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This paper includes a comparison between Joseph Stalin and the non- idealistic, successful prince created by Niccolo Machiavelli. Niccolo Machiavelli portrayed how this realistic leader should be in his book, The Prince. Machiavelli displays in his book some principles and qualities that he believes a true leader should have in order to maintain his power and influence for a long period of time. Leaders from all over the world, especially totalitarian leaders, read the book and tried to adapt its principles to their rule. One of these leaders was Joseph Stalin, who was believed to be a strong Machiavellian; according to Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, the main character stated that Stalin read ‘The Prince’ every night, which shows that most of Stalin’s actions were actually based from his reading of Machiavelli’s book.
Machiavelli’s ideology tactfully depicted the real nature of humans. He bolsters the notion that humans are greedy, evil, and cruel by nature. He noted certain characteristics like being feared but not hated, always thinking of war, intelligent, appreciation of his nation, and using one’s own arms. Machiavelli argues in his book that an efficient leader must follow the concept of realism; a Machiavellian leader shouldn’t be virtuous all the time because the world won’t accept idealism in politics. A Machiavellian leader must be cunning, well-learned in politics, industrious, able to have both friends and enemies, skilled in both war and politics, and must possess leadership qualities; whatever decisions he takes or actions he makes, the ends justify the means. If we look in depth into the qualifications of a Machiavellian leader, we find that Joseph Stalin possessed most of these characteristics during his reign.
Joseph Stalin was the leader and dictator of the USSR from 1922 to 1953. Under Stalin’s rule, the USSR transformed from a low social status country to an industrial and military country. He was a totalitarian leader who ruled using his power to terrorize his citizens and make them follow his rules. Many wondered if Stalin represents the Machiavellian prince. Throughout his reign, he exhibited many Machiavellian qualities: a leader must always think of war, must be a miser, feared but not hated, and shouldn’t be neutral on any topic; therefore, we believe that Stalin was a Machiavellian leader.
Machiavelli stated in The Prince, an efficient prince must be a military leader, and he must always think of war, even during peace; ‘He should, therefore, never take his mind from this exercise of war, and in peacetime he must train himself more than in time of war…he must turn [peacetime] to his advantage in order to be able to profit from [it] in times of adversity, so that, when fortune changes, she will find him prepared to withstand such times.’ Stalin was a general officer in the military and he always used the military to solve the USSR issues. He used the military to take the grains from peasants of Russia. He always thought of war with the USA like the Cold War and the war with the Nazis.
Machiavelli expressed in the book that the prince should be reputed as miser instead of being hated for being too generous; ‘it is wiser to live with the reputation of a miser, which produces reproach without hatred.’ Joseph Stalin had the reputation of being a miser because of the starvation policies he implemented on the peasants in order to rapidly industrialize Russia and implement the Five Years Plan. It resulted in a famine, but at the end the USSR became an industrialized, rich country.
Machiavelli wrote in his treatise that the prince should be feared but not hated to maintain order in his state; ‘A prince must be nevertheless make himself feared in such a manner that he will avoid hatred, even if he does not acquire love; since to be feared and not to be hated can very well be combined.’ Stalin was a totalitarian leader, so fear plays a great part in his rule. He made two purges and killed anyone that stood in his way, yet only a small part of the population hated him because he was one of the first people who acknowledged women’s rights, he visited children’s schools on a daily basis, he cared for his nation and tried to protect it as much as possible, and made positive changes in the USSR throughout his reign.
Machiavelli argued that the prince should always choose between two sides, especially during war; ‘A prince is also respected when he is a true friend and a true enemy; that is, when he declares himself on the side of one prince against another without any reservation. Such a policy will always be more useful than that of neutrality; for if two powerful neighbors of yours come to blows, they will be of the type that, when one has emerged victorious, you will either have cause to fear the victor or you will not.’ Stalin has shown this trait during WWII when he sided with the Allies and the US against the Nazis to achieve victory and maintain on the safe and the strongest side without changing his beliefs. Stalin also knew that the USSR was one of the most powerful countries in the world, so he had to choose wisely which side to be on in order for the world to notice how strong his country is, and considering the history of Germany, it always seemed that it always loses no matter how strong it is, so Stalin chose the Allies.
Both leaders, Joseph Stalin and the Machiavellian leader, wanted to control and regulate all the private and public aspects in their countries. They aimed to establish full political, social, and cultural control over all the residents. There was no tolerance for any action that was non-beneficial to the state or the leader’s goals. Indeed, there was an extreme repression towards all capitalistic businesses, labor union, religious building or figures, and political parties. According to Machiavellian leader’s ideologies and absolute monarch, residents usually gave up their civil rights in exchange of security and safety from the government. Moreover, he argued that the state is ‘merely an instrument’ that can easily be manipulated for the benefit of the ruler and utilized ‘whatever means’ under his control to repress the residents. As for Joseph Stalin, he used methods of terror to keep his residents under his full control, terrified to break any of the strict rules displayed by Stalin.
