There is much to do about how the personality of Adolf Hitler was a major factor in his rise to power among the German people. Such thoughts have again come to the fore with the rise of Trump and resurgent far right in Europe. It is true that the charismatic force is often a driver of great change, but sometimes a much more subtle, much quieter person can make an equally radical change. This week we will dissect the inner psychological workings for infamous Soviet leader Josef Stalin.
How was Stalin raised?
Stalin as a child grew up among a constant barrage of hatred, abuse, poverty and bitterness. In this stew of psychological torture, his future behaviour was shaped and cultivated. Bullied in school, beaten up at home, there was nowhere the young Stalin could go to escape from the constant trauma. The two major influences in his life were seen by Stalin to be composed of nothing but lies: the school and the Church. Can you imagine living in a world where every aspect of life seems to hold a bitter grudge against you? Who could blame young Stalin for becoming a tad anti-social.
Stalin throughout his life, craved praise and flattery at all times, suggesting a need to have his self image reinforced by others at all times, possibly in reaction to his poor mental health as a child. Anyone who did not shower him with compliments could expect themselves to treated to a hot steaming pile of Stalinist vindictiveness. The greatest flatterer in his life was his mother. Freud said that a boy who has been his mother’s favorite attains the mantle of a conqueror. He feels so confident in his own abilities, that he takes success for granted. This caused Stalin to conceive of himself in semi-mythical terms. He viewed himself an influential thinker, social leader and politician before any of that was actually true. This was of course, a mental shield he erected to deflect feelings of inferiority and vulnerability.
But here is the thing, Stalin was very smart, so smart that he could not actually believe the nonsense he told himself. As a result, he went to great lengths to find a reason to make his mythic self a reality. So he chose the poor and the needy as a method of directing his need for approval in some productive direction. His activism resulted in him being exiled to Siberia, where he became even more embittered and hard. His view of the world departed every further from reality as he wasted away in a frozen prison. But the Russian Empire needed him out of the way because he was in possession of a rare photographic memory. He could remember things without having to write them down. So he became a hyper effective spy, providing intel to the revolutionaries without having appeared to have recorded anything. In order to show off his abilities of recall, he quoted long passages for Goethe’s Faust to a German diplomat. It was this accurate memory which allowed him to effectively control the sprawling bureaucracy that was communism. It was something that those who followed him could not match.
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But his efficiency of mind was often overlooked due to his crazy temper. However, it must be noted that he could swallow it for massive periods of time. He could hold a grudge for years, even decades before pouncing and exacting brutal vengeance. It was this tendency for quiet, planned cruelty that Vladimir Lenin had noticed, but he died before being able to arrange the political structure of the Communist Party to prevent the rise of Stalin. It is a rare situation for a temper to be so violent, and yet so restrained. Stalin’s anger was kept and filed away only to be released when it could benefit him the most. It is possible that his violent and poverty ridden childhood, of which he could do nothing about created this patient rage within him. Imagine how you would feel when your parents beat you, seemingly for fun. His resulting hatred for his father was so great, that he began to loathe men in general. He was a passionate misandrist. This is often cited as the reason why he purged Soviet society of all other powerful men. He viewed males as an inherent threat to his (and as a result the nation’s) existence. To him, all men were evil (except for himself of course).
Was Stalin a Psychopath?
Although some have argued he was simply a psychopath, because he was so unphased by cruelty that he would not blink at mass murder, but at the same time being able to slip into sympathetic rhetoric about the plight of the people. This casual, shallow show for the public is a striking symptom of psychopathy. This is often accompanied with shows of bravado, especially in the second world war, but when it came to actually fighting, Stalin made an excuse to be absent from the scene. It seems that he was only brave where there was no real threat on the horizon. However, like most cruel men, it was those he bullied who made him powerful. People were so very afraid of him, that after a show in a theatre, the manager called out for a round of applause to be had for their leader Stalin who allowed such shows to be performed. Stalin was not even there at the time, but people were so terrified that they clapped for eleven minutes straight. At this point a Russian farmer stopped and sat down, and the others followed suit. The secret police arrested the farmer later that night and he was swiftly executed. His need for praise went so very deep, that even when he was not there people were mortally terrified of offending Comrade Stalin.
In a world where monsters such as this can be forged in childhood, we must find ourselves focusing on how we bring up children. A life which raises up Stalin’s and Hitlers is clearly an inherently flawed existence indeed. We need to create a rational system of parenting in which great people are produced, but crucially, they are healthy and altruistic people. Stalin was no doubt, a great man but imagine if his finely tuned mind were not polluted by the madness of parental cruelty, what could he then have done for the world? The future must rare the Golden Generation, the healthiest, best and most determined generation the world has ever seen. This will be the future, one way or another.
The Gnostic Heretic writing for the Apollo Institute of Reason AIR Review©