Dialectical relationship between internationalism and class struggle

Article of RCWP

Working people of Russia have been under relentless pressure of bourgeoisie since several years.

Federal law №350 increasing the age of retirement was adopted in 2018. According to the old rules that were in effect since Soviet times, men could go on retirement on reaching the age of 60, whereas women could retire on reaching 55. Now the age of retirement is 65 for men, and 60 for women. Bourgeois regime is in a hurry to introduce these “reforms”, to adopt as many anti workers laws as possible till the working people of Russia come to learn how to organize themselves and act jointly under the modern conditions. In the summer of 2018 there took place a number of protest activities across the country, still these actions (those were predominantly meetings and pickets) didn’t have enough participants, they were not properly organized and the demands were not radical enough to make the ruling circles give up their plans regarding their pension reform.

Russian bourgeoisie attacks some other rights of workers as well. Increase of salaries lags behind the inflation. In many enterprises extra working hours are not remunerated at a special increased rate as they should, many “employers” save on safety means.

Official politics aimed at “reforming” accessible, free of charge public healthcare represents yet another blow to the living conditions of workers. Medical staff is being cut, hospitals in smaller towns are closed. Everywhere working people have been denied the opportunity to get accessible quality medical care.

In a number of instances working class rejected to silently put up with the advance of the ruling class. Workers when showing organization managed to achieve partial fulfillment of their demands.

For example in 2019 in some regions of Russia ambulance crews staged “Italian strikes” because they have to work under conditions of salary delays, low wages, extra working hours, understaffed crews and outsourcing of drivers. In several towns of Russia, i.e.in Mozhaisk (Moscow Region), Togliatti (Samara Region), Gagarin (Smolensk Region) and some other towns, medics managed to defend their lawful rights for decent conditions of work and wages.

In July 2019 crane operators in Kazan carried out organized strike that resulted in their victory.

We can also recall some other successful actions by workers that can be used as an example for Russian proletariat.

Still workers in many other enterprises across the country haven’t yet realized the necessity of unity to struggle for their basic rights and they don’t react to the actions of bourgeoisie and the discriminatory politics of the state towards workers.

We can see that in other countries the desire of workers for unification to fight for their basic interests hasn’t yet reached the level when we can talk about a strategic victory over capitalism. Quit the opposite – we can see that across the border capitalists violated the rights of working people as well. Workers reacted with strikes and other forms of resistance. Some of those actions can serve good examples for proletariat across the world. The victory of Finnish postal service employees who held their strike in November 2019, was possible due to the wave of solidarity demonstrated by workers from other branches of industry. Workers in this case showed that when united they turn into a big force. Workers of Greece in the same year fought against yet another attack of multinational corporations, for example against anti workers initiatives of COSCO corporation and the Union of Greek industrialists – SEB. In the end of 2019 many thousands of working people of France carried out mass actions of protest all over the country and achieved that the government gave up some of the plans to deteriorate legislation on retirement. These are only few examples among hundreds and thousands of cases when capitalists were repelled by organized workers.

Nevertheless, modern struggle of workers both in Russia and in other countries is not yet directed at the basics of bourgeois rule. Meanwhile strikes and other mass actions by working people have not yet reached the level when the goal is not just an improvement of workers’ conditions within the framework of capitalism, but when the workers strive to overturn capitalist rule and establish socialism, even in the cases, when such actions demonstrate high degree of class organization. Bearing in mind class struggle, we can characterize modern period as the period of accumulation of powers by proletariat, the search for new ways and methods of association. There is no country in the world where resolute class battles have been fought now. Nowhere capitalism is being challenged radically as a social-political standing order. Even in those countries where the vanguard of working class has managed to establish strong and disciplined communist parties, e.g. in Greece and Turkey, they still have to involve into socialist struggle the majority of working masses and to persuade them that active actions are indispensable. In Russia and in many other countries worldwide the situation is as follows: communist parties, even those that exist long and even were not affected by the maladies of opportunism and revisionism, that correctly understand and reflect in their publications the current situation and that contribute a lot of effort into agitation and propaganda of Marxist ideas among workers, remain small and unfamiliar in the midst of their class. This situation shouldn’t be viewed as a defeat, but should demonstrate our understanding that communists have a lot of organizational and ideological work ahead of us that should take into account both international trends as well as local circumstances.

