The Factors of Race and Nation in Marxist Theory (3)


The Social Structures of the German Barbarians

7. The peoples who brought an end to the Roman Empire with their waves of invasions also originally possessed a gentile and matriarchal organization, and a communist system of cultivation of the land. When they first came into contact with Rome, they were between the middle and the higher stage of barbarism, and were beginning to make the transition from a nomadic to a sedentary lifestyle. Their military organization was beginning to give way to the formation of a class of military chiefs who elected the king and who were accumulating vast wealth, seizing the land from the free peasants, who were previously all members of the gens and the tribe, and thus free and of equal status. The state also began to emerge among these peoples, and the foundations were gradually laid that would lead many centuries later to the modern rebirth of the nation.

The information available concerning the German peoples located throughout Europe north of the Danube and east of the Rhine depicted them as having a system of agricultural production governed in common by families, gentes and marks, followed by a type of occupation of the land characterized by its periodic redistribution with the lands that were not totally held in common being set aside as fallow land for later cultivation. During this period, crafts and industry were completely primitive: there was no commerce and no money circulated, except for Roman coins in the border zones of the empire, along with a certain quantity of imported manufactured goods.

All of these peoples were nomadic during the time of Marius, who repelled the hordes of Cimbrians and Teutons from the Italian peninsula, which they were attempting to occupy be crossing the Po; many of them were still nomadic during the time of Caesar, who observed them on the left bank of the Rhine, and they are only described as sedentary in the time of Tacitus, one hundred fifty years later. They had evidently undergone a complicated process related above all to their rapid population growth, but we lack primary historical documentation for this period: at the time of the fall of the Empire there were six million of them, according to Engels, in an area that is now home to about one hundred fifty million people.

The class distinctions between the military chiefs who possessed land and power and the mass of peasant-soldiers (since there were no slaves and therefore the only people who did not bear arms or were exempt from the obligations of warfare were those who worked the land) led to the formation of authentic states, as they occupied a fixed territory and chose a stable king or emperor, even for life but not yet hereditary in the context of a dynasty. Once this point was reached the gentile order had already been overthrown, since the tradition of the popular assembly of the community is completely altered in favor of the assembly of chiefs or noble electors, which constituted the foundation of an openly class-based power.

This process was undoubtedly accelerated by the conquest of the territories of the declining Roman Empire, in which the invading peoples settled. Rather than its reorganization, their revolutionary task was the destruction of the corrupt Roman Empire; as Engels said, they liberated the subjects of Rome from their parasitic state, whose socio-economic foundations collapsed, and the invaders obtained in exchange at least two-thirds of the imperial territory.

The new organization of agricultural production in these lands, in view of the relatively small numbers of the occupying forces and their tradition of communist labor, left vast tracts unassigned, not only of forests and pastures, but also cultivated lands, and the German forms of law either prevailed over the Roman forms, or the two forms existed side by side. This made possible a fixed territorial administration of these nomadic peoples, and Germanic states arose that for four or five centuries ruled the old Roman provinces and Italy itself. The most important of these states was that of the Franks, which served as a defensive rampart against the occupation of Europe by the Moors, despite yielding some territory to pressure from the Normans, and thus enabled populations to remain in the territories they occupied, forming a complex ethnic mixture of Germans, Romans and, in the kingdom of the Franks, the indigenous Celts. These Germanic states were not nations, however, due to this recent crowding together of heterogeneous ethic types, traditions, languages and institutions: but they were states because they finally had stable borders and a unified military force.

"And, further, however unproductive these four centuries appear [the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th centuries A.D.], one great product they did leave: the modern nationalities, the new forms and structures through which west European humanity was to make coming history [the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries]. The Germans had, in fact, given Europe new life, and therefore the break-up of the states in the Germanic period ended, not in subjugation by the Norsemen and Saracens, but in the further development of the system of benefices and protection into feudalism…."

Before we conclude this part of our text with the description of the features of the medieval constitution, in which the "national" factor is substantially excluded, we want to point out that in the classic Marxist doctrine not only is the organization of the ancient barbarian and nomadic gentile constitutions into states considered to be a historically positive development, which benefited the peoples of the Mediterranean peninsulas for more than one thousand years, but so is the development of the national character of these states, their development in the direction of nationality, that is, towards a community that is circumscribed not just by certain racial characteristics, but also by the language and traditions and customs of all the inhabitants of an extensive and stable geographic territory. While the historical idealist sees in nationality a general fact that is always and everywhere present wherever there is civil life, the Marxists attribute it to particular cycles. We have recounted the history of the first historical cycle, and it was that of the great national democracies "superimposed" on the masses of slaves, but with free men divided into social classes. We shall discuss the second cycle in Part 3, that of the democracies of free men, now without human slaves. In this second historical cycle the reality of the nation accompanies a new class division: that of capitalism. The nation and its material influence are perfected in capitalism and bourgeois democracy, but not before, since the formation of nation states will be indispensable so that the passage to modern capitalism in the various geographic areas may be accomplished.

Feudal Society as Non-national Organization

8. The economic relations that define the feudal order explain how the feudal type of production led to the origin of a specific corresponding historical form of the political state, but one lacking a national character.

To explain how the encounter between two such heterogeneous types of production—the agrarian community of the barbarian peoples and the regime of private landed property of the Romans—led to the feudal system that is in turn based on agrarian production, and to emphasize the Marxist conclusion that the states of classical antiquity, above all in their best periods, had a national character, which would be lacking in the medieval order, it is necessary to recall the most noteworthy characteristics of their respective relations of property and production.

In the barbarian order, until slavery appeared, the farmer was a free member of the community, but the land was not subdivided in individual parcels nor was any part of it set aside for individual consumption, nor were agricultural products regulated, harvested and consumed in accordance with individual control.

In the classical order of antiquity, the agricultural worker was essentially the slave, and slavery prevailed not just in agriculture but also in the already highly developed and differentiated sector that produced manufactured goods, which is why it is correct to state that the Greco-Roman world had an authentic industrialism and in a certain sense a real capitalism: capital, instead of being constituted by the land and the instruments of production was formed above all by living men, while today, for example, in an enterprise the land, the machines and the draft animals are capital. This ancient capitalism did not have generalized wage labor as a corresponding term, since it was rare for a free man to work for a wage.

Because the slaves, however, who constituted the fundamental labor force of society (perhaps at first they were the common property of all the free men), were goods that could be owned, their distribution was unequal and this resulted in the division of the category of free men into two classes: citizens who owned slaves, and citizens without slaves, without property in men. It seems that even the wise Socrates himself aspired, in his impoverished status as a philosopher, to buy at least one slave boy.

