Rise to Power of leaders of authoritarian single-party state leaders: Compare and contrast


Past Questions
Paper 2
  • Analyse the conditions that enabled one left-wing leader to become the ruler of a single-party state. (May 2010)

  • Assess the importance of economic distress and ideological appeal in the rise to power of one left-wing and one right-wing single-party ruler. (Nov 2009)

  • “Unpopular rulers or governments, and their overthrow, were responsible for the formation of the majority of twentieth century single-party states.” To what extent do you agree with this assertion? (May 2009)

  • To what extent did the following aid the rise to power of either Lenin or Mussolini: (a) the First World War (b) weakness of the existing regime (c) ideological appeal? (Nov 2008)

  • Analyse the rise to power of either Hitler or Lenin. (May 2008)

  • Analyse the methods used and the conditions which helped in the rise to power of one ruler of a single-party state. (May 2007, May 2005)

  • “It was personality and not circumstances that brought rulers of single-party states to power.” To what extent do you agree with this statement? (Nov 2006)

For MARKSCHEME notes, see the second half of this document.



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Why do single-party states emerge? Looking at the examples of Bolshevik Russia, 1917, 1924-29, and Nazi Germany, 1933

Circumstances leading to establishment of SPS: overview of compare/contrast

Lenin and Hitler - comparisons
Lenin and Hitler - differences and more specific details
Political
Both leaders came to power against the backdrop of the collapse of the existing political regime.
Lenin came to power after the collapse of an outdated and backwards looking Tsarism, represented by N2 and looking back to his great-grandfather, N1’s, ideas about the divinely-ordained powers of the autocracy. The Provisional Government that ruled between Feb and Oct 1917 was just that: ‘provisional’. Though Kerensky and the liberals made some attempts at reform, they deferred the really big questions and their proposed model of liberal democracy never really materialised before Lenin and the Bolsheviks stormed the Winter Palace in Oct. Thus Lenin stepped into a situation that can accurately be described as a ‘political vacuum’.

While Lenin seized power from a government that had been in power for little over 6 months, Hitler was appointed Chancellor in a liberal democracy approaching its 15th birthday. Though some historians have agued that Weimar democracy was doomed from the start (given its PR voting system, its too liberal Constitution with hidden dictatorial potential, and its shouldering the blame for defeat in WW1 and Versailles), others have argued that before the Wall Street Crash the hope for its survival looked good. It was only the short-term political mistakes of the Republic after 1929 that gave Hitler his chance, and even then he was not stepping into a political vacuum - there was still a reasonable level of support for the idea of a liberal democracy. Like a Trojan horse, Hitler rose to power in the context of a democracy, subverting it dangerously from within.
Economic
Both leaders came to power in countries experiencing severe economic and social problems.
In Lenin’s case this was a result of the First World War intensifying long-term social and economic problems, bringing Russia to a state of virtual collapse by the time of the February revolution in 1917.

For Hitler, the catalyst for the economic crisis which would aid him to power was the Great Depression prompted by the Wall Street Crash in October 1929. This economic crisis undid any progress made during the ‘golden years’ of the Weimar Republic (1924 - 29), exposing the fact that Germany was still struggling to cope with the social and economic impact of WW1.
International/ FP
Both leaders came to power, to some extent, as a result of the impact of WW1.
Russia’s disastrous performance in WW1, caused partly by NII’s decisions and partly by general economic and military backwardness, served to weaken support for the Tsardom and cause February revt. Lenin took advantage of this to come to power.

While Hitler’s rise to power was not caused directly by the First World War, as it would be possible to argue for Lenin, the legacy of Versailles and the way in which the First World War ended for Germany was central in both driving Hitler into politics in the first place and shaping the development of the Nazi party and ideology. Hitler used radical opposition to Versailles to secure support from nationalists.

1) Failures, problems and crises in the existing system:

Note: many of the factors outlined below are obviously interlinked!


