* war and social upheaval: World War II -- Totalitarian Political Parties

World War II: National Totalitarian Political Parties--Comparisons

World War II totalitarian parties
Figure 1.--One of the many cimmon feature of both totalitararian Communism and Fascism was the veneration of their leaders to virtually god-like infalability. The NAZUs referredto the Führee Principle. Hitler and Mussolini could not be challenfed. This was most prominent in Communist states with Stalin in the Soviet Union and Mao in China or today Kin in North Korea. And in the satellite states, narional leaders ruled unchallenfed with their faces and slogans plastered all over the country in huge billboards like we see here in Yugoslavia during 1960. Also norice the dreary Soviet/East Bloc archirecture.

World War II histories primarily focus on two Fascist parties, the Italian Fascists and the German National Socialists (NAZIS). In fact, there were two totalitarian systems, Fascism and Communism. Coomunist parties existed before World war I. The war brought the Communists to power in Russia and generated the forces that gave rise to Fascisn. Contrary to popular thought, World War II was not just launched by Adolf Hitler and the Grmn NAZI. Both the NAZIS and Josef Stalin's Soviet Communists combined forces to launch World War II. In fact there were many Fascist parties, most located in Europe as well as Communist parties. the implosion of pre-World war European empires (Austrian, German, and Russia) and the rise of nationalism there were fertile grounds for the growth of Fscist ideas. The Depression fueld the growth of extremism, both Communist and Fascist. Often missed in popular histories is the substantil similarities with Communism. Too many see Fascism and Communism as polar opposites in the political spectrum. In fact the polar of opposites of the totalitarians (both Fascist and Communist varints) was liberal democracy. And during the 1930s withthe Depression, liberal democracy lost ground to the totalitaians, especially the Fascist parties. The European Fascist parties were inflienced by the Italians and Germans, but not controlled. Only in Italy and Germany did the Fascists rise to power, but Few of these other Fascist parties gained control. Ironically, the exception was Greece which became a victim of Fascist aggression. Even so, the other achieved considerable influence during World War II after the Germans occupied country after country. There was even a Fascist party in America. The most important was the German-Americn Bund, but membership was mostly restricted to ethnic Germans, largely relatively recent immigrants. The controling power in Japan is usually described as the Milirarists. This was a Fascist variant. The military officers which seized control of Japan were essentially Fascists, it is just that the stridently xenophobic military led the way rather than a political party. While the different Fascist parties had major similarities, there were also some differences. Each country has its own destinct history and mix of contending totalitarian parties. The national communist parties were mostly under the control of the Soviet Communist Party through he NKVD/KGB.


The totalitarian powers adopted socialist economic systems. This was a matter of control. No poltical system is totalitatian with out control of the economy. Cenreak cintrol of the economy is a preteqisite of a totralitarian state. In fact this was primary method of imposing cintrol, dominatiin of the economy and socialist systens was a means of exertung control. This is obvious with Communist countries who proudly proclaim socialism. Less well understood is Fascist socialism. The official name of the NAZI Party was the Bational Socialst orkers Paety. The term Socialist was not just window dressing. Niw it is true that the NAZIs did not outlaw private owneship, but control of important enterprises passed to the state which cintrolled what was profuced, prices, wages, raw material, and labor. Pwners who did not fall in line simolu lir their businesses and might even face arrest. A good examole is what happened to Ernest Hinkel the owner of one of Germany's most important aviation companies when he differed over Governent ibstructiins. The NAZI government 'nationalised' the Heinkel works. Heinkel was detained until he sold his controlling interest in his factories to Luftwaffe chief Herman Göring. Everybone kniws about Soviet Five Year Plan. Kess well known is the very simiklar NAZI Four Year Plan. And like the Soviets, the NAZIs did away with the free labor unions and tool control of the labor movement. A similar fynamic was at play with Italian Fascism. Benito Mussolini rose out of tge Italian Socialist movement. His concept was the Corporate State. That did not mean private ownershio, but the idea that the Fascist state was one big Government-controlled corporation. What was entirely different was the Capitalist system that prevailed in the liberal Weestern democracies. Here inividuals could build companies and crate businesses with only limited gpvernetal interferencem vating from country to country. Predictably, the vountry with the strngest capitalist sustem became the most siccesdsful. Even in the the post World War II social democrats in Europe have figured out that socialism does nor work. They do not have socialist economies, but welfare states. And that a healthy capitalist economy is needed to fund the welfare programs. The capitalist liberal democracies (Amerca and Britain) would not only play a najor role in destroying totalitatian Fascism during World War II, but ultimately totalitarian Communism during the Cold War.

