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Totalitarianism vs. Communism: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on November 16, 2023
Totalitarianism is a political system with absolute power centralized, while Communism is an ideology advocating classless society and shared ownership.

Key Differences

Totalitarianism is characterized by a central authority that does not tolerate parties of differing opinion and that exercises dictatorial control over many aspects of life. Communism, in contrast, is a socio-economic and political ideology that believes in the common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes.
While Totalitarianism can exist within various political ideologies, its defining trait is the absolute power it grants to the ruling party or leader, often suppressing dissenting opinions and civil liberties. Communism, however, focuses on the collective rather than the individual, with the aim of achieving a classless society where resources and production output are equitably distributed.
It's crucial to note that not all Communist states or movements are Totalitarian. There are instances where Communism has been practiced or aspired to without the severe restrictions associated with Totalitarianism. Conversely, Totalitarianism has been observed in systems that are not Communist, as its primary trait is absolute control rather than any specific economic arrangement.
Totalitarianism is mainly about political control and the suppression of individual freedoms in the interest of the state. Communism, on the other hand, is rooted in an economic and social theory which seeks to address inequality by eliminating private ownership and promoting communal resources.
The misconception often arises from the 20th century, where some nations proclaiming themselves as Communist also adopted Totalitarian practices. However, in theory and origin, Totalitarianism and Communism are distinct – one is a form of governance, and the other is an ideological belief.

Comparison Chart

Core Concept

Absolute political control
Classless society with shared ownership


Power & Control
Socio-economic equality

Political Spectrum

Can be left or right
Leftist ideology


Governing style
Comprehensive socio-economic and political system

Freedom of Expression

Varies, but historically can be limited

Totalitarianism and Communism Definitions


Totalitarianism is a system where the state holds absolute control over every aspect of public and private life.
The Totalitarianism government had informants in every neighborhood.


It seeks to establish a society where resources and power are distributed equitably among its members.
Communism values collective welfare over individual gain.


In a Totalitarianism regime, citizens often face surveillance and censorship.
Totalitarian regimes often maintain power through an elaborate security apparatus.


It opposes capitalist structures, promoting shared ownership of the means of production.
Under Communism, factories and industries are collectively owned.


It is marked by centralized control by an autocratic authority.
Totalitarianism ensures that only state-sanctioned news reaches its people.


Communism envisions a stateless society after the proletariat revolution.
Communism believes that after a worker's revolution, state structures will dissolve.


The Totalitarianism state dictated every part of its citizens' lives.
Information and media are strictly controlled by the state in this system.


A theoretical economic system characterized by the collective ownership of property and by the organization of labor for the common advantage of all members.


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.).


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.


A practitioner or supporter of such a government.


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 system of government in which the people have virtually no authority and the state wields absolute control, for example, a dictatorship.


Any far-left political ideology or philosophy advocating holding the production of resources collectively, especially by seizing it through revolution.


A form of government in which the ruler is an absolute dictator (not restricted by a constitution or laws or opposition etc.)


Any political social system that implements a communist political philosophy.


The principle of complete and unrestricted power in government


The international socialist society where classes, money, and the state no longer exist.


Political opposition is often brutally suppressed in this system.
Dissenters in a Totalitarianism regime are often imprisoned or worse.


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


Communism is an ideology advocating for a classless society and common ownership of resources.
Communism aims for a world where everyone shares resources equitably.


The doctrine believes in the elimination of private property for communal benefit.
In a true Communist society, there's no private land ownership.


What's the central economic principle of Communism?

Shared ownership of the means of production.

How does Totalitarianism view individual rights?

They're often suppressed in favor of state control.

Can Totalitarian regimes have different ideologies?

Yes, Totalitarianism is about control, not a specific ideology.

How does Communism view capitalism?

It opposes it, advocating for shared ownership over private property.

Does Communism always lead to Totalitarianism?

No, while some Communist states have been Totalitarian, they're distinct concepts.

Do Totalitarian regimes always control media?

Yes, state control of media is a common feature.

What's the main goal of Totalitarianism?

Absolute control over every aspect of public and private life.

Is free speech allowed in Totalitarian states?

Typically, free speech is suppressed and controlled.

What role does class play in Communism?

Communism aims to create a classless society.

Is Communism practiced the same everywhere?

No, its implementation can vary based on regional and cultural factors.

Why do Totalitarian states suppress opposition?

To maintain absolute control and prevent challenges to their power.

Has there ever been a truly Communist society as described in theory?

While many states have claimed to be Communist, none have fully realized the theoretical model.

Is religion allowed in Totalitarian states?

It varies, but many suppress or control religious practices.

Do all Totalitarian regimes look the same?

No, their practices might vary, but centralized control is consistent.

How do people live under Totalitarian rule?

Often with limited freedoms, surveillance, and state-controlled narratives.

What is the end goal of Communism?

A stateless, classless society with equitable distribution of resources.

Can democracies become Totalitarian?

Yes, if democratic norms and institutions are eroded.

Is Communism atheistic?

Marxist theory is, but how Communism interacts with religion can vary by country.

How does Communism view wealth distribution?

Wealth should be distributed equitably among all members of society.

Why do some people support Communism?

They believe in its principles of equality and shared ownership.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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