Totalitarianism Regime: Definition & Types
Totalitarianism: It is a political idea that considers that the state possesses absolute power. It is characterized by evading the basic norms of law of modern society and not allowing a separation of powers. The totalitarian state carries out total control of the population and of all its institutions through propaganda and the police.
The name of totalitarianism was first known in the regime of Fascist Italy, and the term was extended to also designate Nazi Germany and later the system established in the Soviet Union.
Origin of Totalitarian Form of Government
The totalitarian regime is a political idea that considers that the state possesses absolute power. It is characterized by evading the basic norms of the law of modern society and not allowing a separation of powers. The totalitarian state carries out total control of the population and all its institutions through propaganda and the police.
As a legitimation procedure, it practices some elements belonging to the charismatic power: single, centralized and absolute leadership, ritualism, messianism and pseudo-utopianism.
In the course of the history of society we can contemplate different examples of totalitarian regimes, but the one who defined and put into practice this concept himself was Benito Mussolini, who in a certain way gave rise to the concept of the fascist state, configured by him in Italy from 1922 to 1943 (genre that the terms fascism and totalitarianism are frequently identified).
The other most important totalitarian regimes were those of the USSR (Stalin and Lenin) and Germany (Hitler).
Totalitarian Regime: Features
- The state is the owner and lord of everything (the individual lives for him).
- Elimination of freedoms
- Systematic use of terror and violence to end any form of opposition, leading to the extermination of the opponent.
- Prohibition of political parties and unions.
- Supremacy of some individuals over others.
- Use of violence as a method of control.
- First capitalists and then critics (to rise to power)
- Demographic expansion (in some).
- Carrying out large public works with benefits.
- Marginalization and annihilation of certain sectors of society.
- Veneration of a leader who represents the state.
- Use of propaganda through control of the media.
- Control over the education of youth to guarantee the survival of the regime.
Totalitarianism: Types of Totalitarian Regime
- Absolutist Totalitarian Regime (Absolutism)
To correctly define totalitarian states, it is necessary to look for their origins in a certain way. The origins of totalitarianism come from absolutism in a direct way, since by absolutism – the following is understood:
Political system in which all power is granted to a single person or a group Currently, this concept is granted to the forms of government headed by a dictator.
Absolutism is considered to be the opposite pole to the constitutional government of democratic systems, differing from them in the unlimited power claimed by the person or group that holds power, in contrast to the constitutional limitations imposed on the heads of state of democratic countries. The development of modern absolutism comes from the birth of the European nation states (late 15th century) and lasted for more than 200 years.
An example is the reign of Louis XIV of France (1643-1715). One of the most reliable proofs of the aforementioned is the expression that said monarch used:
“The State is me” (“L’Etat, c’est moi”). This expression accurately summarizes the concept of the divine right of kings.
In Spain, two kinds of absolutism can be distinguished; the first, similar to the one that prevailed for centuries in other European countries, which was based on the presidential conception of power.
The second, which marks a dividing line in the socio-political sphere, was permeable, from the 18th century, to the ideas of enlightened thinkers and paternalistic political modes. However, this influence was not lasting. In the parenthesis of the Second Republic and the Spanish Civil War (1931 – 1939), the country’s politics were dominated by two long absolutist regimes, the dictatorships of Miguel Primo de Rivera (1923 – 1930) and Francisco Franco (1939 – 1975).
Fascist Totalitarian Regime (Fascism)
Fascism is a political and social system, based on totalitarianism, which is in opposition to democratic regimes. The main features that characterized the fascist regime were, among others: the disappearance of the rule of law and the totalitarian conception of the state, the development of an imperialist nationalism, the replacement of the union system by corporatism, the free action of the national fascist party, the only one legalized and used as a persuasive weapon over the civilian population, and the hierarchical conception of state power, in which the small top leader holds all powers.
The characteristics are given in mid 1919 when Benito Mussolini declared that “fascism has neither statutes nor rules“, thereby giving an expression that perfectly defined the ideological principles that guide fascism.
In fact, fascism was a political movement in which contradictions and opportunism were more abundant than following a pre-established ideological line, contradictions produced by the superposition of the fused tendencies at the origin of the movement (demobilized ex-combatants, nationalists , trade unionists and socialist dissidents, legionaries from D´Annunzio, Arditi, industrialists fearful of a revolution …) and ideological opportunism to take at all times a justification that would legitimize the required action.
The main ideologues of fascism were Benito Mussolini,
1• The principles of Fascism:
Fascism moves in opposition to democracy and parliamentarism, in a hatred of socialism and internationalism, in a rejection of the belief of progress and the virtuality of pacifism, in a contempt for individual rights and the exaltation of the state as the supreme historical entity.
The entire rigorously hierarchical organization of the party was based on the maintenance of blind obedience and the cult of the personality of a group or person who had the power of the state.
Faced with democratic pluralism, fascism erected a political totalitarianism that rejected any possibility of coexistence with the opposition, annihilating any possibility of dissent. Faced with the social values sustained by the rights of man (rights that every person possesses), fascism subjected them to the rights of the state, a melting pot of the values of the moral unity of the nation.
2• The propaganda media of fascism:
The absence of opposition and the omnipotence of the state laid the foundations for a sustaining intellectual totalitarianism and at the same time enhancing the belief in the possession of the truth. To dictate it on each occasion, a great propaganda infrastructure was formed, which began in the educational system, went through the mobilization of the youth and reached the monopoly of the media. The supreme consideration of the state entity is reflected in an aggressive and victimizing nationalism.
