Part I

 

*********************

Introduction

 

 

 

The aim of this small booklet is neither to serve as a mere summary of the positions of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg on the national question, nor to merely explain the Marxist method of analyzing the national question from a working class revolutionary perspective, but also to add three elements to the usual presentation of the national question from a Marxist perspective.

 

The first one, is the consequences of the concentration of the working class in the semi-colonies regarding the national question. The second one, is the difference between nations in the ancient past as opposed to the modern nation state. The third one, is on settler-colonialism that Lenin and the Third International during his lifetime did not deal with.

 

The emerging of the nation state was a huge step in removing obstacles for the development of the forces of production. From small manufacturers producing for small local markets the bourgeoisie, that created the national states, was able to move to large factories producing for a national market. At that time the bourgeoisie was a revolutionary class. Its historical role was the destruction of any remaining feudal relations of production as well as political and cultural superstructure, carrying out the agrarian revolution, fighting for a unifying language, equality of languages and the free development of culture and science.

 

By 1848 in Europe, with the end of the American civil war, the bourgeoisie ended its revolutionary role and has become an obstacle for the development of nation that did not go through the democratic revolution early enough. Due to the workings of the historical law of uneven and combined development, these countries were colonized by the European, American and Japanese imperialists. In the imperialist states themselves remained the unsolved issues of oppressed minorities.

 

The national question in all its manifestations is very important for revolutionary Marxists because without unifying the working class, revolutions are doomed to fail. The imperialists have divided and inflamed hate between nations. All the while, the local bourgeoisies that serve the imperialists are unable, even if willing, to solve the national question.

 

The national question is most complicated in Africa because of the legacy of the colonialist past and the economic domination of the imperialists with the collaboration of the new, local, weak and corrupt bourgeoisie. The decades of political independence in Africa has failed to change the super-exploitation of the continent. The local bourgeoisie simply Africanized the exploitative, repressive, and arrogant appropriation and deployment of power in the tradition of the colonial state. The continent has seen coups and counter-coups, civil wars, ethnic violence that in many cases have been the result of imperialist interventions.

 

The Revolutionary Communist Internationalist Tendency (RCIT) wrote on this subject:

 

The official borders between the states African states are often an artificial legacy of the colonial powers who divided and created artificial states. The imperialist policy of divide and conquer, as well as the reactionary policy of bourgeois African leaders using tribal lines, has been a huge obstacle for the formation of modern nations (The tensions between Hutu and the Tutsi in Rwanda, between the Xhosa and the Zulu in South Africa, between the Shona and Ndebele in Zimbabwe). The socialist goal is to unite the African peoples by first taking into account the huge diversity among its nations and ethnic groups (e.g., between 1,200 and 3,000 languages are spoken on the continent). We strive for maximum unity throughout the entire continent combined with a respect for the rights of all ethnic minorities (except, of course, those of privileged settlers). Our vision of Pan-African unity is characterized by its voluntary and federal character, as well as by respecting of local self-government.” [1]

 

There is an historical connection between the Black people of Jamaica, Trinidad, Haiti and People of Color in the US whose ancestors were brought to these countries as slaves. The fact that the American Blacks refer to call themselves African-American shows that they consider themselves member of an ethnic group in the United States whose ancestors, were indigenous to Africa.

 

The connection between African Americans and Africa manifested itself already in the late 19th century with the movement of “back to Africa”. In 1935-1941 when Italy invaded and occupied Ethiopian territory, African-Americans showed solidarity with the Ethiopians and mobilized to assist them in their struggle. “By the 1970s African-Americans were aware that they had close affinity with Africans in the continent, because of their common exposure to White racist and capitalist exploitation. They saw themselves and the African people on the continent as the “source of super-profits, the victims of physical oppression, social ostracism, economic exclusion and personal hatred.” [2]

 

After WWI African Americans and Black South Africans forged ties and developed a sense of shared struggle through travel and cultural exchange. Black singers like Miriam Makeba and Paul Robeson, functioned to sustain the links between African Americans and Black South Africans. This was a clear form of internationalism.

