A One-Party State

The definition of a one-party State is that it is governed by a ruling committee and there is no system of opposition: it is totalitarian

Using Max Weber’s classification of “pure types of authority”, in paragraphs 7-10 in his lecture Politics as a Vocation, one-party States might be described as having legitimacy by virtue of “legality” if most people support the system of rules which is imposed by the government and its officials.  There are different reasons why people might accept such a system:

●  Communism in theory confers equal recognition on the whole population and provides a reason to support the State although, as described earlier (, it became oppressive in practice.

●  An Economist article, Making history: The Communist Party is redefining what it means to be Chinese, reported that China under Xi Jinping is teaching “Chinese values” as being Confucian: governing for the benefit of the people.  The Asia Society article, Confucianism, describes it as a benevolent philosophy:

“a lofty ideal for the state: the ruler was to be a father to his people and look after their basic needs.  It required officials to criticize their rulers and refuse to serve the corrupt.”

●  Fascism calls on nationalism to justify a totalitarian one party State, offering to maintain order and bring a sense of pride.  Benito Mussolini’s Doctrine of Fascism defined it as a collective will, suppressing all dissent, arguing that:

“The Fascist conception of the State is all embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value.  Thus understood, Fascism, is totalitarian…”

●  Theocracies take the position that there can be no other law but God’s and that political power must be exercised in the name of God.  Karen Armstrong quoted Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1971 rationale for the Iranian theocracy in her book, The Battle for God:

“If a faqih, an expert in Islamic jurisprudence, took control of the administrative and political institutions, he could ensure that the Shariah was implemented correctly”. [p. 256]

In Afghanistan, another theocracy, the BBC reported on the Taliban morality police suppressing women’s rights “to serve Islam”.  The clergy in these governments are interpreting the religious texts, with all their contradictions and ambiguities referred to earlier (, in order to determine ‘the will of God’ in matters of government.  Given that political decisions include economics and participation in world affairs, in which the religious texts don’t give direct guidance, the clergy concerned are acting as politicians as well as providing moral advice.  The population in a theocracy is, in effect, submitting to the rule of a group of people who were not elected.

Leaders can be appointed by a central committee within the ruling party of a one-party State, so that succession can be peaceful and unpopular leaders can be deposed.  All of the examples quoted above had leaders with enough public support to seize power initially, but it is impossible to assess the subsequent acceptability of the system.



This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/6312b.htm.