Are nationalism and internationalism compatible?

Internationalism in Marxism. The view of the alien in society

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2 Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
2.1 Short biographies
2.2 Marxism
2.3 Man in Marx

3 internationalism
3.1 definition
3.2 Internationalism as a counterpart to nationalism

4 Internationalism in Marxism
4.1 Definition
4.2 The state
4.3 Globalization and free trade
4.4 National and international exemption
4.5 The need for internationalism
4.6 The International Workers' Association (ILO)

5 criticism

6 Conclusion


1. Introduction

The topic of “perception of the foreign” has been discussed more and more important and more frequently since the last century. The increasing numbers of refugees and migrants force society to deal with foreigners almost every day. Not infrequently, the clash of different cultures and religions leads to discrimination and racism. Both are things that attempts are made to counteract with the help of education and awareness-raising. The question arises again and again: How do you deal with the stranger?

This seminar paper is intended to deal with the perception of what is alien to what is perhaps the most discussed social theory of our time: Marxism. It is about a very special way of dealing with the foreign, because in communism, the final form of society in Marxism, in fact there are no longer any foreigners. In the following chapter I will show how Marx believes he can achieve a classless and stateless society through internationalism and the withering away of the ideological superstructure after the victory of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie.

So this work deals with internationalism in Marxism. After a short presentation of Marx and Engels, as well as Marxism and its theories per se, the Marxian conception of man and his opinion on the state, globalization and free trade should be explained. In addition, the concept of internationalism itself, as well as in Marx in particular, should be defined, as well as Marx's conception of national and international liberation and the meaning of internationalism in these, which should ultimately lead to communism. In a final step, it should finally be determined to what extent the Marxist perspective on the foreign in today's society with all its problems is or could be of importance or benefit.

2 Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

2.1 Short biographies

Karl Marx was the third of nine children to the lawyer Heinrich Marx and his wife Henriette (née Pressburg) on ​​May 5, 1818 in Trier. He later studied law in Bonn and finally joined the "Young Hegelians" while studying law and philosophy in Berlin. After receiving his doctorate in Jena in 1841, he turned to journalism and worked as editor-in-chief at the liberal "Rheinische Zeitung für Politik, Handel und Gewerbe" in Cologne.[1] By studying the works of Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872), Marx came to materialism in the first half of the 1840s, which are also known as the “early Marx” years, in which no political and economic motivation could yet be identified. He felt that von Feuerbach's conception of this was not consistent enough and announced in the “Theses on Feuerbach” (spring 1845) that the theory of materialism would be completed. However, he never kept this promise, but turned to political economy from the second half of the 1840s, the time of the “late Marx”.[2] At this time (1844) Marx met Friedrich Engels in Paris. Engels was born on November 28, 1820 as the son of an entrepreneur in Wuppertal, the oldest of nine children, and began commercial training in Bremen in 1838, which, after completing his military service, he continued in Manchester in his father's cotton mill. Engels also approached the Young Hegelians early on. A lifelong friendship and cooperation developed between Marx and Engels. Together they join the “League of the Righteous” and then transform it into the “League of Communists” in 1847. In this context, the "Manifesto of the Communist Party" published in 1848 was created.[3] Through various publications, Marx and Engels quickly became leading figures in the socialist movement.

Over the years, the two of them stayed in close contact with each other through a lively exchange of letters and Engels knew where to support Marx: On the one hand, he helped him with the publication of his works, such as his main work "Das Kapital. Critique of Political Economy ”(1867), but also supported him financially and thus helped him through several crises.

Towards the end of their lives (1864) both played a key role in founding the “First International”, for which Marx also wrote an inaugural address and the statutes.[4]

After Marx's death on March 14, 1883, Engels published the second and third volumes of “Capital”, as well as some of his own works. After the repeal of the socialist laws in Germany, Engels was able to influence its Erfurt program through contacts within the SPD. On August 5, 1895, he died of throat cancer in London.[5]

2.2 Marxism

With their works, Marx and Engels manifested the fundamental theses of Marxist communism, some of which were further developed and specified by its followers. In general, the term “Marxism” is understood to mean “the totality of the teachings of Marx and Engels; [as] also the theories which refer to Marx and which, according to their self-understanding, are Marxist. "[6]

In the following I will explain the main features of Marxism, as these are essential for understanding Marxian internationalism.

Marx speaks of himself as a staunch supporter of materialism and uses it as the basis for all of his theses. He himself gave the following definition of materialism:

It is not people's consciousness that determines their being, but, conversely, their social being that determines their consciousness.[7]

All of the following theses are based on this conception of materialism.

