A dictatorship is a form of government characterized by a leader or group of leaders that hold government power with few to no limitations. The leader of a dictatorship is called a dictator. Politics in a dictatorship take place between the dictator, the inner circle, and the opposition, which may be peaceful or violent. Dictatorships can be formed by a military coup that overthrows the previous government through force or by a self-coup in which elected leaders make their rule permanent. Dictatorships are authoritarian or totalitarian and can be classified as military dictatorships, one-party dictatorships, personalist dictatorships, or absolute monarchies.
A - H
- DICTATOR, n. The chief of a nation that prefers the pestilence of despotism to the plague of anarchy.
- Ambrose Bierce, The Cynic's Dictionary (1906); republished as The Devil's Dictionary (1911).
- Throughout our history, we've learned this lesson: When dictators do not pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos; they keep moving; and the costs, the threats to the America—and America, to the world keeps rising. That's why the NATO alliance was created: to secure peace and stability in Europe after World War II. The United States is a member, along with 29 other nations. It matters. American diplomacy matters. American resolve matters.
- Joe Biden, 2022 State of the Union Address
- Dictatorships foster oppression, dictatorships foster servitude, dictatorships foster cruelty; more abominable is the fact that they foster idiocy.
- Jorge Luis Borges, Statement to the Argentine Society of Letters (c.1946).
- You don't get everything you want. A dictatorship would be a lot easier.
- Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry.
- Dictatorship – the fetish worship of one man – is a passing phase. A state of society where men may not speak their minds, where children denounce their parents to the police, where a business man or small shopkeeper ruins his competitor by telling tales about his private opinions; such a state of society cannot long endure if brought into contact with the healthy outside world. The light of civilised progress with its tolerances and co-operation, with its dignities and joys, has often in the past been blotted out. But I hold the belief that we have now at last got far enough ahead of barbarism to control it, and to avert it, if only we realise what is afoot and make up our minds in time. We shall do it in the end. But how much harder our toil for every day’s delay!
- Any and all dictatorship is bad, it has no deeming social features.
- Under dictatorship, the people in prison are always superior to the people who put them there.
- Evan Esar, 20,000 Quips and Quotes.
- Until modern times, royal birth was the easiest route to tyranny, but after the French Revolution the field became far more open. Among earlier tyrants, Caesar, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, and Shaka had to fight their way to the top. Herod and Cesare Borgia had an easier time, being installed by the Romans and the Pope respectively. From her roots as a lowly concubine, Wu Zetian manouevred her way to dominance. The rest more or less legitimately succeeded to power. Modern tyrants, however, usually rise through the military or politics. Napoleon, like most of the Latin Americans or Africans, commanded armies before he became dictator. The politicians campaigned for votes and won elections, like Hitler or Mussolini, or manouevred through the apparatus of an already ruling party, like Stalin or Saddam. Peron, anomalously, was a military man who was freely elected, while Solano Lopez, not especially skilled at war or politics, had the advantage of being the son of a dictator. Revolution and civil war also help: Robespierre, Lenin, and Khomeini led or exploited vast popular movements; Caesar, Franco, and Mao conquered their countries. A lucky few (Kim Il Sung, Trujillo, Sukarno) were helped into office by powerful foreign backers.
- Clive Foss, The Tyrants: 2500 Years of Absolute Power and Corruption, London: Quercus Publishing, 2006, ISBN 1905204965, p. 5
- *In situations of de facto diversity, attempts to impose a single way of life on an entire population is a formula for dictatorship.
- Francis Fukuyama, "Liberalism and its Discontents: The challenges from the left and the right" (5 October 2020), American Purpose
- The advance of technology, together with a culture of caution that transcended ideology, caused the nature of power itself to shift between 1945 and 1991: by the time the Cold War ended, the capacity to fight wars no longer guaranteed the influence of states, or even their continued existence, within the international system. A second escape from determinism involved the discrediting of dictatorships. Tyrants had been around for thousands of years; but George Orwell's great fear, while writing 1984 on his lonely island in 1948, was that the progress made in restraining them in the 18th and 19th centuries had been reversed. Despite the defeats of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, it would have been hard to explain the first half of the 20th century without concluding that the currents of history had come to favor authoritarian politics and collectivist economics. Like Irish monks at the edge of their medieval world, Orwell at the edge of his was seeking to preserve what little was left of civilization by showing what a victory of the barbarians would mean. Big Brothers controlled the Soviet Union, China, and half of Europe by the time 1984 came out. It would have been Utopian to expect that they would stop there. But they did: the historical currents during the second half of the 20th century turned decisively against communism. Orwell himself had something to do with this: his anguished writings, together with the later and increasingly self-confident ones of Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov, Havel, and the future pope Karol Wojtyla, advanced a moral and spiritual critique of Marxism-Leninism for which it had no answer. It took time for these sails to catch wind and for these rudders to take hold, but by the late 1970s they had begun to do so. John Paul II and the other actor-leaders of the 1980s then set the course. The most inspirational alternatives the Soviet Union could muster were Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov, and Konstantin Chernenko, a clear sign that dictatorships were not what they once had been.
- John Lewis Gaddis, The Cold War: A New History (2005), pp. 263-264
- Dictatorship—A system of government where everything that is not forbidden is obligatory.
