Why Stalin was better then Hitler.

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john2
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Why Stalin was better then Hitler.

Post by john2 » 12 Dec 2019 03:46

Both were brutal dictators but Stalin's goal was to enslave the people of eastern Europe - Hitler on the other hand wanted to kill them all to make room for "pure" Germans. Slaves at least have a chance to win their freedom later. There would have been no hope under Hitler. The Jews were only to be the first to go the Poles were to be exterminated next.

michael mills
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Re: Why Stalin was better then Hitler.

Post by michael mills » 12 Dec 2019 05:03

There was no German plan to exterminate the Polish people.

What did exist was a plan to germanise a minority of the Polish people, around 20%, and to deport the majority, perhaps east of the Urals, or alternatively to Brazil, as suggested by Erhard Wetzel in his April 1942 commentary on the first draft of the Generalplan-Ost prepared by the RSHA in late 1941. In fact, Wetzel clearly states in his commentary that the Poles were not to suffer the same fate as the Jews of Poland, and tha they should be reassured of that.

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TheMarcksPlan
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Re: Why Stalin was better then Hitler.

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 12 Dec 2019 05:05

IMO the question comes down to whether you're using a consequentialist or deontological moral frame.

Stalin may have killed more people than Hitler but it wasn't his objective to kill them - they were just obstacles to his plan (collectivization, protection of revolution, etc.) I am NOT defending Stalin, btw - he was of course a monster and nothing he built was worth those he killed. I'm just making a moral distinction between intending to kill and intending X, a collateral consequence of which is killing.

In contrast to Stalin, Hitler's goal was precisely to see the Jews, Gypsies, Communists, etc. dead. He arguably sabotaged many other things important to him in order to murder these groups of people.

For someone, like me, who believes in at least some deontological content to morality, having as a motivating goal the death of other humans is meaningfully more depraved, twisted, perverted from a vision of the good life than "merely" being callous about who must die to get what one wants.

There are many folks - many very serious moral philosophers - who would reject the moral distinction I'm making here, so I'm not trying to flame those who disagree. I just think there's something about morality that describes the kinds of *acts* we take and doesn't solely count the bodies flowing from those acts. A man who intentionally plows into a playground is worse than a drunk who does so accidentally, even though both should go to jail.

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Re: Why Stalin was better then Hitler.

Post by gebhk » 12 Dec 2019 10:33

TheMarcksPlan - while I do see the point you are making, firstly, I can't help but feel that from the point of view of the innocent millions who were murdered under the aegis of both these men and the survivors affected by this, it makes little or no difference whatsoever. And in the grand scheme of things, the enormity of the suffering they unleashed dwarfs any other considerations.

Secondly, even from a deontological point of view, I cannot see a distinction. Both were content to have millions killed because they believed them to stand in the way of their idea how the world should be reordered to their liking. Both instigated the mass murder of people and/or genocide purely on the basis of the accident of their birth. Both considered violence as one of the first resorts in any dispute or even appearance of a dispute. Both also killed on a whim - one struggles to see how the Jewish doctors Stalin was planning to murder when his reign was cut short by death, stood in the way of collectivization or protection of the revolution. It is perhaps ironic that had his staff not been so terrified of Stalin's murderous rages, someone would have broken into the karzi he was dying on and one of those Jewish doctors he was planning to murder, may have saved his life.

I'm afraid your analogy misses the point, in my view. The man who kills while driving drunk, isn't punished because he intentionally sets out to kill someone. He is punished for doing something (drinking and driving) that (a) is prohibited and (b) poses a predictable risk to life and limb of other (random!) people. A more apt analogy would be between a man who intentionally drives into a playground because it is filled with children of a particular race as compared with the man who does the same because the children are from a particular culture or social class. In both cases the objective is to remove a particular group of people they disapprove of from society by murder and I see no moral distinction whatsoever.
Last edited by gebhk on 12 Dec 2019 12:56, edited 2 times in total.

Sid Guttridge
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Re: Why Stalin was better then Hitler.

Post by Sid Guttridge » 12 Dec 2019 11:53

Hi Guys,

In one way Hitler's regime was significantly worse than Stalin's.

Under Stalin the enemies of the people could sometimes recant, be "re-educated" and return to society from an extended time in the Gulags.

Jews had no such option under Hitler from 1942. Hitler's regime defined what it meant to be Jewish and there were no recant or re-education options available. Gypsies faced the same.

WWII was really about a struggle between Liberal Democracy and Authoritarian Dictatorship. Luckily, the two great authoritarian regimes tore the guts out of each other on the Eastern Front, as a result of which one was destroyed and the other so weakened for decades that it collapsed under its own inherent flaws and contradictions at the end of the Cold War.

