Can historical parallels be drawn between democracies and dictatorships? Essay Example
Can historical parallels be drawn between democracies and dictatorships? Essay Example

Can historical parallels be drawn between democracies and dictatorships? Essay Example

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  • Pages: 12 (3128 words)
  • Published: September 3, 2017
  • Type: Essay
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History encompasses more than just a linear progression of events and their connections, as it also comprises eternal verities and general laws.

The recurrence of a fundamental occurrence is evident in various situations and eras, encompassing an array of historical incidents that range from the peculiar and unexplainable, such as Rome's conflagration, to more commonplace occurrences like governmental collapses or alliances' creation. Drawing parallels between Nero's burning of Rome and the Reichstag's burning in 1933 unveils a curious resemblance; both atrocities were executed by dictators who held animosity towards a particular group doomed to suffer until better days arrived.

Both individuals shared a passion for music and painting, as well as an intense need for recognition. Ultimately, they both felt betrayed despite their desire for artistic acknowledgement, with only one ultimately achieving success.

The field of


politics has long captivated historians and revealed universal themes that transcend historical period, geographical location, and political orientation. Today, democracy and dictatorship stand as the two predominant forms of government - the former relying on majority rule while the latter is centered around one individual's power.

The initial scenario describes a democratic election where leaders are chosen by a group of people. On the other hand, the second situation features an individual taking on the position of leader without obtaining consent from their people. This type of leader is known as a dictator and places great importance on their own decisions and vision for their country's future. According to social psychologists such as Jung, this form of leadership is considered pathological. Jung was highly aware of Nazi Germany's political progressions before World War II and perceived the dictatorship that arose as an abandonment

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of personal responsibility in favor of unconscious "Germanic" tendencies. He strongly criticized this form of leadership, even referring to Nazis as "blond beasts," which ultimately resulted in over half the Jewish community being annihilated.

Practicality-wise, telling apart democracy from dictatorship can be difficult. Dictatorship lacks benevolence while democracy may possess it. Nonetheless, deceiving the populace is more arduous in a genuine democracy, which we will delve into later. While spotting a sinister leader in a democratic setup may not always occur, it is relatively effortless to identify and oust them.

Even though a self-corrective mechanism distinguishes true democracy from dictatorship, it does not ensure its endurance. Democracy can be distorted or diverted from the goal of governance. The self-corrective feature of democracy can also be weakened, as evidenced in India during the period of 1975 to 1977 when the Indira Gandhi Government altered the constitution and proclaimed a state of emergency.

The study seeks to explore the similarities between democracies and dictatorships, despite their historical and geographical differences. It aims to examine these parallels in various types of governments such as patriarchy, tribalism, feudalism, despotism, constitutionalism, democracy and dictatorships. Although the evolution of governments may seem haphazard and distinct based on certain races or conditions, there is a consistent design underlying them - particularly in relation to democracy and dictatorship - throughout history.

This essay will showcase the growth and decline of two types of governments through various stages, using Rome as a comprehensive example. The Republic, the Consulate, the Empire, and the Fall distinctly demonstrate primitive tyranny, republicanism, decay, dictatorship, monarchy, and destruction. The focus then narrows to exploring five typical types of dictatorships and their leaders. This

will include examining the driving forces behind the dictatorships, the characteristics of the leaders and followers, as well as the social needs that allowed for their emergence. The five dictatorships that will be analyzed are those of Macedonia's Alexandrian type, Rome under Caesar, Stalinist regimes, and Hitler's dictatorship.

This resource offers valuable insights into the similarities of five major democracies from different time periods and regions. These include Greek democracy, Roman democracy during its free period, Swiss democracy in the 19th century, American democracy during the 18th century, and Indian democracy in the 20th century. While historical figures such as Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini are often seen as cruel dictators, others like Alexander, Caesar, and Napoleon have been celebrated for their greatness, courage and nobility.

