Totalitarianismand political regime Essay Sample
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Totalitarianismand political regime Essay Sample
Is it rational to use totalitarianism as a political regime of the state? This essay is devoted to the essence of totalitarian regime. I will try to find main features, which are necessary to build this system in the state. Moreover, I will try to find out whether the countries, where totalitarian regime has ever existed, are viable. First of all, it is important to give a definition to the term «political regime».
Many scholars, for example, P. Schmitter and G. O’Donnell, H. Laswell and G. Golosov, dedicated their works to this issue. But I consider that the definition of Jean-Louis Quermonne, French political scientist, is the most precise of all. In his opinion, political regime is «all the ideological, institutional and sociological elements that contribute to shaping the government of a given country for a specific period». I chose it, because his definition is the most common in European political science. It is also quite simple, but it includes different approaches to understanding of political regime.
The basic typology of political regimes is a division into democratic, authoritarian and totalitarian political systems. So, what is totalitarianism? This term comes from the Latin word “totalis”, which means “all, the whole, entire”. The etymology of the word can already tell us its meaning. According to M. Roskin, totalitarianism is «political system in which the state attempts total control of its citizens». But in my opinion, this definition is too general and not enough to understand the full meaning of the term. This is the reason why it is necessary to refer to another one.
American political scientists Z. Brzezinski and C. Friedrich worked on this issue and distinguished several main features of totalitarian regime.
The first one is the official common ideology, which denies all rules and political structure, that existed before. The second is the monopoly of power, which is concentrated in hands of single ruler. Usually, this is a charismatic leader, dictator who can influence the people. There is an absence of any possible opposition and therefore, the dominant role of the ruling party in all government structures. The system is closed, and it is very hard to gain any power, only bureaucracy has access to it.
The third point is strict police, whose aim is to control the society and identify the external and internal enemies of the system. The police are also responsible for the total terror, which is implemented on the psychological and physical levels. The fourth is the control over the media and all the means of communication. This is done for propaganda of ruling party and ideology. The fifth factor is that the army, weapons which provide the country with ability to defense, are also under control of the party. And the last feature is centralized planned economy. All these factors were characterized by them as so-called “totalitarian syndrome”.
All this information was later simplified and combined in a single definition by both of them, but in my opinion Brzezinski was more correct. In 1962 he characterized totalitarianism as “a new form of government falling into the general classification of dictatorship, a system in which technologically advanced instruments of political power are wielded without restraint by centralized dictatorship of an elite movement for the purpose of affecting a total social revolution, including the conditioning of man on the basis of certain arbitrary ideological assumptions, proclaimed by the leadership in an atmosphere of coerced unanimity of the entire population”.
Nevertheless, their criteria are not perfect, at least because they didn’t take into consideration many other factors. For example, they paid much attention to the ruling elite and absolutely ignored the fact that the main driving force of totalitarianism is popular masses. As wide masses are formed by people, who usually don’t have personal opinion, it is very easy to manipulate them. So, there is no surprise that it was the part which provided totalitarianism with big support.
This concept was developed by Hannah Arendt in her book “The origins of totalitarianism” (1951). Totalitarian regimes can also be divide on two types: communistic and fascism. In classical understanding, the most common examples are the USSR of J. Stalin and Nazi Germany of A. Hitler. Even though these dictatorships are just the variants of one political regime, there are also some significant differences. The system of the USSR is more indicative about regime, because it eliminated private property and individualism. Its economy was based on centralized planning, while Nazi Germany was the state with closed interconnection between government and big monopolies concentrated in hands of bureaucracy.
The view of human rights was also different. In the USSR constitution guaranteed citizens all the number of democratic rights, but in fact it was not true. Nazi Germany, on the contrary, had never posed itself as “the state for everyone”. People were not equal before the law, it depended on the race or nationality of the person. The principle of the pure “Nordic race” was the fundamental concept of Nazi ideology.
These historical examples allow to examine the advantages and disadvantages of totalitarianism. The first strong side is that the government can mobilize resources in record time. It helped the USSR to be more or less prepared to the Second World War from the technical side. As there is no resistance from masses in totalitarian states, it is much more easier to encourage them for battles. It explains the success of Nazi Germany in war with France. Militarized character of the state increases the contribution to heavy industry, which affects on the development of science. Nazi Germany had a great success in medicine, their weapons were perfect during the war.
