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Hitler, Stalin and Macbeth

Hitler, Stalin and Macbeth were tyrants. They were at the head of a totalitarian society and had absolute, unquestionable authority over an entire nation. In 1887 Lord Acton wrote to Bishop Mandell Creighton that "power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." This saying is especially true of dictators such as Hitler, Stalin and Macbeth; they who held absolute power were corrupted by it to the point where their corruption destroyed the lives of millions of innocent people.

These tyrants had things in common besides the fact that they were some of the worst mass-murderers that history has ever known. The methods by which they obtained control of the nation were very similar, as were their methods for staying in power and their abuses of power once they had it. Their emphasis on the state as greater than the individual was also a similarity, as was their obsession with police and military strength and not allowing any oposing viewpoints to reach the public.

One of the major indications of a totalitarian state is the use of a scapegoat to unite the people against a common enemy. In the Third Reich, this enemy was the Jew. In the USSR, this enemy was capitalism and the capitalists. Macbeth too uses this technique in the fist scene of the third act of Macbeth when he tells some of his subjects that Banquo (their eventual victim) is their enemy as an excuse for them to murder him. In the Third Reich, the Jew was reviled and hated by law. Those who tried to sympathize with or help the Jews were accorded their fate. The USSR used the capitalist as a place to pin all of the guilt for all fo the problems of the people. This technique in general works because it unites the people and it gives them somebody to blame besides the government.

The police state and the military power in totalitarian states is necessary as well. A fair trial as punishment for speaking out against the leadership of a country isn't really an effective deterent. A squad of unimaginably cruel secret police to go around the country knocking on the doors of dissenters at midnight and dragging them off to be brainwashed or never seen again is much more effective.

The scapegoat ties in with one of the main ways in which a tyrant can gain his power: by playing on the fear, hopes and weaknesses of the people. The German people, for example, were ripe for Hitler to take over. They had just been shamed during the Great War (World War One, to us) when Hitler rose up, offering to return national pride to the German people. He told them that he could make them powerful, and respected. He united them against a common enemy- the Jew- and led them in a bid to overtake the world that came far closer to success than any other has.

The millitary might which a totalitarian state has to have is necessary for many reasons. During Hitler's regime, for example, the millitary was one of the things that gave the German people back their pride. A large military can help to establish world leadership or dominence, and it also assists when one tries to overtake other countries as Hitler did. The technological superiority of the Soviet army during the Cold War, which was part of its millitary might, also helped to establish its role as a world leader. Finally, a strong military is a must when a totalitarian government needs to put down an internal rebellion. Stalin especially made use of his millitary and police force to prevent any dissidents from gaining power. Estimates put the number of his own countryment that he murdered up as high as 20 million.

The other major reason for the strong military and police force that most totalitarian governments have is the paranoia that many dictators have. Macbeth especially shows this paranoia when he murders en entire household of women and children because a prophecy has told him to be careful about the head of the household (who, incidentally, escapes). (Act IV, scene ii) The paranoia and lack of trust that characterizes many of the dictators is one of the things that allowws them to take power. It is also the thing that leads them to murder their friends, confidants and the citizens in their country.

Hitler, Stalin and Macbeth were all paranoid leaders who couldn't trust anyone. They led people as an alternative to close, personal relatinships. Their absolute power was what corupted them and made them all the leaders of corupted, twisted nations under totalitarian regimes.

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