The National Question
Selected Writings by Rosa Luxemburg
Luxemburg, Rosa (edited by Davis, Horace B.)Publisher: Monthly Review Press, New York, USA
Year Published: 1976 First Published:
Pages: 320pp ISBN: 85345-355-1
Library of Congress Number: HX276.L84328 1976 Dewey: 335.43'8'3205409438
Resource Type: Book
In her penetrating analysis of nationalism, Rosa Luxemburg argues that the formula of "the right of nations to self-determination" is essentially not a political or programmatic guide to the nationality question, but only a means of avoiding that question.
Note: This abstract pertains to the 1976 book edited by Horace Davis, which contains a selection of Rosa Luxemburg's writings on the national question. Some essays in the book are available online; see
The formula, 'the right of nations to self-determination,' of course doesn't have such a character at all. It gives no practical guidelines for the day to day politics of the proletariat, nor any practical solution of nationality problems. For example, this formula does not indicate to the Russian proletariat in what way it should demand a solution of the Polish national problem, the Finnish question, the Caucasian question, the Jewish, etc. It offers instead only an unlimited authorization to all interested 'nations' to settle their national problems in any way they like. The only practical conclusion for the day to day politics of the working class which can be drawn from the above formula is the guideline that it is the duty of that class to struggle against all manifestations of national oppression. If we recognize the right of each nation to self-determination, it is obviously a logical conclusion that we must condemn every attempt to place one nation over another, or for one nation to force upon another any form of national existence. However, the duty of the class party of the proletariat to protest and resist national oppression arises not from any special 'right of nations,' just as, for example, its striving for the social and political equality of sexes does not at all result from any special 'rights of women' which the movement of bourgeois emancipationists refers to. This duty arises solely from the general opposition to the class regime and to every form of social inequality and social domination, in a word, from the basic position of socialism. But leaving this point aside, the only guideline given for practical politics is of a purely negative character. The duty to resist all forms of national oppression does not include any explanation of what conditions and political forms the class-conscious proletariat in Russia at the present time should recommen d as a solution for the nationality problems of Poland, Latvia, the Jews, etc., or what program it should present to match the various programs of the bourgeois, nationalist, and pseudo-socialist parties in the present class struggle. In a word, the formula, 'the right of nations to self-determination,' is essentially not a political and problematic guideline in the nationality question, but only a means of avoiding that question.
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