Links 13: Editor's introduction

Socialism and nationalism

Over the last year, events have provided almost daily reminders of the persistence of nationalism and the national question as topics of central importance for socialists and, indeed, for all political forces. Around the world, national liberation struggles and national conflicts pose sharp questions for the working-class movement.

This issue explores the national question in a range of countries and a number of different aspects. Norm Dixon opens with an overview of the way in which Marx, Engels and Lenin handled the national question, beginning with the bourgeois revolutions of 1848 in Europe. The article, based on a talk to an educational conference of the Democratic Socialist Party in Australia, then describes the development of the modern Marxist theory of nationalism by the Bolsheviks under Lenin's leadership.

One section of Dixon's article describes Marx and Engels' views on the Irish question. In this issue of Links, an interview with Bernadette McAliskey reminds us both how much and how little have changed in the subsequent century and a quarter. McAliskey is known as among the most trenchant critics of the "peace process" in Northern Ireland. In reality, she says, this is "a pacification process not a resolution of conflict It is the same agenda the British created in 1972. Its purpose was to demoralise, demobilise and demilitarise the resistance movement."

The recent "border war" between Indian and Pakistani armies in Kashmir relates to a case of national oppression, knowledge of which has largely been suppressed by the two governments and the world's big media. Farooq Sulehria provides the background to the struggle of the people of the region and calls for the right to self-determination for the people of Jammu-Kashmir.

The national struggle of the ethnically Albanian people of Kosova and NATO's war against Serbia produced sharply divergent analyses and positions in different left and socialist organisations around the world. In “National oppression and the collapse of Yugoslavia”, Michael Karadjis traces the gradual disintegration of the hopes for a free and equal federation of Yugoslav nations, which burned brightly at the time of the triumph of Tito's Communist partisans in 1945. In particular, he documents the Milosevic regime's use of national chauvinism as a cover for its privatisation of the previously nationalised Serbian economy.

Relations and the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority were widely expected to improve after the election of Ehud Barak as Israeli prime minister. But writing from the West Bank, Adam Hanieh describes a mood of disillusionment among ordinary Palestinians. The left, he writes, has failed to provide an alternative political leadership to the Palestinian Authority. “At no critical juncture has there been any attempt by the left to mobilise the population independently of the PA. For this reason, the opposition role has fallen to the Islamist movement.”

Also in this issue, we continue coverage of developments in the Philippine left, printing the program of the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa (MP), one of the parties emerging from the break-up of the Communist Party of the Philippines, and a major part of the program of the Socialist Party of Labour, formed by the fusion of socialists coming from both pro-Moscow and pro-Beijing traditions.

Previous issues have welcomed the decision of the Labour Party of Pakistan to participate in the Links project. In this issue, the LPP’s Farooq Sulehria provides a brief overview of the long and chequered history of the Pakistani left.

Two reviews take up topics of debate in the Marxist movement. Trotsky's Theory of Permanent Revolution: A Leninist Critique is favourably reviewed by John Nebauer. The author of that book, Links Editorial Board member Doug Lorimer, in turn provides a polemical review criticising the views propounded in Michael Löwy's Fatherland or Mother Earth? Essays on the National Question.

It is obvious, despite the range of material on socialism and the national question in this issue, that there are vast areas of this topic that are not even touched on. We hope that coming issues will continue to provide both articles on particular national struggles and discussions or debates on the theoretical and political issues involved.