Despite the common belief that dictators possess unique traits, a closer examination reveals that they exhibit more similarities in their personalities than previously thought. Their differences can largely be attributed to diverse backgrounds, historical periods, and circumstances within their nations and among their people. For instance, Alexander took over as king at age 20 following his father's assassination in 336 BC. He had already demonstrated leadership abilities at just 16 by serving as regent of Macedonia and governing on behalf of Philip while he was away quelling rebels in Byzantium.

Like many dictators, he swiftly eliminated conspirators and domestic foes upon taking power. Julius Caesar did the same, using civil war to become dictator of Rome by defeating republican forces at various locations including Greece, Thapsus in North Africa, Munda in Spain, and ultimately Pompey – former king of Rome and leader of the republicans. Consequently, Caesar became uncontested ruler of Rome, making

himself consul and dictator. Similarly, Napoleon's unmatched military strategy led to his appointment as commander-in-chief of France's poorly equipped army in Italy where he defeated multiple armies including the Austrian army on numerous occasions.

Napoleon orchestrated a coup in Paris in 1797 to oust numerous royalists from positions of power as his popularity grew. When an anti-French coalition emerged in Europe in 1799, Napoleon capitalized on this by returning from his expedition in Egypt and seizing unparalleled authority as France's First Consul through a coup d'etat. He then took measures to eliminate any royalist who could potentially threaten his position.

Hitler and Stalin, who were more recent dictators, both employed comparable strategies to strengthen their control over their respective regimes either before or after assuming power. For instance, Hitler, after assuming power by chance, desired to become a dictator and not be Hidenburg's (the president of the Reichstag) mere puppet as initially intended. He persuaded Hidenburg to declare a state of emergency following the Reichstag Fire, which effectively gave him unrestricted authority. This enabled him to eliminate all communist and leftist opposition and transfer power from Hidenburg to himself. Within a short time, he declared himself the Mein Furer (Dictator/Leader) of Germany. To enhance his control even further, he executed any opposition and dispatched them to concentration camps, while employing henchmen and secret police to facilitate this brutal process.

Hitler's execution of his own henchmen who were gaining popularity is famously known as the Knight of Long Knives. Along with this, the "show trials" were also used as a means to eliminate threats. Similarly, Stalin started executing opposition and enemies after Lenin's death while struggling for power against

Trotsky, Zinoviev, and Kamenev. Despite being considered less capable and popular than Trotsky, Stalin was able to switch this perception in his favor.

Stalin eulogized Lenin at his funeral, intentionally excluding Trotsky by providing him with the incorrect date. Following the assassination of Trotsky and two other competitors, Stalin became the Soviet Union's sole leader. Like previous leaders, he launched purges to eliminate those who threatened his position. The Kirov Murder in 1934 marked the beginning of these infamous purges, which even literary works such as Animal Farm satirize. Dictators aimed to consolidate power but their methods and circumstances categorized them as either great leaders or usurpers.

Examples of leaders who gained popularity with the masses due to their noble birth, authority, and ability to defend their nation include Alexander and Julius Caesar. Both were admired by the commoners, with Alexander given power to eliminate any threats to his claim to the throne, while Rome sought a powerful leader like Caesar during a time of anarchy and foreign invasion. Despite questionable actions such as removing Pompey as king, Caesar's popularity ensured forgiveness. Similarly, Napoleon became a hero because royalists failed to appease popular demands.

The countries and their people were in a state that required the leadership of individuals like Alexander, Caesar, and Napoleon. This contradicts the belief that all dictators are cruel and their citizens always unhappy since they only eliminated political opposition and not the common people, making them heroes. However, this differs from Stalin and Hitler who eradicated any form of doubt or opposition, whether it was political or social, sparing no one, and thus perceived as villains.

Although they were not genuinely popular with

the masses and rose to power through devious means, the Macedonian, Caesarian, and Napoleonic times saw flourishing culture and science. However, the opposite was true during Hitlerian and Stalinist times, due to the different backgrounds of the dictators. For instance, Alexander was educated by Aristotle when he was a prince, receiving a thorough training in rhetoric, literature, science, medicine, and philosophy, which all became crucial for him in his later life. On the other hand, Hitler grew up in humble conditions with little education and had little success in his field of interest, painting.

