2. The Causes and Manifestations
of Nationalism in the Socialist Countries

p One of the most significant successes of the world socialist system is the practical affirmation of the Marxist-Leninist thesis that the disappearance of 189 class antagonisms would bring about the disappearance of national antagonisms, that barriers and enmity between peoples would be broken down and that real fraternal friendship would replace them. The development of cooperation between the fraternal states based on the principles of international relations of a new type leads to a growing unity and convergence of nations, to the strengthening of all forms of cooperation, to mutual aid in economic and cultural development and to increased cultural exchange.

p The increased social and political unity of a nation leads to increased feelings of patriotism. Only in a socialist society does a nation really feel itself united, only here consciousness, will and action are fully integrated. This is one of the most impressive advantages of socialism over capitalism which not only divides people, but whole nations and states.

p Today internationalism is the fundamental principle in relations between the socialist nations. On the basis of objective changes in the position of -the working people and of the educational work done by the Marxist-Leninist parties a new national consciousness has been formed which is based on the unity of socialist patriotism and internationalism. But even after the bourgeoisie have been overthrown and the foundations of socialism laid, nationalist prejudices still remain, although the class basis for nationalism has essentially disappeared. Nationalism, national egoism and national parochialism do not disappear automatically, for they are among the most stubborn survivals that remain in 190 the thinking of politically immature people. During the building of a developed socialist society the existence of these survivals becomes particularly intolerable. They hold up the development of socialist society and impede the communist internationalist education of the working people. Nationalism, as events in Hungary in 1956 and in Czechoslovakia in 1968 have shown, remains a powerful weapon in the hands of the forces of counter-revolution. At the International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties in 1969 J. Kadar said: “There is no doubt that nationalism is the most dangerous of bourgeois views, particularly that form of nationalism which is expressed in anti-Sovietism."  [190•1  The formation and proliferation of an internationalist consciousness in the socialist countries can be achieved only through a systematic struggle with all forms and survivals of nationalism.

p A successful struggle with nationalism requires knowledge of the factors which cause national prejudices to arise or remain. These can be classified as either objective or subjective.

p The historical development of the modern socialist countries from the point of view of their national relations was very complex. Most of the peoples in the socialist countries engaged in national liberation struggle against foreign domination which lasted for centuries. This encouraged the development of 191 powerful national feeling on which bourgeois nationalism fed like a parasite. It was under conditions of bourgeois domination that the ruling class pursued a policy of national division and, in a number of cases, encouraged national enmity. For example, the various nationalities in the Balkans were largely isolated and hostile to one another, while national contradictions and territorial problems existed between Czechoslovakia, Germany, Hungary, and Poland. And under capitalism economic relations between what are now the socialist countries were very weakly developed.

p As a result of the policies pursued by the ruling bourgeoisie even relations between the nationalities within individual states were not normal. This was particularly true of tsarist Russia, which Lenin described as “the prison of peoples”. Numerous problems were caused by relations between the Czechs and the Slovaks, and between the German, Hungarian, Polish and Ukrainian minorities and the main population in Czechoslovakia, the Polish, Ukrainian and Byelorussian population in Poland and the Romanians and Hungarians in Romania, etc. These national contradictions also concealed traces of mutual distrust of neighbouring peoples.

p The Second World War and the fascist expansion led to a sharp aggravation of national relations in Europe. At the same time, when many peoples were enslaved and some threatened with the real danger of national genocide, the national liberation movement grew to a hitherto unheard of size under slogans of patriotism and national regeneration. And in the countries of Central and South-Eastern Europe it 192 was the proletariat that became the leader of this national liberation struggle, which was a fight not only for national liberation, but, in the final analysis, for social liberation.

