Author Topic: No Stalin, no Hitler?  (Read 87515 times)

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Offline Bev

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Re: No Stalin, no Hitler?
« Reply #105 on: January 30, 2007, 02:42:20 PM »
The better question in my opinion, is if there had not been a Russian revolution, would there have been a German revolution? No Stalin, no Hitler is rhetorical in the sense that it covers a very broad area of discussion.  Of course, we could ask the question in a somewhat literal way, because Stalin quite obviously enabled Hitler (as did others) in his ambitions. 

I believe that in many ways the German revolution was as cataclysmic as the Russian revolution for Europe.  It certainly unleashed movements (such as fascism) and sentiments (such as anti-semitism) that while always simmering beneath the surface erupted with out check in the 1930s.  Of course the part that the aristocracy played in the rise of nazism along with the Prussian army officer class cannot be discounted.

In some ways the Russian revolution gave the Germans a kind of symbolic permission to throw off monarchy as a form of government.

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: No Stalin, no Hitler?
« Reply #106 on: January 30, 2007, 04:54:58 PM »
It wasn't Hitler's anti-Bolshevism nor his anti-Semetism that made so many desparate sections of the German society support him. Therefore, even without a Russian revolution and a Soviet state Hitler would have risen to the top. Those were factors in his appeal but not the main reasons he was so popular with the German masses.
It was his nationalism [....] Hitler would have made it to the top even if there had been a sovereign holy orthodox tsar ruling Russia from the Kremlin instead of a communist commissar.

I'm not quite convinced by this argument. It seems to me Hitler always needed an Evil Other, the Jew/Communist, who must be defeated (or better yet, exterminated) for the safety of all and especially of the German Reich, but also in order for Nazism to succeed. Remember that not only Germans, but also Western Europeans in general, and even Americans in large numbers, tried for the longest time to view Hitler and his policies in the most positive light imaginable - One might well ask, why was that so? Why indeed was appeasement of the growing Nazi threat such a popular approach throughout the Western world for the duration of the 1930s? IMO, precisely because Hitler represented National Socialism as the final bulwark against Communism. I think it's hard for us now to understand the mindset of most middle-class and upper-class Germans (and other Europeans) in the 1930s - they had a genuine terror of Bolshevism (remember, this terror was not exactly without foundation!) - to the extent that in the 1930s diaries of the German Jewish literature professor Victor Klemperer one even hears German Jews (!) making excuses for Hitler:

"May 27 [1936] Wednesday evening [....]

Then Frau Hirche telephoned, and yesterday afternoon she was here for coffee. Her husband was unemployed and receiving dole for a year - the Director of the Eschebach factory, the owner of a Packard, the father of a lieutenant - now he is a traveller for a sheet metal company and on the road for weeks. They are not well-disposed to the Nazis, but even they repeat the nonsense that is hammered into everyone and is current among Jews as well: But after them there would be the Communists and that would be even worse!"

- Victor Klemperer, I Will Bear Witness, 1933-1941, pp. 166-167. 
« Last Edit: January 30, 2007, 05:01:00 PM by Elisabeth »
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Offline James1941

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Re: No Stalin, no Hitler?
« Reply #107 on: January 30, 2007, 08:02:38 PM »
If there had been no Bolshevik coup in Russia there would still have been a change in the German system of government. The monarchy was brushed aside because it would not end a war that had become unacceptable to Germans by 1918. They were simply sick of it, and the obstacle to ending it seemed to be the monarchical system. There might not have been the sailor's soviets in Kiel and the soldier's soviets in other cities but there would have been revolt. What kind of government might have emerged is certainly open to debate, but the defeat, the Versailles "diktat" and the treatment of Germany as a "pariah" nation, and a war criminal would still have been there. And this was what motivated Hitler to enter politics, not anti-Bolshevism. The Spatakists coup in Berlin and the various Soviet republics that briefly held power in the Lands were just one manifestation of the defeat Germany had suffered, all as one in Hitler's mind. Communism was allied to German defeat and humiliation and the destruction of the Teutonic state.
I am not so stupid as to try and maintain that anti-communism was not one of the platforms he skillfully used to attract support, but I still maintain it was not the primary one. Had that been the only issue in the NSDAP agenda it would never have attracted the mass support it did. But he still would have arisen if there had been no communist issue in Germany.
And in answer to Elizabeth. I will submit this. The quote you gave from Klemperer was dated 1936, and I feel irrelevant to the basic question here. By that year democratic republicanism and the moderate middle had been discredited by both the left and right. Hitler and the Nazis had power. Yes, if they collapsed then the only alternative was communism. But in 1919, 1920, 1921 when Hitler began his rise to power this was not the case. The Germans had many options then.

