in reading the book is that those who embraced nationalism seemed to grant human nature fare more legitimacy than the "internationalists". Indeed the Leninst faction of Marxism was not really concerned with the feelings of the proletarians since the vanguard movement that Lenin was leading knew better than the proletarians what was true proletarianism. It was a movement led by an "elite" group of proletarians in contrast to Fascism which sought its legitimacy in the political will of the proles. As Mussolini said when putting down Marxist-Lenninism, "Fascism is the socialism of proletarian nations."

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In the course of his exposition, Stalin undertook to do something not undertaken by Lenin. Stalin offered a lexical definition of what he understood a "nation" to be. He told his audience that "a nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture." He went on to argue with considerable confidence that should "a single one" of those properties be missing, "the nation ceases to be a nation. He conceived nations as transient, having a beginning and ending sometime in history. More than that, Stalin conceived the nation, an historical artifact, as belonging to a definite epoch—that of emerging capitalism. 
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Prior to the Great War, both Lenin and Stalin made very clear their total rejection of nationalism as a political vehicle for the mobilization of revolutionary masses in the service of socialism. Neither ever completely abandoned that conviction. Within the conceptual notions of Marxism-Leninism, nationalism could never serve "proletarian" purpose. At its very best, and under whatever guise, nationalism served only bourgeois interests. Lenin did approve the invocation of nationalism, however, in order to mobilize masses for revolution in the regions peripheral to the advanced industrial nations—only because such revolutions impaired the survival capacity of international capitalism......

..In the years leading to the First World War, both Lenin and Stalin were insistent in rejecting nationalism as part of Marxism-Leninism's revolutionary strategy because both saw the local nationalisms of the many ethnic groups that made up the Russia of their time depleting the collective energies of the international proletariat. Both sought a unified, centralized association of workers, loyal to their class, rather than to any "abstract" national, interests.
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Lenin maintained that once industrial capitalism had "matured"—that is to say, when it gave evidence of being "ripe" for socialist revolution—any manifestation of regional national sentiment was intrinsically counterrevolutionary. That was because Marxism knew of no nationalism appropriate to the needs of the international proletariat. Nationalism was intrinsically divisive at a time when the international revolution required a unified revolutionary class. The responsibility of Marxist revolutionaries was to "break down national barriers, obliterate national distinctions, and to assimilate nations"— following the secular trends of industrial capitalism itself—trends that were seen as "transforming capitalism into socialism." Those realities, Lenin insisted, left ultimately only two alternative "world outlooks" available to revolutionary leaders: reactionary "bourgeois nationalism" as opposed to progressive "proletarian internationalism:"  There could be no third altrnative. [ED]
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The treatment of nationalism, reflected in the work of both Stalin and Lenin, was to perceive it as something to be thwarted. In principle, nationalism was not to he recommended under any circumstances. Socialism's primary task was identified as "regrouping the proletariat of all countries into a living revolutionary force [having] only one conception of its tasks and interests"—abjuring national sentiment and rejecting any association with political nationalism. The "immediate mission" of socialist agitation was understood to he "the spiritual liberation of the proletariat from the tutelage of the bourgeoisie, which expresses itself through the influence of nationalist ideology.""

 Nationalism, in all its formulations and expressions, was seen as nothing more than a bourgeois snare and subterfuge, a cover for antiprolitarian machinations. Through some occult process, the bourgeoisie managed to instill national sentiments in the proletariat. Such unreal sentiments could only work against the interests of the working class. 
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[Otto] Bauer's account differed from the "orthodoxy" common among German theoreticians in that he recognized that whatever bourgeois motives there may have been behind the emergence of national consciousness, in order for it to become a political reality, there must have been a susceptibility among workers and peasants. The bourgeoisie could hardly impose a sense of nationality on a population; there had to have been a ready receptivity that could account for its acceptance and persistence. Nationalism most have found a ready response among people quite independent of the specific content supplied by transient economic circumstances. It seems reasonably clear that Bauer found the standard Marxist explanation for the rise and significance of national sentiment simplistic. His work is dedicated to advancing an explanation with greater inherent plausibility 

Bauer saw national sentiment rooted in the Darwinian history' of human-kind. Like Dietzgen, Kautsky, and Woltmann, as well as many of the lesser Marxist intellectuals of the period, Bauer sought to trace the continuities between Darwin's convictions concerning human descent and Marxism as a conception of historical development. He sought to link national sentiment to the evolutionary history of humanity. He sought a credible explanation of why the mass of workers and peasants would become possessed so readily of a sense of national identity. Whatever the influence exercised by the bourgeoisie, it could not alone account for the broad-based national passion exhibited by members of the working class. 
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By the beginnings of the twentieth century, Bauer concluded elements of national sentiment had become so intrinsic to the psychology of the proletariat, that one could hardly expect them to be surrendered for a "naive cosmopolitanism" that entertained no distinctions whatever between communities. He insisted that there was every evidence that the internationalization of the industrial means of production did not mean the disappearance of a sense of national differences.. For the members of many communities, in fact, the realization that they were perceived "backward;' economically and culturally retrograde, by those nations industrially sophisticated, prompted a response among them that could only be characterized as reactive nationalism. As a consequence, Bauer anticipated that nationalism might well become a significant political force to be reckoned with even in those nations that lacked an industrial base or an effective bourgeoisie. 
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The importance of Bauer's variant of Marxism can be measured by the venom with which it was attacked by Lenin and Stalin in the years that were to follow. Both charged Bauer's interpretation with major responsibility in socialism's subsequent failure to meet the challenge of the Great War. In an uncritical sense, they were right. On the occasion of the war, the working masses of Europe chose to identify with their several nations—employing arguments that shared a significant similarity with those advanced by Bauer. In fact, some of Bauer's central convictions were to serve as a bridge between nineteenth-century Marxism and the Fascism of the twentieth.

