We explain what a dictatorship is, what types exist and their characteristics. Also, examples in history and today.

A dictatorship is based on the absolute leadership of a person or a group.

What is a dictatorship?

A dictatorship is a form of government in which a single individual, or a small group of them, holds the can absolute about him Condition indefinitely and without real constitutional limitations. It implies that political power is exercised in an authoritarian, vertical way, without space for debate or political dissent, and therefore not for the exercise of democracy.

Dictatorships can be established in very different ways, some even coming to power democratically, others through revolutions, civil wars or hit of State. But even if its origin is legitimate and democratic, authoritarian practices and the imbalance of powers that every dictatorship implies prevents its removal from power, and sometimes even its sole denunciation.

The term dictatorship comes from dictator, which is the person who holds political power in the governments of this nature, and this word in turn comes from the Latin dictator, a term that was used in the ancient Roman Republic to designate magistrates who, in the face of a military threat or an extraordinary crisis, were invested with special and absolute powers, that is, with unlimited authority within the State.

We must not confuse dictatorships with monarchies, since in the latter the power of the king is limited by other political forces (in the case of parliamentary monarchies, for example) or subscribed to a constitution (in the case of constitutional monarchies ). Dictatorship is a modern political concept.

Characteristics of a dictatorship

In general, every dictatorship is characterized by:

  • Absolute and unlimited political power in the hands of a single individual or a single party, or a generally military clique.
  • Suspension of the minimum constitutional guarantees such as the freedom of expression (press censorship), freedom of association, the right to protest, the right to life, etc.
  • Authoritarian management of the powers of the State, to maintain political and social order at all costs, including exercising systematic violence against the population: repression, imprisonment, disappearances, torture, etc.
  • Cancellation or dissolution of institutions democratic, making it impossible to balance the powers of the Republic and violating the provisions of the Constitution, or at least giving it a biased, convenient interpretation.
  • Loss of Rule of law: the citizens they are prosecuted differently depending on whether or not they belong to the segment of the powerful, who become untouchable.

Types of dictatorship

Military dictatorships often openly use violence against citizens.

Dictatorships can be of different types, since they are created according to the desire and needs of the group that assumes absolute power. There are no rules or manuals to govern dictatorially, but based on their similarities, we can distinguish between:

  • Military dictatorship. One in which a military leadership seizes political control of the State, through a coup or victory in some type of civil war. They usually govern through Military Boards or Civic-Military Boards, and normally exercise the violence openly against citizens, militarizing the streets and dispensing military justice.
  • Personalist dictatorship. This is the name given to dictatorships that deposit the entire leadership of the State in a single person, generally a Leader charismatic or a caudillo, who then governs according to his subjective criteria, in a completely authoritarian way. His word becomes law and, if he cannot be removed from power earlier, this type of government lasts until the end of the year. death of the dictator.
  • Monarchical dictatorship. Earlier we said that the monarchy should not be confused with the dictatorship, but in this case, both are true. These are dictatorships in which a member of the line of succession of a royal aristocracy seizes the political power of the State, ruling in an absolute way, protected by his supposed royal right to have blue blood.
  • Dictatorship of the proletariat. This term of origin Marxist It is often used to designate communist dictatorships, that is, in which parties of leftist and revolutionary affiliation in one way or another seize power, putting democracy aside and imposing their model of society by force totalitarian, without social classes, in which power is exercised vertically from the top of the party.
  • "Dictablanda". This is how the most contemporary forms of dictatorship and more difficult to define are known, since they retain apparent democratic features, or certain republican practices. They are a mixed and complex type of dictatorship, not always recognized as such.

