Re: [OPE] Marx on international relations

Date: Thu May 22 2008 - 05:54:23 EDT


sorry for the delay. I do not any argument for "non-historic nations"
in its normative sense either in Hegel or in Engels. The point that
Marx and Engels make in their early years is directed against
protectionism. They want to see that all barriers are removed so that
capitalism develop globally as soon as possible that people can see its
consequences. The quotation from Engels' "Revolution and Counter
Revolution in Germany" refers to a particular concept of history or
rather to the progress in history. In that Engels follows Hegel in
saying that those nations that start a new epoch in history make the
history. All other nations follow this history. This does not mean that
they are insignificant in history or they do not have a history. As to
Roman Rosdolsky: I agree with you that he did not have as much
sources as we have and that he is a good scholar. But there is no
evidence that Engels actually used the term "non-historic nations".
What Engels
refers to below in the quotation is that these nations have always been
dominated by other nations and some of them may be assimilated into
greater nations. I do not see any racist sense in these assertions. 

I agree with you what you say about Israel and so on and I am a passionate supporter of Palestinian case.




-----Original Message-----
From: Jurriaan Bendien <>
To: Outline on Political Economy mailing list <>
Sent: Wed, 14 May 2008 22:18
Subject: [OPE] Marx on international relations


Roman Rosdolsky was a reputable Marx-scholar - 
of course, he?published mainly in the 1950s and 1960s and now we have more 
sources, data and evidence to refer to.

The concept of "nations without a history" originated in Hegel's 
philosophy of history. For example, Hegel argues:

"Where that iron bondage of distinctions derived from nature prevails, 
the connection of society is nothing but wild arbitrariness, - transient 
activity, - or rather the play of violent emotion without any goal of 
advancement or development. Therefore no intelligent reminiscence, no object for 
Mnemosyne presents itself; and imagination - confused though profound - 
expatiates in a region, which, to be capable of History, must have had an aim 
within the domain of Reality, and, at the same time , of substantial Freedom."


In his famous 1849?article, Engels argues that:

"We repeat: 
apart from the Poles, the Russians, and at most the Turkish Slavs, no Slav 
people has a future, for the simple reason that all the other Slavs lack the 
primary historical, geographical, political and industrial conditions for 
independence and viability. Peoples which have never had a history of their own, 
which from the time when they achieved the first, most elementary stage of 
civilization already came under foreign sway, or which were forced to attain the 
first stage of civilization only by means of a foreign yoke, are not viable and 
will never be able to achieve any kind of independence. And that has been the 
fate of the Austrian Slavs. The Czechs, among whom we would include the 
Moravians and Slovaks, although they differ in respect of language and history, 
have never had a history of their own. Bohemia has been chained to Germany since 
the time of Charles the Great. The Czech nation freed itself momentarily and 
formed the Great-Moravian state, only immediately to come under subjugation 
again and for 500 years to be a bill thrown from one to another by Germany, 
Hungary and Poland. Following that, Bohemia and Moravia passed definitely to 
Germany and the Slovak regions remained with Hungary. And this historically 
absolutely non-existent "nation" puts forward claims to independence? The same 
thing holds for the Southern Slavs proper. Where is the history of the Illyrian 
Solvenes, the Dalmatians, Croats and Shokazians?


Roman Rosdolsky?provides a careful evidence-based argument in his book 
to show?that Engels was simply wrong about all?that - effectively, it 
is a sort of racist victimisation?really. 


A modern example would be how the racist Zionist state in 
Israel?regards the Palestinian people explicitly?as a "people without 
a history", who can just be "bulldozered away" where necessary. The racist US 
government endorses this idea in practice, and oppresses the Palestinian people, 
by requiring them to give all kinds of guarantees "as if they were an 
independent state" even although the whole point is that?they are not an 
independent state. America stands for the slavery of the Palestinian people to 
Zionist requirements. Zionism is of course incompatible with a written 
constitution and a citizens'?bill of rights, because it is a doctrine of 
racial privilege enforced by terrorists, gangsters, trash?and riffraff. An 
Israeli (a racist Jew) by definition does not acknowledge equal rights for all 
citizens. His identity depends on the denial of those equal rights, on the 
assertion of a racial state.? Marx had no real sympathy for Jewish 
nationalism, arguing that the real question was about social, economic?and 
civil equality.

There are various indications particularly?in the earlier?M&E 
writings that they thought that the identity of some ethnic groupings would be 
more or less "swept away" or assimilated?in the course of capitalist 
modernisation, but also that some nationalisms were just totally obscure 
reactionary?and nonsensical. A great national liberation movement in 
M&E's eyes?might spawn all kinds of other movements seeking to imitate 
it, but these other movements might be really rather nutty and superficial, 
rather than based on any profound and genuine shared experience. In other words, 
a group of people might?raise the "slogan" of nationalism, but this 
nationalism was not rooted in any profound shared historical experience, 
and?lacked a genuine shared spirituality animating?its culture. Some 
nationalist movements embodied human?progress, but others were more an 
obstacle to human progress, or an anachronism.


Roman Rosdolsky suggests however?that Engels's sweeping 
generalisations could very be harmful from the point of view of human 
emancipation from oppressive conditions, and that they traverse a very tricky 
area in which not generalities are of importance, but rather a very specific 
knowledge of a culture, its history and its political dynamics. Just as with 
religion, nationalist sentiment is an area into which all kinds of different 
political and power relations can be "projected", and therefore it is very 
important to try and understand the true "meaning" (significance)?that is 
behind the expressions which an ethnic groups gives to its culture.


In defence of Marx & Engels, however, in?their later 
years,?they seemed to become?more sensitive or sympathetic?to the 
way in which an oppressed or alienated?group can cling tenaciously?to 
a national/cultural identity which, although it might not make much sense from a 
practical or business point of view, contains the meaning of a dignified life to 
be lived,?defended in spite of?a history of oppression by others. This 
kind of thinking implies that an ethnic?group could form a common identity, 
not because they had anything very special in common to start off with, but 
rather because they were systematically negated as a group, i.e. its identity 
would be formed negatively,?in reaction to oppression. ?





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