Concerning the National Question and Social Patriotism


Comrades academicians,

I am at a loss to find words to express my gratitude for the great honour I have received in being elected an honorary member of the Slovene Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Permit me at least to express my thanks and to say that I shall in the future continue to try to justify, to the limits of my humble abilities, this great distinction and the trust you have placed in me. This is the third Academy of Sciences that has honoured me by electing me to the high position of an honorary member, and I ask myself: in what way have I earned this and how shall I make myself worthy of it? In the past I have done nothing that anyone else could not do who has dedicated his life to revolutionary work to the benefit of the working class and to the benefit of the people. In the future I can only continue this work of mine under the conditions of socialist construction. In this I shall spare no pains, for it is my goal in life.

Perhaps I ought to say before this learned assembly today something about the role of scientific workers and their immediate tasks in building the new socialist society in our country. As you know, I said a few days ago at the Serbian Academy of Sciences something about the role of scientific workers in building socialism in this country. So today I shall venture to say something about questions which are of interest, as they must be, not only to people engaged in politics or to people dealing with the scientific study of society, but also to every citizen in this country, and in particular to our scientific workers. I am referring to the national question during the period of building socialism in our country, and secondly to the development of economic, cultural, political, and other relations between the countries which are building socialism, or to put the matter in another way — what is the nature of nationalism and what is the nature of internationalism? It goes without saying that I do not harbour the slightest pretensions that I am capable of giving you now some exhaustive analysis or complete definition of these matters. No, I am touching on these matters only in so far as they are related to the present state of affairs here, only in so far as it is necessary to do so in order that certain phenomena with which we are battling at the moment should be more easily understood. An understanding of these phenomena can make it easier for us to overcome the numerous difficulties that we have to meet today. An understanding of these phenomena can also help us to see things in a clearer perspective both now and in the future, to make it clear to us that we are not trying to find any special new road, but that we are continuing along the same road to socialism that we have taken up to now, and that we are taking strict account of the questions which are imposed upon us in our everyday lives, the questions with which we are struggling now and which cannot be by-passed.

As for the first theme, the national question, I am not referring to it because of its being a problem in our country, in one form or another, today. No, the national question here has been settled, and very well settled, to the general satisfaction of all our peoples. It has been settled on the lines of Lenin’s teaching. And the settlement of the national question in this country reflects the character of our revolution. The success that we are achieving in building socialism is the strongest proof of the correctness of our solution of the nationalities question in this country. Without a correct solution of this question — in the manner in which we have settled it — it would be impossible to go on building socialism, because without internal unity, without constructive brotherhood and unity among the nationalities in our country, it would be impossible to reconstruct our country and quite out of the question to fulfill the Five-Year Plan, or to carry out many of the other measures, or to achieve such successes as we have to date.

No country of people’s democracy has so many nationalities as this country has. Only in Czechoslovakia do there exist two kindred nationalities, while in some of the other countries there are only minorities. Consequently in these countries of people’s democracy there has been no need to settle such serious problems as we have had to settle here. With them the road to socialism is less complicated than is the case here. With them the basic factor is the class issue, with us it is both the nationalities and the class issue. The reason why we were able to settle the nationalities question so thoroughly is to be found in the fact that it had begun to be settled in a revolutionary way in the course of the Liberation War, in which all the nationalities in the country participated, in which every national group made its contribution to the general effort of liberation from the occupier according to its capabilities. Neither the Macedonians nor any other national group which until then had been oppressed obtained their national liberation by decree. They fought for their national liberation with rifle in hand. The role of the Communist Party lay in the first place in the fact that it led that struggle, which was a guarantee that after the war the national question would be settled decisively in the way the communists had conceived long before the war and during the war. The role of the Communist Party in this respect today, in the phase of building socialism, lies in making the positive national factors a stimulus to, not a brake on, the development of socialism in our country. The role of the Communist Party today lies in the necessity for keeping a sharp lookout to see that national chauvinism does not appear and develop among any of the nationalities. The Communist Party must always endeavour, and does endeavour, to ensure that all the negative phenomena of nationalism disappear and that people are educated in the spirit of internationalism.

