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The More Effective Leader: Hitler Or Stalin?

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In a sense, a certain analogy appears to be between Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. It is vital to recognize that these two dictators of the twentieth century represented embodiments of modern evil. Both leaders possessed almost absolute power due to their unprecedented level of repression and attempted manipulation and indoctrination. Each of these dictators was drifted by revolutionary and controversial monopolistic set of dogmatic principles about the internal systemization of society and the leading power of history. Although Hitler and Stalin shared some clear parallelisms, their personalities, the effectiveness of leadership and specific regimes were fairly distinct rather than similar.

The first part of this essay will concentrate on the analysis of various historiographical interpretations, focusing on the intentionalist view, to critically assess the effectiveness of Hitler's leadership qualities in particular. Secondly, the essay will focus on the comparison of some distinct aspects of Hitler and Stalin's dictatorships in order to examine the importance of power hierarchy in both their regimes. It will be argued that both leaders had different styles of leadership that played very important part in moulding of their authorities and leading power. Furthermore, the essay will evaluate some principal tools of power such as the "cult of personality", the powerful machine of propaganda, the use of terror and the development of pivotal economic policies, in order to provide a compact framework of Hitler's leadership potential capabilities. It will be highlighted that Stalin counted far too much upon mass terror therefore he was unable to maintain an efficient mechanism of leadership. Lastly, the essay will conclude by connecting the analysis of Hitler's dictatorship to the current debate between historical scholars, therefore the central argument will be proved that Hitler personified more competent and constructive leader compared to Stalin.*

*The purpose of this essay is not to establish the fact that Hitler was, to a certain extent, a leading "giant" or a "failure". It is meant to assess a man and the various facets of successful leadership he applied during his domination in the Third Reich that makes him more effective leader in comparison with Stalin's abilities and intentions.

The Analysis of Historiographical Interpretations of Hitler's Leadership

It is indispensable to realize that several historical schools of thought (the Functionalist/ Structuralist and the Intentionalist school) have tried to account for their own arguments and interpretations of Hitler's dictatorship abilities. Let's look at the major points of each historiographical perspective in order to analyze Hitler as more effective leader in comparison with Stalin; and evaluate the relevance of Kershaw's theory of "Working Towards the Fuhrer" in terms of Hitler's role in the Third Reich.

Advocates of the Functionalist view, such as Martin Broszat and Hans Mommsen, largely concentrate on the interpretation of systematization of Hitler's Nazi Germany and on his leadership qualities and charisma which played an essential role in strengthening Hitler's leading effectiveness. According to Broszat, Nazi Germany represented a chaotic tangle of conflicting institutions and bureaucracies therefore the figure of Adolf Hitler was not a key driving force behind the dynamics and organization of Hitler's Germany (Broszat, 1981: p. 262). It can be argued that Hitler as a leader did not solely dominate to the Third Reich because there were constant power struggles initiated by several institutions. Furthermore, in Broszat's perspective, Hitler epitomized a "weak dictator" because the Third Reich signified a dualistic state where Nazi Party operated simultaneously with the normal institutions of Nazi state (Broszat, 1981: p. 244). Broszat advocated that behind a façade of Nazi integrity, there were perpetual struggles for power between the revolutionary Nazi institutions, such as SA and SS, and the traditional authority of German state. According to Broszat's opinion, Hitler's leadership style enabled Nazi state to emerge as a collection of competing power units which triggered the radical forces to penetrate into German society (Kershaw, 2000: p. 75). Certainly Hitler undermined orderly government in Germany by his habit of appointing several people to practically the same job, resulting in official competing for Hitler's favour.

The Intentionalist historiography is embedded in the concept of Social Darwinism, therefore according to this view Hitler was depicted as a fanatical and extreme ideologist who was incessantly avid for nationalism, militarism, the importance of 'lebensraum' and anti-Semitism. It is worth noting that there is a certain parallel between the Nazi bureaucratic machinery and Darwinian Theory of competition in terms of power struggle. In a certain way, Hitler as a leader represented "the fittest" element of the Nazi Party, relying on his personal appeal. Hitler was essentially responsible for the increasing momentum of radicalization. In Allan Bullock's view, he was very "strong" and artful leader, creating uncertainty, confusion and tension among his adherents in order to secure his leading post. Therefore, it is evident that Hitler's intention was to provoke "unchecked struggle and competition" until the natural selection and the "survival of the fittest" would have occurred (Kershaw& Lewin, 1997: p. 96).

