Authoritarianism Goes Global (II): The Leninist Roots of Civil Society Repression

Issue Date October 2015
Volume 26
Issue 4
Page Numbers 21-27
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In the early part of the twentieth century, the small group of revolutionaries who became the Russian Bolsheviks developed an alternative theory of civil society. Burke, Tocqueville, and even Russian intellectuals believed that civil society was fundamental to democracy; Lenin believed that the destruction of civil society was crucial to totalitarian dictatorship. But by attempting to control every aspect of society, totalitarian regimes would eventually turn every aspect of society into a potential source of dissent, as in the cases of Czechoslovakia and Poland. Yet in many other societies heavily influenced by Soviet ideology—those in Belarus, Central Asia, China, Cuba, parts of Africa, and much of the Arab world—those in power remain attached to the old Bolshevik idea that independent civic institutions are a threat to the state.

About the Author

Anne Applebaum is a columnist for the Washington Post and Professor of Practice at the London School of Economics. She is the author of several books, including Gulag: A History, which won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction, and Iron Curtain, which won the 2013 Cundill Prize for Historical Literature.

View all work by Anne Applebaum