So yes, Stalin was better than Hitler, but this is hardly a ringing endorsement.

Cheers,

Sid

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Re: Why Stalin was better then Hitler.

Post by gebhk » 12 Dec 2019 12:36

TheMarcksPlan: on my way to do my civic duty, another thought occurred to me. And, honest, I am not beating up on you, but I am also somewhat dubious of another of the underlying assumptions of the argument you present, ie that killing out of hatred is somehow morally more reprehensible than killing for cold-blooded convenience. Generally rage is considered an extenuating circumstance over cold-blooded murder for profit, not the other way around!

Sid - always a pleasure, even when we disagree. I'm afraid I also don't buy the argument that the guy who on top of murdering millions also chose to brutalise yet more people almost to the point of death without actually killing them, is somehow better than one who just did the murdering. Even if that were the case. However in this instance both these individuals instigated the murder of some groups of people out of hand and 'merely' brutalised others. The victims of the 'Polish Operation' in the Soviet Union, for example, had no more option of survival than the Jews and Gypsies under the Nazi's, while other groups 'merely' faced institutional abuse, beatings, starvation and disease under both regimes. I see no moral difference, nor much of a practical one either.
Last edited by gebhk on 12 Dec 2019 12:51, edited 2 times in total.

gebhk
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Re: Why Stalin was better then Hitler.

Post by gebhk » 12 Dec 2019 12:40

WWII was really about a struggle between Liberal Democracy and Authoritarian Dictatorship
OOOf a huge subject. Probably best to leave that one alone in the context of this thread, since none but the most deluded would believe that either of the two eponymous gentlemen was a liberal democrat......

Sid Guttridge
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Re: Why Stalin was better then Hitler.

Post by Sid Guttridge » 12 Dec 2019 15:27

Hi gebhk,

You post, "The victims of the 'Polish Operation' in the Soviet Union, for example, had no more option of survival than the Jews and Gypsies under the Nazi's, while other groups 'merely' faced institutional abuse, beatings, starvation and disease under both regimes. I see no moral difference, nor much of a practical one either."

The victims of the "Polish Operation" (by which I presume you mean Katyn and related massacres) were a small proportion of the Polish prisoners in Soviet hands and a very small minority of the Polish population. Most Polish other ranks in Soviet hands were not executed. Indeed, not all officers in Soviet hands were. Nor did anyone have to become an officer. It was an option that, it turned out, put them in the way of fearful danger.

(There is a Nazi equivalent to this "Polish Operation" - the murder of tens of thousands of Polish intellectuals, priests and professionals, who were the civilian equivalent of the Polish officers killed by Stalin's regime.)

By contrast all Jews, even to the babies, were exposed to extermination by the Nazis from 1942. From the moment of birth they were foredoomed.

However awful Stalin's regime was to some groups, its activities were never quite as implacable as the Nazi campaign against the Jews and Gypsies.

Comparing Hitler and Stalin is a race to the bottom, and Hitler wins!

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Why Stalin was better then Hitler.

Post by gebhk » 12 Dec 2019 16:46

The victims of the "Polish Operation" (by which I presume you mean Katyn and related massacres)
No, I refer to the 'Polish Operation' of the NKVD carried out between 1937 and 1938. One of a number of genocidal operations carried out against various 'national' groups of citizens of the USSR. I give the word 'national' in italics because the only connection many of the victims had with Polishness was a Polish-sounding surname or had lived in Poland as some point in the past. 80% of those arrested were murdered, the remainder sent to the Gulags where their chances of survival were slim.
(There is a Nazi equivalent to this "Polish Operation" - the murder of tens of thousands of Polish intellectuals, priests and professionals, who were the civilian equivalent of the Polish officers killed by Stalin's regime.)

The mass murders jointly referred to as the Katyn massacres, so named after the place where the first mass graves were brought to the attention of the international community, were not just of officers but of a wide range of Polish intellectuals, priests and professionals who fell into Soviet hands in 1939 and 1940. There is an absolute equivalency between this and the Nazi operation against Polish social leadership - there I think we agree completely. But that is my argument - there is little to chose between the two.
By contrast all Jews, even to the babies, were exposed to extermination by the Nazis from 1942. From the moment of birth they were foredoomed.
Equally there were groups of people exposed to extermination by the Soviets. The point, surely, is that regardless of how the groups were defined, both dictators were happy to have groups of entirely innocent people exterminated on an industrial scale because, for whatever reason, just by existing, they were seen as an obstacle to the 'new order' they were trying to create. You mention the murder of Jewish babies by the Nazis - I can't imagine that those who implemented the hlodomor in Ukraine had any illusions that the first victims would not be the youngest and the oldest.