Lenin
Hitler
Political failures of the existing regime
LT - i.e. lead-up to February Revolution, 1917

Failures of the Tsars, especially Nicholas II, to modernise and adapt Russia's political structure to fit with changing economic and social realities.

AII may have introduced zemstva (1864) giving some local self-government, and NII's October manifesto (1905) finally granted a national duma, but the emphasis was on maintaining autocratic rule. NII, in particular, was opposed to greater democracy, and his fundamental laws (1906) undermined any concessions made with the duma and national constitution.

Refusal to reform meant that as well as radical opposition there was also increasing middle class opposition from liberal parties in the dumas.

NII's mistakes during WW1 - Rasputin, assuming control of army (1916), failure to take support from and work with duma - left him alienated with even his generals plotting to remove him.

ST - i.e. lead-up to October Revolution, 1917

Failure of the Provisional Government to exercise effective control -
undermined by the Soviets, who had real power.

Failure of PG to end the war - the Kerensky offensive (June 1917) meant to boost patriotic morale only leads to further defeat.

Failure to make long-term binding decisions on the 'land question' -
true to its name the 'provisional government' refused to take
decisive action on key issues which had prompted February revt.
LT - origins and nature of the Weimar Republic

Set up after Germany's defeat in WW1 - blamed by the
right for this: 'stab in the back' myth, 'November criminals' for signing the armistice. Blamed for signing the hated Versailles treaty - 'diktat' imposed on Germany by the Allies.
Not a promising start to be held responsible for these national humiliations!

Trying to introduce the world's most democratic political system
in a country lacking liberal traditions was dangerous,
especially given the severe attempts made to seize the state in its
early years from both the Left (Spartacists, 1919) and the Right (Kapp
putsch, 1920). Then using the army and the right to put down the Spartacists compromised the idealistic nature of the Republic from the start, symbolizing the difficult relationship it would have with the traditional elite power groups in Germany.

Constitution itself posed significant problems: i) proportional representation led to weak coalition governments unable to govern effectively; ii) Article 48 gave the President powers to override democracy in emergency situations.
Both of these would severely undermine the new Republic.

Importantly, the new democracy failed to win the support of the
traditional elite: army, judges and civil servants wanted return to a more authoritarian system. WR failed to win over 'opinion builders' and leaders - i.e. church leaders, teachers, newspaper editors - who could have convinced the population to support democracy. This left the regime lacking key popular support.

ST - failure to respond to Depression effectively

Fear of prompting hyper-inflation like 1923 meant the WR did not
take effective intervention measures to lessen impact of depression.

Coalition government could not agree on what cuts were needed,
and in 1930 the Social Democrat-led coalition collapsed as a result.
This was perceived by the electorate as a failure to deal with the crisis,
and votes for anti-democratic parties increased hugely (Nazis, Communists) in September 1930 election.
Economic failures of the existing regime
LT - Witte's industrialisation drive of the 1890s created a new class of urban industrial workers forced to work long hours in harsh conditions for low pay, and to live in overcrowded, unsanitary housing. Furthermore, even though Stolypin wagered on the kulaks to solve Russia's agricutlural problems, there were still many unresolved issues relating to the peasantry: land pressure given population increase, resentment at taxes and poverty, periodic famine. Many peasants driven into the cities to seek work, adding to the numbers of discontented workers there.
In short,Tsarist regime failed to address problems facing peasants and workers, which in turn increased political opposition.

ST - impact of WW1 in worsening social and economic conditions in Russia to breaking point. Devastating impact saw inflation, unemployment, food and fuel shortages, etc etc.
LT - Economic boom and success of the WR's 'golden years' (1924 - 29) only superficial, and built on fragile foundations of US Capital. Dawes and Young Plan reduced levels of
reparations allowing Germany industry to recover to pre-war levels by 1927. But this was based on an over-reliance on foreign loans, which would have dangerous consequences after the Wall Street Crash.
Furthermore, German agriculture failed to recover, and German farmers were getting into debt with falling food prices - pushing many of them to support the Nazis who promised to help rural Germany.

