Friday, March 27, 2009
Stalin, 1913: Marxism and the National Question -in which Stalin deals famously with the question of Jewish nationalism
Stalin, 1913: Marxism and the National Question (in which Stalin deals famously with the question of Jewish nationalism)
J. V. Stalin 1913
Marxism and the National Question
First published in Prosveshcheniye, Nos. 3-5, March-May 1913;
1. The Nation
2. The National Movement
3. Presentation Of The Question
4. Cultural-National Autonomy
5. The Bund, Its Nationalism, Its Separatism
6. The Caucasians, The Conference Of The Liquidators
7. The National Question In Russia
The period of counter-revolution in Russia brought not only "thunder
and lightning" in its train, but also disillusionment in the movement
and lack of faith in common forces. As long as people believed in "a
bright future," they fought side by side irrespective of nationality –
common questions first and foremost! But when doubt crept into
people's hearts, they began to depart, each to his own national tent –
let every man count only upon himself! The "national question" first
At the same time a profound upheaval was taking place in the economic
life of the country. The year 1905 had not been in vain: one more blow
had been struck at the survivals of serfdom in the countryside. The
series of good harvests which succeeded the famine years, and the
industrial boom which followed, furthered the progress of capitalism.
Class differentiation in the countryside, the growth of the towns, the
development of trade and means of communication all took a big stride
forward. This applied particularly to the border regions. And it could
not but hasten the process of economic consolidation of the
nationalities of Russia. They were bound to be stirred into movement.
The "constitutional regime" established at that time also acted in the
same direction of awakening the nationalities. The spread of
newspapers and of literature generally, a certain freedom of the press
and cultural institutions, an increase in the number of national
theatres, and so forth, all unquestionably helped to strengthen
"national sentiments." The Duma, with its election campaign and
political groups, gave fresh opportunities for greater activity of the
nations and provided a new and wide arena for their mobilization.
And the mounting wave of militant nationalism above and the series of
repressive measures taken by the "powers that be" in vengeance on the
border regions for their "love of freedom," evoked an answering wave
of nationalism below, which at times took the form of crude
chauvinism. The spread of Zionism  among the Jews, the increase of
chauvinism in Poland, Pan-Islamism among the Tatars, the spread of
nationalism among the Armenians, Georgians and Ukrainians, the general
swing of the philistine towards anti-Semitism – all these are
generally known facts.
The wave of nationalism swept onwards with increasing force,
threatening to engulf the mass of the workers. And the more the
movement for emancipation declined, the more plentifully nationalism
pushed forth its blossoms.
At this difficult time Social-Democracy had a high mission – to resist
nationalism and to protect the masses from the general "epidemic." For
Social-Democracy, and Social-Democracy alone, could do this, by
countering nationalism with the tried weapon of internationalism, with
the unity and indivisibility of the class struggle. And the more
powerfully the wave of nationalism advanced, the louder had to be the
call of Social-Democracy for fraternity and unity among the
proletarians of all the nationalities of Russia. And in this
connection particular firmness was demanded of the Social-Democrats of
the border regions, who came into direct contact with the nationalist
But not all Social-Democrats proved equal to the task – and this
applies particularly to the Social-Democrats of the border regions.
The Bund, which had previously laid stress on the common tasks, now
began to give prominence to its own specific, purely nationalist aims:
it went to the length of declaring "observance of the Sabbath" and
"recognition of Yiddish" a fighting issue in its election campaign.
 The Bund was followed by the Caucasus; one section of the
Caucasian Social-Democrats, which, like the rest of the Caucasian
Social-Democrats, had formerly rejected "cultural-national autonomy,"
are now making it an immediate demand.  This is without mentioning
the conference of the Liquidators, which in a diplomatic way gave its
sanction to nationalist vacillations. 
But from this it follows that the views of Russian Social-Democracy on
the national question are not yet clear to all Social-Democrats.
It is evident that a serious and comprehensive discussion of the
national question is required. Consistent Social-Democrats must work
solidly and indefatigably against the fog of nationalism, no matter
from what quarter it proceeds.
What is a nation?
A nation is primarily a community, a definite community of people.
This community is not racial, nor is it tribal. The modern Italian
nation was formed from Romans, Teutons, Etruscans, Greeks, Arabs, and
so forth. The French nation was formed from Gauls, Romans, Britons,
Teutons, and so on. The same must be said of the British, the Germans
and others, who were formed into nations from people of diverse races
Thus, a nation is not a racial or tribal, but a historically
constituted community of people.
On the other hand, it is unquestionable that the great empires of
Cyrus and Alexander could not be called nations, although they came to
be constituted historically and were formed out of different tribes
and races. They were not nations, but casual and loosely-connected
conglomerations of groups, which fell apart or joined together
according to the victories or defeats of this or that conqueror.
Thus, a nation is not a casual or ephemeral conglomeration, but a
stable community of people.
But not every stable community constitutes a nation. Austria and
Russia are also stable communities, but nobody calls them nations.
What distinguishes a national community from a state community? The
fact, among others, that a national community is inconceivable without
a common language, while a state need not have a common language. The
Czech nation in Austria and the Polish in Russia would be impossible
if each did not have a common language, whereas the integrity of
Russia and Austria is not affected by the fact that there are a number
of different languages within their borders. We are referring, of
course, to the spoken languages of the people and not to the official
Thus, a common language is one of the characteristic features of a
This, of course, does not mean that different nations always and
everywhere speak different languages, or that all who speak one
language necessarily constitute one nation. A common language for
every nation, but not necessarily different languages for different
nations! There is no nation which at one and the same time speaks
several languages, but this does not mean that there cannot be two
nations speaking the same language! Englishmen and Americans speak one
language, but they do not constitute one nation. The same is true of
the Norwegians and the Danes, the English and the Irish.
But why, for instance, do the English and the Americans not constitute
one nation in spite of their common language?
Firstly, because they do not live together, but inhabit different
territories. A nation is formed only as a result of lengthy and
systematic intercourse, as a result of people living together
generation after generation.
But people cannot live together, for lengthy periods unless they have
a common territory. Englishmen and Americans originally inhabited the
same territory, England, and constituted one nation. Later, one
section of the English emigrated from England to a new territory,
America, and there, in the new territory, in the course of time, came
to form the new American nation. Difference of. territory led to the
formation of different nations.
Thus, a common territory is one of the characteristic features of a
But this is not all. Common territory does not by itself create a
nation. This requires, in addition, an internal economic bond to weld
the various parts of the nation into a single whole. There is no such
bond between England and America, and so they constitute two different
nations. But the Americans themselves would not deserve to be called a
nation were not the different parts of America bound together into an
economic whole, as a result of division of labour between them, the
development of means of communication, and so forth.
Take the Georgians, for instance. The Georgians before the Reform
inhabited a common territory and spoke one language. Nevertheless,
they did not, strictly speaking, constitute one nation, for, being
split up into a number of disconnected principalities, they could not
share a common economic life; for centuries they waged war against
each other and pillaged each other, each inciting the Persians and
Turks against the other. The ephemeral and casual union of the
principalities which some successful king sometimes managed to bring
about embraced at best a superficial administrative sphere, and
rapidly disintegrated owing to the caprices of the princes and the
indifference of the peasants. Nor could it be otherwise in
economically disunited Georgia ... Georgia came on the scene as a
nation only in the latter half of the nineteenth century, when the
fall of serfdom and the growth of the economic life of the country,
the development of means of communication and the rise of capitalism,
introduced division of labour between the various districts of
Georgia, completely shattered the economic isolation of the
principalities and bound them together into a single whole.
The same must be said of the other nations which have passed through
the stage of feudalism and have developed capitalism.
Thus, a common economic life, economic cohesion, is one of the
characteristic features of a nation.
But even this is not all. Apart from the foregoing, one must take into
consideration the specific spiritual complexion of the people
constituting a nation. Nations differ not only in their conditions of
life, but also in spiritual complexion, which manifests itself in
peculiarities of national culture. If England, America and Ireland,
which speak one language, nevertheless constitute three distinct
nations, it is in no small measure due to the peculiar psychological
make-up which they developed from generation to generation as a result
of dissimilar conditions of existence.
Of course, by itself, psychological make-up or, as it is otherwise
called, "national character," is something intangible for the
observer, but in so far as it manifests itself in a distinctive
culture common to the nation it is something tangible and cannot be
Needless to say, "national character" is not a thing that is fixed
once and for all, but is modified by changes in the conditions of
life; but since it exists at every given moment, it leaves its impress
on the physiognomy of the nation.
Thus, a common psychological make-up, which manifests itself in a
common culture, is one of the characteristic features of a nation.
We have now exhausted the characteristic features of a nation.
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.
It goes without saying that a nation, like every historical
phenomenon, is subject to the law of change, has its history, its
beginning and end.
It must be emphasized that none of the above characteristics taken
separately is sufficient to define a nation. More than that, it is
sufficient for a single one of these characteristics to be lacking and
the nation ceases to be a nation.
It is possible to conceive of people possessing a common "national
character" who, nevertheless, cannot be said to constitute a single
nation if they are economically disunited, inhabit different
territories, speak different languages, and so forth. Such, for
instance, are the Russian, Galician, American, Georgian and Caucasian
Highland Jews, who, in our opinion, do not constitute a single nation.
It is possible to conceive of people with a common territory and
economic life who nevertheless would not constitute a single nation
because they have no common language and no common "national
character." Such, for instance, are the Germans and Letts in the
Finally, the Norwegians and the Danes speak one language, but they do
not constitute a single nation owing to the absence of the other
It is only when all these characteristics are present together that we
have a nation.
It might appear that "national character" is not one of the
characteristics but the sole essential characteristic of a nation, and
that all the other characteristics are, properly speaking, only
conditions for the development of a nation, rather than its
characteristics. Such, for instance, is the view held by R. Springer,
and more particularly by O. Bauer, who are Social-Democratic
theoreticians on the national question well known in Austria.
Let us examine their theory of the nation.
According to Springer, "a nation is a union of similarly thinking and
similarly speaking persons." It is "a cultural community of modern
people no longer tied to the 'soil.'"  (our italics).
Thus, a "union" of similarly thinking and similarly speaking people,
no matter how disconnected they may be, no matter where they live, is
Bauer goes even further.
"What is a nation?" he asks. "Is it a common language which makes
people a nation? But the English and the Irish ... speak the same
language without, however, being one people; the Jews have no common
language and yet are a nation." 
What, then, is a nation?
"A nation is a relative community of character."
But what is character, in this case national character?
National character is "the sum total of characteristics which
distinguish the people of one nationality from the people of another
nationality – the complex of physical and spiritual characteristics
which distinguish one nation from another."
Bauer knows, of course, that national character does not drop from the
skies, and he therefore adds:
"The character of people is determined by nothing so much as by their
destiny.... A nation is nothing but a community with a common destiny"
which, in turn, is determined "by the conditions under which people
produce their means of subsistence and distribute the products of
We thus arrive at the most "complete," as Bauer calls it, definition
of a nation:
"A nation is an aggregate of people bound into a community of
character by a common destiny."
We thus have common national character based on a common destiny, but
not necessarily connected with a common territory, language or
But what in that case remains of the nation? What common nationality
can there be among people who are economically disconnected, inhabit
different territories and from generation to generation speak
Bauer speaks of the Jews as a nation, although they "have no common
language"; but what "common destiny" and national cohesion is there,
for instance, between the Georgian, Daghestanian, Russian and American
Jews, who are completely separated from one another, inhabit different
territories and speak different languages?
The above-mentioned Jews undoubtedly lead their economic and political
life in common with the Georgians, Daghestanians, Russians and
Americans respectively, and they live in the same cultural atmosphere
as these; this is bound to leave a definite impress on their national
character; if there is anything common to them left, it is their
religion, their common origin and certain relics of the national
character. All this is beyond question. But how can it be seriously
maintained that petrified religious rites and fading psychological
relics affect the "destiny" of these Jews more powerfully than the
living social, economic and cultural environment that surrounds them?
And it is only on this assumption that it is possible to speak of the
Jews as a single nation at all.
What, then, distinguishes Bauer's nation from the mystical and self-
sufficient "national spirit" of the spiritualists?
Bauer sets up an impassable barrier between the "distinctive feature"
of nations (national character) and the "conditions" of their life,
divorcing the one from the other. But what is national character if
not a reflection of the conditions of life, a coagulation of
impressions derived from environment? How can one limit the matter to
national character alone, isolating and divorcing it from the soil
that gave rise to it?
