What are authoritarianism and totalitarianism

The concepts of authoritarianism and totalitarianism They have a very fragile border between the two because they are regimes that, regardless of the way in which they seize power, are united by very similar characteristics.

There are many countries in which some of these systems of government have been established at some point. In them, control was exercised over all areas of the nation, to the point of intervening in the private life of the inhabitants and in the decisions of each individual.

However, sociology, political science, economics and other social disciplines have studied the definition of these systems of government separately. This is how some subtle differences have been established, of which mention should be made of the characteristics of each one. Next we will see the bases that sustain them and the consequences that they have brought for some nations.

Some characteristics of authoritarianism

Authoritarianism is a form of government whose main characteristic is the exercise of authority by the State over a country, a nation or a republic.

The government is governed by legislators who have been elected and who allow some freedoms. However, power is controlled by a single person who, no matter how he has achieved that power, abuses his authority. This position gives him the power to control the borders of his domain with despotism and an unlimited form of government, even beyond the laws.

Authoritarianism intervenes in the way of life of a country in all its dimensions, since whoever exercises authority, usually a person who has been elected (president, prime minister, etc.), abuses power.

The exercise of power in a country under authoritarianism can be carried out by one person or a group of people. It is carried out under norms or laws drawn up and approved from the power to restrict freedom and use them to exercise repression.

Action of the authoritarian regime

Throughout the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st, we have seen the cases of some countries where authoritarianism has begun through the arrival of leaders to power under democratic regimes. Once in the exercise of their management they promote a radical change of the laws, including the national constitution itself, to adapt it to their interests, be it power, economic, social, political, etc., and perpetuate themselves in it.

Authoritarianism is thus taking over all the political aspects of a country. The people are perceiving how, gradually, their freedoms are being curtailed, their rights being violated without any type of negotiation. All this under arbitrary measures that respond to laws adjusted to power.

Other authoritarian governments have come to power through coups d’état, in order to implant an ideology formed by the interests of those who exercise power. Groups that do not consider political pluralism, attacking dissent, and without allowing other political-partisan thinking.

In an authoritarian regime, the power concentrated in a group of people has been the result of the elimination of the autonomy of the other powers and of the institutions they exercise. In some countries they are the Executive, Legislative, Judicial and Electoral. But, being centralized and under the control of those who control power, they do not have freedom in their exercise, since they respond to their interests in all areas (social, economic, military, etc.).

Another characteristic of these regimes is the decrease in freedoms for the formation and development of political parties. They are not completely eliminated, but their role is very limited. As well as the economic subsidy, since they are not allowed to receive economic support (national or foreign) for their maintenance or for their expansion within society.

Some characteristics of totalitarianism

For its part, totalitarianism has been defined as a system of government whose ideology and movement severely restrict freedom, and the state has all the power.

This regime emerged as a political system in the 20th century, and the first to put it into practice was Benito Mussolini. As a political phenomenon it has been expressed in two different ways: Nazism and Communism.

For political science, totalitarianism is a dictatorial regime, and whoever applies it benefits from the power. He does not use it for the benefit of the country in general, but of its ruling leadership. And he works and expands his exercise to stay in it.

In a State under this regime, the power that is not at the service of man, but man is at the service of power.

Furthermore, in the totalitarianism exercised by a single party, it merges with the power of the State, not being able to see the distinction between one and the other.

This merger brings as a consequence that it is said party that decides on national life, getting involved in all the decisions and plans that exist and changing the interests of the people by imposing programs that respond to the interests of their government.

Power by force

A totalitarian ruler is feared because his actions, lacking popular support, exerts repression and is maintained by force. This action can be carried out because it controls all the institutions, including the security forces, which are at its service and, in many cases, it has been carried out by violent civilian groups that intimidate and constrain dissident groups.

An example of these groups at the service of power are the well-known Tonton Macoute, who were the men who defended the dictator of Haiti François Duvalier (Papa Doc), and who also served their son Jean-Claude Duvalier (Baby Doc), to support themselves in the power.

Totalitarian regimes manage to stay in power on the promise that there is no better plan for a country than the one they are willing to develop.

In this system, the one in power is the only person who knows and knows what the collective wants. That is to say, the people, the nation, even the entire humanity. He knows what makes his people happy and has life plans for each individual. However, in practice, all social, economic and political plans seek to satisfy the will of the leader, which can be confused with the wishes of the people.

Furthermore, the plans that it applies to the people, more than social measures, are populist measures that in the long run serve as control for the people themselves. Thus, those who benefit from these plans have the obligation to defend power.

The devastation of the institutions of a society, as well as the autonomy of powers, political parties and even the will of the collective, is one of the most notorious characteristics of totalitarianism. While the personality is worshiped, attention to the individual and collective needs of the country is excluded.

Countries that are still under totalitarianism

Today, more than forty countries suffer totalitarian regimes. Among them are Cuba. This country was governed by Fidel Castro from 1959 to 2008 and, later, by his brother Raúl Castro until the present.

Since the arrival of Fidel Castro to power through a coup against the government of Fulgencio Batista, Cuba has become a socialist, Marxist-Leninist state, under the leadership of the only legal party on the island: the Communist Party of Cuba. The two main parties that existed (Orthodox and Authentic), were eliminated under the Fundamental Law, which repealed the 1940 constitution and put Cuba under a one-party government.

North Korea is another country under totalitarianism. It has been ruled since 1948 by the founder of the North Korean State, who was also appointed as the Eternal President of the Republic: Kim II-Sung. And, later, by his son Kim Jong-II.

In 2014, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights presented a report on this country. It recorded the human rights violations and crimes committed there such as torture, rape, executions, arbitrary detentions or forced abortions, among others.

Belarus, known as the “last dictatorship in Europe”, has already turned twenty years with Alexandr Lukashenko in power. This leader has maintained the Republic of the country since the separation of the Soviet Union.

Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Gambia, Mauritania, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Angola, Zimbabwe, Algeria, Libya, Jordan, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam… The list of countries that are still subject to totalitarian regimes is long. Unfortunately, there are still nations in which political parties, elections, freedom of expression, the media, the opposition and citizens’ rights are banned.

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