Political System

Totalitarianism is a form of government or political orgabization that severely restricts individual fe=reddon. All aspects of individual life are subordinated to the rhe authority of the state. The two makjor forms of totalitarianism are Fascism and Communism. Both arose in the aftermath of World War I. Italian dictator Benito Mussolini coined the term totalitarian after seizing power (1922). He used it to descrive new Fascist state of Italy. He defined it as 'all within the state, none outside the state, none against the state.' The Blasheviks/Communists had seized contol of Russia a few years earlier (1917). The Fascists were straight forward about their rejection of liberal democracy. The Bolsheviks rejected democracy as well, but were more likely to claim that their regimes were democratic. The Sovirts even estabkished a democratic cinstitution which was largely ignored bu the state. Another Fascist Party deized power in Germany--the National Socialist German Worker's Party -- NAZI (1933). These parties became synonymous with absolute, oppressive pne party government. Other totalirarian regimes would follow after World War II (1945), most prominently the Communist regime in China. There are several common political features of a totaliratian system. First was a police force empowered to act with no legal constraunts. The most famous of these firces ere the Soviet Cheka/NKVD/KGB and NAZI Gestapo. Second were concentration camps. These were internment facilities beyond prisons where authorities could deal with people beyond the contraint of law. In addition to concentration camps were longer term slave labor camps with high death rates. Third was total conrol over media includung radio and later television, movies, plays and publications (newspaoers, magazines, and books). Fifth was denial of basic civil liberies such as speech and assembly. Six was the prohibition of political mparties other thna the governing party. Both Comminist abd Fascist regimes are identical in these features. Seven is the exclusion of the general public from the political bpricess. Some Communist regimes mayhave elections, but they are not real elections that have any role in chosing the leadership and direction of society. It is liberal democracies that are different in all respects. And this can be measured by the acoutements of totalitarian political order: concentratiin camos, death camos, slave labor camps, secret police with unbrialed power, use of torture, mass graves, show trials, seizure of private property, cult of persinality, etc.


A central feature of a democraric state is the rule of law. Law is a feature of civilized society that has developed over time. There have been many major historical contrinutions to modern law. And it means that not citizensm but the government and its agencies including the police are constrained by the law. The rule of law is an established system of laws, institutions, norms, and community commitment that have four basoc features: 1) accountability, 2) just, 3) openly derived, and 4) assessible. Totalitariam states have laws, but the laws do not neet the four basic princioles. In addirion the Government is not ew=equired to abide by thise laws, And the state can take actions bot authorized by law. Tgeseaciins can be minor actions orvthey can be actions of the nost horendous nature, including torture and murder. In the cases of the Soviets and NAZIsm the authiriries were involved on the deaths of millions.

The Arts

As in other areas, the approach to the arts was identical in both totalitarian Fascist and Communist countries. It was the liberal demoicracies that had the differing approach. The arts in totalitarian socieies became a function of the ideological views of the state. Artists who did nor comply to the state's world view were not allowed to create. Geramn arrtists know for creating art that viloated NAZI ideals might be visited by the Gestapo ro make surecthey did not have brushed and paint. Authors had their books burned. Thoe wko had pinned anti-NAZI articles and bools were arrested and many disappeared in the concentration camps. Those who has questionws NAZI ideology were mostly just silenced. The Soviet inteligencia was a major tareget of the Chekka/NKVD. Most who did not confirm to Markist ideology or even suspecred of not confirming were arrested in huge numbers and dusappeared in the Gulag. Hwre it was not a matter of publishung anti-Communist works. This was impossible. Even thise who had idea that seemed to criticize the state werte arrested and disappered. The loneral democracies were very dufferent. Art was seen as a legitimate form of expression, including criticism of the state. In fact most Western democracies had consituutionlly protected rights of free expression. The results could not be more garingly apparent. The nimber of recohnized works of art coming our of Fascist and Communist countries were very limited. One of the most notable Soviet books was Boris Pasternak's Dr. Zivago. He won a Nobel Prize for literatyre, but Soviet officials would not allow him ro accepr it. And for the rest of his life he was houndedvby the KGB. A factor in the creatiin of art is ecomomics. It shoild bevboted that the arts were well funded in the Soviet Union. Artists and writers became state emoloyees. It is just that their outout had little real artistic value. We are less sure about Fascist regimes as to the quantity of art created.