Offline Bev

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Re: No Stalin, no Hitler?
« Reply #108 on: January 30, 2007, 08:58:16 PM »
I think that Elizabeth has a point, in that Hitler needed a reactionary cause in order to climb to power.  Without it, he would have been just another "politician" - without polarization, what would have set him apart?  It just so happened that in the nazi party as founded by Anton Drexler he hit upon the perfect combination - nationalism and anti-semitism. 

I do agree with James that there probably still would have been a German revolution, but I also think that the Russian revolution was the impetus - the German naval mutinies, the army mutiny of units, the strikes - that was antithetical to German thinking, and while I know I am stereotyping here, the Germans weren't exactly known for stepping out of place.

Offline James1941

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Re: No Stalin, no Hitler?
« Reply #109 on: January 30, 2007, 10:07:37 PM »
A small digression again. My apologies but the subject is so interesting.
The German experience in 1918-1919 is what should have happened in Russia in 1917-1918 but, unfortunately, didn't. Let me see if I can explain congently.
War exhaustion and looming defeat sweep aside a monarchy that had become not only disliked by irrelevant.
The Reichstag and its political parties take power (as did the Provisional Government) but it was weak and there were many contending factions. There is a leftest coup attempt--the Spartakists led by Leibnicht--which is put down by the army and the freikorps. The weak center parties hang on to power. Then there is a rightist coup--the Kapp revolt, which is put down by a coalition of social democrats and communists and others. The weak center hangs on. Finally there is a consitutent assembly held in Weimar. A new, republican constitution is drawn up. It is flawed but for the first time gives wide political expression and participation to the German people. A republic is formed that functions fairly well and does better than it has been given credit for. Unfortunately it has formidable opponents on the right and left, and world events beyond its control weaken it in the eyes of the people. Then, a conspiracy of reactionary polticians cynically make a deal with another politician and brings him to power. He then cleverly uses that power to institute a dictatorship.
What if this had happened in Russia. What if the center had managed to defeat the Bolshevik coup and then the Constituent Assembly had given Russia a constitution that was fairly democratic. What a change in history that would have been. Would there have been a Russian Hitler? Would the Bolsheviks eventually taken power perhaps by constitutional means? Would Russia have developed into a functioning democracy?
The permutations are mind boggling.

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: No Stalin, no Hitler?
« Reply #110 on: January 31, 2007, 02:43:00 AM »
The German experience in 1918-1919 is what should have happened in Russia in 1917-1918 but, unfortunately, didn't.

I tend to line up with James on the question of the dissimilarities between Germany and Russia at the end of World War I.  Please excuse my repeating an earlier post from another thread, but it remains my view.  That post, too, worked off a Klemperer observation quoted by Elisabeth (which I always find fascinating):


I wanted some time to think about the Klemperer quote.  In fact, I largely agree with it.  If there was to be a radicalization of German politics, I do not think it surprising that it would have had the characteristics of National Socialism.  As I said earlier, German society had strains such as anti-semitism, xenophobia, a craving for order, a tendency toward extreme manifestation, and some degree of militarism -- all of which were drawn into a single, coherent (albeit absurd) philosophy by the Nazis.

But my point about the difference between Russian and German history was that I think a radicalization of German politicis was an "if" requiring a convergence of certain factors, whereas radicalization of Russian politics was more foreseeable over a wider range of scenarios.

