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Mensaje por El Compañero Vie Jun 27, 2008 12:19 pm

Were Communism and Nazism "morally equivalent" movements?

Both Stalin and Mao's Communist governments indisputably murdered more people in cold blood than even Hitler's Nazi regime did. This certainly establishes a powerful prima facie case for the proposition that Communism and Nazism are "morally equivalent." Once it is granted that a regime deliberately murdered millions of innocent people, it is difficult to see how any other achievement - the world's best highway or the world's biggest dam - could change one's final evaluation.

Probably the most common distinction made between the Communists and the Nazis is that the former were misguided idealists, while the later were brutal thugs. Alternately, one might argue that the Communists ultimately wanted a world where all people would live together in harmony, while the Nazis wanted a world where the master race reigned supreme over a world purged of inferior races. In short, the difference between Communist and Nazi is supposed to be one of intentions. Joseph Davies, the pro-Stalin US Ambassador to the USSR, gave this point of view its classic expression:

Both Germany and Soviet Russia are totalitarian states. Both are realistic. Both are strong and ruthless in their methods. There is one distinction, however, and that is as clear as black and white. It can be simply illustrated. If Marx, Lenin, or Stalin had been firmly grounded in the Christian faith, either Catholic or Protestant, and if by reason of that fact this communistic experiment in Russia had been projected upon this basis, it would probably be declared to be one of the greatest efforts of Christian altruism in history to translate the ideals of brotherhood and charity as preached in the gospel of Christ into a government of men... That is the difference - the communistic Soviet state could function with the Christian religion in its basic purpose to serve the brotherhood of man. It would be impossible for the Nazi state to do so. The communistic ideal is that the state may evaporate and be no longer necessary as man advances into perfect brotherhood. The Nazi ideal is the exact opposite - that the state is the supreme end of all. (Journal entry, July 7, 1941)

This "argument from intentions" needs to be answered on two levels:

First, many people are both misguided idealists and brutal thugs. They are the "true believers" who join religious crusades, set up the Inquisition, exterminate Jews, and liquidate kulaks. Brutality alone may lead a movement to set up a police state, but why go to the effort of killing millions of people when it provides little material gain? It is sadism combined with idealistic fervor which animates history's most destructive movements. As Solzhenitsyn puts it:

To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he's doing is good... Ideology - that is what gives evildoing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination... That was how the agents of the Inquisition fortified their wills: by invoking Christianity; the conquerors of foreign lands, by extolling the grandeur of their Motherland; the colonizers, by civilization; the Nazis, by race; and the Jacobins (early and late), by equality, brotherhood, and the happiness of future generations. Thanks to ideology, the twentieth century was fated to experience evildoing on a scale calculated in the millions. (The Gulag Archipelago)

Hitler noted that Communists made excellent converts to Nazism, because the same personality type was attracted to both. "[T]here is more that binds us to Bolshevism than separates us from it. There is, above all, genuine, revolutionary feeling, which is alive everywhere in Russia except where there are Jewish Marxists. I have always made allowance for this circumstance, and given orders that former Communists are to be admitted to the party at once. The petit bourgeois Social-Democrat and the trade-union boss will never make a National Socialist, but the Communists always will." (quoted in Hermann Rauschning, Hitler Speaks) Stalin also recognized that ex-Nazis and ex- fascists were natural recruits for post-war Communist regimes. As Stanley Payne notes in his A History of Fascism: 1914-1945, "All over Soviet- occupied eastern Europe, most rank-and-file former fascist party members, together with many lower-level leaders, were welcomed to fill the ranks of the initially exiguous local Communist parties. The psychological transition seems to have been an easy one, for obvious reasons."

