Hitler and Stalin: Two Europeans

EDITORIAL, 23 Mar 2015

#368 | Johan Galtung, 23 Mar 2015 - TRANSCEND Media Service

Hitler was about race, Stalin about class. Their theories were based on one contradiction: Aryans vs non-Aryans for one; workers vs capitalists/landowners for the other. The ills of their countries followed from the contradictions at the top of their verbal pyramids. As Western intellectuals they tried to explain much from one axiom. Thus, to Hitler bolsheviks and plutocrats were both mainly Jewish.

Their utopias were contradiction-free, by cleansing; ethnic for Hitler, class for Stalin. Only Aryans; all others killed-expelled-marginalized by the power of the NSDAP, National-Socialist German Labor Party for one; all capitalists/landowners killed-expelled-marginalized by the power of the vanguard of the proletariat CPSU(B), the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolshevik) for the other.

So similar that one may ask: did they imitate each other? Like armies becoming similar by fighting, so also the machines for reshaping societies in the European civil war 1917-1945 (plus minus some years?).

There is another, better explanation: if the theory is pyramidal, so also the practice, the policy machinery. The ultimate power should be in the hands of those licensed as ultimate truth-holders. Those lower down have to learn the smaller, specific truths and enact them.

That pattern identity, isomorphism, between theory and practice pyramids came from the same source in Germany and Russia: Churches, of two opposed Christianities: truth by revelations, articles of faith, commandments on top; enacted by pyramids with popes-patriarchs on top.

Stalin was even trained as Orthodox priest, changing from Christ revealing the truth about God the Father, to Marx revealing the truth about History. And Hitler? Martin Luther’s rabid anti-Semitism and axiomatic Christianity (catechism) played a major role. Why Germans? Very gifted in axiomatics–dictatorship easily follows by isomorphism.

Two genocidal secularisms poured into old Church bottles.

Being so deeply similar in form, why not allies–except for the Ribbentrop-Molotov venture to divide neutral Poland, between Central and Eastern Europe[i]–against the West, against England and France?

Because they were deeply different in content. Hitler, national socialist, needed national capitalists to finance rebuilding Germany after WWI-Versailles and colonizing USSR; Stalin, national socialist, needed communists of all races-faiths-nations to rebuild devastated USSR after WWI-Versailles (uninvited) and WWII–attacked by Germany in search of colonies twice. Hitler used capitalism–for his Blitzkrieg, he needed gasoline and trucks and got it from US capitalism, ESSO (Exxon), Ford-General Motors in Germany, and from USSR!–Stalin destroyed it.

For Hitler, England was Aryan like the Nordics; a possible ally? For Stalin, England was doomed by the contradictions of capitalism.

So, 22 July 1941 Germany with Romania-Hungary-Croatia-Slovakia-Finland-Spain invaded USSR; 4.5 million soldiers, 7.5 times the 600,000 by another psychopath, Napoleon, in 1812 (only 10% came back). 90% of Hitler’s losses were in the East. USSR won the war (despite 26 million deaths); Normandy was a sideshow. Much of it was over Ukraine, as agricultural colony for one, as surplus food extracted to feed industrialization for the other[ii].

Hitler wanted Germany as a collectivity, “a national organism united as one body-responsive to Hitler’s will”[iii], a Volk, with Volks-Geist, Wille, Körper; Stalin wanted means of production collectivized. Both had short term successes with wars and 5-year plans, but European individualism prevailed. To Hitler, individualism was Jewish; Stalin used Jews if they served him. For both, the strong nation and class had the right and duty to kill in their niches. An English input for both, social darwinism; neither race nor class, but nature, evolution.

Hitler: “If I have the right to shed valuable German blood then I have naturally the right to destroy millions of men of inferior races”[iv].

He never explained how inferior races could create English capitalism and Soviet communism but hoped that killing Jews-shoa-would kill both.

Their theories had what leaders need in order to lead: analysis, goals, policies; from a reality perceived as victim of evil forces to a shiny utopia. The road passed through much killing, millions, for both.

How to do it? Shooting, camps-marching-working-them-to-death, and gas chambers? Above all starvation: lay a siege, deprive them of food. Again they were similar: add to “the seven million Soviet citizens who perished from malnutrition in the early 1930s as the Soviet leaders brought peasant farms under collective control” the Nazi policy of “starvation of Leningrad which in the early 1940s caused the death of four million Soviet citizens”[v]. Ukraine got it twice; no food for people in occupied Ukraine, and Russia and Stalin starving the “kulaks” in Ukraine: deeply suffering, as “landowners” and as “inferior race”.

Snyder: “Almost half of the victims of the Holocaust were shot”; “In the contest between Berlin and Moscow for the lands between them–more people were killed by starvation than by any other method”.

And Churchill? He was not single-minded about race or class. Churchill was about race and class, his white race and upper class with England on top of the world. His tool was also starvation of faraway non-whites where the threat to the Empire was highest: India (see Amurthya Sen[vi]). Matters less, not in our Europe? That is where racism raises its ugly head saying: “Here I am“. Fight it, European provincialism does not belong in a globalizing world.

From Europe came colonialism-imperialism, bolshevism, fascism-nazism; major wars. Democracy vs dictatorship matters, but even the worst colonialisms–Congo–came from democracies, as did wars. Why?

  • The idea of sacredness of all life is there, but it is not on top.
  • On top are abstractions, systems, essences; explaining everything.
  • Those in command of theory command a corpus mysticum of practice.
  • Impunity for distant direct and structural killing; bombing, hunger.
  • The psychopathology of narcissist superiority and paranoid security.

Put life-nature as high as democracy-human rights; treat others as equals; build peace with cooperation–for a peaceful Europe. Coming.


[i]. Invaded by the loser Germany 1 September 1939, used for the beginning of World War II, not winner USSR invading 17 September.

[ii]. Ukraine’s enormous suffering at the hands of two similar policies casts today’s Russia in the role of USSR and USA-EU in the role of Germany (today’s Germany opts for a third more peace-making role. USA-EU colonization comes as conquest of an economy of debt to serve loans to finance serving loans.

[iii]. canderson@libraryofsocialsciences.com 6 February 2015.

[iv]. Richard A. Koenigsberg, Nations have the Right to Kill: Hitler, the Holocaust and War, Library of Social Sciences.

[v]. See the excellent review of four books on these matters by Timothy Snyder, “Stalin & Hitler: Mass Murder by Starvation”, The New York Review of Books, 2012.

[vi]. and Dreze, Overview: Strugglig to Rebuild from 1947to 1979. “Before British colonization India was more prosperous and developed than Britain”, but had experienced “over 100 million deaths” & “tens of millions more since”. See Note [iii].


Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He is author of over 160 books on peace and related issues, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

Later to be followed by Stalin the Communist and Mao the Commune-ist, to be followed by Mao and Gandhi: Two Asians.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 23 Mar 2015.

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5 Responses to “Hitler and Stalin: Two Europeans”

  1. Learning Joe says:

    Ok, so Prof. Galtung provides examples of the relationship between cosmology, epistemology (theory construction), and violence. It could be made a bit more explicit how the pyramidal theory construction translates directly into legitimization (cultural violence) of structural and direct violence. I think that it would be interesting to separate and analyze violence stemming from cosmology vs. violence from epistemology. There seems to be a link that Galtung is driving at, but the result is mixed. Can he clarify?

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