Further, what indeed distinguished the English nation from the
American nation at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the
nineteenth centuries, when America was still known as New England? Not
national character, of course; for the Americans had originated from
England and had brought with them to America not only the English
language, but also the English national character, which, of course,
they could not lose so soon; although, under the influence of the new
conditions, they would naturally be developing their own specific
character. Yet, despite their more or less common character, they at
that time already constituted a nation distinct from England!
Obviously, New England as a nation differed then from England as a
nation not by its specific national character, or not so much by its
national character, as by its environment and conditions of life,
which were distinct from those of England.
It is therefore clear that there is in fact no single distinguishing
characteristic of a nation. There is only a sum total of
characteristics, of which, when nations are compared, sometimes one
characteristic (national character), sometimes another (language), or
sometimes a third (territory, economic conditions), stands out in
sharper relief. A nation constitutes the combination of all these
characteristics taken together.
Bauer's point of view, which identifies a nation with its national
character, divorces the nation from its soil and converts it into an
invisible, self-contained force. The result is not a living and active
nation, but something mystical, intangible and supernatural. For, I
repeat, what sort of nation, for instance, is a Jewish nation which
consists of Georgian, Daghestanian, Russian, American and other Jews,
the members of which do not understand each other (since they speak
different languages), inhabit different parts of the globe, will never
see each other, and will never act together, whether in time of peace
or in time of war?!
No, it is not for such paper "nations" that Social-Democracy draws up
its national programme. It can reckon only with real nations, which
act and move, and therefore insist on being reckoned with.
Bauer is obviously confusing nation, which is a historical category,
with tribe, which is an ethnographical category.
However, Bauer himself apparently feels the weakness of his position.
While in the beginning of his book he definitely declares the Jews to
be a nation, he corrects himself at the end of the book and states
that "in general capitalist society makes it impossible for them (the
Jews) to continue as a nation," by causing them to assimilate with
other nations. The reason, it appears, is that "the Jews have no
closed territory of settlement," whereas the Czechs, for instance,
have such a territory and, according to Bauer, will survive as a
nation. In short, the reason lies in the absence of a territory.
By arguing thus, Bauer wanted to prove that the Jewish workers cannot
demand national autonomy, but he thereby inadvertently refuted his own
theory, which denies that a common territory is one of the
characteristics of a nation.
But Bauer goes further. In the beginning of his book he definitely
declares that "the Jews have no common language, and yet are a
nation." But hardly has he reached p. 130 than he effects a change of
front and just as definitely declares that "unquestionably, no nation
is possible without a common language" (our italics).
Bauer wanted to prove that "language is the most important instrument
of human intercourse," but at the same time he inadvertently proved
something he did not mean to prove, namely, the unsoundness of his own
theory of nations, which denies the significance of a common language.
Thus this theory, stitched together by idealistic threads, refutes
THE NATIONAL MOVEMENT
A nation is not merely a historical category but a historical category
belonging to a definite epoch, the epoch of rising capitalism. The
process of elimination of feudalism and development of capitalism is
at the same time a process of the constitution of people into nations.
Such, for instance, was the case in Western Europe. The British,
French, Germans, Italians and others were formed into nations at the
time of the victorious advance of capitalism and its triumph over
But the formation of nations in those instances at the same time
signified their conversion into independent national states. The
British, French and other nations are at the same time British, etc.,
states. Ireland, which did not participate in this process, does not
alter the general picture.
Matters proceeded somewhat differently in Eastern Europe. Whereas in
the West nations developed into states, in the East multi-national
states were formed, states consisting of several nationalities. Such
are Austria-Hungary and Russia. In Austria, the Germans proved to be
politically the most developed, and they took it upon themselves to
unite the Austrian nationalities into a state. In Hungary, the most
adapted for state organization were the Magyars – the core of the
Hungarian nationalities – and it was they who united Hungary. In
Russia, the uniting of the nationalities was undertaken by the Great
Russians, who were headed by a historically formed, powerful and well-
organized aristocratic military bureaucracy.
That was how matters proceeded in the East.
This special method of formation of states could take place only where
feudalism had not yet been eliminated, where capitalism was feebly'
developed, where the nationalities which had been forced into the
background had not yet been able to consolidate themselves
economically into integral nations.
But capitalism also began to develop in the Eastern states. Trade and
means of communication were developing. Large towns were springing up.
The nations were becoming economically consolidated. Capitalism,
erupting into the tranquil life of the nationalities which had been
pushed into the background, was arousing them and stirring them into
action. The development of the press and the theatre, the activity of
the Reichsrat (Austria) and of the Duma (Russia) were helping to
strengthen "national sentiments." The intelligentsia that had arisen
was being imbued with "the national idea" and was acting in the same
But the nations which had been pushed into the background and had now
awakened to independent life, could no longer form themselves into
independent national states; they encountered on their -path the very
powerful resistance of the ruling strata of the dominant nations,
which had long ago assumed the control of the state. They were too
In this way the Czechs, Poles, etc., formed themselves into nations in
Austria; the Croats, etc., in Hungary; the Letts, Lithuanians,
Ukrainians, Georgians, Armenians, etc., in Russia. What had been an
exception in Western Europe (Ireland) became the rule in the East.
In the West, Ireland responded to its exceptional position by a
national movement. In the East, the awakened nations were bound to
respond in the same fashion.
Thus arose the circumstances which impelled the young nations of
Eastern Europe on to the path of struggle.
The struggle began and flared up, to be sure, not between nations as a
whole, but between the ruling classes of the dominant nations and of
those that had been pushed into the background. The struggle is
usually conducted by the urban petty bourgeoisie of the oppressed
nation against the big bourgeoisie of the dominant nation (Czechs and
Germans), or by the rural bourgeoisie of the oppressed nation against
the landlords of the dominant nation (Ukrainians in Poland), or by the
whole "national" bourgeoisie of the oppressed nations against the
ruling nobility of the dominant nation (Poland, Lithuania and the
Ukraine in Russia).
The bourgeoisie plays the leading role.
The chief problem for the young bourgeoisie is the problem of the
market. Its aim is to sell its goods and to emerge victorious from
competition with the bourgeoisie of a different nationality. Hence its
desire to secure its "own," its "home" market. The market is the first
school in which the bourgeoisie learns its nationalism.
But matters are usually not confined to the market. The semi-feudal,
semi-bourgeois bureaucracy of the dominant nation intervenes in the
struggle with its own methods of "arresting and preventing." The
bourgeoisie – whether big or small – of the dominant nation is able to
deal more "swiftly" and "decisively" with its competitor. "Forces" are
united and a series of restrictive measures is put into operation
against the "alien" bourgeoisie, measures passing into acts of
repression. The struggle spreads from the economic sphere to the
political sphere. Restriction of freedom of movement, repression of
language, restriction of franchise, closing of schools, religious
restrictions, and so on, are piled upon the head of the "competitor."
Of course, such measures are designed not only in the interest of the
bourgeois classes of the dominant nation, but also in furtherance of
the specifically caste aims, so to speak, of the ruling bureaucracy.
But from the point of view of the results achieved this is quite
immaterial; the bourgeois classes and the bureaucracy in this matter
go hand in hand – whether it be in Austria-Hungary or in Russia.
The bourgeoisie of the oppressed nation, repressed on every hand, is
naturally stirred into movement. It appeals to its "native folk" and
begins to shout about the "fatherland,'; claiming that its own cause
is the cause of the nation as a whole. It recruits itself an army from
among its "countrymen" in the interests of ... the "fatherland." Nor
do the "folk" always remain unresponsive to its appeals; they rally
around its banner: the repression from above affects them too and
provokes their discontent.
Thus the national movement begins.
The strength of the national movement is determined by the degree to
which the wide strata of the nation, the proletariat and peasantry,
participate in it.
Whether the proletariat rallies to the banner of bourgeois nationalism
depends on the degree of development of class antagonisms, on the
class consciousness and degree of organization of the proletariat. The
class-conscious proletariat has its own tried banner, and has no need
to rally to the banner of the bourgeoisie.
As far as the peasants are concerned, their participation in the
national movement depends primarily on the character of the
repressions. If the repressions affect the "land," as was the case in
Ireland, then the mass of the peasants immediately rally to the banner
of the national movement.
On the other hand, if, for example, there is no serious anti-Russian
nationalism in Georgia, it is primarily because there are neither
Russian landlords nor a Russian big bourgeoisie there to supply the
fuel for such nationalism among the masses. In Georgia there is anti-
Armenian nationalism; but this is because there is still an Armenian
big bourgeoisie there which, by getting the better of the small and
still unconsolidated Georgian bourgeoisie, drives the latter to anti-
Armenian nationalism. .
Depending on these factors, the national movement either assumes a
mass character and steadily grows (as in Ireland and Galicia), or is
converted into a series of petty collisions, degenerating into
squabbles and "fights" over signboards (as in some of the small towns
The content of the national movement, of course, cannot everywhere be
the same: it is wholly determined by the diverse demands made by the
movement. In Ireland the movement bears an agrarian character; in
Bohemia it bears a "language" character; in one place the demand is
for civil equality and religious freedom, in another for the nation's
"own" officials, or its own Diet. The diversity of demands not
infrequently reveals the diverse features which characterize a nation
in general (language, territory, etc.). It is worthy of note that we
never meet with a demand based on Bauer's all-embracing "national
character." And this is natural: "national character" in itself is
something intangible, and, as was correctly remarked by J. Strasser,
"a politician can't do anything with it." 
Such, in general, are the forms and character of the national
From what has been said it will be clear that the national struggle
under the conditions of rising capitalism is a struggle of the
bourgeois classes among themselves. Sometimes the bourgeoisie succeeds
in drawing the proletariat into the national movement, and then the
national struggle externally assumes a "nation-wide" character. But
this is so only externally. In its essence it is always a bourgeois
struggle, one that is to the advantage and profit mainly of the
But it does not by any means follow that the proletariat should not
put up a fight against the policy of national oppression.
Restriction of freedom of movement, disfranchisement, repression of
language, closing of schools, and other forms of persecution affect
the workers no less, if not more, than the bourgeoisie. Such a state
of affairs can only serve to retard the free development of the
intellectual forces of the proletariat of subject nations. One cannot
speak seriously of a full development of the intellectual faculties of
the Tatar or Jewish worker if he is not allowed to use his native
language at meetings and lectures, and if his schools are closed down.
But the policy of nationalist persecution is dangerous to the cause of
the proletariat also on another account. It diverts the attention of
large strata from social questions, questions of the class struggle,
to national questions, questions "common" to the proletariat and the
bourgeoisie. And this creates a favourable soil for lying propaganda
about "harmony of interests," for glossing over the class interests of
the proletariat and for the intellectual enslavement of the workers.
This creates a serious obstacle to the cause of uniting the workers of
all nationalities. If a considerable proportion of the Polish workers
are still in intellectual bondage to the bourgeois nationalists, if
they still stand aloof from the international labour movement, it is
chiefly because the age-old anti-Polish policy of the "powers that be"
creates the soil for this bondage and hinders the emancipation of the
workers from it.
But the policy of persecution does not stop there. It not infrequently
passes from a "system" of oppression to a "system" of inciting nations
against each other, to a "system" of massacres and pogroms. Of course,
the latter system is not everywhere and always possible, but where it
is possible – in the absence of elementary civil rights – it
frequently assumes horrifying proportions and threatens to drown the
cause of unity of the workers in blood and tears. The Caucasus and
south Russia furnish numerous examples. "Divide and rule" – such is
the purpose of the policy of incitement. And where such a policy
succeeds, it is a tremendous evil for the proletariat and a serious
obstacle to the cause of uniting the workers of all the nationalities
in the state.
But the workers are interested in the complete amalgamation of all
their fellow-workers into a single international army, in their speedy
and final emancipation from intellectual bondage to the bourgeoisie,
and in the full and free development of the intellectual forces of
their brothers, whatever nation they may belong to.
The workers therefore combat and will continue to combat the policy of
national oppression in all its forms, from the most subtle to the most
crude, as well as the policy of inciting nations against each other in
all its forms
Social-Democracy in all countries therefore proclaims the right of
nations to self-determination.
The right of self-determination means that only the nation itself has
the right to determine its destiny, that no one has the right forcibly
to interfere in the life of the nation, to destroy its schools and
other institutions, to violate its habits and customs, to repress its
language, or curtail its rights.
This, of course, does not mean that Social-Democracy will support
every custom and institution of a nation. While combating the coercion
of any nation, it will uphold only the right of the nation itself to
determine its own destiny, at the same time agitating against harmful
customs and institutions of that nation in order to enable the toiling
strata of the nation to emancipate themselves from them.
