Nazism and Stalinism

Ian Thatcher argues that surface similarities between the regimes of Hitler and Stalin disguise deep-seated differences.

Commentators have been struck by the similarity of the seemingly irreconcilable regimes of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia since the 1930s. Leon Trotsky, a fierce opponent of both systems, argued that there was little to separate Stalin from Hitler in their preference for lies and oppression as the main means to assert political control. This viewpoint was brilliantly and wittily expressed in a contemporary cartoon by David Low, whose political satires were published in the British newspaper The Evening Standard. Low has Joseph Stalin sitting behind a desk in the Kremlin, clipping his moustache in the style of one Adolf Hitler, after having done a similar makeover on his hair. Behind him, to emphasise the metamorphosis, is a large painting of the Stalin of old. Other images in the cartoon highlight what unites the regimes headed by Hitler and Stalin, chiefly the pile of execution orders waiting to be signed and the map of a large and menacing USSR. The ultimate sign of similarity between the two regimes, the clue to an almost family-like resemblance, however, is the portrait of Hitler on Stalin's desk, an honour normally reserved for our loved ones.

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