 

Africans Americans played an important role as individuals or through organizations that mobilized support for the African cause in the U.S.. They were inspired by “Pan-Africanism”. The African Liberation Support Committee (ALSC) of the 1970s was one such organization that provided a veritable forum for African-American to support the liberation of Africa.

 

The term "African-American" has been in common usage in the United States since the late 1980s, when greater numbers of African Americans began to adopt the term. Malcolm X favored the term "African American" over "Negro" and used the term at an OAAU (Organization of Afro American Unity) meeting in the early 1960s, saying, "Twenty-two million African-Americans- that's what we are- Africans who are in America."

 

Revolutionary struggle for the unification of Africa as a federative socialist state will influence the struggle of the African Americans who are a leading force for progressive change in the USA and they will influence the struggle in Africa. This shows that there is a real connection between the nationalism of the oppressed and internationalism.

 

Revolutionary internationalist tactics serve the strategy of forming the revolutionary International - the highest form of working class consciousness aiming at replacing rotten capitalism with a socialist society. Tactics that obstruct this strategy are either opportunistic or ultra-leftist and must be rejected because they are harmful to the revolutionary struggle of the workers and the oppressed.

 

The ultra-left tactics are those that reject the struggle for self-determination of the oppressed nations while the opportunist tactics are those that subordinate the struggle of the workers and the oppressed to the imperialists or to the local bourgeoisie.

 

The national question has many aspects and we cannot deal with all of them in this booklet. In this booklet we will deal with the following questions:

 

1. The implication of the shift of the industry to the semi-colonies.

 

2. What is a nation?

 

3. When nations appear in history?

 

4. What is the attitude of revolutionary Marxists to the national question in the semi-colonies and colonized nations and the tactic they use?

 

5. What is the attitude of revolutionary Marxists to the national question in the imperialist countries and the tactic they use?

 

6. The national question in settler colonies.

 

One of the most important national questions of this period is the Syrian revolution and this booklet will deal with it in more details as well as with Israel as a settler colonialist and imperialist society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. The Change of the Weight of the Struggle in the Semi-colonies

 

 

 

 

The national question must be analyzed not in abstract but in the conditions that exist today, where the imperialists have moved industry to the semi-colonies because the cost of labor there is cheaper. At the same time this is a very reactionary phase of the capitalist class that attacks the social and democratic gains of the past. However, at the same time this is also an objectively revolutionary period because the capitalists cannot develop the forces of production. A good metaphor is the Israeli space rocket that reached the moon and crashed. Today the working class is larger and stronger than what it was during the 20th century, but its location has changed. For this reason we see that the sharper class battles take place in the semi-colonies. This, as we shall see, has an implication for the national question. [3]

 

The starting point for the unity of the working class is the need for the workers of the imperialist nations to defend unconditionally the right of self-determination of the oppressed nations. This does not mean that as an iron rule that the task of the working class of the imperialist nations is to liberate the oppressed nations, as many centrist believe. It is possible and even probable that the victorious struggle of the working class in the semi-colonies against the imperialists and their local servants will assist the struggle of the workers in the imperialist countries in the struggle for socialism.

 

As long as the working class in the imperialist states does not stand with their brothers and sisters of the oppressed nations but stand with the imperialists they cannot liberate themselves. As Marx observed already in the 19th century - a nation that oppressed another nation cannot be free. The poison of racism is penetrating the working class in particular the labor aristocracy that the imperialists bribe by throwing them crumbs from the looting of the semi-colonies.

