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Friday, December 24, 2004

Stalin v Hitler v Bush

For years historians tried to separate the totalitarian regimes of Hitler and Stalin. Stalin's brand of dictatorship was viewed more positively, most likely because they had been allies during the Second World War, without whom, we most likely would never have won. Hitler became the personification of evil.

According to the review of a new book by Richard Overy, The Dictators, in the New York Times Book Review, (December 26, 2004), that view began to shift following the fall of the Soviet Union. Overy, according to Steven Miner, the reviewer, has concluded that the two regimes are more similar than different (dah!). What intrigued me was the following quote:

"Both emerged in the wake of the chaos of World War I as a reaction against the apparent failure of liberalism and parliamentary democracy. Stalin and Hitler each saw his dictatorship as ensuring democracy of a higher order. Whereas Western political parties represented faction and class interests, Stalin claimed to serve the entire German volk from the humiliations of defeat and the supposed exploitation of international Jewry. And both systems were based on utopian visions that, Overy explains, were 'similar in form, if profoundly divergent in purpose,.' Soviet Communism promised a 'sociological utopia'; Nazism held out the prospect of a 'biological utopia.' "

The enemies of totalitarianism were "the Western liberal ideal of progress, with its emphasis on the sovereignty of the individual, the virtues of civil society ands toleration of diversity."

Those ideals are worth resurrecting, ideals that the neocons and Bush have convinced the country are lacking. Do we need to worry about the rise of another form of totalitarianism, perhaps as a moral utopia?
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