Charisma leader-Joseph Stalin charismatic leader is a person that has the power to induce the people to follow him. They seem to be endowed with a special charm that will gain the trust and admiration of those that follow them. They also posses extraordinary intelligence to persuade, negotiate and plan strategies and a keen intuition to take advantage of the circumstances that will favor their plans.
Charismatic leaders use their talent to gain followers, but they also need the right circumstances in order to achieve the kind of power they pursue. The circumstances that favor a leader to grow are usually crisis situations, where people are displeased with their present state of affairs and seek for a change that a charismatic person can convincingly promise them. In a crisis situation when the masses are looking for a change a charismatic person can take advantage of his charm to induce or promote a new set of guidelines that would improve the condition and assure relief. Those circumstances favor the rise to power of a person that can lead the masses and influence them to follow his ideas and principles.
Although the leader will always convince the public that his work is focused strictly to help the community it is often his own goals and ambitions that he is pursuing. Usually those goals include the increase of power by leading a large group or by achieving economical and political force that will help influence external stages as well.
Some charismatic leaders use diplomatic means to capture people’s attention and relay on it to keep the power. Others use their appeal at first to achieve a few powerful followers but they recur to manipulation in order to keep the rest of the people under hand. Sometimes it is enough for the leader to lure a small group of influent people that will help him control the significant masses.
A charismatic leader not only has the power to convince people to follow him, but he will also know when it is the right moment to act and he will take advantage of this kind of circumstances.
Joseph Stalin can be considered a charismatic leader since he managed to raise and take power at the right moment by using the accurate strategies.
When Stalin came to power in 1924 the situation in Russia was unstable on both the economical and political side. The country had experimented a long tsarist period under the rule of an absolute leader that had total control over the country and its citizens. The prolonged domination of the czar that denied people’s freedom had brought a wave of discontent among the working class, formed mainly by peasants.
The landholders that controlled most of the country’s riches exploited the peasants for their benefit. The majority of the population was in great dissatisfaction about their condition and demanded a change, which brought an inevitable revolution and stated the grounds for a new regime to emerge.
All they needed was a clever mind to guide them and propose revolutionary ideas on how to change their situation for the better. The despaired people were open to receive a brilliant mind that would promise them liberation from their crisis and the new doctrine proposed by communism seemed like the salvation they needed.
This canon offered new strategies to raise the life level of the middle class and to transform the economy from a mainly agricultural one into a strongly industrialized society. To achieve this it required hard work from the people at an equal level.
In only a few years Russia managed to emerge from the crisis produced by the revolution and World War I that had left the country in a terrible economical state. It had transformed into a strongly industrial power fit to compete with he Western countries that had been long ahead in the economical plan. Although the freedom was limited and the working class exploited the quality of life improved compared to their former situation. For a few years the middle class was contented with their new standards and their leader, whose image they viewed as a savior, a national hero that had rescued the country from the hard times.
In the international stage Stalin had great influence too. In many capitalist countries where the working class was enduring hard times to survive while a few minorities controlled most of the riches, many were unhappy and agreed with the promising communist ideology that offered a new perspective, and seemed more adequate and equal for the working class.
However, capitalist countries knew the dangers of the communist doctrine and their risk to freedom and individuality and the limitations of this perspective on national and private economy. They strongly attacked those ideas that had the power to lure people’s minds greatly.
Stalin rose to power gradually by being a very important person in Lenin’s party. However Lenin himself was not entirely convinced of Stalin’s ability to lead the party. Both men sometimes disagreed on their view of the doctrine adopted and Lenin stated that Stalin should not be his successor as ruler of Russia. In spite of this Stalin managed to gain followers that would support him as he took control after Lenin’s death.
At that time there was a slight panic from the people, the risk of the confusion coming back into the internal political stage, if no one would continue the ideals of the party that promised the change. Stalin seemed to them to be understanding of their discontent, the one that would help them overcome their despaired situation.
In order to keep the love of the people he also had to appear very loyal to Lenin’s image and ideas. Stalin had to convince them that he would follow the same doctrine, and improve it, before he could impose his own vision. Once he had absolute power over the country he started to put in practice his own strategies to improve the economy and achieve more hard work from the citizens. He managed to elevate the economical situation and recover the country from the disasters of the war.
In order to keep the total command he needed to control a massive population and he installed a cult regime towards his person. Worship towards his image was not only strongly inculcated but obligatory. Disrespecting his person, name or personage became a national offense strongly punished, while worshiping him as the great hero of Russia became a law and integral part of people’s education.
