Stalin, by many people today, would be considered a horrible man who had caused much harm to the world. This, of course, is in modern terms. History has a way of reshaping the morality’ of events over a period of time. Take, for example, the Crusades. The majority of Europeans at the time vastly agreed with their purpose. Now, however, they are seen as a religious leader’s abuse of power and an unfortunate loss of life. Will the same reversal occur with the view of Stalin? After all, he did completely reshape a backwards society.
Since we cannot conceivable travel into the future, Stalin will be assessed from acclaimed people of the past. These people will have no prejudice towards Stalin in their ideals because they will not have known of Stalin nor the Soviet Union. However, their overall opinions will not fluctuate based on Stalin and thus Stalin will be judged. Stalin will be evaluated by the following three distinguished historical intellectuals: Plato, Machiavelli and Sir James G. Frazer. The first person we shall introduce to judge Stalin is the Athenian philosopher Plato.
Plato, in his dialogue in the First Book of The Laws, suggests a very simple, yet effective, test for selecting and educating men who can be trusted as statesmen. This test, which later became known as the wine test, was supportive of Plato’s views. It was not simply enough to be a wise ex-soldier, as many people believe Plato choose them to be the most qualified. In the dialogue, Plato states that drunkenness loosens a man’s tongue, which gives the presents public an idea what he is really like. By this simple test, Plato would readily support Stalin. Stalin was well-known to drink everyone else “under the table”.
In fact, Stalin imbibed much more than his fellow British counterpart, Sir Winston Churchill, and his successor, Khrushchev. Stalin, being a Georgian, took great pride in his raising on a diet of mutton and wine, and as he grew, found wine not potent enough, preferring to consume vodka. Wine, he said, was merely juice’. Stalin, when he drank, rarely fluctuated from what he said when he was sober, proving to be a very consistent man. However, the people that he had at his little get-togethers were not, and often he used the information obtained here to purge’ later victims.
Plato saw the wine test not as a means for him or others to get drunk, but instead loosen the tongue. One cannot only hold a statesman to what he says while on the job; rather, his entire life reveals the person he is and the ideas he believes. Plato’s wine test, if failed, exposes the individual as a liar, for the liquor has dissolved his inhibitions, his political manner, allowing his true feelings to be exposed, and showing that he is a liar. Stalin, however, was not a man who was qualified when sober, flunk when drunk. He was a man who rarely strayed with what he within his own confines of the state.
The Renaissance man, Florentine Machiavelli, the man who never loses his ability to shock and outrage Western readers, is our next critic of Stalin. In the centuries following his death, 1527, the belief that practicing certain cruelties and automatically disqualified a ruler from holding power legitimately. His domains and rule were thought to be subject to forfeiture. Machiavelli is completely free of this idea, which makes him a prime Stalin judge. Machiavelli made such profound, yet simplistic, observations that are even today disregarded.
One of his more famous ones was that “all armed prophets have conquered and unarmed ones have failed”. For armed prophets he uses Moses, Theseus, and Cyrus as his examples. An unarmed prophet he clearly details, as the person he uses he saw fail himself. It was Savanarola, the Domincan of Ferrara who trained his followers to spy out the corruption of the church, sent Florence into a riot, was excommunicated, tortured and then hung. Stalin would have been an armed prophet; with himself he brought a new meaning to life through communism/Stalinism. He came well-prepared for the future mess which he could have been ensnared in.
However, it never came to that. Machiavelli professed such prophets’ to be far superior, as they are the ones who succeed. Stalin as is paralleled to another man who Machiavelli admired, his contemporary Caesar Borgia. “Reviewing thus all the actions [of Borgia] . . . I find nothing to blame [but] hold him as an example to be imitated”. Therefore, would it not be safe to assume that any man who imitated Borgia would also be one whom Machiavelli would admire and mention? Borgia manipulated the College of Cardinals, similar to how Stalin would later manipulate the Politburo. He conquered by force armed territories claimed by the Papal State.