p After the Second World War there was a strengthening of national elements in the policies and ideologies of many countries. In the first place this was the result of the collapse of the imperialist colonial system and the rise of dozens of new national states. Tliis growth of national feeling was in many countries increased by the ’threat that they would become more and more dependent on the leading imperialist powers. The national factor also made itself felt in connection with the rapid and all-round development of national life and the increased independence and might of the socialist countries. Thus the growth of national self-awareness among those peoples that entered the path of socialism could in certain circumstances become fertile soil for the parasitic vestiges of nationalism. It is a well-known fact that the revolution in the people’s democracies went peacefully. The members of the former exploiter classes, though relinquishing their political and economic positions, not only retain their former ideological beliefs for long, but even strive to extend their own influence at the first signs of weakness in the ideological influence of the ruling Marxist-Leninist parties. In a number of cases this section of the population acts as a vehicle of bourgeois nationalist ideology, which is characterized by distrust of and enmity towards other peoples. And whenever the possibility presents itself they do what they can to infect society 193 with their views and exploit the vestiges of national distrust and mutual resentment that still exist among the working people.

p In some cases, even after the foundations of socialism are laid, there still exists the social environment for petty-bourgeois nationalism. And this is not only the stratum of the small-scale proprietors, which in most of the socialist countries is rather weak. Petty-bourgeois ideology can also affect the socialist classes. The cooperative peasantry is formed from former farm owners and for this reason only gradually rids itself of its former views. The working class, which during the period of socialist industrialization grew considerably, was formed chiefly from the peasantry, i.e. the petty bourgeoisie, and these also introduce, if only temporarily, their own views. After the victory of the socialist revolution in the overwhelming majority of socialist countries a considerable proportion of the population was made up from the petty-bourgeois strata. And the danger of a revival of petty-bourgeois nationalism was the greater, the more backward the country was when its transition to socialism occurred.

p The existence of petty-bourgeois views and morality can also lead to the appearance of new forms of manifestation of nationalism. And this is partly encouraged by the close proximity of the capitalist world. Furthermore, the improvement in living standards sometimes gives rise to phenomena that are incompatible with socialist principles and morality such as a consumer attitude to life, dreams of pettybourgeois affluence, individualism, and careerism, 194 which are characteristic of certain strata in the new society. Social egoism of this kind contributes to the retention of national, egoistic prejudices. Lenin laid particular stress on their tenacity when he wrote: “These prejudices are bound to die out very slowly, for they can disappear only after imperialism and capitalism have disappeared in the advanced countries, and after the entire foundation of the backward countries’ economic life has radically changed."  [194•1 

p The particular danger of petty-bourgeois nationalism consists in the fact that in certain circumstances it can become a weapon in the hands of anti-socialist forces as they try to increase their influence on the masses and inflame nationalistic passions.

p The objective cause for the retention of nationalist vestiges in the human consciousness and psychology is the lag that exists between the consciousness of the individual and socio-economic development, which is itself a consequence of the uneven development of the different aspects of social life.

p In certain social conditions, particularly those that are critical, an intensification of nationalistic views and an increase in nationalistic feelings are possible.

p External ideological influence has a considerable effect on the retention of nationalist vestiges. And first and foremost among such external influence is the ideological subversion practised by imperialism. As L. I. Breznev pointed out at the 24th CPSU Congress, “It is precisely the nationalistic tendencies, 195 especially those which assume the form of anti– Sovietism, that bourgeois ideologists and bourgeois propaganda have placed most reliance on in their fight against socialism and the communist movement."  [195•1 

p Imperialist propaganda concentrates on inflaming nationalist feelings in an attempt to destabilize socialist society and break the unity of the socialist countries. By means of the thesis of national pluralism in the socialist countries it tries to show that their unity is impossible. Imperialist propaganda absolutizes the differences that exist between the socialist countries. It tries to show that Marxism– Leninism is incompatible with free national development and presents the struggle against nationalism as if it were the liquidation of all national characteristics.

