Marxism and the National Question: An Overview
T WISH to make it clear at the very outset that I am not going to make a textual analysis of Marx's writings on the National question. Such exercises yield very little and actually thrust the narrow coffin of eclecticism and positivism on to the growing body of Marxist thought-in-action.
For example, such exercises conducted by the 'New Left5 thinkers and historians have led only to the fragmentation of Marxist thinking into the thought of Engels and of Marx, of the disjunction of the young Marx from the mature Marx; of the separation of the thought of Lenin from that of Marx—a fragmentation of Marxist thinking which is the very opposite of the dialectical approach, according to which "In the first place in order really to know an object, we must embrace, study, all its sides, all connections, and mediations. We shall never achieve this completely, but the demand for all-sidedness is a safeguard against mistakes and rigidity. Secondly, dialectical logic demands that we take an object in its development, its 'self-movement' (as Hegel sometimes puts it), in its changes... its connections with the surrounding world. Thirdly, the whole of human experience should enter the full 'definition' of an object as a criterion of the truth and as a practical index of the object's connection with what man requires. Fourthly, dialectical logic teaches that there is no abstract truth. Truth is always concrete."1
Thus the non-dialectical approach of academic Marxists disintegrates the corpus of Marxist thinking whereas the essence of dialectical thinking calls for the integration of Marxist thought and revolutionary action. This has been very succinctly brought out in J V Stalin's Report at the Fifteenth All-Union Conference of the CPSU (B), which was delivered on November 1, 1926: "Lenin's greatness as the continuer of the work of Marx and Engels consists precisely in the fact that he was never a slave to the letter of Marxism. In his investigations he followed the precept repeatedly uttered by Marx that Marxism is not a dogma, but a guide to action. Lenin knew this and drawing a strict distinction between the letter and the essence of Marxism, he never regarded Marxism as a dogma, but endeavoured to apply Marxism, as a fundamental method, in the new circumstances of capitalist development. Lenin's
*Treasurer, Democratic Youth Federation of India.