The citizen without slaves was therefore incapable of living on the labor of others, and so he had to work. He did not work like a slave, of course, but like a free man, that is, without taking orders from a master. And for this reason he had to participate in the regime of landed private property. The free worker is a landowning peasant who disposes of his piece of land according to his wishes, obtaining products with the labor of his own two arms. Other free men who were not rich and who did not own slaves engaged in free craft labor or the liberal professions (which were not conceded, at least as an intellectual activity, to slaves).

When this cycle is complete all the arable land is reduced to an allodial good. The allod is private property in the land, with full rights to sell it or to buy other land. This means that the new land that was conquered by Rome was immediately divided among the victorious (Roman) soldiers who became colonists. For allodial rights to be freely exercised, however, it is necessary for circulating money to exist with which various products can be purchased, including the slaves normally associated with the possession of land.

The few goods that were not distributed in the ancient regime by way of parcelized individual ownership and remained in the hands of the state or of local administrative entities comprised, as opposed to allodial goods, the public domain. The fact that the private allodium predominated over the public domain required the existence of a circulating medium, and therefore of a general market to which all the free citizens of the entire territory could have access: this condition was completely fulfilled in Greece and Rome. The type of production of classical antiquity therefore presented, for the first time, unlike the system of production under barbarism with its restricted circles of labor-consumption, a domestic national market (and also the beginnings of an international market). The territorial state is a national state not only when its power reaches the whole territory by way of armed force (as was also true of the Egyptians, Assyrians, and later of the Salian Franks and the Burgundians, etc.), but also when the trade in the products of its labor and of goods extends throughout its entire territory and between the most distant points of that territory. In the juridical superstructure this is expressed by the exercise of the same rights on the part of the citizenry in all parts of the state. Only then is the state a nation. In the framework of historical materialism, a nation is therefore an organized community in a territory in which a unified domestic market has been formed. Corresponding to this historical result is a parallel degree of community of blood, and even more of language (you cannot do business without speaking!), of habits and customs….

The classical economic environment gave birth to the phenomenon of accumulation, as also takes place in modern capitalism: we then find those who have many slaves and those who have none, those who have a lot of land and those who hardly have enough to till with their bare hands. This concentration led to destructive results and transformed slave labor into an economically counterproductive factor as the land was relentlessly being divided into smaller and smaller parcels. In this context and with these relations in mind Pliny wrote that "latifundia Italiam perdidere" ["the latifundia are the ruination of Italy"—Note of the Spanish Translator], and in the superstructure of morality the enslavement of man became an infamy…. Contemporary compilers of agrarian laws actually went so far, with regard to aspects of technological and social development, to identify slavery with the odium of capitalist exploitation of agricultural labor. But let us return to our examination of Medieval agricultural labor.

With the collapse of the Roman agrarian economy that had become technologically retrograde and unproductive, the general fabric of commerce by which movable wealth circulated throughout the entire empire also collapsed, and the range of all types of needs of the population that could be satisfied also contracted. The barbarians, however, arrived with a tradition of not being such big consumers, and for them, after the brief hiatus of the dissipation of the loot they obtained in the cities, which went into decline at this time, the real wealth that they had conquered was the land. But they were too late, since the social division of labor was already too highly advanced for all the land seized from the Roman landowners and latifundists to be worked in common, or managed as part of the public domain of the new powers. What emerged was a mixed type of allodial and public domain lands. Part of the land was appropriated for the common use of the communities (civic customs that have survived to this day), and another part was definitively divided in an allodial form, which was completely precarious in the period when new waves of conquerors were constantly arriving, and another part was shared out by way of periodic redistributions (even today this institution of re-allotment of the land has survived in cadastral legislation, in Austria, for example).

The free peasants who took possession of the much desired and fertile Mediterranean lands would rapidly obtain greater yields than the gangs of slaves. And in this context the productive forces of so many previously unused arms and of the rich terrain scorned by the wealthy Romans underwent a powerful resurgence. Because of the collapse of the Roman administrative network with its communications and means of transport, however, trade collapsed as well, regressing into a type of local production characterized by the direct local consumption of the product.

This economy without commerce characterized the Middle Ages, whose states possessed legal systems and territorial armies, but did not have united territorial markets: as a result, they were not nations.

If the members of the old gentile institutions had already lost their social equality during the course of the migrations and conquests, they would soon also lose, together with the semi-common and semi-allodial control of the occupied lands, their liberty and their autonomy as well. The process entailing the concentration of territorial property into the hands of military chiefs, functionaries, favorites of the king's court, and religious bodies had commenced.

The slaves of antiquity were replaced by a new class of serfs, who did all the manual labor themselves, above all, the robbery and extortion of the free laborers. Farming land that was divided into many parcels presupposed a stable order, which in the Roman state was guaranteed by its judges and its soldiers, but which now was lacking not only because new armed peoples frequently came to the fertile lands, but also because struggles broke out between the lords and chieftains of a single ineffectively centralized power.

The free peasant needed security more than freedom, since security was the basic element of the Roman juridical order, which was now rehabilitated and held up as a model. By surrendering his freedom he found security, or at least a better chance of cultivating the land for himself and not for other predatory elements, who deprived him of his tools and equipment along with his entire harvest.

This form was known as commendation (and not recommendation as some texts call it), which is basically nothing but an agreement between the peasant farmer and the armed and warlike lord. The feudal lord guaranteed stability in the territory where the labor was performed, and the peasant handed over to him part of his crop or else part of his labor time. But the security of not being expelled from the land he farmed was transformed into the obligation not to leave it. He was no longer a slave, who could be sold, but he was not a free peasant, either: he was the serf of the glebe.

The Bases of the Modern Revolution. The defense waged by Engels on behalf of this form as opposed to latifundist slavery is completely Marxist. The new form allows, for example in the France of the semi-savage Celts, an enormous development of productivity and an enormous increase in the stable population, so that the periodic famines (the consequence of the abolition of trade between regions and provinces) and the Crusades (an attempt to reopen the trade routes of antiquity) did not reduce this population two centuries later.

Thus, the revolution that accompanied the fall of the Roman Empire at the hands of the barbarian migrations served the further development of the social productive forces.

The destruction of general commerce and of the markets that once embraced the furthest reaches of nation and empire condemned the newly-fertilized and colonized Europe to a very long period of molecular economic life, its populations dispersed and reduced to tiny islands, a Europe that still was the home of stable peoples who gradually became culturally and technologically more advanced, an advance that corresponded with the organization of the countries that were consistently occupied by humans, although the class that at that time formed the vast majority of the population, the class of the serfs bound to the glebe, was excluded from any social advancement.

As Fourier had so felicitously intuited, however, while the slaves of antiquity had not engaged in any real victorious liberation struggles, for the European peoples the basis of a distant but formidable revolutionary uprising against the ruling classes and institutions of the feudal epoch had been prepared.

