|The book analyzes the theoretizations and policies about the nation and nationalities pursued by Marxist-Leninist movements and regimes that are multinational. It starts with a genealogy of Marxist-Leninist conception of the nation, with an emphasis on Lenin’s self-determination theory, which was supposed to diffusive nationalism, hasten class-struggle and bring about “strategic” alliances for purposes of coming into power. The volume provides extensive sections on the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Romania and Czechoslovakia. It is a fundamental comparative study on the topic; the reader has the chance assess cases from within the Eastern European socialist bloc in parallel with the policies of other non-European party-states.
Walker Conner’s main argument is that there is no coherent strategy of dealing with the nation and nationalities in the communist world. The theory of national liberation and self-determination is based upon guidelines that allow a great deal of interpretation, thus bringing about the specifically non-unitarian profile of the Marxist-Leninist inspired state system. Most importantly, he argues that the space for ideology innovation cleared the path for nationalism. Consequently, the author documents the manner in which the putatively non-nationally discriminatory, equalitarian communist regimes are actually relying on the interplay between minority and majority, which generates ethnocentric minority oppression.
The intrinsic inconsistency of Marxist-Leninist theory of nationalism brings about novel but fundamentally partial solutions to the national problems of these states. He argues that national “forms” necessarily generate and become imbued with nationalist “content” transforming these regimes’ projects of socio-economic modernization into a development favoring the national cores most instrumental to its realization. Walker Conner’s research stresses the essential transformation of state socialism into a nation-state building process rather than into a polity based upon socialist patriotism presupposed by the originary Marxist-Leninist theory of nationalism.