Rotten Foundations: The Conceptual Basis of the Marxist-Leninist Regimes of East Germany and Other Countries of the Soviet Bloc

By Peter W. Sperlich | Go to book overview

Chapter 6

The Issue of Totalitarianism

THE PROBLEM OF DEFINITION

History and Utility

Several of the preceding chapters have addressed, explicitly and implicitly, the totalitarian nature of Leninist-Marxist thought and of communist regimes. It is now in order to confront the disputes surrounding the notion of totalitarianism, to view it from a comparative perspective, and to test its applicability to the German Democratic Republic.

The concept of totalitarianism finds its origin 1 in the speeches of Gentile (March 8, 1925) and Mussolini (June 22, 1925). [Gregor, 1981, 132; Schapiro, 1972, 13] Gentile talked of the “total conception of life.” Mussolini spoke of the “fierce totalitarian will” of fascist Italy; later he used the term to describe the new system as a “totalitarian state” (lo stato totalitario). The word was meant to express the total unity of thought and action, and of leader and people. It also was meant to convey the total power claim of the new state—everything is the state and the state is everything (Mussolini)—and to announce a new approach to politics: the linking of the permanent revolution and the total state—total temporal and spatial control.

In addition to fascist Italy, the concept of totalitarianism has been applied to political systems such as Hitler's Germany, Franco's Spain, Salazar's Portugal, Stalin's Soviet Union, Mao's China, Kim Il-song's North Korea, Ho Chi Min's Vietnam, Castro's Cuba, Hussein's Iraq, and the East European Soviet Satellites, as well as to various Third World revolutionary movements. It also has been applied to earlier (proto-totalitarian) systems,

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Rotten Foundations: The Conceptual Basis of the Marxist-Leninist Regimes of East Germany and Other Countries of the Soviet Bloc
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acronyms and Abbreviations xi
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction 1
  • Chapter 2 - Roots and Developments 13
  • Chapter 3 - Science or Anti-Science 41
  • Chapter 4 - Utopia and Religion 77
  • Chapter 5 - Theory and Practice 107
  • Chapter 6 - The Issue of Totalitarianism 139
  • Chapter 7 - Summary 193
  • Bibliography 199
  • Index 237
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