Totalitarianism vs. Communism — What's the Difference?
By Tayyaba Rehman — Updated on October 12, 2023
Totalitarianism is a system where the state holds total authority; Communism is an economic and political ideology advocating classless society and communal ownership.
Difference Between Totalitarianism and Communism
Table of Contents
Totalitarianism and Communism are often used in political discussions, but they represent different concepts. Totalitarianism describes a governing system where the state possesses absolute and centralized control over every aspect of public and private life. Such regimes often suppress dissent, control the media, and limit individual freedoms. Communism, on the other hand, is a socio-economic ideology that advocates for the communal ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes.
It's crucial to differentiate between the governing structure and the economic and social philosophy. Totalitarianism can be viewed more as a form of governance where there's no room for opposition or deviation from state directives. This system isn't exclusive to any economic model. Conversely, Communism focuses on eliminating class distinctions and ensuring every individual has equal access to resources and opportunities, built upon the ideas of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.
While some communist states have adopted Totalitarian measures to enforce ideology and maintain power, it's essential to understand that not all communist nations are totalitarian and vice versa. The essence of Communism as an ideology doesn't inherently demand absolute state control or suppression of freedoms. However, the implementation of these ideas has, in some instances, led to totalitarian rule.
One might argue that Totalitarianism centers on the method of rule and control, while Communism revolves around a vision of an egalitarian society. Historical examples, such as the Soviet Union, have combined elements of both, leading to misconceptions that they are synonymous.
In summary, while Totalitarianism concerns the absolute and centralized control a state exerts, Communism represents an ideology aiming for a classless society with communal ownership.
Form of governance
Absolute state control
Classless society, communal ownership
Representation in Media
Suppression, state control
Egalitarianism, class struggle
Works of Marx and Engels
Can be associated with any ideology
Has been associated with totalitarian regimes
Compare with Definitions
A system that suppresses opposition through force.
Totalitarianism often resorts to intimidation to stifle dissent.
A social structure where people work according to ability and receive according to need.
Communism emphasizes collective welfare over individual gains.
A political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority.
The dictator's rise to power led to Totalitarianism and a suppression of freedoms.
An economic system where the means of production are owned communally.
Under Communism, factories and industries are publicly owned.
Governance where every aspect of public and private life is regulated.
Under Totalitarianism, even personal choices were scrutinized by the state.
Ideology based on the works of Marx and Engels.
The principles of Communism can be traced back to the Communist Manifesto.
Rule characterized by pervasive state surveillance.
Citizens lived in fear due to the Totalitarian regime's constant surveillance.
Communism (from Latin communis, 'common, universal') is a philosophical, social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of a communist society, namely a socioeconomic order structured upon the ideas of common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money, and, in some cases, the state. As such, communism is a specific form of socialism.
An environment where propaganda is heavily used to control perceptions.
The media's uniform messaging is indicative of Totalitarianism in action.
A theoretical economic system characterized by the collective ownership of property and by the organization of labor for the common advantage of all members.
Totalitarianism is a concept for a form of government or political system that prohibits opposition parties, restricts individual opposition to the state and its claims, and exercises an extremely high degree of control over public and private life. It is regarded as the most extreme and complete form of authoritarianism.
A system of government in which the state plans and controls the economy and a single, often authoritarian party holds power, claiming to make progress toward a higher social order in which all goods are equally shared by the people.
Of, relating to, being, or imposing a form of government in which the political authority exercises absolute and centralized control over all aspects of life, the individual is subordinated to the state, and opposing political and cultural expression is suppressed
"A totalitarian regime crushes all autonomous institutions in its drive to seize the human soul" (Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.).
The Marxist-Leninist doctrine advocating revolution to overthrow the capitalist system and establish a dictatorship of the proletariat that will eventually evolve into a perfectly egalitarian and communal society.
A practitioner or supporter of such a government.
Any far-left political ideology or philosophy advocating holding the production of resources collectively, especially by seizing it through revolution.
A system of government in which the people have virtually no authority and the state wields absolute control, for example, a dictatorship.
Any political social system that implements a communist political philosophy.
A form of government in which the ruler is an absolute dictator (not restricted by a constitution or laws or opposition etc.)
The international socialist society where classes, money, and the state no longer exist.
The principle of complete and unrestricted power in government
A scheme of equalizing the social conditions of life; specifically, a scheme which contemplates the abolition of inequalities in the possession of property, as by distributing all wealth equally to all, or by holding all wealth in common for the equal use and advantage of all.
A form of socialism that abolishes private ownership
A political theory favoring collectivism in a classless society
A theory advocating the elimination of private property and class distinctions.
Communism envisions a society where resources are shared equitably.
A political movement striving for a classless and stateless society.
The revolution sought to establish Communism as the new order.
What's the main goal of Communism?
Communism aims for a classless society with communal ownership of resources.
Can a country be Communist without being Totalitarian?
Yes, Communism as an ideology doesn't inherently demand Totalitarian governance.
Is Totalitarianism exclusive to Communism?
No, Totalitarianism can be associated with various ideologies, not just Communism.
How does Totalitarianism affect individual freedoms?
Totalitarianism typically suppresses individual freedoms and controls various life aspects.
Why is Communism associated with socialism?
Both advocate for collective ownership and welfare, but Communism goes further, seeking a classless society.
How does propaganda function in Totalitarian regimes?
In Totalitarian systems, propaganda shapes public perception and reinforces state ideologies.
Who are the primary thinkers behind Communism?
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels are foundational thinkers of Communism.
Is Communism against personal property?
Communism differentiates personal property (e.g., homes, belongings) from private property (e.g., factories) and primarily opposes the latter.
Can Totalitarian regimes be democratically elected?
While uncommon, Totalitarian regimes can initially rise to power through democratic means before consolidating control.
Are all Totalitarian states oppressive?
While Totalitarianism involves absolute state control, oppression levels vary by regime.
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Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.