ST - impact of the global economic slump, following the Wall Street Crash in October 1929. By 1932 6 million unemployed, 1/3 of workforce - much greater number affected in terms of families, lost business customers etc. Many farmers and businesses went bankrupt, as German economy trapped in downward spiral.

Government's failure to intervene - only 'too little too late', with public works schemes in 1932 - left many people dependent upon local authority handouts. Many people forced out of their homes and forced to live in shanty towns. Desperate conditions drove voters towards extremist parties promising radical solutions - i.e. Jan 1932: unemployment peaked at 6 million, Nazi vote 13 million. Communist vote 5 million.
Foreign policy failures of the existing regime
Longer-term: decline of Great Power status in relation to the West.
Defeat in Crimean war (1856) highlighted military weaknesses of Tsarist state.
In NII's reign, defeat in Russo-Japanese war was a humiliating loss to a non-European power that sparked the 1905 revolution.

Shorter-term: most historians agree that WW1 was the nail in the coffin for NII and Tsardom. It intensified the political, social and economic problems facing the country, and NII's mis-handling of the whole situation rapidly lost him what support he had left and accelerated his departure in 1917.
Despite Streseman's efforts in the 1920s, Germany was still forced to endure the territorial losses imposed by the Versailles treaty - something which Hitler was able to make significant use of in his rhetoric denouncing the 'November criminals'. Weimar Republic was held firmly responsible for the humiliations of Versailles - esp. detestable for nationalists was denial of self-determination to German speaking peoples in Austria, Sudentenland, Polish corridor etc, and not being allowed to defend their own border with France in the Rhineland.

2) Elements in the new system - or how do leaders of single-party state take advantage of the existing system to come to power?

Note: many of the factors outlined below are obviously interlinked!


Lenin
Hitler
Stalin
Attractive ideology
Obvious general appeal of Bolshevism to
industrial workers and peasants.
More specifically, 'april theses' included
opposition to the war, which separated
Lenin from all other political parties and
made Bolsheviks uniquely attractive.
The other parties were tainted by
association with the Provisional Govt.
'Nationalist' element - i.e. overturning the hated
Versailles treaty, making Germany great again -
obviously had a particular appeal as a source of
potential pride to a nation devastated by
economic depression.
'Socialist' element, though never seriously
considered important by Hitler - beyond a
dislike for 'Jewish capitalists', and the collectivist
thinking underlying the ideal of the
volksgemeinschaft - helped to attract workers,
peasants and those who could otherwise have
voted for the Communists.
Ideal of national unity in this volksgemeinschaft,
with its anti-individual rights and belief that all
should serve the greater good of the people, as
a powerful vision of togetherness and community
after the divisions of the Weimar years and the
suffering following the Depression.
Socialism in One Country (1924), and rejection
of Trotsky's 'permanent revolution', allowed
Stalin to appeal to patriotic and nationalist
Russians. Russia would build its own socialist
state without outside hep, and focus on fixing
their own problems.
Offering solutions to
problems
'April Theses':
- worldwide socialist revt
- end to war immediately
- end to co-operating with PG
- Soviet to take power
- land to be given to peasants

Distinctive position!
In contrast to the weak and indecisive democracy
of the WR, Hitler offered a strong leader prepared
to take action to save Germany.
Hitler also offered clear scapegoats for
Germany's problems - Jews, Communists,
'November criminals' - a tactic showing Hitler's
political cunning, as it drew Germans together
against these clearly-defined Others.
Promised different voter groups things specifically
targeted at them:
- unemployed would be helped by job creation
schemes, i.e. public works
- farmers struggling with debts would get subsidies
- law, order and return to traditional values for the
middle classes
- defence against the Communists, via strength of
the SA, to appeal to big business and
conservative nationalists.

