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Jan C. Behrends

Dictatorship: Modern Tyranny Between Leviathan and Behemoth

Version: 2.0, in: Docupedia-Zeitgeschichte, 14.03.2017


Artikelbild: Diktatur: Moderne Gewaltherrschaft zwischen Leviathan und Behemoth

Stalin poster by Nina Nikolaevna Vatolina: “Thanks to our beloved Stalin for a happy childhood!” – Moscow/Leningrad 1939. Source: © Courtesy of

Now in English: The term dictatorship originates from the roman constitutional law, in which it described the temporary rule of a dictator who was above the law to defend the republic. This initial meaning was reshaped multiple times during the 20th century; the modern meaning was developed as a self-description and exonym for the communist, fascist and Nazi regime. The article written by Jan C. Behrends reconstructs the history of the term during the 20th century, focussing on the Russian and German case, concluding with a view on the contemporary historical research of today.
Dictatorship: Modern Tyranny Between Leviathan and Behemoth

by Jan C. Behrends

In the Roman Republic, a dictatorship (dictatura in Latin) referred to an institution of constitutional law. In times of emergency the senate would temporarily grant a dictator extraordinary powers to defend and restore state order. This classic meaning was reshaped in various ways during the twentieth century. Dictatorship became an ambiguous term whose range of meanings could encompass positive expectations as well as moral condemnation. The modern concept of dictatorship has been used as both a self-descriptor as well as a label employed by others to describe communist, fascist and Nazi rule. Its "saddle period" was the epoch of Lenin, Hitler and Stalin. In contemporary history, dictatorship has served as a collective term for varied forms of domination, from authoritarian to total rule, that are predicated on force, that forego certain features of a parliamentary state based on the rule of law such as free elections and a system of checks and balances, and in which a dictator perpetuus exercises power unrestrained by law. Dictatorship and democracy in modern-day political usage are diametric opposites, or "asymmetric counter-concepts" as Reinhart Koselleck put it. This article reconstructs the history of the concept of dictatorship in the twentieth century with a focus on the Russian and German cases, ending with a look at contemporary history and the hybrid regimes of the present.


The Classic Meaning of Dictatorship and a Rough Outline of its Conceptual History

The term dictatorship comes from Roman constitutional law, where it referred to the temporary rule of a dictator granted powers above the law for the sake of defending the republic.[1] The aim of dictatorship in Rome was preserving or restoring the republican constitution by means of a state of emergency. Thus, ever since antiquity dictatorship was understood as an instrument to defend the law. The twentieth century witnessed a rebirth of the term and a shift in meaning that now makes its classic sense seem antiquated. Rarely nowadays is dictatorship used to describe a constitutional state of emergency.[2]

Since the Russian October Revolution, dictatorship increasingly developed into the antithesis of liberal-democratic democracy and is now used to refer to the often revolutionary, unlimited rule of an individual or small group carried out by means of force and not restrained by law. This is accompanied by the removal of checks and balances, of individual liberties, and of citizens' equal rights, including their political rights. Modern dictatorships are usually marked by a dualism between a revolutionary movement and traditional statehood. In the political struggles of the early twentieth century, dictatorship was an ambiguous term with meanings ranging from utopian expectations to moral condemnation. Since the end of the Cold War at the latest, its usage has largely been restricted to a label for various forms of illegitimate rule by force. With that the concept effectively disposed of its classic, core meaning, as Carl Schmitt noted as early as 1921, because "[a]ny dictatorship that does not make itself dependent on pursuing a concrete result, even if one that corresponds to a normative ideal (and hence does not aim to make itself redundant) is an arbitrary despotism."[3]

Bust of Julius Caesar. Photo from: Alfred von Domaszewski, Geschichte der Romischen Kaiser, Leipzig 1914, unknown photographer. Source: [ Wikimedia Commons], Public Domain
Bust of Julius Caesar. Photo from: Alfred von Domaszewski, Geschichte der Romischen Kaiser, Leipzig 1914, unknown photographer. Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

In contrast to the term's pejorative connotations nowadays, a positive notion of constitutional dictatorship closely linked to the Roman model prevailed in the Early Modern period, in the Enlightenment, and in the nineteenth century.[4] Illegitimate rule, by contrast, was traditionally referred to as tyranny or despotism. This antiquated concept of dictatorship predominated into the early twentieth century and still plays a role in the present day in the debate about emergency constitutions.[5] Historically, the term's shift in meaning is closely linked to the end of legitimate rule and the crisis of statehood in Europe. The concept of dictatorship resurfaced in political usage when the Jacobins set up their reign of terror during the French Revolution, and Napoleon Bonaparte, the military usurper of power, can be read as the first modern dictator.[6] Finally, the adoption of the term by the socialist movement starting in the mid-nineteenth century cleared the way for its present-day meaning. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels developed the notion of a "dictatorship of the proletariat" that was supposed to lead to a stateless communist future. Thus, they established the idea that dictatorship could be exercised by a collective while also lending expression to the utopian idea that one day, with the help of a dictatorship, the coercive institution of the state could be abolished.[7] Marxism thereby revitalized the Enlightenment-era vision of a rational dictatorship, which in Russia, of course, was achieved through the irrational use of force, as pointed out by Carl Schmitt in 1923.[8]


The Concept of Dictatorship under the Russian Revolution

The Russian Revolution is the starting point of our own understanding of dictatorial rule. It also set new standards for political terror and state-sponsored mass violence. The revolution was a highly politicized event in the history of thought, and the debate about statehood would henceforth always be linked to Bolshevist power in Russia.[9] Vladimir I. Lenin had outlined the relationship between the Bolshevists and the state in The State and Revolution not long before his party seized power. He declared that parliament and the political rights of citizens were nothing more than the façade of a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. To eliminate this form of servitude he called for a takeover of the bourgeois state and the establishment of a dictatorship of the proletariat, which he defined as "power shared with nobody and relying directly upon the armed force of the masses."[10] This power at the same time brings "democratism for the poor" and "a series of exclusions from freedom" for the oppressors, whose resistance must be broken with force.[11] His dictatorship was thus an order built on force and inequality. During the Russian Civil War, Lenin developed a notion of dictatorship that he referred to in 1918 as the "permanent form of government of an entire epoch." The Russian revolutionary leader explained that "proletarian dictatorship accordingly consists, so to speak, in a permanent state of war against the middle class. It is also quite clear that all those who cry out about the violence of the Communists completely forget what dictatorship really is. The Revolution itself is an act of 'naked force.' The word dictatorship signifies in all languages nothing less than government by force. The class meaning of force is here important."[12] But that very same year he distanced himself from the idea of class rule and declared the dictatorship of the individual an equally legitimate option; an unlimited mandate of this sort, he claimed, was not antithetical to the basic principles of Soviet power.[13]

Emphatic support for rule by force can be found in Nikolai Bukharin's The ABC of Communism from 1918. Lenin's comrade-in-arms defined the proletarian dictatorship as an "iron power, a power that has no mercy with its enemies." He professed his commitment to violence as a means to restructure society: "[t]he October Revolution means the rape of the bourgeoisie by the workers, peasants and soldiers," he says, before concluding that this violence is "not only not bad – this violence is sacred."[14] He described the revolutionary state as "an organization of violence, but violence against the bourgeoisie; an instrument to defend against the bourgeoisie and destroy it once and for all." Even after the worldwide victory over the bourgeoisie, the proletarian state, in Bukharin's prediction, would continue to use "violence and coercion."[15]

These self-descriptions of the Russian Revolution reveal an understanding of dictatorship that refer back to the terror of the French Revolution while surpassing it in its radicalness. Characteristic features were the unlimited duration of dictatorship, the legitimacy of revolutionary force, an ideologically driven will to reorganize and restructure, including the extermination of political enemies, and the vindication of personal dictatorship. The Bolsheviks had thus radicalized the ideas of Marx and Engels, adapting them to the realities of a merciless struggle for survival during the civil war.