Enemies of the working class for several decades have been trying to explain this worldwide trend by stipulating that communism has been finished, that those ideas were just a fad of the XX Century and wouldn’t be able to conquer masses again. Nevertheless, communists understand that history evolves by cycles and its trajectory is spiral shaped.

We are sure that the temporary retreat of communist ideas in the minds of proletariat is rooted in the changing economical processes. In the countries of USSR and Eastern Europe this process has been moving for 30 years in the direction of deindustrialization and adaptation to the requirements of the worldwide market. This in turn, has changed both composition and structure of the working class.

For example in Russia in the beginning of 90-ies there came to power forces that rejected collective property on the means of production and cancelled the state monopoly on international trade. Multinational corporations were given unlimited access to all local markets. Production ties between enterprises were severed. All this led to shrinking of production, to closure and to conversion of thousands of enterprises. Millions of qualified workers found themselves not demanded by the market and had to find other jobs. Modern plants went broke and their newly redundant labour force filled in positions in many small enterprises in the fields of service, trade, transport. A whole army of unemployed appeared. As early as in 1992 70% of Russian population were below the poverty level. The processes of enterprises’ privatization and their constant tuning to the requirements of global markets the processes that had stretched over decades, led workers to the lack of confidence. Many citizens of formerly developed industrial regions in search of jobs had to move to other locations, like megacities and even abroad. Similar trends could be observed then in all the republics of USSR and in Eastern Europe.

By now, these countries have integrated into the global market, while acquiring economic dependence on dominating centers of imperialism.

Russia has also become partially dependent and lost whole branches of industry (manufacturing of electronics, pharmaceuticals and other hi-tech branches) while adopting the role of carbohydrates’ supplier.

Thus, in Russia and in many of its neighbours there took place the change of economics to suite the requirements of the global market, this process taking place along with the transfer of industry to less developed countries with cheaper labour. This process contributed to the fact that the formerly united, qualified and experienced proletariat was disorganized and demoralized. The flows of migrants started. In modern Russia for example, there can be observed outflow of labour force to Europe and North America, whereas simultaneously there is an influx of workers from Central Asia, Ukraine, Moldova and Caucasus republics. Statistics tells us that only in the first half of 2019 there arrived in Russia some 2,4 million migrant workers. According to our data Russian working class counts around 77 million people, 10% of this labour force is represented by migrants.[1]

Changing of social production in a number of Russian regions to integrate it into the global market led to the annihilation of local agriculture as a branch. As the result of dismantling socialism and introducing private property (privatization) many enterprises were either closed down, or changed their specialization and output volume. Due to these and some other factors internal migration has increased to colossal proportions. This could be understood by observing the death of remote regions accompanied by booming metropolises. These processes have led to a significant mixture of nationalities in the cities and in working enterprises that in turn has been accompanied by conflicts between different nationalities, as national “elites” started to compete for the resources. Workers also compete between each other whereas nationalistic feelings of native-born workers are manifested when the migrant workers are ready to work for lower wages.

For example in 2013 in Moscow district of Biryulevo-West a crime (murder) gave start to mass pogroms of migrants organized by nationalists. There were several such accidents in the last years.

Such events were possible because proletariat is disunited and doesn’t have modern experience in its confrontation with bourgeoisie. Workers haven’t yet understood that only the unity of workers of all nations will bring forward the victory over capitalism.

The complexity of workers’ class unification in each case can be conditioned by the presence of various national groups involved in public production, whereas there is not yet established contacts, necessary for successful joint class struggle.

Under these circumstances traditional organizations of working class that could channel the protest of workers against their real enemy, the capital, proved to be incapable to act in modern conditions. Trade union movement in modern Russia as well as in some other countries has to establish itself once again as in the beginning of the XX century.

National issue turns actual again also due to aggravation of the contradictions within the old unresolved national conflicts.

