National Liberation and the Struggle for Communism


Any serious communist critique of national liberation must begin by accepting that national oppression exists, and that it is the primary cause of working class disunity. National liberation movements emerge because national oppression has already divided the working class. It is far too easy to fall into workerist national chauvinism if one (correctly) rejects national liberation as a tactic in the struggle for communism. The problem with national liberation is not that it attacks national oppression, but that it is incapable of achieving the liberation of oppressed workers.

The questions raised by national liberation are practical ones, and will only be fully worked out in the crucible of  class struggle. The ideas expressed here are the theories of lone individual with limited practical experience, and should be treated as such. The class war is the crucible in which our ideas are tempered and tested, and any ideas developed outside by lone radicals should be treated with extreme caution. I offer these proposals with this in mind:

  1. National liberation is a reaction to the material reality of national oppression, and many struggles waged by oppressed workers will use it’s language. When a struggle breaks out we must analyze it from a material perspective, just because it uses nationalist language does not mean it is not class struggle. Many such struggles will have both nationalist and class elements, and we must learn to tell the difference.
  2. If a struggle proves to have class elements we must support it, without giving up our right to political independence. In practice this will mean standing shoulder to shoulder with nationalists, while also explaining why national liberation will not achieve the goals of oppressed workers. Our critiques must be constructive, in that they must offer a a practical alternative in the struggle against national oppression. To critique the national liberation without attacking national oppression is to attack the immune system without trying to cure the disease.
  3. Our critiques of national liberation should focus on it’s inability to achieve the emancipation of nationally oppressed workers, not that it “divides the working class”. National oppression divides the class, not national liberation.
  4. When there are “fully developed” wars of national liberation we must defend the right of oppressed nationality workers to protect themselves from state and chauvinist violence. We must seek to create independent class organs of self defense, and support struggles that tend to unite the entire class. Many struggles that help nationally oppressed workers will hurt workers of the oppressor nation in the short term, but they will help them in the long term. Our propaganda should focus on this, because moralizing at oppressed nation workers never works. If it proves impossible to convince oppressor nation workers to join the internationalist cause, we will keep on the struggle while ceasing our appeal to oppressor workers.
  5. Many times struggles by oppressed workers will begin to threaten the capitalist order, when this happens the oppressed nation bourgeois will use the language of national liberation to bring the workers to heel. They will accuse the workers of threatening national unity, or of hurting the war effort. When this happens we must support the workers, and against bourgeois blackmail. We must take a revolutionary defeatist line even in this case, turn the national liberation war into a civil war.


These are provisional proposals, and have been developed primarily from reading and individual thinking. They have not been tested in reality, and should be treated as such.

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