In many people’s mindsets, totalitarianism is just an unshakable form of political system that the top level leaders give commands, and then those below will just carry them out as instructed, with the exception of riots, just like in the PC games “Civilizations” or the “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”.
In reality, totalitarianism is a small group of people sharing same interests (be it the royalty, aristocracy, part, church or army, etc), which is able to centralize its power through its power of appointment. The system gains support and continues to exist as long as it can protect the interests of those people.
Totalitarianism is not an unlimited extension of individual’s will. Totalitarianism, despite its “totalitarianism”, is nevertheless based on “common interests” – just not the common interests for all. The privileged lend support to the totalitarian regime as long as it can protect their power, income and social status. If this is not the case to them, such regime will collapse in no time.
These groups exist as the legacy from those who established the regime. They let the contributors to the establishment of the regime to become the privileged class as a reward. Consider the case of a party or an army. They toil and sweat to establish the regime for the sake of the fruits that ripe, such as fief, property or trophy. If not, why soldiers fight in the first place?
In a totalitarian regime, a group of privileged class can beat the others, or it can be infiltrated by different values and interested groups with the lapse of time, which lead to its breakup.
However, it is easier said than done when you say to kick these people away. Transfer of power cannot be done simply by words or instructions. You are the first one to be kicked out if you dare to touch the rewards of the privileged.
To maintain power justifies many means. The point is, is it necessary to maintain the power itself?
The reason to maintain strong power is the fear that the world becomes chaotic with the absence of such power, which justifies a strong power to stabilize. But those who make the world chaotic are usually those who thirst for more power. This becomes a vicious cycle.
No regime is merciful. The ruler is from your own country or a foreigner makes no difference, there is no intimacy just because he is the ruler from the same country. To me, they are both strangers who may be allies or enemies.
As long as we have values, those who concern their interests will try to intervene. No matter there is democracy or not, it is the same.
There is an obvious gap between totalitarianism and democracy, they are mutually exclusive.
If a person perceives that a citizen is the subject of the country, and that the country belongs to some elites (under certain definition), only those clever elites have the capability and eligibility to judge what is right or wrong, and that the rest of people are just ignorant idiots. He will become a totalitarian advocate even he was born in a democratic society.
In contrast, if a person perceives that the country is the property of the citizens. Elites are just common people in political sense. They may possess some professional skills, but there is no individual who can judge what it the best. There is no “the best”. Even the wisest person can make mistakes. We are not going to choose the best way, but the least hated way. This person will be an advocate of democracy or with similar thoughts, even he was born to a totalitarian society and without any education in democracy.
So a democracy cannot prevent Hitler. When most citizens believe the majority of them are ignorant idiots and rely on elites, such society has totalitarian tendency no matter what the political system is.
A totalitarian is welcome to elections, as long as the elites/vested interests can always win. These elections are not democracy, but a totalitarian is proud to proclaim that his country has elections and democracy – just a democracy different from the others.
Totalitarianism can only lead its ignorant subjects to follow the instructions and to indulge in illusionary patriotism.