While the modern urban proletariat was making its appearance in history, the national demand was the main cause of this immense revolution, and was conducive to the liberation of the modern citizen from the chains of his servitude by situating him at the level of the ancient citizen. If the modern bourgeois revolution literally uses and abuses the echo of the Greco-Roman glories—"qui nous délivrera des Grecs et des Romains?"—it is nevertheless true that it was a revolutionary ferment with a gigantic force.

The national revolution and its demand are not ours, nor do they mean the conquest of an irrevocable and eternal benefit for man. But Marxism observes it with interest, and even with admiration and passion, and when it arose in history, in decisive moments and locations, it participated in this struggle on its side.

It is necessary to study the degree of development of the cycles, identifying the crucial places and moments. If one thousand years have transpired between the development of the primitive Mediterranean peoples and those of continental Europe, the termination of the modern national cycle in the West could be said to have been accomplished, but from the revolutionary point of view, the cycle of the peoples of other races remains open and will continue to remain open for a long period, with its own different cycles and continents. And this is above all why it is so important to shed light, in a Marxist and revolutionary sense, upon the role of the national factor.

Part 3


Feudal Obstacles to the Emergence of Modern Nations

1. The organization of feudal society and its state posed an obstacle to the bourgeois drive towards the formation of the modern unitary nation due to its decentralized nature in a horizontal and vertical sense. While each one of the recognized "orders" possessed its own rights and to a certain extent was forbidden to intermarry with other orders and thus constituted quasi-nations, the feudal domains, for their part, because they were characterized by a closed economy with respect to the force of human labor power, caused the groups of serf workers to form small unfree nations.

Picking up where we left off at the end of Part 2 of this study on the history of the classical nation and its fate after the fall of the Roman Empire, the barbarian invasions and the formation of the medieval states, it would not be a bad idea to enumerate those aspects of feudalism that militated against the historical reemergence of the nation. The nation, then, is a geographic circuit within which economic traffic is free, the positive law is common for all, and to a great extent there is an identity of race and language. In the classical sense, the nation excluded the masses of slaves and included within these relations only the free citizens; in the modern, bourgeois sense, the nation includes all those who were born in it.

If, prior to the first great Greco-Roman historic stage, we found states that were not nations, and if we once again find such states after this stage and before the bourgeois stage, we never find a nation without a state. Our entire materialist analysis of the national phenomenon is therefore based at every step on the Marxist theory of the state, and the latter is the difference between the bourgeoisie and us. The formation of nations is a real physical fact like any other, but once the nation is united as a state, it always appears divided into social classes, and the state is not an expression—as the bourgeoisie say—of the whole nation as an aggregate of persons, or even of municipalities or districts, but is the expression and the organ of the interests of the economically ruling class.

At this point we have confirmed the truth of two theses: national unity is a historical necessity and is also the precondition, along with the unitary domestic market, the abolition of the estates, and positive law that is the same for all subjects of the state, for the future advent of communism; and the centralized state not only does not exclude the class struggle but causes the class struggle against it to rise to its highest pitch, just as it accentuates the international nature of this struggle in the arena of the socially developed world.

The economy of feudal society was predominantly agrarian. The members of the aristocratic order divided the possession of all the land not only with regard to its topographic boundaries, but above all to establish their personal domination over groups of the peasant population. Due to their privileges the nobles formed, in a certain sense, a "nation": they did not intermarry with serfs, artisans or bourgeoisie, and they possessed their own laws and judges belonging to their own order. Their hereditary possession of the land in its pure form was not alienable, and was ruled by a title or investiture granted by the higher feudal hierarchy and ultimately, within certain limits, by the king. The bearing of arms was the privilege of this order just like the prerogatives of command; when it was necessary to mobilize large armed contingents, the latter were composed of mercenaries and were often recruited from other countries.

The class of serfs did not form a nation, not only because it did not have any central representation or expression, but also because it was reproduced in closed circles that were kept separate from each other; it was legally subservient to the lord and the legal codes varied according to the zones or the opinions of the lords. The physical boundary for the serf was not the state frontier nor was he under the jurisdiction of the central state power, since both frontiers and power were encompassed by the fief of his immediate lord.

Now we must speak of the ecclesiastical order, which at various stages was very closely aligned with the power of the aristocratic order. But the ecclesiastical order was not a nation and did not define a nation, because it was incapable of genealogical continuity due to the celibacy of the priests as well as the fact that its boundaries were extra-national. The Catholic Church, as its name indicates, is international, or, more precisely, in its organizational and doctrinal features it is international and interracial. This particular superstructure was the product of an economy based on closed units. The serf was the only element that provided labor power, and he consumed part of it in the form of a fraction of the products of the land: local needs were limited in such a way that they were supplied by locally manufactured products, with a completely embryonic division of labor, and the first artisans were barely tolerated (those very famous artisans who, while the peasants inhabited their lands in isolation, were concentrated in the "burg" at the foot of the lord's castle, and who were later to become the terrible, destructive and revolutionary bourgeoisie). The lord and his small crew of henchmen consumed the quota brought by the peasants to the castle, or which was produced by the corvée labor of the peasants on the lord's own estate. It is clear that, since a small, privileged minority exercised control over a large quantity of products, their needs gradually increased and therefore so did their demand for manufactured articles, even if the little princesses still ate with their hands and changed their shirts only on special occasions.

This was the origin of the material conflict, the starting point of that whole immense struggle that would invoke the high-sounding words, Fatherland, Liberty, Reason, Criticism, and Idealism against the feudal obstacles to the free circulation of persons and things, and the demand for domestic freedom of trade throughout the entire state, and then for universal freedom of trade, that would allow the lord to enjoy his wealth, but would also whet the appetites of the merchants who would one day proceed to buy with money the sacred and so avidly sought feudal lands: those who deluded themselves that they were gaining a fatherland, would instead obtain within the confines of the state a single currency, a stock exchange, and a unified system of tax collection, conditions that would make possible the eruption of capitalist productive forces.

Feudal Localism and Universal Church

2. In medieval society the productive and economic base was not national but sub-national, with respect to sites of labor and locations of markets. The linguistic, cultural, scholastic, and ideological superstructure was not national because it was concentrated around the Roman Christian Church, with a universal dogma, ritual and organization. But the power of the Church did not extend so far as to overcome feudal particularism, since the Church strictly supported the interests and enactments of the landowning nobility.

The classical nations had already attained the unity of personal and commercial law within their political frontiers, because agrarian production, which was also fundamental at that time, made it possible to amass commodities and money thanks to the labor of the slaves, and also thanks to the overwhelming inequality that existed, which was not only permitted but tolerated by Roman law, with regard to the number of slaves that were possessed by free citizens, as was also the case with the allodial possession of the land.