Despite experiencing racism due to his non-German background, the individual in question shares a common trait with dictators throughout history: an unyielding desire for country expansion. This inherent quality has been observed since ancient times and continues into the 20th century. Influences such as Alexander and Napoleon, whose own mothers fueled their drive, have further amplified this ambition. By age 33, Alexander had already conquered Athens, Thebes, and Greece before expanding his empire to Persia and Egypt. He nearly achieved conquest of northern India before his death.

Despite his military brilliance, Alexander the Great was also a true intellectual and advocate for cultural tolerance. He married a Persian woman, supported intermarriage between cultures, and engaged in debates with Brahmins on various topics in India. Additionally, he promoted art and science in all forms, earning him the title of "Alexander the Great." Similarly, Napoleon Bonaparte also demonstrated military genius by expanding into Italy, France, Egypt, Austria, Poland, and Russia.

Napoleon utilized the Chappe semaphore line, the first telecommunications system in the world, during his battles against Austria in 1792. He also employed innovative strategies

by using artillery as a mobile force to aid infantry attacks. These tactics earned him the nickname "Le Petit Corporal," which means The Little Corporal.
Similarly, Caesar is celebrated for expanding the Roman empire to include countries such as France, Belgium, Greece, and Britain, bringing prosperity and fame to Rome. Meanwhile, the expansions made by Hitler and Stalin are widely known and discussed even today.

The vilification of certain expansions is based on their self-interested nature rather than national interest, contributing to their ongoing unpopularity. This negative perception is fueled by supplementary actions, such as the execution of half the Jewish population and the deaths of over 100,000 workers during a single five-year plan. Even though Stalin's modernization of Russia in five years and Hitler's establishment of Germany as the most powerful country in the world are noteworthy, these accomplishments are overshadowed by their questionable attributes. Despite variations in temporal context and geographic location, there are similarities among these infamous dictatorships that elicit discussion.

By examining democracies, we can discover a trend. It's worth noting that previous dictatorships haven't been replaced by equally powerful dictators. This is because democracies require intelligent, educated, self-motivated people who are highly developed. Dictatorships inevitably destroy these qualities, which are not typically well-developed to begin with.

The weakening of democracy by a dictatorship can result in the establishment of full central control through a cycle that may lead to a stronger dictatorship during the next crisis. If citizens continue to maintain their spirit of independence, new revolts may occur, as seen in America and India. Conversely, countries with an ongoing democratic tradition are likely to have high levels of citizen education and intelligence.

Greece is renowned for being the birthplace of civilization where culture, science, literature, and religion flourished simultaneously. Furthermore, Greece introduced democracy as a form of government which was adapted by Romans later on.

The establishment of the polis, also known as the "city-state," was a major political innovation of the ancient Greeks. This innovation had a significant impact on European political structures and is where the term "political" comes from. In approximately 800 BC, Greek-speaking individuals living in various regions established centralized political units centered around one city. Each city-state controlled its own limited territory and acted as an independent state, with Sparta being the largest and controlling over 3000 square miles. The small size of these city-states allowed for continuous experimentation with different political structures such as democracy that have greatly influenced modern society. Their size also made it efficient for free male citizens to make policy decisions with relative ease.

The Panchayat, which was practiced in rural areas of India ages ago, closely resembles the system of democracy. The concept of city-states formed the basis of government in democratic countries, including Rome and its colonies like France, Britain, Belgium, and Italy. The system has been modified and polished into proper governments over time. Democracy is not a modern type of government since its concept has been around since civilization began and often succeeds a monarchy.

In ancient Greece, the basileus were hereditary kings who ruled over all city-states. However, in the eighth century BC, many of these monarchs were ousted due to discontent among the populace. This was consistent with the belief that people tend to overthrow unwanted governments and establish new ones when they possess

a spirit of independence. Subsequent to the fall of the basileus, various alternative forms of governance such as oligarchy, timocracy, tyranny and democracy were tested out in Greece. In contrast, India and United States did not have to experiment with different forms of governance since Greeks had already conducted these experiments centuries ago and came to realize that democracy was an ideal option after gaining their independence from Britain in the 20th century and United States in the 18th century.

