Every successful revolution

Since World War II every successful revolution has defined itself in national terms — the People’s Republic of China, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and so forth — and, in so doing, has grounded itself firmly in a territorial and social space inherited from the prerevolutionary past. Conversely, the fact that the Soviet Union shares with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland the rare distinction of refusing nationality in its naming suggests that it is as much the legatee of the prenational dynastic states of the nineteenth century as the precursor of a twenty-first century internationalist order.

Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities.

(As we all know, the USSR was a steppe empire.)

Eric Hobsbawm is perfectly correct in stating that ‘Marxist movements and states have tended to become national not only in form but in substance, i.e., nationalist. There is nothing to suggest that this trend will not continue.’

Now, if we look at the relation between the Marxist revolutionaries in the first world and nationalism… well, the revolution won’t be coming anytime soon. One might even begin to suspect that they don’t want it to.

Also:

Tom Nairn, author of the path-breaking The Break-up of Britain, and heir to the scarcely less vast tradition of Marxist historiography and social science, candidly remarks: ‘The theory of nationalism represents Marxism’s great historical failure.’ But even this confession is somewhat misleading, insofar as it can be taken to imply the regrettable outcome of a long, self-conscious search for theoretical clarity. It would be more exact to say that nationalism has proved an uncomfortable anomaly for Marxist theory and, precisely for that reason, has been largely elided, rather than confronted. How else to explain Marx’s failure to explicate the crucial adjective in his memorable formulation of 1848: ‘The proletariat of each country must, of course, first of all settle matters with its own bourgeoisie’? How else to account for the use, for over a century, of the concept ‘national bourgeoisie’ without any serious attempt to justify theoretically the relevance of the adjective? Why is this segmentation of the bourgeoisie — a world-class insofar as it is defined in terms of the relations of production — theoretically significant?

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2 responses to “Every successful revolution

  1. Pingback: Every successful revolution | Reaction Times

  2. Pingback: Thedes and phyles | nydwracu niþgrim, nihtbealwa mæst

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