 

This bribery is the basis of reformism in the imperialist countries. The reformist parties that serve the imperialists are an obstacle to the revolutionary unity of the working class. Lenin explained the cause of counter revolutionary reformism: “The period of imperialism is the period in which the distribution of the world amongst the ‘great’ and privileged nations, by whom all other nations are oppressed, is completed. Scraps of the booty enjoyed by the privileged as a result of this oppression undoubtedly fall to the lot of certain sections of the petty-bourgeoisie and the aristocracy and bureaucracy of the working class.” [4]

 

The relocation of the industry of the imperialists in the semi-colonies, the super-exploitation the workers in these countries and the weakness of the labor reformists in these countries are the causes of the sharper class struggle in the semi-colonies as we have seen in the Arab Spring that has not died in spite of the defeats in Egypt and Syria as we see today in Sudan and Algeria.

 

We see also the sharper struggle of the working class and the oppressed in black Africa, in Nicaragua, India and Mexico. For this reason the struggle against the super-exploitation and the oppression of the workers, the poor peasants and other layers of the oppressed in the semi-colonies has an encouraging impact on the struggles in the imperialist countries as we see in France with the Yellow Vests, the movement against “rent sharks and speculators” in Germany, the Black Lives Matter and the Women March in the USA.

 

These are not yet revolutionary struggles of the working class in the imperialist countries. Nevertheless, we can expect a stronger class struggles in the imperialist countries with the looming of the next world economic crisis that will be sharper than the one in 2008.

 

The liberation of the working class can be achieved only by a world revolution. Revolutions start in one country and must continue in other countries. The victory of the revolution in one isolated country surrounded by imperialist states can be corrupted by degeneration accompanied by national chauvinism – as we saw in the case of the Stalinist degeneration of the USSR in the 1920s and 30s. [5]

 

In 1922 Lenin, who was aware of Stalin’s oppressive policy toward Georgia wrote on this question:

 

In my writings on the national question I have already said that an abstract presentation of the question of nationalism in general is of no use at all. A distinction must necessarily be made between the nationalism of an oppressor nation and that of an oppressed nation, the nationalism of a big nation and that of a small nation.

 

In respect of the second kind of nationalism we, nationals of a big nation, have nearly always been guilty, in historic practice, of an infinite number of cases of violence; furthermore, we commit violence and insult an infinite number of times without noticing it. It is sufficient to recall my Volga reminiscences of how non-Russians are treated; how the Poles are not called by any other name than Polyachiska, how the Tatar is nicknamed Prince, how the Ukrainians are always Khokhols and the Georgians and other Caucasian nationals always Kapkasians.

 

That is why internationalism on the part of oppressors or "great" nations, as they are called (though they are great only in their violence, only great as bullies), must consist not only in the observance of the formal equality of nations but even in an inequality of the oppressor nation, the great nation, that must make up for the inequality which obtains in actual practice. Anybody who does not understand this has not grasped the real proletarian attitude to the national question, he is still essentially petty bourgeois in his point of view and is, therefore, sure to descend to the bourgeois point of view. [6]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. What is a Nation?

 

 

The Communist Manifesto states: "The working men have no country. We cannot take from them what they have not got. Since the proletariat must first of all acquire political supremacy, must rise to be the leading class of the nation, must constitute itself the nation, it is so far, itself national, though not in the bourgeois sense of the word.”

 

The Communist Manifesto also states: “When, in the course of development, class distinctions have disappeared, and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character. Political power, properly so called, is merely the organised power of one class for oppressing another. If the proletariat during its contest with the bourgeoisie is compelled, by the force of circumstances, to organise itself as a class, if, by means of a revolution, it makes itself the ruling class, and, as such, sweeps away by force the old conditions of production, then it will, along with these conditions, have swept away the conditions for the existence of class antagonisms and of classes generally, and will thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a class. In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all” [7]

 

Thus the founders of scientific socialism declared that under capitalism the working class does not have a state. The state belongs to the bourgeois class that formed nation states. When the working class will liberate itself it will replace the bourgeois state with workers states that will serve the interest of the workers and the oppressed. They will defend the nationalized and socialized economy working for the needs of the population. Clearly what Marx and Engels meant is that after the socialist revolution there will be proletarian nations until the level of production will be so high that it will put an end to the existence of class antagonisms and of classes in general and the working class will abolish its own supremacy as a class. This will be the natural end of nations that will be replaced by the united human race in a fully developed communist society.

