Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin were the most powerful dictators, as well as individually performing the largest political suppressions of the twentieth century. The difference between the two has always been perceived as which side of the World War II they fought on, meaning Stalin was viewed as the ‘good guy’ and Hitler as the ‘bad guy’. Hitler in history is written as the evil dictator, planning to take over the world and the suppression and murder of over 6 million Jews, where Stalin does not have this title due to his support for the allies in WWII. Where the debate between these two men starts is when knowing that Stalin actually suppressed his people in the Soviet Union double the amount of what Hitler ever wanted to achieve within Germany, Stalin by the end of WWII had killed upwards to 10 million of his own people. This is where the argument can be made that winners write history because Stalin is never put on the same scale against Hitler in terms of horrible political agendas and too what scale they suppressed. When comparing these two men, what is concrete is that these men only wanted one thing and that was taking their country to worldwide dominance with them as the pure and only leader of their respective nations. As proved many times throughout history, dictators will go to any means necessary to achieve ultimate supremacy.
What is interesting to studying is both of these men were in power virtually around the same time when both of their countries where in horrible economic times, both of them had very separate visions on how to get their countries back on track with the western world, but what is similar is that they had specific groups that needed to be suppressed if their were to gain ultimate power and achieve their outlying goals. It can be said Stalin and Hitler came into their positions with different political objectives but in turn used similar suppression tactics to follow through with their personal objectives. Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin both felt their leadership was necessary to make their respective countries dominate on the international scale, economically and politically. The way they went about achieving this was through different political viewpoints. Joseph Stalin political objectives were of those who influenced him, which was using Marxist ideologies to make the Soviet Union an economic superpower. His main idea was that he wanted the use of socialism in one country because he was worried the current combination of state and private enterprises was ruining the economy of the USSR.
Many citizens felt uneasy about being surrounded by hostile capitalist states as well, which in any future economic crisis other states might try again to invade the workers state, only an industrially strong USSR would have the military capacity to defeat such a threat. It is clear Stalin believed that fundamentally changing the economic policy to industrial based initiatives through collectivization and industrialization was a way of continuing Vladimir Lenin’s revolutionary work and successfully performing a revolution that would establish his position as one of the great revolutionary Marxist leaders. On the other side, Hitler had other plans, he wanted to bring Germany out of the ashes from WWI and get over the reparations the country had to pay from the Treaty of Versailles. The people were in horrible economic times and wanted solid leadership to get the country back on track. Hitler and the Nazi party claimed to be a revolutionary movement offering a ‘third way’ between the uncontrolled markets of capitalism and the planned economy of socialism and communism. Hitler promised to the people that he would create a new order consisting of a classless national society.
This new order was referred to as the ‘Second Revolution” and wanted to re-educate the German people, the main feature was to radically restructure German society so that the prevailing class, religious and sectional loyalties would be replaced. It is important to bear in mind that the Nazi’s concepts of race were central to all of these policies, and there is evidence to suggest that the goal was the complete Nazi control of state and society and wanted to set the country away from its rivals in Europe, in terms of economic and social structure. Unlike the Marxist-Lenin economic ideologies going on in Europe, Hitler had little real interest in economic policy, except as so fair as it would enable him to carry out his political, social and foreign policy objectives. The economic polices of Hitler and the Nazi party was less radical than Stalin’s plan for a cooperate/industrial economic state. The political objectives by both leaders were not the only underlying reasons why they chose to start suppressing their respective populations, there were other major factors lead to them to such extreme tactics.
Even thought Stalin had defeated the Left, and the Right Oppositions by 1929, there was still conflict in the Communist Party, signs of this growing discontent became apparent at the Sixteenth Party Congress in June 1930 and on several occasions on the years between 1930-34 Stalin found he could not always get his policies adopted. This undercurrent of discontent, which involved many important leaders of the Communist Party and the General Committee, led Stalin to fear that he might be replaced, especially as his old opponents and defeated rivals were still lurking around the political arena. While his opposition was not evident, Stalin came to feel that in order to maintain the party’s and his own power, drastic action way required. There have been some historians that have explained Stalin’s Terror as the result of madness due to the death of his second wife or his loss of power in the party, there are several objective reasons why Stalin did not feel secure in his position. Although, it was true before that on occasion Lenin and his party had been prepared to use limited terror against opponents, Stalin pushed terror way beyond the limits set by Lenin.
Hitler also had to deal with similar discontent within his power position. When Hitler became chancellor in 1933, his position was far from secure. Germany’s President, Von Hindenburg, had only agreed to Hitler’s becoming chancellor because the Vice-President, Von Papen assured him he could limit Hitler’s powers. Van Papen had said within a couple months “we will have pushed Hitler so far into a corner that he’ll squeak”. Chancellors were dependent on the support of the president and it was clear that Von Hindenburg disliked Hitler. Yet within weeks of Hitler appointments, the Nazi Party had taken control of Germany and had already begun implementing the Nazi’s plan for ultimate rule and take over. They used this power to establish a one party totalitarian dictatorship under the personal leadership of Hitler. At first the prime target were other political parties, the labor and trade unions, then moved onto ethnic cleansing, all of which stood on the way of the Third Reich and the Nazi’s objectives.
