Boris Ziherl Communism and Fatherland

Boris Ziherl

Communism and Fatherland


During the consultations which the Central Committee of the CPSU (b) held on questions of Soviet music, Zhdanov said in part:

"He cannot be an internationalist who does not love and respect his own people."

A bitter struggle is now being pursued in the Soviet Union under this slogan against bourgeois cosmopolitanism in art, philosophy and in science. In the editorial already quoted in No. 2 of the "Voprossy Filosofii", cosmopolitanism is defined as follows: "Cosmopolitanism is a reactionary ideology which preaches renunciation of national traditions, disparagement of national individuality in the development of different peoples, rejection of feelings of national honour and national pride."1

Of course, we can agree completely with this definition of cosmopolitanism.

Cosmopolitanism today is a weapon in the hands of American imperialism, a mean's of spiritual disarmament of a people who are, or are to come, under its domination. Cosmopolitanism proceeds hand in hand with the most unbridled nationalism which belittles, humiliates and rejects all that is foreign, and proclaims everything of its own as "racially pure" and original; nationalistic cosmopolites or cosmopolitan nationalists are seeking "proofs" in all corners of the globe and in all fields of human activity of the decisive spiritual influence of their nation upon which to base their exceptional rights to definite territories. Cosmopolitanism as spiritual quislingism is expressed in the slave-like imitation of all that is foreign, in the fettering of the development of national culture, in the servile discrediting of oneself, in reducing the cultural achievements of one's nation to the passive copying of foreign examples.

The general laws of social development appear only through the specific forms of development in every individual country. Each nation with its share, with its achievements of material and spiritual culture, participates in the building of universal world culture. Living connections with one's fatherland and nation are, therefore, the pre-requisite for every progressive movement of science, philosophy and art. It is possible to penetrate into the essence of a phenomenon only by making a thorough study of the different specific forms of its manifestation. The generalisation of revolutionary theory becomes fuller and more profound in content, they deepen upon taking concrete form in the specific conditions of time and place, through application in the revolutionary activity of the national parties of the proletariat.

Classics of Marxism-Leninism teach that national nihilism is alien to the working class, that the working class cannot and must not be indifferent to its fatherland and to its nation, to the positive traditions of its nation, to the national culture of its country. On the contrary, the working class of every country is the lawful heir to all the great and the significant that has been created in that country for the development of the nation and all of mankind.

Engels, in the preface to the first edition of his work "The Development of Socialism from A Utopia to A Science", stresses:

"We German socialists are proud of having our source not only in Saint Simon, Fourier and Owen, but also in Kant, Fichte, and Hegel."2

In his article "Bellicose Militarism and Anti- Militaristic Tactics of the Social-Democrats", written in 1908, Lenin said:

"The proletariat cannot bear itself with indifference and with equanimity towards the political, social and cultural conditions of its struggle, and, hence, it cannot be indifferent to the fate of its country."3

By its profundity, sincerity, and warmth, Lenin's article "On the National Pride of the Great Russians" is a unique example of deep love for one's fatherland and for one's people for their cultural heritage arid for their great progressive traditions. Comrade Stalin, in his works, and especially in his addresses delivered during the Second World War, fired the national consciousness of the Soviet peoples by pointing to their magnificent traditions of struggle for the freedom and independence of their homeland, by calling upon them to be worthy of their great ancestors, thinkers, poets, patriot-generals.

The history of our Party, especially during the past ten or twelve years of its development, is replete with struggle against national nihilism, for a correct attitude towards national traditions and towards national culture. Armed with Lenin's thought, our Party overpowered the remnants of social-democratic national nihilism in its ranks, imbued the Yugoslav proletariat with a clear knowledge of its blood kinship with all that is great in the past of the Yugoslav peoples, a knowledge that it has fatherlands: a "fatherland" of exploiters, and a fatherland of the working people, the realisation of which is the historic feat of the working class. Without combatting national nihilism which turned the old social-democracy into a "dry branch on the tree of the nation" (Cankar), it would not have been possible to turn the full attention of our Party to solving tasks which confronted the Communists in the concrete Yugoslav reality, it would not have been possible to solve these tasks as they were solved during the war and revolution of 1941-1945.

The struggle against national nihilism and cosmopolitanism is a struggle against the attempt to prove, by means of disparagement or even denial of the national maturity of another nation, the superiority of one nation over another, and its right to rule over and to prescribe its own laws for it. The struggle against cosmopolitanism serves to awaken national consciousness, to rally the creative forces of one's own people so that it might successfully resist the plans of conquest of foreign imperialists. It is the defence of the Marxist-Leninist view that — in principle — every nation, by developing its national culture, is capable of contributing fruitfully to the development of universal culture.