 

Thus, like anything else, nations are a historical phenomena. Not always there were nations nor will they exist forever.

 

There have been two main approaches to the question what a nation is, based on opposite philosophies. The first one is the materialist approach that relates nations to the level of the development of the forces of production and the other one is an idealist approach that relates nations only to psychology - a feeling of common destiny. The first one is a Marxist analysis and the other one is a reformist rooted in the approach of Otto Bauer (1881-1938) of the Austrian Social Democracy.

 

One of the more known definitions of a nation was provided by Joseph Stalin who applied Leninist thinking on this question prior to WWI. According to Stalin’s definition “a nation is not a racial or tribal, but a historically constituted stable community of people.” What distinguishes a national community from a state community? Stalin wrote that “the fact, among others, that a national community is inconceivable without a common language. There is no nation which at one and the same time speaks several languages, but this does not mean that there cannot be two nations speaking the same language! Englishmen and Americans speak one language, but they do not constitute one nation. The same is true of the Norwegians and the Danes, the English and the Irish. But why, for instance, do the English and the Americans not constitute one nation in spite of their common language?”

 

Stalin continued and wrote: “Firstly, because they do not live together, but inhabit different territories. A nation is formed only as a result of lengthy and systematic intercourse, as a result of people living together generation after generation. But people cannot live together, for lengthy periods unless they have a common territory. But this is not all. Common territory does not by itself create a nation. This requires, in addition, an internal economic bond to weld the nation. “

 

Thus Stalin continued: “A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture. It is possible to conceive of people possessing a common "national character" who, nevertheless, cannot be said to constitute a single nation if they are economically disunited, inhabit different territories, speak different languages, and so forth. Such, for instance, are the Russian, Galician, American, Georgian and Caucasian Highland Jews, who, in our opinion, do not constitute a single nation.” [8]

 

While this is a materialist analysis of what constitute a nation, it has some problems. It is too mechanical. First of all, it is possible that the same nation will speak different languages. For example the Swiss who speak three different languages, or the Belgian who speak two languages. Secondly, this definition of a nation fits Europe but it does not fit, what Lenin will call after the revolution, the ”small nations”. According to Lenin’s more advanced theory the “small nations” were the not fully developed nations of central Asia that were included in the Russian Empire. Nations that have the right of self-determination and after the Bolshevik revolutions were organized in autonomic territories, and were assisted in developing their economy, written language and culture until such time, so Lenin thought, they will be able to form a state within the Socialist Federation or separate if they wish to. In 1923 Trotsky explained the relationship between the Russian working class the workers state and the small nations.

 

Trotsky wrote: “To turn one’s back on the demands and interests of the formerly oppressed small nationalities, especially those which are backward and consist mainly of peasants, is a very simple and perfectly easy thing to do, especially if this sort of lazy indifference can be covered up with general phrases about internationalism, about the dictatorship of the Communist Party being more important than any and every national question...[ ] In our Soviet Union the link with the peasantry naturally presumes not merely a link with the Great Russian peasantry. We have a large non-Great Russian peasantry, and it is distributed among numerous national groups. For these national groups each national, political and economic question is refracted through the prism of their native language, their national-economic and folk peculiarities, their national mistrust which has its roots in the past. Language is the most basic, most broadly embracing and deeply penetrating instrument of the link between man and man and so, between class and class. While in our conditions the question of the proletarian revolution is, as you acknowledge, above all a question of the relations between the proletariat and the peasantry, this latter question amounts, more than fifty percent, to the question of relations between the more advanced and influential Great Russian proletariat and the peasant masses of the other nationalities, which were mercilessly oppressed in former times and still remember very well all that they suffered. [9]

 

The other approach to the definition of a nation as we mentioned was of Otto Bauer. He advocated cultural autonomy for oppressed nations rather than the right to separate and form an independent state.

