These pieces explore the concepts of opportunism and chauvinism in “Socialist” parties and platforms, especially in imperialist countries.
These are letters that Friedrich Engels wrote to Karl Marx, noting the tendencies of opportunism and chauvinism.
In a letter to Marx, Engels said that it seems that the English workers were seeing their interests aligned with their rulers and that their aim seemed to be benefit from colonialism alongside the English ruling class.
In a letter to Marx leading up to the Franco-Prussian War, Engels talks about Nationalism crushing hopes of working-class movements in Germany and France. He remarks that the French rulers “would never have been able to conduct this war without the chauvinism of the mass of the French population“ including the French proletariat, and that “there can be no more question of an independent German working-class movement either, the struggle to restore the national existence will absorb everything“
Lenin speaks of 2 distinct tendencies in the working-class movement in imperialist countries, the opportunists who want rich countries to be eternal parasites on the rest of the world, and the others among the masses who want to overthrow their own ruling class to end wars that cost lives from all nations. He also speaks of how politicians placate workers with reforms and workers’ rights at home, while plundering countries abroad.
Lenin says that “as a result of the extensive colonial policy, the European proletarian partly finds himself in a position when it is not his labour, but the labour of the practically enslaved natives in the colonies, that maintains the whole of society. The British bourgeoisie, for example, derives more profit from the many millions of the population of India and other colonies than from the British workers. In certain countries this provides the material and economic basis for infecting the proletariat with colonial chauvinism. Of course, this may be only a temporary phenomenon, but the evil must nonetheless be clearly realised and its causes understood in order to be able to rally the proletariat of all countries for the struggle against such opportunism.“
Lenin says that “To a certain degree the workers of the oppressor nations are partners of their own bourgeoisie in plundering the workers (and the mass of the population) of the oppressed nations.“
In the conclusion of his book on Neo-Colonialism, Kwame Nkrumah refers to the export of contradictions from developed countries to their neo-colonies, where class struggle in imperialist countries is placated by welfare, replacing the rich/poor divide in each country with a divide between rich and poor countries. Nkrumah goes on to say that when African countries are economically free, the rich countries can no longer build welfare states to placate their workers, which will cause misery in rich countries that will provoke a continuation of class struggle that has been hindered by welfare states.
Lenin said that “The exploitation of worse paid labour from backward countries is particularly characteristic of imperialism. On this exploitation rests, to a certain degree, the parasitism of rich imperialist countries which bribe a part of their workers with higher wages while shamelessly and unrestrainedly exploiting the labour of ‘cheap’ foreign workers.“ He was referring to Western European countries exploiting cheap labour from Southern European countries in the early 20th century, but this can also be applied to exploitation of workers from Africa, Asia, Central America, and the Caribbean.
In his 4th address to the 2nd Congress of the Communist International, Lenin starts by responding to a speech by Arthur Crispien. Lenin reminded everyone that the workers of imperialist countries benefit from the plunder of colonies, and that entitlement to the spoils of imperialism can't be welcome in a revolutionary movement.