To a certain extent, a highly regarded scholar Ian Kershaw inclined to endorse the interpretation of Functionalist/Structuralist school regarding Hitler's leadership qualities. On one hand, Kershaw does not associate himself with the thesis that Hitler was a "weak dictator" and therefore played an unimportant role in the Third Reich. On the other hand, Kershaw had advocated the idea that Hitler was completely uninvolved in the daily administrative work (Kershaw, 1998: p. 529). It is necessary to point out that Kershaw considered Hitler to be a "lazy dictator" who was highly inconsistent, indecisive and did not engage in the everyday direction of Germany (Kershaw, 1998: p. 533). However, other structuralist champions, such Mason, maintained that Hitler was predominantly involved in the leading of his interests: military decision-making and planning of foreign policy (Kershaw, 1998: p. 532). It might be argued that Hitler's clear focus enhanced his untouchable leading status and veiled him in the mystery. Moreover, Kershaw argued that the actual importance of Hitler was mainly based on the perception of German's people of Hitler's personality and not just on the character of his dictatorship.1


1 It is vital to recognize that some historians agreed that Hitler's effective leadership aimed to arrange his power that "would enable him continuously to educate the people in the spirit of his mission by means (in his words) the 'total domination' of every individual" (Cassinelli, 1976: p 63).

Nazism and Stalinism: The Comparison of Leadership Styles ƒ  Ideology???

The main contrast between the Stalinism and Nazism was that both regimes arose from completely different types of societies - traditions. Russia's lack of culture, traditions and illiteracy meant that Stalin had very limited possibilities to accomplish his large tasks, such as transform the whole society from bourgeois system to socialist community.

The Nazi ideology was shaped

Given that Hitler was allergic to any restriction to his power, he had no clear-cut effort to form the administrative anarchy of the Third Reich. It is essential to emphasize that Hitler is characterized by the unbureaucratic style of leadership mainly because he remained quite aloof from the daily business and government and distanced himself from the intricate situations. Although his style of leadership appears to be, to some extent, limited, Hitler predominantly focused on the realm of his personal interests, such as foreign policy and military affairs. It can be argued, that this unbureaucratic style emphasized Hitler's personality, "an inescapable product of the deification of the leadership position itself" (Kershaw, Ian, 1997: p. 99). It can be purported that Hitler did not want to concern himself with the administration "to sustain prestige to match the created image" (Kershaw, 1997: p. 100). According to Marx Weber's classic study of the authority of power, the quality of Hitler's charisma "consists in his apparent possession of supernatural or superhuman or at all events specifically out of the ordinary qualities, which make him appear an emissary of God, or a destined Leader" (Schapiro, 1972: p. 21).

By contrast, Stalin personified very interventionist dictator whose main objective was to established the centralization of state power in order to "eliminate the party-state dualism" (Kershaw& Lewin, 1997: p. 91) but also to create a monopolization of all decision-making, in relation to economic reconstruction, to open up a giant bureaucratization of all aspects of life. He intended to intentionally provoke instability in the governmental apparatus and society to implement his unpopular policies by the full command of modern means of control and administration [EVIDENCE]. Stalin's power was, therefore, described as "bureaucratic authority" (Kershaw& Lewin, 1997: p. 98) hence his influence in daily administration was far-reaching and cross-sectional. This fact suggests that Hitler largely relied on his charismatic impression to coordinate the state's apparatus and gain a public support for his policies and actions, therefore it might be argued that Hitler was more effective leader in strengthening his support and forming a new and higher kind of man by a process that involved the "remolding of men's psychologies" than Stalin (Cassinelli, 1976: p. 63). However, Stalin was able to transform illiterate and backward masses of Russians into obedient and simple-minded people. He relied on the masses that have a certain purity and naiveté enabling them to understand the essence of significant situations. [2]


