Nationalism can be defined as an ideology based upon the premise that an individual’s loyalty and devotion to the nation-state surpasses all other individual or group interests. Nationalism is considered a modern movement. Throughout history people have been attached to their native soil, to the traditions of their parents and to their country as a whole. Many people have taken this nationalistic approach and made a huge impact with it on their country and in some cases their movements have impacted the rest of the world. Two of these men were Mohandas Gandhi and Adolf Hitler. They are arguably two of the most influential leaders and speakers of all time. One of their movements was successful and one was not. Both of these individuals gained massive followings in a very short period of time. This essay will discuss the conditions that lead to their nationalist uprisings, how they came to power and why one movement was successful and the other was not.
The conditions that lead to a nationalist movement are relatively consistent. First, the country must have been faced with a crisis. Typically the leader is incapable of governing in an authoritarian manner and the country begins to split into different factions. These factions often seek different solutions to the crisis. Political groups form creating various power struggles within the nation-state. Under these political struggles there are social struggles among the working class who are seeking a way out and a better way of life. They become disenchanted and are no longer willing to live on the basis of the old society. They instead decide to create a new order. Ultimately this moves into some sort of power struggle which can foster and culminate in change. One of the most crucial conditions is the existence of strong leadership. The head of the worker’s movement must provide the vision strategy, tactics and organization to guarantee victory. We can see all of these conditions in both Germany and India. In Germany the conditions were extremely difficult having undergone the disastrous results of WWI and the post war crisis of massive inflation. Many people including Hitler did not think Hindenburg was fit to lead. He was not solving the money problem in Germany and with Hitler’s convincing arguments and speeches he gained people’s attention, acquired a massive following and split up the country into different wings grouped on how people wanted to solve the inflation crisis. The worker class and the middle class turned to Hitler. Being a former soldier he knew what war was like and understood the strategies that they needed to overcome Hindenburg. Like Germany, India found itself in crisis. The British imposed a salt tax which led to great unrest. This coupled with India being occupied by Britain in general was enough disorder for Gandhi’s to set the stage for his revolution. Although this revolution was a bit different, it still had the same basic premise leading up to it. The working class were disgruntled and needed a strong leader who was fit for the role. They found this leader in a social activist and British educated lawyer named Mohandas Gandhi. Although the leadership style of Gandhi and Hitler were very different and the type of uprisings were very different, both nationalist movements produced strong leaders with a huge followings.
Gandhi and Hitler both came to power when their countries were in great turmoil. Germany after WWI and India after the British imposed a salt tax. Hitler’s time in the military and the military foundation of a significant number of his supporters prompted the formation of the NSDAP (Nationalist Socialist German Workers’ Party). This party resembled a military organization. There was an area of the gathering called the ‘stormtroopers’ (Sturm Abteilung – SA – ‘Brownshirts’). NSDAP gatherings looked like military processions and Hitler addressed them with enthusiastic speeches that awakened forceful feelings in his followers. This made it simple for them to participate in acts of brutality. These gatherings of individuals assaulted individuals from other political gatherings. In September 1921 Hitler was sent to jail for his participation in a gang assault on an opposing government official. The SA shielded Hitler and began an all out assault on opposing political groups at various gatherings. The SA’s heads were Hermann Goering a previous pilot, and Ernst Rohm, a previous army captain. Hitler would make addresses to the SA leading to large demonstrations of viciousness against Jews. These gatherings prompted viciousness against communists and socialists. Jews were exposed to brutal savagery.
Gandhi like Hitler gained a large following in a very short period of time. Gandhi encouraged his Indian followers to test the British-forced salt tax. He did this by participating in the Dandi Salt March (250 miles) in 1930. Through non-violent protest his goal was to get the British to quit India. He was jailed for a long time as a result of numerous events in both South Africa and India. He lived casually in an independent private network and wore the customary Indian dhoti and shawl. He ate straightforward vegetarian food and also undertook long fasts as a methods for both self-cleansing and political protest. He acquired a large following with his rather peaceful ideals and calm nature along with his very strong religious life which drew people to him. With his wise soul and passion for his people he had a manner that made his people want to follow him and resist. This eventually led Gandhi to a successful nationalist uprising.
Gandhi’s nationalist movement was ultimately successful while Hitler was not. Although many believe Gandhi invented these ways of protest, he really didn’t. He just refined them and used his stubbornness and patience to sway and take control of a situation. Also by adhering to these non-violent ways he always had the moral high ground which gave him the upper hand in terms of sympathy. Even if the opposing force stuck to non-violent virtues with Gandhi he was never the first to give in because of his undying passion for his people. Many of his non-violent protests included, civil disobedience, fasting, general strikes, picketing and other assorted non-violent means of bringing activity to a standstill. Hitler on the other hand was a brutal dictator. He had a very strong passion too but he was all about violence and all he wanted was revenge. He was ruthless and would get revenge at any cost which eventually became his down fall because with this one goal in mind he became so narcissistic that he fired his capable officers for doing one thing wrong and eventually became the commander-in- chief which was a huge mistake because he knew very little about war strategies. His main mistakes were his brutality and poor decisions. Unlike Gandhi, his methods were seen as horrific and gained no sympathy from the rest of the world.
Nationalism has had a huge impact on the world. Some of the most notably significant nationalists were Hitler and Gandhi. These two could be argued to be the most influential leaders of all time. Gandhi’s movement was successful and a much better cause but Hitler’s was still a very world changing event that ultimately failed. They shaped and molded these uprisings by taking charge when their countries were in trouble and needed help. They both gained massive followings and power by by invoking this relatively modern philosophy of nationalism. Gandhi did it peacefully which led to success and Hitler did it with brutal force which ultimately led to failure.
Gandhi, Mohandas, Mahatma Gandhi Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments With Truth. Washington DC: Public Affairs Press, 1948.
Payne, Robert, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler. New York: Brick Tower Press, 1973 “
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