The right of self-determination means that a nation may arrange its
life in the way it wishes. It has the right to arrange its life on the
basis of autonomy. It has the right to enter into federal relations
with other nations. It has the right to complete secession. Nations
are sovereign, and all nations have equal rights.
This, of course, does not mean that Social-Democracy will support
every demand of a nation. A nation has the right even to return to the
old order of things; but this does not mean that Social-Democracy will
subscribe to such a decision if taken by some institution of a
particular nation. The obligations of Social-Democracy, which defends
the interests of the proletariat, and the rights of a nation, which
consists of various classes, are two different things.
In fighting for the right of nations to self-determination, the aim of
Social-Democracy is to put an end to the policy of national
oppression, to render it impossible, and thereby to remove the grounds
of strife between nations, to take the edge off that strife and reduce
it to a minimum.
This is what essentially distinguishes the policy of the class-
conscious proletariat from the policy of the bourgeoisie, which
attempts to aggravate and fan the national struggle and to prolong and
sharpen the national movement.
And that is why the class-conscious proletariat cannot rally under the
"national" flag of the bourgeoisie.
That is why the so-called "evolutionary national" policy advocated by
Bauer cannot become the policy of the proletariat. Bauer's attempt to
identify his "evolutionary national" policy with the policy of the
"modern working class" is an attempt to adapt the class struggle of
the workers to the struggle of the nations.
The fate of a national movement, which is essentially a bourgeois
movement, is naturally bound up with the fate of the bourgeoisie. The -
final disappearance of a national movement is possible only with the
downfall of the bourgeoisie. Only under the reign of socialism can
peace be fully established. But even within the framework of
capitalism it is possible to reduce the national struggle to a
minimum, to undermine it at the root, to render it as harmless as
possible to the proletariat. This is borne out, for example, by
Switzerland and America. It requires that the country should be
democratized and the nations be given the opportunity of free
PRESENTATION OF THE QUESTION
A nation has the right freely to determine its own destiny. It has the
right to arrange its life as it sees fit, without, of course,
trampling on the rights of other nations. That is beyond dispute.
But how exactly should it arrange its own life, what forms should its
future constitution take, if the interests of the majority of the
nation and, above all, of the proletariat are to be borne in mind?
A nation has the right to arrange its life on autonomous lines. It
even has the right to secede. But this does not mean that it should do
so under all circumstances, that autonomy, or separation, will
everywhere and always be advantageous for a nation, i.e., for its
majority, i.e., for the toiling strata. The Transcaucasian Tatars as a
nation may assemble, let us say, in their Diet and, succumbing to the
influence of their beys and mullahs, decide to restore the old order
of things and to secede from the state. According to the meaning of
the clause on self-determination they are fully entitled to do so. But
will this be in the interest of the toiling strata of the Tatar
nation? Can Social-Democracy look on indifferently when the beys and
mullahs assume the leadership of the masses in the solution of the
Should not Social-Democracy interfere in the matter and influence the
will of the nation in a definite way? Should it not come forward with
a definite plan for the solution of the question, a plan which would
be most advantageous for the Tatar masses?
But what solution would be most compatible with the interests of the
toiling masses? Autonomy, federation or separation?
All these are problems the solution of which will depend on the
concrete historical conditions in which the given nation finds itself.
More than that; conditions, like everything else, change, and a
decision which is correct at one particular time may prove to be
entirely unsuitable at another.
In the middle of the nineteenth century Marx was in favour of the
secession of Russian Poland; and he was right, for it was then a
question of emancipating a higher culture from a lower culture that
was destroying it. And the question at that time was not only a
theoretical one, an academic question, but a practical one, a question
of actual reality....
At the end of the nineteenth century the Polish Marxists were already
declaring against the secession of Poland; and they too were right,
for during the fifty years that had elapsed profound changes had taken
place, bringing Russia and Poland closer economically and culturally.
Moreover, during that period the question of secession had been
converted from a practical matter into a matter of academic dispute,
which excited nobody except perhaps intellectuals abroad.
This, of course, by no means precludes the possibility that certain
internal and external conditions may arise in which the question of
the secession of Poland may again come on the order of the day.
The solution of the national question is possible only in connection
with the historical conditions taken in their development.
The economic, political and cultural conditions of a given nation
constitute the only key to the question how a particular nation ought
to arrange its life and what forms its future constitution ought to
take. It is possible that a specific solution of the question will be
required for each nation. If the dialectical approach to a question is
required anywhere it is required here, in the national question.
In view of this we must declare our decided opposition to a certain
very widespread, but very summary manner of "solving" the national
question, which owes its inception to the Bund. We have in mind the
easy method of referring to Austrian and South-Slav  Social-
Democracy, which has supposedly already solved the national question
and whose solution the Russian Social-Democrats should simply borrow.
It is assumed that whatever, say, is right for Austria is also right
for Russia. The most important and decisive factor is lost sight of
here, namely, the concrete historical conditions in Russia as a whole
and in the life of each of the nations inhabiting Russia in
Listen, for example, to what the well-known Bundist, V. Kossovsky,
"When at the Fourth Congress of the Bund the principles of the
question (i.e., the national question – J. St.) were discussed, the
proposal made by one of the members of the congress to settle the
question in the spirit of the resolution of the South-Slav Social-
Democratic Party met with general approval." 
And the result was that "the congress unanimously adopted" ...
And that was all! No analysis of the actual conditions in Russia, no
investigation of the condition of the Jews in Russia. They first
borrowed the solution of the South-Slav Social-Democratic Party, then
they "approved" it, and finally they "unanimously adopted" it! This is
the way the Bundists present and "solve" the national question in
As a matter of fact, Austria and Russia represent entirely different
conditions. This explains why the Social-Democrats in Austria, when
they adopted their national programme at Brünn (1899)  in the
spirit of the resolution of the South-Slav Social-Democratic Party
(with certain insignificant amendments, it is true), approached the
question in an entirely non-Russian way, so to speak, and, of course,
solved it in a non-Russian way.
First, as to the presentation of the question. How is the question
presented by the Austrian theoreticians of cultural-national autonomy,
the interpreters of the Brünn national programme and the resolution of
the South-Slav Social-Democratic Party, Springer and Bauer?
"Whether a multi-national state is possible," says Springer, "and
whether, in particular, the Austrian nationalities are obliged to form
a single political entity, is a question we shall not answer here but
shall assume to be settled. For anyone who will not concede this
possibility and necessity, our investigation will, of course, be
purposeless. Our theme is as follows: inasmuch as these nations are
obliged to live together, what legal forms will enable them to live
together in the best possible way?" (Springer's italics). 
Thus, the starting point is the state integrity of Austria.
Bauer says the same thing:
"We therefore start from the assumption that the Austrian nations will
remain in the same state union in which they exist at present and
inquire how the nations within this union will arrange their relations
among themselves and to the state."
Here again the first thing is the integrity of Austria.
Can Russian Social-Democracy present the question in this way? No, it
cannot. And it cannot because from the very outset it holds the view
of the right of nations to self-determination, by virtue of which a
nation has the right of secession.
Even the Bundist Goldblatt admitted at the Second Congress of Russian
Social-Democracy that the latter could not abandon the standpoint of
self-determination. Here is what Goldblatt said on that occasion:
"Nothing can be said against the right of self-determination. If any
nation is striving for independence, we must not oppose it. If Poland
does not wish to enter into lawful wedlock with Russia, it is not for
us to interfere with her."
All this is true. But it follows that the starting points of the
Austrian and Russian Social-Democrats, far from being identical, are
diametrically opposite. After this, can there be any question of
borrowing the national programme of the Austrians?
Furthermore, the Austrians hope to achieve the "freedom of
nationalities" by means of petty reforms, by slow steps. While they
propose cultural-national autonomy as a practical measure, they do not
count on any radical change, on a democratic movement for liberation,
which they do not even contemplate. The Russian Marxists, on the other
hand, associate the "freedom of nationalities" with a probable radical
change, with a democratic movement for liberation, having no grounds
for counting on reforms. And this essentially alters matters in regard
to the probable fate of the nations of Russia.
"Of course," says Bauer, "there is little probability that national
autonomy will be the result of a great decision, of a bold action.
Austria will develop towards national autonomy step by step, by a slow
process of development, in the course of a severe struggle, as a
consequence of which legislation and administration will be in a state
of chronic paralysis. The new constitution will not be created by a
great legislative act, but by a multitude of separate enactments for
individual provinces and individual communities."
Springer says the same thing.
"I am very well aware," he writes, "that institutions of this kind
(i.e., organs of national autonomy – J. St.) are not created in a
single year or a single decade. The reorganization of the Prussian
administration alone took considerable time.... It took the Prussians
two decades finally to establish their basic administrative
institutions. Let nobody think that I harbour any illusions as to the
time required and the difficulties to be overcome in Austria."
All this is very definite. But can the Russian Marxists avoid
associating the national question with "bold actions"? Can they count
on partial reforms, on "a multitude of separate enactments" as a means
for achieving the "freedom of nationalities"? But if they cannot and
must not do so, is it not clear that the methods of struggle of the
Austrians and the Russians and their prospects must be entirely
different? How in such a state of affairs can they confine themselves
to the one-sided, milk-and-water cultural-national autonomy of the
Austrians? One or the other: either those who are in favour of
borrowing do not count on "bold actions" in Russia, or they do count
on such actions but "know not what they do."
Finally, the immediate tasks facing Russia and Austria are entirely
different and consequently dictate different methods of solving the
national question. In Austria parliamentarism prevails, and under
present conditions no development in Austria is possible without
parliament. But parliamentary life and legislation in Austria are
frequently brought to a complete standstill by severe conflicts
between the national parties. That explains the chronic political
crisis from which Austria has for a long time been suffering. Hence,
in Austria the national question is the very hub of political life; it
is the vital question. It is therefore not surprising that the
Austrian Social-Democratic politicians should first of all try in one
way or another to find a solution for the national conflicts – of
course on the basis of the existing parliamentary system, by
Not so with Russia. In the first place, in Russia "there is no
parliament, thank God."  In the second place – and this is the
main point – the hub of the political life of Russia is not the
national but the agrarian question. Consequently, the fate of the
Russian problem, and, accordingly, the "liberation" of the nations
too, is bound up in Russia with the solution of the agrarian question,
i.e., with the destruction of the relics of feudalism, i.e., with the
democratization of the country. That explains why in Russia the
national question is not an independent and decisive one, but a part
of the general and more important question of the emancipation of the
"The barrenness of the Austrian parliament," writes Springer, "is due
precisely to the fact that every reform gives rise to antagonisms
within the national parties which may affect their unity. The leaders
of the parties, therefore, avoid everything that smacks of reform.
Progress in Austria is generally conceivable only if the nations are
granted indefeasible legal rights which will relieve them of the
necessity of constantly maintaining national militant groups in
parliament and will enable them to turn their attention to the
solution of economic and social problems."
Bauer says the same thing.
"National peace is indispensable first of all for the state. The state
cannot permit legislation to be brought to a standstill by the very
stupid question of language or by every quarrel between excited people
on a linguistic frontier, or over every new school."
All this is clear. But it is no less clear that the national question
in Russia is on an entirely different plane. It is not the national,
but the agrarian question , that decides the fate of progress in
Russia. The national question is a subordinate one.
And so we have different presentations of the question, different
prospects and methods of struggle, different immediate tasks. Is it
not clear that, such being the state of affairs, only pedants who
"solve" the national question without reference to space and time can
think of adopting examples from Austria and of borrowing a programme?
To repeat: the concrete historical conditions as the starting point,
and the dialectical presentation of the question as the only correct
way of presenting it – such is the key to solving the national
We spoke above of the formal aspect of the Austrian national programme
and of the methodological grounds which make it impossible for the
Russian Marxists simply to adopt the example of Austrian Social-
Democracy and make the latter's programme their own.
Let us now examine the essence of the programme itself
What then is the national programme of the Austrian Social-Democrats?
It is expressed in two words: cultural-national autonomy.
This means, firstly, that autonomy would be granted, let us say, not
to Bohemia or Poland, which are inhabited mainly by Czechs and Poles,
but to Czechs and Poles generally, irrespective of territory, no
matter what part of Austria they inhabit.
That is why this autonomy is called national and not territorial.
It means, secondly, that the Czechs, Poles, Germans, and so on,
scattered over the various parts of Austria, taken personally, as
individuals, are to be organized into integral nations, and are as
such to form part of the Austrian state. In this way Austria would
represent not a union of autonomous regions, but a union of autonomous
nationalities, constituted irrespective of territory.