After the suppression, clarified in the light of determinism, of this slave type of production, the road to the general flow of manufactured commodities would be opened up by another means—the bourgeoisie—and their production would be carried out in tandem with the development of agriculture, only to enormously—and irrationally—surpass it in the capitalist epoch.

But with Rome the classical nation had become more than just a nation; it was a territorial political universe with an organized power that extended throughout the entire non-barbarian world.

The ineluctable crisis of this mode of production, which had led to fantastic levels of accumulation favored by state centralism and its dictatorship over the provinces, and by the concentrated ownership of land and slaves in the hands of a few super-powerful rich people, had facilitated for the invading barbarians the task of reducing this immense unitary organization into fragments.

In the Middle Ages this universalism was attained under a very different form, in the powerful organization of the Christian Church of Rome. We shall not pause here to examine in detail the great historical process, which can be grasped in the light of the same social tendencies, relating to the Eastern Empire that survived for centuries after the fall of the Western Empire, and which, although it was capable of diverting the Germanic attack from the northwest was incapable of repeating this achievement with regard to the Asians from the southeast, leading, by way of essentially analogous paths, to the fragmentation of a unity that had long been merely symbolic.

In Western Europe the need to develop general commercial exchange in opposition to the feudal parcelization of the land took the form of a demand to reconstruct centralism, which had given the classical Roman world a degree of power, wealth and wisdom that seemed beyond the reach of the feudal states. But the response to this demand could not be that of the "Guelphs", who opposed the German Empire of the time and its bellicose ruling class with the international influence of the Church, even though this was attempted in the midst of the imperial conflict with the class forces of the first citadels of the new bourgeois class: the Italian cities, ruled by master craftsmen, artisans, bankers and merchants, who had already made inroads throughout all of Europe.

The Church in fact constituted in all the states that arose from the dismemberment of the Empire—after the first centuries of resistance—a common superstructure that served the power of the feudal lords and their monarchs. Precisely because they were not national societies, the functions this superstructure performed transcended the limits of their political borders. National languages spoken by the "people", or "the common folk", did not yet exist. The language of the priests in all parts of feudal Europe was Latin, while the masses of the serfs spoke dialects that were incomprehensible to people living ten or twenty kilometers away, so that one could not travel to find work or money, but only to fight, and this is why they rarely needed a common tongue. Latin, however, was not just the language of religious ritual, which was of little importance, but was the only existing cultural vehicle, practically the only language that could be read and written everywhere.

Latin, and only Latin, was taught to the members of the noble order, and this means that education, assimilated by the Church, remained an inter-state structure, even though members of other classes were admitted, and besides the "young lords" and the future priests and friars, a few children of the bourgeoisie of the cities were also allowed to attend school, but the dispersed peasants (and this situation has not yet been totally overcome today, in some unfortunate provinces of nations as noble as … Italy and Yugoslavia!) were absolutely excluded.

It was through this unitary sieve that all high culture passed—the same topics and texts were discussed in Bologna, Salamanca, Paris and London—but so did the practical culture itself and, ultimately, this is where the entire bureaucratic, civil, judicial and military element came from: any class that possessed a culture, possessed some kind of "national culture" in only the vaguest sense, and only after the year one thousand did "national literatures" emerge.

The bourgeoisie themselves adapted to everything and paid their tribute to this social nexus, which is a superstructure of the dominant type of production, but at the same time it is an inevitable means of labor, and while the banker did business with Amberes or Rotterdam from Florence, he did so by way of a commercial correspondence in Latin, even though this Latin summarily butchered the resurrected Caesar and Cicero; no less than the Latin used in the Mass.

The entire Catholic ideological structure, however, despite the scale of this edifice that went far beyond the differences of blood, race and language that separated men, is historically bound to the defense and preservation of the feudal type of servitude. This collaboration began from below with the collaboration of the priest and the local lord, who shared the tithes and taxes from the exploited peasantry, whose status as subjects was strictly connected with their bond to the soil and to the fief where they were born. On the other hand, monastic communities and the major religious orders, although not without a struggle with the lords, possessed vast tracts of land under the form of a productive relation that was completely identical with the feudal form, both of which shared the requirement that this possession of land, bodies and souls was inalienably bound to the title, aristocratic on the one hand and ecclesiastical-hierarchical on the other, to the land.

Universalism and Political Centralism

3. Although in Italy the first struggles of the bourgeoisie, organized in small city-republics but still incapable of creating an inter-regional economy, were supported by the Papacy and the Guelphs, Dante anticipated the modern bourgeois forms by invoking the monarchy as the first historically possible form of centralized state, although he did not expressly formulate a true national policy due to his Ghibelline universalism that postulated a single European power.

When Dante wrote his treatise De Monarchia, he adopted the Ghibelline position, despite the fact that his family supported the Guelphs. In the theory of history expressed by Dante the demand for a united central power is fundamental, and the sterile battles between municipal families and feudal lords is rejected. The new demand for universalism rested on the formidable tradition of the Roman Empire, rejecting and combating the universalism of the Catholic Rome; this is why Dante condemned the political power and policies of the papacy and invoked the German Emperor as the great monarch who would unify all of Europe in one centralized state: Germany and Italy, and then France and the other countries.

Should we include Dante's political doctrine in the Medieval period because it does not contain the essential bourgeois demand of separate nationalities, or to the contrary do we perceive it as an anticipation of the modern bourgeois era? We must obviously choose the latter viewpoint. The institution of the absolute monarchy arose, in the midst of the Middle Ages, as the only form of centralized state that could effectively engage in the struggle against the federalism of the feudal lords and their pretensions to local self-government. At the side of these centrifugal forces one also finds the obscurantism of the clergy and of Rome; meanwhile, the great royal courts—a brilliant example of which, that of Frederick II of Swabia in Palermo, is lauded by Dante—cleared the way for the new productive forces and for commerce, and therefore the support of the arts and the exchange of ideas outside the scholastic dictatorship. The Swabian king was not exactly a national king, but the accounts of his atheism, culture and interest in art are not entirely legendary, and it is certainly true that he was the founder of the first industries and manufacturing enterprises, precursors of the social forms that were alien to the retrograde ignorance of the aristocracy, which was expert only in the use of arms. The first form that capitalism mobilized against the old regime of landowners was the central monarchy with its court in a great capital city, where artisans, artists and men of knowledge opened up new horizons for material life.

