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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a concept that characterizes a system of exercising power in a state. The term has two fundamental meanings: (1) the essence of state power, which ensures the political power of the economically dominant class, (2) the method of exercising power (dictatorial regime, dictatorial methods, and so forth).

Both meanings of the term “dictatorship” are closely interrelated. The dictatorship of a single class (the first meaning of the term) is necessary for every class society (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 33, p. 35) and cannot be linked to any one form of state. In both monarchies and republics the dictatorship of one class is the essence of the organization of power. In other words, political dominance relies on the force of the class that occupies the key economic positions in a society, and the expression of the will of the economically dominant class through a monarch, parliament, president, or govenment depends on specific historical conditions. Regarding bourgeois society Lenin wrote: “Bourgeois states are most varied in form, but their essence is the same: all these states, whatever their forms, in the final analysis are inevitably the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie” (ibid.). (See also and STATE.)

Under a dictatorial regime (the second meaning of “dictatorship”), power is concentrated in the hands of a dictator or several persons, and violence and terror are in the foreground of politics. In such cases a dictatorship is characterized by unlimited, uncontrolled dictatorial power, attacks on the democratic rights and liberties proclaimed in the constitution, and limitations on the rights of representative bodies. The regime relies directly on force. As a rule, major social groups (classes; estates) act as the bearers of the dictatorship. However, outwardly the dictatorship is embodied in one person or in a group of persons (the dictatorships of military leaders and triumvirs in ancient Rome, absolute monarchies, present-day authoritarian regimes, and juntas). Historically, the establishment of dictatorial regimes has usually been connected with periods of sharp intensification of the class struggle (for example, the rise of Franco’s dictatorship in Spain and the fascist dictatorship in Nazi Germany).

As a means of exercising power dictatorship is alternative to a democratic regime. In arguing against the Marxist-Leninist doctrine of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the reformist and revisionist ideologists of the bourgeoisie have distorted the scientific meaning of the concept of dictatorship. Striving to play down the class nature of the present-day bourgeois state, which is a dictatorship of the monopolistic bourgeoisie, they apply the term “dictatorship” only to regimes of personal power; that is, they ignore the meaning of dictatorship as the organization of state power.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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