Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany as Totalitarian Atates
A totalitarian state refers to a country in which the central
government exercises total control over all aspects of people's life.
Main features include an infallible leader, one-party rule, strict
party discipline, elitism, planned economy, an official doctrine,
absolute obedience of individuals to the State, nationalism and
usually an expansionist foreign policy. Up to these criteria, both
Fascist Italy (1922-43) and Nazi Germany (1933-45) could be deemed
totalitarian states to a large extent.
Chaotic situation, irrationality and national humiliation often lead
to totalitarianism. Both the Fascist and Nazi regimes owed their rise
to the people's disillusionment with the Paris Peace Settlement and
postwar difficulties. Though being a victorious power in World War
One, Italy could not get all she wanted on the Paris Peace Conference.
Especially Fiume was given to Yugoslavia, Italy's rival in Adriatic.
As the major defeated power, Germany was punished heavily by the
Treaty of Versailles. She was to pay a huge indemnity, cede
traditional territories, lose all overseas possessions, accept almost
total disarmament and the "war-guilt" clause, etc. Both Italy and
Germany had unsuccessful democratic experiment. The coalition party
governments in both countries had been incompetent in restoring
national pride and getting rid of massive unemployment and
hyper-inflation. Thus, a strong leader and efficient one-party rule
were accepted in both Italy and Germany. However, Hitler came to power
constitutionally while Mussolini staged a coup d'etat, i.e. the March
One-party rule is a totalitarian feature. In Italy it was the Fascists
while in Germany the Nazis. They claimed to represent all the people
and regarded themselves as the elite. The Fascists and Nazis shared
only 5% and 4% of the Italian and German populations respectively.
Strict party discipline was stressed. As party members spread among
different classes, they were able to control people at large.
In a totalitarian state all powers are vested in an infallible leader.
In Fascist Italy Mussolini was the Duce, while in Nazi Germany Hitler
was the Führer. The regimes were organized in a hierarchy and headed
by these all-powerful leaders. Both Mussolini and Hitler were the
personification of the State. By comparison, however, Hitler was more
powerful as he was the supreme head of the State. After the death of
President Hindenburg in 1934, Hitler merged Presidency and
Chancellorship, and inherited the position of Commander-in-Chief.
Above Mussolini, on the contrary, there was King Victor Emmanuel III.
He could dismiss Mussolini; he did so in 1943.
Totalitarian regimes usually employ terror as a means of mass control.