Saturday, March 29, 2008

Considering totalitarianism

Totalitarianism and the tendency of society, maybe even the United States, to take a path leading towards something like that, has been a core concern of mine for about four years, maybe a few months shy of four years. But the problem with the term totalitarianism is that it cuts both to the left and the right, which brings up the question of radical social change that is not totalitarian, what makes social change totalitarian, and why. Taking the issue of fascism out of it, the definition that I kind of accept is that a dictatorship is something where political democracy is denied and the government can act arbitrarily without much of society being able to do anything about it, while in a totalitarian dictatorship precise ideological control over all aspects of life is added to the mix. Dictatorships by their very definition tend not to like ideas that are hostile to the ruling ideology; the dictatorships of South America for instance didn't exactly like Marxism and in fact made the specter of Marxist terrorism one of their key propaganda points, but that doesn't make a dictatorship totalitarian. We're talking about social control mixed with a positive statist ideology based on some sort of social and political movement. Fascist totalitarianism tended to be based on nationalist ideology combined with religious ideology and sometimes racist ideology. Stalinist totalitarianism made a new ideology out of the very tradition of the Revolution that they claimed to be a continuation of, making it into something static that could be used for manipulation of society and punishment of people who found themselves on the outs with the state for whatever reason.

But, what about revolutions against things like Capitalism that find that creating some sort of a fundamental change in the cultural sphere is necessary to complete the social change undertaken on the bottom? Considering that the media is constantly broadcasting pro-market, anti-radical, values (despite whatever 'cool' thing they may be praising in the current moment), as well as the educational system, taking power away from the capitalist captains of media and transforming media outlets into something that has a diversity of opinions from the socialist on out looks like a necessity.

But how to do it without exerting totalitarian control over things? Maybe by changing its structure to be more authentically popular and restraining the complete domination of content by corporate and capitalist values, while nationalizing much of the media or putting it into some sort of semi-nationalized popularly controlled form would be able to accomplish it without going over the line. Venezuela could be an example of this.

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