First edition: Kraków 1936.
Do you see that ashen darling?
Half formed already in the kettle’s dregs;
His gaze has withered in the sediment;
Swaying to and fro on his crooked legs,
Just like a shaky form of government.
His mouth is open, hungry for some thoughts,
He only chokes on bookstores and on moths.
He wants to speak. Let’s see what seeds he’ll sow!
(poking his head out of the cauldron)
Is it good for us to have a king or no?
Away with you, Sphinx, away with your riddles!
The very devil cannot find solutions...
(Kordian: The Preparations, Translated by Gerard T. Kapolka)
I would not like to seem to you like this creature that was a figment of the poet's imagination. I am afraid, however, that it will not be easy for me to avoid this unpleasant fate. You have called me today to tell you about a similarly infernal mystery: democracy and totalism. You have probably done me this honour because you want to receive from me – as a professor of constitutional law – an objective lighting of these opposing ideas of political regimes, an impartial weighing of arguments on the edge of experience and reason. And yet it is the professor whose “mouth is open, hungry for some thoughts” and “chokes on bookstores and on moths”; and the task of weighing the arguments, can easily result in the appearance of “sphinxity”. I will at least try not to “babble in the hieroglyphic style”. And although I will try to satisfy your demand for impartiality (if possible), I hope however that you will not call me a sphinx. The issue I am about to present is too current, it penetrates too deeply into the political conscience of anyone who considers it, it draws the entire personality into the movement of thought too strongly for it to be approached while maintaining a perfect coolness and looking at it only as the subject of a dialectical dissertation. I do not want to propagate my own profession of political faith here; I cannot, however, ensure that my arguments will be completely discoloured from subjectivity and that I can elevate them beyond my personal affection and views. I can only promise that in my lecture I will use material from both camps evenly, and that I will try to give the listeners a basis for their own further thought work and drawing their own final conclusions.
I will not describe political institutions of democratic states and totalitarian states nor present the history of the formation and development of these two types of state organization. I think these are the things that are well known to my today's auditorium that expects me to give an assessment of the value of both concepts of the political system. I am therefore going to dedicate the lecture to the attempt at such an assessment.
However, the scholar’s habit tells me to determine the subject of reflection as accurately as possible, before I commence this task.
Let us start by defining democracy. I understand it as a political system based on the society itself, in which the choice of persons exercising the functions of governance (in the broadest sense of the word) takes place through elections with the participation of all classes of the nation. The legitimisation of the authorities based on general elections is then the most important institution of democracy. This entails a number of consequences:
1) The basic element of the system is associated with civic freedom – at least in the respect that is necessary for the elections to preserve the meaning of a real tool for the selection of the authorities, a tool being forged out of the material of living and non-falsified public opinion. Without the freedom of beliefs, freedom of their proclamation through print and spoken word, freedom of association and gathering for political purposes – the elections could not fulfil their systemic function; a guarantee of personal freedom and security is also necessary, since it is difficult to imagine the possibility of using these freedoms, directly determining the elections – without these elementary components protecting citizens against the oppression and arbitrariness of the rulers.
2) Another basic element of democracy is connected with civic equality in the formal sense, i.e. equality before the law, which ensures the equality of political powers, such as the fundamental equality of the personal legal status of both the governors and the governees.
3) Last but not least, when speaking of the main elements of democracy, we must mention the law and order. Where the possibility of creating the will of the state does not stem from the source of the mysterious power entrusted by the powers ruling the humanity with an individual or a group, but this possibility is only a calling to that function in a predetermined manner – the law is at the cradle of power and manages its exercising. The authority is not the property of its temporary wielders; it is only a competence given to them by law under the conditions set out in it. The wielders of power are responsible for it, and they themselves, as well as their acts, remain under the control of the law.
Therefore, the ideal image of democracy originating from civic freedom and equality, based on the public’s chosen ones, will be embodied by the government which performs its functions temporarily and under its own responsibility – limited by law and regulating its activities according to the public opinion. The very mechanism that generates the life of democracy consists of free competition of a certain amount (at least two) of political parties. They try to gain influence on the widest possible circles of the population and, with their trust, win the elections and take power. The governing staff can be changed relatively often, and the action of successive governments can take different directions, even opposite to each other. In reality, however, the lines of democratic government do not move in unexpected zigzags – they rather take an indirect direction, as the great law of democracy lies in moderation and compromise.
The whole picture of democracy consists of features of a rather formal nature, since they make it impossible to read neither the physiognomy of those in power nor the direction of their rule. However, any political system is always just a form that can contain all kinds of living content. Democracy is also only a form characterized by a network disseminated in a special way to connect society with its government and to conduct the selection of the rulers.