[2] As Stalin said, "Simple people sometimes prove to be far nearer to the truth than some highly placed institutions". (Cassinelli, 1976: p. 89)

***Joseph Stalin declared: "Can such a radical transformation of the old bourgeois system of society be achieved without a violent revolution, without the dictatorship of the proletariat?" (Cassinelli, 1976: p. 77)

The Effectiveness of Hitler's Leadership

There is no doubt that Hitler and Stalin's regimes shared some similar characteristics, nevertheless the main argument of this essay is based on fact that Hitler represented more effective and visionary leader compared to Stalin in terms of the cult of personality, propaganda, the use of terror and economic strategies several significant ways compared to Stalin. Therefore it is quite substantial to take into account the extent to which these major factors contributed to the effectiveness of Hitler's leadership. In essence, both Stalin and Hitler applied their power in different manner, however they shared a 'common ground' regarding to implementation of their power.

Evidence I: The Cult of Personality

One of the principal factor, that significantly contributed to Hitler's effective leadership, was his sophisticated "cult of personality". [3] Hitler was regarded as the personification of the nation and the unity of the "national community" therefore he primarily established his mastery on a "cultivated principle of personal loyalty to which he could always successfully appeal at moments of crisis" (Kershaw, 1997: p. 93). It must be noted that the principal reason for Hitler's domination of all who assisted him was an extraordinary power of his individuality. Hitler radiated confidence, high self-esteem and strong belief in his ability; it made him extremely powerful and everyone was frightened by his "aura of total assuredness" (Cassinelli, 1976: p. 73) thus he could stir up emotions and hypnotize the broad spectrum of German society. Hitler's main characteristic features were his skills to achieve an extraordinary power over the German people and ability to accomplish his political objectives. In large measure, his power to grip an attention and public admiration was especially due to his exceptional oratorical talent. [4] Hitler used his speeches as a powerful tool of "political intoxication that inspired a degree of fervor in his listeners that seems to defy definition and explanation" (De Luca, 1983: p. 96-7). Therefore it can be argued that Hitler's leadership uniqueness stemmed from his geniality to effectively use spoken word in order to manipulate mass propaganda for his own benefit. In Hitler's view, "words build bridges into unexplored regions" (Bullock, 1962: p. 372). The key aspect of this argument is that "his uncanny ability to appeal to the subconscious and irrational needs of his audience and to solicit the desired response made him a formidable political figure" (De Luca, 1983: p. 96-7). Furthermore, Hitler, in contrast to Stalin, was able to add the authority of "spiritual founder" of national socialism to that of party leader.


[3] "Charismatic rule has long been neglected and ridiculed, but apparently it has deep roots and becomes a powerful stimulus once the proper psychological and social doubt that millions believe in it" (Neumann, 1942: p. 75).

Both the Stalinist and the Nazi regimes signified a new genre of political system that concentrated the artificial concept of a leadership cult - the 'heroic myth of the 'great leader', who represented a 'man of the people' and no more super-ordinate monarch who was distant to the masses. However, in Moshe Lewin's view, the rapid pace of centralization in Stalin's leadership resulted in rapid growth of officialdom; hence, it might be said that "the cult of Stalin" was replaced by "the cult of the state" (Kershaw& Lewin, 1997: p. 11) hence Stalin predominantly concentrated on reinforcing his authority in order to be seen as autocratic and retain. [5] It is necessary to emphasize that Stalin's rise to power was from within the Soviet Union consequently he shared public glorification with former icons such as Vladimir Lenin and Karl Marx. The crucial aspect of this argument is that Stalin and his communist ideology could be detached therefore when Stalin died the similar cult of personality never evolved around his successor but the Soviet communism preserved. It is worth noting that unlike Stalin, Hitler became a permanent image of Nazism. The Fuhrer principle, in essence, rooted in Hitler formulated the Nazis system of governance. [6]

megalomaniac ambitions


[4] Walter Langer depicts Hitler as "a showman with a great sense for the dramatic". However he provides very clear characterization of Hitler's captivating rallies: "Not only did [Hitler] he schedule his speeches late in the evening when his audience would be tired and their resistance lowered through natural causes, but would always send an assistant ahead of time to make a short speech warm up the audience. Strom troops always played an important role at these meetings and would line the aisle through which he would pass. At the psychological moment, Hitler would appear in the door at the back of the hall. Then with a small group behind him, he would march through the rows of S.A. men to reach the speaker's table. He never glanced to the right or to the left as he came down the aisle and became greatly annoyed if anyone tried to accost him or hampered his progress. Whenever possible he would have a band present, and would strike up a lively military march as he came down the aisle" (Langer, 1972: p. 46).