It means, thirdly, that the national institutions which are to be
created for this purpose for the Poles, Czechs, and so forth, are to
have jurisdiction only over "cultural," not "political" questions.
Specifically political questions would be reserved for the Austrian
parliament (the Reichsrat).
That is why this autonomy is also called cultural, cultural-national
And here is the text of the programme adopted by the Austrian Social-
Democratic Party at the Brünn Congress in 1899. 
Having referred to the fact that "national dissension in Austria is
hindering political progress," that "the final solution of the
national question... is primarily a cultural necessity," and that "the
solution is possible only in a genuinely democratic society,
constructed on the basis of universal, direct and equal suffrage," the
programme goes on to say:
"The preservation and development of the national peculiarities 
of the peoples of Austria is possible only on the basis of equal
rights and by avoiding all oppression. Hence, all bureaucratic state
centralism and the feudal privileges of individual provinces must
first of all be rejected.
"Under these conditions, and only under these conditions, will it be
possible to establish national order in Austria in place of national
dissension, namely, on the following principles:
"1. Austria must be transformed into a democratic state federation of
"2. The historical crown provinces must be replaced by nationally
delimited self-governing corporations, in each of which legislation
and administration shall be entrusted to national parliaments elected
on the basis of universal, direct and equal suffrage.
"3. All the self-governing regions of one and the same nation must
jointly form a single national union, which shall manage its national
affairs on an absolutely autonomous basis.
"4. The rights of national minorities must be guaranteed by a special
law passed by the Imperial Parliament."
The programme ends with an appeal for the solidarity of all the
nations of Austria. 
It is not difficult to see that this programme retains certain traces
of "territorialism," but that in general it gives a formulation of
national autonomy. It is not without good reason that Springer, the
first agitator on behalf of cultural-national autonomy, greets it with
enthusiasm; Bauer also supports this programme, calling it a
"theoretical victory" for national autonomy; only, in the interests of
greater clarity, he proposes that Point 4 be replaced by a more
definite formulation, which would declare the necessity of
"constituting the national minority within each self-governing region
into a public corporation" for the management of educational and other
Such is the national programme of Austrian Social-Democracy.
Let us examine its scientific foundations.
Let us see how the Austrian Social-Democratic Party justifies the
cultural-national autonomy it advocates.
Let us turn to the theoreticians of cultural-national autonomy,
Springer and Bauer.
The starting point of national autonomy is the conception of a nation
as a union of individuals without regard to a definite territory.
"Nationality," according to Springer, "is not essentially connected
with territory"; nations are "autonomous unions of persons."
Bauer also speaks of a nation as a "community of persons" which does
not enjoy "exclusive sovereignty in any particular region."
But the persons constituting a nation do not always live in one
compact mass; they are frequently divided into groups, and in that
form are interspersed among alien national organisms. It is capitalism
which drives them into various regions and cities in search of a
livelihood. But when they enter foreign national territories and there
form minorities, these groups are made to suffer by the local national
majorities in the way of restrictions on their language, schools, etc.
Hence national conflicts. Hence the "unsuitability" of territorial
autonomy. The only solution to such a situation, according to Springer
and Bauer, is to organize the minorities of the given nationality
dispersed over various parts of the state into a single, general,
inter-class national union. Such a union alone, in their opinion, can
protect the cultural interests of national minorities, and it alone is
capable of putting an end to national discord.
"Hence the necessity," says Springer, "to organize the nationalities,
to invest them with rights and responsibilities...." Of course, "a law
is easily drafted, but will it be effective? "... "If one wants to
make a law for nations, one must first create the nations..." "Unless
the nationalities are constituted it is impossible to create national
rights and eliminate national dissension."
Bauer expressed himself in the same spirit when he proposed, as "a
demand of the working class," that "the minorities should be
constituted into public corporations based on the personal principle."
But how is a nation to be organized? How is one to determine to what
nation any given individual belongs?
"Nationality," says Springer, "will be determined by certificates;
every individual domiciled in a given region must declare his
affiliation to one of the nationalities of that region."
"The personal principle," says Bauer, "presumes that the population
will be divided into nationalities.... On the basis of the free
declaration of the adult citizens national registers must be drawn
"All the Germans in nationally homogeneous districts," says Bauer,
"and all the Germans entered in the national registers in the dual
districts will constitute the German nation and elect a National
The same applies to the Czechs, Poles, and so on.
"The National Council," according to Springer, "is the cultural
parliament of the nation, empowered to establish the principles and to
grant funds, thereby assuming guardianship over national education,
national literature, art and science, the formation of academies,
museums, galleries, theatres," etc.
Such will be the organization of a nation and its central institution.
According to Bauer, the Austrian Social-Democratic Party is striving,
by the creation of these inter-class institutions "to make national
culture ... the possession of the whole people and thereby unite all
the members of the nation into a national-cultural community." (our
One might think that all this concerns Austria alone. But Bauer does
not agree. He emphatically declares that national autonomy is
essential also for other states which, like Austria, consist of
"In the multi-national state," according to Bauer, "the working class
of all the nations opposes the national power policy of the propertied
classes with the demand for national autonomy."
Then, imperceptibly substituting national autonomy for the self-
determination of nations, he continues:
"Thus, national autonomy, the self-determination of nations, will
necessarily become the constitutional programme of the proletariat of
all the nations in a multi-national state."
But he goes still further. He profoundly believes that the inter-class
"national unions" "constituted" by him and Springer will serve as a
sort of prototype of the future socialist society. For he knows that
"the socialist system of society... will divide humanity into
nationally delimited communities"; that under socialism there will
take place "a grouping of humanity into autonomous national
communities," that thus, "socialist society will undoubtedly present a
checkered picture of national unions of persons and territorial
corporations, and that accordingly "the socialist principle of
nationality is a higher synthesis of the national principle and
Enough, it would seem..
These are the arguments for cultural-national autonomy as given in the
works of Bauer and Springer.
The first thing that strikes the eye is the entirely inexplicable and
absolutely unjustifiable substitution of national autonomy for self-
determination of nations. One or the other: either Bauer failed to
understand the meaning of self-determination, or he did understand it
but for some reason or other deliberately narrowed its meaning. For
there is no doubt a) that cultural-national autonomy presupposes the
integrity of the multi-national state, whereas self-determination goes
outside the framework of this integrity, and b) that self-
determination endows a nation with complete rights, whereas national
autonomy endows it only with "cultural" rights. That in the first
In the second place, a combination of internal and external conditions
is fully possible at some future time by virtue of which one or
another of the nationalities may decide to secede from a multi-
national state, say from Austria. Did not the Ruthenian Social-
Democrats at the Brünn Party Congress announce their readiness to
unite the "two parts" of their people into one whole?  What, in
such a case, becomes of national autonomy, which is "inevitable for
the proletariat of all the nations"? What sort of "solution" of the
problem is it that mechanically squeezes nations into the Procrustean
bed of an integral state?
Further: National autonomy is contrary to the whole course of
development of nations. It calls for the organization of nations; but
can they be artificially welded together if life, if economic
development tears whole groups from them and disperses these groups
over various regions? There is no doubt that in the early stages of
capitalism nations become welded together. But there is also no doubt
that in the higher stages of capitalism a process of dispersion of
nations sets in, a process whereby a whole number of groups separate
off from the nations, going off in search of a livelihood and
subsequently settling permanently in other regions of the state; in
the course of this these settlers lose their old connections and
acquire new ones in their new domicile, and from generation to
generation acquire new habits and new tastes, and possibly a new
language. The question arises: is it possible to unite into a single
national union groups that have grown so distinct? Where are the magic
links to unite what cannot be united? Is it conceivable that, for
instance, the Germans of the Baltic Provinces and the Germans of
Transcaucasia can be "united into a single nation"? But if it is not
conceivable and not possible, wherein does national autonomy differ
from the utopia of the old nationalists, who endeavoured to turn back
the wheel of history?
But the unity of a nation diminishes not only as a result of
migration. It diminishes also from internal causes, owing to the
growing acuteness of the class struggle. In the early stages of
capitalism one can still speak of a "common culture" of the
proletariat and the bourgeoisie. But as large-scale industry develops
and the class struggle becomes more and more acute, this "common
culture" begins to melt away. One cannot seriously speak of the
"common culture" of a nation when employers and workers of one and the
same nation cease to understand each other. What "common destiny" can
there be when the bourgeoisie thirsts for war, and the proletariat
declares "war on war"? Can a single inter-class national union be
formed from such opposed elements? And, after this, can one speak of
the "union of all the members of the nation into a national-cultural
community"? Is it not obvious that national autonomy is contrary to
the whole course of the class struggle?
But let us assume for a moment that the slogan "organize the nation"
is practicable. One might understand bourgeois-nationalist
parliamentarians endeavouring to "organize" a nation for the purpose
of securing additional votes. But since when have Social-Democrats
begun to occupy themselves with "organizing" nations, "constituting"
nations, "creating" nations?
What sort of Social-Democrats are they who in the epoch of extreme
intensification of the class struggle organize inter-class national
unions? Until now the Austrian, as well as every other, Social-
Democratic party, had one task before it: namely, to organize the
proletariat. That task has apparently become "antiquated." Springer
and Bauer are now setting a "new" task, a more absorbing task, namely,
to "create," to "organize" a nation.
However, logic has its obligations: he who adopts national autonomy
must also adopt this "new" task;
but to adopt the latter means to abandon the class position and to
take the path of nationalism.
Springer's and Bauer's cultural-national autonomy is a subtle form of
And it is by no means fortuitous that the national programme of the
Austrian Social-Democrats enjoins a concern for the "preservation and
development of the national peculiarities of the peoples." Just think:
to "preserve" such "national peculiarities" of the Transcaucasian
Tatars as self-flagellation at the festival of Shakhsei-Vakhsei; or to
"develop" such "national peculiarities" of the Georgians as the
A demand of this character is in place in an outright bourgeois
nationalist programme; and if it appears in the programme of the
Austrian Social-Democrats it is because national autonomy tolerates
such demands, it does not contradict them.
But if national autonomy is unsuitable now, it will be still more
unsuitable in the future, socialist society.
Bauer's prophecy regarding the "division of humanity into nationally
delimited communities" is refuted by the whole course of development
of modern human society. National barriers are being demolished and
are falling, rather than becoming firmer. As early as the 'forties
Marx declared that "national differences and antagonisms between
peoples are daily more and more vanishing" and that "the supremacy of
the proletariat will cause them to vanish still faster."  The
subsequent development of mankind, accompanied as it was by the
colossal growth of capitalist production, the reshuffling of
nationalities and the union of people within ever larger territories,
emphatically confirms Marx's thought.
Bauer's desire to represent socialist society as a "checkered picture
of national unions of persons and territorial corporations" is a timid
attempt to substitute for Marx's conception of socialism a revised
version of Bakunin's conception. The history of socialism proves that
every such attempt contains the elements of inevitable failure.
There is no need to mention the kind of "socialist principle of
nationality" glorified by Bauer, which, in our opinion, substitutes
for the socialist principle of the class struggle the bourgeois
"principle of nationality." If national autonomy is based on such a
dubious principle, it must be admitted that it can only cause harm to
the working-class movement.
True, such nationalism is not so transparent, for it is skilfully
masked by socialist phrases, but it is all the more harmful to the
proletariat for that reason. We can always cope with open nationalism,
for it can easily be discerned. It is much more difficult to combat
nationalism when it is masked and unrecognizable beneath its mask.
Protected by the armour of socialism, it is less vulnerable and more
tenacious. Implanted among the workers, it poisons the atmosphere and
spreads harmful ideas of mutual distrust and segregation among the
workers of the different nationalities.
But this does not exhaust the harm caused by national autonomy. It
prepares the ground not only for the segregation of nations, but also
for breaking up the united labour movement. The idea of national
autonomy creates the psychological conditions for the division of the
united workers' party into separate parties built on national lines.
The breakup of the party is followed by the breakup of the trade
unions, and complete segregation is the result. In this way the united
class movement is broken up into separate national rivulets.
Austria, the home of "national autonomy," provides the most deplorable
examples of this. As early as 1897 (the Wimberg Party Congress )
the once united Austrian Social-Democratic Party began to break up
into separate parties. The breakup became still more marked after the
Brünn Party Congress (1899), which adopted national autonomy. Matters
have finally come to such a pass that in place of a united
international party there are now six national parties, of which the
Czech Social-Democratic Party will not even have anything to do with
the German Social-Democratic Party.