Bolshevik rule triggered a wide range of responses abroad, which cannot be dealt with in detail here. Apart from outrage and fear, there was fascination and enthusiasm for the communist project and its anti-liberal thrust from voices well outside the radical left wing.[16] But the first criticisms of communist dictatorship in Russia came from the ranks of the socialist movement itself. Karl Kautsky denied the Marxist legitimacy of the Bolsheviks ever since 1918, decrying their methods: "Shooting – that is the Alpha and Omega of Communist government wisdom."[17] The German socialist, in his view, was distinct from the Russian revolutionary in that he did not share their belief in the progressive character of violence: "The hereditary sin of Bolshevism has been its suppression of democracy through a form of government, namely, the dictatorship, which has no meaning unless it represents the unlimited and despotic power, either of one single person, or of a small organization intimately bound together."[18] Kautsky did not see in Russia the dictatorship of a class but the self-empowerment of a small group. His understanding of socialism was that it was part of an effort to humanize society, and he criticized the dictatorship of the Bolsheviks as a regression to "nothing more than the method of the pre-bourgeois barbarian law of the jungle."[19]

Hans Kelsen, an expert on constitutional law, criticized communist rule in Russia just like Kautsky did. In 1920 he described the Bolshevist regime as an aristocratic form of government, since it privileged certain political and social classes.[20] Carl Schmitt, on the other hand, interpreted Bolshevist rule in 1923 as an outgrowth of the modern philosophy of irrationalism, suspecting that "[p]erhaps Marxism has arisen so unrestrainedly on Russian soil because proletarian thought there had been utterly free of all the constrictions of Western European tradition and from all the moral and educational notions with which Marx and Engels themselves still quite obviously lived."[21] Finally, in 1930, Karl Kautsky concluded that Russia was still marked by the most "blatant despotism" and pointed out the difference as opposed to the French Revolution: the Bolsheviks had maintained dictatorship and terror even in peacetime.[22] Waldemar Gurian, a Russian émigré who studied law in Germany, coined a term in 1931 that is still in currency nowadays. He characterized the regime as an "omnipotent party state" whose "true purpose is to maintain the unlimited power of the ruling [Bolshevist] party." Gurian did not speak of dictatorship but of a total state, for "the might of the ruling party is unlimited, is under the Bolshevik system identical with right."[23]

The concept of dictatorship became less prominent in the U.S.S.R. under the reign of Stalin, from the 1930s on.[24] This was partly due to foreign-policy considerations after 1933, such as the People's Front strategy of the Comintern. Moreover, Moscow had labeled its political enemy as fascist in 1935, following using Dimitrov's definition of fascism as the "open, terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic, most imperialist elements of finance capital," thus giving the term dictatorship a negative ring.[25] Stalin used the octroi of a new constitution in December 1936 to formulate a new Soviet concept of the state, which was now based on the integration of the masses and the fiction of a volonté générale Soviétique. In contradistinction to Lenin, Stalin now emphasized the equality of Soviet citizens and their guaranteed their political rights. He described the U.S.S.R. as a society free of contradictions, which, while enabling political equality, also rendered competing political parties superfluous.[26] This may have changed the self-description of communist rule in Russia, but reality was left unchanged, as evident in the mass killings during the "Great Terror" of 1937–8. Like other tyrants of the twentieth century, Stalin's Soviet Union tried to profit from a democratic aura while disguising its repressive reality.


The Concept of Dictatorship in the German Context and the Genesis of the Comparative Study of Dictatorships

The state of emergency that prevailed in Germany from the start of the war in 1914 until the early 1920s fueled interest there in dictatorship as a concept and a tool. Debate ensued about the Weimar Constitution, at other times about the reception of Italian Fascism and Bolshevism, and eventually about how to characterize Nazi rule. Economist Alfred Weber noted in 1925 that "in place of the older counterpoint between democracy and legitimism a new one has emerged on the domestic front, that between democratic majority principles on the one hand and very conscious minority and violent tendencies, partly proletarian, partly national-fascist, on the other."[27] The constitutional conflict between monarchy and democracy that marked the nineteenth century was replaced after the First World War by the contrast between democracy and dictatorship.

The notion from the era of monarchies that declaring a state of emergency is the prerogative of the executive found expression in the Weimar Constitution as well. The Reich president could govern with emergency decrees according to Article 48 in order to maintain law and order. This corresponded to the classic notion of a temporary dictatorship, whose brief was to suspend the rule of law in order to reestablish it. The Reich president was assigned the role of "guardian of the constitution," as Carl Schmitt put it in 1931.[28] As early as 1921, in his study on the concept of dictatorship, Schmitt introduced the distinction between a "commissarial" and a "sovereign" dictatorship, pointing beyond the Weimar Constitution of 1919. Schmitt developed the hypothesis that in modern history dictatorships were not only constituent but also took on constitutive character: "From the perspective of the sovereign dictatorship, the entire existing order is a situation that dictatorship will resolve through its own actions. Dictatorship does not suspend an existing constitution through a law based on the constitution – a constitutional law; rather it seeks to create conditions in which a constitution – a constitution that it regards as the true one – is made possible. Therefore dictatorship does not appeal to an existing constitution, but to one that is still to come."[29] While even a sovereign dictatorship has to invoke a higher authority – such as God, the people, or history – in contrast to the commissarial dictatorship it ultimately cannot be framed in legal terms and its actions are not subject to normative restrictions. With that Schmitt described the claim of modern dictatorships to shape every aspect of society, even though his diagnosis of the world around him was deficient in a number of respects: Schmitt failed to notice that modern dictatorships strived for permanent power, nor did he investigate their autocratic character.

In the broad political spectrum of Weimar, both the radical left and the radical right attempted to establish dictatorships. While the KPD soon subjugated itself to the Soviet model, there were varied concepts of order on the right, the Nazis representing just one variety of anti-liberal thinking.[30] In his own description of the National Socialist movement and its aims, Adolf Hitler avoided using the term dictatorship. His deliberations in Mein Kampf were focused more on the "racial" principles of a future order rather than on its precise form.[31] He made no bones about his rejection of parliamentary democracy, yet his idea of the future state remained vague, revolving around the dual concepts of "personality" and "leadership" (Führerschaft). He emphasized the "absolute authority" of individual leaders, declaring with reference to the Nazi Party and himself that the "movement already in itself contains the future State."[32]

The history of the Weimar Republic after 1930 illustrates that the instruments of constitutional dictatorship can also have "the exact opposite effect" – namely, to destroy the liberal order.[33] There was a tendency not only to talk about crisis but about the end of the liberal state as well. Carl Schmitt observed as early as 1931, and in a rather affirmative tone, that Europe was undergoing a "turn to a total state," to an order in which the boundaries between state and society would vanish and which was the only one capable of restoring the unity and sovereignty of the state.[34] In practical terms, the "Prussian coup" in the Weimar Republic and a cabinet ruling with emergency decrees had already paved the way for a German dictatorship since 1932.