The Latin treatise De Monarchia is one of the first ideological manifestations of this modern demand and is in this sense revolutionary, anti-feudal and anti-Guelph: the anti-clericalism of the future would make extensive use of the invectives of this great poem directed against the papacy. And if the straightforward national demand is not explicit in Dante, and if he foresees an Italy that is politically united, despite the feudal lords, but only as a province of the transalpine Empire, this is because in Italy the modern bourgeoisie was born early, but with a municipal and local character, which did not diminish the importance of this first manifestation of the living forces of the future, but it was socially subjugated, due to reasons inherent to the change in the geographic routes of the nascent system of commercial exchange, before the vision of a powerful united capitalist state within national boundaries could be conceived. This did not detract from the fact that it was in this country that Dante himself chose to write literature in the vulgar Italian language, paving the way for the decisive dissemination of the Tuscan dialect in competition with the one hundred dialects that extended from those of Lombard origin to those influenced by the Saracens.

The Revolutionary Demands of the National Bourgeoisie

4. According to the Marxist interpretation of history each period of transition from one mode of production to another witnesses on the one hand the mobilization of the ruling class to defend its economic privileges by means of the employment of the apparatus of power and the influence of its traditional ideologies, and on the other the struggle of the revolutionary class against these institutional and ideological interests. This revolutionary class, in a more or less well-defined and comprehensive manner, engages in a propaganda campaign featuring new ideologies within the old society, new ideologies that contain the consciousness of its own conquests and of the future social mode of production. The modern bourgeoisie developed particularly interesting and suggestive systems, which constituted veritable weapons of struggle, in the different European nations, and all these systems revolved around the great demand for national unity and independence. The beginning of the modern age and the end of the medieval era is situated by the history textbooks either in 1492 or 1305. The first date is that of the discovery of America, and is significant in the history of the bourgeoisie—a truly epic saga of bourgeois history is offered by Marxism, from the incomparable synthesis of the Manifesto to the other classical descriptions—as the date that marks the opening up of the transoceanic routes, the formation of the fabric of the world market, and of the awakening of extremely powerful forces of attraction that, in the form of demand for manufactured commodities, drove the advanced white race to the war of overproduction. And in parallel with this powerful development, the center of the vigorous growth of industry shifted, and it shifted precisely from north-central Italy to the heart of extra-Mediterranean, Atlantic Europe.

1305, on the other hand, is the date when Dante wrote the Comedy, and at that time in Italy the demands of the anti-feudal and anti-ecclesiastical revolution had already made much headway, although in a very limited geographic area. Because Roman traditions had originated within the peninsula, and however much the contributions of new barbarian blood may have had an impact, the organizational forms of the Germanic peoples encountered major resistance in Italy and the feudal regime never really attained a high degree of development there.

Because of the advantages of its location amidst navigable seas, Italian trade and exchange rapidly recovered by establishing the division of labor on new foundations. Although the municipal system had collapsed with the rise of petty local lords and hereditary autocratic monarchies, agrarian serfdom did not, however, become predominant, and a large part of the population continued to be composed of independent peasants and artisans and small- and medium-scale merchants. For these same reasons, the bourgeoisie did not emerge as a national class during this period, a transition that would only take place several centuries later on a larger scale. Because of the setback it suffered in Italy, the capitalist revolution was postponed for a long time, but in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries it was victorious in England and France, and subsequently in Central Europe.

In this way the appearance of a new mode of production, limited to a restricted circle, would fail and therefore have to wait for several more generations to reemerge. Its historical recovery, however, would take place within a much more extensive circuit. This is why we must not lose sight of the fact that the communist revolution, crushed in 1871 in France, had to wait until 1917 to attempt to conquer not just France but all of Europe; and now that it has been defeated and deprived of all significance, as occurred to the limited bourgeois revolution of the Italian cities, it will be able to reemerge after a long period, on a world scale, and not just in the zones occupied and controlled by the white race.

In the period between the 12th and the 15th centuries, it might appear that the demands for the equality of citizens before the law, political liberty, parliamentary democracy and a republic were illusions that had been dissipated by history, but their force only increased due to an important historical advance on a European scale that seems quite obvious to us today. Actually, it is only in appearance that the demands of the modern proletariat for the violent overthrow of the democratic capitalist state, the dictatorship of the working class and the destruction of the economy based on money and wage labor, have been dormant and forgotten.

Throughout this entire period the bourgeois classes and groups, wielding greater influence due to the changes in the productive forces and techniques and the rise of mercantile exchange, never ceased to proclaim at every opportunity the new demands by fighting for them, until they succeeded in a totalitarian manner in smashing the feudal order and imposing their own power.

The artisan and the merchant refused to consider themselves as subject serfs of a petty local lord: both took flight, although this was at first very dangerous, and from one district to another they travelled across the state territory, their labor and their business being in demand, although it was very easy for the nobles to ambush them and take everything they had accumulated, as considerable masses of wealth had formed in the hands of individuals who were not members of the traditional orders and hierarchies. These pioneers of a new way of life demanded the right to be citizens of the state rather than the subjects of a noble: in its first form they aspired to be subjects of the king, as absolute ruler. The monarch and the dynasty were the first expressions of a central power that embraced all the people and the whole nation. The link between the state and the subject, the fundamental pillar of bourgeois law, was therefore beginning to be directly established without mediation by way of the fragmentary feudal hierarchies.

If we want to see this process operating in the domain of the economic base, we need only recall the picturesque historical incident that could be entitled, "The King of England Does Not Pay". The House of Bardi, the great bourgeois bankers of Florence, advanced to the King of England a colossal sum in gold florins for military expenses: but the King, having lost the war in question, paid back neither the interest nor the principal on the loan: the bank failed and the Florentine economy suffered a terrible blow. The old banker died frustrated, not having been able to find a jurisdiction before which he could bring charges against the deadbeat. In the bourgeois system he could even have done so before an English judge, and he would have been paid.

If we want to depict the juridical aspect of this process, we may refer to the play written by Lope de Vega, El mejor alcalde, el Rey [The Best Mayor, the King], in which the king plays the role of the hero, but the main demand is always bourgeois. In a provincial town a certain Don Rodrigo abducted a youth. The boy's father, after Don Rodrigo laughed in his face, went to Madrid and petitioned the king; the latter, in disguise, returned with him to the town, unarmed, with a small bodyguard; he assumed the position of judge and severely condemned the local lord, ordering him to release the boy and pay indemnities. The concept that every citizen could obtain justice from the king against the abuses of provincial power, expressed the bourgeois demand for centralism.

Some years later the Miller of Sanssouci became famous for his confrontation with King Frederick of Prussia, who wanted to expropriate the miller's land to expand his pleasure park. The miller left his interview with the king saying, "There are judges in Berlin!". The judge would condemn the king in the name of the king, and this would appear to be a masterpiece of the bourgeois concept of the law: but only a few years later the bourgeois itself, due to revolutionary exigencies, would show more resolution and would condemn the king to decapitation.

