12 April 2015

The fall of tyrants

This is a post I've been meaning to get around to for a while: events in Libya and Syria have made it arguably more relevant.

In this post, I will examine the causes of the worst mass murderers in the 20th century actually leaving their office. Where multiple causes contributed to their departure, I will add one in each column.

The five groupings I have done are:
  • Military intervention (MI)
  • Natural causes i.e. dying in office (NC)
  • Popular revolution (PR)
  • Internal overthrow (IO)
  • Suicide (S)
My list comes from here: I have retained that order.

  • Josef Stalin (USSR: 1924-53) - NC and IO. While Stalin died as a result of stroke, there are reasonable grounds to suspect the delay in getting him medical attention was deliberate.
  • Adolf Hitler (Germany: 1933-45) - MI and S. Self explanatory really.
  • Mao Zedong (China: 1949-76) - NC.
  • Chiang Kai-shek (China: 1928-49) - PR.
  • Enver Pasha (Turkey: 1913-18) - IO and MI, due to his removal by the Sultan facing defeat in the First World World War.
  • Hirohito (Japan: 1926-89) - NC. Does he really count though?
  • Hirota Koki (Japan: 1936-37) - Other as he resigned.
  • Ho Chi Minh (North Vietnam: 1945-69) - NC
  • Kim Il Sung (North Korea: 1948-94) - NC. Same with his son actually.
  • Lenin (USSR: 1917-24) - NC.
  • Leopold II (Belgium: 1865-1909) - NC.
  • Nicholas II (Russia: 1894-1917) - IO linked to a PR so both.
  • Pol Pot (Cambodia: 1975-79) - MI, from Vietnam.
  • Saddam Hussein (Iraq: 1969-2003): MI. Undoubtedly.
  • Tojo Hideki (Japan: 1941-44) - IO following military failure. It's hardly MI when he started the Pacific War.
  • Wilhelm II (Germany: 1888-1918) - PR resulting from MI. More the former as Germany wasn't that defeated, so to speak.
  • Yahya Khan (Pakistan: 1969-71) - PR
  • Idi Amin (Uganda: 1971-80) - MI that provoked an IO.
  • Ion Antonescu (Romania: 1940-44) - IO linked to one massive MI.
  • Ataturk (Turkey: 1920-38) - NC
  • Francisco Franco (Spain: 1939-75) - NC.
  • Gheoghe Gheorghiu-Dej (Romania: 1945-65) - NC
  • Yakubu Gowon (Nigeria: 1966-76) - IO
  • Radovan Karadzic (Serbian Bosnia: 1991-96) - MI
  • Babrac Kemal (Afghanistan: 1979-87) - Other, being essentialy removed by the USSR.
  • Le Duan (Vietnam: 1976-86) -  NC
  • Haile Mengistu (Ethiopia: 1974-91) - IO
  • Benito Mussolini (Italy: 1922-43) - MI leading to IO.
  • Ante Pavelic (Croatia: 1941-45) - MI
  • Antonio de Salazar (Portugal: 1932-68) - NC, removed due to ill-health.
  • Hadji Suharto (Indonesia: 1967-97) - PR
  • Tito (Yugoslavia: 1945-80): NC.
Totals by primary cause:
  • Military intervention or defeat: 9
  • Natural causes: 13
  • Popular revolution: 5
  • Internal overthrow: 3
  • Other: 2
I think the conclusions are pretty obvious; tyrants sadly don't get overthrown by their people in most cases. Why would they when they control all the major weapons. It's only when they lose that control or someone, frequently the Grim Reaper, takes it from them that they go.

Lower-level authoritarian figures are more likely to go as a result of popular pressure (the collapse of the Soviet bloc for example); there's no long-term habit of mass repression ingrained in them or the military. Killing one person is generally pretty hard; once you've done it a few times, it becomes a lot easier - in many cases, professional soldiers will say no. If they say yes, then a tyranny generally forms. Stalin terrorised people into submission; Gorbachev was unwilling to do so and the USSR collapsed.

It doesn't fill me with optimism for people power, that's for sure.

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