It is quite easy for one to take a glance at single party states throughout history and deem them all as oppressive and undemocratic.
How true is this though? Observing two countries in particular Italy 1922-45 and Cuba 1961-the present-day, one might come across a few surprises in this respect. Nonetheless having said this, I believe that in Italy from 1923-45 at least, even though at times it may have appeared as if some human rights and a few democratic processes were indeed being kept intact, these were only skin deep at the best of times. Cuba doesn’t differ much in regard to democratic processes. Cuban human rights however, are perhaps an ever so slightly different matter.Before one begins discussing human rights however, one must first make the distinction between freedom to and freedom of. Freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication etc.
and freedom from cold, starvation, sickness etc. Most people believe that it is not a governments place to secure freedom from, only freedom too. I however, believe that this is awfully capitalist perspective, and that if a person or persons have no home no work or no food, then it is government’s task to provide it for them. Nevertheless in this essay I will only discuss freedom of.
If we begin by observing human rights in Mussolini’s Italy we see that neither freedom from nor freedom of were really respected. Schools practised the indoctrination of young minds. The school day started with a prayer for Mussolini “the genius”, fascism was taught from specialised textbooks. The press was censored, anti-fascist newspapers were shut down and the Minculpop (ministry of popular culture) made sure that films, books and TV shows glorified Mussolini. One wouldn’t exactly call this freedom of thought, opinion, expression or press. However, freedom of belief it seems was respected to a certain extent.
Luckily for the Christian people of Italy Mussolini, a vehement anti-Christian, happened to need the support of the pope and so, made swearing in public a crime, shut down many wine shops and night clubs and allowed the cross to be hung in classrooms and government offices. In addition, groups of different religious orientation weren’t really persecuted in Italy until Hitler slowly began to have more influence on Mussolini. Thus, it appears there was some sort of a silver lining in this very, very, dark cloud.In Cuba, freedom of seems to have been respected slightly more than in Italy.
Although censorship of the press and other media of communication do exist, the standard of education is the best in Latin America, the status of black Cubans and Cuban women have been raised under Castro, and although the influence of the church has been cut slightly, freedom of belief seems to exist in Cuba. Nevertheless, this is as far as human rights go in Cuba; dissidents are beaten up ant their homes are ruined.If democratic possesses were to be respected, then every citizen would have the right to vote in an election whom they desire to govern them and no legislative assembly should continue for longer than a set period of time (usually around 5 years). To what extent was this respected in Mussolini’s Italy? Not at all, or if so, only on the surface. Up until the murder of Matteotti (the opposition leader) in May 1924 a parliament exited with opposition parties and general elections were held earlier on in 1924. Even then however, the MVSN existed to eradicate political opponents, and a law was introduced that meant that the party with the most votes would acquire 2/3 of the seats in parliament. After the murder of Matteotti however, the crowds no longer cheered Mussolini’s name, anti-fascist slogans were painted on walls and three political parties walked out of parliament in protest; they all believed that Mussolini had ordered his murder.
Whether he did or didn’t is unclear, nevertheless after these goings-on MVSN officials stormed into Mussolini’s office and told him to either become a dictator and rule Italy by force, or they would replace him. This was the death knell for democracy in Italy under Mussolini. Fascist party officials were put in place of town mayors, political parties were banned, Mussolini appointed himself as head of government subsequently handing to himself full legislative power in addition the King now had to ask for Mussolini’s permission before appointing ministers. On top of this, in the ultimate set of elections held in Italy under Mussolini in 1928, only men over 21 who belonged to fascist organisations could vote. Before Mussolini came to power two of the policies of the fascist movement were firstly to cutback the voting age to 18, and secondly to demand universal suffrage.
So we can now see clearly that Mussolini had abandoned his ideals, and democracy was effectively trashed.Democratic processes in Cuba were “respected” to a similar extent. Castro ignored Cuba’s constitution for 36 years, declaring it out of date. Then when he finally drafted some sort of constitution again, the “popular people’s power movement”, voters could only elect candidates approved by the communist party, and only to the local government. Thus, democracy under Castro seems to be equally non-existent.
In conclusion, how far have human rights been respected and democratic processes manipulated in Italy under Mussolini and Cuba under Castro? It has become apparent that in Cuba human rights records, although most definitely not magnificent aren’t as bad as it was in Italy under Mussolini. Nevertheless, overall human-rights processes in single party states most definitely do seem to have an abysmal record. As for democratic processes, these have hot been respected at all and if they were it was barely even skin deep.