Nationalism in the ‘Second World’

  • James G. Kellas


Perhaps the biggest surprise for students of nationalism in recent years has been the sudden upsurge of ethnic nationalism in communist states, especially in the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. In the space of a few years, nationalist movements have arisen in several areas, and considerable ethnic violence has occurred. All this seems incompatible with the philosophy and practice of communism, in which nationalism is supposed to disappear, to be replaced by patriotism and ‘proletarian internationalism’ (see Connor, 1984). The complexities of Marxism need not detain us here, but the failure of Marxism to understand nationalism is significant. Marx and Engels predicted that national boundaries would, like the state, under socialism wither away, to be replaced by the solidarity across the nations of working people. Lenin espoused the doctrine of national self-determination when nationalism appeared to be stronger than socialism in defeating the Russian Empire. Once established, the Soviet Union was to suppress the nationalist movements within it which were seeking independence from Russia, but it did grant a sort of federal system with republics constituted along the lines of ‘nationality’. National liberation movements abroad were supported wherever capitalist empires were the object of attack.


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© James G. Kellas 1991

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  • James G. Kellas

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