Remember that Russia had already seen revolution only nine years before WWI began.  Throughout the nineteenth century, elements of her population had consistently radicalized -- first the intelligentsia, then the skilled workers.  The peasant craving for land redistribution was a pressure cooker forming its own head of steam.  Murder was a staple of political life.  A tsar was assassinated in 1881.  The Governnor of Moscow was assassinated in 1905.  The Prime Minister was assassinated in 1911.  And, as you and James1941 pointed out on the "Assassinations" thread, there were innumerable assassinations -- far more than anywhere else in Europe -- of lower-level officials throughout the period.  Wealth distribution was the most lopsided in the developed world.  The middle class -- a great stabilizing force in any society -- constituted a smaller element of Russian society than in any other of the great powers.  While all industrial workers had reason to complain throughout Europe, only in Russia was the state of regulation pulling back from a tentative experiment with a progressive policy.  Only in Russia was the agrarian class ready to burn down manor houses at the drop of a hat, as they did in 1905.  Only in Russia was organized violence by the civilian population, as manifested through pogroms, a recurrent habit into the 20th century.

It might have been hard to guess it would be the Bolsheviks specifically who came to power.  But it was not hard to foresee that the tsarist regime would collapse and that a centrist democratic order would not be strong enough to contain whatever the explosive forces were that precipitated that collapse.

The situation in Germany was not remotely similar to that of Russia going into the Great War.  Even when Germany was defeated, civil society remained stable.  The Kaiser was allowed to skulk away to a genteel retirement.  Germans, ready to give democracy a real chance, were nevertheless quite happy to leave the judiciary of imperial Germany intact to exert a conservative brake on their new democracy.  War heroes, people from the landed gentry, and people closely associated with the old regime were elected to the new offices.  Left to her own devices, a prostrate Germany had the ability to pick herself up and move on.

What destabilized Germany's experiment with democracy was not the latent forces embedded in her body politic.  It was the destruction of the German economy by reparations payments and the hyper-inflation that literally wiped out the entire middle class of the nation.

Any society can radicalize in the right circumstances.  People today forget how nervous some politicians in the U.S. were in the early 1930's about the forces unleashed here by the Great Depression.  We forget that social and political changes unleashed by our rather short involvement in the Great War spawned a huge upsurge in Ku Klux Klan membership and activity.  And just look at how ready Americans were in the aftermath of 9/11 to swallow fabricated information and to attack another sovereign nation without provocation.  Imagine what we might have done and how many more Patriot Acts to curtail our civil rights we would have passed had there been another similar attack within, say, a year.

Once Germany radicalized, it doesn't surprise me that she produced a Hitler.  It was the radicalization itself that would not have been foreseeable to a student of German history but for the intervening external imposition of crushing reparations payments.  I simply do not believe that a student of Russian history would have had as much trouble foreseeing a collapse of tsarism and some new form of autocratic government replacing it.

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: No Stalin, no Hitler?
« Reply #111 on: January 31, 2007, 10:52:55 AM »
I'm not sure I disagree with you completely, James and Tsarfan. I nevertheless believe that there was a definite and definable upsurge in militarism in Prussia/Germany throughout the second half of the nineteenth century. In other words, militarism, and military aggression, started well before the Treaty of Versailles, much less Hitler. And while we're at it, I think we shoud leave out anti-Semitism and the Holocaust for a moment, and just consider Germany's military record in the first world war. According to recent historians, the atrocities the German army committed against ordinary civilians (not necessarily Jews) in Belgium turn out to have been true, in large part, despite contemporary (and later) insistences that all atrocity stories about the "Huns" were gross exaggerations by enemy nations or the enemy press.

So I don't think we should forget that the second half of nineteenth-century European history, and the first half (if not more) of twentieth-century European history, is all about Germany striving to become the top-dog nation (to put it very crudely, in the spirit of 1066 and All That). The irony is that Germany would have attained this status even without fighting two twentieth-century world wars, although arguably, not without fighting the nineteenth-century ones. So yes, while I would agree that nationalism is important in explaining the rise of Hitler, nevertheless nationalism in and of itself is an insufficient explanation for this phenomenon - firstly, because there were economic and imperial interests at stake, not only for Wilhelm II but also for Hitler, and secondly, because every fanatical nationalist needs an evil Other to oppose - you simply cannot have one without the other.

