When we look at Stalin, the first thing which comes to mind is that he was a psychotic paranoiac. It may be accurate, but on the other hand, he had not exhibited such symptoms during his youth. However, we may observe that as time progressed, his psychotic and obsessive search for enemies was growing. However, during WWW 2, terrified by the potential German victory, he became saner. It looks that his self-preservation instinct was more potent than paranoia. However, after the war, his paranoia and psychosis returned on the double.
Like most self-indoctrinated individuals, he wanted reality to confirm his views. That can explain his obsessive drive to find potential enemies and destroy them. Using his powerful propaganda machine, he tried to force the Soviet population to share his reality version. This version’s theme was adapted to current reality. There were anti-USA posters during t the period when Ribbentrop and Molotov made the pact to partition Eastern Europe, but they changed to anti-Hitler;s Germany when USSR was invaded, to return to anti-USA afterwards.
Nearly, Soviet indoctrination had several well-defined goals: convince the Soviet population about the greatness of Lenin and Stalin and his policies, encourage people to look for usually nonexistent traitors, western agents and spies; show the superiority of the Soviet regime over western capitalism in such areas as industry, science, technology, art, literature, education and so on. This propaganda was amazingly successful in the Soviet Union and East Germany, slightly less in other satellite countries and questionably in Poland.
If we may wonder how it could work, we should have a closer look at the Soviet propaganda mechanism: it began in early childhood, even on the kindergarten level. Portraits of Stalin were present everywhere, and you couldn’t avoid seeing them in every public space since early childhood.
It expanded and increased in intensity when a child started to attend primary school, where it was always told about childhood and the greatness of the “batushka Stalin,” which means: “daddy Stalin.” At that time, older children were pushed to become members of Pioneers – the young youth organization. They were exposed to the intensive cult of the pioneer “martyr” Pavlik Morozov, who informed local police that his father was doing some forgery. According to the propaganda, Pavlik, which in reality was called Pashka, was later killed by his family. However, after the Soviet regime fell, an alternative storey emerged: the boy was, most likely, killed by the secret police to fabricate the story for propaganda. To give you a taste, what a child indoctrinated, see below is a set of Pavlik Morozov propaganda pictures.
When children grew to teenagehood, they were strongly encouraged to join Komsomol. During that phase, young people began to participate in various regime arranged activities like work in kolkhozes and sovkhozes and geared to become members of the Communist Party. Below is a sample of Komsomol propaganda posters:
Finally, when they were old enough, the specially dedicated ones could become members of the Communist Party, which usually facilitated their future social and professional careers.
The propaganda’s main tools were literature, film, architecture, music, and graphic art in the form of posters, which were displayed on the streets, entities to workplaces, schools, etc. They had to adhere to the rules of Social-Realism. The disobedient artists were sentenced to obscurity, poverty or maybe even gulag.
Nothing was spared from this ideological terrorism, including science. Even purely scientific, every book had to have an introduction where the author pledges to adhere to Marxism-Leninism ideas. The president of the super prestigious Academy of Science was Lysenko. a dangerous individual whose absurd and insane theories contributed to the catastrophe of Soviet agriculture and, while enforced by Mao in China, caused the Great Famine.
One of the essential propaganda items, which goal was to prove the superiority of Soviet technology, was the successful launching of Sputnik 1. Below is a small sample of Sputnik posters
”For the fame of Communism.”
The title is: “In the name of the world”
These glorification posters were often combined with their opposites depicting horrors of imperialism of the USA (the arch-
The title is: “THEY SEED It is DEATH.”
he writing on the gun means: “It is written on the gun: Aggression.”
I think it is written: WORLD GENDARM
Also, the radio (there was no television) played an essential role. It was propagated by usual home devices and speakers often installed on electric posts on streets, so one could not avoid the propaganda’s unending stream.
It is challenging for the western audience to imagine the intensity and over-presence of the Soviet propaganda. But try to think that you are always and mercilessly forced to look, read and listen to apparent lies, which contradict your dismal everyday reality. As a result, you have to choose to surrender, force yourself to believe and participate in this fictional world or oppose. If you do the latter, you may feel hopeless, depressed, and suicidal because, at the prime time of the Soviet Union, an idea that it may end was unthinkable. It was much worse than WW2, when many people from occupied by German countries never hoped that finally, Hitler would be defeated. George Orwell, in his book 1984, describes such a dilemma.
However, while the success of Soviet indoctrination in the Soviet Union is understandable, more puzzling is how it affected Western countries. Many left-leaning intellectuals in France, Italy and UK were sympathetic towards the Soviets refused to accept numerous proofs of crime against humanity, which happened there. Very successful was the Soviets influenced Peace Movement and its well-organized conferences. Even such leading intellectuals like Bernard Russell and artist like Pablo Picasso got duped by the Soviet propaganda. Below two of hundreds of peace posters:
On the hand is written: DEFENDERS OF PEACE
Typical peace poster with Picasso’s dove
Even after the famous Kruschev’s speech at 20th Congres of Communist party where he exposed some the Stalin’s era crimes, some stubbornly refused to believe it. The only explanation is they were too attached to their views to give them up and face reality.
After reading the above, one may object to calling Stalin a victim of Disease. We often save the word victim for a person who suffered from some external forces, while Stalin appears to be the perpetrator of his crimes rather than their victim. A simple answer would be that he was mentally ill and therefore irresponsible for his action.
But, I am afraid it would be too primitive. The indoctrination, which is a critically important aspect of Disease, as a rule, works both ways: the victim becomes a spreader and imposes its views on others. That seems to happen in Stalin’s case. Let’s look at his life story: if he would not encounter Marxist ideology, which attracted him, he could finish the seminary and become just another Christian Orthodox priest. So we see that reason for his monstrous behaviour came from outside indoctrination.
But millions of individuals were indoctrinated by Marxism, and nothing extraordinary happened to them: they adhere to it as one of the hundreds of ideologies floating around. Even creators of Marxism, Karl Marx and Frederic Engles, call for revolution, but they have no desire to become doctors, ordered killing and violence. In Stalin’s case, it was different: Marxism gave him an excellent platform to embrace the second symptom of Disease: the desire to dominate. He moved systematically through the layers of the party hierarchy to finally reached the top. Then emerged the fear of losing this position, which activated his extremely ruthless eliminating real or imagined competitors. Holding top position invoked the other symptom of Disease: the limitless desire to possess. His ultimate goal was to control the world, which he called “liberation from the capitalistic oppression.” In his case, the usual effect of individual indoctrination, which leads to attempts of spreading the Disease, reached an extreme level. But he was not unique: similar behaviour. It is particularly is frequent in the case of religious fanatics.
So I conclude in one sentence summary: Disease strongly affecting an individual, due to propitious situation, may cause misery not only to an individual but the world at large.