 

Bauer criticized the concept of a language as the essence of a nation. He wrote:”Is it a common language which makes people a nation? But the English and the Irish... speak the same language without, however, being one people; the Jews have no common language and yet are a nation. A nation is a relative community of character. National character is "the sum total of characteristics which distinguish the people of one nationality from the people of another nationality – the complex of physical and spiritual characteristics which distinguish one nation from another. The character of people is determined by nothing so much as by their destiny.... A nation is nothing but a community with a common destiny" which, in turn, is determined by the conditions under which people produce their means of subsistence and distribute the products of their labour.. Thus a nation is an aggregate of people bound into a community of character by a common destiny.” [10]

 

Bauer also wrote: “All nations,” wherever they may reside, would always constitute corporations independently managing their national affairs. Two or more nations would live side by side in the same city, without interfering in each other’s affairs, and would peacefully develop their own forms of national self-government and build their own educational institutions” Thus the theory of cultural-national autonomy relied on the concept that nation as an association of like-minded people that evolved through a common fate. It separated the nation from the territory it occupied and ignored the division of nations into antagonistic classes. The theory reduced the solution of the national problem to the attainment of national self-government in cultural, educational, and language matters.” [11]

 

Lenin correctly replied to him:

 

As a matter of fact, “cultural-national autonomy”, i.e., the absolutely pure and consistent segregating of education according to nationality, was invented not by the capitalists (for the time being they resort to cruder methods to divide the workers) but by the opportunist, philistine intelligentsia of Austria. There is not a trace of this brilliantly philistine and brilliantly nationalist idea in any of the democratic West-European countries with mixed populations. This idea of the despairing petty bourgeois could arise only in Eastern Europe, in backward, feudal, clerical, bureaucratic Austria, where all public and political life is hampered by wretched, petty squabbling (worse still: cursing and brawling) over the question of languages. Since cat and dog can’t agree, let us at least segregate all the nations once and for all absolutely clearly and consistently in “national curias” for educational purposes!—such is the psychology that engendered this foolish idea of “cultural-national autonomy”. The proletariat, which is conscious of and cherishes its internationalism, will never accept this nonsense of refined nationalism. [12]

 

It is not by chance that the reactionary Zionists definition of a nation is psychological-cultural definition based on Bauer crude idealist philosophy. They claim:

 

Throughout the middle ages and into the 20th century, most of the European world agreed that Jews constituted a distinct nation. This concept of nation does not require that a nation have either a territory nor a government, but rather, it identifies, as a nation any distinct group of people with a common language and culture. Only in the 19th century did it become common to assume that each nation should have its own distinct government; this is the political philosophy of nationalism. In fact, Jews had a remarkable degree of self-government until the 19th century. So long as Jews lived in their ghettos, they were allowed to collect their own taxes, run their own courts, and otherwise behave as citizens of a landless and distinctly second-class Jewish nation.” [13]

 

In the real world the Jews are not a nation because they do not live in the same territory and half of them live in North America. Jews speak different languages and different religious streams. Many Jews are not religious at all. In Israel the Jews are not allowed to consider themselves as Israeli nationals because of the Zionist definition of a world Jewish nation. Thus Israel denies not only the right of self-determination of the Palestinians but the existence of an Israeli nation.

 

One argument of the Zionists is that the Palestinians are not a nation because there has never been a Palestinian state. The racist former Minister of Educations Benet declared : "There has been Palestinian life in Jerusalem for thousands of years," he retorted: "You're talking about a Palestinian presence? Has there ever been a Palestinian state? Show me what its flag was, show me what was its anthem, show me who its leader is- show me anything that mentions the word 'Palestinians' more than 65 or 80 years ago.”

 

According to this nonsense the Kurds are not a nation they since they never had their own state. Under the existing conditions they cannot set their own independent state. Their only chance of having their own state is by joining the Arab revolution and helping to form the socialist federation of the Middle East, rather than the existing rotten Kurdish leadership that helped the imperialists against the Arab revolution.

