To what extent was ideology the most important factor in the emergence of two authoritarian states?

 From the May 2023 Paper 2 IBDP History exam


This essay received a grade of 12/15 from the IBO:

Often in authoritarian states, leaders have emerged with potent and distinct ideologies that people living within the regime have gravitated towards. This is true of Adolf Hitler's authoritarian rule in Germany and Mao Zedong's authoritarian rule in China, both in the 20th century. While factors such as the use of force played a role in the emergence of Hitler's and Mao's rules, ultimately ideology was the most important factor as it allowed both authoritarians to build popular support before transitioning into power.

Paragraph 1: As Hitler rose to power, he articulated his ideology into the 25-point plan. The 25-point plan enumerated the beliefs of Hitler's party, the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP), also known as the Nazi Party. The 25 points included ideas such as racial purity, fostering camaraderie among the German ethnic community, and the superiority of the Aryan race over minority groups, especially Jewish people. Furthermore, Hitler's 25-point plan capitalized on Germany's anger towards the Treaty of Versailles, which Hitler portrayed as a dictat or forced peace due to the war guilt clause that forced Germany to accept total responsibility for World War One and pay reparations. These are only a few of the ideological ideas in the 25-point plan. Its diversity and widespread appeal allowed Hitler to successfully bind together nationalist, anti-communist, and anti-Semitic sentiments in support of him. Thus, by promoting the ideology of the 25-point plan, Hitler established popular support as he emerged into power.

Paragraph 2: Hitler furthered his ideological push as he rose to power through propaganda. One example of this is Hitler's book "Mein Kampf," which he wrote while imprisoned for his failed 1923 Beer Hall Putsch coup. "Mein Kampf" outlined Hitler's Nazi ideology and gained significant publicity due to Hitler's criminal trial and subsequent imprisonment. Hitler capitalized on pre-existing fears held by Germans, making his ideology incredibly palatable and aiding in building popular support. Additionally, Hitler's ideology and propaganda portrayed him as the one and only savior of Germany, which was in economic distress and embarrassed after World War One. Germans gravitated towards the idea of one leader, with Hitler offering them much-needed revitalization. Thus, through "Mein Kampf" and propaganda, Hitler disseminated his ideological beliefs to the people of Germany and helped build support as he rose to power.

Paragraph 3: Ideology was critical to Hitler's rise to power. Other factors such as the use of force did contribute, particularly in 1923 when Germany faced a crisis and Hitler attempted to stage a coup, the Beer Hall Putsch, to overthrow the government. However, this use of force failed, and Hitler was arrested and imprisoned. He strategically used this time in prison to write "Mein Kampf" and further disseminate his ideology. Thus, even Hitler's use of force ultimately resulted in further promoting his pro-Nazi ideology.

Paragraph 4: In China, Mao Zedong, like Hitler, used ideology to ascend to power. Mao's ideology primarily focused on supporting and garnering support from China's peasants, who made up 80% of the population. Mao sought support from peasants through land reforms and improving literacy rates to combat mass poverty. Thus, Mao's ideology became a modified version of Marxism, focusing on a peasant revolution rather than an industrial workers' revolution as the Soviets and the Comintern sought after. Mao further solidified his ideology of "New Democracy" by writing his book on the subject. In it, Mao established the Chinese Communist Party's ideology as a national movement rather than a class-based one. "New Democracy" also focused on portraying Japan, which at the time had holdings in China, as a common enemy. Mao capitalized on long-held anger towards foreign invaders that had been present since the Boxer Rebellion and the May 4th Movement in 1919. By creating a common enemy and rallying the Chinese people around the goal of defeating foreign powers, Mao established an ideology that resonated with the Chinese people and aided him as he ascended to power.

That being said, ideology was not the sole factor in Mao's rise to power. Mao resorted to other tactics, particularly the use of force. For example, in 1930, Mao used force against the Red Army, killing 4,000 soldiers, as he believed they were staging a coup to oust him. Additionally, in 1942, Mao began a series of rectification campaigns, cracking down on any dissent and disloyalty to the state. While Mao used tactics to maintain control and create an environment of fear to avoid challenges, ideology was more significant because it furthered popular support for Mao and demonstrated that the Chinese people sought his leadership.

Ultimately, in conclusion, while Hitler and Mao utilized other factors like the use of force as they rose to authoritarian rule, ideology was, to a large extent, the most important factor in both cases. The palatable nature of Hitler's and Mao's ideologies resonated with German and Chinese citizens respectively. The leaders established cults of personality and fostered a spirit of reverence towards their leadership, allowing for the emergence of authoritarian states.