Similarly, totalism as a type of political system is a special organizational form. The essence of this form lies is the monopolization of power by a designated political group, which imposes itself as the privileged minority against the majority of society, while exercising the rule in order to realize the professed ideology. The concept of a total state consists of the following features:
1) The backbone of the system is created by a group, usually bearing the name of the Party, which has the exclusive privilege of conducting political action, being the only container of ruling forces. Separated from the masses of the nation as the elite managerial staff of their life in all public positions, it builds its internal organization on the principles of absolute obedience to the will of the only leader, and a strict hierarchy whose ranks are staffed by top-to-bottom nomination.
2) The party, as an organization whose members are predetermined to perform imperative functions, is small, composed of carefully selected people, presenting values that qualify them for the tasks they are supposed to perform. Party members are a minority, but this minority is considered to possess unusual qualities justifying its unique position in the nation. This elite imposes itself on the majority in order to put its life under the control of its order and to lead it towards the goals it has set.
3) The party is not just a machine for gaining and exercising power; the whole reason for its existence and its monopoly is created by a certain ideology controlling the Party’s activities, an ideology that should be put into practice, modelling society according to its imperative. This is not about a single idea, but about the whole ideology, about a certain worldview, including all of the life relations, able to solve all issues of (social) being. This ideology shows the nation the aims of collective action, it makes it aware of its destiny and its historical mission. It also contains some ethical imperatives that every citizen should submit to if they do not want to be removed from the community, melted into ideological and moral unity.
This aspect of ideology shows very clearly the formal character of totalism as well: the content of ideology can be different. And indeed, totalism sits on two polar opposites: communism and nationalism. By itself, it does not have a specific internal content, unlike democracy.
After offering the general definition of both systems, I should try to evaluate them. First, however, I still need to think about the question of what value criteria should be used when assessing the regimes. These criteria can be different – and none of them can be proven. Will we measure the regimes by its ability to satisfy the sense of justice being done, or the higher degree of securing the freedom, or supporting the happiness of citizens, or perhaps fulfilling the idea of good or justice – they will always be touchstones freely adopted by the one pronouncing the judgement, having meaning for those only who perceive a given ideal as the highest one and subordinate all other life values to that ideal. To carry out my task for today, I will accept the criterion of the system's ability to create a greater political force. I will divide this principle into three components: 1) the immunity of the edifice of the political system itself to dangers, 2) the ability of the state machine to act creatively, 3) finally, the system’s influence on the creation of the value of collective life in the nation. I think that in this company, I do not need to justify the adoption of these measures.
Totalism claims that it is the only solution to fully satisfy the requirement of political power. After all, the first condition for every organization to have power is its absolute unity. And it is the foundation of unity that every total state is based on. It has its true backbone in the party, which allows the state to become like a human individual endowed with a real personality. The organizational principles of the party make it a living body, moved by one thought and one will. As the backbone of the state, the party instils its unity in the state, since the life and activities of the party are identified with the life and actions of the state. The unity of the party is also associated with the state’s stability, coherence, cohesion – the uniformity of actions. And it is not only organizational and physical unity – it is a real spiritual unity, stemming from the worldview embodied by the party, as well as psychological unity, consisting of the same virtues and attributes of character that govern everything. Since the total state takes on its shoulders the organization of the whole life of the nation and directing it according to its ideology, the unity of the party and the state becomes also the unity of the nation. The nation lives within the framework created by the state: its creativity, efforts, well-coordinated work, all this develops on a planned basis, in directions indicated by ideology and a program based on it, serving the common purpose. The nation and the state form a strong compact block, cemented by the party, which at the same time shapes the monolith in an elaborate way. Only a total state, representing the unity of the nation and the state – of ideology and organization –can do great deeds, focusing all creative energies in permanent centres and introducing them to the paths of consistent, persistent and intentional action.
Can democracy compete with such perfect creations serving collective purposes? In the eyes of totalitarians, democracy is only chaos, a vortex of contradictory, opposing forces, weakening the state and setting the society at variance. The democratic state must be weak and powerless. Deprived of its permanent backbone – it is a soulless machine, not serving any ideal, not aiming at any permanent goals, unable to lead the nation. It becomes the prey of every party that was able to win over the mechanical majority of voters, often using low-quality methods – a party that, after gaining power, does not think about massive collective goals and tries to use the momentary stay in government palaces only to reive the most benefits for themselves and their followers. Even if such a party had the best will and the noblest intentions, there is little good that it can do: it is only a momentary possessor of power entangled in a jumble of legal regulations sent by the past, tangled in barren struggles, forced to continuous bargaining and concessions. It is not a ruler but only a manager who has neither sufficient power nor time to undertake truly great tasks. The state, constantly giving in to another party, pushed once to the right, once to the left, uncertain, changeable, unable to act, even if it achieves some action, cannot carry it out to the end in a consistent manner. Democracy means disarray, chaos, inaction.
