zaterdag 8 september 2012
The Cause of the Nation (Part 2/4)
From communism without fatherland to national-communism - the history of a German liberation movement
Fatherland with Working class
During the lifetime of Marx and Engels the national question already took a more important place within the German social democracy and got a dominating position within the German Reich and Austria-Hungary. The "people without fatherland", like the bourgeoisie called them, developed themselves into "better patriots" (by their own words), who "were not inferior" if it came to loving their fatherland. In the aspect of foreign policy the original Marxist question "Which State is the biggest enemy of the revolution?" slowly developed to: "Who is the attacker?” This is how the foundations were formed for the defence of the fatherland.
In 1880 August Bebel declared, during a speech before the Reichstag, for the first time the preparedness for defence of the German fatherland by the German social democracy:
"Should it come to the point that a foreign power conquers German territory, then the social democracy will take front against this enemy like every other Party."
This was formulated because of the actual threat coming from the East (the Russian tsarism as the embodiment of the most dark reaction), which would deteriorate the demands for revolution: "Because in a war we don’t defend our enemies and their institutions. We defend ourselves and our country, who’s institutions we want to shape and which only forms soil for our efficacy." (Bebel)
The readiness of the German social democracy to defend the fatherland was already formulated in 1893, in the official report of the SPD fraction in the Reichstag. Five years later Eduard Bernstein Bebels formulated "fatherland" (from a negative sense) into a positive sense, because he made the position of the fatherland dependent on the position of the worker within the State:
"That workers don't have a fatherland, could be at the most applicable to the lawless - ruled out from public life - working class of the '40's. This has already for the biggest part lost its legitimacy and will loose this even more, because under the influence of the social democracy, the worker from the proletariat becomes a civilian. The worker, who is a voter with equal rights in the State and therefore becomes joint proprietor of the united wellbeing of the nation, who's children are educated by the community, who's health is protected, who's insured against invalidity, this worker shall have a fatherland, without stopping to be a cosmopolitan, in the sense that the nations will befriend each other without stopping to lead their own lives."
On the same time the social democracy started a tactical approach towards the elections in the Reichstag with respect to the military budget. They tried to get around the imperative to support the defence of the country from the viewpoint of national interest, by making the yes-vote dependent on the dissolution of the existing army in favour of a peoples militia and by putting the attention on the "unjust" financing of the military budget. Because these demands (logically) have not been approved, the parliamentary fraction of the social democracy was able to vote "no". Therefore it was only consequent when in 1899 Wolfgang Heine on the SPD congress went beyond that and stated that agreeing with military spending could only be just:
"In my opinion the social democrats should give their permission to these military demands, if in return valuable freedoms for the people would be given as a counterbid. ... Not necessary military expenses should always be rejected. ... However some military expenses are necessary for the defence of the nation and are therefore not an opposition to our ideals and principles."
During the Morocco crisis (1905) August Bebel declared in his speech in the Reichstag:
"Gentlemen, when our fatherland is in danger, you ask the worker to defend the fatherland; however when you don't make sure that the institutions are of a nature that fulfils the workers with joy to fight for their fatherland, then the next time they will ask themselves if they should defend it. Gentlemen, without the working class you cannot wage war, if they remain in default, you're lost."
Bebel suggested some kind of deal: The defence of the fatherland in exchange for workers rights. He emphasized the inevitability of the working class for the defence of the nation and gave Gustav Noske the keyword for his first speech in 1907 in the Reichstag. Noske formulated for the first time, the willingness of social democracy to defend the fatherland:
"We wish that Germany is as resilient as possible, we wish that the whole German people will have an interest in military institutions, which are necessary for the defence of the fatherland."
This however could only be reached if the ruling class "together with the social democracy made sure that Germany became as liveable, free and culturally developed as possible." From the utilitarianism in handling the nation by Marx and Engels, the cardinal question "What is the advantage for the revolution?", the theorem at the end of the 19th century became that what was in the best interest of the proletariat was also in the best interest of the nation. Because of this the nation had to do more for the worker. With this the social democracy took its distance from every form of abstract internationalism. From now on class loyalty was only formulated within the framework of the nation-state. The strengthened German social democracy struggled for the national unity "inwards", from the viewing point of participation in the State and its reformist transformation. To end the last social democratic reservations, the Reich reinterpreted the coming war as a national defensive war.
