chapter  4
12 Pages

Total control

WithAlan Haworth

This chapter describes the idea that totalitarianism is, by definition, a form of political system within which the rulers – or ‘controllers’ – exercise total control over a subservient population, and that it is this that distinguishes it from other forms. It is the idea reflected in the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of ‘totalitarian’ as ‘of or relating to a system of government that is centralised and dictatorial and requires complete subservience to the state’. This is the form of total control envisaged by Hannah Arendt in The Origins of Totalitarianism, when she describes the concentration camp system as ‘an attack on the moral person’. In the light of Andrei Lankov’s description of the way peoples’ lives were monitored and controlled at that time, his claim that Stalin would have found himself out-Stalined can appear an understatement.