Science is another area which is significantly affected about the resources devoted to it. Unlike the arts, hiwever, there were important advances in both totalitarian states and the Western democracies. This is all too apparenent in the huge asvances in weaponry and their killing power, of course culminating in the Anglo-American Manhattan Project developing the atomic bombs dropped on Japan to end the War. Hitler never imagined that the the decadent democracies he deried could ever amass that anountbif raw power. Hitler explained the difference between totalitarian and democratic societies in their approch to science. Shortly after Hitler swized power, respected scientist Max Plank went to see Hitler after being forced to dismiss Jewish scientists from Germany's most prestigious scientific institute. He expalined that NAZI anti-Semetic campaign was having the impact of disarming Germany in physics (1933). Hitler was furious, he exploded with an anti-Semetic tirade and shouted at Plank "Our national policies will not be revoked or modified. Even for scientists. If the dismissal of Jewish scientists means the annihilation of contemporary German science, then we shall do without science for a few years!" [Hitler] NAZI udeoligy trumped sciebce. This was alao the case in the Soviet Union. In totalitarian countries, ideology alwats trumps science. And rhis was not just science, but was also the case in ither areas such as economucs, the arts, and even the military. There are similar incidents with Stalin. The nost famous is Stalin's rejection of genetics and his support for the scientific nonsence of Trotim Lysenko who believes that plants could be educated, just as the Russian populatiin coulf=d ve educared into the New Sovier famed. Famed Russian geneticist Nikolai Vavilov, would be starved to death by the NKVD. At this was atva rime rhat the ovuet Uniin desperately need ro increaase agricultural yields. As in NAZI Germany, ideolofy in the Soviet Union trumped science. Of course the Germans are famous for mamy of their excellent weapons. It should be remembered that the men incolved were educated in the excellent German schools and uncersities BEDORE the NAZI seized power. The NAZI wonder weapons were swveloped by these sciebntusts with the huge resources made available by the massive NAZI reamarament program. The Soviets akso decoyed huge resources to science, but did not have the amge aciebtific establishment of the NAZIs. Stalin had a way of seaking with this. He has special camps set up for sciebtusts. He belkieved that the would produce mjore under threat of their lives. This is desecibed in First Ciircle. [Solzhenitsynn] Some ofvthe Soviet Union's most acalimed scientists were arested and incarcerated in these camps, including famed rocket expert Sergei Korolev. As sppm as substantial resources were devoted to military weaponry, the Allies began to close the technological gap. There were two major impacts on science, impacts that would take longer than 6 war years to fully develop and were more apparent during the Cold War. Hitler inherited a scientific powerhouse. Before Hitler, German scienctists dominated Nobel Prize awards. After the War it was the United States that dominated. One factor in this was the huge numbers of Jewish and other scientists Hitler drove out of Gernany and and German occupied countries. Another interesting development was the fact that while Soviet science matched Western science in many areas, they did little with the achievements of their scientists outside of mikitary production. All the new industries that came out of World War II and Cold War science were develped in the West, promarily the United States. Who outside the Soviet Union has ever purchased a product of Soviet industry. Ironically the defeated Axis countries bebefitted more from the science than the Soviet people.


