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A dictatorship is a form of government, where one person effectively has all the power to run a country. In very few cases, a small group of people holds this power. This person is called a dictator. A dictatorship that is ruled by soldiers is called a military dictatorship or junta. An absolute monarchy (the system where there are Kings and Queens who have full power over their country) can be considered to be a dictatorship, but the people are usually not called dictators.
Roman dictators were temporary rulers appointed to protect the state during a war or other emergency. Many countries have laws that allow a similarly time-limited dictatorship, to fight against such problems. Karl Marx has the idea of the Dictatorship of the proletariat. When they became independent in the 1960s and 1970s, many African states changed to be dictatorships, run by one person. Karl Popper distinguished between two different forms of government, "Those where it is possible to change the government without bloodshed, in a popular vote, and those where it isn't." He said that this was the key difference, and not how the forms of government are named.
Dictators often come to power in times of difficulty, such as massive unemployment, inflation, and unrest among the population. Dictators are normally backed by powerful groups, such as landowners, private company owners, bank owners and in some cases institutions like the Roman Catholic Church to put in place law and order by force. This force may be directed at the poorer parts of society, such as unemployed workers, ethnic minorities, working class areas and shanty towns. Examples of this are the dictatorships in Latin America and the prosecution of the Jewish community in 1940s Germany.
Dictators normally need to do a number of things to put in place their dictatorships: they need to get rid of their opponents (which may be political or religious) - some are imprisoned, exiled (sent outside their country) or killed. Dictators will then need to prohibit (or not allow) political parties that oppose their rule. They will confiscate the political parties' property or offices and such things. Dictators may suppress or persecute some religious groups or institutions. Dictators will also need to undo or close down democratic institutions such as parliament and in some cases the congress. Some social organizations, such as civil rights groups, human rights organisations, legal aid centers, students' unions, teachers' federations, trade or workers unions are also undone and those who persist with such activities may be killed. Dictators will normally rewrite an existing constitution or put in place a completely new one. This makes their power constitutional (which then cannot be disputed). Dictators then maintain their rule with state terrorism, which normally involves a secret police, death squads, random or night curfew, indefinite arrest without trial and a network of torture centers and concentration camps. Some dictatorships create a fictional (or non existent) internal (inside their country) enemy which they claim to be at war with to justify, (give reason for) their use of much military violence against a whole unarmed population.
Recent dictators[change | change source]
Africa[change | change source]
Mobutu Sese-Seko was the president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, from 1965 to 1997. He ruled like a dictator, his regime was seen as authoritarian. He tried to remove all colonial influences in his country. There was a large cult of personality. During his reign, he amassed a large fortune, through economic expoloitation an corruption. There was a large inflation, and massive increase of debt during his rule
Robert Mugabe was the president of Zimbabwe from 1987 to 2017. He did a lot for the country, also fighting the effects of colonialism. From about 2000, he ruled as a dictator. He was criticized for reistributing land for farming, There was widespread poverty and famines during his rule. There were reports of human rights abuses. Mugabe seems to have earned his fortrune trading diamonds. Today, the view of Mugabe is ambivalent.
Hosni Mubarak was the president of Egypt, from 1981 to 2011. He has an autocratic style of governmennt. Corruption was widespread, and the Mubarak family amassed a large fortune. Mubarak was reponsible for many economic reforms. Many western governments supported him. He resigned, after about 850 protesters were killed during the Arab Spring in 2011.
Latin America[change | change source]
Augusto Pinochet ruled Chile as a dictator from 1973 to 1990. During his reign, there were widespread reports of torture, and people regularly disappeared. Pinochet made econoic reforms, which benefitted Chile.he put economists in key positions of his government. After apopular vote, Chile returned to democracy, with free elections in 1990. There also were repors on corruption, and Pinochet wanting to evade taxes.
Guillermo Rodriguez Lara ran Ecuador from 1972 to 1977