Stage 1: Discontent & Rumblings
Every new order rises on the ruins of the old.
Those who would establish a new regime must either tap into or generate dissatisfaction with the status quo. However, much those desiring a reset may despise the old order; and they can’t accomplish much without harnessing or fabricating a similar attitude in the public. The revolutionary totalitarian then appears as the solution to these problems.
For example, The Reign of Terror in Revolutionary France, didn’t begin with blood but with bread. Between 1715 and 1800, the population of Europe doubled, creating food shortages among the French people. Many of the French people resented the king’s growing centralized authority. In addition, the ideas of the “Enlightenment” thinkers were stirring up revolutionary feelings. The French government was also massively in debt due to the many wars of the eighteenth century and it increased taxation even on the nobles.
It was from these sufferings and fears, combined with the machinations of the secret societies (admitted by the Marquis de Rosanbo at the Chamber of Deputies session of July 1, 1904) that led the to the revolution and the totalitarian Jacobin government. The Reign of Terror came after the fall of the king and the Ancien Régime, which the revolutionaries accomplished in part because of the pre-revolutionary problems and suffering in French society.
The Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917—which established a totalitarian regime so bloody that it would make the Reign of Terror look like a mere red drop in the guillotine bucket—followed a very similar blueprint. The Bolshevik communists completely exploited the sufferings of the Russian people for their revolutionary purposes. What were these sufferings? The Russian people had lost faith in Tsar Nicholas II and his government, Russia contained restless ethnic minorities, and the poorly equipped and led Russian armies were losing against the Germans in World War I. Russia’s failures in the war led to widespread demoralization and disrupted the economy. In January 1917, transportation to cities like Petrograd broke down, and this caused food & fuel shortages and eventually, riots.
Not long after the rise of Bolshevism in Russia, Adolf Hitler became involved in the Nazi Party during the Weimar Republic. Struggling postwar Germany bubbled with discontent: many Germans considered the Treaty of Versailles to be harsh. Germany was expected to accept full responsibility for the war, pay massive indemnities to the Allies, surrender large amounts of territory, possess no military worth speaking of and be constantly monitored by Allied troops. In the years following the war and the treaty, the German economy suffered mightily through shortages & hyperinflation. When Germany defaulted on some of its payments, French and Belgian troops occupied Germany’s richest industrial region, the Ruhr district, which only made Germany poorer and the German people angrier.
Stage 2: The False Savior & The First Revolution
After identifying and appealing to the people’s discontent, the totalitarian presents himself as their savior. In Stage Two, the revolutionary totalitarian enacts dramatic changes to “solve” the problems and discontent of Stage One.
To find a solution for its debt crisis, the French government called on the Estates General assembly to advise the king on what kind of action to take. The Third Estate quickly claimed full governmental authority as the “National Assembly.” The National Assembly wanted to draw up a new constitution that would change the nature of the government to deal with injustices. After the storming of the Bastille, peasants in rural areas revolted against their lords. The National Assembly declared feudalism abolished and introduced the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. With the execution of Louis XVI on Jan. 21, 1793, the first stage of the revolution was complete. The regicide left a massive power vacuum. Various groups struggled to fill this hole, but in the end, the Jacobins—the radicals—dominated the new revolutionary government.
In the Russian Revolution, the Bolsheviks took advantage of the food riots that began in early 1917. Tsar Nicholas knew all was lost when the military began siding with the rioting workers rather than restoring law and order. When he abdicated on March 2, 1917 (and was later shot), the Bolshevik-run Petrograd Soviet quickly took control of post-tsarist Russia. Their slogan—Peace, Land, and Bread—attracted many frightened and angry people to them as to a savior. On Nov. 6–7, they staged a coup that finally overturned the provisional government.
The initial rise of Nazism in Germany was less bloody but similarly based on messianic promises. Capitalizing on the growing resentment in Germany due to the Versailles Treaty and a global economic downturn in 1929, the Nazi Party rapidly grew in size and influence. The Nazis had attempted a violent coup in November 1923 but failed, and they turned instead to legal means of gaining control of the government. Due to Hitler’s propaganda skills, the Nazi Party won more and more of the popular vote by the early 1930s. Eventually, it was to become the second-biggest political party in the country. At this point, Hitler demanded that President Paul von Hindenburg appoint him chancellor; Hindenburg agreed to in 1933. This was not a violent revolution, but the failed 1923 attempt showed the party’s violent tendencies.
Stage 3: Censorship, Persecution, Propaganda & End Of Opposition
In Stage Three, the initial upheavals of Stage Two have passed and the old order has been fundamentally changed. Now various forces begin to react. The rising totalitarian government faces many enemies they often dub as “counterrevolutionaries” or “extremists.” Here in its infancy, the new order must struggle to gain more power and maintain that which has already been acquired. It sets about combatting its enemies through censorship and persecution.
As soon as they gained power over their countries, the first move of totalitarians like Hitler and Vladimir Lenin was to censor their opposition & promote propaganda. Each of these totalitarian leaders also gained control over education and had secret police forces to monitor and even kill anyone designated as an enemy. Another strategy was to establish youth organizations to indoctrinate citizens in the state’s propaganda from an early age by tearing their loyalties away from family or religion. Religion is almost universally persecuted once these kinds of regimes come to power.
Finally, Hitler and Lenin outlawed all political opposition parties from ever coming to power. Totalitarians ultimately create one-party systems which often maintain a façade of democracy.
Stage 4: The Crisis
Stage Four prepares the way for the totalitarian government to grasp total control over all those under its rule. It consists of a crisis moment, which may be either a real threat or a false flag event which seems to threaten the nation.