To the extent that in the old states ruled by the landowning nobility, as in the classical cases of France and England, the importance of commerce and manufacture grew in relation to the agrarian economy, and to the extent that large banking firms, the state debt, the protectionist system, and a centralized and unitary system of tax collection were emerging, the bourgeoisie demanded more privileges from royal power, that is, the central administration. Within the ideological superstructure, by culturally and politically demanding these new postulates, all these unitary systems are described and extolled as the expression not of a dynasty that ruled by divine right, recognized and invested by the religious power, but of all the people, of the totality of the citizenry, in a word, of the nation. Patriotism, that ideal that was eclipsed after its exaltation in classical antiquity, became the motto of the new civil demands and very soon inflamed (since it arose from the demands of the merchants and manufacturers) the intellectuals, writers and philosophers, who adorned the eruption of the new productive forces with a marvelous architecture of supreme principles and literary decorations.

The Iridescent Superstructures of the Capitalist Revolution

5. Just as the preconditions for the revolutionary struggle of the modern proletariat were established by the full development of the capitalist mode of production, the doctrine and program of the international communist revolution are established once the critique of bourgeois ideologies is fully developed, ideologies which assumed diverse national characteristics precisely because every bourgeois revolution is national and possesses its characteristics of constructing in its own particular way what Marx defines as the way an era "thinks about" itself.

In Italy, as we have already pointed out, the economic content of the bourgeois form emerged precociously, but proved insufficient to assume control of society: its political content, although of great historical importance, was limited to the control of small, free city-republics, and their artisans, merchants or commercial navigation. These forms were incapable of historically engaging in the constitution of a national power. If, however, on the one hand, this first bourgeois society would be reabsorbed by European feudal society despite its military victories against the German emperor, on the other hand its effects on the ideological and above all artistic "superstructure" were to leave their mark on later centuries. The rehabilitation of the political forms of the Roman world and the free classical institutions created by the citizens of the first republics, would be even more distinctly reflected in the organization of states and nations, in the flourishing of the new technology and of the great splendor of renaissance art, which drew upon and emulated the classical models. At the same time the literature and science that challenged the conformist domination of the Catholic and scholastic culture acquired the same impulse, by returning to and reinterpreting the study of the classic texts that provided material that was very relevant due to the social demands of the epoch. This immense movement is therefore the product of a particular development of conflict and of transition from one mode of production to another, the flash after the explosion of a new society within the old one, but which was still incapable of breaking the last chains, and only shook them with a historic earthquake; that is all, even if it could be explained and elaborated in a better way, without, however, having to resort to strange bedroom congresses of battle-tested spermatozoids that gave rise to architects, painters, sculptors, poets, musicians, thinkers, scientists, philosophers, etc., all of the first magnitude.

And there were artists, poets and ideologists, with their memorable and famous works, who never ceased to praise, even when they found themselves in situations of political and social servitude, the concept of the Italian fatherland and nationality, concepts that are incessantly and insistently repeated by their modern-day imitators, who are usually not at their level.

In Germany—and this has been addressed many times in the invectives of Marx and Engels—where one must speak of a series of miscarriages of the birth of the Nation, another great phenomenon took place: the Reformation, which spread to one degree or another throughout all of Europe.

The social struggle of the new strata against the old rule of the feudal princes, who were supported by the Church, was incapable of being crystallized in lasting political results, but it was not just limited in this first stage to the critique of artistic or philosophical schools, either, since it unfolded within the Church and was situated on the terrain of religious dogma. A process of fragmentation of the unified Church into diverse national churches which escaped from the rule of Rome then took place, not only modifying the articles of the mystic doctrine to one extent or another, but above all breaking the bonds with the ecclesiastical hierarchy and replacing it with the new national hierarchies. While a national language is one of the aspects by means of which the bourgeois nation state appears in history, another no less important aspect is religion. What happened in Germany was most impressive with regard to religion and the national church. It was the agitation of the new classes that lay behind the Reformation: bourgeoisie and master craftsmen of the German cities, as much as the peasant serfs of the countryside, looked to Luther as the person who would lead their struggle against the princes, the bastions of the feudal and aristocratic landed structure, but Luther not only rejected Münzer who commanded the defeated but glorious insurrection of the peasants against the minor princes, but did not want to lead the peasants against the great principalities, either.

While the limits and the bonds of medieval society were broken in Italy only in literature and in Germany only in religion, as expressions of immature or crushed revolutions, in the first pure historical case of a bourgeois revolution, that of England, the social economy was shaken to its deepest structural foundations. There, for climatological and geographical reasons, agricultural production never could have fed a dense population, and manufacturing and industrial production, unknown until that point in any country, underwent explosive growth. Tenant farmers accumulated large sums of money while an increasing number of peasants were expelled from the land and proletarianized: in this way the capitalist conditions of production were much more intensely imposed than elsewhere and the manufacturing bourgeoisie acquired great importance. The nobility and royalty were defeated in battle and, despite the brief period of the revolutionary republic and the death of Cromwell, the bourgeoisie quickly seized power by means of a new revolution, under a form that still persists: parliamentary monarchy. There can be no question that the geographical conditions, as much as the productive conditions, contributed to confer upon the United Kingdom the character of a single nation in contrast to the others, as the sea was its only geographical boundary. But as Engels pointed out in his Critique of the Draft Social-Democratic Program of 1891 (in which Engels proposed, for a Germany that was still divided into many small federated states, the demand, "one and indivisible republic"), in the two British Isles one finds at least three nationalities, with subdivisions along both linguistic as well as racial and religious lines. With the passage of time the Irish, of Celtic race, Catholic and formerly speakers of Gaelic, which is now almost extinct, will become substantially differentiated; and the Scottish people still conceive of themselves as very different from the English, taking into account different influences and social traditions, as is also the case in Wales, and the effects of a series of invasions and migrations: Romans, Saxons and finally Normans. The British Isles therefore feature a mixture of races, traditions, dialects and languages, some of them literary, religions and churches; but it was there that the first formation of that historic reality called the unified nation state took place, which corresponds to the establishment of the capitalist social mode.

