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Marxism and National Socialism
Lenin's version of socialism, which became the model for the Soviet Union, China, Cuba and other underdeveloped nations that underwent revolutions in the 20th Century, was highly centralized, hierarchical and authoritarian. It emphasized rapid industrialization and economic development under the direction of the Communist Party, although in all these semi-feudal societies this was carried out without the benefits of any type of liberal or democratic traditions. Lenin was a tyrant and mass murderer, whose authoritarian (or totalitarian) system became the model for other tyrants like Stalin, Hitler and Mao. Contrary to the original hopes of Karl Marx and even Lenin, no socialist revolution occurred in Germany, France or any Western nation, all of which remained dominated by governments hostile to the Soviet Union and Communism in general. Although Hitler led a National Socialist 'revolution' in Germany in 1933, this ideology was hostile to Marxism, Communism, democratic socialism and liberalism, and was in fact heavily based on racist, anti-Semitic and Social Darwinist ideas. In 1941, it launched an all-out war of extermination against Russia and Communism which the Soviet Union barely survived. Hitler's Germanic empire was defeated in 1945, while Britain, France and the other colonial empires were left bankrupt. In the colonial and semi-colonial world, Communist, socialist and nationalist movements came to power, often supported by the Soviet Union and opposed by the United States, but these also encountered similar problems in attempting to build socialist societies on very underdeveloped economic and social foundations. All of these revolutions were responsible for millions of deaths, in the case of the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and Mao's China, tens of millions of deaths. Any 'successes' or strengths' they might have had were far outweighed by the sheer number of deaths that they caused, inflicted both on their own people and others who fell under their control.
Lenin and his Communist successors in many countries certainly promised the common people peace, land and bread, but ended up producing poverty, war and death on a mass scale. In the socialist states founded by Lenin, Stalin and Mao, poor peasants and the working class would be favored in educational and training opportunities, although specialists, officers and technicians from the old regime would be retained temporarily until more trustworthy replacements could be trained. Lenin also insisted on the immediate transition to socialism in Russia as soon as the Bolsheviks took power in 1917, but also argued that "only those enterprises out to be nationalized which were already run on large-scale capitalist lines" (Service 351). He regarded the authoritarian war economy as the best model for socialism in the Soviet Union, and regarded the state as "an engine of coordination and indoctrination" (Service 353). Socialism was first and foremost "account-keeping and supervision" in a centrally-planned economy which required high "standards of literacy, numeracy and punctuality" (Service 353).
Lenin and his successors were quite willing to use state terror against class enemies, counter-revolutionaries, or even peasants and petty traders who withheld grain and other supplies from the Communist authorities. Indeed, police state terror became a common feature in all Marxist states that copied the Soviet model -- or had it imposed on them from without. Out of necessity, the Russian Bolsheviks retreated from state-socialism temporarily in the New Economic policy of the 1920s and permitted free trade in grain and small-scale capitalist enterprises, but this was abolished in 1928 when Stalin proclaimed collectivization of agriculture and the first Five-Year Plan. Most Western socialists remained liberal and democratic in their ideology, and before 1917 their common assumption had been that socialism actually meant an expansion of political, economic and industrial democracy. They doubted that Lenin "the eulogist for dictatorship, was properly categorized as a socialist," as did his Menshevik, social democratic and Socialist Revolutionary opponents during the civil war of 1918-22 (Service 354). Western liberals and conservatives were eager to identify all forms of socialism with the Leninist-Stalinist police state and the "political, social and economic oppression" of the Soviet Union (Service 358).
Hitler's National Socialism was a system without any redeeming features at all, although it obviously appealed to the majority of Germans who were pleased that the regime ended unemployment and made Germany a great power again. Nazism was a racist and militaristic ideology rather than a form of socialism in the Western sense, and was based on Hitler's own delusions and paranoia, and his obsessions about the Jews infecting the body of the 'healthy' Aryan Volk. Unlike most of the other Communist and nationalist revolutions, it also took place in a highly urbanized and industrialized economy that was second only to the United States in 1933. His hatred of the Jews and other 'non-Aryans' was clearly pathological and he frequently expressed the desire to kill them all with his own hands. As early as 1922, he was on record stating that he would hand all the Jews in Germany and leave their bodies on the public gallows "as long as hygienically possible" (Kershaw 3). In 1929, Hitler had said that 70-80% of German infants should be exterminated every year to "strengthen the bloodline" (Kershaw 11). He had long planned to exterminate the handicapped, mentally ill and senile persons, and this T-4 euthanasia program began in 1939. Two years later, many of its personnel were transferred to Poland to organize the first death camps for the Jews, and his last will and testament in April 1945 still blamed them for the war and "all the evils of mankind" (Waite 414). Hitler had often threatened to kill himself in difficult or stressful situations, and finally did so on April 30, 1945 when the Soviet armies were only a few hundred yards from his Bunker. Thus he spared the Allies the trouble of putting him on trial and hanging him at Nuremberg, which was clearly the fate he deserved.
Hitler's decision to go to war with both the Soviet Union and the United States in 1941 was universally regarded by German military and political leaders as irrational, involving Germany in a two-front war that it could not possibly win. In his more lucid moments, Hitler himself acknowledged that it had been an illogical an impulsive action, especially when he obliged the U.S. with a formal declaration of war after Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor (Waite 404). At the time, Franklin Roosevelt was very concerned that he could not obtain a declaration of war against Germany in Congress, which would insist on concentrating the entire war effort in Asia. Hitler relieved him of that worry, even though he had often said in private that the real reason Germany had lost World War I was because the U.S. finally joined the Allies in 1917. Not even his closest associates understood why he had decided that history had to repeat itself, but Waite believed it was based on his destructive (and self-destructive) impulses rather than rational, strategic planning -- of which hardly any existed in Nazi Germany (Waite 406). Hitler's war left Germany completely destroyed, with 50-60 million people dead, and the country divided for the next forty years. Like Lenin, Stalin and Mao, any 'successes' or 'strengths' he might have had were totally outweighed by the tremendous loss of life that occurred on his orders.
Mao was always a nationalist as well as a Communist and by the late-1950s had come to resent Chinese dependence on the Soviet Union. His regime also promised land, social justice and democracy, but along with Hitler and Stalin he also became one of history's great mass murderers -- possibly the biggest one of all. He also doubted that the Soviet model of economic development, based on heavy industry, infrastructure and capital-intensive projects would be adequate for China's needs. Instead, the Chinese should take a Great Leap Forward into Communism by expanding light-industry, cooperatives and collectives in the countryside, which would "lead to rapid economic development and allow China to overtake the capitalist West" (Bailey 166). Very quickly after it was launched in 1958, the Great Leap Forward had clearly turned into a disaster and the famine that resulted from the decline in food production left thirty million dead -- a higher total than even Stalin's collectivization program. In frustration over this failure, Mao launched the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s against the party and technocratic elites that he believed responsible for frustrating his plans. In reality, the growth rates set during the Great Leap Forward had been absurdly unrealistic, with promises of economic expansion at 30% or more per year or that China would surpass the industrial production levels of Great Britain in a short time (Bailey 167). China had been suffering from labor and peasant unrest in 1949-57, since it had high population growth and many marginal workers as "opposed to the privileged state sector that guaranteed workers job security, higher wages and welfare benefits" (Bailey 168). Mao had intended to expand light industry to the rural areas to create jobs and to educate the peasants in new skills instead…[continue]
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