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The Soviet Union As A Totalitarian Regime

2239 words - 9 pages

The domination of political control must be all encompassing and commands authority from the public and private lives of citizens to the functions of social and economic institutions in order to be distinguished as a totalitarian state. Through the study of Juan Linz, Hannah Arendt and other political philosophers, we are able to define the Soviet Union under Stalin’s control as a true totalitarian regime. The simultaneous components of the center of power surrounding Stalin and his Central Committee, a Stalinist ideology manipulated from Marxist and Leninist philosophy, and the mobilization of the population to participate in collectivization and the Five-Year Plans are parallel to Linz’s ...view middle of the document...

The Soviet Union under Stalin is a primary example of a totalitarian state as his authority penetrated every aspect of society from his rise to power in 1924 to his death in 1953.
To determine the characteristics of a totalitarian regime, the elements provided by Juan Linz will be reviewed then compared to those of Hannah Arendt and shall be the basis to define such system in the case study of Stalin’s Soviet Union. From the chapter Totalitarian Systems in “Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes”, Linz offers three main points that must apply for the system to be considered totalitarian. First, “there is a monistic but not monolithic center of power,” (Linz 2000, 70) where pluralism is not tolerated and all subsequent political and institutions must derive it’s legitimacy from. Second, all policies and it’s legitimization stems from an “exclusive, autonomous, and more or less intellectually elaborate ideology,” and gives the meaning to the purpose and interpretation of the system’s reality. Finally, Linz adds that “citizen participation in and active mobilization for political and collective social tasks are encouraged, demanded, rewarded and channeled,” through the party and any institutions that has derived from it (Linz 2000, 70). It should be clear that there is only one possible philosophy and that all channels of society must adhere it. Hannah Arendt adds in her very comprehensive study “The Origins of Totalitarianism”, that emphasis is placed on the mobilization of a mob society, the use of propaganda and organizations to fuel the movement, the total domination achieved by the use of secret police and the overall definition of what she called “a novel form of government” through the use of ideology and terror. While much of her points coincides Linz’s, we must distinguish that while both agree on the center of power, participation of the masses and the use of organizations and institutions through the party, Arendt’s inclusion of propaganda and terror is not essential of a totalitarian system for Linz but will be for used for this study. Therefore, I will combine both philosophies define the totalitarian system of the Soviet Union under Stalin with the following criterion: a monistic center of power defined by Stalin’s leadership, an ideology called Stalinism based off of Marxist and Leninist principles, a single party system as portrayed by the Central Committee Party and it’s infiltration and total domination on society, and the simultaneous repercussions of terror through the use of the secret police (NKVD) to mobilize and command society. I shall also highlight the propaganda used at each level.
Josef Stalin sat at the center of power in the totalitarian Soviet Union. He was never a strong contender to be Lenin’s successor but climbed up the Bolshevik ladder with his manipulated depiction of himself as Lenin’s true disciple and his low-brow appeal to the peasantry class (Over 2004, 9). He was able to build his public perceived image...

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