First, both in Germany and Italy the Nazi and Fascist parties respectively were given by law a special status regarding their property and the dignity and physical safety of their membership. Simultaneous to the promulgation of this law there was sweeping liquidation and prohibition of other parties. And Mussolini could write in 1932 for the Italian Encyclopaedia, “A party which entirely governs a nation is a fact entirely new to history, there are no possible references or parallels.” But Mussolini did not state the truth.
He owed a debt to Lenin and Stalin for establishing a single-party government in Soviet Russia long before Mussolini could claim that in Italy. The Communist government did not liquidate the political parties as a consequence of the positive law. Before assuming de facto control of government all opponents of the Communist Party leadership had been forcibly liquidated. In the Soviet Russia “anti-national” associations were not permitted, and since political parties are associations, the domination of the Communist Party was assured. The Preamble of the Party charter, as amended by the Eighteenth Congress in March 1939, inter alia reads, “….The Party is the leading nucleus of all organisations of toilers, both social and State, and ensures the successful construction of Communist Society.” Article 126 of the Stalin Constitution provided that “the most active and politically conscious citizens in the rank of the working class and other sections of the working people unite in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which was the vanguard of the working people in their struggle to strengthen and develop the socialist system and the leading core of all organisations of the working people, both public and State.
” The Communist Party was also the only political organisation listed in Article 141 as having the right to participate in Soviet elections. Both these constitutional provisions gave the Communist Party a ruling position in the Soviet Government and positive leadership in all other organisations. The 1977 Constitution ordained that the leading and guiding force of Soviet Society and the nucleus of political system of all organisations was the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. A single-party, thus, has become a whole, and has assumed what is nowadays called a ‘total’ or ‘totalitarian’ in character.
It is in its nature a supersession of parliament and the general system of parliamentary democracy. It does not expressly abolish parliamentary institutions, it simply makes them functionless. Both Hitler and Mussolini were in the beginning champions of popular sovereignty and advocated freedom of speech and expression, and rigid limitations of the powers of the executive. But both denied to their people on coming to power the right to rule themselves through democratic institutions and suppressed ruthlessly every manifestation of anti-Fascist or anti-Nazi thought or action and exalted the executive authority.
On one pretext or the other all the parties were liquidated and public opinions regimented. “The political parties,” proudly declared Hitler on July 9, 1933, “have now been finally abolished. This is an historical event of which the importance and far-reaching effects have in many cases not yet been realized by all.
We must now get rid of the last remains of democracy, especially of the method of voting and of the decision by majority. The (National Socialist) Party has now become the State.” In the November election of the same year an unopposed Nazi list of candidates for the Reichstag was put before the country and all were duly elected.
The climax was reached when one month later “the new all Nazi Reichstag held a seven-and-one-half- minute session and for the sole purpose of electing officers. 659 Brown Shirts rose and sat down in unison when the government’s list was put to vote, and then went obediently about their own business.” In Russia Communist Party was a united fighting organisation bound by conscious iron proletarian discipline. It was strong through its unity, “its singleness of will and a singleness of action incompatible with deviation from the programme, with breach of party discipline, or with the formation of factions inside the Party.” There could not be any conflict of authority or opinion between the Communist Party and the government because both were indissolubly joined by reason of their membership especially at the higher levels.
One might go a step further and say that so rigid was the control of the Party over the administration that all higher officials and the astounding majority of lower officials in the government were at the same time disciplined members of the Party. The Party, therefore, was the ultimate source of power. All important decisions on governmental policy were made at Party Conventions-, Committees and Bureaus, especially the Politburo or the Political Bureau, of the Central Committee.
The government only ratified and government officials, as loyal and disciplined members of the Party, religiously carried them out. A single-party government is, therefore, totalitarian. All the authority of government is concentrated in a single integrated political party. It even absorbs the State instead of merely acting on its behalf. The only redeeming feature of one-party dictatorships is that they have a democratic flavour about them and by adopting some democratic forms had taken up some of the ideas and programmes which had grown up under democratic auspices. But any single authority is by its nature total. It has no other authority at its side with which it must divide the exercise of power. The authority of a single-party government embraces all aspects of human life and every form and phase of the activity of community’s life.
The Fascists did so in the name of national unity and the Communists did it in the name of social unity. The African countries, with their newly won independence, do so in the name of national unity. Whatever name may be given to it, single-party government is autocracy pure and simple and it is the autocracy of the leader of the party who is also the head of the government.