3• The National Fascist party:
It was officially founded on November 9, 1921 and its rapid growth in the early years meant that, from 1924, entry was restricted. In this way, if in just three years it had gotten 750,000 militants, in the next eight years it barely added 250,000 more. The party was directed by the Great Fascist Council, an organ in which the twenty highest leaders of the party were integrated; its supreme leader was the Duce, who appointed the Secretary General and all the lower positions.
When Benito Mussolini came to power, the party gradually became a state within a state: it had its own militia, controlled propaganda, led the political police (OVRA, Organization for the Surveillance and Repression of Antifascism), and governed the concentration camps to political prisoners.
Fascist Totalitarian Regime (Nationalism)
Totalitarian doctrine, which defends the constitution of an antidemocratic, anti-parliamentary and racist state, supported by the German National Socialist Party and its main leader, Adolf Hitler, who ruled Germany between 1933 and 1945.
German National Socialist Labor Party: German political organization that finds its origin in the German Workers’ Party, Created in 1919. Its political program was written by Feder, Hitler and Drexler. He advocated the founding of a Greater Germany, the abolition of the Treaty of Versailles, the liquidation of the parliamentary system, and the enactment of laws against the Jews. Banned after the Munich insurrection, it was restructured by Hitler when he was released from prison. From the economic crisis of 1929, its importance increased, until in 1933 it became a single party.
Origin and Ideological Foundations of National Socialism
The origin of nationalism in Germany comes from the fact that the industrial and financial bourgeoisie gave great support to Hitler and his project. Hitler began by diluting the socialist character of the party to which he belonged, giving slogans against big property and capitalism in order to win the support of the working class.
The groups of the SA or brown shirts and, later, the protection troops of the SS were in charge of putting into practice the apology for the violence advocated by the party. The German resentment and the rampant economic crisis were a good breeding ground for the growth of the Nazi Party, which in 1930 already achieved 107 seats in Parliament and in 1933 became the first political force, with 288 seats.
In 1938 the party already had 8 million members and in 1945 it had reached 11 million. Hitler was appointed chancellor on January 30, 1933 and soon after dissolved Parliament and established a one-party regime. From power, he promoted a policy of major public works to solve the unemployment problem, while concentrating a large part of the country’s efforts on the creation of a powerful arms industry.
In July 1934 there was an internal purge in the party with the assassination of the leaders of the SA (Röhm). Hitler then endowed the party with a hierarchical structure. His inspiration in Italian fascism did not go beyond the copy of foreign paraphernalia and, until 1923, the system used to seize power.
However, Nazism was heir to a series of Central European currents of thought originating in the 19th century: from vitalism, anti-Semitism and theosophy to German esoteric doctrines. The essential basis of his doctrine was the radical manifestation of nationalism through the Aryan myth.
• Nazi Racism:
Racism was one of the main defining characteristics of Nazism. Racism gave the myth of Aryan superiority a basis to complement it with the will to find a channel of territorial expansion for the German nation. Taking Darwinian evolutionism as a theoretical scientific support, German racism had been presenting long explanations that proclaimed the superiority of the Aryan race.
Nazism maintained this racist trend and never contributed anything to its theoretical body. The myth of Aryan superiority not only manifested itself in racist content, but it managed to form an entire philosophy of history, where it was explained how the adversities and failures of this superior race were the consequence of external attacks and spells.
The blame was placed on foreign powers who wanted to sink Germany (its latest manifestation was the dictates of the Treaty of Versailles). To this external enemy was added the internal danger: the Jews were the main target of Nazi racism.
Giving a propaganda that reached the rest of the countries, and increasing the rejection against the Jew (also fueled by the true growth of Israelite nationalism). In no state like in Nazi Germany were such inhuman extremes of persecution and extermination reached, already announced since 1925.
The same bases maintained the desire to dominate other ethnic groups considered inferior. Giving a propaganda that reached the rest of the countries, and increasing the rejection against the Jew (also fueled by the true growth of Israelite nationalism).
In no state like in Nazi Germany were such inhuman extremes of persecution and extermination reached, already announced since 1925. The same bases maintained the desire to dominate other ethnic groups considered inferior. Giving a propaganda that reached the rest of the countries, and increasing the rejection against the Jew (also fueled by the true growth of Israelite nationalism).
In no state like in Nazi Germany were such inhuman extremes of persecution and extermination reached, already announced since 1925. The same bases maintained the desire to dominate other ethnic groups considered inferior.
• The idea of geographic expansion:
The idea of geographical expansion prevailing in Europe throughout the nineteenth century had great importance in this regime. If until then the African, Asian and Polynesian territories had been had as the main destinations of the colonizing impulses, Hitler pointed out the National Socialist will to expand the German borders towards the East.
In the first place to all the regions where German or speaking population was found (pan-Germanism, formation of Greater Germany that had been excluded in the creation of the Brismarkian state) and then to the underused lands of other states where the new Germany would carry out its colonization.
Hitler presented this program not as a will for imperialist domination, but as a natural way out of the expansive German vitality; those territories would be the “living space”
• The origins of the Nazi doctrine:
The beliefs of the Nazi doctrine are manifested in the contempt of the intellect as an inactive manifestation, in the denial of reason as the origin of knowledge and in the myth of the superman. This led in practice to manifestations of violence, which only sought action in itself, and to the cult of force.
The union of nationalism and vitalism (beliefs) led to the subordination of the individual to the nation-state, identified with a chief-guide (his will was that of the national community). Within these parameters, democracy was seen as an enemy system of the people, whose fruits were its division and confrontation, weakening the national community. For the same reason, the union of all sectors in the construction of a great Germany substituted, having it as a great enemy, the class struggle.