[5] To a certain extent, a "Cult of Stalin Worship" developed from a sense of paranoia because he wanted people to deify him and if he had to accomplish it though brutal means then he was prepared to do so.

[6] Moreover, it might be said that the loyal adulation of Hitler signified the most effective political instrument of power in Nazi Germany, therefore there was no reliance and dependence on massive domestic constrain that was typical feature for Stalin's rule.

Evidence II: Propaganda

ƒ  controlling every single aspect of daily-life ƒ  parades and marches provided a sense of order and gave a feeling of belonging. So that the unity between the people was very firm.

ƒ youth indoctrination

The second key factor strengthening the effectiveness of Hitler's power was the Nazi propaganda that played very substantial role in the setting of totalitarian society. In essence, the primary objective of Hitler's propaganda was not the ideological "enlightenment" of the masses, but their mobilization for action through extensive spreading of ideas and symbols aimed at influencing opinion and attitude of wide range of people. For Hitler, "propaganda was the sharpest weapon in conquering the state, and remains the sharpest weapon in maintaining and building up the state" (Hinton& Hite, 2000: p. 244). It can be affirmed that "every propaganda was the preparation of political activities" (Unger, 1974:p. 35). Hitler's effectiveness to indoctrinate society might be seen in fact that the high cultural level of the Germans allowed the Nazis to extensively apply the technical potentialities of modern propaganda as far as possible; therefore Nazis propagandist intended to develop the "manipulation of words and symbols into the highest creative art" (Unger, 1974: p. 47). [EVIDENCE ƒ  Unger p. 43] [7] In some way, this propaganda had also considerable success in strengthening overall support for Hitler and the regime, by reinforcing enthusiasm for a strong leader who was capable of making Germany economically and military powerful. For instance, the Nuremberg rallies brought some excitement into people's lives and gave them a sense of belonging to a great movement. [EVIDENCE ƒ  DATA, STATISTICS - World History]

In contrast, Stalin's propaganda contended with the lack of technical skills and the virtues of labour disciple therefore the effectiveness of propaganda was very limited. Due to the lack of modern mass media in the Soviet Union, a large illiterate masses (especially peasantries), were only indoctrinated by oral agitation which was hardly disseminate across large distances. There were no cultural and informational media which cemented the framework of modern society, therefore the Soviet propaganda was full of stereotyped monotony of Stalin's declarative and simplistic slogans convincing the Russians about Stalin's greatness and invincibility. In other words, Soviet propaganda had to be "adapted to the capacity of the least intelligent and constant repetition was one of its main weapons" (Unger, 1974: p. 46). ƒ  forcible collectivization of agriculture led to a direct clash between Stalin's regime and the majority of the population therefore the rapid mobilization /////In Conquest's view, the alienation distinctly increased before the wartime since many Russians started to hate Stalin for the misery he triggered; therefore it led to gradual decline in morale and discipline (Conquest, 1991: p. ???).

In case of Stalin, the propaganda tool was used to a limited extent and often in a wrong way. It is essential to mention that the widespread fear between the Russian population resulted in limited ability to believe Stalin's promises and slogans. EVIDENCE !!!!!!

////ƒ Additionally, it is vital to perceive that Hitler's leading effectiveness was mainly achieved by remarkable Nazi propaganda that enhance the popularity of policies that were genuinely popular, for instance, public works projects (autobahn) or the 1933 Farm Law assuring subsidies for farms. Whereas Stalin's propaganda was directed at forming a measure of acceptance for politics that were quite undesirable, such as compulsory collectivization and rapid industrialization. [FOOTNOTES ƒ  EVIDENCE!!!!!] Unger Citation!!!