In France the structure of the national state was being constructed by way of the civil war between the classes. Its geographical boundaries are precisely defined, except for the historical oscillation of the frontier on the Rhine, by seas and mountain chains. A rapid process led to the formation of a single language and a literature that was closely connected with that language and which absorbed the first literary manifestations of the Middle Ages by erasing their differences: this same process gradually also affected the ethnological diversity of France, which was quite significant. We must not forget that this nation typically took its name from the Franks, a Germanic people originally from the east that crushed or subjugated the indigenous Bretons and Celts. We therefore have two peoples of a non-Latin origin, but this did not prevent their language from being formed from the Latin root. The need for national unity was thus not territorial but social, and the bourgeoisie were soon able to obtain recognition as the Third Estate with representation in the Estates General which possessed a consultative function for the real power. When this proved insufficient, the struggle became directly political. There was no industrialism in France that was comparable to the British industries, and the economic schools of thought in the two countries were expressions of this fact: the English adopted the theory and apologetics of productive capitalism, while the French began with the agrarian Physiocratic school, and then proceeded to adopt the mercantilist doctrine that did not see value as emerging from productive labor but from trade in products.

Politically, there were no hesitations: the French bourgeoisie constructed their doctrine of the state by aspiring directly for power: sovereignty was not derived from inheritance or from divine right but from the consultation of the opinion of the citizens; dogma collapsed and reason was victorious, the orders and guilds were destroyed, and electoral democracy, parliament and a republic would be established. The other national form typical of the power of the bourgeoisie had been forged in the crucible of history.

In the transition from the feudal to the modern mode of production, a fundamental economic basis is the clash of the productive forces with the old relations, and the political, juridical and ideological superstructures emanate from this palingenesis of the economic base.

This cannot be reduced to a simple pharmaceutical prescription, however. The bourgeoisie had not carried out a world revolution but only the first round of the succession of national revolutions, and we have not yet seen the last of them.

From this brief summary of the fundamental study of the geographic "zones" and "historical periods" that we are undertaking with regard to the bourgeois revolution, in order to better understand the proletarian revolution—disregarding its national particularities, and embedding it within the spatio-temporal limits of its rich dynamic—we may emphasize the following chronological series: Italy—art; Germany—religion; England—economic science; France—politics. This is the integral superstructure of the capitalist productive base.

The feats of the bourgeoisie in history are evidently economic, political, artistic and religious at the same time. But the richness of its rise cannot be better summarized than with the words of the Manifesto:

"Each step in the development of the bourgeoisie was accompanied by a corresponding political advance of that class. An oppressed class under the sway of the feudal nobility, an armed and self-governing association in the medieval commune: here independent urban republic (as in Italy and Germany); there taxable "third estate" of the monarchy (as in France); afterwards, in the period of manufacturing proper, serving either the semi-feudal or the absolute monarchy as a counterpoise against the nobility, and, in fact, cornerstone of the great monarchies in general, the bourgeoisie has at last, since the establishment of Modern Industry and of the world market, conquered for itself, in the modern representative State, exclusive political sway. The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.

"The bourgeoisie, historically, has played a most revolutionary part.

"… The bourgeoisie finds itself involved in a constant battle. At first with the aristocracy; later on, with those portions of the bourgeoisie itself, whose interests have become antagonistic to the progress of industry; at all time with the bourgeoisie of foreign countries."

The Proletariat Makes Its Appearance on the Historical Stage

6. With capitalist manufacture and industry the new social class of wage laborers was created. There is a historical convergence between the formation of this class in large masses and the greatest efforts on the part of the bourgeoisie to assume political power and constitute itself as a nation. The proletarian masses, after a first phase of chaotic reaction against machinery in a feudal-medieval sense, found their road alongside the revolutionary bourgeoisie, and it was on a national scale that the proletariat achieved class unity, but not yet class autonomy.

The history of the modern epoch was largely characterized by this struggle against a nobility that had too much autonomy and a church that was too universal, in order to found, after the victory and the integral rise to power of the bourgeoisie, the modern nations. If the class content, and the content of subversion of the old mode of production, is—according to Marxism—the same for every national bourgeoisie, it is just as evident according to our doctrine that the bourgeois revolutions, as national revolutions, possess, each and every one of them, an originality and a form of their own that possess a greater significance than an exclusive consideration of their local historical and geographical peculiarities would lead one to expect. And this serves, in accordance with the forced march of capitalist development, to explain why the nations founded in this manner stand together in the struggle against the old regime for class reasons, but fight tirelessly against each other as nations and as states.

With the new ruling class, the bourgeois Third Estate, there also appeared, in the first decades of the 18th century and even before, as the new and fundamental social element: the working class. The struggles for the conquest of power against feudalism and its clerical allies, and the struggle for the constitution of national units, was fully underway: the workers of the cities and the countryside participated fully in them, even when they had authentic class organizations and political parties of their own that anticipated the program of the overthrow of bourgeois rule.

As the real socialist and communist movement emerged, not only was it aware of the enormous complexity of this process as it constructed its theoretical critique, but it also established the conditions, epochs and places in which the proletarians must totally support bourgeois revolutionary movements and insurrections and national wars.

It would not be a bad idea in order to make this more clear, and to rapidly dispel the surprise of those who seem to be hearing these things for the first time, to refer once again to the Manifesto: "The proletariat goes through various stages of development. With its birth begins its struggle with the bourgeoisie." And here Marx recalls the first, "reactionary" form of struggle: burning down factories, the destruction of machines and of foreign products, calls for a return to the medieval status of the artisans, something that had already been left behind.

This first stage suffices in itself to destroy the anti-historic position of those who simplify matters by saying: there are two classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat; everything is summed up by the fight of the latter against the former. But let us continue with our passage from the Manifesto.

"At this stage, the labourers still form an incoherent mass scattered over the whole country, and broken up by their mutual competition. If anywhere they unite to form more compact bodies, this is not yet the consequence of their own active union, but of the union of the bourgeoisie, which class, in order to attain its own political ends, is compelled to set the whole proletariat in motion, and is moreover yet, for a time, able to do so. At this stage, therefore, the proletarians do not fight their enemies, but the enemies of their enemies, the remnants of absolute monarchy, the landowners, the non-industrial bourgeois, the petty bourgeois. Thus, the whole historical movement is concentrated in the hands of the bourgeoisie; every victory so obtained is a victory for the bourgeoisie."

Again, let us continue with this passage on the incessant struggles of the bourgeoisie and among the different national bourgeoisie. It continues as follows: "In all these battles, it sees itself compelled to appeal to the proletariat, to ask for help, and thus, to drag it into the political arena. The bourgeoisie itself, therefore, supplies the proletariat with its own elements of political and general education [we would translate this as "training"—Bordiga's note], in other words, it furnishes the proletariat with weapons for fighting the bourgeoisie."

The living conditions of the modern proletariat, "modern subjection to capital, the same in England as in France, in America as in Germany, has stripped him of every trace of national character".