India and America share a successful history of running democracies for many years. While India's democratic system takes inspiration from the British government, due to their influence on the country for 200 years, America's democracy has been modified to suit their country's needs and resembles the Greek democracy with its division of states. Both countries fought for independence after enduring British Rule. Switzerland is another successful democracy established in the 19th century, known for its neutrality in international conflicts being at a crossroad of several major European cultures.

Switzerland's diverse culture is due to invasions by several foreign groups including Germans, French, Italian, and Romansch. Each conqueror left behind pieces of their own culture. The most recent invader was Napoleon, who annexed much of the country in 1797-98 and established a unitary state. However, at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Switzerland's old confederation of sovereign states was restored, and its permanent armed neutrality was established in international law. After a brief civil war in 1848 where Protestant liberals sought centralized national governance and Catholic conservatives preferred the old order, the majority of Swiss cantons opted for a Federal State modeled after the United States.

The Swiss

Constitution, which was created to appease the defeated Catholic minority, granted various civil liberties and included provisions to uphold cantonal independence. In 1874, significant amendments were made to the Constitution that assigned federal responsibility for defense, trade, and legal affairs, while also introducing direct democracy through popular referendums. Currently, Swiss governance is characterized by its focus on cantonal autonomy and referendum-based democracy.

The success of democracy in Switzerland and India is indicative of the importance of diverse populations in fostering prosperous democracies. India, being a secular nation, has embraced various religions including Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Sikhism.

Although democracy is commonly thought to bring about universal satisfaction, history shows that there have been unsuccessful or failed attempts at implementing democratic systems. Examples of such failures include the proclamation of the French Republic in the 18th century, the German "revolution" in the 19th century and Weimar Republic in the 20th century. These instances serve as proof that democracy does not necessarily guarantee contentment for all. The belief that democracy ensures happiness is a misconception because decision-making and lawmaking are ongoing processes with varying outcomes on different issues. Governments face continuing challenges, making it impossible to satisfy everyone consistently.

Despite the Convention's approval of a new democratic constitution in 1793 that granted voting rights to all adult men and allowed plebiscites on important matters, the proclamation for a republic in 18th century France was unsuccessful. As Abraham Lincoln once said, "You can't fool all of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time; but you can fool some of the people some of the time."

Although a plebiscite was not held during

war, the French government was controlled by the Committee of Public Safety and all its decisions were approved by the Convention to avoid consequences. Over 11,000 decrees were sanctioned without a second reading. This administration was widely considered as deceitful and fraudulent because of France's disordered situation and absence of agreement. Therefore, only a few individuals with organization skills and education were capable of leading a democracy which still suffered from corruption.

During 1848-1851, Germany experienced a period of unrest and unmet demands for democracy. However, when Federick William IV ascended to the throne of Prussia, there was an opportunity for change. Due to poor harvests, famine, and disease causing urgent calls for liberal reforms, the establishment of a parliament was necessary. This new parliament petitioned for freedom of expression, trial by jury, income tax, and a single National German Parliament elected by the people. Despite this effort made by the parliament to enact these changes in society, the Kaiser refused and dissolved it after falling out with it.

Afterwards, Napoleon Bonaparte was sought as a benevolent dictator.

The job remains incomplete.

Following World War I, the Weimar Republic made an effort to establish a democratic government after the removal of the Kaiser. Despite its attempts, however, it ultimately failed due to inability to meet citizens' needs and rehabilitate Germany's reputation post-war. The Republic was viewed as insufficient in restoring prestige and this feeling led to its downfall through events such as economic collapse and the Wall Street Crash.

During this time, the Nazis capitalized on offering comfort to the public by giving speeches that appealed to German nationalistic sentiments. Hitler's talent for blaming Germany's problems on the allies helped

him gain popularity and win votes. Despite their desire for comfort, the public did not realize that this would ultimately lead to a dictatorship, prioritizing solace over voting rights.

Similar to France during the 18th century, they sought a form of governance that was more effective and compassionate, as opposed to a disorderly democracy that offered little benefit.

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