Life in The Totalitarian State

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How did totalitarianism affect the lives of the German, Russian, and the Italian people?

Summary of Research

At the extremes of Power, totalitarian governments have slaughtered their people by the tens of millions, while many democracies can barely bring themselves to execute even serial murderers. It has been done in Germany by the Nazis, and in Russia and Italy by Stalin's Bolsheviks. The German people's lives were massively affected by the Holocaust, which was a wide spread genocide to wipe out the Jews. In Russia, and Italy the Bolsheviks' secret police (the CHEKA) arrested, tortured and killed all opponents. Russia's tsar and his family were killed. The extent of the totalitarian state's terror was endless.


Between the years 0f 1919-1939, a Fascist state was a totalitarian state, controlling all the political, economic and social activities of its people. Fascism is a form of right-wing totalitarianism which emphasizes the subordination of the individual to advance the interests of the state.The term "totalitarianism" was originally coined by Benito Mussolini to describe his regime in Italy, although it is arguable that Italian fascism was not truly totalitarian until 1940. Mussolini always proclaimed, "Everything within the state, nothing against the state, nothing outside the state." The people should only "believe, obey and fight." In short, the state was the master, the individual the servant.

The word "totalitarian" found favor in Italy the instant the censor's prohibitions against its use had been lifted. This kind of regime, unknown to previous history, imposed the auhtority of a private but invincible "party" on the state, claiming the right to subject to itself all organized life without exception, and enforcing its will by means of unbounded terror. Internal and external threats were created to enforce unity through fear. Totalitarian systems, however, may not be as undiversified as they appear, since they may hide a process in which several groups —the army, political leaders, industrialists, and others—compete for power and

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Russia (1917-1939), Italy (1922-1939) and Germany (1933-1939) were regarded as mean totalitarian states. Within these states, the people had no right of free speech, free publications and free associations. The individuals had no right to form political parties. Totalitarianism is then a political ideology for which a totalitarian government is the agency for realizing its ends. Thus, totalitarianism characterizes such ideologies as state socialism, Marxism-Leninism as in former East Germany, and Nazism.There was only one governmental party which imposed its dictatorial rule on the people. In these countries, the totalitarian forms of organization enforce this demand for conformity. Their societies were hierarchies dominated by one political party and usually by a single leader. The party penetrates the entire country through regional, provincial, local and "primary" (party-cell) organization. Youth, professional, cultural, and sports groups supplement the party's political control. A military secret police ensures compliance. Information and ideas are effectively organized through the control of television, radio, the press, and education at all levels.

To illustrate, In Italy, Stalin turned the Soviet Union into a totalitarian state, following Vladimir Lenin's death in 1924. To ensure obedience, Stalin's Communist party used secret police, censorship, violent purges, and terror. Police spies did not hesitate to open private letters or plant listening devices. Nothing appeared in print without official approval. Grumblers or critics were rounded up and sent to brutal laborcamps, where many died. Furthermore, In association with the ideas of Marx, atheism became an official state policy. The party seized religious property and converted churches into offices and museums. Many priests and other religious leaders were killed or died in prison camps. The Communists replaced religion with their own ideology. Like a religion, communist ideology had its own "sacred" texts- the writings of Marx and Lenin- and its own shrines, such as the tomb of Lenin. Portraits of Stalin replaced religious icons in Russian homes. Thus, the totalitarian state had a system of government that was unlimited constitutionally or by countervailing powers in society. It was the ideology of absolute power. This can be put as a principle: "Power kills, absolute Power kills absolutely."

The government of Nazi Germany was a fascist, totalitarian state. Totalitarian regimes, in contrast to a dictatorship, establish complete political, social, and cultural control over their subjects, and are usually headed by a charismatic leader. Fascism is a form of right -wing totalitarianism which emphasizes the subordination of the individual to advance the interests of the state. Nazi fascism's ideology included a racial theory which denigrated "non-Aryans," extreme nationalism which called for the unification of all German-speaking peoples, the use of private paramilitary organizations to stifle dissent and terrorize opposition, and the centralization of decision-making by, and loyalty to, a single leader.

Despite all that has been said, popular memory reveals that of all the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century, none was more terrifying than that of Nazi Germany. As a product of Hitler, Germany's social and political situation, and the general attack on liberalism, Nazi Germany emerged rapidly after 1933 when Hitler came to power. The Nazis smashed all independent organizations, mobilized the economy and began the systematic extermination of the Jewish and other non-German populations.