Couldn't agree more that this is a race to the nadir but frankly, if either of them is winning, then the gap is too small to be worth bothering with in my opinion.

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Sergey Romanov
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Re: Why Stalin was better then Hitler.

Post by Sergey Romanov » 12 Dec 2019 17:54

I don't think the word "better" is applicable at all. Maybe "less harmful" due to fewer victims. But better? Nah.

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Sergey Romanov
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Re: Why Stalin was better then Hitler.

Post by Sergey Romanov » 12 Dec 2019 17:58

> Luckily, the two great authoritarian regimes tore the guts out of each other on the Eastern Front,

It wasn't "the regimes", it was, on the Soviet side, the people defending their home. The regime itself wasn't harmed in the slightest.

That you call the slaughter of millions on the battlefield "lucky", apparently seeing them as subhumans, is beneath a further comment.

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TheMarcksPlan
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Re: Why Stalin was better then Hitler.

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 12 Dec 2019 19:50

gebhk wrote:Generally rage is considered an extenuating circumstance over cold-blooded murder for profit, not the other way around!
I don't think that's a relevant analogy; rage vs. premeditation is a different domain. The domain we're talking about falls within premeditation - deeply held animus vs. cold-bloodedness.
gebhk wrote:I'm afraid your analogy misses the point, in my view. The man who kills while driving drunk, isn't punished because he intentionally sets out to kill someone. He is punished for doing something (drinking and driving) that (a) is prohibited and (b) poses a predictable risk to life and limb of other (random!) people. A more apt analogy would be between a man who intentionally drives into a playground because it is filled with children of a particular race as compared with the man who does the same because the children are from a particular culture or social class. In both cases the objective is to remove a particular group of people they disapprove of from society by murder and I see no moral distinction whatsoever.
The analogy's point isn't about hatred specifically but about consequentialism vs. deontology generally. The drunk and the psychopath produce the same result (dead children) but I think we rightly view one as more blameworthy than the other.
The analogy doesn't get me all the way to my Hitler/Stalin judgment, it just sets up the framework for considering evil inherent in action vs. inherent in outcomes.
For that reason I probably should have used the analogy at the beginning of my post rather than the end but... well it's the internet not a symposium...
gebhk wrote:I cannot see a distinction. Both were content to have millions killed because they believed them to stand in the way of their idea how the world should be reordered to their liking.
If you describe things at that level of generality it's of course the same; I see the debate as partially regarding the appropriate level of generality.

Thought experiment:

If the entire peasantry had acceded to collectivization, would Stalin have killed anyone as part of collectivization? It seems obvious that he wouldn't have; he wanted as great a population as possible (thus his freak out about the low numbers of the 1937 census).

OTOH, if European Jews for some reason agreed with Hitler that Germans were the master race, would he still have killed them? Seems obvious that he would have.

Hitler's actual goal was the death of the Jews, Stalin's actual goal in his most murderous campaign was collectivization.

I agree with you that this wouldn't matter to the victims. But we're not the victims and it matters to us apparently, so that point seems irrelevant.
In both cases the objective is to remove a particular group of people they disapprove of from society by murder and I see no moral distinction whatsoever.
This is a good point. To the extent that Stalin murdered people because of who they were - Kulaks, bourgeoisie, etc. - then I'd agree he was being as bad as Hitler. When people talk of Stalin's murders, however, they're usually talking about the millions he killed to get what he wanted and less about the smaller number of people killed for who they were.

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Re: Why Stalin was better then Hitler.

Post by gebhk » 13 Dec 2019 14:06

The domain we're talking about falls within premeditation - deeply held animus vs. cold-bloodedness.
You are quite right. I was somewhat over-egging. However I still think that on balance when, say, kids murder their parents - the defence lawyers usually try to raise the courts sympathy by claiming deep-seated grievances, real or imaginary, as a mitigating circumstance as opposed to a desire to inherit sooner? And delusional paranoias is another ball of wax to be explored by the psychiatrists among us.... And for the psychologists - I don't think it a stretch to say that on a personal level, AH was an individual filled with deep-seated rage on many levels.
The analogy's point isn't about hatred specifically but about consequentialism vs. deontology generally.
OK, fair enough.
The analogy doesn't get me all the way to my Hitler/Stalin judgment,
I think we approach the nub of the matter here, because I don't think your analogy takes you anywhere near to the Hitler/Stalin judgement. Your analogy compares accidental death of random people as a result of bad judgement with deliberate death, of specific people, as a result of premeditated murder. There is no way that you can ascribe the first conditions to either of the two men in question. Unless you want to take it to the extreme of that awful Polish wartime joke - though some say it is factual. A German officer is ordered to shoot every 4th patient in a hospital. He goes about his business and at the end the bodies are stacked up and it turns out that there is one more than there should be, arithmetically. The officer becomes visibly distraught. 'Mein Gott', he wails, 'I've accidentally killed an innocent man!'