But the "struggle against cosmopolitanism" inevitably degenerates into nationalism if certain basic tenets of Marxism-Leninism are not taken into account.

Firstly, national cultures do not develop separately, there is mutual influence, mutual fertilisation among them! The culture of an advanced people has always influenced the culture of the more backward.

Byelinsky stated in his renowned survey of Russian literature of 1846 that it is not so much a matter of whether a certain people has borrowed something from another people but whether it independently modified what it borrowed according to its own national being, whether what it borrowed underwent an organic blending with the national, whether it went through the process of assimilation. "German philosophy started with the Frenchman Descartes, but for that reason it by no means became French."4

Engels in his letter to Konrad Schmidt of October 20, 1890, replied to the question why backward countries can also attain great success in philosophy and science:

"As a definite field of division of labour. the philosophy of every epoch has at its disposal definite philosophic materials which have been left it as a heritage by its predecessors and from which it proceeds. Hence the phenomenon that economically backward countries can play the first violin in philosophy: France in the XVIII century in relation to England upon whose philosophy the French based theirs, later Germany in relation to the former two."

Today we might add: and still latter Russia in relation to the first and second and third.

Lenin, for example, termed Chernishevsky "a great Russian Hegelian and materialist",5 and generally underlined that the Russian enlighteners of the sixties of the XIX century in no way considered themselves "individual" in the sense of isolation from general European thought, in the sence of virgin originality.6 Stalin, in his talk with an American workers' delegation in 1927, pointed out that Lenin "was and remains the most loyal and most consistent pupil of Marx and Engels", and that he "developed these teachings still further".7 It is stressed in the notes on the digest to the textbook of "The History of the USSR" which was written in 1934 by Stalin, Kirov and Zhdanov, that one of the main shortcomings of the digest is that "it does not reflect the role and influence of the Western European bourgeois-revolutionary and socialist movements on the formation of the bourgeois-revolutionary movement and the proletarian-socialist movement in Russia. The writers of the digest obviously forgot that the Russian revolutionaries considered themselves disciples and followers of the well-known leaders of bourgeois-revolutionary and Marxist thought in the West."8

Russian classical philosophy of the XIX century without doubt followed upon the philosophical heritage of the West, but on its part it acted as a decisive influence on the inception of realism in Russian literature which in the second half of the XIX century indisputably reached the level of development of world literature of that time. It is generally known that Lenin termed Marxism itself as "the legitimate successor to the best that was created by humanity in the XIX century in the shape of German philosophy, of English political economy and French socialism."9

The matter in question, therefore, is not whether the social thought of a backward people goes through the school of a more progressive one, but whether its representatives are hollow imitators or independent creators who know how to further the cultural heritage of other peoples by taking the concrete problems of their own country, in its connection with international events, and discovering new truths about nature and society.

To deny the continuance of social thought on a universal scale, and thus also the very existence of universal culture; to deny the existence of interfertilisation of national cultures wherein the lower culture always first becomes impregnated by the higher, only then to act in its turn upon the higher, to think that only one's own national culture can and must influence other people while not being affected by such influence is, of course — sheer nationalism.

Secondly, the development of society does not proceed evenly but by leaps and bounds. Some nations which at one time or other headed social progress gave way to other nations which were until recently the personification of backwardness.

Speaking of the historical roots of Leninism, Comrade Stalin, looking to Marx, points out that the centre of revolutionary movement in the past two or three centuries moved from England to France, from France to Germany which became "the homeland of scientific socialism", from Germany to Russia, "the homeland of theory and tactics of the proletarian revolution."10

It is only natural, and historical experience proves it, that a country which becomes the centre of a revolutionary movement also becomes the cradle of the most progressive scientific and philosophical ideas of its times. Chernishevsky, for example, in his dissertation "On the Causes of the Disintegration of Rome", declared that Western Europe had nothing to learn from backward, semi-feudal Russia.11 Certainly, today the assertion that Western Europe has nothing to learn from the Socialist East with Russia at its head would be reactionary. What is more, one should and must say today that that the Socialist East has nothing to lean from the ruling bourgeois culture of Wester Europe which has lost its national features am is sinking into decadency, into pathology. This of course, does not mean that western culture will not live to see its regeneration as the result of the victorious struggle of the progressive social forces which have never ceased to be the legitimate heir to everything progressive that was created during the glorious past of their countries. This regeneration will come about together with the final liquidation of all the causes of division of culture into "western" and "eastern" in the sense of domination of what is reactionary or progressive now in the one, now in the other.

