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Have most revolutionary leaders valued their personal interests over the cause?

  1. Aug 11, 2008 #1
    I've often heard the cliche that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. I think that the cliche tends to be true. Look at Stalin, Lenin, Saddam Hussein, King George the Third, Kim Jung II of Korea, etc. Most of these monarchs and/or dictators were not revolutionary leaders. Obviously the cliche is not always true.

    On the other hand, (surprisingly, I would say) I have not seen much of a tendency for revolutionary leaders throughout history to value their personal political power or their own personal interests over the cause.

    The Emperor, Napoleon

    The principles of the French Revolution were "liberty, equality, and fraternity." People often assert that Napoleon became a brutal warmonger and betrayed the cause of the French Revolution. US History is tainted by British history which demonized Napoleon in order to protect their own corrupt system of rule by the aristocracy alone. Napoleon remained true to the cause in some ways. Under the Bourbons, a serf was a serf for life. Under Napoleon, a peasant could move elsewhere, get an education, not get cheated by merchants, and even become Field Marshals and Counts.


    Stalin betrayed the cause of the Communist Revolution in the USSR.


    The Great Cultural Revolution was an amazingly naive attempt to restore the purity of the Communist ideals. Instead it merely consolidated and institutionalized the stranglehold of the rulling few on the masses.

    Betrayed the revolution is too strong, I will say Mao became too frozen in dogma and afraid of criticism from within.

    George Washington

    The American Revolution was one of the few purely political revolutions in the history of the world. Washington and the other founding fathers were remarkably fair and true to their ideals, but they were not out to remake the soceity but to remake the system of government.

    Fidel Castro

    Without doubt Fidel was the prime mover in bringing Cuba from a despotic to a Socialistic state. Castro took over the large landholdings and started communes. Castro executed, jailed, or expelled the corrupt Batista regime stooges.

    I would say that Castro was remarkably true to his cause (I'm speaking about his rule in the past tense because he has retired.). I also think that he was inept on economic issues and on social services a pretty highly regarded sucess. His dogmatic approach to a failed political system is akin to despotic in many aspects, but for the average aploitical peon, educational and medical treatment advances compensate for repression to the politically active.


    Have most revolutionary leaders valued their personal political power or other interests over the cause?
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  3. Aug 11, 2008 #2


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    I'd rather say that for persons of this type, the cause has become their sole, dominant interest. That is one reason why they can be so dangerous, for it means that anyone criticizing the cause is perceived to criticize them.

    I.e, political debate is transformed into ad hominem in reverse.
  4. Aug 11, 2008 #3


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    Lenin created the state terror apparatus of the USSR & had Kulaks and other state enemies starved, gassed, shot & deported to gulags. So don't know how Stalin betrayed anything, he just was continuing business as usual.
  5. Aug 11, 2008 #4

    Continuing business as usual was betraying the principles of the Communist Revolution.

    I thought about including Lenin on the list, but I decided against it since he died so early into the Soviet Union. Power had hardly been consolidated. The revolution was still a work in progress.
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