- Mirza Mohammad Hussain, Islam Versus Socialism, Lahore, Pakistan: Sh. Muhammad Ashraf (1970) p. 167. Originally published in 1947.
I - Z
- First of all, I have to say as somebody who was born and raised in a Communist country, I cannot criticize any action that led to the destruction of dictatorship.
- People ask about dictators, "Why?" But dictators themselves ask, "Why not?"
- Dictatorship rests on control of the military.
- Timothy K. Kuhner, Capitalism v. Democracy: Money in Politics and the Free Market Constitution (Stanford Law Books: 2014), p. 261. The cited definition is from Michael Walzer, Spheres Of Justice: A Defense Of Pluralism And Equality (Basic Books: 1984), p. 316.
- The dictatorships, whether Fascist or Bolshevist, have been able to conceal their innumerable defeats only by ruthlessly using both the gag and the lie.
- Dictatorship... is devoid of humor. The basic reason why Americans will never endure a dictator is... their sense of humor.
- Emil Ludwig, Three Portraits: Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin (1940)
- As a judge, history also undermines the claims of leaders to omniscience. Dictators, perhaps because they know their own lies so well, have usually realized the power of history. Consequently, they have tried to rewrite, deny, or destroy the past. Robespierre in revolutionary France and Pol Pot in 1970s Cambodia each set out to start society from the beginning again. Robespierre’s new calendar and Pol Pot’s Year Zero were designed to erase the past and its suggestions that there were alternative ways of organizing society. The founder of China, the Qin Emperor, reportedly destroyed all the earlier histories, buried the scholars who might remember them, and wrote his own history. Successive dynasties were not as brutal but they, too, wrote their own histories of China’s past. Mao went one better: He tried to destroy all memories and all artifacts that, by reminding the Chinese people of the past, might prevent him from remodelling them into the new Communist men and women. Stalin wrote his great rival Leon Trotsky out of the books and the photographs and the records until Trotsky became, in George Orwell’s chilling formulation, “an un-person.” The true record of Trotsky showed, after all, that Stalin was not the natural heir to Lenin, the revered founder of the Soviet Union, and that he had not played the crucial role in the victory of the Bolsheviks over their many enemies.
- Margaret MacMillan, The Uses and Abuses of History (2008)
- Attacking the press is a common ploy of autocrats and dictators who want to hide the truth. They oppose an open press that holds them accountable—and you know a country is in trouble when its leader tries to challenge and undermine press freedoms.
- Cindy McCain, Stronger (2021)
- An extreme reflection of the dangers confronting modern social development is the growth of racism, nationalism, and militarism and, in particular, the rise of demagogic, hypocritical, and monstrously cruel dictatorial police regimes. Foremost are the regimes of Stalin, Hitler, and Mao Tse-tung, and a number of extremely reactionary regimes in smaller countries, such as Spain, Portugal, South Africa, Greece, Albania, Haiti, and other Latin American countries. These tragic developments have always derived from the struggle of egotistical and group interests, the struggle for unlimited power, suppression of intellectual freedom, a spread of intellectually simplified, narrow-minded mass myths
- Andrei Sakharov, Progress, Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom (1968)
- [A]s a practical matter, the President is nearly always made a dictator in wartimes. But if we begin to do that every time Congress thinks there is an emergency, which is the theory we have pursued for some years, it takes very little, after a while, to make an emergency.
- Robert A. Taft, as quoted in Stathis, S. W. 2009. Burke-Wadsworth Bill (Selective Training and Service Act of 1940) ∗ 1940 ∗. In: 2009. Landmark Debates in Congress: From the Declaration of Independence to the War in Iraq, Washington, DC: CQ Press. pp. 327-336
- There was a time when all world leaders were dictators, when all leaders gained power through inheritance or through violence. Even the Athenian democratic period of the seventh to fourth centuries BC would not meet modern standards of universal suffrage. Because three of the major figures during World War II, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Joseph Stalin, were vicious tyrants, they defined our current understanding of what a dictator is. In the second half of the twentieth century, democracy spread rapidly around the world and became accepted as an almost universal value that now even dictators feel compelled to placate public opinion by staging phony elections.
- David Wallechinsky, Tyrants: The World's 20 Worst Living Dictators (2006), p. 2
- Many people who are losing faith in the prospects of liberty look for a paternalistic dictator instead. Authoritarian leaders often rise by evoking the imagined glories of the past and stoking resentment both old and new. At the end of the Cold War, the world seemed to be traveling on a natural "arc" to a more democratic future, but today's new world order has instead become a promising springtime for dictators.
- Joel Kotkin, The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class (2020), p. 9
- Let us say to the democracies: "We Americans are vitally concerned in your defense of freedom. We are putting forth our energies, our resources and our organizing powers to give you the strength to regain and maintain a free world. We shall send you, in ever-increasing numbers, ships, planes, tanks, guns. This is our purpose and our pledge." In fulfillment of this purpose we will not be intimidated by the threats of dictators that they will regard as a breach of international law or as an act of war our aid to the democracies which dare to resist their aggression. Such aid is not an act of war, even if a dictator should unilaterally proclaim it so to be. When the dictators, if the dictators, are ready to make war upon us, they will not wait for an act of war on our part. They did not wait for Norway or Belgium or the Netherlands to commit an act of war. Their only interest is in a new one-way international law, which lacks mutuality in its observance, and, therefore, becomes an instrument of oppression.
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