What are the phenomena of nationalism? Here are some of them: 1) National egoism, from which many other negative traits of nationalism are derived, as for example — a desire for foreign conquest, a desire to oppress other nations, a desire to impose economic exploitation upon other nations, and so on; 2) national-chauvinism which is also a source of many other negative traits of nationalism, as for example national hatred, the disparagement of other nations, the disparagement of their history, culture, and scientific activities and scientific achievements, and so on, the glorification of developments in their own history that were negative and which from our Marxist point of view are considered negative.

And what are these negative things? Wars of conquest are negative, the subjugation and oppression of other nations is negative, economic exploitation is negative, colonial enslavement is negative, and so on. All these things are accounted negative by Marxism and condemned. All these phenomena of the past can, it is true, be explained, but from our point of view they can never be justified.

In a socialist society such phenomena must and will disappear. In the old Yugoslavia national oppression by the great-Serb capitalist clique meant strengthening the economic exploitation of the oppressed peoples. This is the inevitable fate of all who suffer from national oppression. In the new, socialist Yugoslavia the existing equality of rights for all nationalities has made it impossible for one national group to impose economic exploitation upon another. That is because hegemony of one national group over another no longer exists in this country. Any such hegemony must inevitably bring with it, to some degree or other, in one form or another, economic exploitation; and that would be contrary to the principles upon which socialism rests. Only economic, political, cultural, and universal equality of rights can make it possible for us to grow in strength in these tremendous endeavours of our community.

For more than twenty years our national groups lived under conditions of inequality, for more than twenty years attempts were made to achieve unity at the top, but not unity among the people themselves. For more than twenty years the bourgeois press wrote that Yugoslavia had achieved unity, but in fact the national dissensions became wider because of nationality oppression and inequality, because of economic exploitation, and so on.

During the Liberation War period, however, we placed relations between the national groups on other, new and better, foundations. We formally separated ourselves in order that we might in true fact be better united. And in our present community the rights of smaller national groups enjoy equal recognition with those of the larger groups. Now there is no longer hegemony of one national group over another. And that is precisely what makes us so firm and monolithic.

If we take a look at the Five-Year Plan, or if we take a look at our budgets, it can be seen that no efforts are being spared to raise the standards of the most backward republics as quickly as possible and as much as possible; it can be seen, for example, that Slovenia, Croatia, and Serbia are helping, as much as they possibly can, the more backward republics like Macedonia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Every effort is being made to enable the latter to catch up with the other, more advanced republics as soon as possible. This is of great significance to our socialist community, and our peoples have shown complete understanding of this. While formerly, in the old Yugoslavia, various officials and administrators were imposed by force on people of another nationality, who for their part quite rightly regarded them as oppressors and hated them for it, today, for example, trained key personnel and experts in the most advanced republics are in constant demand from the republics of the other nationalities. Now where does this change lie? It lies in the fact that these key personnel and experts go merely for the purpose of assisting in the economy and state machinery, to help with the training of local personnel which are in short supply in some republics just because of the policy of oppression practiced by former regimes. Such assistance is producing good results. Tremendous creative forces among all our peoples are coming to light. Let us take only Macedonia, for example, which in this respect has achieved excellent results.

Our peoples today have progressed so far in their consciousness, that they have already realised that they cannot live one without another. They have realised that our community provides for comprehensive development — economic, cultural, political, and so on. They have seen that it provides for building socialism in our country, that it provides safeguards for their existence and peaceful development.

It would, of course, be erroneous to think that unity based on socialist awareness has already been achieved here. This will not be achieved in this country so long as there is a class struggle, so long as there are elements which are holding up the development of socialism in this country. But the principal thing has been achieved, and it is this: that the vast majority of working people in our country have come to realise this, and that means that the complete victory of socialism in our country is assured. Comrade academicians, I said a few words a moment or so ago about the national question, about the process of development in our internal relations, about the development of our state community; and now please permit me to say a few words about relations between socialist countries.

