Giovanni Amendola first coined the word ‘totalitarian’ when describing the Italian Fascist government under Benito Mussolini in 1923 as different to conventional dictatorships. It is after this that the word was popularised to have both negative and positive connotations. However, German theorist Carl Friedrich and political scientist Zbigniew Brzezinski collaborated to formulate a modern day politically scientific definition known as the ‘six-point syndrome’; a breakdown of totalitarianism into six key features and characteristics.
I will use these individual points to structure my argument, firstly by analysing the ideology and its effectiveness, then the party and dictatorship. I will then evaluate the effectiveness of the ‘systems of terror’ and state control of the economy and military, as neither side appears to have absolute control but Nazi Germany has enough so that there are no other major instituations, unlike in fascist Italy.
These elements will help to justify why I believe that Nazi Germany was very totalitarian in its nature, but despite the term originating from Fascist Italy, the modern day definition does not hold. The first stage of the six-point syndrome was an official ideology. In this context political ideology is the set of beliefs, ideals and doctrines that shape the way society would be governed and conducted under those who hold these principles. Hitler devised his ideology and published it as ‘Mein Kampf’ in 1926, which essentially became the party manifesto.
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Although slightly demagogic, it revealed many of Hitler’s true ideals such as Lebensraum, a ‘living space’ for the German population to develop, autarky and the fact that Germany was in danger from the communists and Jewish people, whom he declared Germany’s two main enemies, thus creating a scapegoat and further deepening the investment in a German Nationalist ideology. However, a limitation to this stage is the failure of Brzezinski and Friedrich to include the implementation of this ideology across the nation. They are important as they give focus to the people of the nation.
The idea of totalitarianism was to have a society in which the ideology of the government is held by and has influence over the majority of its citizens. Hitler created his own superior race: the Aryans. They were typically blonde with blue eyes, and most other people who did not possess these qualities were sent to the concentration camps. He went even further and took measures to make sure that people were indoctrinated with this ideology, by creating a law that all children under the age of eighteen had to be part of the Nazi youth movement.
However, Hitler’s creation of the Aryan race and belief in the ‘survival of the fittest’ has been suggested by German historian Martin Broszat as a form of polyocracy, the idea that many, as opposted to one leader, control the state. He argues this as those institutions that were nationalised when the party rose to power, even though technically under the control of the Nazis, were still run by the same people parallel to institutions of the Nazis.
Although, a limitation to this is the fact that he does not consider how many of these people had been consumed by the Nazi culture, and how Hitler did remove many leaders in place of his own. Therefore, they were ultimately all part of the same Nazi institution. In terms of Fascist Italy, it should be firstly noted that the term ‘totalitarianism’ itself was coined for the Italian government under Mussolini. Therefore whether it uses the modern day definition or not, there was obviously some degree of totalitarianism.
Nazism also officially known as the National Socialism is defined as an ideology and practices that are influence by the National Socialist German Worker’s Party that is under the leadership of Adolf Hitler. In relation to this, Nazism is also regarded as political policies that were adopted by the dictatorial of Nazi Germany that took place from 1933 to 1945. Nazism strongly advocates the ...
Mussolini and his party’s official slogan was ‘credere, obbedire, combattere’, meaning ‘believe, obey, fight. ’ The party was Fascist, with Mussolini himself stating that there was ‘everything in the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state’, which does show a large degree of totalitarianism within it. However he was also quite traditional as he encouraged woman to stay at home, abolished divorce and tried to promote this perfect, idyllic lifestyle. In this sense, there was an official ideology, but it was not implemented so thoroughly throughout the state.
There was even a joke that came about during 1935 where Mussolini was asking his friend about the political orientation of the people of Milan. His friend responded by stating that there were ‘three-fourths socialists, …of the other a good part are communist, and the rest are catholic. ’ He then continued to state that even still, they were all fascists, implying that even if they said they were fascist, many still held other political beliefs. This shows that the ideology was not that well indoctrinated throughout Italy, and therefore not everyone believed in his party.
Friedrich described a single mass party as the second stage, meaning that only one party is allowed to exist and even then in real sense the party is merely a tool in the hands of the dictator. The party are advocates for the diktats and policies of the leader who exist to help implement them and ensure the maintenance of control. Hitler managed to manipulate the political situation through passing the Enabling law which meant that the Reichstag had essentially voted itself out of existence; leaving power in the hands of the Nazis.
Hitler did not have to answer to any parliament and could now effectively govern by himself. He then abolished all other parties, starting with the communists by proclaiming them enemies of Germany. This gave Hitler absolute control over the government and therefore a greater grasp over the nation, giving him more power as a totalitarian dictator. However, in Italy the situation was different, as although Mussolini was the dictator, there was still a constitutional monarchy at the time, which had the power to dismiss him whenever they desired.
As Professor John Pollard states ‘the King represented a major grouping in Italian society, the upper middle class and aristocracy, and elements, like the Armed Forces, who never gave Fascism their full support. ’ He also had to work with the Roman Catholic Church after the Lateran Treaty, which was essentially a concordat between the Italian state and the Church. Therefore, Mussolini did not have absolute control as there were many large institutions working against him. De Gand states how the ‘catholic church and conservative industrial elites made a mockery of Fascism’s pretension to totalitarian control.
... the consent of parliament. Once this was accomplished, Hitler and the Nazi party had total control over the government of Germany, the first step ... . After building a power base in Bavaria, Hitler attempted a coup in the style of Mussolini's March on Rome. The Munich ... resources. Although financial payment plans were developed by the United States (Dawes Act) to help the new Weimar Republic in Germany ...
