Maarten Maartensz:    Philosophical Dictionary | Filosofisch Woordenboek                      

 S - Stalin


Stalin: Alias of Joseph Vissarionovicz Dugashvili - "the man of steel" - dictator of the Soviet Union from 1927 to 1953, Marxist, supposed writer of "Dialectical and Historical Materialism", supposed himself to be "a genius amongst geniuses", and was directly involved in the murder of some 43 million men and women, mostly murdered in Soviet concentration camps.

This type of man does not often enter serious encyclopedia or dictionaries of philosophy (except such as were made under his rule) but is an interesting and awful example of what philosophy may lead to, when it becomes a dominant totalitarian ideology (43 million murdered men and women, for one thing) - and Stalin certainly considered himself to be a philosopher, and indeed the best there ever had been (but sometimes humbly excepting Lenin and Marx).

Here is an example to illustrate the sort of person I have in mind, and what he liked to see publicly proclaimed about him. I quote from "The mind of Stalin" by Rancour-Lafferier p.17, who quotes someone else who lived under him:

Great Leader of the Soviet People
Leader of the World Proletariat
Great Leader (simply that)
Great Friend of the Children (also Friend of Women, and
        the same for collective farmers, artists, miners,
        actors, deep-sea divers, long-distance runners etc.)
Continuator of Lenin's Work
Great Master of Daring Revolutionary Decisions and Abrupt Turns
Creator of the Stalin Constitution
Transformer of Nature
Great Helmsman
Great Strategist of the Revolution
Supreme Military Leader
Standard-Bearer of Communism
Father of the Peoples
Father, Leader, Friend, and Teacher
Great Internationalist
Honorary Pioneer
Distinguished Academician
Genius of Mankind
Leading Light of Science
Greatest Genius of All Times and Peoples
       (Antonov-Ovseyenko 1983, 229-30)

"Stalin and Hitler" by Allan Bullock is an interesting biography of two great 20th Century dictators. Also, it is noteworthy that Stalin, like Hitler and Mao, was quite evidently mad in quite a few senses, such as being a megalomaniac and a psychopath, and was intellectually in no way a genius, like some dictators, such as Ceasar and Napoleon, may have been: His writings, whether really by himself or by ghostwriters, are boring and hundredth-rate, whether considered as prose or as philosophy.

One of the interesting problems the existence of such a man poses is: What made so very many millions of men and women, some of whom were not stupid at all, admire or venerate him as a genius, a saviour, a role-model, a leader, and do his biddings? See Ordinary men.


See also: Dictatorship, Hitler, Ideology, Mao, Marxism, Totalitarian, Totalitarianism,


Applebaum, Aron, Bullock, Conquest, Crossman, Milosz, Orwell, Radzhinsky, Revel, Rummel, Thieme, Zinoviev.

 Original: Aug 19, 2004                                                Last edited: 12 December 2011.   Top