Nationalism and Internationalism

  • Robert X. Ware
Part of the Marx, Engels, and Marxisms book series (MAENMA)


Marx was an internationalist, who believed in the primacy of the productive forces and the centrality of class struggle. He wrote little directly on nations and nationality, but what he did write was with clarity and common sense. His most widely quoted passages, unfortunately, have been mistranslated and misinterpreted. Interpreters’ confusions about internationalism, universalism, the state, and globalization continue to affect the understanding of nationalism in Marx’s work and elsewhere.

For Marx, nations were important in capitalism and in transitional societies and would be in future communism. Some aspects of nations were made explicit by Marx, while others clearly fit his developed ideas. There is no reason to think that Marx would expect people to abandon their nation and nationality in seeking communism.


  1. Note: References to the work of Frederick Engels and Karl Marx are from Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, Collected Works. 50 Volumes, 1975–2004. New York, NY: International Publishers. (Referred to in text as “MECW” with volume and page).Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, Benedict. 1991. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Rev. ed. London, UK: Verso.Google Scholar
  3. Anderson, Kevin B. 2010. Marx at the Margins: On Nationalism, Ethnicity, and Non-Western Societies. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barry, Brian. 1987. Nationalism. In The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Political Thought, ed. David Miller, 352–354. Oxford, UK: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  5. Benner, Erica. 1995. Really Existing Nationalisms: A Post-Communist View from Marx and Engels. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  6. Chatterjee, Partha. 1995. The Nation and Its Fragments. New Delhi, India: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Cocks, Joan. 1997. Touché! Marx on Nations and Nationalism. Socialism and Democracy 11 (2): 47–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cohen, G.A. 2001 [1978]. Karl Marx’s Theory of History: A Defence. Expanded ed. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Published in 1978 by Oxford University Press).Google Scholar
  9. Connor, Walker. 1984. The National Question in Marxist-Leninist Theory and Strategy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Couture, Jocelyne, Kai Nielsen, and Michel Seymour, eds. 1998. Rethinking Nationalism. Supplementary Volume 23 of Canadian Journal of Philosophy. Calgary, AB: University of Calgary Press.Google Scholar
  11. Davidson, Basil. 1992. The Black Man’s Burden: Africa and the Curse of the Nation-State. New York, NY: Times Books.Google Scholar
  12. Davies, Norman. 2012. Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe. London, UK: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  13. Elster, Jon. 1985. Making Sense of Marx. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press and Paris, France: Editions de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme.Google Scholar
  14. Forman, Michael. 1999. Engels’s Internationalism and Theory of the Nation. In Engels after Marx, ed. Manfred B. Steger and Terrell Carver, 233–251. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Greenfeld, Liah. 1992. Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Jangam, Chinnaiah. 2017. Dalits and the Making of Modern India. New Delhi, India: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Kain, Philip J. 1993. Marx and Modern Political Theory: From Hobbes to Contemporary Feminism. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.Google Scholar
  18. Löwy, Michael. 1989. Revolution Today: Aspirations and Realities. In Socialist Register, 1989, ed. Ralph Miliband, Leo Panitch, and John Saville. London: The Merlin Press.Google Scholar
  19. ———. 1993. Why Nationalism? In Real Problems; False Solutions (Socialist Register 1993), ed. Ralph Miliband and Leo Panitch. London, UK: The Merlin Press.Google Scholar
  20. Mamdani, Mahmoud. 1996. From Conquest to Consent as the Basis of State Formation: Reflections on Rwanda. New Left Review 216: 3–36.Google Scholar
  21. Miller, David. 1995. On Nationality. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  22. Munck, Ronaldo. 1986. The Difficult Dialogue: Marxism and Nationalism. London, UK: Zed Books.Google Scholar
  23. Nielsen, Kai. 1998. Socialism and Nationalism. Imprint 2 (3): 208–222.Google Scholar
  24. Nimni, Ephraim. 1991. Marxism and Nationalism: Theoretical Origins of a Political Crisis. London, UK: Pluto Press.Google Scholar
  25. Purvis, Trevor. 1996. Marxism and the Problem of the Nation. Socialist Studies Bulletin 44. Winnipeg, MB: Society for Socialist Studies.Google Scholar
  26. Stein, Philip. 1994. Siqueiros: His Life and Works. New York, NY: International Publishers.Google Scholar
  27. Sypnowich, Christine. 1996. Equality and Nationality. Politics and Society 24 (2): 93–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Szporluk, Roman. 1988. Communism and Nationalism: Karl Marx Versus Friedrich List. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Szymanski, Albert. 1983. Class Structure: A Critical Perspective. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.Google Scholar
  30. van der Linden, Harry. 1996. Marx’s Political Universalism. Topoi 15: 235–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Ware, Robert. 1992. Marx on Some Phases of Communism. In On the Track of Reason: Essays in Honor of Kai Nielsen, ed. Rodger Beehler, David Copp, and Béla Szabados, 135–153. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  32. ———. 1998. Nations and Social Complexity. In Rethinking Nationalism, ed. Jocelyne Couture et al., 133–157. Calgary: University of Calgary Press.Google Scholar
  33. West, Lois A., ed. 1997. Feminist Nationalism. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert X. Ware
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.University of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.Carleton UniversityOttawaCanada

Personalised recommendations