Also, I don't think the point of my earlier quote from Klemperer's diaries is that it dates from 1936 (although please note, this is still pre-Kristallnacht and still pre-World War II!), but the fact that it is completely representative of Klemperer's observations about ordinary Germans - "Aryans" and Jews alike - during the years leading up to World War II. And if you don't believe me, then I urge you to read the diaries themselves. Klemperer records an all but pervasive atmosphere of fear of Bolshevism amongst the middle and professional classes in Germany throughout this entire period and well after. (And his testimony is certainly confirmed by the memories of Albert Speer, as recorded by Gita Sereny in her marvelous biography - or as some might call it, exposť - of Hitler's favorite architect.)
« Last Edit: January 31, 2007, 11:07:40 AM by Elisabeth »
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Offline Tsarfan

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Re: No Stalin, no Hitler?
« Reply #112 on: January 31, 2007, 12:28:06 PM »
According to recent historians, the atrocities the German army committed against ordinary civilians (not necessarily Jews) in Belgium turn out to have been true, in large part, despite contemporary (and later) insistences that all atrocity stories about the "Huns" were gross exaggerations by enemy nations or the enemy press.

I don't think it took recent historians to point this out.  It was highly public -- and accurate -- contemporary knowledge that Germany invaded a Belgium that had declared neutrality and that, on their way to Paris, German troops destroyed one of Europe's greatest collections of medieval scholarship by burning the library of Liege, for reasons that can only be described as cultural envy (of the same sort that caused them to destroy the Catherine Palace, Pavlovsk, and other hallmarks of Russian culture three decades later).

It was no happenstance that it was Belgium and France that occupied the Ruhr in 1923 over British and U.S. objections.  Unlike Britain and the U.S., Belgium and France had seen Germany's gratuitous brutality at first hand.

So yes, while I would agree that nationalism is important in explaining the rise of Hitler, nevertheless nationalism in and of itself is an insufficient explanation for this phenomenon . . .

I should not attempt to speak for James, but I did not read his posts to say that nationalism was the sole or even the primary cause of Hitler's rise.  Any nation that is treated by the international community as a pariah nation is likely to have an extreme reaction, no matter what the degree of its inherent nationalism.  (One can think of how dictators of Iran and Iraq used international sanctions to create support for the central governments of countries with highly-fragmented and even warring internal constituencies.)

And I certainly did not mean to suggest nationalism was the cause of Hitler's rise in my posts.  I was arguing that it was the destruction of economic security -- especially among the middle classes -- that, more than any other one factor, occasioned Hitler's emergence into national prominence.

Offline James1941

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Re: No Stalin, no Hitler?
« Reply #113 on: January 31, 2007, 12:38:45 PM »
I can accept your argument, certainly. I have read his diaries and found them fascinating, and highly instructive as a first person source. Certainly fear of communism was a strong psychological force on the German thinking. Especially for the middle and professional class. The effects of the depression and the instability of the political situation frightened them terribly, because for many it was a fear of sliding back into the lower class status many had worked so hard to rise from. And, by the 1930s the horror stories coming out of Soviet Russia made many confront the real face of communism. With the moderate parties unable to offer hope of solution it was only natural that many turned to the parties of the extreme. There was no place else to go.
Still, I will maintain that Hitler's promise of REVENGE for the humiliation of the lost war and the diktat, and more importantly his mishmash of ideas about a Teutonic superman, that made him popular with all elements of the German pulbic, not just those who feared a communist government. It was this 'new thinking' that made fascism so popular in many European countries.

Offline Kurt Steiner

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Re: No Stalin, no Hitler?
« Reply #114 on: February 25, 2007, 05:21:41 AM »
Without Lenin and Stalin, there would be no Communist Revolution in Germany in 1918. It was that which led to the creation of the Nazi Party. (Hitler was in fact pro-Communist himself for a very brief time, until he found out that the German Communists were loyal to the Soviet leaders in Moscow, and so Hitler became anti-Communist because he didn't want Lenin controlling Germany by proxy.)

The threat of Communism was the 'evil' that Hitler and the Nazis used to terrify the German people into accepting them.

"Vote Hitler! Only Hitler can save Germany from the Communists!"

Without the Communist threat, Hitler would never have risen to power in Germany, and so there would be no Second World War.