And society? In democracy, there is no factor that would safeguard collective property, harmonize and reconcile the natural contradictions resulting from class, region, religion, belief and ethnicity. On the contrary, these natural divergences dividing the society are additionally accompanied by a division into parties, that deepens these differences, sometimes it even exacerbates them in an artificial way, leading to the tensions close to those characteristic of a civil war. The spirit of party politics kills the sense of connectivity and solidarity among the members of the nation, poisons public life with selfishness, self-interest, lies and corruption; because of the narrowness of doctrines, it annihilates a broader thought and clear awareness of common interests; through demagogy, it evokes hatred, feeds appetites that are impossible to satisfy; it paralyzes all constructive work, all healthy energy by the unleashing of barren struggles and creating superfluous conflicts.
Democracy, condemned in such an absolute way by totalism and doomed to final burial, does not give up, however, and it will not give in and be removed from the world stage. In the discussion about its values and the values of its opponents, it is not only able to defend itself, but it also knows how to proceed to counterattack. It strikes first against the principle of unity, adored by totalism. Social unity? It is certainly necessary if there is to be any talk about society at all, and not about any separate atoms, spinning blindly and chaotically. But this unity can never be total, it cannot attain the concentration and lifelessness of a monolith. The element of life, after all, lies in variety and it is the only fertile one. The ideal of democracy means unity in multiplicity and it recognizes only such a unity. Democracy denies that it would prevent the emergence of consciousness of national unity. Is it to be such an obstacle because it opens up considerable opportunities for citizens to develop and gain individual qualities, because it allows them to use their abilities also in the field of political life, gain the trust of their compatriots and gain the authority based on that trust? Or maybe because it draws the biggest part of the nation into the political life (the issues of collective life and the work on their practical solution), allowing them to express themselves, act, making it possible for them to satisfy their aspirations and desires? After all, all this binds these masses by a natural tie of their own interest, their own actions, it raises patriotism in them, it creates a sense of connectivity with the state and its political system, and fills them with trust in the authorities. The most important moment is to build legal ways for masses to act. It is the fact that they can achieve their aspirations within the legal framework, that socializes them, encourages them to cooperate with other classes, teaches them to make agreements in case of conflicts of interest and seek solutions in higher syntheses. In this way, the widest circles of society are where the national sense grows, where the awareness of collective needs and goals is developed – primitive, selfish instincts are suppressed, the ability to subordinate to higher values awakens, and finally, understanding for the imperatives of the raison d'etat and a sense of joint responsibility for the fate of the state. And this is the most precious unity. Society torn apart by the struggle of the parties? It can happen. But does democracy favours this fight? Does it lead to civil wars because it allows citizens to congregate freely, according to their believes, to form unions with political goals? But the rival parties, despite aiming to gain power, do not need to resort to violence and force, they can gain power by peaceful means. Real democracy secures social peace. It would also be better to talk about cooperation rather than fight. Even the most intense battle of the parties, occurring during the election period, shows some forms of cooperation (even if it is just at the Commission table). The inability to score a total victory, presence in the body of the chosen enemy, even if temporarily doomed to majorization, prospects of future changes in the wheel of fortune – all this must relieve friction, blunt the arms, it requires taking into account opinions of others when making decisions, putting other people's interests on the line. After all, even the opposition, maintained within the legal framework and good political customs, understanding its ability to influence the course of matters through creative criticism – is a form of cooperation. No, the parties do not create the gap between the groups of the nation. When they crystallize along the vertical axis of society, they organize the forces of particular classes, allowing them to use legal action to reach their rightful position in a collective life. When they are built on a horizontal cross-section, they combine socially different elements by common ideology and joint effort. Democracy thus creates the unity of the nation in its best form: unity of sense of connectivity and solidarity, unity of attachment to devices and national rights, unity of understanding of the imperative necessities of national existence, finally, unity of peaceful coexistence of competitors in a political struggle based on mutual loyalty and the will to respect each other's beliefs.
In democracy, this unity is born spontaneously, in a natural way, without top-to-bottom pressure or coercion. And it is coercion that plays too great of a role in totalitarian countries in creating the unity of society. Under the rule of totalism, the unity of society, to a large extent, is the result of violence used on a large scale against all those who do not support the all-powerful party and do not show total obedience to it. Therefore, this unity is artificial and rather apparent. Surely, democracy cannot do without coercion either; however, it uses it in moderation and only against those that undermine the foundations of state existence, strive for violent upheavals, resort to the use of criminal means in their political fight and propagate such methods of action. On the other hand, in a total state, they are enemies of the state, criminals, or at least suspects, everyone who does not adhere to the ideology of the party, who does not adhere to the official worldview.
