Saturday, May 8, 2021

Stalin’s System Shared ‘the Hallmarks of Hitler’s,’ Skobov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 6 – Those who argue about the similarities and differences between Hitler and Stalin often fall into the trap of thinking the answer lies in which of the totalitarian leaders killed more, Aleksandr Skobov says. But that is a mistake: sometimes one of them was the leader in this regard and at other times his opposite number.

            In fact, the Russian analyst says, “the two regimes were as similar to one another as twin brothers” not only in grand design but down to details like the organization of social competition in industry and the presentation of awards to their peoples for these and other accomplishments (

            That was recognized both by Soviet journalists who visited Nazi Germany during the time Hitler and Stalin were allies after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and by many Soviet citizens who watched the film, Seventeen Moments of Spring, which sought to present the fascism regime as fundamentally at odds with the Soviet one but in fact highlighted their similarities.

            But these similarities were only a superficial and external expression of something more important, Skobov continues. “The two regimes had identical mechanisms, means, and methods of organization and realization of power.” That is, they fall into the category social scientists have identified as totalitarian.

            Until the last decades of Soviet power, when revisionists in the West argued against totalitarianism as a concept, and now under the Russian Federation, when the regime wants to talk about Stalinism as a mobilization regime rather than as a totalitarian one, there was broad agreement on three types of state – democratic, authoritarian and totalitarian.

            In democracies, Skobov says, “power depends on society and is controlled by it;” in authoritarian ones, “power does not depend on society and isn’t controlled by it but it leaves much of society outside of its direct control and interference.” Totalitarianism is not just more authoritarianism as the revisionists and Putin regime think; it is fundamentally different.

            “A totalitarian regime not only isn’t under the control of society but strives for all-embracing (total) control over all spheres of its life. It does not leave to the population any ‘private spheres’ where they could live untouched by its interference.”

            What must be remembered is that shifting from totalitarianism to mass mobilization society “does not change the essence of the case,” Skobov says. “Mass political mobilization is one of the most important characteristics of totalitarianism that sets it apart from traditional authoritarianism.”

            Unlike authoritarian systems, totalitarian ones aren’t satisfied with any passive support. They demand unconditional manifestations of loyalty. “One can say that the principle of authoritarianism is ‘he who is not against us is with us;’ but that of totalitarianism is ‘he who is not with us is against us,’” something fundamentally different.

             The secret police and repressive organs play a key role for totalitarian systems, but they are not the only or even the most important components of it. More important are all “the mass ‘social’ organizations” which ensure conformity, and a ruling party which communicates what the rulers want and ensures that everyone not only accepts but supports these desires.

            “A party in a totalitarian society is not simply a force which controls everything and everyone.” It is the bearer of an ideology which is declared to be universally true and has the messianic character of wanting to extend itself to the entire world and equally or perhaps even more important defeating all those who oppose it.

            The instruments of terror play a key role in creating and supporting this ideological vision, but “the post-Stalinist history of the USSR showed that totalitarianism can exist for quite a long time without mass terror.” Indeed, it may work even better at least for a time, but the camps of Hitler and Stalin were always in reserve as it were.

            When Hitler attacked Stalin’s USSR, the Nazi leader forced the communist one into an alliance with the Western democracies. That led to the defeat of Hitler and helped ensure the survival of Stalin’s system. But it had an even more important consequence which should be remembered to this day, Skobov suggests.

            The world leadership of the Anglo-Saxon countries that it made possible opened the way for “humanity at the end of the 20th century to be significantly more human than it had been in the middle of the century. That is what Soviet soldiers died for in the trenches of Stalingrad and justifies their sacrifice.”

            But their deaths in no way “justify the deeply criminal Soviet system.” And no efforts by Stalin’s present-day apologists “with all their criminal paragraphs, prohibitory laws, and Constitutional amendments will succeed in eliminating the shameful hallmarks of its past,” Skobov says.

            Those are “the hallmarks of a system equivalent to Hitler’s.” 

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