What do Fascism, Nazism and Stalinism have in common? IPN debate

The Day of Victory in World War II is celebrated these days. “These days” because there are different interpretations as regards the day the war ended. According to some sources, the Victory should be celebrated on May 9, not on May 8, when the act of surrender was signed by Hitler’s Germany “for the first time”. Another viewpoint takes us back to August 1945, when fighting on the Asian continent ended. It should be also noted that May 9 is also considered “Europe Day”. It’s true that a large part of Moldovan society is in favor of marking “Victory Day” on May 9. The situation is practically the same when it goes to the belligerent sides of that war. The largest part of Moldovan society sincerely believe that Nazi Germany led by Hitler and its allies fought on the part of evil, while the Soviet Union led by Stalin, alongside its allies, fought on the part of good. Not many people are ready to accept that both Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union bear the same enormous blame for the start of that world war. The experts invited to IPN’s public debate “What do Fascism, Nazism and Stalinism have in common?” discussed the reasons for such discordance in the perception of some of the Moldovans and not only.

Igor Boțan, the permanent expert of IPN’s project, said that the political ideology is a system of ideas about the political life of society, which reflects the interests of this and is based on common views, ideals and values. With the assistance of this instrument, the political parties and their supporters explain their actions, decisions and priorities. “Surely, the ideologies have several basic aims that deserve to be mentioned. Orientation is the first of these aims. This way the people orient themselves to the system of ideals, views, ides and values of each movement or social institution,” noted the expert.

According to him, education is another aim. It goes to the sharing of knowledge about politics with the citizens, their familiarization with political culture, formation of public conscience, etc. “Mobilization is another aim of ideologies. These encourage the citizens to fulfill duties assigned by the propaganda. Propaganda helps spread the ideology among the masses. This activity fixes political opinions and values into people’s minds and, consequently, multiplies the number of supporters. Another aim is to attract new supporters. This aim creates a positive image of the political line promoted by the parties that share the given ideologies. The integration aim helps broad sections of the population to unite to support the ideas and objectives pursued by the parties that share particular declared ideologies,” stated Igor Boțan.

He noted that a political regime represents a system of methods of realizing governance, which affect the legal status of the citizens. For example, the political regime dictates the government method. Respectively, there are three typos of political regimes. The first regime is the democratic one in which the citizens enjoy rights and freedoms, take part in governance, freely choose their leaders. The second regime is the authoritarian one under which citizens’ rights and freedoms are reduced, while governance is based on repressive instruments, coercive bodies. The third regime is the totalitarian one, when the public and private life is fully controlled; people’s rights and freedoms are reduced to the maximum, while intimidation and violence are government methods.

Writer Alexandru Cosmescu, coordinating scientific researcher of “B. P. Hasdeu” Institute of Romanian Philology and the Institute of History of the Moldova State University, said that the founding texts of the three doctrines – Fascism, Nazism and Stalinism – reveal a series of common features. More exactly, there are a series of traits typical of each of these doctrines, which give the feeling of striking resemblance.

According to Alexandru Cosmescu, the first trait is that they define themselves as worldviews, claim to be total and to offer an explanation of the whole reality, to guide any type of action, not only the political one. Each of them does not tolerate any other worldview. “So, the Fascist struggle, the Nazi struggle and the Leninist-Stalinist struggle appear to be struggles between worldviews. Each worldview considers it is the only one that should exist, should persist and is intolerant of the others,” he stated.

“This fact is present in each of them at narrative level. The Bolshevik intolerance is something of which the Bolsheviks were proud. Hitler called it spiritual terror and this phrase “spiritual terror” was attributed to any worldview that is aware of its intrinsic value. It was attributed also to Christianity and there are pages in which Hitler speaks with a kind of jealousy about the fact that Christianity was the first to become the only worldview valid in a state, when Constantine declared it an official religion. Nazism should follow the same example and should ban any other worldviews, should fight against these and should repress them, if it’s possible,” stated Alexandru Cosmescu.

The researcher also said that the profound anti-individualism that is present in each of these three doctrines is another trait. “According to these doctrines, the individual does not value anything if only this is the representative of something in which he/she is engaged to a greater extent than into themselves. In the case of fascism, it goes to the state that totalizes the whole. For Nazism, the individual appears due to the race, the nation of which this forms part. For Marxism, the individual is of no value in the absence of the class of which this forms part. For example, this is a proletarian and defends the interests of the proletariat.”

The head of the Contemporary History Section of the Institute of History of the Moldova State University Virgiliu Bîrlădeanu, doctor of history, university lecturer, said that in historical meaning, there is a whole discussion about the nature of the Nazi and Stalinist regimes. “In scientific meaning yet, the discussion has continued for many decades and, amidst the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine and all the horrors witnessed there, the discussion on the nature of totalitarian regimes was resumed. When comparing these regimes, the discussion is very complex and there are relevant studies and monographs to which the researchers make reference. Stefan Courtois treats the Communist totalitarian regime and describes the major elements of this. As regards the two regimes, they are not identical, but are comparable and have a number of things in common,” stated Virgiliu Bîrlădeanu, noting that Stefan Courtois underlines the fact that Communism is a form of totalitarianism and is criminal in nature.

According to the lecturer, there are also studies centering on the resemblance of these regimes. There are elements that make a difference. For example, in the case of Nazism, this regime appeared in an industrially developed country with democratic institutions, based on particular mechanisms. This is the specific element against Stalinism that appeared in another context, in an agrarian country with a society that didn’t have democratic traditions. There is the conclusion that these regimes are not identical, but are comparable and this is evident in documents, statements and resolutions adopted by the EU and other international organizations that devoted attention to the memory and history of the victims of totalitarian regimes.

Virgiliu Bîrlădeanu noted that the cult of personality is typical for these regimes. “They borrowed from each other in terms of ideology. There was mutual attraction between them and there was also a period of cooperation, especially after the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact was concluded – economic cooperation that generates many questions.”

The public debate entitled “What do Fascism, Nazism and Stalinism have in common?” was the ninth installment of IPN’s project “Impact of the Past on Confidence and Peace Building Processes” that is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation of Germany.

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