p In the first place imperialism tries to weaken the ties between the socialist countries and their main support, the Soviet Union. Therefore, anti-Sovietism holds the most important place in imperialist propaganda. It falsifies the foundations on which Soviet foreign policy is built, claiming that it is hegemonistic and full of great-power chauvinism. Bourgeois propaganda distorts the integration of socialist society as nothing more than increasing the dependence of the socialist countries on the Soviet Union. The United States conducts its ideological warfare through a powerful apparatus consisting of tens of thousands of specialists in ideology, politics and 196 psychological warfare, an apparatus where political information on thousands and thousands of Communists is collected.

p Under the consistent process of detente and with the development of cooperation between states with different social systems the direct confrontation between opposing ideologies on the national question— proletarian internationalism and bourgeois nationalism—will continue to increase. The expansion of cultural and scientific exchange and tourism is used by the reactionary forces of imperialism to further their ideological subversion which they try to conceal under the guise of the “free and unlimited exchange of people and information”.

p Nationalism is also helped to survive by its close links with other vestiges of the past such as religious prejudices and regionalism. L. I. Brezhnev noted that “It should also be borne in mind that nationalistic tendencies are often interwoven with parochial attitudes, which are akin to nationalism."  [196•1  This close kinship is based on exclusive concern with local, regional and national interests and underestimation of the interests of society as a whole.

p Nationalist vestiges also make their appearance in cultural life. This is expressed in the idealization of and in an uncritical attitude towards the past, in glossing over the class contradictions in the history of a nation and in not taking a class approach to the evaluation of a nation’s cultural heritage. An 197 uncritical attitude to the historical past is one of the most widespread forms of national parochialism.

p Even in the sphere of international relations there are a number of factors which may give rise to national prejudice. In particular there are the differences in the level of economic development among the socialist countries, which apart from other historical reasons could cause the appearance of national prejudices there. It is precisely as a result of these differences that certain strata in the more developed socialist countries may begin to feel superior to their less developed socialist neighbours.

p There are also objective difficulties which accompany the formation of the historically new relation* between the socialist countries that are based on proletarian internationalism. Some of these are exploited for propaganda purposes by imperialist circles in an attempt to disrupt the unity and cooperation between the socialist countries.

p There is a growing number of complex problems which the socialist countries can solve only on the basis of a joint, coordinated approach. And at the same time in the course of cooperation between the fraternal states there may be different points of view on how to handle this cooperation. In this situation national distinctions could give rise to contradictions between the national state interests of individual countries and between their international and national interests. Understanding the whole complexity of national and international interests requires a high degree of class consciousness and mastery of the principles of Marxism-Leninism. An insufficiently 198 developed socialist consciousness in a certain part of the population could lead to false fears that the sovereignty of the fraternal states in conditions of their mutual cooperation might be limited or that their national interests might be “subordinated” to international interests. This could prove fertile ground for nationalist feeling.

p Historical experience shows that the communist parties that are opportune in their condemnation of all manifestations of nationalism and combat them systematically and consistently preclude the possibility of these phenomena becoming a serious danger. Socialism by its very nature creates the objective conditions for the scientific control of national processes in their conjunction with international processes. The realization of this potential in practice depends on the policy of the ruling communist parties and on their ability to solve these problems in all their complexity. Therefore even here mistakes are not excluded in theory and practice or a subjectivist approach to national and international objectives and interests.

p In particular, violation of the Leninist principles of national policy and subjective political mistakes can be the cause of nationalism, nationalist leanings and deviations from the solution of international tasks. The most serious consequences result from violation of the principle of equality. In Czechoslovakia, for example, violation of the principle of equality between the Czech and the Slovak nations led to grudges, distrust and alienation between them. Distrust between the peoples in a multi-national 199 socialist state can lead to violation of the Leninist principles of personnel selection, with the various nations and nationalities not being given proportional representation in the different political and economic bodies. Similarly insufficient ideological work, particularly underestimation of the importance of the internationalist education of the working people can also cause the spread of nationalism.