But with the parties are associated the trade unions. In Austria, both
in the parties and in the trade unions, the main brunt of the work is
borne by the same Social-Democratic workers. There was therefore
reason to fear that separatism in the party would lead to separatism
in the trade unions and that the trade unions would also break up.
That, in fact, is what happened: the trade unions have also divided
according to nationality. Now things frequently go so far that the
Czech workers will even break a strike of German workers, or will
unite at municipal elections with the Czech bourgeois against the
It will be seen from the foregoing that cultural-national autonomy is
no solution of the national question. Not only that, it serves to
aggravate and confuse the question by creating a situation which
favours the destruction of the unity of the labour movement, fosters
the segregation of the workers according to nationality and
intensifies friction among them.
Such is the harvest of national autonomy.
THE BUND, ITS NATIONALISM,
We said above that Bauer, while granting the necessity of national
autonomy for the Czechs, Poles, and so on, nevertheless opposes
similar autonomy for the Jews. In answer to the question, "Should the
working class demand autonomy for the Jewish people?" Bauer says that
"national autonomy cannot be demanded by the Jewish workers."
According to Bauer, the reason is that "capitalist society makes it
impossible for them (the Jews – J. St.) to continue as a nation."
In brief, the Jewish nation is coming to an end, and hence there is
nobody to demand national autonomy for. The Jews are being
This view of the fate of the Jews as a nation is not a new one. It was
expressed by Marx as early as the 'forties,   in reference
chiefly to the German Jews. It was repeated by Kautsky in 1903, 
in reference to the Russian Jews. It is now being repeated by Bauer in
reference to the Austrian Jews, with the difference, however, that he
denies not the present but the future of the Jewish nation.
Bauer explains the impossibility of preserving the existence of the
Jews as a nation by the fact that "the Jews have no closed territory
of settlement." This explanation, in the main a correct one, does not
however express the whole truth. The fact of the matter is primarily
that among the Jews there is no large and stable stratum connected
with the land, which would naturally rivet the nation together,
serving not only as its framework but also as a "national" market. Of
the five or six million Russian Jews, only three to four per cent are
connected with agriculture in any way. The remaining ninety-six per
cent are employed in trade, industry, in urban institutions, and in
general are town dwellers; moreover, they are spread all over Russia
and do not constitute a majority in a single gubernia.
Thus, interspersed as national minorities in areas inhabited by other
nationalities, the Jews as a rule serve "foreign" nations as
manufacturers and traders and as members of the liberal professions,
naturally adapting themselves to the "foreign nations" in respect to
language and so forth. All this, taken together with the increasing re-
shuffling of nationalities characteristic of developed forms of
capitalism, leads to the assimilation of the Jews. The abolition of
the "Pale of Settlement" would only serve to hasten this process of
The question of national autonomy for the Russian Jews consequently
assumes a somewhat curious character: autonomy is being proposed for a
nation whose future is denied and whose existence has still to be
Nevertheless, this was the curious and shaky position taken up by the
Bund when at its Sixth Congress (1905) it adopted a "national
programme" on the fines of national autonomy.
Two circumstances impelled the Bund to take this step.
The first circumstance is the existence of the Bund as an organization
of Jewish, and only Jewish, Social-Democratic workers. Even before
1897 the Social-Democratic groups active among the Jewish workers set
themselves the aim of creating "a special Jewish workers'
organization."  They founded such an organization in 1897 by
uniting to form the Bund. That was at a time when Russian Social-
Democracy as an integral body virtually did not yet exist. The Bund
steadily grew and spread, and stood out more and more vividly against
the background of the bleak days of Russian Social-Democracy.... Then
came the 1900's. A mass labour movement came into being. Polish Social-
Democracy grew and drew the Jewish workers into the mass struggle.
Russian Social-Democracy grew and attracted the "Bund" workers.
Lacking a territorial basis, the national framework of the Bund became
too restrictive. The Bund was faced with the problem of either merging
with the general international tide, or of upholding its independent
existence as an extra-territorial organization. The Bund chose the
Thus grew up the "theory" that the Bund is "the sole representative of
the Jewish proletariat."
But to justify this strange "theory" in any "simple" way became
impossible. Some kind of foundation "on principle," some justification
"on principle," was needed. Cultural-national autonomy provided such a
foundation. The Bund seized upon it, borrowing it from the Austrian
Social-Democrats. If the Austrians had not had such a programme the
Bund would have invented it in order to justify its independent
existence "on principle."
Thus, after a timid attempt in 1901 (the Fourth Congress), the Bund
definitely adopted a "national programme" in 1905 (the Sixth
The second circumstance is the peculiar position of the Jews as
separate national minorities within compact majorities of other
nationalities in integral regions. We have already said that this
position is undermining the existence of the Jews as a nation and puts
them on the road to assimilation. But this is an objective process.
Subjectively, in the minds of the Jews, it provokes a reaction and
gives rise to the demand for a guarantee of the rights of a national
minority, for a guarantee against assimilation. Preaching as it does
the vitality of the Jewish "nationality," the Bund could not avoid
being in favour of a "guarantee." And, having taken up this position,
it could not but accept national autonomy. For if the Bund could seize
upon any autonomy at all, it could only be national autonomy, i.e.,
cultural-national autonomy; there could be no question of territorial-
political autonomy for the Jews, since the Jews have no definite
It is noteworthy that the Bund from the outset stressed the character
of national autonomy as a guarantee of the rights of national
minorities, as a guarantee of the "free development" of nations. Nor
was it fortuitous that the representative of the Bund at the Second
Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Party, Goldblatt, defined
national autonomy as "institutions which guarantee them (i.e., nations
– J. St.) complete freedom of cultural development."  A similar
proposal was made by supporters of the ideas of the Bund to the Social-
Democratic group in the Fourth Duma....
In this way the Bund adopted the curious position of national autonomy
for the Jews.
We have examined above national autonomy in general. The examination
showed that national autonomy leads to nationalism. We shall see later
that the Bund has arrived at the same end point. But the Bund also
regards national autonomy from a special aspect, namely, from the
aspect of guarantees of the rights of national minorities. Let us also
examine the question from this special aspect. It is all the more
necessary since the problem of national minorities – and not of the
Jewish minorities alone – is one of serious moment for Social-
And so, it is a question of "institutions which guarantee" nations
"complete freedom of cultural development" (our italics – J. St.).
But what are these "institutions which guarantee," etc.?
They are primarily the "National Council" of Springer and Bauer,
something in the nature of a Diet for cultural affairs.
But can these institutions guarantee a nation "complete freedom of
cultural development"? Can a Diet for cultural affairs guarantee a
nation against nationalist persecution?
The Bund believes it can.
But history proves the contrary.
At one time a Diet existed in Russian Poland. It was a political Diet
and, of course, endeavoured to guarantee freedom of "cultural
development" for the Poles. But, far from succeeding in doing so, it
itself succumbed in the unequal struggle against the political
conditions generally prevailing in Russia.
A Diet has been in existence for a long time in Finland, and it too
endeavours to protect the Finnish nationality from "encroachments,"
but how far it succeeds in doing so everybody can see.
Of course, there are Diets and Diets, and it is not so easy to cope
with the democratically organized Finnish Diet as it was with the
aristocratic Polish Diet. But the decisive factor, nevertheless, is
not the Diet, but the general regime in Russia. If such a grossly
Asiatic social and political regime existed in Russia now as in the
past, at the time the Polish Diet was abolished, things would go much
harder with the Finnish Diet. Moreover, the policy of "encroachments"
upon Finland is growing, and it cannot be said that it has met with
If such is the case with old, historically evolved institutions –
political Diets – still less will young Diets, young institutions,
especially such feeble institutions as "cultural" Diets, be able to
guarantee the free development of nations.
Obviously, it is not a question of "institutions," but of the general
regime prevailing in the country. If there is no democracy in the
country there can be no guarantees of "complete freedom for cultural
development" of nationalities. One may say with certainty that the
more democratic a country is the fewer are the "encroachments" made on
the "freedom of nationalities," and the greater are the guarantees
against such "encroachments."
Russia is a semi-Asiatic country, and therefore in Russia the policy
of "encroachments" not infrequently assumes the grossest form, the
form of pogroms. It need hardly be said that in Russia "guarantees"
have been reduced to the very minimum.
Germany is, however, European, and she enjoys a measure of political
freedom. It is not surprising that the policy of "encroachments" there
never takes the form of pogroms.
In France, of course, there are still more "guarantees," for France is
more democratic than Germany.
There is no need to mention Switzerland, where, thanks to her highly
developed, although bourgeois democracy, nationalities live in
freedom, whether they are a minority or a majority.
Thus the Bund adopts a false position when it asserts that
"institutions" by themselves are able to guarantee complete cultural
development for nationalities.
It may be said that the Bund itself regards the establishment of
democracy in Russia as a preliminary condition for the "creation of
institutions" and guarantees of freedom. But this is not the case.
From the report of the Eighth Conference of the Bund  it will be
seen that the Bund thinks it can secure "institutions" on the basis of
the present system in Russia, by "reforming" the Jewish community.
"The community," one of the leaders of the Bund said at this
conference, "may become the nucleus of future cultural-national
autonomy. Cultural-national autonomy is a form of self-service on the
part of nations, a form of satisfying national needs. The community
form conceals within itself a similar content. They are links in the
same chain, stages in the same evolution." 
On this basis, the conference decided that it was necessary to strive
"for reforming the Jewish community and transforming it by legislative
means into a secular institution," democratically organized (our
italics – J. St.).
It is evident that the Bund considers as the condition and guarantee
not the democratization of Russia, but some future "secular
institution" of the Jews, obtained by "reforming the Jewish
community," so to speak, by "legislative" means, through the Duma:
But we have already seen that "institutions" in themselves cannot
serve as "guarantees" if the regime in the state generally is not a
But what, it may be asked, will be - the position under a future
democratic system? Will not special "cultural institutions which
guarantee," etc., be required even under democracy? What is the
position in this respect in democratic Switzerland, for example? Are
there special cultural institutions in Switzerland on the pattern of
Springer's "National Council"? No, there are not. But do not the
cultural interests of, for instance, the Italians, who constitute a
minority there, suffer for that reason? One does not seem to hear that
they do. And that is quite natural: in Switzerland all special
cultural "institutions," which supposedly "guarantee," etc., are
rendered superfluous by democracy.
And so, impotent in the present and superfluous in the future – such
are the institutions of cultural-national autonomy, and such is
But it becomes still more harmful when it is thrust upon a "nation"
whose existence and future are open to doubt. In such cases the
advocates of national autonomy are obliged to protect and preserve all
the peculiar features of the "nation," the bad as well as the good,
just for the sake of "saving the nation" from assimilation, just for
the sake of "preserving" it.
That the Bund should take this dangerous path was inevitable. And it
did take it. We are referring to the resolutions of recent conferences
of the Bund on the question of the "Sabbath," "Yiddish," etc.
Social-Democracy strives to secure for all nations the right to use
their own language. But that does not satisfy the Bund; it demands
that "the rights of the Jewish language" (our italics – J. St.) be
championed with "exceptional persistence," and the Bund itself in the
elections to the Fourth Duma declared that it would give "preference
to those of them (i.e., electors) who undertake to defend the rights
of the Jewish language."
Not the general right of all nations to use their own language, but
the particular right of the Jewish language, Yiddish! Let the workers
of the various nationalities fight primarily for their own language:
the Jews for Jewish, the Georgians for Georgian, and so forth. The
struggle for the general right of all nations is a secondary matter.
You do not have to recognize the right of all oppressed nationalities
to use their own language; but if you have recognized the right of
Yiddish, know that the Bund will vote for you, the Bund will "prefer"
But in what way then does the Bund differ from the bourgeois
Social-Democracy strives to secure the establishment of a compulsory
weekly rest day. But that does not satisfy the Bund; it demands that
"by legislative means" "the Jewish proletariat should be guaranteed
the right to observe their Sabbath and be relieved of the obligation
to observe another day. "*
It is to be expected that the Bund will take another "step forward"
and demand the right to observe all the ancient Hebrew holidays. And
if, to the misfortune of the Bund, the Jewish workers have discarded
religious prejudices and do not want to observe these holidays, the
Bund with its agitation for "the right to the Sabbath," will remind
them of the Sabbath, it will, so to speak, cultivate among them "the
Sabbatarian spirit. "...
Quite comprehensible, therefore, are the "passionate speeches"
delivered at the Eighth Conference of the Bund demanding "Jewish
hospitals," a demand that was based on the argument that "a patient
feels more at home among his own people," that "the Jewish worker will
not feel at ease among Polish workers, but will feel at ease among
Preservation of everything Jewish, conservation of all the national
peculiarities of the Jews, even those that are patently harmful to the
proletariat, isolation of the Jews from everything non-Jewish, even
the establishment of special hospitals – that is the level to which
the Bund has sunk!