[7] According to historian Dick Geary, the Nazi propaganda was most successful: "where it could play upon the traditional German prejudices and values of German middle-class society upon issues such as nationalism, anti-socialism, family issues…" (Geary, 1993: p. 59).


Evidence III: The Use of Terror and Violence

The third crucial element related to Hitler's effective leadership is the use of terror and violence. Terroristic aspect of the two regimes appears to be very significant in order to compare the leadership qualities of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. Hitler seems to have had no deliberate policy of destabilization. In a sense, he tried to protect his deified leadership position by his non-bureaucratic and non-interventionist governance because he did not want to lose a popularity by deciding some unpopular policies. Furthermore, Hitler did not rule internally by terror even so his regime was deeply authoritarian and disciplinary. This means that his effectiveness based on the ability to maintain a supporting base of Nazi members in order to strengthen his own position but also to stabilize the party apparatus. However, with the exception of his purge of the Storm Trooper leadership on the 'Night of the Long Knives' in 1934, Hitler never triggered a systematic attack on members of his own regime. However, It is important to note that Hitler never initiated an organized terror on members of his regime. It is significant to highlight that Hitler had his leadership position technically more secure than Stalin.

On the other hand, Stalin personified the "creature of bureaucracy" therefore he appeared intentionally to destabilize government to turn this to his advantage; in the mid-1930s Stalin mainly instigated the "liquidation of the kulaks as a class" and "great purges" against his closest supporters in order to eliminate all challenges to his absolutistic rule but also he used the brutality of collectivization to infected the whole political system "with the lust for blood and any criticism came to be identified with the sabotage of class enemies" (Sakwa, 1998: p. 40). To a considerable extent, Stalin's purges and the extensive use of terror and violence undermined the stability of his position and intensify his opposition within the Party sector (Kershaw, 1997: p. 93). However, it might be said that the use of purges represented a kind of weapon against the unstoppable power and expansion of Stalinist bureaucracy which seemed to malfunction. Also Stalin's paranoid mentality resulted in unprecedented brutality used as an instrument for applying and implementing his policies and terrorizing his followers and Soviet citizens. Therefore he used purges and the Show Trials to remove Old Bolshevik rivals like Zinoniev and Kamenev, in order to destroy their reputation, so that he alone could take the credit for the Communist Party's achievements. Additionally, Steve Rosefielde argues that in the years 1929-38, the average Gulag forced labour population was about 8.8 million, and that the total adult losses attributable to forced labour, collectivization and the purges was over 20 million (Sakwa, 1998: p. 41). This, in fact, resulted in a greater alienation of masses and sustained the Soviet people's sense of anxiety and feeling of helplessness thus they responded to Stalin's force by self-control and dissimulation (Cassinelli, 1976: p. 129). Furthermore, the Purge's disruptive effects were felt in the development of industry where the destruction of qualified engineers and managers seriously undermined the Second Five Year Plan and accounts for Stalin's reduction in the scale of the purges in 1939. Nonetheless the destructive policies penetrated through Stalin's autocracy and the Soviet people felt perpetually insecure therefore this led to escalation of opposition between the Soviet citizens which had weakening effect on Stalin's power.

Evidence IV: The Major Economic Policies

Another important factor that reflects Hitler's effective leadership is the series of economic policies implemented in 1930s. The main success of Hitler's economic recovery based on the total elimination of unemployment and on stabilization of German economy and progress towards an economy that would prepare Germany for war. For instance, Dr. Schacht organized Germany's finances to fund a huge programme of work creation; the increase in government spending (from RM 8.6 billion in 1932 to RM 29.3 billion by 1938) resulted in schemes to build a network of autobahns or conservation programmes. Moreover, Hitler concentrated on need to gear the economy for war

It is important to highlight that Hitler was aware that he needed the support of the German people and could not risk to exacerbate their living standards at the cost of military supremacy.

