Dictatorship is a form of government in which all power is in the hands of a single person and is not subject to the will of the citizens. Dictatorships usually suppress civil liberties, issue laws by decree, and destroy political opposition by the use of the armed forces and secret police organizations.
In ancient Greece such a rule was called a tyranny, and its ruler a tyrant. The term "dictator" first came into use in ancient Rome, where a dictator was occasionally appointed during periods of great emergency, particularly during an invasion, and was given extraordinary powers. However, his term of office was specifically limited in time, his jurisdiction was confined to the Italian peninsula, and he had no control of the state's finances. Julius Caesar altered the concept of the office by becoming dictator for life and by exercising complete control.
In modern times, dictators have come into power by a number of methods. Some South American dictatorships were established through the overthrow by force of constitutional governments or other dictatorships. The Italian Fascists under Benito Mussolini in the 1920's and the German Nazis under Adolph Hitler in 1932 and 1933 came to power by legal means only to seize absolute power once in office.
Communist nations have a special kind of autocracy. Although they call themselves people's democracies and dictatorships of the proletariat, or working class, the actual power rests in the leadership of the Communist Party. The Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin was a genuine dictatorship because of Stalin's control of the party machinery and the armed forces.