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Forms of Government: Totalitarianism, capitalism and communism (9

INTRODUCTION

 

As a society, we always flourish when we live together in communities. A country is nothing but one giant community, and like every community, it must be governed by individuals, whether elected or appointed. Today, let us study about the main purpose and functions of the totalitarianism, capitalism and communism government.

 

Government is an institution or a system made up of a group of people, who take care or manage a country or a State. When we say governance, what does that entail? How does it work?

 

TOTALITARIANISM

 

Benito Mussolini coined the term “totalitario” in the early 1920s to characterise the new fascist State of Italy, which he further described as “all within the State, none outside the State, and none against the State.”

 

ORIGIN OF TOTALITARIANISM

 

The term “totalitarianism” is traceable to the fascist era of the 1920s and 1930s, and it was first widely used by Italian fascist theorists, including Giovanni Gentile.

 

Its gradual advance came to be extended to include not just extreme ideas, and often impracticable dictatorships of the far right, but also Communist regimes, especially that of the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin. It is still frequently associated with Cold War of the 1940s and 1950s, a period during which it was most commonly exploited as a governance terminology, although its thoughtful implications surpasses that era’s political fears and wordcraft.

 

Meaning of Totalitarianism “Totalitarianism” as used here, denotes the most extreme modern dictatorial tendency of possessing perfectionist and utopian conceptions of mankind and society. It is a form of rule in which the government attempts to maintain ‘total’ control over society, including all aspects of the public and private lives of its citizens.

 

It is also a form of government that theoretically, tends to infringe on individual liberty with absolute impunity, and that solicits to cow all aspects of individual life to the authority of the State. One of the tenets of totalitarianism is also that, traditional social institutions and organisations are dissuaded and suppressed.

 

Thus, the social structure is feeble, frail and people become more persuaded to assimilate into a single, unified movement. In the seventeenth century, the proponent absolute or autocratic government and royalists such as Thomas Hobbes and Jacques Bossuet advocated, in a variety of ways, a virile and concentrated State as a guarantor against any form of abuse or dissident that is not in conformity with natural law and biblical precedent.

 

Nevertheless, totalitarianism, properly understood as a political reality, was conceptualised in the early twentieth century by Thinkers such as Carl Schmitt in Germany and Giovanni Gentile in Italy who helped to lay the foundations of fascist ideology, emphasising the defensive and unifying advantages of dictatorship. Attributes/Features of Totalitarianism

 

A conventional way of describing totalitarianism, is to present a list of characteristics common to Italian Fascism, German National Socialism, and Soviet Bolshevism (Other regimes may also be included – notably, Chinese Communism under the rule of Mao, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), and Pol Pot’s “Democratic Cambodia”).

 

Despite the many differences among totalitarian States, they have several characteristics in common, of which the most important are: A Single mass party, typically led by a dictator; System of terror, using such instruments as violence and secret police; Monopoly of weapons; Monopoly on the means of communication; Central direction and control of the economy through State planning; the existence of an ideology that addresses all aspects of life, and outlines the means to attain the final goal; A single mass party, through which the people are mobilised to muster energy and support;

The party is generally led by a dictator and, typically, participation in politics, especially voting, is compulsory; The party leadership maintains monopoly control over the governmental system, which includes the police, military, communications, and economic and education systems; Dissent is systematically suppressed, and people terrorised by a secret police; Autocracies through the ages have attempted to exercise control over the lives of their subjects, by whatever means were available to them, including the use of secret police and military force; However, only with modern technology, have governments acquired the means to control society; therefore, totalitarianism is, historically, a recent phenomenon.

 

DISTINCTION BETWEEN TOTALITARIANISM AND DICTATORSHIP

 

Totalitarianism is often distinguished from dictatorship, despotism, or tyranny by its supplanting of all political institutions with new ones, and its sweeping away of all legal, social, and political traditions.

 

The totalitarian State pursues some special goal, such as industrialisation or conquest, to the exclusion of all others. All resources are directed toward its attainment, regardless of the cost. Whatever might further the goal is supported; whatever might foil the goal is rejected.

 

This obsession spawns an ideology that explains everything in terms of the goal, rationalising all obstacles that may arise, and all forces that may contend with the State. The resulting popular support, permits the State the widest latitude of action of any form of government.

Any dissent is branded evil, and internal political differences are not permitted. Because pursuit of the goal is the only ideological foundation for the totalitarian State, achievement of the goal can never be acknowledged.

 

CAPITALISM

 

The pursuit of happiness by means of material prosperity, is not a new idea. It was the way of life, of many ancient Greeks and Romans. But, it fell into disrepute throughout    the entire Middle Ages. Why? Mainly for religious reasons. Medieval society was dominated by religion, in every field of human activity. For the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches, poverty was a virtue. It was a “test” that had to be accepted, by the poor.