Ar the outset of World War II it was the totalitarian powes, both the NAZIs and the Soviets that bhad large armies. The French called up the reservesm but Brutain and Aneruca has rather small armies. The imapct of ideplogy om military operations can be seen to have neen am important factor in how the totalitarianns waged war. but not the democracies. Again, the important difference is not netween the NAZIs and Communists, but between the totalitarians and liberal democracies. It is certainly the NAZIs especially Hitler that was most obsessed with ideology awhich had a huge impact on military operations. On mumerous important matters when Hittler had to chose between NAZI ideolplogy and military mecesity, he invaraiably chose NAZI ideology. There are many such instances. First his decesion to pursue abti-Semitism despite the impact on German science. This essentially ensured the success of the Anglo-American Manhattan project. Second was Hitler's conviction that the democracies (Britain and France) would never go to war with Germany despite thevinvasion of Poland (September 1939). He did not think that weak, decadent demicracies could nuster the intestiinal fortitude. Third was the invasion of the Soviet Union (June 1941). A quick look at Mein Kampf identifies the primary NAZI tatget, but was the only country in 1941 that could match the Wehrrmancht militarily. Despite the danger, NAZI ideology identifified the Soviet Union as not only the source of resources, but the central power of Bolsheviks, Slavs, and Jews. Fourth was the refusal to arm huge numbers of anti-Soviet Ukranians in the Ostheer. The outcome vof the War in the East determined the outcome of the War and despite desperate manpower shortages, for ideoliogical reasons, Hitler refused to to accept millions who would have readily fought the Red Army. Fifth was declaring war on the United States. Hitler comvinced himself that Jews and Blacks ran the country (he did not bother to look at the cabinet, Congress, and Wall Street) sapping its former strenth. He assured the German military that the United States could not effectively mobilize and deploy in Europe until 1970. [Bevor] Sixth Hitler began appointing military commandersbased on NAZI Party loyalty rather than military competence. Seventh Hitler adopted the Sovirt practice of appointing National Sivialist politucal officers in military formations. The liberal demoracies fought the war in sharp contrast. Britain forned a coalitiin giverbment. The Conservatives and Labiour put their differences aside to fight the NAZIs. The coalition continued until after VE Day. America also moved away from particasn politics. Democratic President Franklin Rossevelt selected Republicans to serve as Secretary of War and Secretary of the Navy. After Pearl Harvor, not only did Isolationism, but partisan politices disolved. Americams was instantly all in. And the lefd leaning Prsident turned to the country's leading capitalist to help mobilize the economy--William Knudnusen. Unlike the NAZIs and Soviets, the American milirary was not partisan. Appointments were nade on thevbasid of military competence.

War Ecomomy

All of the major beligerant powers took measures to mobilize their economies for war. Here ideology was factor, but the immediacy of the danger was also a factor. This is part of the reason that the NAZIs of all powers f=did not fully gear for war. Hitler knew that war-time shortages om the himefront had undermined support for the War. He wascdetermined to avoid that and as a result did not fully mobilize until wellminto the War, The gact thatabftervthe fall of France (Junw 1940) he believed he has won the War was a factor. As with the military, he took actiins nased on ideology rather the needs of the war energency. The Holocaust was a case in point. In the middle if a serious labir shiertage, ghe NAZIs set out to murder millions of the best educated and hardest working prople in the NAZI Grossraum. And largely based on ideology, the NAZIs resisted recruiting German women for work in the industrial factories. And the brutal NAZI occuoatiin regimes in cinquiered territories had the impact of severely impding ecomomic activity reducung what the NAZIS coukld exploit. It was clear that a moderate occuption policy actually increased what could be obrained. Denmark was a case in point. This small vcountry probided large quantities of mot only agricultural goods bit industrial producion as well. Repression advervely affected production and as eesult Herman exploitation. The Soviet made no changes in their ecomnomic policy, even though collctivization signifivabtly reducd farm production.