Capitalists of different nations are united within their corporations against workers and they try to introduce dissent among workers based on national grounds. Still, similar to the last century in cases of serious conflicts the society is polarized based on its class structure and not according to its national composition. Capital has to go out of its way and to use uninterrupted brainwashing by mainstream media to ensure constant flow of nationalistic propaganda and civilizational approach aimed at workers and intended to limit their struggle within said limits.

Thus, National issue turns actual again also due to aggravation of the contradictions within the old unresolved national conflicts.

We should also add that Russian Communist Workers Party and Russian United Labour Front always provide both organizational and information support to struggling workers regardless their origin.

National issue and tactics of communists

When talking about nations one has to give a definition for this term first. In this article we use the definition by I.V. Stalin as it is not only based on scientific theory, but was also developed in the course of practical solutions of national issues. It’s important to mention, that after the book with this definition had been published, the application of this definition as well as the use of the accompanying argumentation allowed finding the most historically convenient solutions in each particular case, these solutions to be for the benefit of working classes.

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” (I.V. Stalin. Marxism and the National Question, Works, vol. 2, page 296)

Solution of any national question always has its complexities. Within the framework of capitalist standing order nations were not only formed, they were also entangled in a number of contradictions, these contradictions to be either insoluble, or to be resolved in the most difficult, or even bloody ways. Thus, communists don’t have and cannot have any universal solution, or a set of solutions for all situations that might arise. Still there are general approaches based on Marxist-Leninist science to resolve such issues.

These issues can be divided into several groups.

One group of issues refers to the countries where there has been decided the question of splitting multinational state into national ones (or already decided), or to the countries where multinational character of sate is retained – USSR, Yugoslavia, Georgia, Spain, (Catalonia, Basque Country) Great Britain (Scotland, Northern Ireland), Ukraine (Crimea, republics of Donbass).

Another group of issues refers to national minorities that are in search of self-identification and try to establish their autonomies and even independent states. These are Kurds, Russians and Gagauz in Moldavia, Russians and Tartars in Crimea. We should mention that we should consider such situations with caution, while always taking into account the alignment of class forces in the given region.

Each of these situations and groups has its unique features. Still, the basic rules that communist should focus upon every time they analyze given contradictions, can be of help for them to choose the most appropriate tactics. The priority of class struggle by proletariat, aiming at preparation of organizational and ideological preconditions for unification of proletarians and organizing them into a class capable of carrying out revolutionary transition from capitalism to socialism are the main issues that cannot be forgotten or neglected when facing any problem, associated with nations. That is communists always and everywhere in each country and when solving any question (national issue included) perform common task, still taking into account peculiarities of each country.

First of all when solving the issue of relation between internationalism and class struggle, communists must have materialistic understanding of history and adhere to the concept of dialectical nature of any movement, development and changes in means and relations of production in a given region and worldwide. One should take into consideration the fact that all occurrences of social life are interrelated, interdependent and have the history of their appearance, movement, development and changes, whereas in the course of the said history an occurrence could change both quantitatively and qualitatively and that the changes in political and economic conditions could lead to the rejection of its initial nature and even its initial essence. It’s also essential to remember that any occurrence considered is in the process of becoming right now. Here it is vital to consider and understand all the trends of economic situation and political history, even those trends that are yet hidden. When choosing their tactics communists should take into consideration all the current and latent political conflicts, all conflicts of interests of present classes and their subdivisions that have arisen in the course of economic development.

Such approach rules out thoughtless copying and repetition of methods. A correct conclusion made under concrete conditions might prove to be fundamentally wrong under different historical circumstances in case that conclusion was mechanically used as a universal solution.

