A political party, wrote Edmund Burke at the dawn of the nation-state, “is a body of men united for promoting by their joint endeavours the national interest, upon some particular principle in which they are all agreed.”
This description no longer holds fully for any political party, but least of all for Stalinism. And not merely because the Communist parties have no genuine stake in the national interest, but more important, because they are not united upon “some particular principle.” The totalitarian party is “unprincipled” in the root sense of the term. All parties may violate their principles, yet the act of violation implies a certain recognition of norms. By contrast, the totalitarian party cannot, in any precise sense, be said to violate its principles: it can be described by its structure, its characteristics, its power goals, but not by any stable ideology or group of ideas. The movement exists far less for the ideology than t...
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