Previous chapters have each demonstrated in different ways the powerful influence that national identities and nationalism have had in the Soviet Communist experience. This chapter will deal with the national question in detail. Ernest Gellner pointed out that from a Marxist perspective ‘History is the history of class struggle. It is not, or only superficially, the history of national struggles’ (Gellner, 1994, p. 6). Marxists saw nationalism as an instrument used by the bourgeois to divide and rule the international proletariat. Afflicted with nationalism the workers in each country would not recognize their natural and proper allegiance to their fellow workers overseas. The workers would be subjected to false consciousness. The Soviet Communist Party leadership in its public discourse, of necessity, employed the language of Marxism-Leninism and class conflict. However, although the twentieth century was in many ways defined by ideological contestation between Soviet Communism and International Liberalism, the key factor in some of the major events of the century was the role of nationalism. The idea that it was liberalism that eventually triumphed over communism is a simplistic take on the dynamics that would eventually lead to the end of the Cold War and the demise of Soviet Communism. Michael Madelbaum’s claim that liberalism ‘triumphed decisively’ over Soviet Communism due to the victory of liberal values needs qualification (Mandelbaum, 2002, p. 49; see also Fukuyama, 1992).
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