The paradox of Nationalism as Internationalism from below

Barry Biddulph replies to Bob Goupillot and Allan Armstrong on communists and Scotland’s referendum.

Maclean – For a Scottish Workers’ Republic

Bob Goupillot and Allan Armstrong of the Republican Communist Network (RCN), want to create a new global order. Yet their starting point for a communist transition is a national territorial framework in general, as they acknowledge, and Scotland in particular. They argue that they are not nationalists, but internationalists, with a strategy of internationalism from below, in which small nation nationalism can be transformed into internationalism. This is a  paradox. What is their tactical and strategic standpoint? Continue reading “The paradox of Nationalism as Internationalism from below”

CWO polemic on nationalism: the road to nowhere

by David Broder

Last Saturday I had a five-hour bus journey to Manchester. It was cold, the guy sitting next to me was eating something weird, and I’d forgotten my earphones so couldn’t listen to any music.

Further misfortune struck when I received an email on my phone, bearing an attachment of the Communist Workers’ Organisation article ‘The National Question Today and the Poisonous Legacy of the Counter-revolution’.

Part of this article was a reply against my own piece ‘The Earth is not flat’. Or, to be more precise, it was supposed to be a reply to my article, but in fact neatly sidestepped my points and instead held up their programme as a shining alternative to various straw-man arguments.

Megabus-stricken on the M1, I was stuck, unable to write a reply. Instead I brimmed with injustice (and, it must be said, no little amusement) at the CWO’s polemic. But this morning I took the time to make a few comments. Continue reading “CWO polemic on nationalism: the road to nowhere”

Nationalism is not a solution.

Barry Biddulph replies to a debate on the national question

In the Earth is not Flat (see issue 14), David Broder argued that the aim of getting rid of capitalism by class struggle is too abstract in the face of some forms of nationalism. For David, nationalism which is a reaction to imperialism cannot be sidestepped or simply opposed by communism.

This seems to be the Leninist point about two kinds of nationalism:  those of oppressed, and oppressor nations. A limited extension of popular democracy or the sovereignty of an oppressed nation can be supported. Even so, David does not entirely share the orthodox Leninist position of unconditional support for the self-determination of nations. Continue reading “Nationalism is not a solution.”

the earth is not flat: a review of ‘against nationalism’

by David Broder

Against Nationalism is a pamphlet produced by the Anarchist Federation. The introduction explains that the document has its origins in arguments around the time of the winter 2008-09 war in Gaza, at which time AF argued for a ‘no state’ solution to the conflict.

The pamphlet scores a number of easy points against Trotskyist cheerleaders for movements such as Hezbollah and Hamas and details such groups’ anti-working class credentials. However the far more interesting question posed by the pamphlet is the distinction between ‘nationalism’, ‘resisting imperialism’ and ‘class politics’. Continue reading “the earth is not flat: a review of ‘against nationalism’”

the commune issue 13

The April issue of our monthly paper The Commune is now available. Click the image below to see the PDF or see individual articles as they are posted online in the list below

To purchase a printed copy for £1 + 50p postage, use the ‘donate’ feature here. You can also subscribe (£12 a year UK/£16 EU/£20 international) or order 5 copies a month to sell (£4) online here. If you want to pay by cheque, contact

‘we are fighting for now and for our future’ – speeches by Jerry Hicks, Steve Kelly, Juan Carlos Piedra

striking against labour’s budget – by Steve Ryan

recession and solidarity in france – by Ramate Keita

anarcha-fems meet – by Bahar Mustafa

royal mail deal: a post mortem – by ‘Postman Pat’

BA strike: against the race to the bottom – by Gregor Gall

obamacare: the nuns strike back – by Ernie Haberkern

ESOL students and staff defend childcare – by Sally Haywill

20 years of namibian independence – by Jade McClune

terre’blanche, ‘black boers’ and the class war – by Adam Ford

gender, nation, class and the first intifada – by Aitemad Muhannah

the deficit! the deficit! but what about unemployment? – by Oisín Mac Giollamóir

‘blair plus’: a future fair for all? – by David Broder

flying the flag for socialism in scotland – by Ewan Robertson and Angela Gorrie

anna walentynowicz: an inspiring class fighter – by Chris Ford

questions of communist recomposition – by Ed Griffiths

for a league of communists – by Allan Armstrong

political platform of our communist network

upcoming events

manchester class struggle forum, 29th april

The third Manchester Class Struggle Forum will host a discussion on national liberation and internationalism, with a lead off from the World Revolution group.

From the IRA, MPLA and the Viet Minh, to Hezbollah, Hamas and the Tamil Tigers. All these anti-working class groups received support from a number of leftist in the 20th and 21st Centuries. This is not a new phenomenon, at the outbreak of the First World War all members of the ‘Second International’ apart from The Bolsheviks lined up in support of their respective national bourgeoisie.

Is it right for communists to support national liberation struggles, however critically? Did not Marx and Engels support national liberation? Was it ever correct historically to support national liberation? Continue reading “manchester class struggle forum, 29th april”

the working class and the british nation state: a reply to the morning star

by Chris Ford

The national question continues to be an issue of primary importance to communists and the workers movement as a whole.  The nation-state has not been transcended – transnational corporations remain tied to their home nation-states and capitalists draw on the military and political power of their states to promote their interests.  Our era of global capitalism has further institutionalised the system of national oppression and inequality which is a characteristic of bourgeois society.  How should we respond to this question has been a matter of controversy for generations of communists.

One mistaken response has been to consider globalisation has rendered the nation a superfluous construct; this has fuelled a trend which views struggles, such as against neo-colonialism, as a diversion from the real business of class struggle.  We find this in such views as equating the unity of the UK state with the unity of the working class such as on the Scottish question.  Another trend, prevalent in the UK, has come to adapt itself to the dominant nationalism of the UK state, British nationalism.  This social-patriotism emerged in the working class during the growth of the British Empire in the second half of the 19th century. We find it expressed in some aspects of the anti-European Union current, represented most vocally by the Stalinist Communist Parties. Continue reading “the working class and the british nation state: a reply to the morning star”

scotland – the ruling class division over defending the british union

by Allan Armstrong

The latest talk amongst Scotland’s ‘chattering classes’ is that the SNP Scottish Government’s proposed bill for a referendum on Scottish independence, announced on September 3rd, is doomed. Why? – because a closed-door debate held by the Lib-Dems, last weekend in Dunfermline, finally agreed to uphold their former UK leader, Menzies Campbell’s and current Scottish leader, Tavish Scott’s earlier decision to oppose any such referendum.


There had been considerable opposition amongst the ranks of the federalist Lib-Dems to this stance. The party is committed to constitutional referenda on European Union and on electoral reform in the UK, so opposition to a referendum in Scotland seems somewhat hypocritical to many party members. Furthermore, back in 2007, immediately after the Holyrood election, there had been every likelihood that the Lib-Dems could have joined a coalition government with the SNP. They could have made the inclusion of their favoured federal option for the UK, in any future referendum, a condition of their support. However, as with Labour and the Conservatives, commitment to the Union is far more important for Lib-Dem leaders than any notion of democracy. Continue reading “scotland – the ruling class division over defending the british union”