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The 20th century central ideologies were National Socialism in Germany and Communism in the Soviet Union. They were built up from a desperation for something other than monarchy or failed attempts at liberalism that they actually appeared successful. What was not a golden achievement were the crimes committed in the process and the loss of human rights in dignity for a promise of security.
Richard Overy’s The Dictators makes a deep comparison between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany where he compares and contrasts the two leaders (Overy, p. xxxiii).
To begin with, Germany had a more solid and advanced economy than the Soviet Union. However, the Soviet Union was more productive and used less workers, even after the Nazi occupation of European Russia (Overy, p.xxxv). On the other hand, the Soviet Union was a lot larger in surface and population which could have worked in his disadvantage. Each leader generated a personality cult, but Stalin’s was more endearing and promising while Hitler was aggressive and ruthless (Overy, 2004; p. xxix). Both Hitler and Stalin were megalomaniacs building the People’s Hall in Berlin and Stalin’s dream Palace of the Soviets in Moscow, respectively which was not accomplished. These are just a few standard characteristics to be found in a totalitarian leader.
Overy shows how both Communism and Nazism used history to their advantage in terms of the failures of the previous leaders, thus manipulating the masses into giving them support. Even though both ideologies contain a strong sense of the ‘collective’, especially communism, they presented their regime as a gift to their individuality (Overy, 2004; p. 368). In both political systems they had targeted a common enemy; in the Soviet Union it was the intellectual and the Bourgeoisie and in Germany it was the Jews. It was not necessarily a religious statement that he was making, but using religion as a unifying property seemed functional, especially since it worked quite well for Mussolini (Overy, 2004; p. 368). The state was above and within the system, the law and it was a machine for means of security and stability in both regimes.
Overy continues in his book by looking at the unity within the heart of these totalitarian regimes. The Germans had an unshakable homogeneity at the core of their regime whereas Communists had the exact opposite. According to Overy however, that is what saved Stalin from having every casualty recorded and it was in Hitler’s detriment that he was focus on exterminating the Jews (p.639). Either way, sadly, they were both successful in their endeavours.
What satisfaction I gain from this oscillation between two fundamentally disturbed political regimes, is to read about their growing popularity to appreciate their demise while noticing why totalitarianism was so appealing.
Differences in terms of ideology, methodology, politics, and national traditions are crucial differences between Stalinism and Nazism, but the facts that glue these two absolutisms together are much stronger. Lewin tries to apply the intentional/functionalist paradigms of Nazism to bureaucratic rule in Stalinist Russia. The second effort is that Kershaw believes that it is easy to prove that the Nazi and Stalinist states were similar in their dependence upon what he calls “continuous revolution” leaves the reader with the impression that historical facts have been sacrificed to a concept (Kershaw & Lewin, 1997; p. 6).
The starting point of comparative history is invariably the impression, realization, or certainly that two societies have sufficient in common to invite analyzing them as a part of a single set of questions (Kershaw &Lewin, 1997; p. 8). Both the Nazi and Stalinist regimes represented a new genre of political system centered upon artificial construct of a leadership cult; the heroic myth of the grated leader no longer a king or emperor but a man of the people (Kershaw & Lewin, 1997; p.9). Neither regime could in the long run reproduce itself; Mann says (Kershaw & Lewin, 1997; p. 17). The paper by Mann which closes the first section offers an analysis of the Stalinist and the Nazi system not from the position of a specialist on German or Russian history but from the comparative perspective of a sociologist. Von Hagen analysis brings out plainly it is the German internationalist and structuralist debates that have the clearest application to recent attempts at reevaluating Stalinism (Kershaw & Lewin, 1997; p. 20). Nolan’s article in Kershaw and Lewin is surveying a rich scholarship, that has developed since the 70s on German society under the Nazi regime, might be seen as offering an agenda for the future major research program on equivalent themes in the history of Soviet society under Stalinism, benefiting in the process from the methods and the approaches developed in the better established German historiography (Kershaw & Lewin, 1997; p. 23).
The system of Apartheid in South Africa was another form of National socialism but with some differences. The word apartheid comes from the Afrikaans word meaning to be separated. Apartheid in South Africa was instituted in 1948 however it has roots deeper in histpory. The separation of blacks and white in South Africa was a common practice that existed among the black majority and the white minority. The minorities from Europe and the Jews who had migrated there formed a Nationalist Party that quite effectively expelled the Afrikaners from their homes (Thompson, 1985) pp. 26-7). The irony in this form of nationalism comes two-fold. The first is that according to Thompson Jewish people who were freshly persecuted in Europe by the Nazis, came to South Africa to do the same to the Afrikaners. The second irony in this situation is that this form of purging of the society is not done from majority to minority but the other way around.
As far as totalitarianism theory goes, these three forms of it although either differing from left to right wing political orientation or differing in terms of how the same belief was carried out, they still respect to a large extent the recipe of a total regime; from an apparent complete social control and having the privileged few, to oppression and rule with terror.
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