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Revisionist history implies that both Stalin and Hitler dictatorships was “modernistic” in doing so they revert to tradition vies on totalitarianism. There can be no objection to comparison of Hitler/Stalin, including their atrocities committed. Totalitarianism can be compared across several categories. Hitler and Stalin both made total claims on society with unprecedented repression and attempted indoctrination. The problem with term totalitarianism is that it is a descriptive concept, not a theory. Stalinism and Hitlerism are both ‘totalitarian’ so it presumes that the two regimes share more similarities than dissimilarities.
Kershaw’s argues that Stalinism and Hitlerism are in fact more unalike than they are alike. The goal is to explain the system of destruction and momentum of Nazism, showing that Nazism undermined traditional power structures predicated on order. To do this, Kershaw examines significant points of contrast between Hitler and Stalin. Stalin rose to power within system of rule and came to power through the secretariat. Hitler was a wildcard. He was not a product of a system. Hitler did not behave like a normal totalitarian ruler. He was indecisive and often put off important decisions for long periods of time. It was hard for his top cabinet members to get a meeting with him to get a decision. Hitler’s aloofness was deeper than a difference in style, it was a deep difference in the essence of the regimes Stalin was an interventionalist dictator. He wanted to monopolize the decision-making process and eliminate need of party-state system.
Hitler was essentially the opposite. Hitler’s orders were sporadic. He stopped meeting with cabinet after two years, and he constantly did things to promote a dualism between state and party. Stalin wanted to destabilize government to remove challengers, Hitler had no plan for this, and his leadership structure was a chaotic mess. Power in Hitlerism was determined by loyalty not by functional positioning. Hitler did have more ruling power than Stalin, because he was not a dictator within a system. There was some rational basis for Stalin’s purges. He was threatened from inside and purged those closest to him to prevent being overthrown. Hitler thought that Stalin was crazy for performing purges because he had no internal threat. Hitler’s regime was rooted deeply in the trust of the loyalty of supporters, while Stalin could not believe loyalty. Hitler’s status in the Nazi party was different than Stalin’s in communist party because Communism could survive without Stalin. Nazism could not survive without Hitler. Since the mid-1920s there was a buildup of a Fuhrer party. Ideological orthodoxy was shown by adherence to Hitler and that was the only way to advance in the party. Because of this, there were no potential threats within Nazism.
Even though Stalin’s regime featured barbaric methods and radicalism, there was a model of goals and rational in terms of decision making. There was no widespread nationalism in Stalin’s regime, and the system could survive Stalin’s reign. Nazism was different. The momentum of radicalization, barbarism and destructiveness was incapable of slowing down without fundamentally changing the “system”. The erosion of the Nazi government was not just due to party-state dualism, but the predatory nature of the party that fostered an environment of competing and overlapping agencies of rule. While Hitler’s leadership was extremely important to the Nazi party, his irrational decisions created a self-destructive capacity within the party that made demise certain. Hitler was so irreplaceable to Nazism that a plan to select a successor to Hitler was never made. There is no conceivable person within Nazi leadership that could have been the successor. The radical individualization of Hitler’s rule created a party that was incapable of reproducing itself.
The Nazis did not accidentally go to war, war was at the core of Nazism and its dynamism and self-destructive essence would have been present with or without the loss of the war. Kershaw concludes that Hitler and Stalin’s regimes were fundamentally different, despite superficial similarities. Kershaw suggests that the differences between the two dictators went deeper than their personalities. It is argued that the contrast between the two parties is that the Nazi movement was a charismatic dictatorship, Soviet communist party was not. Hitler’s connection to charismatic authority is obvious, his regime meets all of the main features of such a rule. Stalin’s rule cannot be characterized the same way. The cult of Stalin was gradual and belated. It was for the most part independent of Stalin. In the modern state, replacing bureaucracy through personal domination is impossible. What happened in third Reich was charismatic authority superimposing bureaucracy.
Traditional institutions were undermined and eroded by an administration whose only source of legitimacy was the charismatic claim, and vision of national redemption. In the case of the Nazi’s, through racial purity and racial empire. The party becoming a system less entity then was not the result of a “will” of Hitler. The accidental chaos reflected back on Hitler’s leadership and aloof characteristics. Hitler was extremely uninterested in daily government functions and was only concerned with protecting his image. The undermining of rational government structures is not the only thing of significance. There was a symbiotic relationship between structural disorder of the Nazi state and radicalization of policy. Key development was the autonomy in which the Fuhrer rose to. There were no restraints on power in theory or practice by 1938. Pressure caused by Hitler’s actions, and the developments of those actions, promoted the high-risk approach which was Hitler’s second nature anyway.
Race policy had shifted gears by 38 also. Co-ordination of the ‘Jewish question’ came from the Reichstristallnacht program, approved by Hitler. Removal of the Jews and territorial expansion were central features. A shift from utopian ‘vision’ to practical policy was taking shape. It would be wrong to look at radicalization of the party because of mainly Hitler. He was the lynchpin but was not actually directly needed to radicalize.
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