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Great Political Leaders of the Twentieth Century

Oct 08, 1999 1402 Words
The history of the 20th century can be defined by the biographies of six men: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Vladimir Lenin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Tse Tung, and Josef Stalin. Each of these men had a lasting significant involvement in world affairs. This essay will focus on the significance each individual had on the ideologies of Democracy and Totalitarianism. Four of the six individuals were leaders of a totalitarianistic state, and three of these led a communist country. Also four of the six leaders were in power during the Second World War. The profiles of these six men formed the world that we live in today. <br>

<br>Vladimir Illich Lenin was the first individual to put Marxist ideologies to work. In April 1917 Lenin returned to Russia from his exile in Switzerland to give his ‘April Theses.' It was here that Lenin outlined how his revolution was to take place, the Bolshevik Revolution began on November 6 1917. Within a week the Bolsheviks were in control of most of European Russia, and immediately Lenin ordered that the Russians abandon the war against Germany. After abandoning her allies in World War One the Russians were hurled into a civil war. It is here that we first see the ideologies of Totalitarianism and Democracy clash. The democracies of Britain, France, and the United States all sent troops to Russia in the support of the ‘Whites,' or enemies of the Bolsheviks. Lenin took the poor country of Russia and turned it into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or U.S.S.R. Through his policies of War Communism and its replacement the NEP Lenin was able to stand the newly formed U.S.S.R. on its own two feet. One of Lenin's ideas was ‘International Socialism,' it was under this idea that he set up the Comintern with the purpose of spreading communism throughout the world. His successor, Josef Stalin took a different approach in his ideas of ‘Socialism in one country." <br>

<br>Josef Stalin led the U.S.S.R. from the death of Lenin to his own in 1953. Stalin led the Soviets through the betrayal of the Germans in the Nazi-Soviet Pact, he turned back the Nazis on the Eastern front, and brought the U.S.S.R. out of the Second World War as one of the only two superpowers in the world. After the end of the World War Two Stalin spread the Soviet sphere of influence to include East Germany, Bulgaria, Hungary, Alabania, Poland, and Czechoslovakia. At the conferences at Teheran, Yalta, and Potsdam Stalin demanded that Germany hand over all territory east of the Oder-Niesse line to Communist governed Poland. The Cold War was about to begin. The U.S. president, Roosevelt, had died, and was replaced by Vice-president Truman, who in 1947 gave his ‘Truman Doctrine' which appealed to the U.S. Congress for money to "assist any nations having Totalitarian regimes forced upon them against their will." It was an outright opposition to the spread of Communism. Stalin's response was the blockade of Berlin, where he cut off all the road and rail lines between Berlin and the West. The Allies decided to supply west Berlin by airlift, which was a huge moral success and probably one of the closest encounters of the Cold War. <br>

<br>The third and arguably most successful Communist leader of the three listed was Mao Tse Tung, who defended China from the invading Japanese, and defeated Chiang Kai-Shek in the Chinese civil war. The Communists were able to win the civil war because of the backing that they had from the peasants and middle class, also Chiang looked as if he were an American puppet. Mao feared ‘revisionism' or the changing of revolutionary China into a more capitalist society. From 1966-1969 the Cultural Revolution took place, the students of Peking marched through China, attacking factory managers, school teachers and anyone else they considered ‘revisionist.' These students became known as Mao's ‘Red Guards' Mao was a leader who put China's interests first. He made sure to look closely at the mistakes of the Soviets; although he was a great admirer of Stalin. By the end of Mao's reign in China he had created a unified country with the third most powerful military in the world. The industrial output and agriculture of China was tenfold what it stood at it 1949, the literary rate was also much higher. Mao Tse Tung gave the Chinese a country they could be proud of, as did Adolf Hitler to the Germans. <br>

<br>Adolf Hitler was leader of Nazi Germany from 1933 to his suicide in 1945. Hitler was a very charismatic leader who promised the people what they wanted to hear. After the death of President Hindenberg Hitler abolished the titles of Chancellor and President in his Enabling Act, he pronounced himself "Fuhrer," or leader of Germany. Hitler made sure that he had no opposition by making it illegal for other parties to exist. He sent the Communists and Socialists to concentration camps, and built up the German army, a direct infringement of the Treaty of Versailles. Nazi Germany was a perfect example of a totalitarianism, the overtop nationalism of their country made the German people feel superior to the other countries and races. The German re-armament is another example of a totalitarianistic state in that military superiority is almost one of the pre-requisites for the title. Hitler and the Nazis were defeated in World War Two by the Allied forces who were based in Great Britain. The Prime Minister during the war was Winston Churchill. <br>

<br>Winston Churchill is considered one of the great heroes of World War Two. He was one of the three Allied leaders who led to the defeat of the Axis powers in the Second World War. Churchill led Britain as the only remaining Ally after the fall of France, his inspirational speeches of ‘Our Finest Hour' gave the pilots of the RAF the morale and confidence that they needed to defend their island during the Battle of Britain. Churchill was an excellent war-time leader, he brought the British people national pride and a belief that they could beat the Nazis. However in peace-time Churchill was not so popular. At the end of World War Two, after the defeat of Germany, Churchill was replaced by Clement Attlee. <br>

<br>Franklin Delano Roosevelt was President of the United States of America from 1932 to his death in 1945. The president before him, Herbert Hoover had allowed the economy in the United States to go from Boom to Bust, and in the 1932 election FDR won by a resounding majority. FDR's ‘first hundred days,' as they were called, brought about the Emergency Banking Act, which closed all the banks and allowed only the dependable ones to re-open. This brought back the peoples confidence in the banking system, and American's began to re-invest their money. The New Deal was America's saving grace, FDR made work for the unemployed and hungry, he set up the ‘Alphabet Agencies' which all were intended to bring work and social stability to the American people. On Dec 7 1941 the U.S.A. was brought abruptly into World War Two with the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. FDR had been increasingly supportive of the Allied side up until this point, but now the entire Congress and all of the American people stood behind him. Roosevelt was the only President to be elected for three terms in office. He was later labeled a socialist, but was probably the man who helped hold together a democracy during the Depression years. As he himself once said "People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made." <br>

<br>The Six Leaders mentioned in this essay all had a major effect on the ideologies of Democracy and Totalitarianism, be it in the form of Communism or Fascism. From FDR's New Deal to Stalin and the Cold War. From the tyranny of Hitler to the courage of Churchill. Not to mention Mao's social nationalism, and Lenin's international Socialism. These leader's actions of the past base each individual's political views of the present and the future.

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