The Nazi seizure of power may have been accompanied by intimidation, terror and violence, but the Nazis avoided the glorification of dictatorship and violence characteristic of Russia in the years of the civil war. The Nazis were more concerned about maintaining a semblance of legality. Hence the "national revolution" was given a veneer of moderation. While Nazi political science conceded that parliamentary democracy was a thing of the past in Germany, prominent representatives of the discipline such as Ernst Rudolf Huber declared, with reference to Roman history, that the Third Reich could not be defined as a dictatorship. Huber did not call Hitler a dictator but did describe his position as dictatorial: the "Führer" was "independent in his final decision-making and free of any checks and balances" and "adjudges in complete independence aims, methods, and fundamental policy choices." He also emphasized the demise of checks and balances: "The head of state of the German Reich is the bearer of all state power, which in this new state has once again become an indivisible and comprehensive power."[35] Finally, Huber did not legitimize the new state by virtue of its structure but through historical analogy: "The authority of the Führer, his commanding dignity [verbindliches Ansehen] and his charismatic power [bezwingende Macht] […] emanate from his serving the idea of the people. It justifies itself by virtue of the Führer fulfilling the historical task set to the people. The Führer state is therefore neither absolutism nor dictatorship […]. Dictatorship is a temporary exception to the rule which serves to restore the normal order. But the Führer state is a final, normal form of government, and not a state of emergency."[36] According to Huber, the "nationalist [völkisch] Führer state" overcame the antithesis of democracy and dictatorship. More to the point is what Karl-Dietrich Bracher wrote in 1969: "the Third Reich was, from the beginning to the end, governance by emergency legislation that knew no constitutional constraints."[37]

For many contemporaries, there was no question of Nazi rule's dictatorial character right from the start. Admittedly, it took time for them to perceive its break with the classic concept of dictatorship. It gradually became clear that dictatorship in the twentieth century was a form of statehood that could not be grasped with ideas inherited from the nineteenth century. As of 1933, this was accompanied by an awakening interest in the comparative study of Bolshevism, fascism, and Nazism. Expatriates, dissidents, and heretics who had broken with a radical movement unleashed a debate that redefined the term dictatorship. Contrary to the self-descriptions of Communists and Nazis, who defined themselves as political antipodes, these thinkers emphasized the affinity, indeed elective affinity, between these two regimes.


Dictatorship Between Leviathan and Behemoth: From Diagnosing the Present to Becoming a Topic of Contemporary History

In the early twentieth century, dictatorship presupposed the existence of a state. Basically, it meant statehood in a state of emergency. Under Stalinism and Nazism this certainty vanished, and the observers of European dictatorships began to realize that this form of rule could not be grasped with traditional notions of statehood. This gave rise to various attempts to understand dictatorship as a total state (leviathan) or a non-state (behemoth).

A new theory of dictatorships developed during the core years of European catastrophe, i.e., from the mid-1930s until the death of Stalin. It emerged as a reaction to Nazism and Stalinism, and can therefore be interpreted as part of a liberal-democratic strategy of self-reassurance in times of tyranny. Already in the 1930s, at a time when the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were engaged in an international propaganda battle, some observers began to see a resemblance between these two regimes of violence. After 1933 there were more and more voices emphasizing not so much the political opposition between Nazi Germany and the U.S.S.R. but pointing out their structural similarities. Critics from the left wing played a central role here. Thus, the Austro-Marxist Otto Bauer called the Soviet Union of the 1930s a "totalitarian dictatorship of the communist one-party state," and Karl Kautsky drew comparisons between Nazism and rule under Stalin.[38] In 1935 the former Comintern functionary Boris Souvarine published his Stalin biography in France, notable for its analysis of the inner workings of Bolshevist power. He called Stalin a dictator, referred to party rule as terrorist dictatorship, and talked about the reign of a clique around Stalin. He was one of the first to note tendencies towards the dissolution of the state and explained that modern dictatorship was based on informal circumstances.[39] At the same time, Souvarine emphasized that Stalin's rule had to be understood in the context of Russian history.[40]

French philosopher and historian Élie Halévy eschewed the term dictatorship in the 1930s, considering it inadequate, but nonetheless ventured to undertake comparative studies. In 1938 he acknowledged in retrospect: "L'ère des tyrannies date du mois août 1914." He cited the "étatisation extrêmement étendue de tous les moyens de production" and the "étatisation de la pensée" as characteristics of this regime which he said had its roots in the world war. He claimed to recognize a fascist trait in the Bolsheviks' war communism, and he interpreted the rule of Mussolini and Hitler as "imitation directe des méthodes russes de gouvernement."[41] He detected the origins of modern tyranny in Russia: "C'est le soviétisme, avec la dictature, ou la tyrannie, du parti communiste, qui a été ici l'inventeur." And he feared that the next war would bring a further expansion of total rule: "Et si la guerre recommence, et si les démocraties sont condamnées à adopter, pour se sauver de la destruction, un régime totalitaire, n'y aura-t-il pas généralisation de la tyrannie, renforcement et propagation de cette forme de gouvernement?"[42]

German emigration spurred debate over Nazism, though always with an eye on Stalin's Russia.[43] From his exile in Switzerland in 1935, Russia expert Waldemar Gurian insisted on the similarity between these regimes, declaring that Lenin and Hitler were practically brothers.[44] To him, these two ideologies were proof of the crisis of European civilization. Gurian underscored the anti-liberal core of modern dictatorships, their obsession with national unity, which was constantly being evoked and performed and which found its true expression in the Leader cult.

Ernst Fraenkel and Franz Neumann concentrated on the Third Reich from a socialist perspective. Fraenkel, in the preface to The Dual State, regretted that his book was "restricted to a discussion of National-Socialist Germany" and hoped – in 1941 – that the future would bring a "comparative study of dictatorships."[45] His analysis of Nazi statehood began with the words: "Martial law provides the constitution of the Third Reich."[46] Fraenkel's terminology is rooted in the teachings of Carl Schmitt. He argues that the Nazis "were able to transform the constitutional and temporary [i.e., commissarial] dictatorship" of the Enabling Act "into an unconstitutional and permanent dictatorship."[47] He recognized the fundamentally "rational core within an irrational shell" of Nazi rule and introduced the distinction between a "normative state" (Normenstaat) based on the rule of law and the Nazi "prerogative state" (Massnahmenstaat).[48] At the same time he realized where Nazi rule was heading: "The extension and maintenance of this absolute dictatorship is the task of the Prerogative State."[49]

Ernst Fraenkel's former Berlin associate, Franz Neumann, published an even more radical interpretation of Nazism in 1942 from American exile, expanding upon it in 1944. Following Thomas Hobbes and Jewish eschatology, he referred to Nazi rule as a behemoth, declaring that the total state was in reality a non-state. It had neither a political theory nor was it characterized by statehood in the proper sense, and was therefore not a dual state.[50] Neumann cited Führer, party, Wehrmacht, and state as competing authorities in unregulated relationship to each other, whereby each of the last three had to bow to the primacy of the dictator. He emphasized that the core of Nazi rule could not be grasped with rational models. Neumann, too, took on Carl Schmitt and the Nazi theory of the state, stressing that the Nazis had not succeeded in establishing a new order: "except for the charismatic power of the Leader [Führergewalt], there is no authority,"[51] According to Neumann, the apologists of the unbounded state had destroyed modern statehood.

