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Compare and Contrast the Consolidation of Power by Hitler and Mao

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Compare and Contrast the methods used by two leaders to consolidate their power.

The two authoritarian leaders I will be comparing are Mao Zedong the authoritarian leader of China starting 1949, and Adolf Hitler who was the authoritarian leader of Germany from 1933 to 1945. Despite, coming to power in relatively similar time periods, the nature of their rise and rule does indeed contrast to some degree. Hitler came to power by relatively legal means, as he was appointed Chancellor in January of 1933; while Mao came to power by winning the Chinese Civil War against the rivaling Kuomintang party. These events marked the start of consolidation, which is the act of holding on to or making stronger of something, in this case power, or more aptly the stage in which leaders try to strengthen their control over their country and dispose of opposition. This segment of their rule was classified by their use of terror and repression, propaganda, legal methods and domestic policies to consolidate power.

One of the key methods used by both leaders was violence and terror in order to consolidate power. Both leaders believed in the use of terror to gain as well as strengthen power, with Mao going as far as stating “Power comes from the barrel of a gun.”  Hitler and Mao both used terror to strengthen their position within their party as well as to frighten and forcefully indoctrinate people to their ideology.  An example of both using terror to achieve similar goals can be exemplified with their use of repression to strengthen their control over their respective parties. This for Hitler, takes the form of the ‘Night of Long Knives’ on June 30th 1934. On this night Hitler ordered for the assassination of high profile SA leaders, including Ernst Röhm the of the SA. The SA itself was the paramilitary force of the Nazi party, however, due to calls for a second revolution by the leaders of the SA Hitler subdued the SA and transferred ‘real’ power to the SS, who were led by his trusted advisor Heinreich Himmler. This also led to Hitler gaining ground with the German armed forces, as by his actions Hitler was able to persuade the leaders of the army into believing they will have a monopoly over arms and warfare, who in turn promised him loyalty. Similarly, Mao used terror to also secure his position in the party The best example of this would be the purges of the CCP, including the Gao Gang and Rao Shushi in late 1953. Similar to Rohm and Hitler, Mao and the two men at hand supported one another, however Mao thought that they were too ambitious, and consequently imprisoned the 'perpetrator.' Who in this case was Rao, who died in prison 20 years later, while Gao committed suicide due to the public humiliation he faced. Thus as can be seen, clear parallels can be drawn between terror tactics deployed by Mao and Hitler to consolidate power. Another form of repression Mao conducted were the Antis campaigns; where those who were involved with bribery, tax evasion, and those who were managers and state officials were in the firing line. While in Germany, Hitler initiated programmes to also manage state officials through terror by the ‘Law of Restoration of Professional Civil Service’, where he purged opposing civil servants. Thus once again similarities can be seen in the method of terror employed to consolidate power.

However, a clear contrast can also be seen in terror employed by the two leaders. Historians Chang and Halliday, in “Mao, the unknown story” state that Mao wanted to ‘scare people away from touching state money’ and ‘instill fear’ in the whole nation to prevent them from challenging him or his government. He completely terrorized the population into submission by making them witnesses of brutal violence in public executions. Mao even stated while chairing a meeting in January 1951, 'If we are weak and indecisive and excessively indulgent of evil people, it will bring disaster.' This explains Mao's reasons behind the use of terror. This shows how Mao was open about his use of terror even in the consolidation phase, while on the other hand Hitler’s methods of terrorizing were far more conservative as he to some degree tried to mask his use of terror under a veil of legality or propaganda, as witnessed when he justified the ‘Night of long knives’ to the people by use of propaganda through newspapers etc. Thus, despite both leaders extensively using terror to consolidate power, it can be argued Mao was more open about his use of terror, while Hitler was more conservative. Lastly, the dissemination of terror by the two leaders are also in stark contrast. This can be said as Mao relied on the PLA to carry out domestic terror programmes to consolidate power such as the three “reunification campaigns” between 1950 and 1951 to ensure control over outer regions of China, which helped enhance Mao’s popularity. This was because the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) that had fought in the civil war was created by the CCP, and answered straight to the CCP. Further, it even prioritized the protection of the CCP above all else, thus it was used extensively by Mao. On the other hand, Hitler through his phase of consolidation preferred to use the SS, SA and the Gestapo to carry out his terror operations rather than the army, evidenced by the use of SA to overthrow state governments in March 1933, and use of SS in the Night of Long Knives.

Moving on, both leaders also extensively used propaganda as a method to consolidate power and enhance their popularity. They did so by creating a cult of personality around them. In Germany propaganda was based around the idea of Fuhrerprinzip, or the idea that Hitler is absolute and all others are inferior to him. This was efficiently carried out due to the coherent and effective structure for dissemination of Propaganda in Germany. This was due to the establishment of the Reich Ministry of Popular Enlightenment and Entertainment 13th of March 1933 on 13th of March 1933, as well as the establishment of the Reich Chamber of Culture which indulged in censorship. Joseph Goebbels was appointed minister for Propaganda within Germany, and greatly influenced Hitler’s public image. Hitler used the media (radio, cinema, poster, speeches), rallies, censorship alongside other methods to create a positive image and a cult of personality for Hitler. Propaganda was often coupled with Hitler’s achievements in foreign affairs or other successes to enhance their importance, and showcase Hitler as a sort of savior or god. Essentially, Goebbels used all resources of the State including the radio and press and “staged a masterpiece of propaganda”, said by Shirer. It was a very similar situation in China, with Mao also involved in creating a cult of personality around himself. This cult of personality was created by the zeal of the PLA(and its image to the public), pro-Mao propaganda and censorship to protect the interests of the CCP. Firstly, The PLA soldiers were indoctrinated with the ideology of the communist party and to Mao they epitomized the revolutionary virtues cultivated by himself; discipline, self-sacrifice, endurance and perseverance. It was this image which empowered Chinese people, not frightened them. The PLA too were indoctrinated with Mao's beliefs and therefore due to Mao's cunningness with his delivery of propaganda, he consolidated power due to an enhanced reputation and indoctrinated people. Further, Mao’s achievements were inflated, while his shortcomings were suppressed or concealed; very similar to what was being done by Goebbels in Germany. The similarity of propaganda can once again be seen in the sector of education where both Hitler and Mao used education, especially for the young, to indoctrinate them to their ideology. On the other hand, Mao’s propaganda technique was arguably more aggressive, this can be said as propaganda was used able to get rid of his opponents. This included foreigners, missionaries or businessmen, political opponents or essentially anyone who might spread anti-Communist ideas. If Chinese people showed resistance to the deluge of propaganda, they were seen as opponents and the pressure on them was increased. They would be denounced at accusation meetings. Party workers might set up loudspeakers outside their homes and yell out their alleged crimes all night. Most gave in under pressure. Thus as can be seen, propaganda in China was more aggressive, with propaganda more actively targeting people and groups, while propaganda in Germany was only meant to maintain Hitler’s image or support for Hitler’s actions.



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