As in other areas there was a substantial similarity among the totalitarian powers and diffeence with the liberal democracies. The totalirarian powers were largely atheist, especially the two major powers, the Soviet Union and NAZI Germany. The smaller Axis powers were different, in part because religion was part of the national patriotic spirit that the Fascists did nit ant to change. The Bolsheviks launched a widespread, brutal atheist campaign continued with even more brutality by Stalin. It was publically announced and pursued with vigor. Arresting priests and nuns, executing some, and allowing mist to persish in the Gulag. Important churches were turned into hprse stables or torn down. Most Russians did not dare attend church. This changed somewhat after the NAZI invasiion (1941). Stalin miderated the atheism campaign as he turned into resistance to the NAZIs as the nationlisric Grear Patriitic War. After the War, he resumed it, albeit with not the same level of raw terrory. Hitler as was often the case was not forthright on religion. He never publically said he was an ateist or pubically enuciated an atheist policy, but he strongly pursued one. He did not want to disrupt the war effort by launching a Soviet-styled atheist camapign. His idea was after he had won the War to launch a new relighion, replace Christianity with the state religion of National Socialism. While Hitler did not launchan atheist campaoign, he did ininitae a campaign against Christian clerics, especially Catholic priests. The NAZI Hitler Youth movemnt was designed to move children away from both the family and religion. Italian Fascism was different, it did not have tge revolutionary zealmof Communism and NAZIism. Mussolini as an important Socialist was a fervent atheistand an anti cleric. The hot along with the Church and used it as a prop for the regume, this only began to channge when under German pressure, Mussolini began anti-Semetic actions. Japan had a highly natiinlist stste religiin, but we question just how Shintoism van be considered a religion in the Western sence. There was never a hint of criticism from Shinto priesrs abiut the vast crimes and atrocities commited by the Japanese miklitary. The liveral democracies in sharp contrast made freedom of religion a part of theor war goals. Britain, American, and France wereseclar nations, but with a string tradition of religious freedom. Freedom of relihion is inbedded in the American Bill of Roghts. Freedom of religion was one of the Four Freedoms enuciated by President Roosevelt.


World War II was in some respects a race war, this was the case because especially in Europe and Japan, leaders conflated race and ethnicity with the country. This was especially the Fascists. Nationalism was central to the ideology and nationalism for the Fascists carried a verty substantial ethnic/racial dimension. This was especially the case for Hitler and the NAZIs. Many students of World War II view the Holocaust as a strange footnote. It was not. Murdering Jews was a central NAZI war goal. At that goal was not limited to Jews. The Oskkrieg included a plan to murder tens of millioms of Slavs and other ethtnic groups in the East and enslabe the survivors so the land could be Germanized--Generalplan Ost. The Hunger Plan was another part of that effort. This was no unimportant footnote, it was heart and soul of the NAZI war effort. Now it is true that Communist ideology projects a brotherhood of mankind. This is ine of rge rare differences between the totalitarian powers. This is, however, deceptive. Stalin shifted his war propaganda from Communism to Russian nationalism. And throughout the War he pursued a policy of highly mationalistic Russian angrandizement. He adopted a Russification policy that outdid Tsar Alexabder III. As part of his alliance with Hitler, he pursed Russification even more vigorously than Hitler pursued Germanization--commiting massive war crimes and atrocities. This was the case in the territory seized from Finland and Romania. In the lands seized from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, a brutal effort was launched to repress the national spirit. Large numbers of people who were seen as the heart of the national poprit were arresred, shot, and or deported to Central Asian and Siberia. There were also attacks on what were identified and Traitor Nations. Whole populations were deported to Siberai and Central Asia. Now racism was endemic in America and Britain at the time. Segregatioin ruled in the American South and the U.S. military remained segregated. And after Prael Harbpr the Japanese on the West Coast (but not Hawaiia) were interned. But changes were under way even before the War. Segegration had begun to be challenged in the courts which was being transformed by New Deal judicial appointments. And large numbers of African-American had moved North where they found greater (if imperfect) economic and political freedom. And that change was accelerated by the War. Mrs Roosevelt championed African Americans. Arranging for Marian Anderson to give a much publicized concert at the Lincoln Memorial. Hessie Owens impressed Amerivans and infuriated Hitler at the Berlin Olympics. Joe Louis in his fights with Max Smelling begame a natioal hero. President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802 (1941) prohibiting decrimination in the burgeoning war industries. And along with court rulings, programs like the Tuskeegee Airmen tge Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team was preparing the way for the post-War integration of the U.S. military.



Hitler, Adolf. As reported by Max Plank.

Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr Isayevich. First Circle


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Created: 3:12 AM 5/20/2020
Last updated: 3:12 AM 5/20/2020