When Kaiser Wilhelm, in 1914 at the outbreak of WW I, declared to his Reichskansler Von Bülow: "From now on I don't know any parties, from now on I will only know Germans.” the national unity inwards was a fact, with which the assent from social democracy for war credits was reduced to merely a formality.
Nation and imperialism
At the end of the century the social democrats redefined the concept of the "nation". Karl Kautsky had defined, in 1887, the nation state as 'the classic form of the modern State" and as a "State that included the entire nation and no other nations next to it". The most important factor for this was the formation of a "closely-knit economic territory" according to Kautsky, which included the existence of a common language, national tradition and solidarity."
The Austrian social democrat Otto Bauer who was confronted with all kind of conflicts between nationalities within the Habsburger empire, placed these emotional elements in 1907 for the first time in the centre of the conceptions of the left according to the nation, which hasn’t lost its validity up to the present day:
"The nation is the totality by means of a community of fate onto a community of character, which binds people together."
This community of fate was not to be interpreted as the shared faith of workers from different nations, because this unity was not enough for the development of a nation. Inherent to the nation was the "traffic community: "The common experience of the same faith in the constant mutual social movement, in a constant interaction of mutual social interaction."
The "community of character" clearly referred to the "national character", which was explained by Bauer in a historic-materialist manner as an organically grown and an exchangeable concept. Therefore he didn’t define socialism as abstract-internationalist, but national: Because more and more people are sucked into the "traffic community", more people will become part of the nation, this would according to the socialist progressive thinking lead to a situation in which socialism would immediately be put on the agenda, because the workers would become the majority of the nation. This also meant that under socialism the nation could expand itself to full extent.
In 1913 J.W. Stalin developed (building on the theorems of Kautsky and Bauer) his thesis of the nation as "a historically grown stable community of people ... on the basis of a common language, common territories, common economic life and common, in common culture revealing, psychical essential characteristics."
(Marxism and the National Question p 28)
What was the reason that social democracy made such an effort in developing a theory in relation to the nation? The hypothesis of Marx, that the world market would break open the borders between national States, apparently didn’t take place. Although his hypothesis on economy was striking, the agitation of national States in power politics, or better said their imperialism, stood in the way of this – subsequent to this, on the base of the domestic markets in the developed capitalist countries, the monopoly capital and the surplus developed, as well as her expansionism, the acquisition of colonies, the creation of spheres of influence and safeguarding these with war. This was the cause of the competition between mono-capitalist States as well as the mono-capitalists capital, which resulted in WW I. This didn’t lead to the disappearance of the nation state, but to the consolidation of the nation state as a bourgeois project of capitalist rule.
Within the controversy between Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg this change was critically reflected. The conflict was NOT about a new theory regarding the nation, but it was about the meaning of the nation and nationalism in regard to the socialist revolution. Nationalism, which was a tactical question for Marx and Engels, became a strategic question on the path towards revolution.
While Luxemburg thought that nationalism in principle was harmful for the class struggle and spoke about a "right on self determination for the working class", Lenin thought that it was necessary to use nationalist tendencies in oppressed states in a revolutionary manner. The right of nations on self determination became a fundamental right in Lenin’s views. Where Luxemburg talked about the relevant political contradiction "internationalism versus nationalism", Lenin talked about "anti-colonialism versus imperialism". The stand still of the world revolution and the victory of the thesis "possibility of socialism in one country" (J.W. Stalin) decided this controversy in the sense that Stalin’s formulated theory of two camps (1924) - that of the oppressive nations and oppressed nations - became decisive in the Marxist-Leninist left (and far beyond!). The real basis of this theory can be found in the existence of the Soviet Union.
Because of the Diktat of Versailles the former imperialist power Germany, that was beaten in WW I, found itself in the camp of the oppressed nations. On the basis of the "two camp strategy" the KPD realized a theoretic cadre with which she could give a great contribution to the anchoring of national thinking within the German labour movement.