The discussion of European dictatorships continued after the Second World War. Particularly influential interpretations developed in the early phases of the Cold War. Hannah Arendt, Carl Joachim Friedrich, and Zbigniew Brzezinski each established their models of total rule by comparing Stalinism with Nazism. In The Origins of Totalitarianism, first published in New York in 1951, Hannah Arendt avoided the term dictatorship and, following Franz Neumann, emphasized the fluid nature of total rule. She pleaded for "applying the old categories of bureaucracy, tyranny, or dictatorship to the phenomenon of total rule," yet still referred to the new ruler as a "totalitarian dictator."[52] The consequence of this form of rule is the atomization of the individual and his subjugation by regime terror: "Total rule becomes truly total – and it tends always to duly praise this accomplishment – the moment it presses the private-social life of the one it subjugates into the iron band of terror."[53]

In contrast to Arendt, Carl J. Friedrich and Zbigniew Brzezinski emphasized the modern and rational elements of Stalinism and Nazism. Both of them explicitly used the terms totalitarian dictatorship to describe what they, too, considered a new phenomenon: "Totalitarian dictatorship may, in a preliminary characterization, be called an autocracy based upon modern technology and mass legitimation."[54] To them, the dictatorships of the twentieth century were modern autocracies born of revolutionary violence. They defined totalitarian dictatorship as a phenomenon sui generis, as the expression of a crisis in European statehood, and suggested that their similarities were greater than their differences. Recognizing the usefulness of a comparative approach, they developed a set of criteria that included an ideology, a state party, terror, a monopoly on communications, a monopoly on weaponry, and a planned economy. In contradistinction to Neumann and Arendt, this political-science interpretation describes the rationalization of dictatorial rule in an attempt to define an ideal type.

To be sure, Carl J. Friedrich was well aware of the pitfalls of such a conceptualization, as evident in his 1966 entry in the "Soviet System and Democratic Society: A Comparative Encyclopedia."[55] He explained here that dictatorships could take on a wide variety of forms. Unlike Schmitt's terminology, Friedrich preferred to differentiate between constitutional and unconstitutional dictatorships.[56] He characterized the emergency dictatorship (Notstandsdiktatur) as legitimate, while bearing in mind that Western democracies, too, are not sufficiently safeguarded against the abuse of their emergency laws.[57] Even unconstitutional dictatorships were not always considered totalitarian by Friedrich. He thought it meaningful to speak of dictatorships only when a revolutionary movement asserts its claim to a violent transformation of society. Military dictatorships like those in Latin America were perhaps legitimate but not totalitarian. Like Schmitt in 1921, Friedrich bemoaned as late as 1966 that the concept of dictatorship had become questionable, being used primarily with reference to permanent forms of rule – a tendency he himself promoted.

The experiences of Bolshevism, fascism, and Nazism firmly established the negative connotations of the concept of dictatorship in the second half of the twentieth century. This is probably the reason why the term was largely eschewed in the self-description of communist regimes, which instead used terms such as "people's democracy" in Eastern Europe or "people's state" in the Soviet Union. Another wave of émigré literature emerged at about the same time, but was generally less systematic in dealing with these regimes. In The New Class, Yugoslavian communist Milovan Djilas spoke not about dictatorship but the "totalitarian tyranny" of rulers. He, too, underscored the strong position of the potentate when he admitted "that there is a constant tendency to transform an oligarchic dictatorship into a personal dictatorship."[58] At the same time Djilas confirmed the views of other renegades and observers when he reported on his Yugoslavian experience, pointing out the primacy of personal relationships and the hollowness of institutions. Seen from within, Tito's rule likewise had all the features of a behemoth. The term dictatorship faded into the background in the 1960s in the public sphere of communist party states. And yet in the arcane spheres of power, Stasi chief Erich Mielke would use it as late as 1975 when speaking to the guardians of the East German regime, referring to his ministry as the "special organ of the dictatorship of the proletariat."[59]


The Concept of Dictatorship in the Present and in Contemporary History

In the political language of the present day, the term dictatorship usually no longer refers to a state of emergency, state-of-siege law, or martial law, but a form of rule that is set up permanently and predicated on violence, that renounces liberal-democratic legitimation through elections, and has an autocratic center of power, the dictator. Dictatorship is the diametric opposite of democracy. As such, modern dictatorships are a central focus of research in contemporary history. The concept of dictatorship has been blurred, however, by the abovementioned decoupling from its original meaning. It is therefore of only limited use to scholars, being more suitable as a political label than for actual historical analysis.

In classic Cold War-era Sovietology, the term dictatorship was applied indiscriminately to the Soviet Union.[60] The term has likewise figured prominently in research on Nazism, and – especially after German reunification – the history of the GDR. In general, researchers use it as a synonym for autocratic rule by force and show little interest in its implications in terms of conceptual history. Whereas the classic history of dictatorship was essentially political historiography, the focus of more recent historians has shifted to the "thoroughly dominated society" (Alf Lüdtke's durchherrschte Gesellschaft) or daily life under dictatorship.

Researchers have turned to the protagonists themselves, especially the perpetrators – to their violent practices of rule and the mass executions. They have inquired into the dynamics of rule by force, as well as the limits of dictatorship.[61] The emotional and psychological makeup of subjects under dictatorship has been investigated by cultural historians, along with the strategies of legitimizing rule, the performance of total power, and the events staged by those in power.[62] The latest studies distinguish between different forms of dictatorship. The classic concept of totalitarian dictatorship has been joined by new concepts: modern dictatorship, mobilization dictatorship, state-socialist dictatorship, welfare dictatorship, consensus dictatorship, to name a few.[63]

Nuremberg Rally. Mass calisthenics on the Zeppelin Meadow on September 8, 1938, the “Community Day.” Source: [,_N%C3%BCrnberg,_Reichsparteitag,_Turnvorf%C3%BChrung.jpg Bundesarchiv Signatur: Bild 183-H11954] [ CC BY-SA 3.0 DE]
Nuremberg Rally. Mass calisthenics on the Zeppelin Meadow on September 8, 1938, the “Community Day.” Source: Bundesarchiv Signatur: Bild 183-H11954 CC BY-SA 3.0 DE


