Though Stalinist Russia and Hitlerian Germany had different rhetoric, they were both totalitarian dictatorships that sought to attain total power for both leaders. Both evidenced a singleness of goal combined with complete tactical flexibility and shared a passion to dominate all around them. Appeal to the lowest classes ensured that the masses supported their rule, as both realised that one of the central ideas to attaining power was through the lower classes. Both used government to control and exercise power; Hitler, by legalising his actions, and Stalin, by using force. Propaganda and secret police ensured that, if indoctrination failed, then terror would reign supreme, instilling fear into the people and ensuring their control.
Part of elevating themselves to total power was their appeal to the lower classes. Because lower and middle classes made up the majority of Germany, and basically all of Russia, they reached the highest positions by appealing to the lowest classes. Like Stalin, Hitler treated policies and tactics as matters, not of principle, but of expediency, the object of which was to gain support and win power. For example, the lower classes that had been absorbed into the Nazi party were seduced by the promise of the closing down of the big department stores and consumer co-operatives. This was an attractive promise to the lower class because they were the smaller competition to these big businesses and they would benefit economically by their elimination as rivals. However, Hitler had no intention of doing this, but used its promise to gain support from the lower classes. Stalin wooed the lower classes of Russia to gain power. He broadened the base of the Communist Party by insisting it had to recruit 50 000 more workers. This helped public perception that the party embraced the proletariat. Stalin saw the support of the proletariat necessary because of the size of Russia’s peasant population, which was around eighty percent of the whole population. Since the peasants lived in abject poverty, Stalin believed he could win them through promising economic and social reform through collectivisation. Collectivisation was the conversion of the individual farms and strips of land owned by the peasants into large collective farms. Collectivisation was attractive to the peasants because it “promised” to end the centuries old backwardness of Russia and turn it into a modern, industrialised society. By appealing to the lower classes, each man attained support of their totalitarian dictatorships, which thus allowed them to elevate their power.
Both emphasised leadership as a means of national unification to establish their total control. Stalin created an ideology based on a perversion of communism. He preached “Socialism in One Country”, which meant that everybody had to work to ensure the victory of communism in Russia. The building of such ideology, he preached, would enforce unity in Russia. But communism is about class conflict, and unifying people to one goal turned communism into nationalism, so this was Stalin’s way of obtaining power, perverting communism so that the people turned to him, unified.
Stalin took power by emphasising leadership to ensure the victory of the already established communist state. He saw his mission as ending the centuries old backwardness of Russia and turning a peasant society into a modern industrialised one.Hitlerian Germany was based on the Fuhrerprinzip, visualizing the concentration of power in the hands of a leader, unlimited by any kind of constitutional or parliamentary control, with authority to direct the state.
Nazi ideology was Hitler’s ideology, and he manipulated and indoctrinated his followers to achieve his aims and beliefs. This is shown in Nazi rhetoric: “One nation, one people, one leader!” Both emphasised their leadership as a mean of national amalgamation to ensure their total power.
Both Hitler and Stalin used their ideology to eliminate their rivals. Stalin was preoccupied with building an instrument in the party organization which would enforce unity, and defeat the opposition to this of other groups in the party. Stalin’s desire to justify the doctrine of socialism in one country, which he insisted had been formulated by Lenin, was discredited by Trotsky and Zinoviev. So he relied on a packed congress to vote them down, and, one after another, his critics were silenced, which allowed him to continue his totalitarian rule. The clash of ideas between these leaders was imperative because Trotsky and Zinoviev believed in the idea of World Communism, based on the writings of Marx, when Communism would embrace the world and become the way of life. Stalin’s “Socialism in One Country”, which he argued was established by Lenin, contradicted the ideas of Trotsky and Zinoviev, who had conclusive evidence that Lenin did not establish the idea of “Socialism in One Country”. This threat to Stalin’s ideology was eliminated because he could not maintain his philosophy if there was opposition to it, and he could not establish his tyrannical rule with opposition, so he got rid of it! Hitler gained total control of the state, as well, but he did by controlling the political processes. The Enabling Act gave him the power to make or change existing laws, including the right to alter the constitution and the right to draft laws. This allowed him to pass laws forbidding any political party, apart from the National Socialists. This also gave him the power to eliminate threat inside the party. This led to the “Night of The Long Knives”, in which he eliminated Roehm ,who as leader of the SA, held tremendous power and loyalty. Roehm’s desire to join the army with the SA had the potential to turn him into the most powerful man in Germany, and thus threatened to destroy Hitler and his grip on the Nazi party.