The unity of the worldview cannot be achieved in general. One can only force opponents of terror to be silent, while plunging the masses into mental and political passivity. This passivity, the apathy of the broad circles of the population, their indifference to public affairs, the lack of interest in the problems of collective life, is the greatest danger of totalism. Total regimes realize this; therefore, they devote a huge effort to propaganda. To a certain extent, it is effective; the myths it spreads, the emotions it touches, the suggested slogans – they mould the psyche of a large part of the population, stimulate moral solidarity with the regime, evoke great waves of collective enthusiasm and effort. Do they, however, bring up citizens who are able to think for themselves, assess the situation, and draw tips on how to deal with their immediate tasks from this assessment and managerial principles adopted as their own? Do they mould a type that is socially most valuable, in which the elements of faith and social instincts combine harmoniously with the freedom of thought and independence? Doesn’t the brightness of propaganda methods, its monotony, and its official optimism need not wake up distrust, weariness, disgust over time? Doesn’t it have to trigger a reaction in the form of unbelief, criticism, and especially the eager belief that lies, calumny and dark predictions undermine the regime? After some time, the “guided” opinion becomes an opinion without a helm, it becomes disoriented and panicky.
What about the reluctant ones? Those who are unable or unwilling to stand in a disciplinary line? In a democracy, the opponents of the government form a legal and open opposition; in total regimes, they descend to the underground of conspiracy, they plot and conspire, undermining the regime like termites. They multiply as the system becomes “more total”, and therefore more annoying, the more harm and damage is suffered by individuals, causing deeper and longer waves of dissatisfaction, reluctance, and withheld hatred. This is the second great danger against which totalism is forced to mobilize its energy to create forms that make it similar to the former police state. And these forms are the source of a poisonous and demoralizing atmosphere; customs become infiltrated by falsehood, informing, espionage, provocation and blackmail, souls are filled with delusion, cowardice, lies, deception, and humiliation. People who, in democracy, would certainly work to the benefit of the society, even creatively, in many fields, go to waste. The same goes for a collective power strained to fight the manifestations of life which are never considered harmful or threatening in a democracy. In totalism, even dissatisfaction becomes a crime. The unity of the worldview imposed on the society by totalism is therefore a harmful and dangerous fiction.
Totalism claims, however, that it also gives the society organizational unity. Probably just because it allows only affiliations led by the party, the ones that constitute its branches. It may be that the uniformity of management and the organizational unity is beneficial to certain unions established for conducting special work in the field of culture, education, or in the field of social and economic tasks. Democracy, however, does not oppose the merger of such unions and they often spontaneously create an organizational network combining efforts in a given field. Democracy does not encourage centralization in the field of social relations; enabling such a fruitful competition in many fields, makes life itself a regulator of organizational forms for a given type of the most specific associations. Totalism, however, wants to achieve the uniformity of management of various kinds of unions as well, and impose the same line setting directions for their activities on all associations. In fact, at the end of the day, it wants to nationalize all social activities, to put it simply: it wants to make this activity bureaucratic. As this is the inevitable result of the absolute submission of social relations to the party and the state. Democracy settles for the state's control of the legality of the actions of the unions; totalism, by giving the party bureaucracy the leadership over the unions created in the predetermined organizational forms – it destroys social activity, and at the same time, it expands the state activity into vast spaces.
Totalism boasts of allowing the state to control the social forces in this way. It argues that in a democracy, these forces left to themselves can develop activities that undermine public interests, and even tempt themselves to introduce the state's activities into placards that correspond only to their selfish interests. Capitalist cartels, proletarian syndicates – grow into the powers to which the state becomes surrendered. Possibly. Democracies have often sinned with lack of interest in the activities of freely organized social forces, sometimes allowing them to even rise above them. This lack of foresight, however, is not connected with the essence of democracy itself. Democracy was also able to control social forces, regulate their activities, cut their attempts that were harmful to the interests of the whole. The difference is that democracy does not reach for dictatorship over them, but it exercises its supervision by captivating social life into a network of laws, and entrusting the observance of the law to independent institutions, which are only to serve the law and have been moved away from the wavering and changing attitudes of party politics. In this way, the democratic state, without cutting the roots of social life, however, takes on the role of arbitrator of its conflicts and guardian of collective interest. Totalism, on the other hand, by imposing itself as the commandant of all activity, and bureaucratizing all life, systematically floods the sources of energy and initiatives. It does not organize the society, on the contrary, it destroys its own organizations, substituting them with its apparatus. One can at most say that it is trying to organize social elements under its command. Therefore, this alleged ideological or organizational unity, which totalism endows with society, is not impressive.