The legitimacy of comparing Nazism with other forms of violent rule was long a controversial question in Germany. In the Historikerstreit, or "historians' dispute," of the 1980s, the opponents of Ernst Nolte emphasized the singularity of Nazi rule and its crimes.[64] Since then, the comparative study of dictatorships has been established as a field of research in its own right, providing valuable insights for a better understanding of modern European history.[65] The entanglement of twentieth-century dictatorships, especially Stalinism and Nazism, has become an additional focus of research.[66]

What's more, from a global history perspective, it is evident that modern European dictatorships have had no lack of imitators on other continents. While it is true that political scientists have made out several waves of democratization since the 1960s, it is just as clear that dictatorships can have tremendous staying power and generally only lose their grip on power when defeated in war or when a dictator loses the support of elites, especially the military and the secret police.[67] China in 1989 and Iran in 2008 are examples of dictatorships that remained in power through the use of force against opposition movements and popular uprisings. The voluntary surrender of power by communist rulers in the Soviet empire between 1989 and 1991 was essentially a historical anomaly, since here too it would have been possible to put down protest by force.[68] As a general rule of thumb, dictators do use their armed forces and secret police as a means to secure their power.

The variety of authoritarian regimes was a hallmark of the twentieth century and is still characteristic of the present. Alongside Stalinism, fascism, and Nazism there are numerous subtypes and even new forms of autocratic rule. In the Soviet empire we encountered the paradox of General Jaruzelski's military dictatorship in the continuum of communist dictatorship in postwar Poland. Since 1979 an Islamic dictatorship has ruled in Iran with the avowed aim of establishing a theocracy – a new type of regime that, together with Islamicism, is riding on the wave of an international revolutionary movement. In the context of decolonization, numerous dictatorial regimes emerged in the 1960s, mostly of a conventional nature or derivatives of the European types, many of which have remained stable over decades and yet still encounter problems of legitimacy, as seen in the Arab Spring of 2011.

The emergent power of the twenty-first century, China, bears the burden of a totalitarian past and is a kind of hybrid between a communist party-state and a liberal economy.[69] The persistence of communist-party rule in Beijing, coupled since the late 1980s with a policy of integration into the world market, raises the question of an alternative type of dictatorship that differs in many respects from the classic Stalinist and Maoist versions. The developments in China call into question many of our inherited beliefs about dictatorships that still held true at the end of the twentieth century.[70] The case of China shows that authoritarian and forced modernization can lead to economic success and the strengthening of national power over the medium term. Yet the price paid by a Chinese population still lacking fundamental rights under party rule is a high one, to be sure.

The transformation of 1989–90 has shown, furthermore, that it was wrong to assume that liberal orders would henceforth triumph across the globe. Francis Fukuyama's theory of the "end of history" has certainly not panned out.[71] Instead, we see how the legacy of dictatorships is influencing the twenty-first century.[72] In the post-Soviet sphere, no stable democratic order has emerged with the exception of the Baltic states. Russia is a hybrid regime ruled autocratically by Putin.[73] Belarus and the Central Asian states, too, are ruled by authorities that did not come to power through free elections. Independent institutions do not exist there; politics are determined by and large by informal networks, and democratic participation is staged.[74] As in the dictatorships of the twentieth century, the public sphere is dominated by a censored mass media guided by an anti-Enlightenment agenda.[75] Violent political and economic practices that began under dictatorships still play a crucial role and have a formative influence on society.[76] Two exceptions are Georgia and Ukraine, both of which have tried in recent years to overcome the legacy of dictatorship and establish an order based on the rule of law.[77] But here, too, there is considerable resistance to a more liberal form of government. Even in East-Central Europe, which witnessed the establishment of constitutional states in the 1990s, authoritarian developments have been evident since the 2000s, e.g., in Hungary and Poland.[78]

These phenomena have given rise to debate, especially among political scientists, about how to conceptualize these forms of rule. It seems that the concept of dictatorship plays hardly any role at all in scholarship focused on current affairs. The concept has effectively been relegated to the twentieth century, being replaced by new classifications such as "hybrid" or "authoritarian" regimes, that are more characteristic of political life in large parts of the world.[79] It is slowly becoming evident that modern dictatorships have a long afterlife with a lasting influence on present-day societies. The political conflict in twenty-first-century Europe is marked by the contrast between liberal and authoritarian orders.

Despite its general absence in public debate, the concept of dictatorship in its classic form has lost none of its significance for diagnosing the present. This is especially true with regard to the legitimacy of constitutional dictatorships in liberal societies. The French coup of 1958 and the role of de Gaulle raise questions similar to those in connection with the actions of Helmut Schmidt in the German Autumn of 1977 or the imperial presidency of George W. Bush in the wake of September 11, 2001. It is imperative especially in times of terror to reflect on states of emergency. Even after the experience of the twentieth century and it European dictatorships, the question remains as to how a free society should maintain social order in emergency situations. Is it true what the positivist school of Hans Kelsen asserted, that the constitution with its guaranteed rights is valid for everyone at all times? Or have the last decades confirmed the position of Schmitt and his followers instead, that the strength of a constitutional order is revealed in a state of emergency and that the rule of law must be defended with extralegal means if necessary ("Necessity knows no law")?


Translated from the German by David Burnett.

German Version: Jan C. Behrends, Diktatur: Moderne Gewaltherrschaft zwischen Leviathan und Behemoth, Version: 2.0, in: Docupedia-Zeitgeschichte, 20.12.2016


Recommended Reading

Hannah Arendt, Elemente und Ursprünge totaler Herrschaft. Antisemitismus, Imperialismus, Totalitarismus, 6. Auflage. Piper, 1998 [1951], ISBN 9783492210324.

Ernst Fraenkel, Der Doppelstaat, 2. Auflage. Europäische Verlags-Anstalt, Hamburg 2001 [1940], ISBN 9783434505044.

Carl J. Friedrich, Zbigniew K. Brzezinski, Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy, 2. Auflage. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass. 1965 [1956], ISBN 9780674895652.

Gustav E. Kafka, Art. „Diktatur“, in: Görres Gesellschaft (Hrsg.), Staatslexikon: Recht. Wirtschaft. Gesellschaft.. 6. Auflage. Bd. 2, Herder, Freiburg i. B. 1957, S. 907-11.

Franz Neumann, Behemoth. Struktur und Praxis des Nationalsozialismus, 1933-1944, 5. Auflage. Fischer, Frankfurt a. M. 2004 [1944], ISBN 9783596243068.

Ernst Nolte, Art. „Diktatur“, in: Otto Brunner, Werner Conze, Reinhart Koselleck (Hrsg.), Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe. Historisches Lexikon zur politisch-sozialen Sprache in Deutschland. 5. Auflage. Bd. 1, Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1972, S. 900-24.

Carl Schmitt, Die Diktatur. Von den Anfängen des modernen Souveränitätsgedankens bis zum proletarischen Klassenkampf, 7. Auflage. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2006 [1921], ISBN 9783428079407.