Comrade Plekhanov was right a thousand times over when he said that
the Bund "is adapting socialism to nationalism." Of course, V.
Kossovsky and Bundists like him may denounce Plekhanov as a
"demagogue"   – paper will put up with anything that is
written on it – but those who are familiar with the activities of the
Bund will easily realize that these brave fellows are simply afraid to
tell the truth about themselves and are hiding behind strong language
about "demagogy. "...
But since it holds such a position on the national question, the Bund
was naturally obliged, in the matter of organization also, to take the
path of segregating the Jewish workers, the path of formation of
national curiae within Social-Democracy. Such is the logic of national
And, in fact, the Bund did pass from the theory of "sole
representation" to the theory of "national demarcation" of workers.
The Bund demands that Russian Social-Democracy should "in its
organizational structure introduce demarcation according to
nationalities." From "demarcation" it made a "step forward" to the
theory of "segregation." It is not for nothing that speeches were made
at the Eighth Conference of the Bund declaring that "national
existence lies in segregation."
Organizational federalism harbours the elements of disintegration and
separatism. The Bund is heading for separatism.
And, indeed, there is nothing else it can head for. Its very existence
as an extra-territorial organization drives it to separatism. The Bund
does not possess a definite integral territory; it operates on
"foreign" territories, whereas the neighbouring Polish, Lettish and
Russian Social-Democracies are international territorial collective
bodies. But the result is that every extension of these collective
bodies means a "loss" to the Bund and a restriction of its field of
action. There are two alternatives: either Russian Social-Democracy as
a whole must be reconstructed on the basis of national federalism –
which will enable the Bund to "secure" the Jewish proletariat for
itself; or the territorial-international principle of these collective
bodies remains in force – in which case the Bund must be reconstructed
on the basis of internationalism, as is the case with the Polish and
This explains why the Bund from the very beginning demanded "the
reorganization of Russian Social-Democracy on a federal basis." 
In 1906, yielding to the pressure from below in favour of unity, the
Bund chose a middle path and joined Russian Social-Democracy. But how
did it join? Whereas the Polish and Lettish Social-Democracies joined
for the purpose of peaceable joint action, the Bund joined for the
purpose of waging war for a federation. That is exactly what Medem,
the leader of the Bundists, said at the time:
"We are joining not for the sake of an idyll, but in order to fight.
There is no idyll, and only Manilovs could hope for one in the near
future. The Bund must join the Party armed from head to foot." 
It would be wrong to regard this as an expression of evil intent on
Medem's part. It is not a matter of evil intent, but of the peculiar
position of the Bund, which compels it to fight Russian Social-
Democracy, which is built on the basis of internationalism. And in
fighting it the Bund naturally violated the interests of unity.
Finally, matters went so far that the Bund formally broke with Russian
Social-Democracy, violating its statutes, and in the elections to the
Fourth Duma joining forces with the Polish nationalists against the
The Bund has apparently found that a rupture is the best guarantee for
And so the "principle" of organizational "demarcation" led to
separatism and to a complete rupture.
In a controversy with the old Iskra  on the question of
federalism, the Bund once wrote:
"Iskra wants to assure us that federal relations between the Bund and
Russian Social-Democracy are bound to weaken the ties between them. We
cannot refute this opinion by referring to practice in Russia, for the
simple reason that Russian Social-Democracy does not exist as a
federal body. But we can refer to the extremely instructive experience
of Social-Democracy in Austria, which assumed a federal character by
virtue of the decision of the Party Congress of 1897."
That was written in 1902.
But we are now in the year 1913. We now have both Russian "practice"
and the "experience of Social-Democracy in Austria."
What do they tell us?
Let us begin with "the extremely instructive experience of Social-
Democracy in Austria." Up to 1896 there was a united Social-Democratic
Party in Austria. In that year the Czechs at the International
Congress in London for the first time demanded separate
representation, and were given it. In 1897, at the Vienna (Wimberg)
Party Congress, the united party was formally Liquidated and in its
place a federal league of six national "Social-Democratic groups" was
set up. Subsequently these "groups" were converted into independent
parties, which gradually severed contact with one another. Following
the parties, the parliamentary group broke up – national "clubs" were
formed. Next came the trade unions, which also split according to
nationalities. Even the co-operative societies were affected, the
Czech separatists calling upon the workers to split them up.  We
will not dwell on the fact that separatist agitation weakens the
workers' sense of solidarity and frequently drives them to strike-
Thus "the extremely instructive experience of Social-Democracy in
Austria" speaks against the Bund and for the old Iskra. Federalism in
the Austrian party has led to the most outrageous separatism, to the
destruction of the unity of the labour movement.
We have seen above that "practical experience in Russia" also bears
this out. Like the Czech separatists, the Bundist separatists have
broken with the general Russian Social-Democratic Party. As for the
trade unions, the Bundist trade unions, from the outset they were
organized on national lines, that is to say, they were cut off from
the workers of other nationalities.
Complete segregation and complete rupture – that is what is revealed
by the "Russian practical experience" of federalism.
It is not surprising that the effect of this state of affairs upon the
workers is to weaken their sense of solidarity and to demoralize them;
and the latter process is also penetrating the Bund. We are referring
to the increasing collisions between Jewish and Polish workers in
connection with unemployment. Here is the kind of speech that was made
on this subject at the Ninth Conference of the Bund:
"... We regard the Polish workers, who are ousting us, as pogromists,
as scabs; we do not support their strikes, we break them. Secondly, we
reply to being ousted by ousting in our turn: we reply to Jewish
workers not being allowed into the factories by not allowing Polish
workers near the benches.... If we do not take this matter into our
own hands the workers will follow others" (our italics – J. St.)
That is the way they talk about solidarity at a Bundist conference.
You cannot go further than that in the way of "demarcation" and
"segregation." The Bund has achieved its aim: it is carrying its
demarcation between the workers of different nationalities to the
point of conflicts and strike-breaking. And there is no other course:
"If we do not take this matter into our own hands the workers will
Disorganization of the labour movement, demoralization of the Social-
Democratic ranks – that is what the federalism of the Bund leads to.
Thus the idea of cultural-national autonomy, the atmosphere it
creates, has proved to be even more harmful in Russia than in Austria.
THE CONFERENCE OF THE LIQUIDATORS
We spoke above of the waverings of one section of the Caucasian Social-
Democrats who were unable to withstand the nationalist "epidemic."
These waverings were revealed in the fact that, strange as it may
seem, the above-mentioned Social-Democrats followed in the footsteps
of the Bund and proclaimed cultural-national autonomy.
Regional autonomy for the Caucasus as a whole and cultural-national
autonomy for the nations forming the Caucasus – that is the way these
Social-Democrats, who, incidentally, are linked with the Russian
Liquidators, formulate their demand.
Listen to their acknowledged leader, the not unknown N.
"Everybody knows that the Caucasus differs profoundly from the central
gubernias, both as regards the racial composition of its population
and as regards its territory and agricultural development. The
exploitation and material development of such a region require local
workers acquainted with local peculiarities and accustomed to the
local climate and culture. All laws designed to further the
exploitation of the local territory should be issued locally and put
into effect by local forces. Consequently, the jurisdiction of the
central organ of Caucasian self-government should extend to
legislation on local questions.... Hence, the functions of the
Caucasian centre should consist in the passing of laws designed to
further the economic exploitation of the local territory and the
material prosperity of the region." 
Thus – regional autonomy for the Caucasus.
If we abstract ourselves from the rather confused and incoherent
arguments of N., it must be admitted that his conclusion is correct.
Regional autonomy for the Caucasus, within the framework of a general
state constitution, which N. does not deny, is indeed essential
because of the peculiarities of its composition and its conditions of
life. This was also acknowledged by the Russian Social-Democratic
Party, which at its Second Congress proclaimed "regional self-
government for those border regions which in respect of their
conditions of life and the composition of their population differ from
the regions of Russia proper."
When Martov submitted this point for discussion at the Second
Congress, he justified it on the grounds that "the vast extent of
Russia and the experience of our centralized administration point to
the necessity and expediency of regional self-government for such
large units as Finland, Poland, Lithuania and the Caucasus."
But it follows that regional self-government is to be interpreted as
But N. goes further. According to him, regional autonomy for the
Caucasus covers "only one aspect of the question."
"So far we have spoken only of the material development of local life.
But the economic development of a region is facilitated not only by
economic activity but also by spiritual, cultural activity."... "A
culturally strong nation is strong also in the economic sphere. "...
"But the cultural development of nations is possible only in the
national languages."... "Consequently, all questions connected with
the native language are questions of national culture. Such are the
questions of education! the judicature, the church, literature, art,
science, the theatre, etc. If the material development of a region
unites nations, matters of national culture disunite them and place
each in a separate sphere. Activities of the former kind are
associated with a definite territory."... "This is not the case with
matters of national culture. These are associated not with a definite
territory but with the existence of a definite nation. The fate of the
Georgian language interests a Georgian, no matter where he lives. It
would be a sign of profound ignorance to say that Georgian culture
concerns only the Georgians who live in Georgia. Take, for instance,
the Armenian church. Armenians of various localities and states take
part in the administration of its affairs. Territory plays no part
here. Or, for instance, the creation of a Georgian museum interests
not only the Georgians of Tiflis, but also the Georgians of Baku,
Kutais, St. Petersburg, etc. Hence, the administration and control of
all affairs of national culture must be left to the nations concerned.
we proclaim in favour of cultural-national autonomy for the Caucasian
In short, since culture is not territory, and territory is not
culture, cultural-national autonomy is required. That is all N. can
say in the latter's favour.
We shall not stop to discuss again national-cultural autonomy in
general; we have already spoken of its objectionable character. We
should like to point out only that, while being unsuitable in general,
cultural-national autonomy is also meaningless and nonsensical in
relation to Caucasian conditions.
And for the following reason:
Cultural-national autonomy presumes more or less developed
nationalities, with a developed culture and literature. Failing these
conditions, autonomy loses all sense and becomes an absurdity. But in
the Caucasus there are a number of nationalities each possessing a
primitive culture, a separate language, but without its own
literature; nationalities, moreover, which are in a state of
transition, partly becoming assimilated and partly continuing to
develop. How is cultural-national autonomy to be applied to them? What
is to be done with such nationalities? How are they to be "organized"
into separate cultural-national unions, as is undoubtedly implied by
What is to be done with the Mingrelians, the Abkhasians, the
Adjarians, the Svanetians, the Lesghians, and so on, who speak
different languages but do not possess a literature of their own? To
what nations are they to be attached? Can they be "organized" into
national unions? Around what "cultural affairs" are they to be
What is to be done with the Ossetians, of whom the Transcaucasian
Ossetians are becoming assimilated (but are as yet by no means wholly
assimilated) by the Georgians, while the Cis-Caucasian Ossetians are
partly being assimilated by the Russians and partly continuing to
develop and are creating their own literature? How are they to be
"organized" into a single national union?
To what national union should one attach the Adjarians, who speak the
Georgian language, but whose culture is Turkish and who profess the
religion of Islam? Shall they be "organized" separately from the
Georgians with regard to religious affairs and together with the
Georgians with regard to other cultural affairs? And what about the
Kobuletians, the Ingushes, the Inghilois?
What kind of autonomy is that which excludes a whole number of
nationalities from the list?
No, that is not a solution of the national question, but the fruit of
But let us grant the impossible and assume that our N.'s national-
cultural autonomy has been put into effect. Where would it lead to,
what would be its results? Take, for instance, the Transcaucasian
Tatars, with their minimum percentage of literates, their schools
controlled by the omnipotent mullahs and their culture permeated by
the religious spirit.... It is not difficult to understand that to
"organize" them into a cultural national union would mean to place
them under the control of the mullahs, to deliver them over to the
tender mercies of the reactionary mullahs, to create a new stronghold
of spiritual enslavement of the Tatar masses to their worst enemy.
But since when have Social-Democrats made it a practice to bring grist
to the mill of the reactionaries?
Could the Caucasian Liquidators really find nothing better to
"proclaim" than the isolation of the Transcaucasian Tatars within a
cultural-national union which would place the masses under the
thraldom of vicious reactionaries?
No, that is no solution of the national question.