 

In conclusion as to the revolutionary definition of a nation, the minimum requirement for a nation is being population living in the same territory and consider themselves a nation. They tend as a norm to have a spoken language and cultural unique aspects. Using this definition, the question for example whether the North American Indians were tribes or nations depend on their own definition. For example, the Iroquois Confederacy call themselves the Indian Six Nations. After the socialist revolution they will have the right to autonomous socialist territories which will be very different from the oppressive Indian reserves of today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Ancient Nations

 

 

Most people when they think about nations have in their minds modern nation states that emerged at the end of the era of absolute monarchies. They were not composed of capitalist and working class but of different older classes mostly of peasants and slaves on one hand and the slave owner aristocracy and priests on the other. The slaves were not considered part of the nation. These nations appeared in history after the city-state, the confederation of tribes and before the ancient empires. They were relatively stable and existed beyond the life of a ruler. They had a common territory and citizens that considered themselves a nation.

 

Engels in his writing on ancient Ireland wrote: “Ireland was far from being inhabited by a single nation at the end of the eighth century. Supreme royal power over the whole island existed only in appearance, and by no means always at that. The provincial kings, whose number and territories were continually changing, fought amongst themselves, and the smaller territorial princes likewise carried on their private feuds.” [14]

 

It seems as Engels wrote that while there was no ancient Ireland during the Middle Ages, there possibly were other countries with single nations, otherwise why would he mention that Ireland was not always a nation state?

 

Then Engels wrote: “The further back we go into history, the more the characteristics distinguishing different peoples of the same race disappear. This is partly because of the nature of the sources, which in the measure in which they are older become thinner and contain only the most essential information, and partly because of the development of the peoples themselves. The less remote the individual branches are from the original stock, the nearer they are to each other and the more they resemble each other. Jacob Grimm has always quite correctly treated the information given by Roman historians, who described the War of the Cimbri, Adam of Bremen and Saxo Grammaticus, all the literary written records from Beowulf and Hildebrandslied to the Eddas and the sagas, all the books of law from the Leges barbarorum to the ancient Danish and ancient Swedish laws and the old Germanic judicial procedures as equally valuable sources of information on the German national character, customs and legal conditions.” [15]

 

It seems that according to Engels in the earlier period people were closer and that there was a German national character as described in the ancient Danish and Swedish laws. It is possible to reach the conclusion that Engels thought that a German nation existed in early times. Yet this is not certain.

 

However, the Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus (A.D. 98) wrote on the German that they are a nation that lives in a very specific territory. Tacitus differentiates between a German nation composed of the Chatti or Tencteri, and tribes (Suebi). They had slaves, common religions and laws.

 

The country we know under the name of Germany is separated from Gaul, on the one hand, and from Rhaetia and Pannonia, on the other, by the rivers Rhine and Danube, from Sarmatia and Dacia by the barrier of mutual fear or mountain ranges. Its northern coasts, with their broad promontories and vast islands beyond, are lapped by Ocean. It is only in recent times that war has revealed the existence there of nations and kings unknown before. ….[ ] For myself I accept the view that the peoples of Germany have never been tainted by intermarriage with other peoples, and stand out as a nation peculiar, pure and unique of its kind. Hence the physical type, if one may generalize at all about so vast a population, is everywhere the same wild, blue eyes, reddish hair and huge frames that excel only in violent effort. …[ ] As for the name of Germany, it is quite a modern coinage, they say. The first people to cross the Rhine and oust the Gauls are now called Tungri, but were then called Germans. It was the name of this tribe, not that of a nation, that gradually came into general use. We must come now to speak of the Suebi, who do not, like the Chatti or Tencteri, constitute a single nation. They actually occupy more than half Germany, and are divided into a number of distinct tribes under distinct names, though all generically are called Suebi.“ [16]

 

The scribers of the ancient societies used terminology that indicate the existence of nations. The biblical Hebrew term gôy (‘nation’); the Akkadian gayūm; the Aramean ‘Aram Kulloh (‘all Aram’); the Greek panhellenas (‘all the Hellenes’) and génos; the Persian īrāniyyat (‘being a Persian’).

