|The author offers an innovative study of the political thought behind Stalin’s political activity. He accepts Stalin’s fundamental pragmatism, but he refuses to let go easily to the ideological bedrock of his actions. van Ree’s main point of view is that Stalin’s political thought can be characterized as a form of Marxist Jacobinism. With this coinage van Ree tries to indicate the coexistence of radicalism (terror) with a profound commitment to Marxism-Leninism and that of internationalism with patriotism. In the author’s opinion, the Soviet state was, for Stalin, based upon a “moral-political unity” of the society. And this vision the Soviet polity ultimately developed into his theory of the “popular community”. Such transformation took place during the later years of his reign, and the notion represented a self-reliant unit of communal-state action, closed in the world at large to which the proletariat lost its central place.
The book documents the conceptual transformations in Stalin’s opinion on the role of the nation. Form 1904 to 1951, Stalin’s political thought goes through a steady process of “re-nationalization”, which mainly meant that both as People’s Commissar and as absolute rule of the USSR, he adopted and deepened a culturalist approach to nationalities policy. Subsequently, he promoted as fundamental notion for the creation of an all-Soviet culture, which was that of “rapprochement [sblizhenie] of the national cultures and the mutual enrichment of the languages of the people of the USSR.” Thus, he partially departed form a class-based view of the national community, in the context of his attempt to solve to problem of identifying the Soviet Union exclusively with a proletarian socialist state. Stalin’s political thought can be generally characterized to have relied upon an organic conception of national popular community, on the recognition of the non-class functions of the state, on revolutionary patriotism, on a monistic vision of the role of the state, and on revolutionary minority dictatorship. The latter element ultimately offered him personal legitimacy as guarantor of the collective Party power over society. Overall, van Ree argues that Stalinism has at the core an ethic of revolutionary virtue that ubiquitously permeated a culturally determined political community.