What, in my view, ought to be relations between socialist countries in the given stage of socialism in the world? Marxism-Leninism has given the theoretical solution for creating socialism as a system, as a new social formation. This system is now being implemented in the Soviet Union, in Yugoslavia and other people’s democracies, according to the given conditions, as a new social system. But it has not yet been possible to study theoretically the question of relations between countries which are building socialism. Lenin says, in his works, and this was later brought to pass in the USSR, that it is possible to create socialism in a single country. In saying this he had in view, in the first instance, the Soviet Union, but nowhere has be said that this is not possible outside the Soviet Union. 1 will not talk of other countries; I can, however, say that this has seemed quite possible here in Yugoslavia, although it is denied by various wiseacres, who thumb tirelessly through the scientific works of Marx, Engels, and Lenin, in order to find quotations to corroborate their own erroneous points of view. Further, there are certain kinds of scribblers who shake their heads and shout inanely: it can’t be, so it can’t be. It is because they say so and wish it to be so. Well, reality is stronger than inane desires, facts are stronger than various allegations, however perverse and pigheaded they may be. Nevertheless, we are successfully and surely building socialism, not out of sheer obstinacy but for historical necessity; we are building socialism, profoundly convinced that it will not only be of value to our peoples but will be an example to other nations.

I must underline the fact here that we would be building socialism in our country much more quickly and easily if certain leading people in the countries of people’s democracy were not making difficulties for us. Obviously, the stand taken today by the people in charge, by the communists, in those countries, against Yugoslavia, cannot be reconciled with the relations that ought to obtain between socialist countries.

I must admit that we find the persistence and unscrupulousness of these attacks on our country most extraordinary. They are all the more extraordinary in that they are doing untold damage to the international labour movement. The fact that we wish to build, and are in fact building, socialism in our country is not doing harm to the labour movement, but it is the various incomprehensible actions against us, the various lies spread so assiduously against us, lies that are soon unmasked for what they are, — these are the things that are doing the harm. They cannot lay that charge at our door.

A country such as ours, which suffered so much during the war, should not be treated in this way. Countries which have suffered so much should be given every opportunity to rid themselves of their troubles as soon as possible, and not be hindered in this work, — and this is only possible through rapid industrialisation and building socialism in our country. Our working people have the right to test and try out their capabilities and vitality, since they have liberated themselves from national and social oppression. This is essential for a number of reasons: first, in order that they may realise that they are competent to construct and build a new socialist society; and secondly, so that in their creative drive socialist awareness may mature within them and eject everything negative, everything that is alien to socialism.

The question of the unification of socialist countries is a complicated matter. It is not merely a question of the leading people, and whether they are for it or against it. It is a longer process. It must ripen in the minds of at least the majority of working people, so that they see the necessity and advantages of it, both from their own national, and from the international point of view. Here, in the matter of unification, a great role is played by economic relations, that is, the basis on which they are founded and how they develop.

Economic relations today between socialist countries are still based on the capitalist practice of commodity exchange. Nothing has been changed here. Obviously, such relations give no impetus to a closer getting together of socialist countries. This is, in a sense, understandable, if one bears in mind that the majority of countries I have been talking about suffered a great deal during the war and they are now trying to deal with the devastation as quickly as possible. All this is understandable; but what is incomprehensible is that with regard to the matter of exchanging goods, in other words trade, less favourable terms are offered by the countries of people’s democracy to Yugoslavia than to certain capitalist countries. We have not asked anyone to make any exceptions in our case in this respect, and that is why we have taken various measures to extricate ourselves from all possible existing difficulties. In so doing, we have never done anything in any way different from the actions of our allies in the East, that is to say — we have done what the other countries of people’s democracy have done. If that is not to anyone’s liking, then a motive for attacking our country should be found in these questions, rather than that various matters completely without foundation should be concocted.

Well, these questions, which I have just touched upon, have to be dealt with and should be settled boldly, at least in part, if it is not possible to do so completely.

That, then, is the heart of the matter, not some deviation on our part from the path of socialism.

And now a word about internationalism and nationalism, the theme that often crops up these days in connection with attacks on our country.

Internationalism is not an abstraction. It must be founded on facts, not merely on words. Internationalism is founded on deeds; it is a matter of how the most progressive class, the working class, or the countries which are advancing towards socialism, i. e. building socialism, interpret their interests: do they consider them to be a part of the general good or as their own narrow national or state interests, — is that class or State interested in what is happening elsewhere, what is happening to the working class in other countries, what is happening to other similar States; are they pleased or not at the successes of other countries which are on the way to socialism? I said a moment ago what the basic characteristics of nationalism are; and what is internationalism — that can be seen in practice every day, and it is a question of whether the most progressive class or State, which is on the way to socialism, welcomes or assists the progressive movement or State which needs help and support. It is also important in what degree the aid or support is given. Internationalism in the real meaning of the word involves giving aid to progressive movements in the world or in other socialist countries where it is urgently needed, according to one’s capacities.