8 comments:

Nulle Terre Sans Seigneur said...

This need for Marxism-Leninism to be adjusted on the fly to meet the circumstances of reality at hand was perhaps most hilariously illustrated by the prefixing of the word "socialist" in front of concepts otherwise considered bourgeois. Thus you had "socialist patriotism" to build proletarian comradeship, "socialist competition" to provide incentives for long Stakhanovite labor shifts and even "socialist primitive accumulation" - Preobrazhensky's term for the policy of appropriating agricultural surpluses and using mercantile investment policies to build up heavy industry.

However, the first to heavily expound this "proletarian nationalism," was Maurice Barres, if I recall correctly. Truly, when liberalism severed all other ties of identity, there was not much left.

MK said...

In an uncritical sense, they were right. On the occasion of the war, the working masses of Europe chose to identify with their several nations—employing arguments that shared a significant similarity with those advanced by Bauer.

Amused people would doubt this for a racially unified nation. Race is a large sprawling extended family. Is anyone so stupid to think they will fight for an "idea" over their own people?

However, this also means that nationalism has no threat today, since everyone is racially divided. Lots of people movement kills nationalism. However, it does make people build walls and spit off FROM the nation, Yugo-style.

Chris B said...

@MK I would say the whole discussion is drastically wrong. From the Socialists and from you. We are currently in a gigantic death spasm in which anti-racism is causing the most incredible things. I mean "Is anyone so stupid to think they will fight for an "idea" over their own people?" Yes, one thousand times yes.

In reality, identity is premised on tradition, which is premised on institutions which maintain this tradition. This is why you will note that the correspondence between institutions and traditions/ identity is pretty much precise. The anti-racism culture/ tradition for example, is made live by thousands upon thousands of institutions. At first this was Foundation/ Philanthropic, but once it got started formal support from state institutions got going, and this forced every institution to provide for it. Now it is ubiquitous. Anti-racist warriors would be in trouble if there was no money to fund their activities. Their tradition would be dead in a generation or two, and severely anemic and weak until it died.

The Social Pathologist said...

@NTSS

Sitting behind me is Weber's Action Francaise which I plan to get stuck into soon. My initial reading of Barres is that he a prime example of where tradition goes wrong and where NRx could go wrong as well.

@MK

Yes. Yugo-style dissolution is definitely possible.

@Chris B
Identity is only partially premised on a shared tradition a far greater force is intuition and homophily. Identity and group belonging are parts of human nature and it is why even committed internationalists had to bow to it in order to launch successful revolutions. The current popular "pushback" against the Left isn't ideological it's "instinctive". What's happened is that the Left has pushed too far against human nature and human nature is fighting back.

MK said...

CB, We are currently in a gigantic death spasm in which anti-racism is causing the most incredible things. I mean "Is anyone so stupid to think they will fight for an "idea" over their own people?" Yes, one thousand times yes.

When I say "own people" I mean 1) race, and 2) being attacked as a group. This is simply not the case with white people's anti-racism obsession (everyone is fair game in that civil war; it's the West's 1917 revolution). Remember, this involves no external threat like the WWs did.

One would have to be daft to think ideas will rule if the race/tribe is under real threat. Look how fast Trump shattered the "Blue Wall" with just a hint of minority strength. Or: look how fast white liberals ensconced to Seattle. Or out of CA and Detroit. In fact, liberals are more racist than others (they project). Liberals even shut up for a month after 9-11 (a joke of a threat). Imagine real war! No, the WW drop of ideas over tribe was entirely predictable. The Germans fought each other to the death over ideas, but once at war they fought to the death.

Joshua Sinistar said...

Socialism, Internationalism and Globalism are all a pose. The "social contract" and "civic nationalism" is just an alien parasite that cannot really pass as you. After exposure for awhile the alien nature and alien nation begin to stand out and even grate on you. This race is a social construct nonsense like "Anti-Semitic" is just a pre-emptive strike on your eventual realization that you are amongst blood sucking evil monsters that exploit you and want you dead. Censorship, "Hate Crime" , or whatever else, its a monster, and its not you. It wants you to serve it as a slave or die or and die. At the end of it, you realize or should, its (((them))) or YOU.

The Social Pathologist said...

@JS

Socialism, Internationalism and Globalism are all a pose.

I noticed you missed Fascism, the branch of the same tree that produced the above. You see this is the problem Sinistar, once you buy into the Fascist narrative you eventually turn Left.

Marcus Montisursinensis said...

However, it does make people build walls and spit off FROM the nation, Yugo-style.
Yes. Yugo-style dissolution is definitely possible.
Dissolution of what? Of the USA? Of the EU?
Yugoslavia (where I have been living my entire life) lasted for less than 80 years. An artificial conglomerate. Croatia was a sub-kingdom under Hungary for 800 years (1100 aughts-1918). Slovenia had been under Austria since Charlemagne, until 1918. The present-day Slovenian-Croatian border (save in Istria) was the border between the Holy Roman Empire and Holy Crown of St. Stephen for the aforementioned 800 years even if the ruler was the same from 1527 until 1918. The present Croatian-Bosnian border is 300 years old even if the southern part of Croatia was under Venice. The Slovenes were always more germanized than Croats, while the Orthodox Serbs, who lived under the Turks from circa 1400 until the beginning of 19th century are again a different culture. Irreconcilable.