The vast array of ideologies that was spreading during the time of ruling of Stalin and the Machiavellian leader was an obstacle in front of the controlling plans that were done. Their enemies’ new ideologies were displayed as more dangerous than their enemies’ weapons. Joseph Stalin once said ‘ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns. Why should we let them have ideas?’
There is a significant difference between the steps taken by each leader to show display their work to their citizens. Joseph Stalin utilized propaganda which portrayed only the god deeds -with their finest details- done by him. Stalin was seen to be exaggerating in displaying his achievements. Therefore, the only choice he had was to utilize secret police and other terror tactics to repress the political cults against the perfect pictured he portrayed about himself. Moreover, freedom of speech and all political parties than his were regulated and restricted. Whenever Stalin found men or men’s perspectives are obstacles to him, he killed them. He even quoted that ‘death is the solution to all problems. No man- no problem.’ However, the Machiavellian prince never announced any of his activities or plans’ fine details. He just portrayed his activities and success in more realistic even though these activities might be done in an immoral and unethical way, supporting the ideology of ‘ends justify the means’. Indeed, he followed the steps of Caesar Borgia and criticized Florentines. Borgia was a cruel leader; however, he was successful. On the other hand, Florentines was a loved leader, yet he was defeated in several wars and wasn’t successful as Borgia was.
Joseph Stalin saw his residents as three different classes. The ‘commoners’ were groups of peasant who worked under harsh working circumstances to accomplish the five- years plan and other economic plans. The “nomenklatura” is the high-level civil management or the middles class. And finally, the elites or the ‘priesthood’ were the organizers of Stalin’s party. On the other hand, the Machiavellian leader wasn’t aiming to divide his residents into social classes; everyone worked for the benefit and the success of the leader regardless the gender, color, or religion.
Joseph Stalin had future vision or a plan for his society. Therefore, Stalin insisted on making enormous impacts on social aspects and making education a main core in Russia. For instance, literacy rates increased due to the compulsivity of education. Under Stalin, education was under the total control of the government from nursery schools to universities. Not only students but also peasants were forced to study the doctrines of the Communist party. Risking their jobs and facing prison or execution, some college professors and students questioned the Communist Party’s ideologies. However, industrialization was revived as the students were obliged to study technical and practical subjects. Women gained their suffrage and other unalienable rights. Moreover, women were highly encouraged to join the working force and be households indeed. Not only inaugurating such a great social impact but also an economic impact, Stalin gave opportunities to women to work in industries to increase the domestic production. However, the living standard in Russia fell as there were harsh working conditions, famine, and low wages. Arts, culture, and religious scenes were totally banned as they were displayed as contradicting for the social picture drawn by Stalin. As for the Machiavellian leader, he had no future vision for his society. Consequently, the only concern for the Machiavellian leader was the safety and peace of the society itself. The Machiavellian leader aimed to gain this security regardless the means utilized either moral or immoral. He indeed wasn’t concerned much about any elements of a society except for the prince and the government. Niccolo Machiavelli quoted, ‘Princes and governments are far more dangerous than other elements within society.’
As a recapitulation, Joseph Stalin has been proven to possess the qualities of a Machiavellian leader by multiple factors. The Machiavellian leader must being feared but not hated, always thinking of war, intelligent, appreciation of his nation, and using one’s own arms. Additionally, he must be cunning, well-learned in politics, industrious, able to have both friends and enemies, skilled in both war and politics, and must possess leadership qualities. Stalin developed most of these characteristics during his reign because of his strong belief in Machiavelli’s ideologies. The most prominent features of Stalin that resembled a Machiavellian leader were being feared but not hated, his neutrality in politics, and his reputation as a miser in addition to his constant thinking of war. Both leaders wanted to establish totalitarian regimes, in which they aimed to establish full political, social, and cultural control over all the residents. There was no tolerance for any action that was non-beneficial to the state or the leader’s goals. Both leaders, however, had different approaches in their ruling: Stalin always preferred using propaganda and relied on it for people to like him, but a Machiavellian leader prefers secrecy, especially in unethical manners which are justified. Joseph Stalin also preferred having visions in every action he does, yet a Machiavellian leader somehow chooses to focus on his reign only and what benefits him and his citizens at his time of ruling.
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