The totalitarian regimes are best known for their dogmatism and their doctrinaire fanaticism, and properly so. It was, for example, dogmatism that caused one disaster after another in the Soviet Union: War Communism; collectivization; an exaggerated emphasis on heavy industrialization; the purges; an unwillingness by Stalin to listen to the warnings of his advisors about a Nazi invasion; and a lack of freedom in education and the arts.
In contrast to the Soviet Union, where doctrinaire fanaticism was directed mostly at its own citizens, ideological rigidity in the fascist states was even greater in foreign policy. Italy’s foreign policy objectives were grotesquely overambitious for what was still a largely underdeveloped country. Once Italy was confronted by a major military power like Great Britain, or even a minor power like Greece, its lack of realism and military strength were exposed almost immediately. In Germany, ideological dogmatism led to the expulsion of the country’s most intellectually and commercially creative minority, the Jews, and a war of expansion that eventually united most of the world’s major powers against it.
The totalitarian states were not always dogmatic. If necessary they could display a pragmatism that at times made them appear almost “normal.” When the Soviet Union’s industrial production reached 13 percent of the country’s prewar level in 1920, Lenin realized that it was time to give up his radical War Communism, which had led to the confiscation of peasant foodstuffs and an overhasty nationalization of industries. Instead, he turned to a much more realistic New Economic Policy, which quickly restored the country’s economy to prewar levels. With the country’s very existence at stake following the Nazi invasion in 1941, Stalin was capable of scrapping his utopian Marxism in favor of launching a “Great Patriotic War.” Although he followed an expansionist