How, The Atlantic asks, did Stalin become Stalin?
The article’s subhead reveals what even amateur students of history have long known. It reads, “Russian archives reveal that he was no madman, but a very smart and implacably rational ideologue.”
Anne Applebaum has done a job here which I can only describe as “typically damn good,” as I’ve long been a fan of her work. It’s good stuff; read it.
The only thing I could possibly add is my own wonderment that anyone still has any wonderment about supposed “madmen” achieving murderous pinnacles of power. Of course Stalin was an “implacably rational ideologue.” So was his stepfather, Lenin. So was their German cousin, Hitler. And their southeast Asian protege, Pol Pot. And Stalin’s peninsular nephew, Kim-il Sung.
I could go on, but I trust you got the idea years before I started typing these words.
Demented madmen rarely — ever? — achieve heights of power. We might call them, the Stalins and the Lenins and the Hitlers, “demented.” We might wish they were madman.
But no. They were implacably rational. They were ideologues. And they had the tools of all-powerful states at their disposal.
And that is why our Founders saw fit to cobble the State, so that implacably rational ideologues might never grab ahold of all-powerful levers.