National Oppression

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The enslavement of people of African descent in the United States is a well-known example of national oppression.

National oppression is the systematic mistreatment of a people based on nationality. National oppression frequently takes the form of an imperialist nation politically and economically dominating another nation, often a formerly colonized nation in the Global South.[1] Yet, in cases in which multiple nations exist within a single country, national oppression can take place internally.

When analyzing national oppression, the difference between a country and a nation must be established. A country is a territory of a nation is defined by geographical boundaries, whereas a nation is defined by social relationships — i.e., by a people who share common customs, origins, history, economic relationships, and typically language.

There are some situations in which many nations may exist within one country. An example of such a society in the contemporary world is the United States, where there are several nations living under one rule.

Racism is the most common example of oppression of a particular nation in one country. In the context of the United States, anti-black racism is an expression of national oppression. The African American population is a nation, and systemic discrimination against it reflects national oppression of African Americans.[citation needed]

Africans who were brought to the United States as slaves had a distinct culture, based on their various nationalities. A new African American nation was formed within the United States because of slaves' common experiences and shared oppression. In regards to the dominant white society, the black population is an oppressed nation in the United States.[citation needed]

Systematic discrimination and racism against Palestinians in Israel and the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories,[2] along with British subjugation of the Irish[3] are other well-known examples of national oppression.


In Marxist-Leninist theory, national oppression is identified as a significant form of special oppression under capitalism. It is understood as the exploitation of a whole people based on their nationality.[1] It is often expressed internationally through the domination of oppressed countries, typically in the Global South, by powerful imperialist countries. But internally within a country, national oppression also subjugates peoples in the interest of a capitalist class that profits from such exploitation. It divides the working class and allows capitalists to hyper-exploit workers from oppressed nationalities.

Many communists argue that imperialism is inextricably linked with white supremacy.[4] They insist oppressed nations have the right to self-determination and see national liberation as one part of the struggles against capitalism and imperialism.

Marxist revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin argued that socialists must respect the right of oppression nations to self-determination, up to and including secession. In his "Speech on the National Question" in April 1917, Lenin declared, "Any Russian socialist who does not recognise Finland's and Ukraine's right to freedom will degenerate into a chauvinist."[5]


  1. ^ a b Party for Socialism and Liberation (30 June 2013). "What is national oppression?". Liberation School. Retrieved 6 February 2017. 
  2. ^ Socialist Struggle Movement (CWI Israel-Palestine) (29 April 2016). "The Marxist left, the national conflict and the Palestinian struggle". Retrieved 6 February 2017. 
  3. ^ Jayapalan, Athithan (25 March 2016). "Ireland and Tamil Eelam: The Dialectics of National Oppression and Resistance". TeleSUR. Retrieved 6 February 2017. 
  4. ^ Freedom Road Socialist Organization (June 1991). "Unity Statement on National Oppression, National Liberation and Socialist Revolution" (PDF). Retrieved 6 February 2017. 
  5. ^ Lenin, Vladimir. "Speech on the National Question." Seventh All-Russia Conference of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party. 29 April 1917.

Further reading[edit]

Tyner, Jarvis. “The National Question.” 2003.

“Statement on National Oppression, National Liberation and Socialist Revolution.” Fourth Congress of Freedom Road Socialist Organization. 2004.

Coobtee, Muna. “Fundamentals of Marxism: What is National Oppression.” Socialism and Liberation Magazine. October 2005.

"What Is National Oppression?" Party for Socialism and Liberation. 30 June 2013.