Stalin and Hitler realized that control over the media and effective propaganda is often not enough to establish and secure total power, coercion and violence or at least the threat of them are also necessary weapons, this is also why they both imposed their policies and suppression tactics quickly because they were worried their positions were under great stress and could be overthrown easily. What are most important to focus on is the similarities in how Stalin and Hitler suppressed their respective opponents and populations. Stalin used many different techniques to suppress the masses and follow through with his political agendas; they included the purges of political opponents, the collectivization of agriculture, famine throughout the USSR and using industrialization for selfish means. First came collectivization of the farmlands and the industrialization of the cities. Stalin changed the agricultural policy from Lenin’s New Economic Policy to collectivization in 1929, as stated in his first five-year plan. Stalin did not like the growing strength of the small landowners, his new policy planned to use collective farms to produce more grain than necessary for survival, allowing the government to seize the excess and sell it to foreign countries. These farms were taken from the people and were run by between fifty to hundred government workers, this enabled fewer farms to produce more crops to sell off to build industrial factories.
By condensing the number of farms, there would be more workers for industrial production; this in turn promoted the new industrialization of the country. The capital from the agricultural surpluses would be used for industrial production, not help his growing poor population who couldn’t even feed themselves. The harvests were split between the state for industrial means and the shares of the individual members of the collective, meaning no peasants or low class workers, only high government officials. Stalin promised to facilitate the mechanization of agriculture by giving the Communist party control the peasants. Since initially the state’s share was top priority, Russia now had to import food to feed its people, which defeated the purpose of deporting grain for profit. Peasants fought back against the Communist Party, stating their ancestors had fought the nobles for ownership of their farms in a blood war, and weren’t going to give it up so easily. Stalin in turn used violence suppression to obtain ownership of peasantry farm. When food shortages started to erupt, Stalin switched to brute force and terror to get the population to cooperate.
Tens of thousands of political party members and the Red Army (Stalin’s secret army) were dispatched to the countryside, where peasants were beaten to force them to work on state farms. It they refused, which most did, were either exiled to ghettos in Serbia or killed on site. The Red Army crushed all uprisings, exterminating five million peasants in the process. The ultimate goal remained to make all peasants into members of rural proletariat and part of the industrial working class. By 1936, ninety one percent of all peasants were horribly affected, either killed or starving in the ghettos. The suppression of the peasants weren’t the only terror Stalin performed. Stalin decided it was necessary for his long-term success to purge his political opponents. The reason being Stalin was paranoid and had the desire to be the absolute leader, meaning no one was going to stop him from ruling and applying his political agendas. He enforced these purges by using the NKVD (Communist Secret Police) and public ‘show trials’. These developed a ‘cult of Stalin” type worship discussed later and a terrifying system of labor camps, the Gulag.
Several reasons would be named for Stalin’s terror; first of all, he believed that the country could be united with him as leader and secondly, Stalin calculated the Soviet Union had 10 years to catch up to the Western world before Germany invade and there wasn’t anyone could do to stop him from completing these goals. He used hundreds of thousands political Gulag prisoners to perform ridiculous construction and industrial work, killing many in the process. Stalin’s terrors dates back to 1930-33 and were aimed at getting rid of those were against industrialization and the Kulaks (well-off farmers and entrepreneurs, who opposed collectivization). The worst nation to surfer from these purges in the Soviet Union were not Russians, but the Ukraine’s, they had the largest population who opposed Stalin’s leadership. He used his power to kill political rivals and used it to arrest thousands of political opponents and out them on show trials, along with murdering 7 generals. The purges affected not only those who opposed Stalin but ordinary people too. During his rule of the country over 20 million people were sent to labor camps where nearly half died.
Knowing just how Stalin went about suppressing, it is easy to compare him to how Hitler went about suppressing; they are more comparable then perceived. Hitler repressed his political opponents, put his rivals in concentration camps and suppressed non-Germans. His purging of his political opponents was referred to as The Night of Long Knives, and it was due to the fact that Hitler felt like his position was not established, just like how Stalin felt within his party. The German army was strong and not coordinated meaning they could easily overthrow him. Many people started to grow distant from the Nazi Party and wanted Hitler to perform a ‘second revolution’ based on socialist means. Problems erupted against Ernst Rohm, who was the leader of the strong SA, and wanted the regular army to be merged with the SA, the form a new People’s Army under his command. Rohm’s ideas for a people’s militia was going to be tolerated by Hitler because he did not want discontent in the army due to him needing them for his foreign policy objectives. Hitler became concerned with Rohm’s activities and other leading Nazi officials saw Rohm and his supporters as a real rival to their influence within the party. Hitler gave orders, using the SS, his secret police, armed with weapons where they arrested and killed many of the opposing leaders of the SA, including Rohm.
