March 5th was the 60th anniversary of Joseph Stalin’s 1953 death. He was 74 and had ruled the Soviet Union since 1924 after Vladimir Lenin had died.
In some parts of modern Russia his life and legacy are remembered fondly largely for leading his country through World War 2 and for the Soviet Union becoming a superpower. During his lifetime the state-controlled media carefully cultivated an image of “Uncle Joe” and thus contributed to what we’d call now a “cult of personality.”
Stalin’s one time ally, Adolf Hitler, also had a state-run media that cultivated his cult of personality.
The similarities between Stalin and Hitler go beyond their control of the media and the cultivation of image. Both dictators are responsible for the deaths of millions. Few Russians mourned Stalin’s passing in 1953. His successor, Nikita Khrushchev launched a program that was known as de-Stalinization, in part, because of the dictator’s paranoia and brutality.
Unlike Hitler, who few Germans would think of fondly, Stalin’s image has received a new face-lift and many Russians remember “Uncle Joe” with admiration apparently forgetting or approving of the death of millions under his brutal reign.
On March 5th, 2013, Hugo Chavez, dictator/President of Venezuela died. Chavez’s political party was the United Socialist Party of Venezuela and he had ruled since 1999. CNN calls Chavez an influential leader with a mixed record.
His record is mixed because he spent millions of Venezuela’s oil money (CITGO) on social programs and was a virulent opponent of capitalism and hence, the US, which is why Chavez is celebrated by the American left. Chavez once called George Bush the devil and the left loved it. Venezuelans loved Chavez and his adoring throngs are now in national mourning. The state-run media in Venezuela has always been keen to promote the cult of Chavez’s anti-Americanism. It’s also worth pointing out that Chavez was friends with Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and of course Castro, all lovers of a free press and dissent.
Opposition to Chavez was not allowed. Chavez regime, like Stalin’s, like Hitler’s, like dictators everywhere crush all opposition and dissent, both real and imagined. That’s what dictator’s do, one way or the other.
Critics also point out that Chavez’s social programs are unsustainable and despite the pouring in of money Venezuelans remain as poor as ever, except of course if you are a party loyalist and on the inside track. Chavez’s personal fortune is estimated at $2 billion dollars, thereby proving that socialism has limits in its goals of redistribution of wealth. Here’s a quote by Chavez: “Being rich is bad. It is inhuman.” Apparently, being $2 billion rich isn’t bad nor inhuman. Reminds of another quote, “the animals are all equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” (Animal Farm, George Orwell)
I think it was Margaret Thatcher who correctly said, ‘the trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money’?
The remembrance of Stalin’s passing and the actual passing of Chavez got me thinking about President Obama who has said a couple of times he is not a dictator, although some on his side of the aisle and perhaps Obama himself wishes he were.
A thing that dictators share is the careful cultivation of image. This is nothing new and even the Bible records such an instance. “King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon (Dan. 3:1).)”
The king thought highly of himself and I can’t think of a dictator who did not or does not. An inflated self-image and massive ego seems to be part and parcel of what it means to be a dictator. Some have noticed that the President seems to fit the profile especially when he channels Abraham Lincoln.
Dictators have to be thought of as great by the people they dictate over. Who can forget the films of the adoring masses that assembled for an Adolf Hitler parade. This is why they have to control the media. This is why Bob Woodward, no right-wing conservative got his nose out of joint when not so subtly threatened when he pointed out some rather obvious inconsistencies with the administration.
When people think the dictator great or some kind of messiah this enables the dictator to oppress and/or demonize the opposition. The story line goes like this.
The dictator is a man of the people and he is the one who must destroy those who would oppose the people. Stalin, Chavez and dare I say Obama may differ by scope and scale but they all fancied or fancy themselves warriors of the poor and down trodden. “Fairness” as defined by the dictator is their flag as if who could be opposed to what is fair.
The state-run media will assist the dictator with his agenda and will never point out that the dictator is not all that he is cracked up to be. And if the media should revolt, beware, dictators do not like having it pointed out they are dictators, hence Obama’s denial that he is one. Me thinks he protests too much.
This is why the opposition to Obama is always racist, why the opposition wants the elderly to starve, why the opposition wants children in over crowded classrooms, why conservatives are responsible for global warming, and hate Latino’s, have a war on women, favor the rich and greedy and are responsible for smelly feet around the world.
The dictator must promote and protect his own image while destroying the image of any and all opposition. His reward will be an adoring public and the sad thing is, it often times works.
Some might object that I mention President Obama in the same post as Stalin because the President is not responsible for the death of millions. Fair enough, they certainly are different in that regard. But as one young man told me, I think Stalin did a lot of good but went a little too far. That’s the thinking of a Marxist. The death of millions is simply the extent of control that a dictator like Stalin could obtain.
But comparing the President to Chavez is not so great a leap. The President will never admit to being a socialist. It’s not good for his image at this point. He’d rather be a progressive and put some distance between himself and the likes of Chavez. On the other hand, his actions or inactions speak louder than his words and I believe he has more in common with Chavez than he does with Abraham Lincoln.
There is more than one path to dictatorship and the President already has an adoring media as well as an adoring public. If he destroys the Republicans with his demagoguery by 2014 there is no stopping the man who would be king.
- Was Hugo Chavez a hologram of Joseph Stalin? (voxxi.com)
- Media Mourn Brutal Dictator Chavez (breitbart.com)
- Dictators and Free Lunches (commentarymagazine.com)
- ‘Local hero’ Stalin divides Georgia (bbc.co.uk)