Differences Between Totalitarianism and Fascism: Fascism and totalitarianism are two viewpoints of authoritarian systems of political government that have existed in their pure forms in specific regions of the world throughout history, and which now exist alongside other political philosophies. Totalitarianism is a considerably newer political philosophy than fascism.
The word “fascist” comes from the Latin word “fasces,” which means “power” and depicts an image of rods and axes. The intellectual roots of fascism can be found in the writings of some 18th and 19th century European voluntaristic philosophers, such as Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 – 1860) and Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) of Germany, Henri Bergson (1859-1941) and George Sorel (1847-1922) of France, and Gabriele D’Annunzio (1863-1938) and Giovanni Gentile (1875 – 1944) of Italy, who all regarded will as superior Benito Mussolini (1883 – 1945), the quintessential fascist of modern history, was heavily influenced by George Sorel and Giovanni Gentile. Sorel believed that society had a natural propensity to decay and become corrupt, and that a strong idealist leader must emerge to stop the society’s decline and lead the masses.The supremacy of totalitarianism, as defined by Gentile, means ultimate subjugation of human will and freedom to the authority of a leader who represents the state authority.
In early cultures, kings and rulers of lesser kingdoms wielded absolute authority in state government. However, totalitarianism as we know it now emerged just after World War I, as extreme far right political parties came to power in Italy and Germany and communists assumed authority in Russia. After Mussolini of Italy ascended to the throne of authority in 1925, Giovanni Gentile coined the word totalitarianism for the first time. Mussolini admired Gentile’s vision of a comprehensive sociopolitical system, while Hitler of Germany and Stalin of Russia used the word to disparage one other. In their work Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy, US historians Friedrich and Brzezinski popularized the phrase in the aftermath of the Cold War (1956).
Although the two notions are similar in nature and are frequently used interchangeably, there are some distinctions between them. This article aims to highlight the evident contrasts as well as the places where the two notions of state governance overlap.
Differences Between Totalitarianism and Fascism
1. Conceptual differences: Fascism is an extreme right-wing authoritarian doctrine in which the state or race is viewed as an organic community with ultimate and unwavering devotion to the state. Fascist propagandists create in citizens a superiority complex and a terror psychosis towards supposed enemies of the race or nation, as the case may be. As a result, the entire population is exhorted to rally behind the fascist leader in order to either safeguard the population’s superior identity or fight the adversary, as the leader and his supporters see it. The ruling class’s propaganda machine subtly imprints unquestioning allegiance to the leader in the minds of the people, making them feel that their own personal wellbeing is subservient to the organic community’s ideological goal.
Totalitarianism is a political notion in which the state monopolizes all resources within its geographical boundaries and mobilizes the whole population to support the state’s cause, which is represented by a monopolistic political party. Totalitarian regimes aggressively assume the position of protector of the so-called corrupt and immoral society, promising an alternative style of government that will heal the community’s problems. The dictatorship uses high-decibel propaganda efforts to win citizens’ support and force them to accept the rule. In the name of state hegemony, the state interferes with every individual’s activities and the operation of constitutional bodies, thus absorbing all civil freedoms.
2. Differences in modus-operandi: Fascist governments employ secret police forces and party cadres to monitor civilians for anti-regime thoughts, statements, propaganda, and activities, and they urge selective violence against violators. A fascist, on the other hand, does not have to be a totalitarian in the sense that the leader may or not be enthusiastic in restricting individual liberty as long as it does not go against the notion of organic community.
Party cadres penetrate all socioeconomic domains, including education, sports, health, and business, through the formation of unions. Fascist governments use covert assassinations and, in certain cases, genocide against so-called inferior enemy races. Fascist leaders sometimes adorn their hats with a feather of internationalism by advocating ethnic cleansing beyond national borders in the name of ideological and racial unity, as witnessed in various eastern African and European nations.
On the other end, totalitarian governments primarily deploy official propaganda apparatus to advertise the nation’s cause and distribute half-truth or misleading stories about the failure of other institutions and the regime’s achievements. Because the state is regarded as sacred and the party as its custodian, totalitarian governments resort to widespread killings of their own citizens, justifying the killings as necessary to serve the state’s interests.
3. Differences in power: As witnessed in history, a fascist dictatorship may gain power by democratic methods, but it is a vehement opponent of practical democracy, and therefore seeks to seize all executive powers, either legally permitted or not. The fascist government violently suppresses all democratic and autocratic political factions in society.
A totalitarian dictatorship is more concerned with wielding authoritative authority in order to curtail civil liberties. Because it is the sole political party in operation, the ruling party has complete control over all authoritative authorities.
4. Differences in imperialistic and expansionist attitude: Between fascism and totalitarianism, there has always been a fundamental distinction. While most totalitarian governments limit their operations to the geographical boundaries of the states they rule, fascist regimes sometimes hold imperialistic intentions.
5. Differences in state planning: Fascist administrations across the world have consistently prioritized the race and group to which they belonged. As a result, military planning has often taken precedence over economic and other plans.
Totalitarian administrations have prioritized economic planning, often placing the cart before of the horse, as well as military preparation. The most famous examples of this are Hitler and Stalin.
6. Examples: Italy’s Benito Mussolini (1883–1955) is a textbook illustration of fascism and totalitarianism. Hitler (1889 -1945) of Germany was elected to power and became the world’s most reviled fascist, yet he was never a totalitarian, as the personal rights of German Christians were never jeopardized under his command. Hideki Tojo of Japan, Engelbert of Austria, Vargas of Brazil, Gonzalez of Chile, Chiang Kai-shek of China, Philippe of France, Antonescu of Romania, and Franco of Spain are just a few of the world’s fascist dictators worth noting.
Many more intermittent fascist groups and leaders have arisen across the world, but few have succeeded in gaining power.
The world’s authoritarian governments are likewise not in short supply. Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union, Benito Mussolini of Italy, the Kim family of North Korea, Mao Zedong of China, and the Castro brothers of Cuba are just a few of the dreaded leaders of totalitarian regimes that have permanently damaged human civilization.
a. Fascism regards the race or society as an organic community, and individual liberty is regarded as secondary to the race/community/interests. nation’s Totalitarianism views society as incapable and corrupt, and hence establishes control over it.
b. Fascism possesses enormous executive authority, allowing it to regulate and control any anti-regime activities. Totalitarianism seizes absolute authority and attempts to regulate every citizen’s action as well as the functions of constitutional authorities.
c. To promote their aims, fascist governments rely heavily on secret police and party operatives. Totalitarian regimes rely on official propaganda and military might to accomplish their desired outcomes.
d. Totalitarian governments have a less imperialist stance than fascist regimes.
e. Benito Mussolini was a fascist as well as a totalitarian. Stalin was the embodiment of totalitarianism, while Hitler was the quintessential fascist.
f. Military planning was given more weight by fascist governments than economic planning. Military and economic planning were given equal weight by totalitarian governments.