The national question in the Caucasus can be solved only by drawing
the belated nations and nationalities into the common stream of a
higher culture. It is the only progressive solution and the only
solution acceptable to Social-Democracy. Regional autonomy in the
Caucasus is acceptable because it would draw the belated nations into
the common cultural development; it would help them to cast off the
shell of small nation insularity; it would impel them forward and
facilitate access to the benefits of higher culture. Cultural-national
autonomy, however, acts in a diametrically opposite direction, because
it shuts up the nations within their old shells, binds them to the
lower stages of cultural development and prevents them from rising to
the higher stages of culture.
In this way national autonomy counteracts the beneficial aspects of
regional autonomy and nullifies it.
That is why the mixed type of autonomy which combines national-
cultural autonomy and regional autonomy as proposed by N. is also
unsuitable. This unnatural combination does not improve matters but
makes them worse, because in addition to retarding the development of
the belated nations it transforms regional autonomy into an arena of
conflict between the nations organized in the national unions.
Thus cultural-national autonomy, which is unsuitable generally, would
be a senseless, reactionary undertaking in the Caucasus.
So much for the cultural-national autonomy of N. and his Caucasian
Whether the Caucasian Liquidators will take "a step forward" and
follow in the footsteps of the Bund on the question of organization
also, the future will show. So far, in the history of Social-Democracy
federalism in organization always preceded national autonomy in
programme. The Austrian Social-Democrats introduced organizational
federalism as far back as 1897, and it was only two years later (1899)
that they adopted national autonomy. The Bundists spoke distinctly of
national autonomy for the first time in 1901, whereas organizational
federalism had been practiced by them since 1897.
The Caucasian Liquidators have begun from the end, from national
autonomy. If they continue to follow in the footsteps of the Bund they
will first have to demolish the whole existing organizational edifice,
which was erected at the end of the 'nineties on the basis of
But, easy though it was to adopt national autonomy, which is still not
understood by the workers, it will be difficult to demolish an edifice
which it has taken years to build and which has been raised and
cherished by the workers of all the nationalities of the Caucasus.
This Herostratian undertaking has only to be begun and the eyes of the
workers will be opened to the nationalist character of cultural-
* * *
While the Caucasians are settling the national question in the usual
manner, by means of verbal and written discussion, the All-Russian
Conference of the Liquidators has invented a most unusual method. It
is a simple and easy method. Listen to this:
"Having heard the communication of the Caucasian delegation to the
effect that... it is necessary to demand national-cultural autonomy,
this conference, while expressing no opinion on the merits of this
demand, declares that such an interpretation of the clause of the
programme which recognizes the right of every nationality to self-
determination does not contradict the precise meaning of the
Thus, first of all they "express no opinion on the merits" of the
question, and then they "declare." An original method....
And what does this original conference "declare"?
That the "demand" for national-cultural autonomy "does not contradict
the precise meaning "of the programme, which recognizes the right of
nations to self-determination.
Let us examine this proposition.
The clause on self-determination speaks of the rights of nations.
According to this clause, nations have the right not only of autonomy
but also of secession. It is a question of political self-
determination. Whom did the Liquidators want to fool when they
endeavoured to misinterpret this right of nations to political self-
determination, which has long been recognized by the whole of
Or perhaps the Liquidators will try to wriggle out of the situation
and defend themselves by the sophism that cultural-national autonomy
"does not contradict" the rights of nations? That is to say, if all
the nations in a given state agree to arrange their affairs on the
basis of cultural-national autonomy, they, the given sum of nations,
are fully entitled to do so and nobody may forcibly impose a different
form of political life on them. This is both new and clever. Should it
not be added that, speaking generally, a nation has the right to
abolish its own constitution, replace it by a system of tyranny and
revert to the old order on the grounds that the nation, and the nation
alone, has the right to determine its own destiny? We repeat: in this
sense, neither cultural-national autonomy nor any other kind of
nationalist reaction "contradicts" the rights of nations.
Is that what the esteemed conference wanted to say?
No, not that. It specifically says that cultural-national autonomy
"does not contradict," not the rights of nations, but "the precise
meaning" of the programme. The point here is the programme and not the
rights of nations.
And that is quite understandable. If it were some nation that
addressed itself to the conference of Liquidators, the conference
might have directly declared that the nation has a right to cultural-
national autonomy. But it was not a nation that addressed itself to
the conference, but a "delegation" of Caucasian Social-Democrats – bad
Social-Democrats, it is true, but Social-Democrats nevertheless. And
they inquired not about the rights of nations, but whether cultural-
national autonomy contradicted the principles of Social-Democracy,
whether it did not "contradict" "the precise meaning" of the programme
Thus, the rights of nations and "the precise meaning" of the programme
of Social-Democracy are not one and the same thing.
Evidently, there are demands which, while they do not contradict the
rights of nations, may yet contradict "the precise meaning" of the
For example. The programme of the Social-Democrats contains a clause
on freedom of religion. According to this clause any group of persons
have the right to profess any religion they please: Catholicism, the
religion of the Orthodox Church, etc. Social-Democrats will combat all
forms of religious persecution, be it of members of the Orthodox
Church, Catholics or Protestants. Does this mean that Catholicism,
Protestantism, etc., "do not contradict the precise meaning" of the
programme? No, it does not. Social-Democrats will always protest
against persecution of Catholicism or Protestantism; they will always
defend the right of nations to profess any religion they please; but
at the same time, on the basis of a correct understanding of the
interests of the proletariat, they will carry on agitation against
Catholicism, Protestantism and the religion of the Orthodox Church in
order to achieve the triumph of the socialist world outlook.
And they will do so just because there is no doubt that Protestantism,
Catholicism, the religion of the Orthodox Church, etc., "contradict
the precise meaning" of the programme, i.e., the correctly understood
interests of the proletariat.
The same must be said of self-determination. Nations have a right to
arrange their affairs as they please; they have a right to preserve
any of their national institutions, whether beneficial or harmful –
nobody can (nobody has a right to!) forcibly interfere in the life of
a nation. But that does not mean that Social-Democracy will not combat
and agitate against the harmful institutions of nations and against
the inexpedient demands of nations. On the contrary, it is the duty of
Social-Democracy to conduct such agitation and to endeavour to
influence the will of nations so that the nations may arrange their
affairs in the way that will best correspond to the interests of the
proletariat. For this reason Social-Democracy, while fighting for the
right of nations to self-determination, will at the same time agitate,
for instance, against the secession of the Tatars, or against cultural-
national autonomy for the Caucasian nations; for both, while not
contradicting the rights of these nations, do contradict "the precise
meaning" of the programme, i.e., the interests of the Caucasian
Obviously, "the rights of nations" and the "precise meaning" of the
programme are on two entirely different planes. Whereas the "precise
meaning" of the programme expresses the interests of the proletariat,
as scientifically formulated in the programme of the latter, the
rights of nations may express the interests of any class –
bourgeoisie, aristocracy, clergy, etc. – depending on the strength and
influence of these classes. On the one hand are the duties of
Marxists, on the other the rights of nations, which consist of various
classes. The rights of nations and the principles of Social-Democracy
may or may not "contradict" each other, just as, say, the pyramid of
Cheops may or may not contradict the famous conference of the
Liquidators. They are simply not comparable.
But it follows that the esteemed conference most unpardonably muddled
two entirely different things. The result obtained was not a solution
of the national question but an absurdity, according to which the
rights of nations and the principles of Social-Democracy "do not
contradict" each other, and, consequently; every demand of a nation
may be made compatible with the interests of the proletariat;
consequently, no demand of a nation which is striving for self-
determination will "contradict the precise meaning" of the programme!
They pay no heed to logic....
It was this absurdity that gave rise to the now famous resolution of
the conference of the Liquidators which declares that the demand for
national-cultural autonomy "does not contradict the precise meaning"
of the programme.
But it was not only the laws of logic that were violated by the
conference of the Liquidators.
By sanctioning cultural-national autonomy it also violated its duty to
Russian Social-Democracy. It most definitely did violate "the precise
meaning" of the programme, for it is well known that the Second
Congress, which adopted the programme, emphatically repudiated
cultural-national autonomy. Here is what was said at the congress in
"Goldblatt (Bundist): ...1 deem it necessary that special institutions
be set up to protect the freedom of cultural development of
nationalities, and I therefore propose that the following words be
added to § 8: 'and the creation of institutions which will guarantee
them complete freedom of cultural development.'" (This, as we know, is
the Bund's definition of cultural-national autonomy. – J. St.)
"Martynov pointed out that general institutions must be so constituted
as to protect particular interests also. It is impossible to create a
special institution to guarantee freedom for cultural development of
"Yegorov: On the question of nationality we can adopt only negative
proposals, i.e., we are opposed to all restrictions upon nationality.
But we, as Social-Democrats, are not concerned with whether any
particular nationality will develop as such. That is a spontaneous
"Koltsov: The delegates from the Bund are always offended when their
nationalism is referred to. Yet the amendment proposed by the delegate
from the Bund is of a purely nationalist character. We are asked to
take purely offensive measures in order to support even nationalities
that are dying out."
In the end "Goldblatt's amendment was rejected by the majority, only
three votes being cast for it."
Thus it is clear that the conference of the Liquidators did
"contradict the precise meaning" of the programme. It violated the
The Liquidators are now trying to justify themselves by referring to
the Stockholm Congress, which they allege sanctioned cultural-national
autonomy. Thus, V. Kossovsky writes:
"As we know, according to the agreement adopted by the Stockholm
Congress, the Bund was allowed to preserve its national programme
(pending a decision on the national question by a general Party
congress). This congress recorded that national-cultural autonomy at
any rate does not contradict the general Party programme." 
But the efforts of the Liquidators are in vain. The Stockholm Congress
never thought of sanctioning the programme of the Bund – it merely
agreed to leave the question open for the time being. The brave
Kossovsky did not have enough courage to tell the whole truth. But the
facts speak for themselves. Here they are:
"An amendment was moved by Galin: 'The question of the national
programme is left open in view of the fact that it is not being
examined by the congress.' (For – 50 votes, against – 32.)
"Voice: What does that mean – open?
"Chairman: When we say that the national question is left open, it
means that the Bund may maintain its decision on this question until
the next congress"  (our italics. – J. St.).
As you see, the congress even did "not examine" the question of the
national programme of the Bund – it simply left it "open," leaving the
Bund itself to decide the fate of its programme until the next general
congress met. In other words, the Stockholm Congress avoided the
question, expressing no opinion on cultural-national autonomy one way
The conference of the Liquidators, however, most definitely undertakes
to give an opinion on the matter, declares cultural-national autonomy
to be acceptable, and endorses it in the name of the Party programme.
The difference is only too evident.
Thus, in spite of all its artifices, the conference of the Liquidators
did not advance the national question a single step.
All it could do was to squirm before the Bund and the Caucasian
THE NATIONAL QUESTION IN RUSSIA
It remains for us to suggest a positive solution of the national
We take as our starting point that the question can be solved only in
intimate connection with the present situation in Russia.
Russia is in a transitional period, when "normal," "constitutional"
life has not yet been established and when the political crisis has
not yet been settled. Days of storm and "complications" are ahead. And
this gives rise to the movement, the present and the future movement,
the aim of which is to achieve complete democratization.
It is in connection with this movement that the national question must
Thus the complete democratization of the country is the basis and
condition for the solution of the national question.
When seeking a solution of the question we must take into account not
only the situation at home but also the situation abroad. Russia is
situated between Europe and Asia, between Austria and China. The
growth of democracy in Asia is inevitable. The growth of imperialism
in Europe is not fortuitous. In Europe, capital is beginning to feel
cramped, and it is reaching out towards foreign countries in search of
new markets, cheap labour and new fields of investment. But this leads
to external complications and to war. No one can assert that the
Balkan War  is the end and not the beginning of the complications.
It is quite possible, therefore, that a combination of internal and
external conditions may arise in which one or another nationality in
Russia may find it necessary to raise and settle the question of its
independence. And, of course, it is not for Marxists to create
obstacles in such cases.
But it follows that Russian Marxists cannot dispense with the right of
nations to self-determination.
Thus, the right of self-determination is an essential element in the
solution of the national question.
Further. What must be our attitude towards nations which for one
reason or another will prefer to remain within the framework of the
We have seen that cultural-national autonomy is unsuitable. Firstly,
it is artificial and impracticable, for it proposes artificially to
draw into a single nation people whom the march of events, real
events, is disuniting and dispersing to every corner of the country.