 

The rich were rich and the poor were poor, by what was labelled a God-ordained arrangement. Voluntary poverty was considered “holy,” and “usury” (lending for gain) was condemned by canon law. Yet, while anathematising Jewish moneylenders, Catholic cathedral chapters lent money at high interest rates. The papacy itself, became “the greatest financial institution of the Middle Ages.”

 

This was the setup during much of the period of the feudal-ecclesiastical order. The Birth of Capitalism With the breakup of the feudal system, town and intercity trade grew. So did trade between nations. And ideas circulated more freely, particularly after the invention of the printing press.

 

The influence of the Catholic Church, began to wane. Medieval Catholicism had been the greatest obstacle, to the development of a new economic system. Yet pockets of capitalistic trading, manufacturing and banking had been growing toward the end of the Middle Ages, right within Catholic Christendom. This was true in such Catholic cities as Venice in Italy, Augsburg in Germany and Antwerp in Flanders.

 

Then the Protestant Reformation, broke out in the 16th century. While it would be an exaggeration to say that the Reformation fathered capitalism, it did release ideas that gave a decided boost to it. For one thing, Calvinism relieved legitimate business profit of the stigma of “usury.”

 

Moreover, certain Protestant beliefs provided people with the incentive to work hard so as to succeed in life, and thus, prove they were among the “elect.” Success in business, was considered to be a sign of God’s blessing.

 

The resulting wealth became available “capital” for investment in one’s own business venture, or some other one. Thus, the Protestant ethic of hard work and thrift, contributed to the expansion of capitalism. Not surprisingly, the capitalist economy developed faster in Protestant countries, than in Catholic States. But, the Catholic Church quickly made up for lost time.

 

She allowed capitalism to develop in lands where she was powerful, and became an extremely rich capitalist organisation in her own right. Capitalism undoubtedly provided an improvement over the feudal system, if only for the greater freedom it brought to the working classes. But, it also brought many injustices. The gap between the rich and the poor, tended to widen. At its worst, it brought about exploitation and class warfare. At its best    it produced an affluent consumer society in some lands, with material fullness.

 

But, it has also produced spiritual emptiness, and has failed to bring true and lasting happiness.

 

COMMUNISM The Protestant Reformation, was a revolt against papal abuse of power and privilege. Yet, it unleashed a flood of ideas, that went far beyond what the original Reformers anticipated.

These ideas sooner or much later, were to produce revolutions in fields other than religion. Not only did the revolt against Rome boost the development of capitalism, but it also contributed to innovations in the fields of science, technology and philosophy leading to godless beliefs. With the advent of the steam engine and machinery, capitalism spread out from the field of commerce, into that of industry.

 

The latter part of the 18th and 19th centuries, saw the creation of huge factories requiring a large labour forces recruited among peasants, craftsmen and even children. But, capitalist “exploitation of man by man” led to the creation of workers’ movements and revolutionary philosophies, such as communism.

 

NOW THIS

 

Theoretically, the term “communism” denotes “systems of social organisation based upon common property, or an equal distribution of income and wealth.” In current practice, communism is a system of government based on the holding of property by the State, which controls the economy under a oneparty political structure.

 

For millions of have-nots throughout the world, communism seemed to offer hope for a better life. It appeared to be the best means for leveling off the flagrant social inequalities created by the capitalist system. Many were even prepared to forgo immediate hopes of freedom if, by means of a revolution, better living conditions could be obtained. Freedom would come later, so they thought. But, years have gone by.

 

The communist system of government, has had time to show what it is capable of in many countries. The results have been disappointing, even with regard to material prosperity, not to speak of freedom and happiness. AND THIS For years, in the Western world, many of the young, and even some not so young, were attracted by the communist ideology.

 

But, persistent bad news seeping out of many communist lands and the one-way flow of refugees, had left many disillusioned.

 

Why were they disillusioned? What options did they exercise? Next week will answer these; and more. (To be continued).

 

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

 

“Democracy a very fragile thing. You have to take care of democracy. As soon as you stop being responsible to it and allow it to turn into scare tactics, it is no longer democracy, is it? It is something else. It may be an inch away from totalitarianism.” (Sam Shepard).

 

LAST LINE

Fellow Nigerians, synergise with me every week, to put our heads together on how to retool Nigeria. Right here on “The Nigerian Project”, by Chief Mike A. A. Ozekhome, SAN, OFR, FCIArb, LL.M, Ph.D, LL.D.

 

• Follow me on twitter @ MikeozekhomeSAN

 

 

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