The 'Era of the Dictators' Reconsidered


By Kenneth Thomson, published 1st March 1997

Kenneth Thomson reflects on major aspects of the ‘era of the dictators’ after the collapse of Soviet Communism and its satellite regimes. In 1939, on the eve of the Second World War, almost the whole of continental Europe was ruled by dictatorships of various political hues. Even countries, like France, which resisted the trend had emergency powers, or were threatened like the Nordic and Benelux countries by extremist political parties. Britain too had her Fascists and Communists, and was preparing to fight a war in which her democratic government would have to exercise almost dictatorial powers if she was to survive. It might seem then as if the political future of Europe lay with the dictatorships of either Right or Left. The democratic liberalism which had seemed so triumphant at the Peace of Paris twenty years earlier was now in eclipse, at worst doomed to extinction by the dictatorial nations, at best existing by their favour. There are now no dictatorships in Europe, and liberal democracy, and its economic accompaniment, free market capitalism, prevails over the entire continent.

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