What is a totalitarian form of government? A fundamental characteristic of the system is a strong centralized government. It forcibly restricts the public from engaging in politics. So, it completely bans political pluralism. That is the idea that a free society can only remain free if people engage in politics. Hence, more opinions can emerge, and people have a say in things. Yet, that does not occur here.
In charge of the state is a mighty dictator leader. This leader tends to build a cult of personality. On top of the harsh oppression of its citizens, the state uses fear, terror, and propaganda to take control. Besides, such regimes introduce mass surveillance and censorship, and create a strong military. Free elections, free press, and freedom of speech and assembly do not exist in the state. Thus, a totalitarian is the direct opposite to democracy.
Two things make it different from authoritarianism. First, it is even more strict. This kind of state tries to control every aspect of people’s lives. In addition, they forcibly eradicate all resistance. Hence, there is no political opposition.
The second critical contrast to an authoritarian state is ideology. In this government, it is crucial. Besides, everyone must accept and follow it. These are usually fascism, nazism, or communism. Thus, it can be both far-left or far-right. Such regimes rose based on similar reasons. The two most typical are that democracy and capitalism have failed. Yet, instead of creating a perfect alternative, they create terror.
In the early 1920s, Benito Mussolini was the first to use the phrase to describe “his” Italy. It was also one of the first totalitarian states. Communist Russia (Soviet Union), and Nazi Germany soon followed. After World War II., nazism and fascism largely fell. On the other hand, communism took over Eastern Europe until the 1990s. It is still in control of China, North Korea, or Cuba to this day.
Totalitarian regimes are extremely dangerous. Till this day, they are responsible for hundreds of millions murders of their own citizens. Some of these came to power through democratic elections, some through revolution.