p A subjective shortcoming in patriotic and internationalist education is the one-sided overemphasis on patriotism which leads to the formation of a national consciousness without regard for international obligations.

p Any deviation from the correct combination of the national and the international in the politics of each ruling Marxist-Leninist party can not only complicate relations between the socialist countries but also engender nationalistic prejudices. The General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, Gustav Husak, emphasized this when he said at the Moscow International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties in 1969 that “our own experience and the experience of the other fraternal parties affirms that serious harm can be done to the combination of national and international interests by deformations of a dogmatic or revisionist character. The dogmatic ‘leftist’ approach absolutizes the force of international views and does not give sufficient attention to the force of specifically national characteristics in the development of socialist society. Revisionist, right-opportunist concepts, on the other hand, give a one-sided preference for so-called 200 Emacs-File-stamp: "/home/ysverdlov/leninist.biz/en/1982/SI507/20070614/299.tx" ‘national positions’ and tend to weaken the joint struggle of the socialist countries."  [200•1 

p Certain socialist countries allow the publication of works that distort the dialectics of the national and the international in relations between the fraternal countries. Absolutizing the independence of a country is frequently the cause of its indifference to the situation in the other socialist countries and its lack of willingness to help them or learn from their experience. Any criticism of the activities of communist parties is interpreted by the adherents of such an attitude as “interference in internal affairs”. This kind of concept of independence creates the conditions for national isolation.

p A policy of trying to build socialism in isolation from the world socialist system runs counter to the objective laws of the development of socialist society and particularly to the law that governs the internationalization of economic and social life under socialism. In the economic sphere such a policy leads to a waste of social labour, a slowing down of economic development rates and dependence on the capitalist world. Its political harmfulness consists in the fact that it upsets the unity of the socialist countries in their struggle against world imperialism. Attempts to build socialism in isolation lead to considerable difficulties, which cannot be overcome without reliance on the economic and political forces of the whole of socialist society.


p Specifically national elements are made much of in the so-called theory of “polycentrist” proletarian and socialist internationalism. This concept stresses differentiation, which is explained not only by the increasing variety of forms in which the world revolutionary process appears, but also by the manifestations of nationalism in this process. The concept, as it were, sanctions national disagreements and instead of trying to overcome them suggests that they will become even stronger in the future. The “ polycentrist" concept of internationalism does not help to strengthen unity within the world socialist system. On the contrary, it gives rise to centrifugal tendencies.

p Violation of the dialectics of the national and the international is also found in the process of solving the problem of the correlation between national and international interests. It is a great mistake to adopt an opportunist approach to national interests which gives preference to immediate, partial and more often than not imaginary advantages instead of the fulfilment of long-term objectives and interests.

p Nationalist tendencies are particularly dangerous for the development of socialism when right or left opportunists overwhelm the leadership of the ruling communist party. The connection between opportunism and nationalism was pointed out by Lenin long ago when he said: “The ideological and political affinity, connection, and even identity between opportunism and social-nationalism are beyond doubt."  [201•1 


p Today nationalism is a characteristic feature of both right- and left-wing opportunism. The inner connection between opportunism and nationalism consists in the fact that both these phenomena are the product of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois ideas in the working-class movement. “Under the dictatorship of the proletariat, " L. I. Brezhnev noted, “ revisionists and opportunists reflect the pressure of nonproletarian, bourgeois and petty-bourgeois strata, the pressure that results from the force of habit, from the views and vestiges of the past, particularly those that are nationalistic."  [202•1 

p Both opportunism and nationalism exaggerate the specifically national characteristics and deny the importance of the international. And this provides the ideological kinship between right and “left” revisionism. In rejecting the class approach, the revisionists understand national unity as a supra-class entity, whereas in fact national interests can only be correctly understood from a socialist position in their organic link with internationalism.

