The Roots of Totalitarian and single party states ht
T HE R OOTS OF TOTALITARIAN ANDS INGLE PARTY S TATES : A N IB S TUDY
For centuries mankind has known pitiless, violent, and murderous rulers. Queen Elizabeth ruthlessly pursued her Catholic opponents. Isabella and Ferdinand persecuted and expelled the Jews. And the French government used deadly force against workers and rebels in Paris in 1848 and 1871.
But the totalitarian state was a creation of the twentieth century. The fascist and communist states seem to have been qualitatively different from even the most repressive of their nineteenth century predecessors.
D EFINITIONS : Totalitarian regimes are repressive of pluralism. Outlawed are activities by individuals or groups such as labor unions that are not directed by the state. Power is maintained through secret police, propaganda disseminated through the media, the elimination of open criticism of the regime, and use of terror tactics. Secret Police Propaganda
Internal and external threats are created to foster unity through fear. Totalitarian governments intend on changing the basic structure of society.
In totalitarian systems, the ruling ideology requires that every aspect of an individuals life become subordinated to the state, including occupation, income, and religion. The concepts of "the state" and "the people" become merged. This is also called the carceral state — a prison- like state.
Authoritarian regimes control many aspects of citizen’s lives, especially politics, coupled with the use of force. Unlike totalitarian regimes, there is no desire or ideological justification the state’s control, and the state will generally ignore the actions of an individual unless it is perceived to be directly challenging the state.
Authoritarian governments leave the social fabric largely intact. For example, Lee Kuan Yew, Singapores first Prime Minister, purportedly justified its strict social conduct laws as "a way to force civility onto a third- world country," which it was at the time of its separation from Malaysia.
"The Fascist conception of the State is all-embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value. Thus understood, Fascism is totalitarian, and the Fascist State--a synthesis and a unit inclusive of all values-- interprets, develops, and potentiates the whole life of a people." ~ Benito Mussolini
It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything. ~ Joseph Stalin
A totalitarian regime is generally controlled by a political party such as the Nazi Party or a communist party which in turn is controlled by apolitburo small group such as a or central committee which is often dominated by a single individual, the dictator.
Eric Hoffer in his book The True Believer argues that mass movements like communism, Fascism and Nazism had a common trait in picturing Western democracies and their values as decadent, with people "too soft, too pleasure-loving and too selfish" to sacrifice for a higher cause, which for them implies an inner moral and biological decay.
He further claims that those movements offered the prospect of a glorious future to frustrated people, enabling them to find a refuge from the lack of personal accomplishments in their individual existence. The individual is then assimilated into a compact collective body and "fact-proof screens from reality" are established.
O RIGIN OF C ONCEPT Hannah Arendt (1906– 1975) popularized the use of the term totalitarianism (notably in her 1951 book The Origins of Totalitarianism in order to illustrate the commonalities between Nazism and Stalinism (in 1963 she coined the phrase the "banality of evil" - referring to the “normalcy” of Adolf Eichmann and his submission to the Nazis).
Joseph Stalins Soviet Union and Adolf Hitlers Germany are widely considered to be the two best examples of totalitarian regimes. A contemporary example is North Korea; certain religious fundamentalist regimes, such as that found in Iran, are also sometimes described as totalitarian.
The fictional “Big Brother” regime described in George Orwells novel Nineteen Eighty-Four is considered to be a quintessential example of totalitarianism.
Most political scientists believe totalitarian regimes were rare before the 20th century because neither technological means nor ideological justifications existed for controlling large numbers of people.
Today, however, television, radio, and other mass media make it relatively easy for totalitarian regimes to make their presence felt, often through campaigns of propaganda or the creation of a vast personality cult.
The terms totalitarian democracy and totalitarian republic have also been used to classify a different style of totalitarian rule. In these regimes, the government is generally popular (at least at the beginning), and the ideological justification of the state comes on behalf of the people. Hitlers democratically-elected Nazi regime is often used as an example of a totalitarian democracy.
Although Hitler’s totalitarian Germany came into being through a slow and gradual decrease in rights, most totalitarian regimes are born as a result of a revolution which replaces what is generally regarded as an ineffective government.
It has been argued that totalitarianism requires a cult of personality around a charismatic "great leader" who is glorified as the legitimizer of the regime (ex.: Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Mussolini, Pol Pot, and Kim Il-Sung).
In the Khrushchev era the cult of leadership diminished, although the government remained totalitarian. This has made more popular the belief that a charismatic leader is a frequent but not a necessary characteristic of totalitarianism.
P OLITICAL S YSTEM Single party rule combined with a (supposedly) democratically elected but centralized government. In practice, the government consisted of a hierarchical structure which with the aid of a secret police enforced decisions made by a small group of members of the ruling party (Politburo).
