Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Applying the Lessons of Lenin on National and Colonial Questions

Applying the Lessons of Lenin on National and Colonial Questions

Reaffirming the right of oppressed nations to self-determination and the world struggle against imperialism

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Editor's Note: The following address was delivered at the National Conference For a New Urgency in the Struggle for World Socialism that was held in New York City on November 13-14, 2010. The event was sponsored by Workers World Party. Azikiwe's presentation was delivered on Saturday, November 13 during the panel entitled Fighting Imperialism, Building Solidarity and Internationalism.

Since the emergence of the worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, hundreds of millions of workers and oppressed peoples throughout the world on all continents have been severely impacted. In the industrialized capitalist states, tens of millions have been thrown out of their jobs, evicted from homes and apartments, along with the blatant theft of pensions, healthcare plans, the closing of schools and slashing of public services.

In the United States, the working class had been encouraged for decades by the bourgeoisie to accept the exploitation and oppression of billions of people in the former colonial states and the emerging independent countries in exchange for higher standards of living. The notion of democracy in western capitalist states dealt exclusively with individual rights to free speech, assembly and movement, where failure to survive and prosper within society was often blamed on the working class and the poor themselves, who according to ruling class propaganda, lacked the correct values and capacity for hard work to succeed.

Yet over the last few years these assumptions have been irreparably shattered. Millions inside the U.S. and other capitalist states have found themselves unemployed and homeless despite the fact that they had worked for decades at jobs which they thought belonged to them until retirement.

As students of Marx, Lenin, and other socialist thinkers and activists, we know that the reason why wealth existed in abundance in the imperialist states is because it was extracted from the peoples of the oppressed nations as well as the workers and oppressed within the capitalist states.

Since the rise of the national liberation movements in Africa, Asia and Latin America during the period after World War II and the triumph of socialist revolutions in various countries in the developing world, the international division of economic and political power has shifted in a manner that has permanently dislodged U.S. imperialism's uncontested dominance over the international political situation.

The decline of U.S. economic power and political influence provides an excellent opportunity to advance a political program that calls for the unity of the working class in the industrialized states with both the oppressed peoples and workers of the developing regions and those held captive inside the borders of North America. This is the most effective method of combating the ruling class propaganda that seeks to promote fear and hatred of immigrants, the oppressed nations inside the U.S. and the most militant sections of the workers and the oppressed in the developing states.

Socialism, Equality and the Right of Oppressed Nations to Self-Determination

V.I. Lenin, the leader of the Russian Revolution and the founder of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), pointed out 90 years ago at the Second Congress of the Communist International in 1920 that the notion of equality cannot be stripped of its class content.

Lenin emphasized that there can be no real equality within the capitalist states--or in the imperialists' relations with the oppressed nations--without the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the establishment of a socialist society.

Lenin noted in his "Draft Theses on National and Colonial Questions" for the Second Congress of the Communist International that "In all their propaganda and agitation--both within parliament and outside it--the Communist parties must consistently expose the constant violation of the equality of nations and of the guaranteed rights of national minorities which is to be seen in all capitalist countries, despite their 'democratic' constitutions. " (Lenin, Second Congress of the Communist International, 1920)

Lenin continues by emphasizing that "It is also necessary, first, constantly to explain that only the Soviet system is capable of ensuring genuine equality of nations, by uniting first the proletarians and then the whole mass of the working population in the struggle against the bourgeoisie; and, second, that all Communist parties should render direct aid to the revolutionary movements among the dependent and underprivileged nations (for example, Ireland, the American Negroes, etc.) and in the colonies."

According to Lenin, anything short of taking a firm position upholding the right of oppressed nations to self-determination leads to opportunism and failure. He says that "Without the latter condition, which is particularly important, the struggle against the oppression of dependent nations and colonies, as well as recognition of their right to secede, are but a false signboard, as is evidenced by the parties of the Second International."

Imperialism in the Horn of Africa: A Case in Point

The role of the U.S. in Somalia and throughout the Horn of Africa provides us with another example of how imperialism continues to seek dominance over the peoples of this region. Under the guise of fighting terrorism and piracy, the Pentagon has proped-up the puppet Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu and placed flotillas of warships in the Gulf of Aden.

This is why we oppose the military build-up in the Horn of Africa because it represents the continuation of the same imperialist policy of seeking to control and exploit the resources of the continent and its waterways. As a result of U.S. policy in the region, resistance movements have arose which are fighting against the U.S. surrogates who have been incapable of defeating the people of this oppressed and exploited nation.

The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) having failed to place its headquarters on the continent, now seeks to work with various regional bodies ostensibly to provide logistical support aimed at greater security and political stability. Nonetheless, the real reason behind the increasing military role of the U.S. in Africa derives directly from the growing dependence of imperialism on the oil and other strategic minerals that are indispensable to the world capitalist system.

However, these imperialist methods of penetration and occupation will fail as the workers and the oppressed become more conscious and active in their struggle for national liberation and socialism. Our job in the U.S. is to effectively build solidarity with the peoples around the world fighting imperialism with the peoples inside the industrialized states that are struggling to overcome national oppression and class exploitation.

Implications for the National Question in the U.S. and the Struggle for Socialism

We must view the results of the recent midterm elections as an opening to advance our political program for jobs, housing, healthcare, quality education and the realization of a socialist society. The oppressed people of color communities, women and the working class as a whole are looking for alternatives to the ruling class two-party political system.

Just as the African Americans, Latino/as, Natives, Asians, Muslims, LGBTQ communities, People With Disabilities, seniors, youth and others have chosen in the past to vote for Democratic candidates for national office as an act of self-determination within the electoral process, these same oppressed nations and communities of the working class can also decide--as an act of self-determination--not to vote for the Democrats whose leadership has failed to work toward improving the concrete conditions of the people.

Our task in this period is to expose the sharpening contradictions within the capitalist system worldwide. In addition, we must organize the workers and the poor around the demands for jobs, housing, universal healthcare and quality education.

In order to win these demands and to consolidate their implementation, we must build the revolutionary party of the working class and the oppressed. Our party must place the interests of the workers and the oppressed at the center of all theory and practice.

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