Thus, regardless of the differences in their underlying ideological claims, the Nazi and Stalinist parties were organized in practice along similar lines, with a rigid hierarchy and centralized leadership. Each totalitarian party and dictator is supported by a specific totalitarian ideology. Friedrich and Brzezinski argue, in agreement with Arendt, that Nazi and Stalinist leaders really believed in their respective ideologies and did not merely use them as tools to gain power. Several major policies, such as the Stalinist collectivization of agriculture or the Nazi "final solution" , cannot be explained by anything other than a genuine commitment to achieve ideological goals, even at great cost.
This stereotyped enemy could be described as "the fat rich Jew or the Jewish Bolshevik" for the Nazis, or "the war-mongering, atom-bomb-wielding American Wallstreeter" for the Soviets.
According to Friedrich and Brzezinski, the most important difference between Nazi and Stalinist ideology lies in the degree of universality involved. Stalinism, and communist ideology in general, is universal in its appeal and addresses itself to all the " workers of the world. Therefore, "in communism social justice appears to be the ultimate value, unless it be the classless society that is its essential condition; in fascism, the highest value is dominion, eventually world dominion, and the strong and pure nation-race is its essential condition, as seen by its ideology.
Friedrich and Brzezinski also draw attention to the symbols used by Nazis and Stalinists to represent themselves. The Soviet Union adopted the hammer and sickle , a newly-created symbol, "invented by the leaders of the movement and pointing to the future. Totalitarian dictatorships maintain themselves in power through the use of propaganda and terror, which Friedrich and Brzezinski believe to be closely connected.
Terror may be enforced with arrests and executions of dissenters, but it can also take more subtle forms, such as the threat of losing one's job, social stigma and defamation. According to Friedrich and Brzezinski, the most effective terror is invisible to the people it affects. They simply develop a habit of acting in a conformist manner and not questioning authority, without necessarily being aware that this is what they are doing. Propaganda is then used to maintain this appearance of popular consent. Totalitarian propaganda is one of the features that distinguishes totalitarian regimes as modern forms of government and separates them from older autocracies, since a totalitarian government holds complete control over all means of communication not only public communication such as the mass media, but also private communication such as letters and telephone calls, which are strictly monitored.
Both Joseph Goebbels and Soviet propagandists sought to demonize their enemies and present a picture of a united people standing behind its leader to confront foreign threats.source
In both cases there was no attempt to convey complex ideological nuances to the masses, with the message being instead about a simplistic struggle between good and evil. Both Nazi and Stalinist regimes produced two very different sets of propaganda — one for internal consumption and one for potential sympathizers in other countries.
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And both regimes would sometimes radically change their propaganda line as they made peace with a former enemy or got into a war with a former ally. With no way for anyone to express criticism, the dictator has no way of knowing how much support he actually has among the general populace. With all government policies always declared successful in propaganda, officials are unable to determine what actually worked and what didn't.
As the war turned against Germany, there was growing opposition to Hitler's rule, including within the ranks of the military, but Hitler was never aware of this until it was too late see: 20 July plot. In , during the early days of the Berlin Blockade , the Soviet leadership apparently believed that the population of West Berlin was sympathetic to Soviet Communism and that they would request to join the Soviet zone. Friedrich and Brzezinski refer to this as the "ritualization of propaganda": the totalitarian regime continues to produce propaganda as a political ritual, with little real impact on public opinion.
The totalitarian use of mass arrests, executions and concentration camps — also noted by Arendt — was analyzed at length by Friedrich and Brzezinski. They hold that "totalitarian terror maintains, in institutionalized form, the civil war that originally produced the totalitarian movement and by means of which the regime is able to proceed with its program, first of social disintegration and then of social reconstruction.
But to declare that the struggle had been won would have meant to declare that most of the totalitarian features of the government were no longer needed. A secret police force, for instance, has no reason to exist if there are no dangerous traitors who need to be found. Thus the struggle, or "civil war" against internal enemies, must be institutionalized and must continue indefinitely. In the Stalinist USSR, the repressive apparatus was eventually turned against members of the Communist Party itself in the Great Purge and the show trials that accompanied it.
The Nazis did not turn inward towards purging their own party except in a limited way on two occasions the Night of the Long Knives and the aftermath of the 20 July plot. The peak of totalitarian terror was reached with the Nazi concentration camps. These ranged from labor camps to extermination camps , and they are described by Friedrich and Brzezinski as aiming to "eliminate all actual, potential, and imagined enemies of the regime. However, unlike Hannah Arendt, who held that the Gulag camps served no economic purpose, Friedrich and Brzezinski argue that they provided an important source of cheap labor for the Stalinist economy.
The comparative study of Nazism and Stalinism was carried further by other groups of scholars, such as Moshe Lewin and Ian Kershaw together with their collaborators. Writing after the dissolution of the USSR , Lewin and Kershaw take a longer historical perspective and regard Nazism and Stalinism not so much as examples of a new type of society like Arendt, Friedrich and Brzezinski did , but more as historical "anomalies" — unusual deviations from the typical path of development that most industrial societies are expected to follow.