What struggle against cosmopolitanism means first of all, is struggle against contemporary bourgeois ideological decay, against the detrimental and destructive influence which it exercises on different national cultures, on the social consciousness of the working masses. It need must, therefore, have quite a definite class character.

It would be wrong and un-Marxist to term as cosmopolitanism the recognition of the superiority of foreign culture in the past, or the present for that matter (if the culture of a more progressive nation is in question), of its beneficial effect on the development of other national cultures,. Internationalism on the cultural front is the recognition of the real merits of different nations in the development of universal culture and in acquainting their nations with those merits and with the achievements of other peoples.

Chernishevsky and Dobrolyubov ridiculed what is called the "patriotic esthetics" of their time which already then saw in Russian literature the height of world literature.12 Byelinsky proclaimed the following as genuine patriotism in the cultural field for his time: "To see at the same time the advantages of foreign culture over one's own and yet be able to embrace one's own even more closely — is not false patriotism, or narrow-minded bias: it is but a noble and inevitable endeavour to know oneself."13 These are the words of a real patriot and internationalist.

To consider as absolute the leading role which a definite national culture has at a given time, to project that leading role arbitrarily from the past into the future, has nothing in common with real love for one's national culture, or with internationalism on the cultural front. On the contrary, every other nation with great cultural traditions must consider such absolutism an insult to its national sentiments, and every Marxist- Leninist must consider it — nationalism.

It should he stated that the tendency towards such absolutism of Soviet, or rather Russian culture at times pervades modern Soviet works, different articles, film scripts, critiques, etc., arid meets with no criticism.

When we hear that at the time of Nicholas I., in the fifties of the past century, Russia had "already surpassed the West" (in the otherwise good film "Pirogov"), or that during the time of Chernishevsky, Hertzen and Shevchenko Slav culture, in their person was the most progressive in the world (editorial by A. Korneichuk in "Literaturnaya Cazctta" of March 9, 1949), etc., etc., — then, if nothing else, we must ask: Can it be that Marx and Engels who have hitherto been considered the founders of the most progressive teaching in history, as teachers of Plekhanov and Lenin were not living and fighting at the same time? However deep our respect for the brilliant pioneers of science and progressive social thought in backward and feudal Russia, we still cannot but feel that to thus overlook the two greatest geniuses of the XIX century is incomprehensible and incorrect, un-Marxist.

Such or a rather similar attitude towards the cultures of other peoples which in their time doubtlessly constituted the height of world culture and upon which all progressive people in these countries pride themselves is often met with in the pages of the Soviet press, in different speeches and reports. It, of course, cannot stand up under Marxist-Leninist criticism.

Such absolutism of Russian culture, which today undoubtedly heads world culture, is quite unnecessary, neither is it in harmony with the spirit and letter of the teachings of its greatest representatives, from Byelinsky and Chernishevsky to Lenin.


1. "Voprossy Filosolil", 1948, No. 2, p. 14.

2. Engels, "The Development of Socialism from A Utopia to A Science". Belgrade. 1947, p. 9.

3. Lenin. Works, IV Edition, Vol. XV, p. 172.

4. Byelinsky, Selected Works (in one volume) Moscow, 1947, p. 555.

5. Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. Belgrade, 1948, p. 376.

6. Lenin, Works, IV Edition. Vol. II, p. 485.

7. Lenin, Selected Works, Belgrade, 1948, Vol. I, Book I, p. 37.

8. "Instructions of the CPSU (b) and the Decisions of the Soviet Government on Popular Education from 1917-1947", Moscow-Leningrad, 1947, p. 185 (in Russian).

9. Lenin, Selected Works. Belgrade. 1948, Vol. 1 Book . pp. 59-60.

10. Stalin, Problems of Leninism, Belgrade, 1946, p.17.

11. Chernishevsky, Collected Works, St. Petersburg, 1906, Vol. VIII, pp. 172-3.

12. Compare Chernishevsky, Esthetic Relations of Art Towards Reality, Moscow, 1945, p. 91, with Dobrolyubov, Good Intentions and Deeds, in Selected Works of Philosophy, Moscow, 1946, Vol. II, p. 240.

13. Byelinsky, Selected Works (in one volume,) Moscow, 1947, p. 547.

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