How totalitarian were Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany?
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. 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. 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...
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