Stalin and Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince
Stalin and Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince
The general theory of politics and governance that the Founder of Modern Political Science, Niccolo Machiavelli presented espouses the attainment of successful governance and political leadership by whatever means it takes. His monumental book “The Prince” therefore depicted that rulers and leaders must attain control and power by any means necessary. And to this Joseph Stalin strongly believed in – as he is said to have slept everyday with “The Prince” by his bedside. Ruling with power and strength can only be ensured because a ruler will first and foremost give visible and tangible results to the constituents or citizenry.
To achieve this, the consolidation of everyone under his control is a strategy to take. A ruler must not be bound by traditional norms and values. The only thing that a ruler must keep in mind is to obtain, maintain and contain power by any means. (Moschovitis, Von Dehsen & Harris, 1999) Therefore Stalin imbibed the principle of “princeship” by ruling with power using a double edged method: to look seemingly honest, gentle, trustworthy, and exercise it and yet to gain loyalty and fierce obedience in exchange for those endowments.
Without obedience and fierce loyalty from the subjects, there should be no hesitation to impose the rightful punishment. He espoused that to rule with fear is being that to rule by popularity or being loved. Subjects and citizens will rather obey out of fear because they know what punishments are involved in disobedience and disloyalty. In establishing power as he gain loyal following, he propagated “the cult of his personality”. The idea is for people to idolize him. It creates a uniformed and common perception among followers; subjects and citizens that their leader, Stalin, is powerful and effective. He is made to look like a hero.
The unification of the Bolshevik principle made it accessible for Stalin to “systematically organize and force upon the whole citizenry” such perception. (Van Ree, 2002) “The Prince” also taught Stalin that generally people and subjects should only see in a ruler what they seem to believe to be what and how the ruler is. The real characteristics and traits of a ruler must be revealed only to very few trusted collaborators in power with the ruler. It is part of being shrewd and such attribute means that a ruler must only ask for advice and listen to those who choose to listen to and if only he chooses to listen to.
Therefore, Stalin imbibed the principle of effectiveness as the true measure of the goodness of a man. A man is good if he has inner strength; he is practical; he is clever and he is assiduous. How one would pursue his responsibility is immaterial compared to the main purpose of achieving the cause or the result. In this principle of result oriented belief, Stalin abhors stupidity, idleness and weakness amongst his people. The influence of Machiavelli’s teachings in “The Prince” made Stalin crave for and love absolute power.
Congruent to this, Stalin is very exacting and very demanding. He exemplifies quick decision to action based on logical judgment. Therefore, as Stalin read and re-read, night after night “The Prince”, he even annotated the pages of the book. Stalin truly imbibed the virtue of courage and inner strength – as it is what Machiavelli described to be a supreme attributed of a ruler. Stalin believes he is a complete embodiment of Machiavelli’s description of a true ruler: full as a man; hardworking; courageous and excellent in decision making. (Service, 2005)
Stalin and His Personality The Communist movement in Russia from its beginnings, and even within the Soviet Government that was established after the Bolshevik Revolution, did not even consider Joseph Stalin as an outstanding leader. Being one of the secretaries in the Central Committee of the party, Stalin’s holds a technical post and is of secondary importance. However, all throughout his career in government, Stalin has been noted for his enduring patience and attention to details. He always depicted the trait of endurance to quiet thinking and astute decision-making that portrays exemplary patience.
This has been considered as the key combination of his personality and character. Joseph Stalin is not a very tall man. He is just nearly five feet six inches tall. He looks coarse and moves with regular and common strides and moves. He has a pockmarked and sallow face. In his younger days, his hair is pure jet black. When he grew older and darkish gray hair emanated his bushy mustache and thick eyebrows also revealed a touch of gray. The facial expression and the looks in the eye of Stalin never ever revealed his true feelings and thoughts. He has dark brown, hazel eyes. He projects a look of heaviness and sullenness.
His total look is a cross between European and Asian. Joseph Stalin practically wears military costume always. It is his way of demonstrating his power complex. It is also his defense mechanism because of the trauma brought about his being rejected to become part of the Army of the then Czar of Russia. This is because the Army considered his physical defect to be unsuitable for the military. Stalin has one arm that is withered and he has got two toes that grew together. Therefore, when he was able to attain his power, he showed his sense of defiance and righteousness by being in a soldier’s uniform always.