However... another big trump card Hitler and Geobbles used to attain power in Germany was the Treaty of Versailles and the embarrasment of the once powerful German empire reduced to a impoverished state. Even without a Communist Russia there still could be other Communist groups in other countries including Germany. Just because Communism failed to establish its foothold in post 1917 Russia, it does not mean it wouldn't spring up somewhere else.

Both China and Germany had strong Communist organizations prior to WW2 and either one of these could have been the first "people's paradise" had Russia not done so. Marx and Engels had more ties to Western Europe than Russia, so their writings could have fomented revolt in almost any disaffected nation.

Without the Stalinist example of viscous totalitarianism, Communism would also be less tainted and more politically accepetable to those with Socialist leanings.

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Re: No Stalin, no Hitler?
« Reply #115 on: March 16, 2007, 10:46:20 PM »
This may seem odd, but I agree with both James1941 and Tsarfan.

I have always believed that the Versailles Treaty and conference which put such a heavy burden on the German nation and in turn its people was a huge factor in the the German attitude during the Wiemar Republic and the rise of Hitler during the 1930s.

The Treaty of Versailles brought about, not only, Germany's drive toward WWII, but also some of the problems that plague the Middle East today.

The indiscriminate carving up of conquered countries and the propping up of other governments by the WWI "winners" set in motion much of what is going on in the Middle East right now.  The Allies had a "winner take all" attitude and a "holier than thou" take on what the rest of the world should be like after WWI.

The Allies thought they were getting the "spoils of war" in their retribution and punitive methods.  But instead they sowed the seeds of future destruction and religious and national animosity which we are bearing the burden for today.

And that includes not only the Middle East today, but also Viet Nam in the past.  If only those insufferable fools could see what they did in 1919 and the legacy that they left for us and the mess that that legacy caused.


Offline Lyss

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Re: No Stalin, no Hitler?
« Reply #116 on: April 11, 2007, 09:32:53 AM »
I always wonder what if Hitler would have got in to the academy of fine arts (he was rejected twice) ?
Or what if he hadn't been going to school with Wittgenstein? Would his hate of the jewish people never reach such levels?
Or what if they've found Lenin's testament in which he states that he doesn't want Stalin to occupy any high position in the party?

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Re: No Stalin, no Hitler?
« Reply #117 on: June 22, 2007, 07:35:26 AM »
we were taught that just before ww2, britain would rather side with hitler becuase they believed he would halt communism. they viewed communism as more of a threat than nazism so without each other, there would be no scapegoat

Offline dmitri

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Re: No Stalin, no Hitler?
« Reply #118 on: August 18, 2007, 03:09:52 AM »
No world war one and there would have been no Stalin or Hitler. Communism came in due the fall of Tsardom and Nazim occurred due to the collapse of the Hohenzollern monarchy and the failure of the Weimar Republic. The first world war was preventable and a total disaster for mankind.

Offline Kurt Steiner

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Re: No Stalin, no Hitler?
« Reply #119 on: August 18, 2007, 12:15:59 PM »
No world war one and there would have been no Stalin or Hitler. Communism came in due the fall of Tsardom and Nazim occurred due to the collapse of the Hohenzollern monarchy and the failure of the Weimar Republic. .

I agree, somehow, although the Tsardom was doomed even without WW1.

The first world war was preventable and a total disaster for mankind.

I don't agree. The alliance systems made absolute sure a war. The only way to have avoided WW1 was

a) A-H forgetting about the murder of Sarajevo and letting Serbia to be. Even if the latter "could" be possible, the former was not.

b) Having the Kaiser and the Tsar not getting involved with the A-H declaration of war, so, the thing gets reduced to a clash between Serbia and A-H. Some kind of Fourth Balkan War, so to speak. However this time was not to be. This was impossible for several reasons that, IIRC, have been stated before in another thread. Political prestige, for instace.

Or, let's say that Franz Ferdinand avoids getting killed in Sarajevo. How long would take till we have another incident? We will never know.

War had been closer enough when the incident of Tanger in 1905 and the Bosnian Crisis of 1908. Sooner or later a bigger crisis would have risen: Sarajevo or somewhere else.