1990s >> 1994 >> no-1078-june-1994

Myths of race and nation: the case for world socialism – Part 2

It is bitterly ironical how Yugoslavia which was itself carved out of the ruins of the Austro-Hungarian Empire on the grounds of South Slav nationals self-determination, is now in the throes of bloody dismemberment to achieve the national self-determination of the Croats, Serbs and Bosnian Muslims who all speak the same language. Like in Northern Ireland an essential ingredient for the solution of internecine strife will be the throwing-off of religious beliefs which stand in the way of workers recognising their common class interests and adopting rational ways of thinking and Socialist principles. The building of the necessary consciousness would not call for the relinquishment of valid cultural differences, although once rid of the divisive factor of imposed dogma it is remarkable how similar is the traditional dress, folk-music and dance, cuisine and life-style of all the Balkan lands.


At the time when the victors of the First World War were putting an end to empires which had built up extensive economic infrastructures we Socialists pointed out the danger of the nationalistic illusions so passionately espoused by Czech, Austrian and other workers whose Social Democratic parties were rejecting the vestiges of class solidarity which had survived from the days when Marxian ideas held greater sway. Current Balkan war victims are not only paying the price of their nineteenth century nationalist assumptions which they still largely uphold but also of Lenin’s pernicious reversal of Marx’s contention that proletarians have no country to the view that workers are the only true patriots and that nation-states had a rightful place in “socialism”.


In south-eastern Europe the map is still being redrawn to conform to notions of religious and linguistic homogeneity which ill accord with social reality. Meanwhile in post-imperial Africa the former colonial borders remain sacrosanct however arbitrarily they had been established by the former imperial powers in their scramble for territory. South Africa, which comprises a multiplicity of ethnic, language and religious groups, is being lauded in its present more democratic phase as the model of possible future pluralistic societies. Zulu and Afrikaaner separatists who threaten the Republic as it exists would be given the same treatment as the Biafrans when they tried to break away from Nigeria or the Southern Sudanese who challenge the state the Khartoum government inherited from the Colonial Office in London.


A working class, united in its determination to establish a Socialist World undefiled by national frontiers, will bequeath to future generations a democratic global village in which cultural variations will be a stimulus to creativity rather than pretexts for those seeking to become a new ruling class.


Edmund Grant