By 1793, the French Revolution was at a crisis point. Defenders of the old order rose up on all sides to crush the new order. Austrian and Prussian armies encircled France, while the Vendéean peasants revolted against the revolutionary government and army. And so, in the name of “public safety,” the government decided to take harsh measures against all enemies of the revolution because they needed more control. This was the task of the Committee of Public Safety.
On Aug. 3, 1918, Lenin was shot after giving a speech at a factory. While recovering in the hospital, he wrote to a subordinate, “It is necessary secretly—and urgently—to prepare the terror.” This initiated a campaign of mass killings and detentions by the government, known to history as the Red Terror. As always, the justification for these acts was the “emergency” indicated by the attempted assassination. The “radicals” and “counterrevolutionaries” were allegedly “at the gate,” and it was necessary to use extreme measures to deal with this kind of imminent “threat.” So the rhetoric went and always goes.
Hitler also used a “state of emergency” to justify his clampdown. On Feb. 27, 1933, the Reichstag went up in flames. In response, Herman Gorrin, minister of the interior, ordered a raid on Communist headquarters, allegedly for evidence of sedition and a Communist plot to attack public buildings. In Hitler’s mind, this was the signal to seize complete control. On February 28, the cabinet abolished freedom of speech, assembly, privacy, and the press. Around four thousand people were arrested that night. This “crisis,” with the usual language about safety and countering threats, ushered in totalitarianism in Germany.
Stage 5: Purges, Genocide & Total Control
Using the crisis of Stage Four as an excuse, the totalitarian government now seizes absolute control over the lives of all its citizens as the regime has already overcome the enemies of Stages Three & Four. It begins to brutally enforce its “utopia” and ideology on the populace. This stage also sees the greatest number of atrocities committed against the populace because resistance to the totalitarian regime has been crushed. At this point, the people are defenseless and demoralized: nothing stands between the regime and its victims. This stage often involves mass killings as the regime liquidates any remaining enemies while seeking to control every detail of the citizens’ lives.
During the latter stages of the French Revolution, the Committee of Public Safety received dictatorial powers to defeat anyone who opposed the revolutionary government. During 1793–1794, the CPS eliminated rival revolutionary groups before passing a law that suspended citizens’ rights to a public trial or legal assistance and gave the jury only two options, acquittal or death. The results were horrifying: throughout France, 300,000 suspects were arrested, 17,000 were executed, and about 10,000 died in prison or without trial.
However, that was nothing compared to the Red Terror and Joseph Stalin’s purges. The party used the attempted assassination of Lenin as justification for intense persecution of its enemies. Tens of thousands of people became victims, as discussed in Richard Pipes’s “The Russian Revolution.” But Lenin’s handiwork was only a precursor to Stalin’s “purges” of the revolution’s political enemies. Historians are divided on just how many people Stalin killed, but estimates reach as high as 60 million.
Estimates of the people killed by Hitler and his Nazi Party vary as well. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the figure stands at 17 million.
In addition to carrying out mass killings, established totalitarian regimes seek to control everyday life through measures like censorship, propaganda, gun control, and internal passports.
The United States In 2022
Is the United States headed for totalitarianism? Here we move from facts to speculation—a risky business. Unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer, but if we are careful to avoid exaggeration, some useful comparisons can be made:
Have any forces in the United States taken advantage of real or imagined problems in the country to stir up discontent and even violence? The death of George Floyd and the associated claims of systemic racism in 2020 gave rise to violent and destructive riots. Fortunately, this has calmed down, but as in pre-Soviet Russia, ongoing tensions surrounding racial minorities continue to threaten more social unrest. This unrest could intensify if predictions of food shortages and increasing inflation come true in the coming months and years.
Has any figure or group presented themselves as a savior with the solution to our problems, a solution that will require the curtailing of individual rights? Are freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, due process, or religious rights now under attack? The COVID pandemic was used by governments around the world to justify vast restrictions on personal freedom, including limitations on freedom of assembly, the closing of religious centers, and censorship of information or viewpoints that opposed the official COVID narrative and dictates. Many of these public officials presented themselves as “experts” whose forceful policies were “necessary” for “public safety.” Entities such as the World Economic Forum and many global leaders continue to discuss the need for a “Great Reset,” in part as a response to the remaining “threat” of COVID. This reset includes everything from redesigning health systems and education to the implementation of vaccine passports. This is being presented to us as our “salvation” from COVID and other dangers, including racism.
Are we experiencing any forms of censorship in the United States? Are our media sources independent and objective or coerced and controlled? As the recent Musk/Twitter debacle has highlighted, Big Tech bears responsibility for censoring certain information and views with increasing regularity; particularly conservative voices of opposition.
Does the United States operate under a one-party system? As far as we can tell, the answer to this question is no. However, if the claims of election fraud abounding since the 2020 elections are true and such fraud remains unanswered, we will effectively live in a one-party system, since one party can maintain power indefinitely through illegal means.
Are we witnessing mass arrests or mass killings? We clearly have not progressed into Stage Five type mass arrests and killings at this time, although the data on adverse reactions surrounding the COVID vaccine is concerning. Still, that data, even if accurate, does not definitively show that premeditation or a totalitarian regime is the culprit behind these injuries and deaths.Still, this possibility cannot be ruled out entirely.
Though troubling similarities exist between the trajectory of the United States and other historical examples of totalitarianism as outlined above, we must avoid both the extremes of an alarmist fatalism and a starry-eyed state of denial. The events of the past few years in our country certainly are grim; but history does not work like a machine and there are many different factors in play. In the end, whether or not the United States is headed towards totalitarianism is largely up to us and whether or not we resist these trends. ✪