“It can’t happen here” is a political cliche in the United States. Regardless of your personal viewpoint, there is a vast swath of the American population who simply do not believe in the possibility of any kind of totalitarianism in the United States.
It’s worth noting that throughout history, in virtually every place that totalitarian regimes have arisen, the residents of these countries felt the same way. Russia was seen as too traditional and backward, the power of the Czar too entrenched to be defeated. Germany had been viewed throughout most of the modern period as the home of Goethe, Schiller, and Mozart, a place where the local Jewish population had largely assimilated.
Because totalitarianism emerges differently throughout history in different countries, it’s crucial to take a broader view of how totalitarian regimes arise. For example, when we’re discussing the rise of communism or the rise of fascism, we see different trends in Russia than we do in China, different trends in Italy than we do in Germany. When we examine multiple, somewhat lesser known examples of the rise of socialism throughout the world, we paint a picture of the different ways in which socialism originated and its possible resurgence.
This case study of terror analyses three examples of totalitarianism throughout history. In Czechoslovakia, the Communist Party was able to establish the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic by leveraging little more than a strong showing – but not a victory – in the parliamentary elections. During the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution of Communist China in the 1960s, Chairman Mao came out of relative isolation to radically remake an already communist country. Lastly, we will look right in America’s backyard at the rise of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.
More than perhaps anywhere else, the rise of totalitarianism throughout the world is an excellent example of the quote often attributed to Mark Twain, “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” If you are looking for a mechanical repeat of the past, you are looking in the wrong place. Our point is not to show you that the exact same things are currently happening here in the United States, but to highlight similarities.