Difference between democracy and dictatorship

The fundamental and irreconcilable differences between democracy and dictatorship are usually the following:

  • Government election. Democracies contemplate voting and equal participation systems to elect the authorities who will legitimately exercise political power for a period of time. Dictatorships, on the other hand, refuse to give up power and exercise it in a despotic way, without the support of the population or, at least, without submitting to the possibility that other leaders are elected.
  • Balance of power. Contemporary democracies are more or less republican, that is, they are governed by the principle of balance and separation of public powers, so that the institutions of the executive, legislative Y judicial counterbalance and protect the people from abuses of power. In dictatorships this principle is lost, and the will of the dictator or the ruling party is imposed on any type of institution.
  • Respect for rights and freedoms. Any democracy that boasts of being one must respect the human rights fundamentals, which include the right to life, to free political exercise, expression and security from different points of view. In dictatorships, on the other hand, these rights are suspended or curtailed with impunity, since the power does not question its own methods or find justifications for exercising violence against people.
  • social justice and order. Democracies are complex systems, which pursue the peace and prosperity through the limited government of the majorities, and that therefore can be more or less problematic, since people have freedom of protest, political participation and demonstration. On the other hand, dictatorships are often silent regimes: protest, strike, or opposition are not allowed, therefore, they do not bring with them social justice, but rather impose a specific order through violence, no matter who it hurts. .

Dictatorships throughout history

During the 20th century, dictatorships developed in different parts of the world.

Unfortunately, examples of dictatorships abound in modern human history. Some of his most infamous cases were:

  • Dictatorships fascists European. They emerged in the first third of the 20th century as a reactionary response to the threat of communism that had triumphed in Russia, and largely due to the state of political crisis left by the First World War. In this case, the Franco dictatorship in Spain (1939-1975), the Nazi dictatorship in Germany (1933-1945), the fascist dictatorship in Italy (1922-1943) stand out.
  • Communist dictatorships. Fostered during the Cold War by the Soviet Union in different nations, under the theory that the dictatorship of the proletariat would be the transition stage towards communism and society without social classes. Among these dictatorships, the following stand out: the Soviet Union of Stalinism (government of Joseph Stalin, from around 1930 to 1953), the People's Republic of China of Mao Zedong (from 1949 to the present), the North Korea of ​​the Kim dynasty (from 1948 to the present) and Fidel Castro's Cuba (from 1959 to the present).
  • Latin American military dictatorships. Also arisen during the Cold War, but as a consequence of the intervention of the United States in the region, to repel with fire and blood the communist insurgency and any type of popular government. The following stood out for their cruelty: the Argentine National Reorganization Process (1976-1983), Pinochetism in Chile (1973-1990) and Alfredo Stroessner's Paraguay (1954-1989).

Countries with dictatorship today

At the beginning of the 21st century, unfortunately, not a few nations have dictatorial governments. Some of them come from the last century, such as the aforementioned communist regimes of Cuba, North Korea and China (the Soviet Union dissolved in the early 1990s), despite the fact that their founding leaders are long dead.

However, due to their undemocratic maneuvers, the eternalization of the same party in power, or the persecution of their opponents, the governments of:

  • Venezuela. At the hands of Nicolás Maduro, successor to the charismatic and populist leader Hugo Chávez after his death, he has governed this Caribbean nation since 2013, the result of popular vote. However, since 2017 he is considered a dictator due to his de facto annulment of the National Assembly (legislative power) of the opposition majority, through a legislative branch made up of militant members of the ruling party.
  • Thailand Ruled since 2014 by Prayut Chan-o-cha, its Prime Minister, who came to power through a military coup against then-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Since then he has governed under a military regime.
  • Turkmenistan. Under the government of President Gurbanguly Berdiuhamedow since 2007, when his former dictator, Saparmyrat Nyýazow, died, who had come to power at the hands of the Soviet Union and communism in 1985; Berdiuhamedow was his vice-president and therefore was in charge of the state in 2006. The following year he held a presidential election without the participation of any opposition and was elected president, despite protests from international observers, and allegations of fraud from the opposition parties. Since then he has used the Turkmen term for himself arkadag, "Protector".
  • Eritrea. Officially governed since 1993 by Isaias Afwerki, although as early as 1991 he was president de facto of this African nation, whose political separation from Ethiopia took place in 1993. Afwerki chairs the Popular Front for Democracy and Justice, which ironically is the only party in the country and governs all of its institutions. According to Amnesty International, around 10,000 Eritreans have been jailed by the regime for protesting against the government, which has subjected them to various famines (the last in 2011) and has repeatedly postponed elections.
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