Essay: Nazism and Stalinism, born from an economic crisis of World War I

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  • Nazism and Stalinism, born from an economic crisis of World War I
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During the 20th century, Europe was protagonist of two charismatic leaders that fought to impose their ideology to the entire world. These leaders were none other than Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. The former founded a political regime in Germany called Nazionalsocalism, better known as Nazism; the latter founded a political regime in URSS (Union of Socialist Soviet Republics) called Stalinism. As The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy defines, these two governments are classified as totalitarianism because they dominated all political, social, and economic activities in the nation (The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy). Although on the paper they are both defined as equals, their real governments differed a lot; in fact, they were different in ideology, economics, and they had different “enemies”.
The first difference between the two is in their ideology. Nazism’s ideology is based on Adolf Hitler’s book Main Kampf. In this book, Adolf Hitler pointed out that… Moreover, the ideology of nazism takes credit from Mussolini’s ideology: Fascism. On the other hand, Stalinism’s ideology is based on Communism ideology. Stalinism finds root in Marx and Engel’s works where society was ruled by an utopic government where everybody has to have the same rights as everybody else; however, Stalin interpreted in his own way this ideology giving birth to a distorted view of society in which private properties were ripped apart and took away by the state who then belonged everything.

From their ideology derives the different approach they had in the economic field. It has to be said though that both Nazism and Stalinism were born from an economic crisis due to the World War I and the crisis of the 1929. For this reason the leaders had different consents from the citizens of each state because they thought they were saving them from that crisis. Germany took measures pretty much similar to the New Deal introduced by Roosevelt in the United States; Hitler helped couples, where the woman left her job in order to be the housekeeper, by giving them some loans. Nazism’s economic politic basically protected private proprieties and corporation, tuteling their rights and supporting them in case of crisis. Moreover, Hitler helped the economy of Germany growing by investing in military industries and local organization like Volkswagen and Porsche.

By contrast the Soviet economy under Stalin was viewed as a system where all private profit had been eliminated, state ownership introduced in place of private enterprise and private property and every element of economic life directed solely by the agencies of state planning. National Socialist economists condemned the Marxist planned economy as a system ‘which requires the nationalization of all means of production’ and ‘stifles all independent existence’.9 Post-war descriptions of Stalin’s economy have been highly critical of the exag- gerated claims made for the success of economic planning, but have not doubted the fact that collective ownership, state planning and state control were the characteristic features of the Soviet experiment. (Overy 395).

the National Socialist view of the economy is not easily defined as capitalist, any more than the Soviet system under Stalin can be described as an example of unalloyed socialism. The most obvious distinction between the two economies was the product of the very different circumstances of their economic development. The German economy grew in the forty years before the First World War into the world’s second largest industrial power, and the world’s second largest trader. Industrial development relied on a highly skilled workforce, the application of science to practical production, and a buoyant world market. The state played a part in supplying protection where it was needed, and assisted the development of infrastructure services, but the economy was dominated by privately owned businesses that regulated their affairs through large trusts and cartels. (396).

The Soviet experience was the opposite. Before the First World War the Russian empire was in the middle of rapid economic moderniz- ation, but the pace and nature of this transformation was compromised by the overwhelming size of the rural economy, from which some 80 per cent of the population derived its livelihood, either from farming or from rural crafts. (396).

The survival of popular small-scale capitalism and the slow development of modern state- owned heavy industry prompted the party’s decision to introduce a state-led industrialization drive. In 1927-8 the Soviet regime, pressed to adopt the course by Stalin, embarked on a second attempt to create a more genuinely socialist economy. Under the First Five-Year Plan private ownership of land and trade was overturned in favour of socially owned collective farms and socially managed retailing. By 1937 93 per cent of peasant households were in the state sector, and two-thirds of all small producers. (397).

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