In all, over 400 people were murdered throughout the new few days. Some leading counterrevolutionaries were also murdered, as Hitler was concerned that the conservative elites were trying to overthrow him. Hitler like Stalin felt it was necessary to rid of the non-countrymen (non-Russians, or in Hitler’s case, the non-German people) who were harming the political agendas from being followed through with. The membership of the Nazi’s Volksegemeinschoft meaning the people community was open to all good Aryans (all of those who were not ‘asocial’ such as homosexuals, tramps or gypsies or did not suffer from hereditary physical or mental problems) who accept the Nazi regime. From the start one group of German’s was specifically excluded, those citizens were the Jewish. Jewish people were seen as the destroyers of culture, also they held a good percentage of top jobs in the country, meaning they hold much influence in society, making them easy targets.
The first case erupted in 1933 when Hitler enounced the official boycott of all Jewish shops and professional services then came a law passed a year, which removed all Jewish citizens from government posts, completely removing their role in German society. Around 400 laws were passed repressing the Jewish population. During the periods before the war, most violent attacks the Jews were uncoordinated and unofficially carried out by Hitler’s secret army, the SS. In 1937, further measures known as ‘Aryanization’ was taken to remove Jewish people from all professions and business, and the country as a whole, they were believed to be running the Germany economy and taking jobs from the pure Aryans. Protests against the Jewish population erupted in 1938, which resulted in the destruction of thousands of Jewish homes, and moving 30,000 to ghettos and camps in Poland. By 1938, they were completely excluded from all life in Germany and weren’t allowed anywhere throughout the country. The outbreak of the war worsened the situation, first the curfew, then came the total deportation of the Jewish population to the concentration camps, placing 4 million Jews under Nazi control. The summer of 1941, Hitler began the complete extermination against communist and Jews, the secret police (SS) rounded up all of the Jewish people throughout all occupied areas and performed systematic mass murder.
By 1943, almost all of them were in camps or killed, the result was the murder of almost 6 million Jewish people. The similarities between both of these leaders are evident in not why they decided to suppress but how they went about it and the tactics they used to enforce the terror upon these groups. Hitler and Stalin sought to rejuvenate the nation towards their goals based on commitment to the national community to tie all individuals together by ancestry, culture and blood. To be able to rejuvenate the national towards their respective goals, both Stalin and Hitler used quite similar tactics to gain the support of the people, which was their use of propaganda, this allowed them follow through with their horrible political agendas. Stalin’s use of propaganda begun in 1929 at this fiftieth birthday party, the party and media built him up as a hero and equate to the political thinking of Marx and Lenin. Stalin used the media to portray himself as Lenin’s true discipline while branding all his opponents as ‘Anti-Leninists’.
During the upheavals of collectivization, the five-year plans and the purges references were made to claiming ‘Stalin is the Lenin of Today’. In the early 1930s, Stalin was portrayed as the ‘Father of the Nation’, who saved the Soviet Union from its enemies and an expert in science and culture. Posters, paintings and status of him appeared everywhere, in the streets, factories, offices, schools and homes. The media referred to him in glowing terms, such as a ‘universal genius’ and ‘shining sun of humanity’, artists; writers and film directors were ordered to produce work in praise of these terms and his achievements. Propaganda was aimed at children was disseminated through the schools and youth organizations. When comparing this to Hitler’s use of propaganda, the similarities are almost exact in method and distribution. The only thing Hitler did differently was hire propaganda master Joseph Goebbels and set up a Reich Chamber of Commerce in 1933, which dealt with literature, art, music, radio, film, newspapers, etc.… Just like Stalin did years before, Hitler introduced a system of censorship, the public could only read, see and hear what the Nazi’s wanted them to read, see and hear, making it dangerous for people to follow the opposition, one did not want to get caught with banned literature.
The films released to the public concentrated on certain issues: the Jews, the greatness of Hitler, the way of life for a true Nazi, especially aimed at children. Most support came from the famous film ‘Triumph of the Will’, considered one of the greatest propaganda films despite its content. To ensure that everyone could her Hitler speak, Goebbels organized the sale of cheap radios and demanded everyone have one in their home, along with putting loud speakers in streets, schools and cafes so no one could avoid Hitler’s speeches. Lastly, they organized massive rallies of over 400,000 people to show the world the might of the Nazi nation. As it can be seen both Stalin and Hitler not only used similar suppression tactics but propaganda tactics as well. It is easily seen how both leaders became so dominate and popular to the majority, it could be said they completely brain washed their people into believing their political agendas of mass murder could be justified, thinking it was for the ‘greater good of the country and its people’.