Second, both the Nazis and the Communists dreamed of universal brotherhood - after widescale exterminations of groups potentially disruptive to their respective utopias. In addition to the former nobility and the bourgeoisie, the Communists also generally had an intense disgust for the peasantry - by far the largest social class in the early periods of most Communist regimes. All of these groups had to be either killed or at least have their traditional way of life destroyed. This attitude was present among the Bolsheviks from the earliest years of their regime. As Zinoviev, a high-ranking Bolshevik put it, "We must carry along with us 90 million out of the 100 million of Soviet Russia's inhabitants. As for the rest, we have nothing to say to them. They must be annihilated." Just as the Nazis imagined an idyllic Germany free of inferior races, the Communists dreamed of a harmonious world free of reactionary classes. Both planned to reach the uniformity necessary for their utopias by simply killing all of the square pegs.

Further interesting evidence of the moral equivalence of the two movements comes during the period of 1939-1941, when Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were in a state of virtual alliance. The Molotov-Rippentrop Pact was officially merely a non-aggression treaty, but its secret provisions divided up all of eastern Europe between Hitler and Stalin. Paul Johnson amusingly recounts the diplomatic festivities in the Kremlin:

Ribbentrop reported: "It felt like being among old party comrades." He was as much at ease in the Kremlin, he added, "as among my old Nazi friends." Stalin toasted Hitler and said he "knew how much the German people loved the Fuhrer." There were brutal jokes about the Anti-Comintern Pact, now dead, which both sides agreed had been meant simply to impress the City of London and "English shopkeepers." There was the sudden discovery of a community of aims, methods, manners, and, above all, of morals. As the tipsy killers lurched about the room, fumblingly hugging each other, they resembled nothing so much as a congregation of rival gangsters, who had fought each other before, and might do so again, but were essentially in the same racket.


The Nazis and Soviets applied almost identical internal policies to their respective halves of defeated Poland. "While the Gestapo organized the persecution of 'racial enemies' in German-occupied Poland, the NKVD decrees of 1940 listed fourteen categories of people to be deported... Like the SS and the Gestapo, the NKVD was engaged, as General Wladyslaw Anders later put it, in 'beheading the community' - destroying any potential leadership which might organized opposition to Soviet rule." (Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky, KGB: The Inside Origins of Its Foreign Operations from Lenin to Gorbachev) Hitler and Stalin even traded dissident emigres: Stalin handed over the German Communists in exchange for the Russians and Ukrainians residing within Hitler's domain.

A final distinction often made between the Soviets and the Nazis is that the former were "genuine" socialists while the latter were fakers. Numerous writers - who generally know next to nothing about the Nazis' economic views or policies, but rather deduce them from their preconceptions - have argued that Hitler's National Socialism was purely verbal. While one always has the trivial option to re-define the word "socialism" to make this conclusion true, Hitler generally favored and imposed an even greater role for government in the German economy than his leftist Social-Democratic predecessors. Even the Social- Democratic historian Carl Landauer freely admitted this. To Landauer's mind, Social Democratic and National Socialist economics differed in intentions rather than methods:

In a history of socialism, fascism deserves a place not only as the opponent which, for a time, threatened to obliterate the socialist movement. Fascism is connected with socialism by many crosscurrents, and the two movements have some roots in common, especially the dissatisfaction with the capitalist economy of the pre-1918 type. But another relationship is still more significant. Although fascism was ready to use forms of economic organization first suggested by the socialists - and very likely that use of socialistic forms would have increased if fascism had not all but destroyed itself in causing the Second World War - the Fascists have always repudiated the fundamental humanitarianism on which the socialist movement was based. Thus fascism permits some conclusions as to the consequences which will result from socialist economic policies applied without the ethical motivation of socialism.(European Socialism: A History of Ideas and Movements)