Hitler had made it clear that he was the supreme ruler of Germany who had the right to be judge and jury. Through ideological purges, both men were able to maintain their totalitarian rule.
Both leaders manipulated propaganda to create personality cults that ensured the maintenance of their power.
Stalin’s “cult of the personality” was vital to public support, and, as early as December 1929, the party and media consciously began to build Stalin as a hero, portraying him as “father of the nation”, who saved the Soviet Union from its enemies and an expert in science and culture. Because Russians were so uneducated, it was easier for Stalin’s image to be boosted to be seen as a saviour. The “cult of personality” led Russians to believe Stalin was close to deification, adopting a role that of was the plain man, who spoke the same practical language as the proletariat.
Hitler, however, saw education as being the prime means of developing his personality cult so he could almost permanently control Germany. He believed that young people were less likely to be contaminated by factual knowledge than their elders, and were generally more susceptible to appeals to idealism and emotions. The entire work of education was to find culmination in branding forever, through instinct of reason, loyalty to the Fuhrer. The appointment of Goebbels as propaganda chief saw the Hitler myth become the greatest propaganda achievement, as Goebbels presented Hitler as the embodiment of “national unity” standing above all sectional interests; the architect of GermanyТs recovery; personally incorruptible; and a fanatical defender of German honour. This meant that the German people supported his tyrannical rule, similarly to the Russians, and each were able to maintain control through their own personality cult.
By using the secret police such as the SS, Gestapo, Cheka and NKVD, Stalin and Hitler were each able to ensconce their dictatorships and ensure total power. Tremendous increase in support for Hitler was partly a result of violence. He saw the state as an instrument of power in which the qualities to be valued were discipline, unity and sacrifice. Violence would be used to achieve this. By July 5, 1933, a new law decreed “The National Socialist German Workers Party constitutes the only political party in Germany”. By controlling the police, the Nazis legalised violence and terror to legitimise Hitler’s elevation to power.
Without the terrorist police support, Hitler would have been unable to exercise sustained and unopposed control. Likewise, the Cheka and NKVD, along with the secret of concentration camps, allowed the repressive system of Stalin to reign supreme.
This propaganda was backed by police terror, enabling Stalin to indoctrinate Russians, and any opposition was classed as an enemy of the Soviet.
In 1929, when Stalin launched Russia into complete revolution, he already totally controlled the police apparatus. Collectivisation saw the disappearance of individual farming accompanied by extraordinary displacement of people, due to deportation and regrouping. During collectivisation, arbitrary arrest and execution without trial by the Cheka became commonplace, and, since the Cheka was a government controlled police force, arrests and executions were state-sponsored terrorism. Both pushed terror way beyond its limit, realising control over the media and effective propaganda was often not enough to establish and secure total power; coercion and violence, or at least threat of them, were necessary weapons.
Though Stalinist Russia and Hitlerian Germany had different rhetoric, they were both totalitarian dictatorships that sought to attain total power for both leaders. Attracting the poorer classes, made certain that they had mass support, because both realised that the key to power was through the proletariat or working classes. Both used ideology and government to eliminate their rivals and exercise power. Propaganda and secret police ensured that, if indoctrination failed, then fear would control the people and ensure their dictatorial power. Given this, both Hitler and Stalin were different sides of the same totalitarian coin.
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