This passage, which precedes the other famous passage from the second chapter, the one that, quoted out of context, is so pleasing to the opportunism of every era (and now the most foolish of them all, the kind that takes the government of Tito as a model), corresponds to the precise historical thesis that we have followed in this reexamination and elaboration of the national question. The bourgeoisie everywhere possesses a national character and its program consists in giving society a national character. Its struggle is national and in order to conduct it the bourgeoisie must unite, transmitting this unity to the proletariat itself while it uses the proletariat as an ally: the bourgeoisie initiates its political struggle by constituting itself within every modern state as a national revolutionary class. The proletariat does not have a national, but an international, character.

This does not imply the following theory: the proletariat does not participate in national struggles, only in the international struggle. The bourgeoisie has the national position in its revolutionary program; its victory destroys the non-national character of medieval society. The proletariat does not have the national position in its program, a program that it will put into practice with its revolution and its conquest of political power, and instead champions the position of internationalism. The expression, national bourgeoisie, possesses a specifically Marxist meaning, and during a particular historical stage it is a revolutionary demand. The expression, nation in general, possesses an idealist and anti-Marxist meaning. The expression, proletarian nation, possesses no meaning at all, neither in an idealist sense nor in the Marxist sense.

This provides the correct framework for understanding everything that relates to both the theory of history as well as the content of the program of the revolutionary class that engages in historical struggle.

The Proletarian Struggle and the National Sphere

7. Old and new polemical deviations have confused the programmatic internationalist position of the communist proletariat with the formally national nature of some of the first stages of its struggle. Historically, the proletariat cannot become a class and cannot create a class political party except within the national sphere, and even the struggle for power is waged in a national form insofar as it is oriented towards overthrowing the state of its own bourgeoisie. It is also possible that for a certain period of time after the proletarian conquest of power the proletariat might restrict its activity to the national sphere. But this does not obviate the essential historical opposition between the bourgeoisie, which aspires to constitute bourgeois nations, presenting them as nations "in general", and the proletariat which rejects the nation "in general" and patriotic solidarity, since its duty is to construct an international society, even though it understands that up to a certain point in time the demand for national unity is useful, but always within the bourgeois camp.

With regard to the transitional stages from the bourgeois struggle for power to that of the proletariat, we shall turn to this other passage:

"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."

This passage, along with others, suffers in all existing translations from a certain erroneous gradualism in the use of terms: political organization, political force, political supremacy, political power, and finally dictatorship. The above passage follows, in the series of responses to bourgeois objections in the chapter, "Proletarians and Communists", this other no less famous passage: "The Communists are further reproached with desiring to abolish countries and nationality. The working men have no country. We cannot take from them what they have not got." After this radical affirmation of principle the text cannot continue by saying: the workers have no nationality. It is a fact that the workers are French, Italian, German, etc. Not only because of race and language (we know that all such things make you laugh), but by their physical location in the different territories where the national bourgeois state governs, which is a very influential factor in the development of its class struggle, as well as in the international struggle. This is crystal clear.

To separate a few sentences of Marx from this context in order to make him say that the workers have as a program, after the defeat of the bourgeoisie, the founding of separate proletarian nations as an essential aspect of their revolution, is not only an illusion, but amounts to imposing on the proletariat, with its high degree of current development, the programs of the bourgeoisie, in order to keep it under the rule of the latter.

This becomes even more clear if we refer to the logical and historical succession, before it is declared that the proletariat does not have a national character, in the preceding chapter, "Bourgeoisie and Proletarians".

We mentioned the description of the first stage of the struggle of the proletariat, which assumed the form of a struggle against industrial machinery; and then that of the next stage in which the proletariat united for the first time with the bourgeoisie in struggle: therefore a national alliance of the workers was formed, for a bourgeois goal.

Then the clash between the workers and the bourgeoisie in isolated enterprises and localities is described. A major step forward is taken when the local struggles coalesce "into one national struggle between classes".

Here Marx is not referring to a stupid isolation of the proletarian nation, but to the contrary, to the radical supersession of the localist, autonomist federalism represented by the Proudhonian reactionaries and subsequently by other similar schools that were always combated by Marxism. A conflict that takes place only in the vicinity of Roccacannuccia or Turin is not a class struggle. Once the bourgeoisie has been victorious in its demand for national unity, our class struggle arises for the first time after national boundaries have been physically established. Now we see the other essential words: "But every class struggle is a political struggle." This is the thesis thrown in the faces of the federalists, and economistic thinkers of all types: "But every class struggle is a political struggle." And when there were no longer any petty independent powers of the nobility but only the power of the bourgeoisie that was manifested through its centralized national state, we encountered a political struggle from the very moment when the action of the proletarians is centralized within the boundaries of a nation. This is why, when in Europe and France the proletarians only fought as an assault force of the bourgeoisie, in England, with its high degree of industrial development, they already confronted the employers and the British state as a class.

We therefore do not find ourselves within the domain of the programmatic content of the proletarian struggle, but in a description on the one hand of its successive stages in time, and on the other of its stages in space, that is, of the perimeter within which the classes wage their struggles (the word stage at first served to measure distance rather than time [Latin: stadium, from the Greek stadion; a measure of distance—American Translator's Note]). Now the bourgeoisie in its long struggle had regrouped the small feudal power centers into a single national stage of struggle, and was forced to fight on it.

Next we see it set forth explicitly: "Though not in substance, yet in form, the struggle of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie is at first a national struggle. The proletariat of each country must, of course, first of all settle matters with its own bourgeoisie."

Therefore, the stages, or the successive phases in time can be classified with complete certainty as follows:

  • The struggle of the worker against his employer in a primitive and local form.
  • The national political struggle of the bourgeoisie and its victory, with the participation of the workers united on a national scale.
  • Local and enterprise-based struggles of the workers against the bourgeoisie.
  • The united struggle of the proletariat of a particular national state against the ruling bourgeoisie. This amounts to the constitution of the proletariat as a national class, and the organization of the proletariat as a class political party.
  • Destruction of bourgeois rule.
  • Conquest of political power by the proletariat.

On this basis, in a contingent and formal and constitutional-juridical aspect, the proletariat, just as it constitutes itself as a class state (dictatorship), must also constitute itself as a national state, but all of this with a transitory character.

Nevertheless, the proletariat, which does not possess a national character, does not create this state as if it were a historically defining characteristic of its class (as was the case with the bourgeoisie). The character and the program of the proletariat and of its revolution are still totally international, and the proletariat which must now "settle matters with its own bourgeoisie" does not confront the nations where this has not yet taken place, but confronts the foreign bourgeoisie by joining in a unitary struggle together with the proletarians of the other nations.

To conclude: the proletarian movement in particular historical stages fights for the formation of nations, or favors the constitution of nations of the bourgeoisie. In this stage and the subsequent one in which one no longer speaks of alliances, the national postulate is defined as a bourgeois postulate.