Pierre Vilar and the Marxist Theory of the Nation

In the introduction to his monumental 1962 thesis on Catalonia in Modern Spain: Research on the Economic Foundations of National Structures, the Marxist historian Pierre Vilar gives us his thoughts on its use of the Marxist theory of the nation. Far from the absurd caricatures made of it (on the charge of nihilism then drifting towards nationalism primary on behalf of the defense of particular paths to socialism), this text exposes us in a few sentences to the heuristic power of Marxism for understanding the national phenomenon in history.

Quoted from the first volume, pages 36-37:

Marxist theory of the nation also deserves to be examined not only for its immense role since 1917, but in itself, because it is a historical theory of which there is little after the thesis of S. Frank Bloom (Columbia, 1941) to repeat, as was often done, that Marx and Engels had “denied” the nation, while being, on occasion, German nationalists. Bloom has released a collection of texts that clarify Marx and Engels, the bulk of positions systematized later by Lenin and Stalin in particular:

“The nation is a stable community, historically constituted, language, territory, economic life, and psychological, which translates into a common culture. ”

“The nation is a historical category, and is a historical category of a given epoch, that of rising capitalism. ”

“The National Question, at different times, serve diverse interests, takes various shades, depending on the class that raises, and when she poses.”

The difficulty in the combination of the three formulas, is to tie a “great stability”, defining the times, over a certain territory, uniting material facts of linguistic, psychological similarities, the notion of “historical category” recent linked solely to the rise of capitalism.

This is the third formula which shows the long-term stability of the group, and in the consciousness of community, more or less clearly, it presupposes a framework and an instrument used successively by different social classes to establish an effective political domination, or at least to claim it.

But, of course, the Marxist theory of the nation especially questions the present and the future, the replacement of the bourgeoisie by the proletariat in the requirement to manage groups.

Quite independently of that concern – but probably not in this line of thought – the Norwegian historian Halvdan Koht has steadily, between 1910 and 1950, sought support in the more distant past and with texts in hand, relied especially on medieval Scandinavian history:

“The successive rise of social classes is one of the most important factors in the formation of a national association. ”

In this general form, flexible and prudent, we see that the assumptions of the most effective work, in our test group on relations between Catalan and Spanish groups, provide us with the following notions: the dialectical relationship between successive social classes against each other in the political will and secondly the formation of groups with strong community awareness. The training, being historical, is both progressive and conditioned . The group is not “eternal.” And, in the accession to modern political forms, it can succeed, fail, disappear, be reborn. It depends on the internal and external conditions of its development. The problem groups can not be separated from the problem of growth.



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1 Response to Pierre Vilar and the Marxist Theory of the Nation

  1. Pingback: Pierre Vilar och den Marxistiska Teorin om Nationen | Vänsternationell

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