p As it has been pointed out in the Programme of the Bulgarian Communist Party, nationalism that results from opportunism in the leadership of the ruling party, “may become state policy, corrupting the masses, impeding the building of socialism and the development of socialist education and undermining the unity and might of the world socialist system 203 and the international communist and working-class movement".  [203•1 

p Serious damage has been done to world socialism and the communist movement by the anti-Marxist policy and subversive activities of Maoism, which in its concentrated form expresses great-power chauvinism and anti-Sovietism. The vast breadth and depth of nationalism in China have a historical and socioeconomic basis. It is rooted in the traditional concept of Chinese ethnocentrism, which sees China as isolated from the rest of the world and at the same time the centre of world civilization. It is a concept which propounds the superiority of the Han nation and continues to pursue the great-power chauvinist policy that for centuries characterized the emperors, militarists and followers of Chiang Kaishek. Nationalism in China has grown deep through centuries of backwardness, through the low level of development of the productive forces and through the small size and influence of the working class on political life.

p But the main cause of the unrestrained nationalism in China today is the fact that the anti-Marxist ideas of Mao Zedong have been persistently forced on to the Communist Party of China and raised to the level of party and state policy under conditions of military-bureaucratic dictatorship, the virtual liquidation of the party, and the carrying out of mass repressions, including the systematic persecution of communists-internationalists.


p Maoism is a reactionary nationalist ideology veiled in Marxist terminology. As L. I. Brezhnev noted at the 25th Congress of the CPSU, “it is far too little to say that Maoist ideology and policy are incompatible with Marxist-Leninist teaching; they are directly hostile to it".  [204•1  The essence of Maoist policy in the field of international relations consists in greatpower hegemonistic aspirations, which have been shown clearly over the last two decades by the expansionist claims of the Chinese leadership on the territories of neighbouring sovereign states, by their desire to establish Chinese domination over the Third World, by the increased militarization of the country and the fanning of military psychosis, and by the attempts to foist Maoist ideology and politics on the various contingents of the world revolutionary movement by means of open intervention in internal affairs and subversion.

p The Maoists see the might and unity of the Soviet Union and the world socialist community as the main obstacle on the path of their perfidious aims. Hence their blatant anti-Sovietism and readiness to form a bloc with the most reactionary imperialist circles against the Soviet Union and the socialist community.

p Great-power chauvinism and nationalism weaken the world socialist system and harm the international communist and working-class movement and the national liberation struggle.


In the socialist countries there are no classes or social groups with an interest in preserving nationalist prejudices. Nationalist manifestations in socialist society are from the historical point of view transitory and connected first and foremost with the heritage of the past and the influence of the capitalist world on the socialist countries. These negative phenomena can only be completely got rid of by means of a purposeful, active and energetic struggle against all forms of nationalism.

* * *


 [190•1]   International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties, Documents and Materials. Moscow, 5-7 June 1969. Prague, 1969, p. 421 (in Russian).

 [194•1]   V. I. Lenin, “Preliminary Draft Theses on the National and the Colonial Questions”, Collected Works, Vol. 31, p. 150.

[195•1]   24th Congress of the CPSU, Novosti Press Agency Publishing House, Moscow, 1971, p. 27.

[196•1]   L. I. Brezhnev, Following Lenin’s Course. Speeches and Articles (1972–1975), Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, p. 76.

 [200•1]   The international Meeting of the Communist and Workers’ Parties. Documents and Materials. Moscow, 5-7 June 1969, p. 516 (in Russian).

 [201•1]   V. I. Lenin, “Under a False Flag”, Collected Works, Vol. 21, p. 154.

[202•1]   L. I. Brezhnev, Following Lenin’s Course, Vol. 2, p. 477 (in Russian).

 [203•1]   10th Congress of the Bulgarian Communist Party, Sofia, 20–25 April, 1971, Moscow, 1972, p. 230 (in Russian).

 [204•1]   Documents and Resolutions, XXVth Congress of the CPSU, Novosti Press Agency Publishing House, Moscow, 1976, p. 14.