Hitler's economic policies extensively increased the regulation of foreign trade and agriculture, imposed widespread price controls, initiated large public works programs, and copied the Soviets' predilection for N-year Plans. As David Schoenbaum pointedly remarks in his Hitler's Social Revolution, "A generation of Marxist and neo-Marxist mythology notwithstanding, probably never in peacetime has an ostensibly capitalist economy been directed as non- and even anti-capitalistically as the Germany economy between 1933 and 1939." Summing up the situation of business under the Nazis, Schoenbaum observes: "Wages, prices, working conditions, allocation of materials: none of these were left to managerial decision, let alone to the market... Investment was controlled, occupational freedom was dead, prices were fixed, every major sector of the economy was, at worst, a victim, at best, an accomplice of the regime. As a general rule, business, particularly big business, declined or flourished in direct proportion to its willingness to collaborate."
Admittedly, Hitler did not carry out massive uncompensated collectivization as Stalin did. Why not? The reason was strategic rather than principled. As Hitler explained to Hermann Rauschning:

He [Hitler] had no intention, like Russia, of "liquidating" the possessing class. On the contrary, he would compel it to contribute by its abilities towards the building up of the new order. He could not afford to allow Germany to vegetate for years, as Russia had done, in famine and misery. Besides, the present owners of property would be grateful that their lives had been spared. They would be dependent and in a condition of permanent fear of worse things to come. (Hermann Rauschning, Hitler Speaks)


There is strong evidence that Hitler planned a much more radical economic program after victory in World War II: forcible deportation of eastern Europe's peoples, re-colonization of the depopulated territory by Germans, establishment of a Stalin-style slave labor empire for public works, imposition of slavery for inferior races, and so on. Stanley Payne explains that Hitler's goals and situation required him to "invert the Leninist-Stalinist priority of internal revolution." That is, while Lenin and Stalin planned to first impose socialism on the Soviet Union, then turn to foreign conquest, Hitler planned to make his conquests first, then impose the more radical Nazi economic and political policies. "Hitler could only realize his ultimate goal of complete racial revolution by foreign conquest, and he believed that he enjoyed only a brief window of opportunity - scarcely more than a decade - to achieve external ascendancy in Europe and to conquer the Lebensraum needed for this racial revolution. Hitler therefore sought to develop rapidly a functional dictatorship that would enable him to concentrate on military expansion in less than a decade. This required the thorough subordination of all other elites to such a system, but, for the time being, not their complete elimination." (A History of Fascism, 1914- 1945)

If the Communists and the Nazis were so similar in their propensity for mass murder, their fanaticism, and their economic policies, why were their relations so bitter (save during the 1939-1941 period)? At the outset, it is unclear why an answer is necessary, for there are innumerable examples of bloody conflict between people in nearly complete agreement with each other: Catholics and Protestants, or Stalinists and Trotskyists, for example. In the case of the Nazi-Communist conflict, what provoked the Nazis' ire was the internationalism of the Communist movement. National Socialists mainly objected to Marxism not for its socialism but for its repudiation of nationalism. And even this difference rapidly faded away; as A. James Gregor argues, "Since 1918 most revolutionary movements have displayed certain ideological commitments that, were it not for our entrenched preconceptions, could pass as the analogues of the first Fascism. For all the talk of proletarian revolutions in the twentieth century, no revolution of our time has been proletarian in any intelligible sense of the word." (Young Mussolini and the Intellectual Origins of Fascism) Communists from Russia to China, Cuba to North Korea, were quick to steal Mussolini's key tactical insights: nationalism appeals to the "man in the street" far more than internationalism, and a foreign enemy/scapegoat is often more useful than a domestic one. Thus, notes Gregor, especially while they are fighting to gain power, Communists' propaganda has generally argued that "Rather than any specific internal class enemy, the enemy is imperialism, the reactionary and oppressor nations, that thwart the independence and industrial development of the oppressed nation." Similarly, once comfortably ensconced in power, nationalism has frequently been the most sincerely held precept of the Communist elite, leaving almost no doctrinal point to distinguish them from their alleged Nazi anthithesis. One cannot but remember the concluding sentence of Orwell's Animal Farm:

The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again, but already it was impossible to say which was which.

El Compañero
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Mensaje por Jose Gonzalez Vie Jun 27, 2008 9:14 pm

really good article,....for me,both "ideologies" were socialists......they have more similarities than differences.....

thanks again..!!!
Jose Gonzalez
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