Recently I wrote a piece entitled “Death of Dictators” (Nov 29) that set me thinking about the nature of dictators. This includes Emperors, Kings, Fascist and Communist dictators and many so-called cult leaders. In their resemblance to each other they give away their true nature. They are all homicidal megalomaniacs, who should be incarcerated in an asylum rather than be able to hold the power of life or death over others. In that respect they should be judged psychologically not historically.
They were mentally disturbed individuals who found themselves in a chaotic social situation, with the break-down of law and order, who took advantage of this situation to ruthlessly eliminate rivals and to gain power. They used whatever ideology or dogma was handy for their purpose, and once they had achieved power within the context of their historical situation, they proceeded to use whatever excuses were available to simply murder anyone who was a threat or who they disliked. Seen in this light, although historians have written reams about Bolshevism and Communism in regard to Stalin and the nature of Fascism and Nationalism in regard to Mussolini and Hitler and all the other dictators, including Tsar Nicholas II and his Romanov predecessors, and Saddam Hussein, who used the Baathist party as a means to gain power, and Ayatollah Khomeini who used Shi’ism, we must challenge these interpretations.
I do not for a moment disbelieve that their analyses are wrong, it’s just that I don’t accept that Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Ceacescu, Saddam Hussein, the Ayatollahs of Iran and so on are really sincere about their beliefs. That they murder hundreds of thousands or even millions of people in order to establish a greater Germany or an ideal socialist society, it’s that they use these concepts as a front, while their true motivation is ME! This is the “cult of personality,” I know what to do, I want to have control, I need to eliminate all rivals.
Whether Hitler was a sincere anti-Semite is irrelevant, the fact is that he used anti-Semitism cleverly to gain power in a country, Germany, that was suffused with this belief. It’s a fact that Stalin murdered every other member of the original Central Committee of the Communist Party. Hafez Assad razed the city of Hama in 1982, not to improve the plight of the Syrian people, but to maintain power, and his son Bashar did even worse, killing at least 500,000 Syrians. Whether Stalin, Ceausescu, Kim Il-Sung or Mao Tse-Tung really believed in the brotherhood of man and wanted to improve the plight of the peasants is irrelevant, they used these convictions that others may have believed to take over a movement and then kill all the true believers and everyone else who got in their way.
I remember a truly chilling video of Saddam Hussein, after he had gained power, having a meeting of the central committee of the Ba’ath party, and saying that there were traitors in the audience, and he kept everyone there for hours, but no one confessed. Finally, he called out names, and soldiers took them away, shaking in fear, and they were shot outside the hall, so everyone could hear. That’s the way a true dictator operates, a homicidal megalomaniac. Hitler had his “night of the long knives” when he got rid of Ernst Rohm and his SA followers, Stalin had his Mensheviks, Social Revolutionaries, bourgeois reactionaries, army generals, etc, etc., who he had murdered, not to improve the lot of the people, but to satisfy his own psychological urges. Similarly Jim Jones murdered all his followers in a village named after himself, Jonestown, when he realized he had gone too far in killing a US Congressman.
What I am saying is that we should not take the political or other stated motivations of these individuals at face value and judge them purely historically, but rather that we should judge them psychologically. In that respect they show much more similarity to each other. Hopefully democracy, for all its faults, is a system that prevents such people from taking power, by using the ballot box as the mechanism to achieve power that hopefully filters them out.