Back home following the war, Hitler began to make wild speeches to small audiences in the streets. He didn't care if many people heard him out, only that he could articulate his message of anti-Semitism and German nationalism. And people did listen to Hitler. And they began to take seriously what he gesticulated on the streets. By 1921, Hitler had become the leader of a small but growing political party. It is interesting to note that Hitler shared very little of the interests of this party, instead, he simply took it over because he needed a party of his own. The German Workers' Party denounced all Jews, Marxists and liberals. They promised national socialism. They used propaganda and theatrical rallies. They wore special badges and uniforms and as they marched, robotlike, through the streets of Münich, they rendered their special salute. Most effective of all their tools was the mass rally -- a rally made for mass man. Songs were sung, slogans were cast about. It was a revivalist movement, or at least it had the atmosphere of a religious revival. Hitler was a charismatic speaker and easily worked his audiences up into a frenzy.

Hitler moved quickly to establish a dictatorship. He used terror to gain power while abiding by legal terms throughout. He called for new elections to Parliament and then had the Parliament building burned to the ground. He blamed the Communists for this act thus helping to get them out of the way and out of any possible public following. He convinced President Hindenburg to sign an emergency act that abolished the freedom of speech and abolished the freedom of assembly. On March 23, 1933, the Nazis pushed the Enabling Act through Parliament, thus making Hitler dictator for a period of four years. Communist Party members were arrested, the Catholic Center Party withdrew all opposition and the Social Democratic Party was dissolved. So it was that Germany, like Soviet Russia under Stalin,

became a one party State.

It was only after Fascists and the Nazis borrowed Communist political methods for their own purposes that the concept of totalitarianism came into use to define the regime that had first sprung up on Russian soil.

When the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia in 1917, few People in the world took notice and fewer still gave Lenin and the Soviets much chance for success or even survival. Within a decade, however there was little doubt that the Soviet dictatorship had established itself as a new model for effecting rapid and radical social and economic change. This model brought new hope to the working classes and new fear to established governments because of its threat to export the socialist revolution to the rest of the world.

Totalitarianism was not invented by the Bolsheviks, however; its roots extended deep into the history of nineteenth-century Europe and beyond that to the era of the French Revolution. Totalitarian elements already existed in Western Europe, ready to be assembled by those who wished either to reform society or to resist undesirable reforms. World War I had left unwanted changes in many countries, and those reactionaries and revolutionaries who wished to undo these results or to take matters in different directions admired the totalitarians’ methods. Fascists, Nazis, and other authoritarians saw the possibilities of fighting the Bolsheviks with their own methods, destroying in the process the despised and distrusted liberal democracies that seemed incapable of solving the world’s problems.

The Dictatorship of the Communist Party and Stalin’s Totalitarianism were responses to the

continuing crises in Russia in the 1920s and early 1930s. World War I, which began these developments in Russia, was the greatest crisis that Western society had ever experienced, but just a decade later, in the 1930s, the countries that had fought in that war faced a now struggle for survival in a different kind of conflict—an economic one. The Great Depression demanded drastic measures. Even long-standing democracies were tempted by the lure of totalitarianism; less mature ones were completely and tragically seduced. Unfortunately, Russia is still in a totalitarian state to this day.


In the years directly following the first World War, a promising new era of democracy began to unfold. Within two decades, many democratic countries in Europe were taken over by some kind of dictatorship. Russia became a Communist state. Italy and Germany became Fascist states. Of the powers in Europe, only Britain and France remained staunchly democratic.

Actually the First World War brought some negative effects to Europe. Life in Europe was far from easy for the people who had to endure the struggles that accompanied the totalitarian regime. Moreover, totalitarianism did not stop in Europe. It spread as far east as Japan. Fortunately this state was put to an end for the most part.


In short, totalitarianism is the ideology of absolute power. State socialism, communism, Nazism, Fascism, and Moslem fundamentalism have been some of its recent raiments. Totalitarian governments have been its agency. The state, with its international legal sovereignty and independence, has been its base. As will be pointed out, mortacracy is the result. Totalitarian governments are the contemporary embodiment of absolute Power, as classically understood.


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