Political Leadership

The desire to make such historical comparisons is especially evident when examining the political systems of systems of Europe and the United States in the period surrounding World War II. Yoram Gorlizki and Hans Mommsen’s article “The Political (Dis)Orders of Stalinism and National Socialism” and Wolfgang Schivelbusch’s book Three New Deals make comparisons between the political systems of Hitler, Stalin and Roosevelt.

Both the pieces look at the leadership qualities of Hitler and compare them to another notable leader during the same time. With new Soviet archival information, Gorlizki and Mommsen argue that the Soviet Union under Stalin and Germany under Hitler were fundamentally different in leadership, country development patterns, and how WWII impacted the their systems ((Yoram Gorlizki and Hans Mommsen, “The Political (Dis)Order of Stalinism and National Socialism,” in Beyond Totalitarianism, ed. Michael Geyer and Shela Fitzpatrick (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 42.)). This difference is in part a result of the countries differences in “socioeconomic development and national integration” when Hitler and Stalin came to power ((Ibid., 43-44.)). According to Gorlizki and Mommsen Hitler did not micromanage and work closely with the day-to-day procedures and functions the government ((Ibid.,64-65.)). This laissez-faire approach was quite the opposite of how Stalin preferred managed his political system. They cite that Hitler’s great strengths were in his charisma and ability to exploit propaganda opportunities which the party relied heavily upon to generate support for the National Socialist party ((Ibid., 55,64.)).

Like Gorlizki and Mommsen, Schivelbusch also evaluates the Hitler’s ability to captivate an audience through public speaking. He had the ability to create a sense of commonality between himself and German citizens. Joachim Fest described a typical speech by Hitler as “a hybrid between a circus, grand opera, and Catholic liturgy” ((Wolfgang Schivelbusch, Three New Deals (New York: Picador, 2006), 62.)). These speeches were highly rehearsed and followed a common formula which was meant to engage and create emotion with the live audiences. This was then compared/contrasted with Roosevelt’s Fireside chats which were also highly rehearsed and meant to create a connection between Roosevelt and the individual. This reflected a technological and cultural transition in the United States. ((Ibid.,70-72.))

Schivelbusch makes the strong statement that without such charisma and ability to engage an audience the New Deal and National Socialism would not have been possible. To what extent do you agree?