Secondly, it stimulates nationalism, because it leads to the viewpoint
in favour of the "demarcation" of people according to national curiae,
the "organization" of nations, the "preservation" and cultivation of
"national peculiarities" – all of which are entirely incompatible with
Social-Democracy. It is not fortuitous that the Moravian separatists
in the Reichsrat, having severed themselves from the German Social-
Democratic deputies, have united with the Moravian bourgeois deputies
to form a single, so to speak, Moravian "kolo." Nor is it fortuitous
that the separatists of the Bund have got themselves involved in
nationalism by acclaiming the "Sabbath" and "Yiddish." There are no
Bundist deputies yet in the Duma, but in the Bund area there is a
clerical-reactionary Jewish community, in the "controlling
institutions" of which the Bund is arranging, for a beginning, a "get-
together" of the Jewish workers and bourgeois. Such is the logic of
Thus, national autonomy does not solve the problem.
What, then, is the way out?
The only correct solution is regional autonomy, autonomy for such
crystallized units as Poland, Lithuania, the Ukraine, the Caucasus,
The advantage of regional autonomy consists, first of all, in the fact
that it does not deal with a fiction bereft of territory, but with a
definite population inhabiting a definite territory. Next, it does not
divide people according to nations, it does not strengthen national
barriers; on the contrary, it breaks down these barriers and unites
the population in such a manner as to open the way for division of a
different kind, division according to classes. Finally; it makes it
possible to utilize the natural wealth of the region and to develop
its productive forces in the best possible way without awaiting the
decisions of a common centre – functions which are not inherent
features of cultural-national autonomy.
Thus, regional autonomy is an essential element in the solution of the
Of course, not one of the regions constitutes a compact, homogeneous
nation, for each is interspersed with national minorities. Such are
the Jews in Poland, the Letts in Lithuania, the Russians in the
Caucasus, the Poles in the Ukraine, and so on. It may be feared,
therefore, that the minorities will be oppressed by the national
majorities. But there will be grounds for fear only if the old order
continues to prevail in the country. Give the country complete
democracy and all grounds for fear will vanish.
It is proposed to bind the dispersed minorities into a single national
union. But what the minorities want is not an artificial union, but
real rights in the localities they inhabit. What can such a union give
them without complete democratization? On the other hand, what need is
there for a national union when there is complete democratization?
What is it that particularly agitates a national minority?
A minority is discontented not because there is no national union but
because it does not enjoy the right to use its native language. Permit
it to use its native language and the discontent will pass of itself.
A minority is discontented not because there is no artificial union
but because it does not possess its own schools. Give it its own
schools and all grounds for discontent will disappear.
A minority is discontented not because there is no national union, but
because it does not enjoy liberty of conscience (religious liberty),
liberty of movement, etc. Give it these liberties and it will cease to
Thus, equal rights of nations in all forms (language, schools, etc.)
is an essential element in the solution of the national question.
Consequently, a state law based on complete democratization of the
country is required, prohibiting all national privileges without
exception and every kind of disability or restriction on the rights of
That, and that alone, is the real, not a paper guarantee of the rights
of a minority.
One may or may not dispute the existence of a logical connection
between organizational federalism and cultural-national autonomy. But
one cannot dispute the fact that the latter creates an atmosphere
favouring unlimited federalism, developing into complete rupture, into
separatism. If the Czechs in Austria and the Bundists in Russia began
with autonomy, passed to federation and ended in separatism, there can
be no doubt that an important part in this was played by the
nationalist atmosphere that is naturally generated by cultural-
national autonomy. It is not fortuitous that national autonomy and
organizational federalism go hand in hand. It is quite.
understandable. Both demand demarcation according to nationalities.
Both presume organization according to nationalities. The similarity
is beyond question. The only difference is that in one case the
population as a whole is divided, while in the other it is the Social-
Democratic workers who are divided.
We know where the demarcation of workers according to nationalities
leads to. The disintegration of a united workers' party, the splitting
of trade unions according to nationalities, aggravation of national
friction, national strikebreaking, complete demoralization within the
ranks of Social-Democracy – such are the results of organizational
federalism. This is eloquently borne out by the history of Social-
Democracy in Austria and the activities of the Bund in Russia.
The only cure for 'this is organization on the basis of
To unite locally the workers of all nationalities of Russia into
single, integral collective bodies, to unite these collective bodies
into a single party – such is the task.
It goes without saying that a party structure of this kind does not
preclude, but on the contrary presumes, wide autonomy for the regions
within the single integral party.
The experience of the Caucasus proves the expediency of this type of
organization. If the Caucasians have succeeded in overcoming the
national friction between the Armenian and Tatar workers; if they have
succeeded in safeguarding the population against the possibility of
massacres and shooting affrays; if in Baku, that kaleidoscope of
national groups, national conflicts are now no longer possible, and if
it has been possible to draw the workers there into the single current
of a powerful movement, then the international structure of the
Caucasian Social-Democracy was not the least factor in bringing this
The type of organization influences not only practical work. It stamps
an indelible impress on the whole mental life of the worker. The
worker lives the life of his organization, which stimulates his
intellectual growth and educates him. And thus, acting within his
organization and continually meeting there comrades from other
nationalities, and side by side with them waging a common struggle
under the leadership of a common collective body, he becomes deeply
imbued with the idea that workers are primarily members of one class
family, members of the united army of socialism. And this cannot but
have a tremendous educational value for large sections of the working
Therefore, the international type of organization serves as a school
of fraternal sentiments and is a tremendous agitational factor on
behalf of internationalism.
But this is not the case with an organization on the basis of
nationalities. When the workers are organized according to nationality
they isolate themselves within their national shells, fenced off from
each other by organizational barriers. The stress is laid not on what
is common to the workers but on what distinguishes them from each
other. In this type of organization the worker is primarily a member
of his nation: a Jew, a Pole, and so on. It is not surprising that
national federalism in organization inculcates in the workers a spirit
of national seclusion.
Therefore, the national type of organization is a school of national
narrow-mindedness and stagnation.
Thus we are confronted by two fundamentally different types of
organization: the type based on international solidarity and the type
based on the organizational "demarcation" of the workers according to
Attempts to reconcile these two types have so far been vain. The
compromise rules of the Austrian Social-Democratic Party drawn up in
Wimberg in 1897 were left hanging in the air. The Austrian party fell
to pieces and dragged the trade unions with it. "Compromise" proved to
be not only utopian, but harmful. Strasser is right when he says that
"separatism achieved its first triumph at the Wimberg Party
Congress."  The same is true in Russia. The "compromise" with the
federalism of the Bund which took place at the Stockholm Congress
ended in a complete fiasco. The Bund violated the Stockholm
compromise. Ever since the Stockholm Congress the Bund has been an
obstacle in the way of union of the workers locally in a single
organization, which would include workers of all nationalities. And
the Bund has obstinately persisted in its separatist tactics in spite
of the fact that in 1907 and in 1908 Russian Social-Democracy
repeatedly demanded that unity should at last be established. from
below among the workers of all nationalities.  The Bund, which
began with organizational national autonomy, in fact passed to
federalism, only to end in complete rupture, separatism. And by
breaking with the Russian Social-Democratic Party it caused disharmony
and disorganization in the ranks of the latter. Let us recall the
Jagiello affair,  for instance.
The path of "compromise" must therefore be discarded as utopian and
One thing or the other: either the federalism of the Bund, in which
case the Russian Social-Democratic Party must re-form itself on a
basis of "demarcation" of the workers according to nationalities; or
an international type of organization, in which case the Bund must
reform itself on a basis of territorial autonomy after the pattern of
the Caucasian, Lettish and Polish Social-Democracies, and thus make
possible the direct union of the Jewish workers with the workers of
the other nationalities of Russia.
There is no middle course: principles triumph, they do not
Thus, the principle of international solidarity of the workers is an
essential element in the solution of the national question.
 Zionism – A reactionary nationalist trend of the Jewish
bourgeoisie, which had followers along the intellectuals and the more
backward sections of the Jewish workers. The Zionists endeavoured to
isolate the Jewish working-class masses from the general struggle of
 See "Report of the Ninth Conference of the Bund."
 See "Announcement of the August Conference."
 See "Announcement of the August Conference."
 See R. Springer, The National Problem, Obshchestvennaya Polza
Publishing House, 1909, p. 43.
 See O. Bauer, The National Question and Social-Democracy, Serp
Publishing House, 1909.
 See his Der Arbeiter und die Nation, 1912.
 South-Slav Social-Democracy operates in the Southern part of
 See V. Kossovsky, Problems of Nationality, 1907.
 The Brünn Parteitag, or Congress, of the Austrian Social-
Democratic Party was held on September 24-29, 1899. The resolution on
the national question adopted by this congress is quoted by J. V.
Stalin in the chapter IV, "Cultural-National Autonomy."
 See Springer, The National Problem.
 See Bauer, The National Question and Social-Democracy.
 "Thank God we have no parliament here" – the words uttered by V.
Kokovtsev, tsarist Minister of Finance (later Prime Minister), in the
State Duma on April 24 1908.
 The representatives of the South-Slav Social-Democratic Party
also voted for it. See Discussion of the National Question at the
Brünn Congress, 1906.
 In M. Panin's Russian translation (see his translation of Bauer's
book), "national individualities" is given in place of "national
peculiarities." Panin translated this passage incorrectly. The word
"individuality" is not in the German text, which speaks of nationalen
Eigenart, i.e., peculiarities, which is far from being the same thing.
 Verhandlungen des Gesamtparteitages in Brünn, 1899.
 See Proceedings of the Brünn Social-Democratic Party Congress.
 See Chapter II of the Manifesto of the Communist Party by Karl
Marx and Frederick Engels.
 The Vienna Congress (or Wimberg Congress – after the name of the
hotel in which it met) of the Austrian Social-Democratic Party was
held June 6-12 1897.
 See K. Marx, "The Jewish Question," 1906.
 The reference is to an article by Karl Marx entitled "Zur
Judenfrage" ("The Jewish Question"), published in 1844 in the Deutsch-
 See K. Kautsky, "The Kishinev Pogrom and the Jewish Question,"
 See Forms of the National Movement, etc., edited by Kastelyansky.
 See Minutes of the Second Congress.
 The Eighth Congress of the Bund was held in September 1910 in
 Report of the Eighth Conference of the Bund, 1911, p. 62.
 See Nasha Zarya, No. 9-10, 1912, p. 120.
 In an article entitled "Another Splitters' Conference," published
in the newspaper Za Partiyu, October 2 (15) 1912, G. V. Plekhanov
condemned the "August" Conference of the Liquidators and described the
stand of the Bundists and Caucasian Social-Democrats as an adaptation
of socialism to nationalism. Kossovsky, leader of the Bundists,
criticized Plekhanov in a letter to the Liquidators' magazine Nasha
 See Concerning National Autonomy and the Reorganizatzon of
Russian Social-Democracy on a Federal Basis, 1902, published by the
 Nashe Slovo, No. 3, Vilno, 1906, p. 24.
 Iskra (The Spark) – The first all-Russian illegal Marxist
newspaper founded by V. I. Lenin in 1900.
 See the words quoted from a brochure by Karl Vanek in Dokumente
des Separatismus, p. 29. Karl Vanek was a Czech Social-Democrat who
took an openly chauvinist and separatist stand.
 See the Georgian newspaper Chveni Tskhovreba (Our Life), No. 12,
1912. Chveni Tskhovreba was a daily paper published by the Georgian
Mensheviks in Kutais from July 1 to 22 1912.
 See the Georgian newspaper Chveni Tskhovreba, No. 12, 1912.
 Nasha Zarya, No. 9-10, 1912, p. 120.
 See Nashe SIovo, No. 8, 1906, p. 53.
 The reference is to the first Balkan War, which broke out in
October 1912 between Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece and Montenegro on the
one hand, and Turkey on the other.
 See his Der Arbeiter und die Nation, 1912.
 See the resolutions of the Fourth (the "Third All-Russian")
Conference of the R.S.D.L.P., held November 5-12 1907, and of the
Fifth (the "All-Russian 1908") Conference of the R.S.D.L.P., held
December 21-27 1908 (January 3-9 1909). (See Resolutions and Decisions
of the C.P.S.U.(B.) Congresses, Conferences and Central Committee
Plenums, Vol. 1, 6th Russ. ed., 1940, pp. 118-31.)
 E. J. Jagiello – A member of the Polish Socialist Party (P.P.S.)
was elected to the Fourth State Duma for Warsaw as a result of a bloc
formed by the Bund, the Polish Socialist Party and the bourgeois
nationalists against the Polish Social-Democrats. By a vote of the
seven Menshevik Liquidators against the six Bolsheviks, the Social-
Democratic group in the Duma adopted a resolution that Jagiello be
accepted as a member of the group.