But I digress
I see the debate as partially regarding the appropriate level of generality
I am not sure what you mean here. Surely the generality we are seeking is why these men had people killed on an industrial scale? And the answer is fairly straightforward - if groups of people stood in their way or it was merely thought they may stand in the way, they were exterminated.

Thought experiments:
The trouble with thought experiments is that you can make any abstract case you choose and no one can deny your conclusions because they do not rely on evidence. I have to disagree with your conclusions about collectivisation. I personally suspect that even if the peasants had acceded to collectivisation, there would have been wholesale murder because that is how things were done. At most, perhaps the butcher's bill would have been less. However my opinion is no more valid than yours' of course as this is a thought experiment and, as such, does not require results.

OTOH you set the Jewish question into an altogether different paradigm thus comparing apples and oranges. Hitler didn't want the Jews to acknowledge the Germans as the master race. He wanted them out of Germany and not making babies with Germans. The correct thought experiment question, therefore, in my opinion, is if the Jews emigrated to, say, Africa and promised never to come back, would he have had them murdered? Oh, but hang on, isn't that exactly what was being explored as an option up until the end of 1941 or thereabouts? So if the objective was extermination from the outset, why where these options even being explored?

However, back in reality, the kulaks weren't voluntarily leaving their farms and the Jews weren't voluntarily leaving Germany and its possessions. The next step taken was extermination. I'm sorry, but I don't see a moral difference here.
Hitler's actual goal was the death of the Jews,
It is a reasonable argument that Hitler's goal was the removal of Jews from German society, with thieving of their assets a likely secondary goal. Murder was a means not the end in itself.
When people talk of Stalin's murders, however, they're usually talking about the millions he killed to get what he wanted and less about the smaller number of people killed for who they were.
Sorry, don't see it. Both killed for what they wanted - a particular world order - and both killed people for what they were. Perhaps it is because I don't buy the argument that killing someone for being a Jew or Pole or congenitally disabled is more reprehensible than killing someone because he or she is an officer or a doctor or the son or wife of one. Both Hitler and Stalin also killed on a whim, both killed virtually at random just to terrorise the population and killed anyone who openly disagreed with them or they even suspected of disagreeing with them. Neither morally nor practically do I see any difference. Perhaps one was less bad than the other by causing fewer deaths and misery, but that is a question the statisticians will probably argue till doomsday.

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Re: Why Stalin was better then Hitler.

Post by john2 » 13 Dec 2019 15:10

The big issue for me is the racial policies. Stalin as far as I know did not plan to kill off the Poles and settle Poland with "pure" Russians. The population was treated brutally but not exterminated.

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Re: Why Stalin was better then Hitler.

Post by gebhk » 13 Dec 2019 16:42

This cannot be considered simply as policy evolved over time and was multi-faceted. However one significant point is that Hitler's plan was not to settle Poland with pure Germans either. Rather it was to remove the leadership and thin out the herd by extermination and reduce the local population to little more than a slave labour force working for their German masters. This was fairly analogous to the Soviet plan for the part of Poland they annexed 1939-1941. In fact, many historians hold that the losses of Polish citizenry were greater in the Soviet occupied zone during this period than they were in the German one. It would appear that the shock of the German invasion of 1941 and subsequent catastrophic war, engendered a review of policy regarding western border security in the Soviet Union, with a shift from direct annexation to the setting up of a buffer zone of vassal states. This, by and large, engendered a quantitative easing of repression.

However, internally, Stalin was not above a good deal of ethnic cleansing of his own, albeit perhaps pursued with less monomaniacal zeal. The Polish Operation which claimed the lives of over 100K people was but one of a number of such operations which included the Ukrainian, Byelorussian, Jewish, Finnish, Latvian, Greek, Bulgarian, Chinese, Korean and German operations. There can be little doubt that the de-cossackisation operations were the direct cause of the extinction of a number of nations and cultures and the same is probably true of a number of other peoples of the Soviet Union - too small and too remote to catch the attention of the international community.

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