Also he needed ears and eyes all over the country to control the small groups from the inside. Many of his faithful followers had to act as spies among the population to find and reveal the opposing minds that might threaten his power. Those were severely punished, not only to get them out of his way but also to serve as example for others that might threaten to defy his ideas.
However, in spite of Stalin’s clever ideas to improve the economy of the country the result in a long-term proved to be rather negative from a demagogic point-of-view. He promoted his image as the propeller of a second revolution, a more radical one that would bring supremacy to Russia and bring him closer to his goal of ruling the world by ruling the most powerful country. He intended to extend the communist doctrine outside the country and spread his political power all over the world.
The discontent of the people was a favorable ground for Stalin’s ideas to gain popularity. After the tsarist rule the populace was against the ownership of the rich minority and accepted the new doctrine as a relief from the injustice of their exploitation.
Newly independent states that did not agree with international interference and were afraid of losing their internal personality under the manipulation of capitalist potencies saw in Stalin’s doctrine a good option to achieve equality and internal power without giving in to external domination of economical powers. He promised international prestige by achieving economical strength that would return Russia to the greatness of past centuries when it was a political power respected all over the western world. The doctrine seemed like a good option to the capitalist oppression and, in theory, offered protection against the abuse of the small upper class.
In spite of all the propaganda he promoted of himself and his glorious goals, the outcome was a major disaster for the society. His charisma proved to be a dangerous demagogical phenomenon. The manipulation he performed on people was a brainwash that destroyed the personality of an entire nation. The persecution, manipulation and terrorization of many families brought forth an era of fear and repression.
However he managed to achieve popularity to such rate that most people seemed blinded to this state of things and accepted his leadership without complaining. Those that threatened to present a different opinion were promptly taken away from his path and thus he managed to maintain an absolute control over the population.
Although Stalin’s ideas proposed the freedom from the past regime, in essence the difference was much smaller than it seemed. The czar had absolute power over the country and denied people’s freedom to express themselves or oppose the government. Communism functioned considerably in the same way. Stalin’s power was almost as absolute as the czar’s. He alone had had complete power to make decisions, and denied people’s freedom to express themselves or openly speak their opinions about the way the politics were conducted.
Stalin made the people worship his image practically in the same way kings had done in the past. He wanted his person to occupy the most important place in every institution and house which was practically the same policy a czar himself would have followed. His image had to be a national cult of unconditional respect and adoration from his people, whether voluntary or imposed, by manipulation or force.
His opponents were immediately persecuted, arrested and eliminated. This all together follows the same situation that can be seen in most monarchies or absolutist regimes. So, actually where was the change he promised his people? Seen from another perspective, they had replaced the oppressing czar that had them committed to their fields, working overtime for minimal wages and had instead an oppressive leader that locked them in factories and industries working at the same rate, for the same freedom and with a small improvement in their life standards.
This phenomena often happens in history, where promising changes only turn out to be a different version of the same situation that provoked them (as in the case of Napoleon Bonaparte’s heated speeches against the tyranny of the kings, only to crown himself emperor afterwards, to cite one example)
The amazing capacity of a charismatic leader is that he can blind the population into believing his ideas so completely that the people of his time would not even realize that there was actually no major change and that the promised upgrading was only an illusion. It is a reality that the condition in Russia did change a great deal with the arrival of the new communist doctrine and that Stalin transformed the country from a mainly rural one into a major industrial power almost reaching the economical stability of the United States.
However, in essence, the life style of the masses had changed very little from one regime to another, since their role in society remained the same. The common people had still a long way to go before they could achieve the mass power that democracy offered in other countries.
Nevertheless, Stalin managed to gain more and more followers until his doctrine was so rooted into the minds of his people that it practically ran itself. Years after his death his followers would still continue his ideas with a mechanical force impulsed by the strongly rooted ideas promoted by him.
The most amazing capacity of a charismatic leader is that they are capable of influencing the people and retain their loyalty even after their ruling period is over. By achieving this they manage to change history. Even if, in most cases, their goals were only achieved for a short period and ended as a great failure of their actual plans.
Meyer, a.G., (1984) Communism. New York: Random House
N.V., Steinberg, M. (2004)
History of Russia. New York: Oxford University Press.
Service, R. (2007) Comrades!: A History of World Communism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Tucker, R.C. (1990). Stalin in Power: The revolution from above, 1929-1941. New York: Norton.
Van Ree, E. (2002), the political thoughts of Joseph Stalin: A study of the Twentieth-Century revolutionary patriotism. New York: Roudledge Courzon
Wood, a. (2004). Stalin and Stalinism. New York: Roudledge.
Zuehlke, J. (2006). Joseph Stalin. Minneapolis: Learner Publishing Group.
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