The Soviet Union also succeeded in science: totalitarian regime gave an impulse to space exploration and invention of nuclear weapon. Another strong side is that totalitarianism at the initial stages can help to establish the stability at the state. This strict system allowed Germany to get out from the deep economic and social crisis after the First World War. The Soviet Union was also destructed because of the short-sighted economic policy at the beginning of the state’s foundation and totalitarianism could solve this problem, but mostly with radical methods. The ideology provides people with patriotism and intention to contribute to welfare of their powerful country.
There are also several reasons why totalitarian system is completely ineffective. Strict control can create stagnation in economy, because the government tried to solve all the problems, even that could be solved on lower level. Isolation of the country, as the “Iron Curtain” in the Soviet Union, prevents it from the international trade. People are not motivated to work, because of understanding that they can earn only by being an active party member. They do not have any interest in the industry. Totalitarian states are also quite aggressive, and it is necessary to have good military resources. The main problem is that the price of it is the fall of the social well-being. GDP per capita in the USSR, for example, was extremely low and people suffered of such economy. Of course, these facts can be challenged with an example of Five-year plans, which practically improved the level of productivity.
The contradictions here are that people work under the effect of “shock therapy”, as they understand that if they will not – they will be punished by system. Agricultural sphere is also suffered because of this policy, because all the resources were directed to militarization, and it led to starvation. Terror is useful as it can find cheap labor for making industrialization in face of political prisoners. The point is that GULAG and concentration camps were overcrowded, and it led to suffering of the human resources. Moreover, it is hard to hide the reality forever, and in the end, there appears the layer of people, who are well educated and can understand all the minuses of this system. It creates the atmosphere of mistrust to the government. The regime that loses the support of people is no longer considered as stable.
It is obvious, that the weaknesses of the totalitarianism are more significant than its positive sides. Under the pressure of these factors is inevitably crashes. Two classical examples of totalitarianism are already mentioned here, but they do not exist anymore. The last stronghold of totalitarian world is North Korea. What is its fate in the modern world? Nowadays North Korea experiences the same tendencies, which earlier characterized the USSR and Nazi Germany. It is closed, completely isolated. It has the constitution, which represents the rights of all citizens, but the reality is different. The strict discipline, proclaimed in official ideology. There is a single party, which consists of the ruling elite. Recent news confirms the fact that North Korea is very aggressive in its international relations.
There is a conflict between the USA and NK. Such articles in newspapers as “Risk of war with North Korea grows each day, says Trump’s security adviser” and “USA v North Korea? Will the US attack North Korea?” are devoted to 2017 North Korea crisis. This conflict comes from the information that North Korea increases its nuclear power and the US evaluated this as readiness to begin the war. Actually, specialists say that the balance is fragile, and a real danger of nuclear war exists. So, all the factors say that North Korea is typical totalitarian state. There are no totalitarian states that can exist forever. North Korea already has contradictions inside it. People nowadays have more free access to the information and they understand from the external world, that something goes wrong. It is supported by social and economical problems.
Vote of confidence to Kim dynasty is already weak. All these factors influence North Korea and lead to its destruction. Since the modern world seeks democracy and the declaration of human rights and personality as the highest value, the world community condemns totalitarianism. It was said before, that totalitarian states are very unstable and usually break down in the end. In future North Korea can experience three possible ways. Firstly, it will fall apart as the Soviet Union. Secondly, it can self-destruct it from the inside like Nazi Germany. Third and the most rational way as it will be hard to eliminate the whole system, is to start moving along the democratic way of development and become a state with transitive regime, or, at least, authoritarian (as South Korea).
Overall, totalitarianism itself is a regime, which appears when the society is devastated and disintegrated. 20th century was marked by two World Wars. Maybe the development of the world is cyclical, and humanity will have to experience the oppression of totalitarianism more than once in future. But it is also possible that world has passed this stage and totalitarianism will remain only a term that characterizes a certain historical epoch. Finally, returning to the questions “Is it rational to use totalitarianism as a political regime?” and “Are totalitarian states viable?” we can answer: “Definitely no”.