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History That Interests Me 2

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Totalitarianism in the 1930's Germany and the Soviet Union

Totalitarianism in the 1930's Germany and the Soviet Union

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  • 1. David Stevenson<br />4/23/11<br />History 140<br />Totalitarianism in Germany and <br />The Soviet Union in the 1930’s<br />The French ideologue of syndicalism, Georges Sorel did not speak of totalitarianism, men of the elements that commentators began to ask as “alike” in the Soviet Union, Italy, and subsequently Germany were aspects of the twentieth century radicalism about which Sorel had spoken. The anti-liberalism of all three movements was central. Fascism, Nazism, and Bolshevism all employed what a prominent student of fascism calls a “totalitarian vocabulary of combat.” Soviet Communist and German and Italian Fascists express their hatred of the soft and cowardly bourgeoisie. The Bolsheviks call the bourgeoisie violent, ravening, and crazed with hatred for the revolution. While the fascists were formulating the rationale for a mass – mobilizing, developmental, authoritarian, and hierarchical and statist program, the Bolsheviks were forced to assume similar postures by the course of events. <br />Totalitarian was the growing interest in the study of comparative dictatorship by commentators largely liberal or socialists in their political sympathies. Journalists, academics, and even politicians found the term totalitarian a handy way to distinguish between a “old” dictatorship, such as that of tsarist Russia a “new” ones with a far greater dynamism and ruthlessness. The term totalitarian appeared several times in the English – language press between 1926 and 1934. The sense in which it was used could be tracked back to Italian or German usage. Sometimes the Soviet Union would also be cited as an instance of a “totalitarian state.” 1929, an article in the times defined totalitarian as meaning “unitary.” After Hitler came to power, it did not take long for a new set of émigrés to find themselves resident. They tended to have begun with the belief that fascism originated in the crisis of capitalism, brought on by overproduction the struggle for raw materials and/or markets and the rise of organized worker militancy. Nazism and soviet communism appeared in these theories as the most extreme opposites. In terms of its “class content,” it was no worse than liberalism or social democracy, since all were “essentially” bourgeoisie and hostile to the revolution. The worse things got, the better it was. <br />Herbert Marcuse, produced the first work of the Frankfurt school that used the term totalitarian. He wrote the essay, “the struggle against liberalism in the totalitarian view of the state.” When Marcuse turned to a brief study of influential ant liberal thinkers of the twentieth century, he observe that Lenin’s notion of the revolutionary avant-garde, as well as the Fuhrerelite of Fascism, could be connected to Sorel’s elitist point of view. Franz Neumann did not provide any precise definition of what the totalitarian state was. Its function as an “order of domination,” and, in the German case, its extreme racialism, The dynamic racism of the “movement state” was at the heart of Hitler’s vision. Neumann used the term totalitarian to describe the all-powerful state that he believed to be one of the two central elements of fascism. The other was monopoly capitalism. The ultimate issue of the instrumental reason of the enlightenment was totalitarianism. Among the earliest arrivals from Germany was that theologian Paul Tillich, in the autumn of 1933, wrote an article entitled “the totalitarian state and the claims of the church.” The chain of events continued Tillich that led up to the present crisis had begun with World War I followed by the economic crisis of the postwar period. Tillich believed that a theory explicitly glorifying “totalitarian” unity was an essential part of the totalitarian state. Only Germany in all of Europe had realized that the totalitarian state in both theory in practice. In Russia the totalitarian state has been more effectively realized than even in Germany. The individual no longer had rights of any kind. Nothing was said explicitly about dictatorship or single – party systems. In England, the church historian Christopher Dawson diagnosed the new totalitarian state as a threat to religion in October 1934. What was special about the totalitarian states was that their dictatorship was that of a “hierarchical party” that assembled “a religious or military order more that a political party of the old type” and thus made them inevitable rivals of the church. Calvin Hoover had been teaching comparative economic systems at Duke since 1920 and in 1929 visited the Soviet Union for the first time and set about learning Russian. Late in 1932 Hoover arranged to spend some months in Germany, and he subsequently described the Nazi take over in a vivid, disturbing book that had some influence in American academia. In Russia he wrote “There was famine, an increase terror and the failure to realize the economic expectations of the spring of 1930. I had returned to Germany. If a curtailment of individual liberty under a dictatorship were the prize which had to be paid to avoid the unlimited terror which held sway in Russia, then the prize seemed worth paying.” <br />William Henry Chamberlin published an essay comparing Germany and the Soviet Union in the Atlantic monthly in the fall of 1935. Chamberlin’s was interested in such questions as whether the masses in the two countries were actually devoted to their remarkable leaders, as they were always represented to be. He reported how ordinary Germans and Russians seem to have much fear of foreigners Germany and the Soviet Union. Like Hoover, Chamberlin clearly expected the two regimes to converge even further. Chamberlin clearly regarded Nazi Germany as far more dangerous and dynamic that the Soviet Union, but believed that the Soviet Union never the less to have been guilty of greater cruelty and violence up to that time. In 1935, the Communist International abundant its suicidal policy of the branding Social Democrats and liberals “Social Fascists” and set out to create what quickly became known as “Popular Front” against fascism. The revolutionary methods used in Asia are held up to us as a model for solving American problems. Several hundred intellectuals, ranging from the moderate Left to the moderate Right, signed a manifesto that began: “the tide of totalitarianism is rising throughout the world… the totalitarian idea is already enthrone in Germany, Italy, Russia, Japan and Spain. <br />Freda Kirchwey made it clear that she felt the signers paid insufficient attention to what the communist were doing to oppose fascism. There was also disagreement over the value of liberalism, broadly, even amorphously, understood to include parliamentary politics, private property, and individualism. “Revolutionary collectivism” was the polar opposite of totalitarian for most Marxist radicals. Some, like Dwight McDonald, did not feel they had to make the choice until the 1950’s. An event lay just ahead that persuaded many to make such a painful and drastic break with their most cherished beliefs. Both Germany and the Soviet Union were hostile to Democracy, Individualism, and Capitalism. Max Eastman wrote to the new republic “we were wrong. You cannot serve democracy and totalitarianism.” Editor Freda Kirchwey was in fact finally moving toward the view that the Soviet Union was becoming more like Nazi Germany. <br />In Summing up, it is clear that what happened between 1932 and 1939 was not merely a shift in America. Perceptions of the Soviet Union, Italy, and Germany, although that was part of it the violent Nazi Gleichschaltung and the Stalinist onslaught on the kulaks played an important role enforcing unwelcome new evaluations on many in the English speaking world. Radicals fought against the idea that there could be commonalities among Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union. But both ideas gain in plausibility. With the signing of the Nazi – Soviet Pact in 1939, all doubts were swept away for most Americans. It was largely on the fringes of the Marxist Left that the idea persisted that whatever one might think of the Soviet Union under Stalin, its rootedness in enlightenment traditions of liberations separated it typologically from fascism and Nazism. This was a highly unfashionable view point in 1940, but it would emerge more than once in post war Europe and America.<br />Work Cited<br /> <br />Gleason, Abbott. Totalitarianism: The Inner History of The Cold War. New York, Oxford. 1995. <br />Print.<br />Overy, Richard. The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia by W.W., Edited by Antony <br />Beevor. Translation by Luba Vinogradova Pantheon. 1941-45. Print.<br />