Another reason for the consistency of his military image is based on Stalin’s reasoning that the mass of the people must look up to a leader and a ruler with a strong image of infallibility. This requires an image that is constant and confident. The shrewd attribute in Stalin believes that his strong military image creates a perception of infallibility among the Russians. Stalin’s courage and strength and power are also exuded in his habit of positioning himself at the rear end of any meeting or political gatherings. He listens intently to the discussion as he smokes his pipe or cigarette.
He always takes written notes. He believes that this way he sees everybody and can quietly assess everything and everybody. At social parties, especially when he is the host, he maintains graceful silence; he is simple in his movements; very friendly to everybody. He takes upon himself to get the party going; selects the music to play and encourages everybody to dance and be merry. Stalin is indeed thought of as a “man of mystery” because he keeps most of his inner thoughts to himself and thus “keeps his own counsel”. This is his way of technique of absolutism.
But other people interpreted Stalin’s silence as an inferiority complex. People think that because of such complex caused Stalin’s infamous shrewdness; ruthlessness; vindictiveness and very suspicious habit. They branded him to be “cautious as a lion”. Stalin was even said to have said: “Healthy suspicion is the best basis for collaboration”. (Barmine, 2007) Stalin and His Fame Amidst the stronghold he has established as he plays a major impact during the Bolshevik Revolution, it is the recognition of Lenin that Stalin is a formidable ally that began the fame that Stalin started to trek.
Thus, Stalin was appointed by Lenin in 1905 to be organizer of the Bolshevik Party. After seven years, Stalin was one of the leaders of the Bolshevik underground in 1912 as he becomes part of the first Central Committee. Eventually, Stalin was likewise placed on the editorial board of the newspaper of the party: Pravda. After the success of the Bolshevik Revolution, Stalin was rose to become Minister of Nationalities in the administration of the communist government of Russia in 1919 that he became one of the most powerful men in the Soviet Union.
He successfully campaigned for everyone in Russia to believe and follow the Bolshevik movement and principles. Stalin, together with two other Bolshevik strongmen – Yakov Sverdlov and Leon Trotsky – they were able to aid Lenin in making the ruling Bolshevik Party real and strong. They helped Lenin make important decisions on any problems arising during those early stages of setting up the government. However, there friction grew between Stalin and Trotsky. In April 1922, Lenin appointed Stalin as General Secretary of the Russian Communist Party. He is therefore a member of the Politburo.
It is the focal body that creates policy in the Soviet Union. Stalin further assumed the position to become Head of the Workers and Peasants Inspection Bureau. This office and his position monitor any wrongdoing of any official in the Soviet Union. It might have been a very minor role and there were so much paper work to be done. No one liked the job but nobody knew that it was an opportunity that Stalin made good use of as he wields power over official appointments. As he was the one who decides who occupies what post, bases of gratitude of course ensued.
All the appointees became very loyal to him and guaranteed their full support to Stalin. He maneuvered his way towards creating a network of spies to watch out each and every party officials and everything they do. Stalin was able to gather a wide array of information on everybody that gave him leverage. It was this base that paved the way for Stalin to inherit the title and job of Lenin when he died in 1924. Stalin eventually became the strongman and dictator of the Soviet Union and became a most powerful man in the Soviet Union as he absolutely rules it for 25 years.
From the time he assumed leadership of Russia after Lenin’s death, Stalin indulge the Communist Party to deliberate on the future of Russia through a campaign called industrialization. It is therefore in 1928 that they adopted the “Five Year Plan”. Included in the plan is the organization of agriculture wherein exportation is eyed as major key to ease up the foreign debt of Russia. The farm lands were eventually organized into collectives in 1929. This made all farmlands to be owned and controlled by the state. Production quotas were enforced on farmer peasants that they must harvest.
Stalin insisted and ruled that collectivization of farm produce and exporting them would be the only way for Russia to earn more money and buy the necessary machineries for industrialization. Stalin enforced his economic five year plan as strict and as hardcore as it could be – even at the sacrifice of many lives. Farmers and peasants who refused were punished either by death or exiled. Those who obeyed were not left with any crops and therefore died of starvation nevertheless. He keeps on emphasizing that he implemented rules and programs to industrialize the country.
