Laws and the zeal to enforce them protect against fanaticism and favoritism and being the sport of a ruling party’s cruel whims. Vladimir Nabokov speaks from experience:
Under the Tsars (despite the inept and barbarous character of their rule) a freedom-loving Russian had incomparably more possibility and means of expressing himself than at any time during Lenin’s and Stalin’s regime. He was protected by law. There were fearless and independent judges in Russia. The Russian sud [legal system] after the Alexander reforms was a magnificent institution, not only on paper. Periodicals of various tendencies and political parties of all possible kinds, legally or illegally, flourished and all parties were represented in Dumas. Public opinion was always liberal and progressive.
Under the Soviets, from the very start, the only protection a dissenter could hope for was dependent on government whims, not laws. No parties except the one in power could exist. . . . Bureaucracy, a direct descendant of party discipline, took over immediately. Public opinion disintegrated. The intelligentsia ceased to exist. Any changes that took place between November 1919 and now  have been changes in the decor which more or less screens an unchanging black abyss of oppression and terror. (Quoted from The Nabokov-Wilson Letters, p. 195.)
* * *
For a brief biography of Vladimir Nabokov, click here.