The period that immediately followed the First World War was marked by the autocratic regimes in Austria, Germany and Russia being replaced by republics as they were overthrown. There seemed to be a promise of an era of democracy as the seven states that had all been newly created adopted the republican form of government giving the impression that democracy had finally been found after the First World War.
However, this did not last as after only two decades, a form of dictatorship took over most of the democratic European countries. While some countries became communists, others took to fascism which resulted to totalitarian form of government (Gardner, Kleiner & Mamiya, 2005). In totalitarianism individuals had absolutely no freedom in their life as all political, intellectual, social, cultural, economic and even religious and spiritual activities were subordinated to the authority of the rulers and the government.
This form of rule was characterized by the rulers of the government as a central power controlling all the aspects of the citizens’ lives through force and repression such that those who held views that were different from the ideologies of the rulers and had different practices in the mentioned aspects of their lives were considered to be against the state hence enemies.
Totalitarianism was manifested through mass-media that was state controlled, one party state in which the party controlled everything that went on in the state, mass surveillance accompanied with state terrorism and restricted free discussion or criticism especially of the governmental ideologies. In European countries such as such as Russia under Stalin and Germany under Hitler, totalitarianism and the practices of the government received overwhelming support from the citizens (Gardner, Kleiner & Mamiya, 2005).
The support was however not spontaneous, it required the rulers to be charismatic so that he would be able to draw support. The rapid development in infrastructure especially communication and transportation played a great role in the rise and spread of the totalitarianism and growth of its popularity amongst the citizens in the countries in which it was practised. This paper seeks to discuss totalitarianism and the reasons for its rise in Europe in the early 20th century.
Totalitarianism is characterized by the state pursuing some goal that is special such as conquest of a certain region, exclusion of all others who hold different ideologies from those ones of the state or industrialization. All resources of the state usually are directed and focussed on achievement of these goals regardless of their cost. Anything that furthers the attainment of the goal is fully supported while the things that threaten to foil this achievement are rejected.
It is a form of obsession that triggers an ideology that explains and describes things in terms of the intended goal, justifying all obstacles that could arise and all the forces that may struggle against the state in achieving the desired goal (Gardner, Kleiner & Mamiya, 2005). This results to the state getting popular support from the citizens which gives it the power to practice any form of governmental actions. Anyone opposing the goals or ideologies of the state is considered evil and political differences within the state not allowed.
Achievement of the goal is never acknowledged even in the event the state actually gets to achieve it. This is because totalitarianism is entirely founded on the ideology of achieving the goal such that in the event the goal is achieved then it should cease to exist. The pursuit of specific goals by different leaders for the states they ruled is considered to be the main reason for the rise of totalitarianism in Europe. As mentioned earlier, fascism was one of the main reasons for totalitarianism. This ideology was common in Germany and Italy.
It originated with Mussolini Benito in his rule over the country. This ideology in which the proponents advocated for the creation of a single party state was a reaction against equality, liberty and fraternity that were being proposed by democratic nations such as France and Britain after they won the war. Fascists argued that nations and races usually are in a conflict in which only the strongest and the healthiest survive. Apart from being healthy the strongest also survive by asserting themselves against the weak through repression and in combat (Griffiths 2005).
These governments prohibited and suppressed opposition and any form of criticism to the government. In Germany, races that were not German such as the Jews, Slavs and individuals who were either sick or disabled were targeted for execution as Hitler’s government sought to have a nation of pure healthy Germans. Fascism claimed that a nation was the race and hence sought to execute everyone who was not of the race of the rulers (Griffiths 2005). Fascism is also characterized by respect and love for collective organization in which individuals work together to achieve a certain goals and ideology.
This formed totalitarianism in Italy and Germany. In which the citizens were organized against other individuals of other races that were considered a threat to achieving a nation that was formed of one superior race. Nazism was movement mostly in Germany which was is also referred to as National Socialism. This movement sought to spread the ideologies of Adolf Hitler’s government in Germany and the world as a whole. Nazism is argued to be a form of fascism as its characteristics are the same as those ones of fascism as it featured racism, expansion and obedience/loyalty to one leader.
Hitler expected everyone to be loyal to him and executed anyone who defiled his orders. Nazism also had theories about other races which portrayed them as inferior to German Aryans and a threat to its existence hence the necessity to get rid of them. This led to the massive execution of the Jews and the disabled Germans as they were considered unfit for survival according to fascism. This ideology is therefore one of the reasons for the rise of totalitarianism in Germany and most of its neighbouring nations (Klaus Vondung 2005). Bolshevism-Stalinism was the reason for the rise of totalitarianism in Russia.
Bolshevism was a movement formed by professionals who believed in military control over the country and democratic centralism such the party (Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party) took form of internal hierarchy in which individuals from other groups were not allowed to lead the party. Only these members made decisions and any party that was formed to challenge Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party it was purged (Worley, Morgan & Laporte 2002). This movement greatly supported single party state and is believed to have caused the rise of Stalinism.
Stalinism refers to the form of government used by Joseph Stalin and those who were allied to his ideologies (Worley, Morgan & Laporte 2002). This ideology is sometimes referred to as red fascism as it is a form of fascism. Stalinism refers to a form of governance that is characterized by oppression of the citizens and extensive spying by the government so that individuals can not criticize or form movements to overthrow it. This system was also characterized by purging in which those who were opposed to the government ideologies were sent to prison camps or sometimes killed.
The state used propaganda and established some form of cult around a leader who was a dictator so that he would have absolute control over the communist party and maintain control over all the citizens of Russia. Apart from the mentioned countries, Austria also participated in the rise of totalitarianism by supporting Nazism and Fascism. Its Prime Minister Kurt Waldheim is said to have assisted Germany in transporting Jews to dearth camps. Several other Eastern and Central European countries also got obsessed with the fascist movement (Klaus Vondung 2005).
This included Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Slovakia, Lithuania and Croatia. The fascist movements in these countries were all characterized racism specifically against the Jews whom they associated with communism which they greatly despised. Spain is the only country which though fascist never got obsessed with race and believing in the ant-Jewish conspiracies that characteristic of German’s Nazism. The rise of totalitarianism in Europe during the early 20th century was mainly due to fascism.
Both Nazism and Bolshevism-Stalinism which were the main movements in Europe at this time and are all forms of fascism which emphasizes on the power of the state over the citizens. A significant characteristic of these movements is racism in which each state believed in being occupied by only those who were of its race hence eliminating those who belonged to different races or had different practices than were contrary to the ideologies of the ruling government. The most affected race in Europe was the Jewish. The rise of totalitarianism in Europe can therefore be solely attributed to fascism.
Gardner, H. , Kleiner, S. & Mamiya, C. , (2005). Gardner’s Art Through The Ages: The Western Perspective. Sidney: Cengage Learning. Griffiths, R. (2005). Fascism second ed. New York, NY: Continuum International Publishing Group. Klaus Vondung, K. (2005). The Apocalypse in Germany, Columbia and London: Univ. of Missouri Press. Redles, D. (2005). Hitler’s Millennial Reich: Apocalyptic Belief and the Search for Salvation. New York, NY: New York Univ. Press. Worley, M. , Morgan, K. & Laporte, N. , (2002). Bolshevism, Stalinism And The Comintern: Perspectives On Stalinization. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
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