Totalitarianism in Pre-War Europe
Totalitarianism refers to a system of government and parliamentary
ideology that was in many of the countries of Europe between the years
1918-1939. This period saw many ideologies being developed and put
into practice, and many even blame the rise of totalitarian states and
aggressive, autocratic leaders for the Second World War.
Totalitarianism is often associated with regimes in which there is one
leader and party unquestionably in power with no significant rivals.
In a totalitarian state, the ideology of the party is often firmly
indoctrinated. The term was first used in 1925 to describe a
socio-political system that was comprehensive and all embracing. It
applies to both extremes of political systems, Communism and Fascism.
Historians Carl Friedrich and Zbigniew Brzezinski, in 1956, tried to
identify certain features of totalitarianism. It has an official
ideology that is generally adhered to, the state has control over the
military, economy and mass communication, particularly in the field of
administering propaganda and censoring the press, and has a terror
inspiring police force for controlling the population. As described by
the historian Robert Pearce, "â€¦a fully totalitarian government
controls the whole life of its citizens. This, 'everything should be
rendered unto Caesar.'"
In Europe of the pre-war period, the rise of totalitarian primarily
refers to the three states of Germany, Russia and Italy, with their
three charismatic, almost deistic figures, Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin
and Benito Mussolini although General Franco's Spain may be considered
a totalitarian, Fascist regime as well. The degree to which the
dictators really did turn their state into one that is purely
totalitarian is debatable, but on the surface, each possessed the
required quality of totalitarian states. As each of the states had a
different totalitarian regime with varying degrees of control and
severity, most factors for the rise of, and in many cases, the
appearance of totalitarianism are different. In order to identify
them, it is important to know the background of the states that turned
to totalitarian governments and dictators.
Benito Mussolini's Italy, although it had the faÃ§ade of a Fascist
nation was largely not under his control. Other sources of power,
although not a threat to his regime, nevertheless existed, as the
monarchy and the Roman Catholic Church were still regarded highly by
the majority of the Italian people. Although his aim, as he once said,
was "everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing
against the state", Mussolini still did not have much control over the
Italians, as can be seen by the various attempts, and final success to
Hitler's Germany was, in many respects, more organized....