Authoritarianism Cycles Back

Vladimir Putin in Russia, Xi Jinping in China, Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus, Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, Miguel Diaz-Canela in Cuba, Recep Erdogan in Turkey; these are but six of the fifty current dictators in the world. This is according to the World Population Review which bases it classification not upon the claimed form of government but the actual decision-making and administrative practices observed being used within the country. In fact, the six named dictators above have the title “President” vice King, Emperor or Leader, but they are dictators none the less .

Not so long ago in human history all governments were authoritarian including the supposed democracy of the early Athenians (remembering that other Greek states were in various modes of authoritarianism). Although there were votes by male citizens, Athenian democracy was more an oligarchy than a democracy because of the people the process excluded. Tyrant is Athenian in origin and Dictator its Roman derivative. They both refer to political posts elected by oligarchies. In times of danger absolute power was given to one individual who would protect the state from what was perceived to be a threat to its continued existence. There was a time limit on the term of office (generally one year) but during that term power was absolute. This was done because for some reason people believe the most efficient form of government is authoritarianism wherein one individual makes the decisions. In fact, this may be true for a limited period, providing timeliness but efficiency is an entirely different matter. Even though one person makes the decisions, those decisions must be implemented by a bureaucracy that seems to become larger and larger under a dictator until almost everyone is somehow tied to the instrument of state. The governments become unwieldy in their complexity and lose their touch with the reality of humanity. They become uncaring and brutal in the measures they use to impose edicts for the protection of the state. In most cases individuals suffer loss of freedoms including speech, assembly, redress from the government and they are required to pay higher taxes to support the programs put in place to protect the state.

It is common for authoritarian governments to rise out of crises real, or manufactured. A person is chosen to lead during the crisis and manipulates the situation to their advantage pronouncing new requirements “for the duration” but never defining what duration means. Sometimes the crisis abates only to be followed by a new crisis fanned from the coals of the original. Sometimes the original crisis exists for decades (see Cuba) and it’s never a convenient time for open elections or a change in government. Hitler came to power in 1933 and then, on the heels of the Reichstag fire (set not by communists but the Nazis themselves), was empowered as a dictator to rout out the enemies of Germany both within and without the state. Franco succeeded to the dictatorship in Spain because of the crisis of civil war. Stalin murdered his way to the top of an already corrupt authoritarian government while Erdogan is issuing presidential decrees that are slowly choking the life out of the democracy of Turkey. Caesar overthrew a corrupted republican form of government and Mussolini took advantage of the diversity of the Kingdom of Savoy and the chaos left by the end of WWI. He made the trains run on time and to this day there are closet Fascisti abiding in Rome. My barber, Lino, in the Piazza Fiume was one.

As a junior high student I remember the cheers in the U.S. when Fidel Castro overthrew the corrupt Batista regime; itself a dictatorial entity. Then Castro declared himself a communist and unleashed Che Guevara who, in my opinion, was a psychopathic Argentinian murderer, to purge the opposition and install a communist economy in Cuba. But Castro and Guevara were not anymore communist than Stalin had been. They were ruthless men who cared only for power through fear; true authoritarians. This is the point to be made here: Dictatorships are dictatorships; they don’t represent any form of government. There aren’t Communist, Socialist or Fascist dictatorships, there are just dictatorships as the score card for the World Population Review reminds us. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is a dictatorship using primogeniture to select its last three leaders. You remember primogeniture, it’s the rule used by most monarchies. The Republic of Turkey, The Syrian Arab Republic, The Islamic Republic of Iran, all have Republic in their names and all have “elections,” but each remains a dictatorship. When you have one person, a small group of people or one party making all the decisions for the country you live in a dictatorship. When you allow a group to “temporarily” suspend parts of the founding charter of your government such that individuals lose protection not from external threats but from the government itself, then you are moving closer to becoming a dictatorship. When you allow government entities to rewrite history to rationalize measures it is instituting you are on the doorstep of a dictatorship and when you allow that government to prosecute individuals opposed to it you have stepped over the doorstep and are firmly within the dictator’s house and must now obey their rules. The farther you allow yourself to be led into that house the harder it will be to find your way out the door which, as soon as you enter, was closed and locked. What exactly does the “duration of the crisis” mean?

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