It is also not impressed by the social peace that the “white” totalism regimes boast about. To a large extent, it does not grow out of consent, but is a state imposed and maintained by force. These institutions, which totalism introduces for the prevention of social conflicts, for their mitigation and resolution, are also well known to democracies.
Totalism is also very proud of the fact that by exterminating the parties, it abolished one of the most important causes of divisions within the society and the fights resulting from them. Democracy, however, points out that the total states are introducing a dividing line as sharp and deep as any other system; namely, the division into the ruling and the ruled, the privileged members of the party and the ones condemned to passively listen to the rest of society. And it sees the symptoms of a state of a suppressed, but sill as intense, fight in political processes, prisons, concentration camps, deportations, and proscriptions that affect hundreds and thousands of people, depriving society of so much of its ability and energy.
Even the internal unity of the monopolistic party is viewed with scepticism by democracy; if it exists, it is sustained with immeasurable efforts to remain vigilant and not to resort to the use of absolute repression against dissenting tendencies. Bright light is cast on these relations by purges that are used everywhere – the fate of the Soviet opposition, and the Night of the Long Knives in Germany say a lot in this respect [footnote].
In turn, I proceed to the other of the elements of the fundamental criterion of the value of political systems, that is, the ability of political systems to undertake great work. Democracy does not deny that total regimes can bring outstanding successes and wonderful achievements. But democracy also carried out great reforms: it was expanding the national farm, it acquired and organized colonial empires. Above all, it gave proof of its worth by winning in the great war. History, therefore, gives the lie to the inability of democracy to act consistently, and its inability to mobilize national energy and bring great forces to achieve collective goals.
When it comes to consistent long-term actions, the relative volatility of governments in democracy seems to be an impediment to these actions. However, this volatility of staffing should not be equated with a political line cracking at sharp angles, suddenly breaking or withdrawing. It is the democratic politics that do not cause violent upheavals, that generally follow the line in a calm and fairly even way, despite the change of people belonging to various camps that assume the reins of government. The state tradition follows this path: state necessities must be always secured, regardless of the colour of the government, and this tradition is guarded, apart from party politicians, by state military organizations, diplomacy, and administration that generally remain outside of the party games (so it is based on non-democratic principles, even in a democracy). There is also the fact that a change of government usually does not happen when the government is good and useful, but it happens when the government fails, when its activity causes dissatisfaction or is explicitly considered by the public opinion as harmful. A government that performs its tasks well usually has enough time to undertake work that yields lasting results. And when such government finally falls, the work it started is then continued by the successor, even if they are from another camp, as long as the work is recognized by the nation's conviction as useful, if it satisfies some broadly felt social needs and successfully solves some worrying issues, if it satisfies the aspirations of national pride alive in masses. Finally, there is the fact that changes in the government are rarely only marginal, and even when successive governments belong to two political opposites, the continuity is still ensured by the fact of building government work in a democratic system on the diagonal forces – under the influence of public opinion, the actual cooperation of political groups, and even the self-interest of politicians which tells them not to induce violent waves of reaction and thus also to save the opponents and not fester their aversion.
As for the mobilization of forces, democracy knows how to handle this too, when it is required by a serious and dangerous moment, or even a situation fraught with difficulties. Democracy, however, does not consider it necessary to keep the nation in constant alertness, tension and strain. It knows that such states cannot be transformed into permanent ones, that human endurance does not tolerate long periods of stress, that the tide of life is arranged in the rhythm of effort and rest. It also knows that great work requires time, it must grow on susceptible and long-cultivated soil, grow and develop organically, in harmony with its nature and the environment. It knows that human thought and will are the essential elements of such work, but not the only one, that human creativity is conditioned by factors which cannot be changed or even calculated, that the attempts to rationalize life come from false assumptions and sometimes lead to results that are contradictory to the intentions, often catastrophic. Democracy believes that a social act is fruitful when it grows out of a widely felt need, when its outline emerges from the instinct of the nation. Finally, it knows that perhaps the most socially beneficial and long-lasting works are born of collisions of various ideas, that they are shaped by friction, they feed on resistance, mature and harden in struggle, reconcile the divergence of aspirations, contradictions, and synthesize the multiplicity of elements.
