Posts Tagged ‘The Dictatorship of the Law’

Vladimir Putin and ‘the dictatorship of the law’

June 17, 2014


When Vladimir Putin first ran for President of Russia in 2000, he promised to establish the “dictatorship of the law.”  That would have been a great achievement if he had managed it.

What I take this to mean, and I think what most Russians took it to mean, was the opposite of the principle of the “dictatorship of the proletariat.”

The idea of the “dictatorship of the proletariat” in the old Soviet Union was that there need be no limit on Communist Party power because that power was supposedly exercised on behalf of the working class.   Any idea of holding the Communist regime accountable for its actions was treated as an attack on working people

The idea of the “dictatorship of the law” is just the opposite—that everyone, high and low, is subject to the law.   It is that nobody is too powerless not to have the protection of the law, and nobody is too powerful not to be subject to the law.

Putin would have been a great statesman if he had achieved this.  But the reality that Russia is run by patronage networks.   The system is set up so that it is impossible for the best-intentioned honest citizen to live within the law.  What matters is whether you offend powerful people, and whether you know other powerful people who can protect you.

Last week I read the following description of the system in the London Review of Books, by Peter Pomerantsev, a documentary film-maker who worked in Russia.