Effective propaganda
'Bread, Peace and Land' - simple,
concise, easily repeated even among
poorly-educated peasants: a brilliant
political slogan!
'All power to the Soviets' - again, simple
and catchy, even in Lenin did not intend
to enact it!
Told people what they wanted to hear - i.e. ideal
of volksgemeinschaft and promises to assist
with agriculture helped secure Nazi support
from the farmers.
Used effective modern campaigning methods to
get their message out to the people - i.e.
Hitler being flown across the country to make
public speeches, or use of striking visual posters
and films and radio (role of Goebbels in this).
In particular, the use of the mass rally - i.e.
the annual party rally at Nuremburg - allowed
Hitler to showcase Nazi symbolism, and offer
a powerful experience of his anti-individualistic
philosophy - i.e. forgetting oneself as part of the
mass, surrendering one's services to the nation.
Ability to sense public opinion and give the
people what they want to hear in his policy -
i.e. once he had defeated the figures on the
Left of the party he then adopted their
criticisms of NEP, which allowed him to reach
out to workers who angry with 'Nepmen' etc.
Charismatic leader
and leadership skills
Oratorical skils:
Lenin was an "orator of enormous impact
and power, breaking down complicated
systems into the simplest and most
generally accessible forms" and hammering
them home with his audience (Sukhanov,
diarist of the revolution).

Effective and decisive timing:
Sep 1917 - to wait and not take power now
"is to doom the revolution to failure". Lenin
threatened to resign from Bolshevik party,
if they did not take the opportunity to seize
power when they had the chance.

Leadership of the party:
in persuading the party to accept that the
Bolsheviks could take power in the name
of the working classes - a second
revolution would be possible, even though
Russia had a small industrial working
class. Lenin's strong determined
leadership was the foundation of the
October Revolution.
Great orator:
had hypnotic effect on audience;
master of psychology of mass politics - i.e.
able to tell crowd what they wanted and needed
to hear, exploiting their anxiety and promising
solutions to their problems. As with all gifted
politicians, Hitler had ability to appear 'a man
of the people' who understood the struggle of
the average voter.

Effective leader:
Transformed Nazi party from small minority of
violence that led the failed Munich beer hall
putsch in 1923 into a national political party that
received 37% of votes in 1932. Understood that
the road to power lay not through force but via
gaining national support and gaining a foothold
in the democracy in order to collapse it from
within.
Political cunning:
Stalin took maximum advantage of his position
as General Secretary in order to out-maneuver
his opponents. In particular, when it came to
issues that were to be voted on in Party
congress, Stalin could rely on winning these as
he had appointed a loyal army of his own
supporters in the party (after Lenin enrolment
which changed the nature of party from small
group of dedicated revolutionaries to a bigger,
less well-educated mass.)
After winning any vote, Lenin's 'ban on
factions' (1921) prevented Stalin's opponents
from actively opposing any decisions made.
Stalin used this ban in 1926 to defeat the Left
opposition - Trotsky, Kammanev, Zinoviev - by
branding them 'factionalists'.
In general, Stalin was masterful at both
creating and taking advantage of opportunities
to consolidate and improve his position in the
leadership race.
Stalin's RTP depended on
his skill and cunning to take advantage of
the circumstances which fate presented
him.
Robert Service on Stalin and his RTP:
"At tactics and conspiracy
he was masterful. He had reached
dominance in the party before Trotsky,
Zinoviev, Kamanev and Bukharin knew
what had happened."
Role of chance
and help of others
Helped by the Germans:
who helped Lenin travel in a sealed train
through Germany on his way back to
Russia in 1917, in the belief (correct
as it turned out) that revolutionary
agitation could only weaken the Russian
war effort in WW1 to their advantage.