One of the basic principles of Marxism is the dialectic, which describes thinking in terms of contradictions. So there is always a thesis and an antithesis that form a contradiction and finally pass into a synthesis through constant attraction and repulsion, through constant movement and development. This state of supposed standstill is only relative, however, since a new antithesis develops to the previous synthesis, and a new synthesis is formed from this opposition. So it's a never-ending cycle. Marx applied this principle of dialectics to society and thus developed “historical materialism”. This explains the historical processes with the dialectical tension between production relations, which remain the same, and productive forces, which continue to develop through technical progress. This tension ultimately results in social tensions and economic crises, which ultimately lead to a dialectical leap.[8] In the Communist Party's manifesto, Marx describes "[t] he history of all previous society [as] [...] the history of class struggles."[9]because in every society there are antagonistic parties which, through their constant opposition, create such a great tension that it must come to a class struggle, which results either in a revolutionary transformation of the whole society or in the downfall of the fighting classes. According to Marx's determinism theory, this recurring cycle comes to an end in communism, the class and state-free society.

Figure not included in this excerpt

Figure 1: Model of historical materialism, Mrs. Vogel-Zaiß[10]

2.3 Man in Marx

In the following I will briefly explain the understanding of man in Marx according to Karam Khella and refer to his work “The people in Marx. Critique of Marx's view of history, the world and people. "

Marx has a very reduced view of man. He fails to recognize the individuality and subjectivity of people. In fact, he does not see man as a subject but as an object of history, and consequently denies him the ability to influence history completely. In doing so, he absolutizes the domination of the economy over man as a species and individual and does not admit any willpower to him: “[...] [T] he fog formations in the human brain are necessary sublimate of their material, empirically ascertainable life process linked to material conditions . "[11]

He sees the human being as an ensemble of social conditions and thus remains true to his strictly materialistic way of thinking.

In addition, for Marx there is only class-specific man: in class society, man does not exist in general, but only as an antagonist. In industrial society, the bourgeois is the bearer of political consciousness and the ideological superstructure. The proletarian, on the other hand, is the "class in itself", "the worker himself [is] a commodity."[12] It is the commodity “labor” and only differs from the machine in that it can generate added value. He recognizes the "human being as the most important productive force" and sees in him only an anonymous figure in the system.

In Marx's image of man, the dialectic that he otherwise likes to use is missing: Nobody will probably deny that man is class-independent, but he is nevertheless individually shaped by the individual perception of reality. You will not find any class person A who agrees with class person B in all points.

3 internationalism

3.1 definition

In general, the term “internationalism” is understood to mean the opposite of nationalism. Proponents of this political principle see the future of our societies as an international. They are of the opinion that national, political, cultural, ethical, and class-related conflicts and borders should be of secondary importance to his and common interests and problems.

The foundations of this mindset were laid in the 19th century by Richard Cobden and John Bright. They were seen as advocates of free trade, which they believe would create a dependency between the individual nations and which would ultimately lead to world peace.[13]

3.2 Internationalism as a counterpart to nationalism

The majority of the definition framework, however, is taken up by Marxist / proletarian / socialist internationalism, which began with Marx and Engels. So it came about at a time when nationalism was flaring up as one of the basic political ideas. Especially in Germany, where the desire for political unity and self-determination as a nation became widespread. But nationalism also describes the idea of ​​the supremacy of one's own nation as well as the glorification of one's own nation and the devaluation of others. He goes beyond national pride and patriotism and invokes an ethical core that he himself creates. So it is a system that is intended to integrate a certain group of people and at the same time to delimit the "others".[14]

Why is nationalism dangerous? History has shown us that. Towards the end of the 19th century, nationalism became increasingly radical and, through the sense of mission it established, legitimized imperialism, rule over foreign peoples, which led to oppression and wars. Even today, nationalism can be seen again and again in Europe: the electoral successes of the Afd, Marine Le Pen as the final candidate in the French presidential election, but also in Brexit.

So is Marxian internationalism the solution to exclusion, war and discrimination? In the following I will determine exactly this.


[1] See Blume A.

[2] See Khella, p.17ff.

[3] See Blume B.

[4] See Blume A.

[5] See Blume B.

[6] Sauerland 1.

[7] Marx 1859

[8] See Sauerland 2.

[9] Marx / Engels

[10] Khella

[11] Marx / Engels 2

[12] Marx 1844

[13] Wikipedia 2017a

[14] See Planert 2004

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