Leninism and International Law
People’s History for one of my mentors, Tarik Samora
International Law and the Right of Nations and Peoples to Self-Determination Language is made by people, and words change their meaning as people change the world. The same is true of International Law. The United Nations and its guiding principles, International Law, were created in response to the horrors of the Nazis and World War II. The world’s most populace country, the People’s Republic of China (one-quarter of the world’s people), was originally excluded from the UN for the crime of not only defeating Japanese, British and U.S. imperialism, and gaining their independent status as a country, but for choosing the road of socialist revolution to do so.
The terms “country” and “state” are synonymous terms in International Law. All over the world this is the common usage except in the United States where the concepts “nation” and “country” are blurred to erase the peoplehood of half of the population. Again the state called the People’s Republic of China is a multi-national state. According to the socialist* Chinese, among the over one-and-one-third billion humans living in China there are fifty-six different nationalities, that is, fifty-six social groups who claim distinct cultures, languages, territories and/or economic ways. (See National Minorities in the People’s Republic of China, Russell, 1977, p1)
The creation of the United Nations, the defeat of fascism and the success in the Chinese people’s national liberation movement, each gave birth to similar changes in their wake: All over the world, particularly among the oppressed nations, the nations suffering under the yoke of colonial rule, of Asia, Africa and Latin America, nations and peoples were rising up, organizing their populations and throwing the colonialist powers out of their countries. In the words of the leader of the Chinese people’s revolution at that time: “Countries want independence, nations want liberation, the people want revolution” (Mao Tse-tung, 1972). This was the definition of the times immediately following World War II.
These peoples, North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Nicaragua, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Eritrea, Algeria, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Angola, Namibia, the People’ Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cambodia, Laos, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Native Peoples of the Americas, the Philippines, African Americans, Puerto Ricans, Chicanos, and many other nations and peoples the world over organized to assert their national dignity, some to the level of waging wars of national liberation. As many of these nations and peoples gained their independent status, recognized by the people of the world in International Law, by the United Nations, they began to take their seats in this international body. These nations began to have a say in forums hosted by the UN to determine the perspective of the world’s people regarding major international issues. It must also be mentioned that as the People’s Republic of China was admitted to the UN and became part of the Security Council (along side of the United States, Great Britain, France, and the USSR), the voters of many states who may not have been waging revolutions, or who may have been colonial masters previously, in these international forums, were influenced by this world–wide phenomenon. This influence caused them to cast their ballot with the emerging nations and peoples.
The results are a nomenclature, a wording of human rights, which mirrors the interests of the vast majority of the world’s people:
United Nations Doc.A/4684 (1960) states flatly:
The subjection of peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights, is contrary to the Charter of the United Nations and is an impediment to world peace and co-operation…. All peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political stature and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. “Declaration of the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.” General Assembly Resolution 1514, 15th United Nations, 1960.
United Nations Doc. A/6014 (1965) further states:
All states shall respect the right of self-determination and independence of peoples and nations, to be freely exercised without any foreign pressure, and with absolute respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. “Declaration of the Inadmissibility of Intervention in Domestic Affairs of States and the Protection of Their Independence and Sovereignty,” General Assembly Resolution 2131, 20th United Nations, 1965.
In this context it merits our attention that this wording of International Law is, through and through, Leninist wording. This is to say that these formulations originated with the principles of the founding of the first socialist state, the Soviet Union. Again, the PAIGC, FRELIMO, the Cuban government, the Communist Party of Vietnam, the Palestine Liberation Organization, the African National Congress, the large majority of the peoples who were gaining independence, and/or were granted seats at these international forums, were, along with the USSR and the People’s Republic of China, fully intending to have International Law reflect the freedom movements of their peoples. Most of these revolutions had a socialist orientation or socialist influence inside them, and inside of that orientation was that towards the rights of nations and peoples. This language, which presently constitutes International Law, is one-hundred percent Leninist. (Lenin, 1913, May 1914, July 1915, August 1915, June 1916, October 1916, and June 1920)
* China was still socialist — 1972 — when the policy regarding national minorities was formulated.
“In effect, by naming ourselves, we name our destiny. The choice is simple enough: we either internalize once and for all the language of our oppression, adopting as both our heritage and our future the dominant society’s self-serving invention of us as tribes [‘racial subgroups,’ ‘populations,’ etc] rather than nations, or we can pursue a language of liberation, one which preserves and (re)asserts our ancestor’s conception… As peoples, and only as peoples wielding internationally acknowledged rights to restore our fully national existences… we place ourselves in a position to excise the parasite…. The long road to liberation — which is to say, the route back to ourselves — begins right there….” Ward Churchill, Indians Are Us?, Culture and Genocide in Native North America, 1994.
Churchill. (1994). Indians are us? Culture and genocide in Native North America. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press.
Lenin, V.I. (1913). Critical remarks on the national question. In Collected Works, Vol. #18 (1972). Moscow: Progress Publishers.
Lenin, V.I. (May, 1914). On the right of nations to self-determination. In Collected Works, Vol. #20 (1972). Moscow: Progress Publishers.
Lenin, V.I. (July, 1915). Socialism and war. In Collected Works, Vol. #21 (1972). Moscow: Progress Publishers.
Lenin, V.I. (February, 1916). The socialist revolution and the right of nations to self-determination. In Collected Works, Vol. #22 (1972). Moscow: Progress Publishers.
Lenin, V.I. (October, 1916). The revolutionary proletariat and the right of nations to self-determination. In Collected Works, Vol. #23 (1972). Moscow: Progress Publishers.
Lenin. (October, 1918). The proletarian revolution and the renegade Kautsky. In Collected Works, Vol. #28 (1972). Moscow: Progress Publishers.
Lenin, V.I. (June, 1920). Preliminary draft of theses on the national and colonial question. In Collected Works, Vol. #31 (1972). Moscow: Progress Publishers.
Lenin, V.I. (July, 1920). The report of the commission on the national and colonial questions at the Second Congress of the Communist International. In Collected Works, Vol. #31 (1972). Moscow: Progress Publishers.
Russell, Maud. (1977). “National Minorities in the People’s Republic of China.” Brooklyn, New York: Far East Reporter.