Helped enormously by the PG's failures:
Kerensky's blunders - first in continuing
the war and refusing to take a stand on the
'land issue', and then in arming the
Bolsheviks and allowing them to be seen
as the heroes during the Kornilov affair.
As the PG became more unpopular, so
the Bolsheviks increased their support over
1917.
Put into power via backstairs intrigue:
Hitler did not seize power but was invited to be
Chancellor on 30 January 1933, by Hindenburg
and key army and business figures. These
believed that Hitler could be used to set up a 'safe'
authoritarian dictatorship that would protect and
serve their interests. However, this
underestimated Hitler's drive and determination
to destroy Weimar and replace it with his Nazi
vision (not that of the 'old guard').
This factor depends on the poltical success of
the Nazis - if they were not the most popular
party, Hindenburg would not have looked towards
Hitler.
Trotsky's failure to attend Lenin's funeral:
though this was not really 'luck' as Stalin
himself tricked Trotsky by telling him the wrong
date,so he was then able to take
a key role at the centre of the funeral. Stalin
also established the 'cult of Lenin' in his
speech, and set himself up as Lenin's loyal
follower - though his critics thought this was
because of his own lack of ideas, it was a
good way of securing popular support.

Central Committee's failure to release will:
by not making Lenin's will public, Stalin
escaped Lenin's warning comments that he
was dangerous, rude, over-powerful and
should be removed. It also meant that positive
comments about Trotsky were not made
public, weakening position of Stalin's key
opponent. Zinoviev and Kammanev played an
important role in this decision.

Trotsky's failure to fight Stalin:
Trotsky under-estimated Stalin, and failed to
realise the threat he posed until it was too late.
As an intellectual, Trotsky considered himself
above the political 'dog-fighting' and 'dirty work'
that Stalin excelled at. He was also disliked by
other leading party members, who considered
him arrogant and aloof; plus as a Jew he was
subject to traditional Russian anti-semitism.

Comparison of the early background of each SPS leader:

Lenin - middle class professional revolutionary!
Stalin - working-class peasant bureaucrat
Hitler - failed romantic with nationalist mission
Born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, 1870, in Simbirsk into
a wealthy middle class family.
Execution of Lenin's older brother in 1887 for failed
assassination attempt on Tsar AIII played an important
role in driving the young Lenin towards radical political
opposition.
Influenced in his early revolutionary thinking by earlier
tradition of opposition in Russia, including Chernyshevsky's
'What isto be done?' (1863) which most likely gave Lenin the
idea of a small 'vanguard' of committed revolutionaries to
change society.
Studied law at university where he was exposed further to
radical ideas, and eventually thrown out for revolutionary
agitation. He adopted the scientific materialism of Marxism,
which would crucially shape his later ideology.
Worked as a professional revolutionary in St Petersburg,
arrested for encouraging strikes and spent 4 years in prison
and in exile in Siberia, 1896 - 1900.
1903, in London, Lenin prompted the split of the Social
Democratic Party into the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks
over the question of criteria for party membership.
Played only a very minor role in 1905 revolution, not
returning to Russia until October 1905 and having little
impact when he did.
1906 - 1917, Lenin lived in exile, trying to raise funds and
continue revolutionary agitation from abroad via writing
pamphlets etc.
However, frustration and general lack of impact
characterised these years - as late as 1917, Lenin argued he
would not see a revolution in Russia in his lifetime.

Ideas and writings:

Lenin adapted Marx's ideas into a theoretical body that
justified revolution now and outlined plans for action -
this is called 'Leninism-Marxism'.

What is to be done? (1902) - sets forward idea of the
revolution to be led by a 'revolutionary vanguard', small party
of dedicated revolutionaries to guide the working class and
peasantswho had not yet gained 'revolutionary
consciousness'.


Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916) -
built on Trotsky's idea of the 'weakest link' - that WW1 was a
conflictover resources and territory that would bring about the
collapse of capitalism. Civil war and eventually a socialist
revolution could break out in a less developed country like
Russia, and then spread to the more industrialised states.