Historically the appearance of nations was determined by the emerging capitalist social-economic formation. Basic principle of Marxism extrapolated to human society and its history reads as follows:

The mode of material life production determines social, political and spiritual process of life in general. Consciousness of people doesn’t determined their being, vice versa – their social being determines their consciousness” (K. Marx. To the critic of political economy. Foreword. 2nd edition of works, vol.13, p.6-7)

Historical materialism was the first system that gave opportunity to study social conditions of the life of masses and the changes of these conditions, these studies to be carried out with the precision characteristic for natural sciences. Marxism gave way to exhaustive understanding of the emergence, development and decline of social-economic formations while considering the complex of all contradictory trends and linking them all to precisely defined conditions of lives and production by various classes of society. This approach allows eliminating subjectivism and arbitrariness when choosing “dominating” ideas or when interpreting them. This method reveals the roots of all ideas without exception and all the trends pertaining to productive forces. People create their history themselves, still it was Marx who focused his attention on what actually determines the reasons of people, exactly of the masses of people, what causes the clashes between contradictory ideas and aspirations, what is the summary result of these clashes between all human societies, what are objective conditions of material life production that create the basis of the whole historical activities of people, what are the rules for these conditions’ development.

Nations belong to social-political superstructure that depends on changes of productive forces and the relations of production. Therefore, the changes in economic base bring forward the changes of the whole system of social-economic and social-political relations in given society, the changes of its class structure as well as the nature of the class struggle between new classes. V.I. Lenin demonstrated this as follows:

…It is well known that aspirations of certain members of given society contradict the aspirations of other members, that social life is full of contradictions, that history shows us the struggle between peoples and societies as well as the struggle inside them, that the periods of revolutions and reaction, the periods of war and peace, the periods of stagnation or progress or decline follow each other. Marxism gave the direction line that allows revealing the rule in this seeming chaotic labyrinth – the theory of class struggle. Only by studying the complex of the aspirations by all society’s members, or by a group of societies, one can scientifically determine the result of these aspirations. Only the difference in status and in conditions of life between the classes that constitute the society is the source of contradicting aspirations". (V.I. Lenin. Collected works, Vol. 26, p.58, “Karl Marx (Short biographical sketch with presentation of Marxism’s basics)")

Now we can see that historical-materialistic approach to the issues of nation is a tool that naturally gives us the most prospective practical result when applied correctly.

Thus, we are now in a position to articulate the basic theoretical concepts that should be applied by communists when solving the problem of ratio between internationalism and class struggle in any concrete situation.

  1. All activities by communists should be aimed at achieving the nearest strategic goal, rallying of proletariat into revolutionary class, overturning of domination by bourgeoisie, conquering of political power by proletariat;
  2. As the mode of material life production determines social, political and spiritual processes, one should take into consideration the character of the base and the superstructure as well as the peculiarities of their establishment.
  3. One should take into consideration the character and peculiarities of economic and political relations between classes as well as the features of their becoming in each concrete case.

Concrete principles ensuing from basic theoretical concepts

Throughout their history Bolsheviks elaborated a number of basic rules that are important for a number of reasons: first - as an example of solving national questions, second – under basic historical conditions unchanged they are still applicable now.

The first principle we ae talking about is the right of nations for self-determination, up to the freedom of separation. This principle presumes unconditional equality of all nations in state as well as unconditional preservation of all national minorities’ rights, introduction of extensive self-government, granting of autonomy for national regions. Principled position of V.I. Lenin and his companions in arms in regards to the separation of Poland and Finland from Russia can be used as a practical example. Still we should understand that when championing the right of nation for self-determination, communists have always to analyze what particular solution of this issue would be most beneficial for the development of workers’ movement in this country. That is, it is possible to stand for the right of nation for separation while calling upon workers to decide so that the issue should be resolved while focusing on class priorities. .

The second important conclusion to be made from the experience of Bolsheviks is their adamant adherence to internationalism and their constant struggle against any manifestations of bourgeois nationalism, either quite obvious or disguised. For example both V.I. Lenin and I.V. Stalin used to ruthlessly criticize the concept of “national-cultural autonomy”, that presumes conjunction of proletariat and bourgeoisie belonging to the same nation within the framework of some structures inevitably led by bourgeoisie. It’s important to mention that this slogan also contributed to the division of proletarians of different nations.

In his work “The draft of the platform for the 4th Congress of social democracy in Latvian region” (V.I. Lenin collected works vol. 23 p. 209-210) Lenin stated that Bolsheviks don’t stand for national culture, as they stand for international culture that takes parts from each national culture, i.e. their consequently socialistic and democratic parts. The slogan of “national-cultural autonomy” deceives workers by the ghost of national cultural unity, whereas meanwhile bourgeois or petty bourgeois “culture” actually dominates in every nation. Bolsheviks on the other hand stand for international culture of thoroughly democratic and socialist proletariat.

