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Tyrants of the 20th Century

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Purging vs. Co-opting Tyrants
by Sam Vaknin
Author of "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited"

History teaches us that there are two types of tyrants. Those who preserve the structures and forces that carry them to power - and those who, once they have attained their goal of unbridled domination, seek to destroy the organizations and people they had used to get to where they are.

Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, and Josip Broz Tito are examples of co-opting tyrants. Though Hitler was forced to liquidate the rebellious SA in 1934, he kept the Nazi party intact and virtually unchanged until the end. He surrounded himself with fanatic (and self-serving) loyalists and the composition of his retinue remained the same throughout the life of his regime. The concept of Alte Kampfer (veteran fighter) was hallowed and the mythology of Nazism extolled loyalty and community (Gemeinschaft) above opportunistic expedience and conspiratorial paranoia.

Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao are prime specimen of the purging tyrant. Stalin spent the better part of 30 years eliminating not only the opposition - but the entire Leninist-Bolshevik political party that brought him to power in the first place. He then proceeded to cold-bloodedly exterminate close to 20 million professionals, intellectuals, army officers, and other achievers and leaders on whose toil and talents his alleged successes rested.

Co-opting tyrants consolidate their power by continually expanding the base of their supporters and the concomitant networks of patronage. They encourage blind obedience (the Fuehrerprinzip) and devotion. They thrive on personal interaction with sycophants and adulators. They foster a cult-like shared psychosis in their adherents.

Purging tyrants consolidate their power by removing all independent thinkers and achievers from the scene, re-writing history in a self- aggrandizing manner, and then raising a new generation of ambitious, young acolytes who know only the tyrant and his reign and regard both as a force of nature. They rule through terror and encourage paranoia on all levels. They foster the atomization of society in a form of micromanaged application of the tried and true rule of "divide et impera".

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Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, Bellaonline, and eBookWeb, a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent, and the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101. Until recently, he served as the Economic Advisor to the Government of Macedonia. Visit Sam's Web site at http://samvak.tripod.com

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Last modified: 03/11/16