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    1. My thanks go out to Stephanie Karmann (ZZF) and Sabine Weber (ZZF) for helping me in my research, as well as Stefan Ludwig Hoffmann (UC Berkeley), my colleagues at Dept. I of the ZZF, and the referees for their comments on this essay.
    2. Gustav E. Kafka, “Diktatur,“ in: Görres Gesellschaft (ed.), Staatslexikon: Recht. Wirtschaft. Gesellschaft. Sechste, völlig neu bearbeitete und erweiterte Auflage, vol. 2, Freiburg im Breisgau 1958, pp. 907-911. See also “Diktatur,” in: Brockhaus Enzyklopädie in 30 Bänden, 21st edition, vol. 7, Leipzig 2005, pp. 26-27.
    3. Carl Schmitt, Die Diktatur. Von den Anfängen des modernen Souveränitätsgedankens bis zum proletarischen Klassenkampf [1921], Berlin 2006, pp. xvii. English translation in Carl Schmitt, Dictatorship: From the Origin of the Modern Concept of Sovereignty to Proletarian Class Struggle [1921], translated by Michael Hoelzl and Graham Ward, London 2014, p. xlii.
    4. On its conceptual-historical context between the Enlightenment and the nineteenth century, see Ernst Nolte, “Diktatur” (1966), in: Otto Brunner et al. (eds.), Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe. Historisches Lexikon zur politisch-sozialen Sprache in Deutschland, vol. 1, Stuttgart 1972, pp. 900-924. See also Hans Boldt, “Ausnahmezustand, neccessitas publica, Belagerungszustand, Kriegszustand, Staatsnotstand, Staatsnotrecht,” in: ibid., pp. 343-376, and Dieter Groh, “Cäsarismus,” in: ibid., pp. 726-771.
    5. See, e.g., “Diktator,” in: Meyers Konversations-Lexikon. Dritte, gänzlich umgearbeitete Auflage, vol. 5, Leipzig 1875, p. 470; “Diktator,” in: Ėncikopedičeskij slovar’, izd. Brokgauz-Efron, Tom Xa, St. Peterburg 1893, p. 602; “Diktator,” in: Meyers Lexikon, Siebente Auflage, vo. 3, Leipzig 1925, p. 797; “Dictator,” in: Encyclopædia Britannica. Fourteenth Edition, vol. 7, London 1929/31, pp. 337-338.
    6. E.g., by Schmitt, Die Diktatur, p. xiv. On the debate about Napoleon, see also Groh, Cäsarismus, pp. 732-748.
    7. Hans Kelsen, Sozialismus und Staat. Eine Untersuchung der politischen Theorie des Marxismus, Leipzig 1920, pp. 29-58.
    8. Carl Schmitt, Die geistesgeschichtliche Lage des heutigen Parlamentarismus [1923], Berlin 81996, pp. 63-90. English translation: Carl Schmitt, The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy, translated by Ellen Kennedy, Cambridge, Mass. 1988, pp. 51-76.
    9. See James Ryan, Lenin’s Terror: The Ideological Origins of Early Soviet State Violence, London 2012. For an overview of the communist movement, see Silvio Pons, The Global Revolution: A History of International Communism, 1917-1991, Oxford 2014.
    10. V. I. Lenin, The State and Revolution, translated by Robert Service, London 1992, p. 24. On the development of the Bolshevist concept of the state, cf. Leszek Kolakowski, Die Hauptströmungen des Marxismus. Entstehung. Geschichte. Zerfall. Vol. 2, Munich 1981, pp. 523-576. The Bolshevists’ emphatic concept of force stems less from Marx than Sorel and the traditions of the Russian revolutionary movement. See Georges Sorel, Reflections on Violence [1906], translated by Jeremy Jennings, Cambridge 1999. On the Soviet self-conception, see also the summary in “Diktatura,” in: Bol’šaja Sovetskaja Ėnciklopedija, vol. 22, Moscow 1935, pp. 325-326.
    11. Lenin, State and Revolution, pp. 79-80
    12. Lenin’s theses on social revolution, cited in: Karl Kautsky, The Dictatorship of the Proletariat, translated by H. J. Stenning, Ann Arbor 1964, p. 142; German original: Karl Kautsky, Die Diktatur des Proletariats, Vienna 1918, p. 61
    13. W. I. Lenin, Die nächsten Aufgaben der Sowjetmacht [1918], in: idem, Werke, vol. 27, Berlin (East) 1960, pp. 225-268, quote on p. 259.
    14. N.[ikolaj] Bucharin, Programm der Kommunisten (Bolschewiki), Bern-Belp 1918, pp. 20-21, online at, translation mine. See also the English translation, Nikolai Bukharin, The ABC of Communism: A Popular Explanation of the Program of the Communist Party of Russia, Ann Arbor 1966, online at
    15. Ibid., pp. 23, 25, emphasis mine.
    16. Gerd Koenen/Lew Kopelew (eds.), Deutschland und die russische Revolution, 1917-1924, Munich 1998; Gerd Koenen, Der Russland-Komplex. Die Deutschen und der Osten, 1900-1945, Munich 2005; on the synthesis of Bolshevism and the Jacobin tradition in France and Europe: François Furet, Das Ende der Illusion. Der Kommunismus im 20. Jahrhundert [1995], Munich 1998, pp. 87-172 (in English: The Passing of an Illusion: The Idea of Communism in the Twentieth Century, translated by Deborah Furet, Chicago 1999). See also Michael David-Fox, Showcasing the Great Experiment: Cultural Diplomacy and Western Visitors to the Soviet Union, Oxford 2011.
    17. Karl Kautsky, Terrorism and Communism: A Contribution to the Natural History of Revolution, translated by W.H. Kerridge, London 1920, p. 211; German original: Karl Kautsky, Terrorismus und Kommunismus. Ein Beitrag zur Naturgeschichte der Revolution, Berlin 1919, p. 120. See also the response of Lenin and Trotsky to Kautsky: W.I. Lenin, Die proletarische Revolution und der Renegat Kautsky [1918], in: idem, Werke, vol. 28, Berlin (East) 1959, pp. 225-327; L.[ev] Trotzki, Terrorismus und Kommunismus. Anti-Kautsky, Hamburg 1920.
    18. Kautsky, Terror and Communism, p. 217; German original:Kautsky, Terrorismus und Kommunismus, p. 140.
    19. Kautsky, Terrorismus und Kommunismus, p. 152, translation mine.
    20. Kelsen, Sozialismus und Staat, pp. 104-128.
    21. Schmitt, Die geistesgeschichtliche Lage, p. 77. English translation in: Schmitt, The Crisis, pp. 65-6.
    22. Karl Kautsky, Der Bolschewismus in der Sackgasse, Berlin 1930, pp. 85, 94-95 (English translation: Karl Kautsky, Bolshevism at a Deadlock, translated by B. Pritchard, London 1931). On the critique by European intellectuals of the post-revolutionary reign of the Bolsheviks, see also Furet, Das Ende der Illusion, pp. 144-164. See also Arthur Rosenberg, Geschichte des Bolschewismus. Von Marx bis zur Gegenwart, Berlin 1932 and idem, Demokratie und Sozialismus, Amsterdam 1938.
