In times of emergency the Romans used to appoint a Director to supersede the Consuls, granting him supreme powers to meet the crisis.
But Roman dictatorship was a temporary expedient to meet a crisis and was discarded when the crisis was past. Moreover, the dictator was selected by a legal process with the obligation to submit his use of power to the scrutiny of the permanent authority. The Roman dictatorship was, therefore, “a constitutional device under which the constitution was suspended during a grave crisis of the State.
This description of dictatorship does not apply to the modem dictators of former Soviet Russia, Italy, Germany and some other countries. Modem dictators are not selected by a legal process for a limited period of time in order to steer the State through a national emergency. They come into power as a result of a coup d’etat.
Force is the criterion of their political authority and they remain in power as long as force can retain them. They are responsible to no authority except to themselves. The whole authority of the State is vested in one individual person and he personifies the State.
Some writers are of the opinion that the Russian dictatorship was the dictatorship of a party while in Germany and Italy it was the dictatorship of individuals. But Nazism in Germany and Fascism in Italy were also the rule of a party, though they remained all through overshadowed by a single personality just as Bolshevism was in the days of Lenin and Stalin.
Till yesterday, Khrushchev’s personality loomed large on the political horizon. In fact, no government, as Maclver has shown, is ever actually in the hands of a single individual.
If there is a single seemingly supreme ruler, he inevitably rests his power on the active support of an associated...