The State and Revolution (1917) - Lenin's projection that
after the revolution all existing state structures will be
dismantled and replaced temporarily by a 'dictatorship of the
proletariat' , and in the longer term the state would 'wither
away'. In the utopian vision of the Communist future, the
people would manage their own affairs in industry and
agriculture.
Born Joseph Dzhugashvili, 1879, in Gori, Georgia.
Working-class background - mother the daughter
of serfs, father a shoe-maker - and grew up in tough
conditions.
Started studying to become a Priest, having done
well in school, but here he was attracted to Marxism
ahead of religion.
Admired Lenin, and worked as a revolutionary - incl.
robbing banks to raise funds! Arrested and exiled
to Siberia regularly, c. 1902 - 1913.
1917, editor of Pravda and put forward a Pro-war
line before Lenin's 'april theses' changed his mind.
Close to the centre of the Bolshevik party, but though
later Soviet historiography would claim otherwise he
did not play any key role in October 1917 and the
Bolshevik take-over of power.

Positions within the party:

1917, Commissar for Nationalities - placed him close
to Lenin, able to win his trust.
1919, appointed head of the Orgburo, in charge of
parts of party organisation, and elected member of
politburo.
1922, party's first General Secretary in charge of
general organisation.

These positions showed that Lenin, at least at first,
trusted and respected Stalin. Other key party
members saw him as a dull and mediocre
administrator, but his position within the party
enabled him to prove them wrong!
Born 1889 in Braunau-am-Inn, Austria. Son of
lower middle-class customs official - possibly
1/4 Jewish (something he of course denied!).
Largely a failure in school, gifted but lazy, Hitler
left with no qualifications in 1905.
He was shy, awkward, a dreamer who thought
he had a big future, lonely and unable to form
loving relationships (hard father, doting mother!)
After failing to enter Arts academy in Vienna, H
spent 6 years drifting around the streets, living off
a small allowance and selling his paintings. Here
he was exposed to the powerful political ideas that
would later define the Nazi ideology: German
nationalism, racism, anti-Semitism, anti-
Communism and anti-democracy.
1914 - Hitler delighted when WW1 broke out,
joined the German army and remained deeply
committed to German nationalism and the war
effort. Received Iron Cross medal for bravery.
1918 - in hospital, wounded, when he heard of
Germany's defeat, H was convinced that Germany
had been betrayed by the socialists, jews and
politicians of the new WR.
1919 - works as an army spy in Bavarian army's
political section.
Joins DAP (German Workers' Party), which in
1920 becomes the NSDAP (Nazi party) with its
25 point programme.
1921 - becomes leader (fuhrer) of the party.
1923 - failed Munich Beer Hall Putsch. Hitler
turned trial into political exhibition for his ideas,
and that he was only given minimum sentence of
5 years for treason (which carried death penalty)
shows how sympathetic judges were to the Nazi
cause.
1924 - released from Landsberg prison after just
9 months, determined to take power via legal
means.
1926 - Mein Kampf published, Hitler's manifesto.
1928 election - Nazis received just 2.6% of the
votes. Hitler seemed destined to remain a lunatic
on the margins of Germany's right-wing parties.

Key ideas (Mein Kampf):

Anti-semitism and Aryan master-race:
Hitler was obsessed with the 'purity' of the
German people, whose blood should not be
'contaminated' by Jewish blood. This was based
on Hitler's view of race, that saw the world as a
Darwinistic struggle between different races for
resources and control, in which only the strongest
would survive.

Extreme German nationalism:
Given his belief in the superiority of the Aryan
race, Hitler proposed an empire of German
speaking people, a Greater Germany to dominate
Central Europe.

Lebensraum:
To survive and support itself, this Greater
Germany would require lebensraum - living
space in the East for resources.

Anti-Marxism:
Hitler hated Communism and the ideas of Marx,
who of course was Jewish. However, Hitler was
prepared to take some 'socialist' ideas in order to
try and win support of the people and divert them
away from the Communists - thus
National Socialist party!

Historiography of Lenin and Hitler's RTP:

Lenin
Hitler
Key questions -

1) How important was Lenin's individual contribution?
Role of individual vs role of circumstances!

2) Was October 1917 a minority coup or a popular uprising?


Robert Service
Was October 1917 "Lenin's revolution"?
Admittedly, "Lenin had a heavier impact on the course of events
than anyone else", but there "were other mighty factors at
work as well in Russia in 1917" (i.e. exhausted workers,
war-weary soldiers, angry peasants - almost all waiting to
be led to a revolution!)