Although certain totalistic trends accuse democracy of having rationalist elements in it, it certainly has a deeper sense of history, its organic growth, and has a feel for the human nature and the psyche of societies. Democracy can rightfully reject the allegation of rationalism towards the opponent. It is the thing that treats people and the society mechanistically, striving to forge “new” people, wanting to make this material only a tool for realizing its ideas. It is the thing that wants to force life into the framework of a predetermined plan, lock up each field in the guidelines of the program set for it – it believes that everything can be predicted, calculated and measured. It is the thing that unleashes the fever of “creativity” and violent reforms; staring at its one-sided goals, it loses its connection with reality; strayed in the thickets of the doctrine, it loses the path of common sense; hypnotized by the slogan of total transformation, it destroys the existing values. It sets up various “races” and “records”, breaks with the principle of evolution, distorts the past, skips the necessary stages, accelerates or even completely bypasses indispensable processes, fundamental for the success of the action and for the sustainability of its fruits. Even the successful work of total states – always possible in a democracy as well – must be paid for in other fields by so many victims, above all in terms of spiritual creativity, but also the most serious crises of general material situation, they are so expensive that they are associated with the symptoms of exhaustion, weariness, impoverishment; their final value is questionable. Democratic methods give a higher guarantee of durability and actual usefulness of the works undertaken, adaptation of these works to real forces and conditions, and more economic execution of them. The legitimacy of the totalitarian system with its greater ability to perform great works turns out to be very doubtful and uncertain.
And it is these works that the organization of the total state is meant to serve. Democracy also turns its critical gaze on it. There is no doubt that the system of totalitarian states is modelled on forms adapted to the state of war: the concentration of power in the hands of a “leader” or “dictator”, centralism, “strong-arm” methods, far-reaching limitation of liberties, submission of goals to the rule of law. Democracy does not deny the necessity of all this in the heat of battle, when the existence of the nation is at stake. For the time of need, it can transform its devices into the order of the fortified camp as well. However, it does not agree that the war methods can give a good result in time of peace. It not only denies them purposefulness, but downright points out their harmfulness.
The totalitarian system, in its main framework, resembles the forms of absolutist states too clearly for it not to bear the same flaws and the same weaknesses. The same rule of autocracy, breaking down on the influence of overwhelming and completely irresponsible clicks and coteries; the same centralism, which breaks down on the fact that the heads of administrative districts are truly independent, granted wide powers and conducting policies on their own; the same omnipotence of bureaucracy and police, with only internal official control, always inadequate and one-sided, putting the “goals” and “general lines” above the law, which are virtually interpreted by an official, with the state apparatus largely set to defend itself against the currents threatening it from the “subjects”; the same overgrowth of an organizational element, excessively complex and highly complicated, over the element of the spontaneous creativity of life; the same lack of restraint in the form of freedom of criticism put forward by the organs of social life; the same freedom and unilaterality of policy goals, their insufficient grounding in real foundation; finally, the same claim for omnipotence, omnipresence, controlling everything, in fact, the same negative attitude towards human individuality, towards natural groups of the population, towards the unions it creates, towards the life of society in general. Not all contemporary totalistic regimes nowadays display these defects in a visible way. These systems are still too young and fresh, they still have a lot of that first impulse of idealism, faith, nobility, their staff has not worn out yet, the devices have not solidified yet. There are, however, spots and cracks in them – the oldest of them, communist ones, are full of defects, they are drowning in them and the new ones are being added.
It is true that the absolutist states of the past did not know certain devices for total systems. They were monarchies, while in totalism, the country is under rule of the leader. They were based on a purely state apparatus, while the core of totalism if formed by a party. However, what is given to totalism by the outstanding individuality of the leader and their true genius decreases, as long as they are alive, the danger of derailment, it cannot however replace the monarchist tradition developed for centuries. Even a monarch of poor skills becomes a continuator of this tradition and draws strength and lodestars from it, it is his source of restraint. Totalism, on the other hand, is closely connected with the person of its creator and cannot know for sure that he will find a worthy successor to him. Geniuses are not born at will, and their successors do not inherit neither their halo nor their authority. The leader’s death must cause a total shock within the state – perhaps even makes it impossible to maintain the system. But it is not only the death of the leader that undermines the regime – the chief can never be wrong or make mistakes, he is condemned to lifelong demonstration of his successes, every major stumbling of the leader destroys the system based on faith in its providential nature. When this faith expires, the ties between the Chief and the created system, and the nation are burned completely.