At the outset, Lewin and Kershaw identify similarities between the historical situations in Germany and Russia prior to the First World War and during that war. Both countries were ruled by authoritarian monarchies, who were under pressure to make concessions to popular demands.
Both countries had "powerful bureaucracies and strong military traditions. And both countries had expansionist foreign policies with a particular interest in Central and Eastern Europe. Ian Kershaw admitted that Stalinism and Nazism are comparable in "the nature and extent of their inhumanity," but noted that the two regimes were different in a number of aspects  Lewin and Kershaw question the usefulness of grouping the Stalinist and Nazi regimes together under a "totalitarian" category, saying that it remains an open question whether the similarities between them are greater or smaller than the differences.
Kershaw agrees with Mommsen that there was a fundamental difference between Nazism and Stalinism regarding the importance of the leader. Stalinism had an absolute leader, but he was not essential.
From “Class against Class” to the Hitler-Stalin Pact: Some Reflections on the Unwavering Line
He could be replaced by another. Nazism, on the other hand, was a "classic charismatic leadership movement," defined entirely by its leader. Stalinism had an ideology which existed independently of Stalin.
But for Nazism, "Hitler was ideological orthodoxy" — Nazi ideals were by definition whatever Hitler said they were. In Stalinism, the bureaucratic apparatus was the foundation of the system, while in Nazism, the person of the leader was the foundation. Moshe Lewin also focuses on the comparison between the personality cults of Hitler and Stalin, and their respective roles in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.
He refers to them as the "Hitler myth" and the "Stalin myth," and argues that they served different functions within their two regimes. The function of the "Hitler myth" was to legitimize Nazi rule. The function of the "Stalin myth" was to legitimize not Soviet rule itself, but Stalin's leadership within the Party. Stalin's personality cult existed precisely because Stalin knew that he was replaceable, and feared that he might be replaced, and so needed to bolster his authority as much as possible.
Together with fellow historian Hans Mommsen , Lewin argues that the Stalinist and Nazi regimes featured an "intrinsic structural contradiction" which led to "inherent self-destructiveness": they depended on a highly organized state bureaucracy which was trying to set up complex rules and procedures for every aspect of life, yet this bureaucracy was under the complete personal control of a despot who made policy decisions as he saw fit, routinely changing his mind on major issues, without any regard for the rules and institutions which his own bureaucracy had set up.
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Mommsen sees this as being a much greater problem in Nazi Germany than in Stalin's Soviet Union, as the Nazis inherited large parts of the traditional German bureaucracy, while the Soviets largely built their own bureaucracy from the ground up. This confusion produced competition between Nazi officials, as each of them attempted to prove that he was a more dedicated Nazi than his rivals, by engaging in ever more extreme policies.
This competition to please Hitler was, according to Mommsen, the real cause of Nazi irrationality. In spite of its purges, Stalin's regime was more effective in building a stable bureaucracy, such that it was possible for the system to sustain itself and continue even without Stalin.
The Nazi regime, on the other hand, was much more personalized and depended entirely on Hitler, being unable to build any lasting institutions. Kershaw also saw major personal differences between Stalin and Hitler and their respective styles of rule. He describes Stalin as "a committee man, chief oligarch, man of the machine" and a "creature of his party," who came to power only thanks to his party and his ability to manipulate the levers of power within that party.
Stalin's personality cult was "superimposed upon the Marxist-Leninist ideology and Communist Party," and could be abandoned or replaced with a personality cult around some other leader without major changes to the regime. Stalinism could exist without its leader.
Nazism could not. The topic of comparisons between Nazism and Stalinism was also studied in the s and s by historians Henry Rousso , Nicolas Werth and Philippe Burrin. Rousso defends the work of Carl Friedrich by pointing out that Friedrich himself had only said that Stalinism and Nazism were comparable, not that they were identical.
Rousso also argues that the popularity of the concept of totalitarianism the way that large numbers of people have come to routinely refer to certain governments as "totalitarian" should be seen as evidence that the concept is useful, that it really describes a specific type of government which is different from other dictatorships. Nazism is unique among totalitarian regimes in having taken power in "a country endowed with an advanced industrial economy and with a system of political democracy and an even older political pluralism. One of the topics they have studied is the question of how much power the dictator really held in the two regimes.
Werth identifies two main historiographical approaches in the study of the Stalinist regime: Those who emphasize the power and control exercised by Joseph Stalin himself, attributing most of the actions of the Soviet government to deliberate plans and decisions made by him, and those who argue that Stalin had no pre-determined course of action in mind, that he was reacting to events as they unfolded, and that the Soviet bureaucracy had its own agenda which often differed from Stalin's wishes. According to Werth, it was this unresolved and unstated conflict that led to the Great Purge and to the use of terror by Stalin's regime against its own party and state cadres.
However, there was a potential for division between the leader and the state bureaucracy, due to the way that Nazism came to power — as part of an alliance with traditional conservative elites, industrialists, and the army. This provided the Nazis with an immediate supply of capable and experienced managers and military commanders, but on the other hand it also meant that the Nazi regime had to rely on the cooperation of people who had not been Nazis prior to Hitler's rise to power, and whose loyalty was questionable.
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