P. Kenez
Coup d'etat or popular revolution?
Most striking feature - not Bolshevik action or workers', but
"complete disintegration of governmental authority" . In this sense,
not a coup d'etat but rather the "Bolsheviks seized power because
the country was in the throes of anarchy".

Trotsky
Key role played by Lenin, as an individual and leader
"had Lenin not managed to come to Petrograd in April 1917, the
October Revolution would not have taken place."
"If neither Lenin nor I had been present in Petrograd, there would
have been no revolution" - the Bolshevik leaders would've stopped it.

Soviet view
As dictated by the demands of Party ideology and the Marxist view
of history: October 1917 was a popular revolution led and enacted
by the workers and peasants, with Lenin and the party's guidance.
Pomomarev: "the working class led the struggle of the whole people
against the autocracy and against the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie"

Western liberal view
Richard Pipes and Cold War interpretation opposed to the USSR and
Communism.
October 1917 led to Stalinism and totalitarian dictatorship: thus it
was not a 'popular revolution', but a 'tiny minority' of fanatical Bolsheviks
who seized power and forced their ideas on the masses.
Pipes: "October was a not a revolution but a classic coup d'etat .....
The 'masses' ...were not told they were taking over until after the event."

Revisionists and synthesisers
The revolution itself may have been a coup, but the political action of the
soldiers, workers and peasants can not be ignored, as it provided the
greater context in which the Bolsheviks operated.
Orlando Figes: October revolution was a coup only supported by a small
minority, but "it took place amidst a social revolution, which was centred
on the popular realization of Soviet power..... The political vacuum brought
about by this social revolution enabled the Bolsheviks to seize power in the
cities."
Key questions -

1) Was the Weimar Republic doomed to fail?

2) Was Hitler's rise to power inevitable, given
Versailles, defeat in WW1 and the nature of German
society?

Nazi propaganda - Goebbels
Developed a powerful myth in the 1930s that Hitler's rise
to power was providential - i.e. fated to happen. According to
this Nazi version of events, Hitler was destined to rule Germany
and between 1929 and 1933 the German people finally came
to understand this, and put their faith in Hitler.
Critique: obviously the subjective nature of this interpretation
speaks for itself. Though the Nazi vote did increase from 2.6
% in 1928 to 37% in July 1932, the majority of Germans never
voted for Hitler in a democratic election - he was appointed via
the 'backstairs' intriguing of the Right. Most modern historians
argue that there are a number of factors that need to be
considered beyond Hitler himself to understand his RTP, esp. the
circumstances created by the Great Depression and the way this
exacerbated the weaknesses of the Weimar Republic.

Ian Kershaw
Nothing inevitable about Hitler's RTP - circumstances, chance
and 'backstairs intrigue' brought him to power!
Weimar Republic seemed likely to survive without the Great
Depression.

"There was nothing inevitable about Hitler's triumph in
January 1933"
"External events ... put the Nazis on the political map" - i.e. the
Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression.
"The future for the Weimar Republic looked promising.
And without the onset of the world economic crisis from 1929
it might have remained so."
"In bringing Hitler to power, chance events and conservative
miscalculation played a larger role than any actions of the
Nazi leader himself."
"The handover of power to Hitler on 30th January 1933 was
the worst possible outcome to the irrecoverable crisis of
Weimar democracy. It did not have to happen. It was at no
stage a foregone conclusion."

Geary
Weimar Republic seemed likely to fail in any case, given
circumstances of its creation etc.

"No one in their right minds would claim that the terms of the
Treaty of Versailles did not play a major role in the collapse of
the Weimar Republic."
"The Weimar Republic had failed to build on the fundamental
compromises achieved in 1918 and to use them to create a
deep rooted legitimacy of its own: it had lost the struggle for
the hearts and minds of the people."
"The economic crisis acted as a trigger, occasioning the
abandonment of a political system that had already lost its
legitimacy."

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