And the party? In the first years after the victory, it preserves the virtues of the knights' order, maybe even increases them. Over time, however, as the regime stabilizes, it inevitably becomes similar to a bureaucratic apparatus. The militants transform into officials, perhaps more ideological, disciplined, aware of their tasks, certainly relating more strongly to the regime and its interest, but still just officials. One of the main tasks of the party in the system – the function of the network of ducts, to distribute top-to-bottom orders and to raise energy for their performance in the society, and at the same time, to signal the upward currents at the bottom – over time, this task must start to overwhelm the party's strength, or be within its capabilities only to such extent as it is available to any average bureaucracy. Members of the party occupying pragmatist positions have no greater contact with society from the one that is given to their position. And maybe even smaller than elsewhere, since the necessity of strenuous watchfulness over the integrity of the regime also imposes the police functions on administrators, since the mere suggestion of the power of the system, the dogmatic ideology itself must tighten the thought horizon, blur the clarity of assessment, dull the acuity of perceptiveness. The original virtues of a phalanx going into a fight for ideals disappear after the unrivalled power wins: only the constantly recovering hydra of forces that threaten the regime protects the party from ultimate bureaucracy. However, this fight, which counteracts full stabilization, creates advantages of rather police-like nature than the spirit of the Spartan heroes. Large-scale planned preparations for the inflow of new forces to the party through youth organizations can do little to improve it; the youngsters get lost into the machine early, and then the accumulation of staff does the rest.
Democracy, faithful to the ideal of freedom accompanied with order, avoids focusing the power in one hand, allows centralization where it is necessary, sees the guarantee of development in the rule of law, professionally combines and integrates a bureaucratic element with a social element in public life, the rulers are surrounded by legal and political control, it makes them act in public and in the heat of its criticism. It does not agree that all this weakens the state; on the contrary, these devices are seen as the source of its strength. It believes that by elevating the authority of the law and its institutions above everyone, including the rulers, it strengthens the seriousness of the state and its supreme authority, separating them from the weaknesses and shortcomings of passing people – organs. It also believes that its method of selecting the rulers is better; it provides the state apparatus with the inflow of fresh and living forces, having a sense of national life, its aspirations, needs, worries, shortcomings. It grants its fellow citizens trust, imposes responsibility on them for their mistakes, false moves, negligence – responsibility resulting in the loss of power. Surely, the method of democratic selection is not free from a certain randomness, however, mistakes are quickly repaired – unproductive individuals are sentenced to imminent fiasco and removal. However, is the exclusivity of the rule of appointment in advance associated with the guarantee that when appointing someone for supreme positions, the behind-the-scenes intrigue, diagonal protections and nepotism will not be decisive?
It is not guaranteed by any control measures – they do not exist after all – or reactions of the “guided” public opinion. The guarantee lies only in the genius of the leader, their omniscience, their X-ray vision, as well as the heroic virtues of their surroundings and the Plutarch’s measure of dignitaries of a lower rank, informing those paladins.
Democracy is also proud to say that its method of integrating society into the state gives results more durable and reliable than the totalitarian imposition of the organizational shell; that it binds the life of the state with the internal life of the nation more strongly, through the continuity of the mutual interpenetration, it produces living and deeper connections. The state’s edifice constructed by democracy, is therefore considered to be more durable, more resistant, more secure. Therefore, because its foundations are deeply embedded in social reality, they are not threatened by tunnels and mines, it is more difficult for the accumulated gases of dissatisfaction and exasperation to explode, as they numerous valves. After all, the construction of the edifice itself allows to adapt it to various situations almost automatically. On the other hand, the hard and stiff organization of a total state is subjected to shocks that are much stronger in the event of more lasting and serious failures, it can break down much easier – in spite of appearances, it is much less resistant to disasters and even crises. Failures of democracy can usually be eliminated by changing the government, while failures of dictatorships end with the collapse of the entire existing state organization. The resistance and endurance of the state organism is usually revealed only in the fire test of war. Democracies have often passed it victoriously. The totalitarian systems have not had the opportunity to demonstrate their value in this respect yet (the Abyssinian War was a colonial war, despite all the difficulties). However, the tragic fate of their absolutist predecessors comes to mind through the analogy with the irresistible power and does not allow for very optimistic forecasts.
Thus – in the theoretical discussion on mutual values – democracy is not considered to be forced to surrender against totalism. Older than totalism, possessing a greater wealth of experience, a more subtle feeling of the nature of life; sceptical of doctrines, undoubtedly including broader horizons of thought; more flexible, less resistant to developmental processes – it refuses to grant totalism the superiority over itself, both in relation to the closer union of society with the state, and to the greater ability to carry out great work, and finally to the higher resistance of the state edifice to internal and external dangers. It believes that the systems it carries are not only capable of generating considerable political power, but even that this power is fuller, more real and more durable than the power that the total systems brings to the state.
And yet totalism has already won in so many countries! It is not surprising to democracy which does not consider its system to be universally valuable, being too aware of the difference in the existential conditions of every nation, the variety of historical, cultural, psychological and social background. Every nation builds itself a system that is required by the stage of historical development in which it occurs. Undoubtedly, there are situations in which democracy does not find the right soil and the right climate; it must then give way to a regime based on different principles.
Democracy requires quite a well-developed culture and political tradition, the sophistication and maturity of the whole society. It also requires a significant degree of its internal-structural equilibrium – the lack of sharp contrasts in it at a certain level of general well-being, and with the relatively low tension of social struggles.