Stalin did the same with the Axis powers and attempted to with the Western powers. Borgia became the beneficiary of his father’s ambition, just like Stalin succeeds Lenin and purges Trotsky. Machiavelli also came upon with another profound idea, which can best be described as science of success’, upon his studying and review of history. Unlike his contemporaries, he drew conclusions not from abstract ideas about what should succeed, but what does succeed. So, unlike he peers, he drew his conclusions not from morals based upon right and wrong; he treated it purely scientifically, with no thought to goodness or badness of the ends.
The successes of the saints can be studied just like the successes of the wicked. It is even better to study the wicked, he stated, because there are far more of them in the world. Machiavellibelieved that a ruler must be sunning as a fox and fierce like a lion. He must not be bound by virtue, only when it pays him to do so. However, it is extremely important for him to appear virtuous at all times. This perfectly describes Stalin so far. Stalin, did he not, put on Show Trials for his enemies and invited foreign newspapers from both England and America for this very reason.
A ruler must be on guard against literary men, Machiavelli believed, because they were the subverters of kingdoms. Stalin censured also every writer, saying that they were “engineers of the human soul”. Machiavelli, it can only be assumed, would be overwhelmingly supportive of Stalin, the only flaw being that he believed it was best to appear religious. Stalin, of course, fails here, as he created an atheist state. Our two judgers so far have been Stalin’s ancient philosophical peers, as both thought political subjects the most important for men to pursue.
Our final human left to judge Stalin is much more contemporary to Stalin’s era, being born in 1854. Here, we bring in a temporal peer to judge Stalin in that he’s close enough in time that there’s not to much of a time gap, but far enough removed that Stalin’s acts have not created that unfavorable biasness found during Stalin’s reign. Sir Frazer, the anthropologist who wrote The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion. Also being a classical scholar and folklorist, his ideas were what some would call outlandish, but still highly formulated and developed. As we will see, Frazer might be in complete agreement with Stalin.
Frazer believed that a dictatorship was a good temporary rule for a country. It allowed them to break from traditional bonds that could not have been broken otherwise. Stalin accomplished the very things that that Frazer enumerated as salutary for humanity in his book The Golden Bough. Here are excerpts from his book The Golden Bough that support it. “the rise of one man to supreme power enables him to carry through changes in a single lifetime which previously many generations might not have sufficed to effect… . Even the whims and caprices of a tyrant may be of service in breaking the chain of custom which ties so heavy…
And as soon as [the society] ceases to be swayed by the timid and divided counsels of the elders, and yields to the direction of a single strong and resolute mind, it becomes formidable to its neighbors and enters on a career of aggrandizement, which at an early stage of history is often highly favorable to social, industrial, and intellectual progress]. … [This, by] relieving some classes from the perpetual struggle for a bare subsistence, afford[s] them an opportunity of devoting themselves to that disinterested pursuit of knowledge which is the noblest and most powerful instrument to ameliorate the lot of men.
Stalin was able to bring about a backwards civilization and make it a contender for world supremacy. Prior to Stalin, a bicycle was considered a futuristic piece of technology. Later, they would send the artificial satellite, Mir, to orbit the Earth. Stalin, though many say did not make his country the best it could have been, certainly did improve conditions. The peasants went from barely surviving on any food type to at least having bread to stomach. The Tsarist society prior to Stalin was the stagnant kind that prevented growth that Frazer detested so much.
Frazer believed that ever person who have the want for good of their fellows’ at their heart would welcome such charaters, as they use their intelligence, ruthlessness and energy to drive the society forward. “If we could balance the harm they do by their knavery against the benefits they confer by their superior sagacity, it might well be found that the good greatly outweighed the evil”. Frazer would have prefered people like Machiavelli’s esteemed prince Borgia and Stalin over people who had intellectual deficits. Three great scholars from throughout history have found in favor of Stalin.
If you were to look at other people throughout history whose intelligence and ideas have withstood time, many of them would also agree with Stalin. Julius Caesar, perhaps, and Nietzsche, are examples of people who would possible favor with Stalin. Nevertheless, Stalin cannot be blamed for what he has done. Even though it appears atrocious by today’s standards, he did what was needed to be done to push forward the society. Many scholars of old recognize that, and hopefully those who live in modern times will live to see when Stalin is made an example of, and not abhorred.