    23. Waldemar Gurian, Bolshevism: Theory and Practice, translated by E. I. Watkin, London 1932, pp. 86, 91. German original: Waldemar Gurian, Der Bolschewismus. Einführung in seine Geschichte und Lehre, Freiburg im Breisgau. 1931, pp. 69-70.
    24. Immediately following Lenin’s death, Stalin vowed to the party in his funeral oration to “protect and consolidate the dictatorship of the proletariat.” J.W. Stalin, “Zum Tode Lenins. Rede auf dem II. Sowjetkongreß der UdSSR,” January 26, 1924, in: idem, Werke, vol. 6, Berlin (East) 1952, pp. 41-46, quote on p. 43. Stalin’s definition of the dictatorship of the proletariat in 1926 is already more moderate than in Lenin’s and Bukharin’s remarks. Cf. J.W. Stalin, “Zu den Fragen des Leninismus,” in: idem, Werke, vol. 8, Berlin (East) 1952, pp. 12-81, esp. p. 19-27.
    25. See Georgi Dimitroff, Die Offensive des Faschismus und die Aufgaben der Kommunistischen Internationale, August 2, 1935, in: idem, Ausgewählte Schriften, Berlin (East) 1958, pp. 523-625., translation mine. In the self-description of fascists, the term dictatorship hardly plays any role at all. Mussolini spoke of a “strong and ethical state.” See Benito Mussolini, Die Lehre des Faschismus, Florence 1935. In his talks with Emil Ludwig, Mussolini merely mentioned the Roman dictatorship: Mussolinis Gespräche mit Emil Ludwig, Berlin 1932, p. 134. Giovanni Gentile defined Mussolini’s Italy as “a popular state, and, in that sense, a democratic State par excellence,” p. 28, in Origins and Doctrine of Fascism: With Selections from Other Works, translated by A. James Gregor, Transaction Publishers, 2007. Giovanni Gentile, Grundlagen des Faschismus, Cologne 1936, p. 43. Still very readable as a critique of fascist dictatorship: Hermann Heller, Rechtsstaat oder Diktatur?, Tübingen 1930.
    26. J.W. Stalin, “Über den Entwurf der Verfassung der Union der SSR. Bericht auf dem außerordentlichen VIII. Sowjetkongreß der UdSSR, 25.11.1936,” in: idem, Werke, vol. 14, Dortmund 1976, p. 57-90.
    27. Alfred Weber, Die Krise des europäischen Staatsgedankens, Berlin 1925, pp. 120-121.
    28. Carl Schmitt, Der Hüter der Verfassung [1931], Berlin 1996; extracts in The Guardian of the Constitution: Hans Kelsen and Carl Schmitt on the Limits of Constitutional Law, edited by Larx Vinx, Cambridge 2015. Zu Souveränität und Ausnahmezustand siehe auch ders., Politische Theologie. Vier Kapitel zur Lehre von der Souveränität [1922], Berlin 2009.
    29. Schmitt, Die Diktatur, p. 134; English translation: Schmitt, Dictatorship, 2014, p.119. See also idem, “Diktatur,” in: Hermann Sacher (eds.), Staatslexikon, fifth thoroughly revised edition, vol. 1, Freiburg im Breisgau 1926, pp. 1448-1453.
    30. Kurt Sontheimer, Antidemokratisches Denken in der Weimarer Republik, Munich 1962; Stefan Breuer, Anatomie der Konservativen Revolution, Darmstadt 1996.
    31. Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. 2: Die nationalsozialistische Bewegung [1927], Munich 1936, pp. 425-487.
    32. Ibid., p. 503. Quote in English taken from: Hitler, Mein Kampf, translated by the New School for Social Research, 1939 New York, p. 672.
    33. Karl-Dietrich Bracher, Die deutsche Diktatur. Entstehung, Struktur, Folgen des Nationalsozialismus [1969], Cologne 1993, p. 212. Franz von Papen preferred to say that the aim of his authoritarian restructuring was a “new state.”
    34. Carl Schmitt, “Die Wendung zum totalen Staat” [1931], in: idem., Positionen und Begriffe. Im Kampf mit Weimar – Genf – Versailles 1923-1939 [1941], Berlin 1994, pp. 166-178.
    35. Ernst Rudolf Huber, “Das Staatsoberhaupt des Dritten Reiches,” in: Zeitschrift für die gesamte Staatswissenschaft 95 (1934), pp. 202-229, quotes pp. 211-212. From a Nazi perspective, see also Ernst Forsthoff, Der totale Staat, Hamburg 1933; Carl Schmitt, Staat, Bewegung, Volk. Die Dreigliederung der politischen Einheit, Hamburg 1933; Otto Koellreuther, Der deutsche Führerstaat, Tübingen 1934; Gottfried Neeße, Führergewalt. Die Entwicklung der hoheitlichen Gewalt im Deutschen Reiche, Tübingen 1940. For a contemporary critique of the Nazi theory of the state, see Franz Neumann Behemoth: The Structure and Practice of National Socialism 1933–1944, New York / London 1944 [reissued Chicago 2009], pp. 41-61.
    36. Huber, “Das Staatsoberhaupt des Deutschen Reiches,” p. 229.
    37. Bracher, Die deutsche Diktatur, S. 232.
    38. Furet, Das Ende der Illusion, pp. 210-212.
    39. Boris Souvarine, Staline. Aperçu historique du bolchévisme, Paris 1935.
    40. He was followed in this characterization of Stalin by Isaac Deutscher, whose balanced 1949 biography is still well worth reading. See Isaac Deutscher, Stalin: A Political Biography, London / New York 1949. Deutscher, like Souvarine, was originally from the Russian Empire, hence his interpretation of Stalinism and its method of rule was a product of this culture.
    41. Elie Halévy, L’Ère des tyrannies. Études sur le socialisme et la guerre, Paris 1938, pp. 214-215.
    42. Ibid., pp. 223, 225.
    43. I do not go into certain tendencies in exile, such as the renewal of liberalism in light of the experience of dictatorship, as these don’t shed any particular light on dictatorship as a concept and practice of domination. See Friedrich von Hayek, The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek, vol. 2: The Road to Serfdom [1944]: Text and Documents, Chicago 2007; Karl R. Popper, The Open Society and its Enemies, 2 vols., London 1945.
    44. Waldemar Gurian, Bolschewismus als Weltgefahr, Lucerne 1935.
    45. Ernst Fraenkel, The Dual State: A Contribution to the Theory of Dictatorship, translated by E. A. Shils, Edith Lowenstein and Klaus Knorr, New York 1941 [reissued 2006 Clark, N.J.], p. xvi.
    46. Ernst Fraenkel, The Dual State, p. 3.
    47. Fraenkel, The Dual State, p. 5.
    48. Ibid., p. 206.
    49. Ibid., p. 5.
    50. Neumann, Behemoth, pp. 459-76.
    51. Ibid., p. 470.
    52. Hannah Arendt, Elemente und Ursprünge totaler Herrschaft. Antisemitismus, Imperialismus, Totalitarismus [1951], Munich 1998, quotes on pp. 854, 857, this and the following translation are mine.
    53. Ibid., p. 975.