 

We can find legal categories that were used to differentiate between natives of the land and outsiders. For example the ancient Israelite differentiated between a ‘native of the land’ on the one hand, and the ‘foreigner’, on the other.

 

"Do not despise an Edomite, for the Edomites are related to you. Do not despise an Egyptian, because you resided as foreigners in their country. The same concept we find in the Japanese ‘Ritsuryo State’, Korea during the Koryŏ period (c. 935–1392), Poland, and medieval England. A category absent in the case of, the Vandals, who did not have a stable territory.” [17]

 

Steven Grosby, an academic intellectual wrote: "I stated in Nation and Nationalism that ‘it is difficult to avoid suspecting that, given developments such as a territorially unifying religion and a law propagated by the center … there must have been some degree of recognition by the peasantry that the center of their society was precisely that, and accordingly was due their respect, even if the center was experienced, as it often is for modern nations, as being burdensome’.

 

Despite numerous complications, those societies (ancient Israel/Judah, early Sri Lanka, eighth‐century Japan, medieval Poland) exhibited: (1) a self‐designating name; (2) a written history; (3) a degree of cultural uniformity, often as a result of and sustained by religion; (4) legal codes; (5) an authoritative center; and (6) a conception of bounded territory.” [18]

 

Azar Gat, an academic intellectual wrote: "Asia, where states evolved the earliest, is also where some of the most ancient national states can be found. From around 3000 BC, unified Egypt emerged as the world’s first large, territorial national state, congruent with a distinct people of shared ethnicity and culture. This, indeed, was the secret of its remarkable endurance for nearly three millennia. Further east, the small national states of Israel, Amon, Moab and Edom, together with other incipient national states and city-states in the Ancient Near East, were destroyed by Assyria, the region’s first territorial empire.... Thus, the pristine emergence of national states in that part of the world was interrupted by the rise and triumph of imperial power…. Modernist historian and theorist Eric Hobsbawm has noted that China, Korea and Japan are ‘among the extremely rare examples of historic states composed of a population that is ethnically almost or entirely homogeneous’... Here lies the answer to the question raised by why French Indochina disintegrated into separate national states upon decolonisation, rather than becoming a single realm as did Dutch Indonesia. This outcome ensued because each of Indochina’s modern states had a long history and an ethnic core or Staatsvolk identified with it, which constituted at least 85 percent of its population. These included: a Viet state since the tenth century; Cambodian-Khmer state since the sixth century; a Siamese-Thai state since the fourteenth century; and a Mayanmar-Burman state since the tenth century (the last one being the exception with only 68 percent of the population Bamar). Evidently, Hobsbawm was far too modest in singling out China, Korea and Japan for their close connection between people and state.” [19]

 

The relevance of the existence of ancient nations is also evident in the numerous uprisings of people which the Roman Empire subjugated. Examples for this are the Berber and Nubians in Northern Africa, the Jews in Palestine, various Germanic and Slavic people, the invasions of the so-called barbarians etc. These insurrections and wars played – in combination with the social struggles of the coloni (tenant farmer) and the slaves – a crucial role in the decline and collapse of the Western Roman Empire in its late period of the 3rd to the 5th century.

 

At this point the reader may ask: why is it important to find whether there existed ancient nations and why it is important to distinguish between the ancient nations and modern nations.

 

It is important because reactionary nationalists tend to claim that the modern nations are the continuation of the ancient nations which is reactionary nonsense.

 

For Mussolini one important goal was the revival of the glory of the Roman Empire as he claimed that the modern Italians are the continuation of the Romans; The Boers of South Africa claimed they were the Israelites who escaped Pharos (the British); The Zionists claim that the Israelis of today somehow are the continuation of the Israeli ancient nation. In reality these are two different societies. The ancient Israelites were a peasant nation while the Zionists are capitalist settler colonialists. The same type of peasant and slave society is true for other ancient nations.