There was no such culture and such balance in Russia; on the ruins of tsarism, when the remaining forces in the audience proved unable to reorganize the construction in a concerted effort, they were resurrected by Bolshevism, after levelling the social space, the eternal autocratic-bureaucratic-police form, bringing it to its extreme form of expression. But Russia is the product of specific relations; you cannot talk about the fall of democracy when it never had it.
In Italy, the tiredness and bitterness of the wartime released the anarchy of instincts, it unleashed social struggles, resulting in the disorganization of the whole life, threatening with general decay – at a time when national Italian interests, despite the heavy collective effort, were not properly taken into account on an international level. Fascism was a reaction to anarchy and the trample of national pride; it rejected democratic forms when the groups that previously operated within it refused to continue the cooperation with the strongest party in the country. Italian democracy did not understand the situation and revealed its internal upset; entangled in the enchanted circle of petty party politics, it lost the awareness of the basic principles of its own system and the rules of political coexistence based on them.
Meanwhile, in Germany, the dispersal of the political forces of society – their inability to create strong and permanent blocks, with a significant activity of the elements seeking social overturn, and the increasingly urgent need to proceed to solving national problems that were essential – this forced democracy to bury itself long before January, 1933. This happened not only to create the ability to control the economic crisis and to face the threatening attacks, but also to continue the work of liberation from the chains imposed by the Treaty of Versailles. Hitlerism ultimately lifted the incapable form of parliamentary democracy, but from time to time it uses the mechanism of a plebiscite to document the solidarity of the nation with the regime.
Finally, in Austria, democracy, from the very beginnings of the Republic, started on dangerous tracks (similarly to Germany); the results of the Austrian parties' ability to compromise in the parliamentary area were destroyed by the organizational form of those parties in the field; they acted as armed militias, causing a constant threat of civil war. When the relative balance of left and right forces in the parliament did not allow for the elimination of this armed emergency, and finally, when the third party-combat organization, N.S., came on the scene – being the obvious enemy of Austrian independence – the democratic system had to give way to the dictatorship introduced by politicians with the relatively strongest support in society.
These examples show that the demise of democracy happens under the pressure of a great danger, especially an internal one, when there is a threat of civil war and anarchy. The transformation of systemic forms takes place under the influence of reactions, expressed in the form of a great movement which unites the elements of all classes of the nation to save the essential collective goods. The cradle of totalism is associated with great dangers and under their pressure, a great rebirth current is created. It rebuilds the decaying community within new forms. The novelty of forms is necessary because there is no necessary substrate for the continuation of ancient forms, because the society has disintegrated. The dissolution of foundations had to bring about the collapse of the systemic edifice of democracy.
The decomposition of democracy usually manifests itself in three forms: 1) Exclusivity, or an advantage in the society of parties that adhere to extreme slogans and doctrines, as such parties, feeding on hatred and striving for radical change, are not able to compromise, to cooperate with other parties, which results in the inability of the democratic mechanism to function properly. 2) Democracy’s betrayal of its own rules; when the political groups born and brought up thanks to freedom, compromise it, striving to permanently seize all power and abandon methods of peaceful and legal political rivalry to arm themselves and transform the struggle of beliefs into a physical struggle. 3) The dominance of bad political habits and the loss of the sense of responsibility and political conscience by the party leaders; turning the politics into a feeding ground, into an instrument of party benefits, losing its dignity as a public service. – All three of these signs of degeneration of democracy are associated with the lack of culture and tradition of political life – the first one also shows a flaw in the structure of society.
Is the dictatorship of totalism capable of remedying these deficiencies: of establishing social balance, regaining political customs, instilling the culture? It certainly knows how to master the growing “chaos” – restore peace and order, carry out internal pacification. It also strives to revive national pride, to awaken its energy to carry out large, nationwide goals. It develops the ability to make great reforms and this way, lay the necessary foundation of democracy. Like every human creation, however, it is subject to disease, and its organism can degenerate. Its body can carry germs which is more dangerous due to its numerous spots of reduced immunity. It is threatened by the ossification in its organizational forms, depravation of the monopoly of power, behind-the-scenes competition of the leaders – losing the ability to find the rhythm of the nation. Above all, the loss of the original goals – the concentration of all efforts of the group wielding power to maintain this power, not to let the power lose its benefits and privileges, and perhaps even – when the foundations start to falter – to save themselves from extermination. The dictatorship, which has entered such a phase of degeneration, becomes a disaster for the nation, and for the very existence of the state – the most serious of dangers; its collapse decomposes everything, since it has poisoned or even completely dried up the source of future rebirths with its despotism and exclusiveness.