    54. Carl J. Friedrich/Zbigniew K. Brzezinski, Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy [1956]. Second Edition, Revised by Carl J. Friedrich, Cambridge, Mass. 1965, p. 4.
    55. See Carl J. Friedrich’s article “Diktatur,” in: C.D. Kernig (eds.), Sowjetsystem und demokratische Gesellschaft. Eine vergleichende Enzyklopädie, vol. 1, Freiburg 1966, pp. 1240-1259.
    56. Similar to Kafka, “Diktatur.”
    57. See the controversy about the West German emergency laws of the 1960s, which contain a passage giving citizens the right to resist the overthrow of the constitution, i.e., the right to oppose the transition from a commissarial (temporary) to a sovereign dictatorship. See Boris Spernol, Notstand der Demokratie. Der Protest gegen die Notstandsgesetze und die Frage der NS-Vergangenheit, Essen 2008.
    58. Milovan Djilas, The New Class: An Analysis of the Communist System, New York 1985 [1957], p. 81.
    59. Erich Mielke, “Mit hoher Verantwortung für den zuverlässigen Schutz des Sozialismus” [1975], cited in: Jens Gieseke, Die DDR-Staatssicherheit. Schild und Schwert der Partei, Bonn 2001, p. 6.
    60. See, e.g., Merle Fainsod, How Russia is Ruled [1953], Cambridge, Mass. 1963, pp. 131-175.
    61. See, e.g., Ulrich Herbert, Best. Biographische Studien über Radikalismus, Weltanschauung und Vernunft, 1903-1989, Bonn 1996; Christopher R. Browning, Ganz normale Männer. Das Reserve-Polizeibataillon 101 und die „Endlösung“ in Polen, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1996; Michael Wildt, Generation des Unbedingten. Das Führungskorps des Reichssicherheitshauptamtes, Hamburg 2002; Jörg Baberowski, Verbrannte Erde. Stalins Herrschaft der Gewalt, Munich 2012; Sheila Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s, Oxford 1999; Richard Bessel/Ralf Jessen (eds.), Die Grenzen der Diktatur. Staat und Gesellschaft in der DDR, Göttingen 1996; Thomas Lindenberger (ed.), Herrschaft und Eigen-Sinn in der Diktatur. Studien zur Gesellschaftsgeschichte der DDR, Cologne 1999.
    62. See, e.g., Peter Reichel, Der schöne Schein des Dritten Reiches. Faszination und Gewalt des Faschismus, Munich 1991; Jochen Hellbeck, Revolution on my Mind: Writing a Diary under Stalin, Cambridge, Mass. 2006; Malte Rolf, Das sowjetische Massenfest, Hamburg 2006; Jan C. Behrends, Die erfundene Freundschaft. Propaganda für die Sowjetunion in Polen und in der DDR, Cologne 2006.
    63. See, e.g., Jürgen Kocka, “Die DDR – eine moderne Diktatur? Überlegungen zur Begriffswahl,” in: Michael Grüttner et al. (eds.), Geschichte und Emanzipation, Frankfurt am Main 1999, pp. 540-550; Konrad H. Jarausch, “Fürsorgediktatur,” Version: 1.0, in: Docupedia-Zeitgeschichte, February 11, 2010,; Martin Sabrow, “Der Konkurs der Konsensdiktatur. Überlegungen zum inneren Zerfall aus kulturgeschichtlicher Perspektive,” in: Konrad H. Jarausch/Martin Sabrow (eds.), Wege in den Untergang. Der innere Zerfall der DDR, Göttingen 1999, pp. 83-116.
    64. Klaus Große Kracht, Die zankende Zunft. Geschichtskontroversen in Deutschland nach 1945, Göttingen 2005, pp. 91-114 as well as idem, “Debatte: Der Historikerstreit,” Version: 1.0, in: Docupedia-Zeitgeschichte, January 11, 2010,
    65. See, with numerous other references: Ian Kershaw/Moshe Lewin (eds.), Stalinism and Nazism: Dictatorships in Comparison, Cambridge 1997; Detlev Schmiechen-Ackermann, Diktaturen im Vergleich, Darmstadt 2002; Jörg Baberowski/Anselm Doering Manteuffel, Ordnung durch Terror. Gewaltexzesse und Vernichtung im nationalsozialistischen und stalinistischen Imperium, Bonn 2006; Paul Corner (ed.), Popular Opinion in Totalitarian Regime: Fascism, Nazism, Communism, Oxford 2009 and esp. Michael Geyer/Sheila Fitzpatrick (eds.), Beyond Totalitarianism: Stalinism and Nazism Compared, Cambridge 2009; Stefan Plaggenborg, Ordnung und Gewalt. Kemalismus, Faschismus, Sozialismus, Munich 2012.
    66. See Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin, New York 2010.
    67. Samuel P. Huntington, The Third Wave:Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century, Norman, Okla. 1991.
    68. Stephen Kotkin, Uncivil Society: 1989 and the Implosion of the Communist Establishment, New York 2009; Martin Sabrow (ed.), 1989 und die Rolle der Gewalt, Göttingen 2012.
    69. On communist China, see, e.g., Andrew G. Walder, China under Mao: A Revolution Derailed, Cambridge, Mass. 2015; Ezra F. Vogel, Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China, Cambridge, Mass. 2015, online at
    70. For a comparative perspective, see Perry Anderson, “Two Revolutions. Rough Notes,” in: New Left Review 61 (2010), pp. 59-96.
    71. Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man, London 1992.
    72. Mark R. Beissinger/Stephen Kotkin (eds.), Historical Legacies of Communism in Russia and Eastern Europe, Cambridge 2014. 
    73. Lilia Shevtsova, Russia – Lost in Transition: The Yeltsin and Putin Legacies, Washington, D.C. 2007; Vladimir Gel’man, Authoritarian Russia. Analyzing Post-Soviet Regime Changes, Pittsburgh, PA 2015. 
    74. Andrew Wilson, Virtual Politics: Faking Democracy in the Post-Soviet World, New Haven, Conn. 2005; Alena V. Ledeneva, How Russia Really Works. The Informal Practices that Shaped Post-Soviet Politics and Business, Ithaca, NY 2006. 
    75. Peter Pomorantsev, Nothing is True and Everything is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia, New York 2014; Ulrich Schmid, Technologien der Seele. Vom Verfertigen der Wahrheit in der russischen Gegenwartskultur, Berlin 2015. 
    76. Vadim Volkov, Violent Entrepreneurs: The Use of Force in the Making of Russian Capitalism, Ithaca, N.Y. 2002; Svetlana Stephenson, Gangs of Russia. From the Streets to the Corridors of Power, Ithaca, NY 2015.
    77. Andrew Wilson, Ukraine Crisis: What It Means for the West, New Haven, Conn. 2014.
    78. Bálint Magyar: Post-Communist Mafia-State: The Case of Hungary, Budapest 2016.
    79. See, e.g., Steven Levitsky/Lucan A. Way, Competitive Authoritarianism: Hybrid Regimes after the Cold War, Cambridge 2010; Larry Diamond/Marc F. Plattner/Christopher Walker (eds.), Authoritarianism Goes Global: The Challenge to Democracy, Baltimore, Md. 2016.