How do political jokes differ between totalitarian, post-totalitarian
and authoritarian regimes?
The political joke, a weapon which the Spanish people have used with merriment and well-aimed irony, blossoms again. All Spain is overflowing with an endless stream of stories against the regime and its men.
Grandizo Munis, ‘Franco’s Dilemma (February 1941)’1
Do the kinds of political joke that get circulated in a polity depend on the structure
of the regime? Is it plausible to regard political jokes as to some extent a function of the
political regime type? This paper looks at three regime types and attempts to characterise
the differing compositions of political jokes in each of them. The typology of regimes used
is that of Linz and Stepan’s Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation2 and the
jokes are categorised according to a state/regime/ideology distinction. After establishing the
parameters of the enquiry, I proceed by explaining the reasoning behind the central
hypothesis, elaborating the role of ideology in each regime type and setting out theoretical
models which serve to justify the assumptions upon which the hypothesis rests. I then
1 Grandizo Munis, ‘Franco’s Dilemma (February 1941)’, trans. Bernard Ross, Fourth International, Vol.2, No.3 (Whole No.10), March 1941, pp.69-71, available at: <http://www.marxists.org/archive/munis/1941/02/franco.htm>, retrieved: 1st Jan 2006
2 Juan J. Linz and Alfred Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation: Southern Europe, South America, and Post-Communist Europe (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996)