He wanted the economy of the country to grow. And indeed, the economy of the Soviet Union improved. The major sacrifice that the Russians incurred was tremendous. When industrialization has set in, the farmers were trained to convert their skills towards running factories. Stalin however exercised fairness at the end. Even if labor pay is minimal, he ensured that factory workers are given free medical are; they were made to pay very low housing rent; and were provided with retirement funds. The remaining years of the 1920’s is the surge of fame and power of Joseph Stalin. He defeated and demolished is detractors.
He quashed any and all objections and debates as to how communism and the Soviet Union should progress and develop. Stalin stood by the meaning of his name “Stalin”: Man of Steel. His ultimate, solitary power gained him the patronage of all those who are loyal to him. They worked together to develop the Soviet Union with the objective to catch up with the advancement of the other countries in Europe. Thus began the strong take over of the state over industries, commerce, agrarian activities and placed them on a nationalization program and under the sole control and regulatory power of the state.
The sign of prosperity started to show and Stalin took the opportunity to issue propaganda right and left. The government campaigned in every nook and corner of the country through posters and photographs of Stalin looking happy with all the activities of success told and re-told. To ensure the coherence of the propaganda of good tidings, Stalin and his government took control of all information materials: books and newspapers. All publication and information materials are united in their stories about the progress that Russia is slowly achieving through the rule and leadership of Joseph Stalin. Haugen, 2006) Stalin and His Errors The decade covering 1927 to 1939 witnessed the infamy that Joseph Stalin inflicted in the Soviet Union – all in the name of ensuring the greatness of his country, more so for the propagation of his self-gratification, as historians noted. Starting from his campaign called “The Great Purge”, Stalin stood firm his absolute power and eradicated party members who he identified as traitors to the revolutionary ideals of the country. Those so called traitors and infiltrators to the good of the Communist Party and the country were tried, executed or sent to the Gulag Labor Camps.
In the 1930s, Stalin ruled that anyone who opposes his policies shall be considered as enemy of the state and the people and therefore were also convicted to die or work in labor camps. That period is known as the “Great Terror” wherein millions of Russians died. Because of these summary deaths by Russian who disobeyed Stalin, the Red Army of the Soviet Union could not recruit and train more men as the population decreased and people were needed to support the economic growth that Stalin wants by means of massive productivity of the population.
Therefore, when Hitler attacked the Soviet Union in 1941, Stalin and his army were not ready. More lives were sacrificed and taken as the Russians protected their country from the German invasion. One time when election for membership to the Central Committee was scheduled in 1934, a party member, Sergei Kirov, was becoming more popular. However, he was assassinated and suspicion was high that Stalin was the one who ordered Kirov’s death. Instead it was manipulated to point the guilt to three other opposition leaders: Trotsky, Kamenev and Zioviev.
As the investigations were ongoing, Stalin enacted a law about terrorist acts and organizations and the definition and penalties that come along. This then guided the conviction and execution of the alleged assassination plotters. As Stalin made it part of the law that opposition to Soviet activities to be a crime, subsequent incidents in the said period came about to be known as the “Moscow Trials”. Any one can be easily condemned as “enemy of the state” with even no trial or lawyers. Those identified as “enemy of the state” can just be easily tortured and killed.
This method has been referred to as the “troika”. It refers to instant, simple trial and conviction that happens and concluded within a day. Stalin likewise conducted a campaign against the Ukranian nation. He considered Ukraine as a deterring political and social entity. Famine was induced in the state of Ukraine. It was eventually identified by later historians to be a despicable and deplorable genocide. The very strict implementation of the collectivization of the farms and peasants cause major famine in Russia.
Such massive hunger was caused the people were denied of food from their harvest. As the state controls lands and harvests, it was only intended for the sole purpose of export that even if it paved the way for industrialization, it caused the lives of millions of Russians – not only due to death but deteriorating fertility to increase population. (Zuelhlke, 2005) Purging; punishment; exile; torture; conviction – was the total description of the tyranny that Joseph Stalin implemented and imposed during his reign. Millions of Russians perished during his period of rule.
They either died by torture or punishment or hunger or disease. Some were thrown to exiles or deportation. When Stalin died in March 1953, history had mixed reaction thereafter as his merits and demerits. Nearly 40 million Russians died and suffered under his regime. And yet Russia was able to began to establish itself to be a world power through his ruthless leadership. His successor, Nikita Kruschev nevertheless ruled to demolish his legacy. For however greatness Stalin sought for, some factors believed not all ends can justify any means.
Subject: Joseph Stalin,
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 17 October 2016
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