The third characteristic is described as a ‘system of terror’ both physiologically and psychologically, ‘carried out by ‘secret police or party directed social pressure. ’ The secret police were to be directed against ‘demonstrable “enemies” of the regime’ and ‘more or less arbitrarily selected classes of the population’. For the Nazis, Hitler had the Gestapo, created shortly after the Nazis rose to power in 1933. It was originally under the control of Herman Goering, but was replaced by Heinrich Himmler in 1936.
Although it is difficult to clearly categorise which demeanours fell under the jurisdiction of the Gestapo and other police forces due to the many mergers within the force, the Gestapo had one clear aim: to eliminate opposition. Summing up their bureaucratic organisation, Nazi jurist Dr Werner stated that, ‘as long as the ‘police’ carries out under the will of the leadership, it is acting legally. ’ This in itself shows how there were no limits to the Gestapo power, and Kershaw states how they used this as a ‘carte blanche’ to carry out torture to obtain confessions, to kill without justification. Holocaust survivor Helen Stein spoke about how she heard her inmate being tortured by the Gestapo and that she would ‘come back with swollen eyes and a red puffed face. ’ They would enforce terror to such a great extent, and thus restricted any form of freedom of speech. In Italy, there was the OVRA, who successfully organised a system of terror and murdered many people who had held anti-fascist sentiments.
They worked in a similar way to the Nazis, although they were extremely corrupt and inefficient, which meant that Mussolini did not have them under tight control, another limit to his totalitarian dictatorship. The fourth stage was cited as ‘technologically conditioned near-complete monopoly of control’ of mass communications by the party including ‘press, radio and film’. This means that there would be state censorship of all official published works, and tight control to ensure nothing against the party was distributed.
I disagree with the interpretation to an extent, there are many factors that lead to the rise of the Nazis that were not directly from Hitler, firstly, there was a weak government in Germany – the Weimar government was weak with many different parties and fringe parties struggling to agree on anything, the Reichstag couldn’t pass many laws, decisions could not be made and many people also saw this ...
Propaganda within Nazi Germany was highly effective, and was used to a severe level as Hitler realised the importance of the radio and newspapers and the large degree of influence they had over the population. Triumph of the Will, one of the most famous propaganda films, glorifies Hitler as it shows scenes of his resonant speech and carefully calculated gestures and expressions to make up his screen character, “Hitler, leader of his people’ whilst sending subliminal messages to ‘brainwash’ and captivate the audience into a state of belief.
Joseph Goebbels also ensured that nothing antagonistic or damaging to the party circulated or was read in Germany and to ensure that the views of the Nazis were put across in the most persuasive manner possible. However, there were a few groups that became quite well known, such as the White Rose group. This was an intellectual resistance non-violent group, first established by Hans and Sophie Scholl and their colleagues from Munich University. They handed out pamphlets encouraging people against the Nazis, although they were later murdered by the secret police.
This shows that even if there was not complete conformity, the secret police reinforced control over those who were not susceptible to propaganda, so even if they did not believe in the Nazi ideology, they were too afraid to speak against it. Mussolini also used the media to indoctrinate the people of Italy, as he put up many posters around Italy of ‘Il Duce’, the perfect man in Italy. This was effective propaganda, and he even commissioned films like Hitler. However, these were rendered almost useless by the fact that there was a high illiteracy rate in Italy at the time and a general lack of enthusiasm for frequenting the cinema.
Only ten percent of the population read the fascist newspaper, which meant that even if he did have control over mass communications, it was not very effective. The fifth stage is ‘a similarly technologically conditioned, near-complete monopoly of the effective use of all weapons of armed combat’. Scholar of military and holocaust history Dr Geoffrey Megargee commented how Hitler was ‘stubborn’ and ‘distrusted others. ’ He states that this meant he controlled the military, and thus he brought all control to himself by the end of the 1930s.
It is to a significant degree that this statement is true, as Nazi control was predominately based on propaganda and terror in the period to 1939, however Nazi social policies also played a major role in gaining Nazi support. A series of popular social policies were introduced throughout the 1930s such as the Strength Through Joy programs, the notion of Volksgemeinschaft, and various organizations ...
However, Megargee does not address the fact that because Hitler took all the power for himself, he essentially got rid of the individuals that were actually loyal to the party, and would have effectively governed their section of the army. This meant that Hitler had to control an organisation of which historian Rudiger Overmans cites to be almost 18. 2 million at its peak, but did not have people in place to properly oversee and handle the more trivial matters. Therefore, military control would not have been as tight and thus the totalitarian idea of complete technologically conditioned control would not exist.
Lastly, the final stage to the six-point syndrome is for the party to have central control of the economy. This would entail previously private and national businesses to be bureaucratically controlled and directed by the state. In Mussolini’s Italy, this certainly does not hold. Despite him creating government cartels such as the National Fascist Confederation of Industry and the National Fascist Confederation of Banking, not all factories were nationalised, as some were still owned by rich industrialists.
Therefore, there was still a degree of private control within the country, and thus the state did not control all aspects of the economy. Historian Alexander de Grand commented on this as he stated ‘the fractionalisation of the state made it impossible to accomplish the totalitarian political and economic mobilisation. ’ To conclude, it appears that whilst both dictators did have a firm grasp on their countries, Hitler was more effective at implementing his ideology and installing a system of terror within the country.
He successfully crushed any sort of opposition, and he was the ultimate ruling power, unlike Mussolini who had to cooperate with the Roman Catholic Church and the monarchy at the time. One of Mussolini’s greatest failures was the fact that he was unable to mobilise the entire population towards fascism ideology. There was some degree to his totalitarianism, as his party was the only one to exist and he had control over communications, but unlike Hitler he was unable to take it further than that and obtain absolute rule over his country.
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