The unity of workers of all nationalities under conditions of absolute equality of each nationality and the most consequent democracy of the state – this is our slogan as well as the slogan of the whole international revolutionary social-democracy” (V.I. Lenin collected works vol. 23 p. 209-210 - “The draft of the platform for the 4th Congress of social democracy in Latvian region”)

Further on, while presenting the international approach in more detail, Bolsheviks articulated the concept of the equality of nations: there shouldn’t be any privileges for any nation, for any language, nations should have a possibility for self-determination by democratic ways, laws should be adopted that forbid any sort of national discrimination.

Proletarian internationalism presumes the unity of workers belonging to all nations, their cohesion in all workers’ organizations – as opposed to bourgeois nationalism. Only the workers that are united this way can defend their democracy and resist capital that turns more international itself.

Important feature of Lenin’s national politics was understanding of the fact that some elements of democratic and socialist culture can be found in any national culture as in every nation there are working and exploited mass, whose conditions of life inevitably give birth to democratic and socialist ideology. Vice versa: in every nation there exists bourgeois, usually dominating culture that reflects the world views of not only bourgeoisie but that of the clerics as well. When putting forward the slogan of international culture, communists take from every culture only its democratic and socialist elements as opposed to bourgeois culture, bourgeois nationalism.

The creation of brotherly state of working people – the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was the embodiment of his genuine revolution in national politics. In several years after the October Revolution there sprang to life a new unity composed of representatives of various nationalities that was called “Soviet people”. Bourgeois critics of national politics in USSR are based on attacks by exactly bourgeois nationalists of each nation. Sure that the bourgeois lamentations on “national” oppression in USSR are a pack of lies

In fact, in USSR there could be observed consequent suppression of nationalists by workers of all the nationalities. This is exactly the reason why capitalists so much horrified of the Soviet national politics so much dislike it. In the first socialist state, there was no separate development of each nation as it is percepted by bourgeoisie, but a peaceful, gradual, voluntary universal assimilation, this process being without any privileges and based on equality. Control of big multinational state by proletariat and its allies from other working classes proved its historical effectiveness. Now we can see that any state that is not big enough has no prospects in its standoff against world bourgeoisie united against them in case the working people of this state will act separately from the struggle of workers in other countries.

When mixing with each other within one state workers of different nationalities should champion their common international culture of proletarian movement, demonstrate tolerance in the issues of language and considering various national peculiarities. Workers have to learn recognizing even the subtlest forms of nationalistic propaganda. Any promotion of separation workers of one nation from others, any sorts of attacks against Marxist concept of voluntary “assimilation”, any contradistinction of different national cultures should be immediately recognized as bourgeois nationalism that should be fought without mercy.

In the process of solving any national issues, communists should champion the principle of consequent democracy without any limitations. Any lack of democracy in these issues can lead to defection of a number of hesitant workers to the side of nationalists that would allow bourgeoisie to exert an unlimited influence over them.

General conclusions

Modern communists have an extensive experience of struggle in the last century, the solution of national issue being allocated an important role. Nowadays the task of consolidation of working class is inevitably linked to the task of finding approach to working people of all nationalities living on a certain territory. Bourgeoisie has organized mass relocations of millions of workers, still it does everything to separate those it is going to exploit further. National diasporas often don’t allow a person to escape the influence of “his” bourgeoisie even in case of migration to another country. Building of temples of various religions and promotion of religious prejudices also hinders communication of workers outside their factories and interrupts with finding common grounds.

Being aware of all this, communists should adopt not only the experience of Bolsheviks but also establish modern international communication in order to take over from each other new effective methods of consolidation proletariat of different nationalities.

In any case, this big work cannot be carried out either excluding historical experience or without constant analysis of modern circumstances and methods.

[1] https://rkrp-rpk.ru/2019/03/14/трудовая-миграция-как-вызов-российск/