E CONOMIC S YSTEM All property and economic organizations were owned and controlled by the state which administered them according to plans developed by a central planning bureaucracy. Economic planners focused on development of heavy industry and defense industries. Consumer goods had a low priority. Imports were strictly controlled especially in the area of consumer goods and food.
L EGAL S YSTEM A large secret police organization monitored public activities closely; substantial efforts were made to discover expressions of dissent especially by government employees and Communist Party members and their families using a network of informers.
Control over dissent was achieved through imprisonment, commitment to mental hospitals, and especially during establishment of the regime by death. During the first decades of the regime an extensive system of labor camps was maintained, the Gulag. The judicial system was controlled by the Party. Travel was tightly controlled with borders closed to both entrance and exit.
I DEOLOGY Education and political discourse proceeded on the assumption that it was possible to mold people into an ideal Soviet man or woman. The validity of all ideas, were evaluated in terms of adherence to the ideology of Marxism-Leninism as interpreted by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
R USSIAN D OMINATION Despite the formal organization of the Soviet Union as a federation of republics, control was highly centralized in central institutions dominated by Russians. Russian language and culture predominated in education and public discourse. Nationalities which resisted were subject to repression which in the early years of the regime included mass imprisonment and deportation.
C ONTROL OF I NFORMATION All publications and media were censored, use of copying machines and imports of written material tightly controlled, foreign electronic media jammed. Access to government documents and press archives was strictly limited.
F OREIGN A FFAIRS The regime maintained close relationships on a world wide basis with revolutionary parties continuing support for an international movement to supplant capitalism with communism. It portrayed itself as subject to attack by developed capitalist countries and maintained massive military forces in anticipation of war.
P ROBLEMS OF I DENTIFICATION AND D ISTINCTION : S TALINISM , N AZISM AND TOTALITARIANISM Both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany came into conflict with the "free world", either directly (World War II), or indirectly (the Cold War). Allied forces led by the Soviet Union and the United States (amongst others) liberated Germany on V-E Day. Arendt, in particular, draws parallels between fascism and Stalinism.
Many political theorists in the US and Western Europe have argued that similarities exist between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Some emphasize the perceived "socialism" of the Nazi (Nationalsozialismus, i.e. National Socialism) and Soviets. Others state that the Nazi’s were not socialists in practice. But both argue that Nazism and Stalinism represent forms of totalitarianism.
Historians such as Ian Kershaw, Hans Mommsen, and Joachim Fest argue that the origins of the Nazi Party lie in the far-right nationalist and racist movements that existed in Germany in the post- World War I period.
They propose that Hitler and the Nazi ideologues consistently rejected all traditions of German socialism as articulated by Karl Marx, Ferdinand Lassalle, Karl Kautsky, and others. These historians state that the Nazis looked up to intellectuals like Nietzsche, which lie in right-wing nationalist and racist thought, not in the socialist tradition.
Further, the Nazis rejected and reviled the French and 1848 Revolutions. They also saw these revolutions as part of a Jewish conspiracy.
Much of this debate ultimately revolves around the meaning of the term socialism, making argument as much about semantics as about actual substantive differences.
Politically, National Socialism was a variety of fascism that incorporated elements from left- wing and right-wing ideologies, but, in practice, was a form of far right politics (Fritzsche, Peter. 1998. Germans into Nazis. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press; Eatwell, Roger, Fascism, A History, Viking/Penguin, 1996, pp.xvii-xxiv, 21, 26–31, 114–140, 352. Griffin, Roger. 2000. "Revolution from the Right: Fascism," chapter in David Parker (ed.) Revolutions and the Revolutionary Tradition in the West 1560-1991, Routledge, London).
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Linz, Juan and Stepan, Alfred. Problems Of Democratic Transition And Consolidation: Southern Europe, South America, And Post-Communist Europe, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, (1996), ISBN 0801851572. Murray, Ewan. Shut Up: Tale of Totalitarianism (2005) Payne, Stanley. A History of Fascism (Routledge, 1996) Pipes, Richard (1995), Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime, New York: Vintage Books, Random House Inc., ISBN 0-394-50242-6. Sartori, Giovanni. The Theory of Democracy Revisited (Chatham, N.J: Chatham House, 1987) Saur, Wolfgang. "National Socialism: totalitarianism or fascism?" pages 404- 424 from The American Historical Review, Volume 73, Issue #2, December 1967. Schapiro, Leonard. Totalitarianism (London: The Pall Mall Press, 1972) Žižek, Slavoj. Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism? (London: Verso, 2001) Keller, Marcello Sorce. “Why is Music so Ideological, Why Do Totalitarian States Take It So Seriously: A Personal View from History, and the Social Sciences”, Journal of Musicological Research, XXVI (2007), no. 2-3, pp. 91– 122