In 1930s, Hitler developed managed economy in Nazi Germany and in 1936 he focused on the Four Year Plan ƒ  autobahn completed, industry rebuilt, farmers: "Blood and Soil", Workers: "Strength Through Joy" ƒ  Germany was a great economic power

Stalin ƒ  unsuccessful FYPs - "collectivization" and "industrialization" - still backward- inability to catch up the West!!

On the other hand, it might be argued that Stalin's economic policies had only moderate short-term success. established the "command economy" [*9*] in the Soviet Union, clearly without this economic concept USSR would not survived. However, Stalin's Five Year Plans were followed by forcible collectivization of the peasantry in order to erase all traces of capitalism and transform Soviet Union into fully industrialized, self-sufficient and completely socialist state without regard to cost. It is significant to point out that the effort to fulfill overambitious plans and resistance to collectivization led to acute shortage throughout the economy. It can be argued that despite the Stalin

The top priority was investment in heavy industry which was view as the key to rapid economic growth and as an essential guarantee of national security. The acceleration continued through the Second Five Year Plan and extended into consumer goods. Against a background of a political purges and partial wartime mobilization, the pace of industrial growth slackened in the three years of the Third Five Year Plan, and such growth as took place may be attributed to territorial expansion. (p. 152-3)

Falsification ƒ 

It is vital to point out that Stalin's leadership proved to be inefficient in terms of improving the Russian economy in the long run and great human expense.

According to Isaac Deutscher, Stalin's "All-out Drive" revolution from above appeared to be unsuccessful attempt to stimulate the production and increase the output because it lacked "all rules of logic and principles of economies" which were turned upside down (Cassinelli, 1976: p. 117). It is important to realize that Stalin's economic policies were aimed at satisfying his own ideology rather than for benefit of people. This clearly supports the initial claim that Stalin was less effective leader than Hitler.


[*9*] Soviet "planned" or "command" economy was a type of economy in which centralized, bureaucratic management of economy, GOSPLAN, made a wide range of decisions penetrating to production and wages. Basically, the key objectives of "centrally planned economy" were to build socialism as quickly as possible and centralize the decision making and control.

[10] In 1932, the number of unemployed in Germany was 5.6 million, however in 1938 there were only 0.2 unemployed in Nazi Germany. [EVIDENCE]

Debate: Intentionalist view and Hitler's Effective Leadership Qualities

Intentionalist view ƒ  Hitler's leadership domination and effectiveness was apparent in connection with

[***]Hitler's dictatorship presented very extreme and intensive totalitarian demands of modern state, such as unexpected degree of violence and oppression, unprecedented manipulation of mass media to gain control and mobilize the masses, an unaccustomed cynicism in the international relations, an extraordinary aggression of nationalism and pestilent power of ideological racial superiority. Additionally, this specific dictatorship demonstrated that the modern, advanced and cultural society could fall headlong into barbarism. Indeed, Hitler's form of dictatorship meant the collapse of the modern civilization. On the other hand, Stalin personified a type of leader who focused on the continuity of Leninist tradition. By contrast, Stalin used hostility and terror as a normal feature of government when the USSR was in peace. His dictatorship resulted in creation of a personality cult of monstrous proportions but he never achieved a popular acceptance for his policies as Hitler did.

******It is vital to highlight that Hitler was more effective leader in terms of his 'cult of personality', propaganda and social and economic policies to 1941. This year represented a key turning point in Hitler's power and effectivity. Hitler's clash with Stalin indicated that the existing distribution of powerfulness was no longer able to outlast. It is very interesting to see the rapid transformation of power from Hitler to Stalin. Therefore it may be argued that, from the chronological perspective, Hitler was able to keep his authority at the highest position so his leadership skills were clearly better than Stalin's abilities.


In conclusion, although Hitler signified a leader of one of the purest autocracies, there were some limits to his power, but it is essential to point out that these limits did not result from imperfections in his machinery of power but mainly from the context within which Hitler has to operate. However, Hitler's success might be apparent in regard to popular acceptance of his policies but also most Germans appreciated the sense of national community which was constantly instilled into them by Hitler. Furthermore, Hitler's long-lasting interest for the material-well being and social standing gave his regime a popular legitimacy that was one of the greatest success to his power.

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