The charge is continually levelled against us that we are nationalists; but not a single shred of evidence has been brought forward in support of such irresponsible assertions. What was our attitude in this respect during the Liberation War? It was obviously internationalist, because in the war we conscientiously performed, not only our national duty, but also our international duty. And what has been our attitude in this respect since the end of the war? It has obviously been internationalist, because we have assisted to the limits of our powers the countries of people’s democracy which have needed our help, regardless of whether they asked for our help or not. We have never turned a deaf ear and refused to offer all possible assistance to the progressive movements in other countries which have needed our help, regardless of whether they have asked us for it or not. And right up to the present we have not moved an inch from this standpoint.

On the question of whether we are nationalists or not I can say the following: we are nationalists to the exact degree necessary to develop a healthy socialist patriotism among our people, and socialist patriotism is in its essence internationalism. Socialism does not require of us that we renounce our love for our socialist country, that we renounce our love for our own people. Socialism does not require of us that we should not make every possible effort to build up our socialist country as quickly as possible, in order that we may so create the best possible living conditions for our working people. Our creative drive in building up our country, that is the creative drive of our workers, our youth, our people’s intelligentsia, and all our working peasants and citizens, who are voluntarily contributing their share to the work of construction within the People’s Front, — none of these things need, or indeed can, be stigmatised as some sort of nationalist deviation. No, this is socialist patriotism, which in its essence is profoundly international, and for that reason we are proud of it.

A moment or so ago I touched briefly on these questions, that is to say, I quoted a few examples. I did not give a concrete analysis of the substance of the kinds of interference and dishonest steps taken against our country by the countries of people’s democracy, in other words, by all those who should be the last people to act in such a way. I am leaving all that for another occasion, because, although it would momentarily throw more light on the whole matter, it would not do any good in the present situation, rather it would do damage to the common cause.

Comrade academicians, you may be asking why it is these matters which I am discussing today. I considered it necessary to speak about these things in front of this distinguished assembly because they are closely linked with the present state of affairs in this country, with our social life. They are firmly linked not only with the question of the victory of socialism in this country but also with the question of further development of socialism in the world. Progressive people in the world are watching the countries which are creating the most progressive social system, socialism, but at the same time they are paying close attention to the kind of relations created between themselves by those countries. And it is not only the most progressive forces in the world which are paying close attention to what is happening in socialist countries, but the reactionary forces in the world are doing exactly the same; and they are obviously trying to exploit any negative phenomena emerging in the relations between socialist countries for their own interests. The question of these relations is not a simple matter, it is not a matter which interests, or rather directly concerns, solely the socialist countries, or to be more accurate the countries which are building socialism. No, the question is of enormous significance from the international point of view. The proper establishing of these mutual relations at this particular stage when capitalist countries exist side by side with socialist countries, when there are still countries suffering from national oppression, and when flagrant colonial subjugation still exists, — at this stage of social development in the world relations between the countries building socialism must be ordered in such a way that they are an inspiration to all countries, especially the small ones, struggling for their national and social freedom and equality. These relations must be an example, or more accurately an incentive to the further development of socialism in the world rather than act as a brake on that development.

Finally, I should like to say that your role, the role of men of science, is, both directly and indirectly, of great importance to the solution of these questions. It would be erroneous to think that this is just a matter for a few of us, people in leading positions; no, it is a question that must interest all our working citizens, and especially you, men of science, for it can only be solved correctly if we show by our deeds that we are right, that is to say, only if, regardless of difficulties, we have devoted all our powers, mental and physical, to fulfilling the Five-Year Plan for building socialism in our country. These questions will disappear the moment we have achieved that, that is to say, the moment we have created better economic and cultural conditions for the life of the citizens of our socialists homeland. In this task you, scientists, have a great and honourable part to play; and you, I am convinced, will carry it out not only for the sake of our own people but in the interests of internationalism.

You, men of science, have a great role to play, in that the correct solution of the nationalities question in our country should not be thrown out of gear but that the relations between the various nationalities in this country should continue to develop towards a deeper cultural and spiritual unity among all our peoples, and various defects of a nationalist character which still hamper our efforts to build socialism in this country should be eradicated and eliminated as soon as possible.

Enviado por Enrique Ibañes