Temptation for strong leaders
English historian Ian Kershaw has closely studied the dark side of history - it is the greatest biography of Adolf Hitler, the embodiment of evil. But he has just published the book "The Strong Man" which examines several political leaders who shape the times in which they live.
You say that strong, charismatic personalities are always present in moments of crisis. And note the fact that only one of your characters did not assert himself in a moment of crisis, even though he then found himself experiencing one of the most epochal crises (the fall of the Berlin Wall) that no one expected. I'm talking about German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Do you think that, unlike Kohl, Gorbachev was aware of the crisis of the Soviet Union, although perhaps not of its impending end?
The crisis is one of the main dimensions of the book to understand the ways through which it has opened the way for some people to take power, often with disastrous consequences. It may be assumed that the stronger and more comprehensive the crisis, the greater the destruction of existing forms of government, and the greater the opportunity for a single individual to exercise power over a wide range, often in a despotic form. . Gorbachev came to power when the Soviet Union was facing major structural, economic and political problems, although it was not yet on the brink of collapse. He quickly realized that he was about to face a radical change that he could not control. He started with the will to reform the system, but ended up destroying it completely.
Yours are not biographies, but analyzes of power. How they got it, how they kept it, and what legacy they left. Did you come to any conclusions or reflections that you had not made before in your historical work?
I have worked extensively on similar or related topics, certainly also in my biography of Hitler, so in this book it was not a question of reaching conclusions that I had never come across before. But I learned a lot about the individuals I was examining. Generally speaking, I was shocked once again by the danger of looking for an individual to find national salvation, which usually offers simple solutions to complicated and often intractable problems. Putting someone in power, usually a seemingly amazing figure, who claims to have the panacea to solve a society's crises has historically been a disaster. Today's lesson is that we should be very critical and careful in receiving messages from populist politicians. Be careful what you wish for!
You are the author of one of the most important biographies of Hitler. In this gallery of characters, he is perhaps the most abnormal, the most different, the most "great" in tragic negativity. Is that so?
In the introduction to the book, I reject the concept of historical "greatness". It is impossible to define the term in any way that makes it analytically useful. In a general sense, it means that an individual was extremely important and significant. But that means making a positive moral judgment. Perhaps for the distant past it is not important to judge an individual as a "great" leader. But in the new story, it is inevitable. To think that Hitler can be viewed with "negative greatness" would be to ignore the moral aspect of a political leader who was responsible for World War II and genocide. Rather than using an undefined, morally charged term that is nevertheless subject to changing values over time,
Historia e shekullit XX është përcaktuar nga udhëheqësit politikë, apo këta ishin rezultat i dinamikave që s’mund t’i kontrollonin por vetëm t’i përfaqësonin?
Libri flet për përcaktime jo personale të një dominimi personal. Në këtë qasje, përcaktuesit strukturorë krijojnë potencialin që një individ ta formësojë personalisht historinë. Nuk ka, siç theksoj, asnjë formulë matematikore për vlerësimin e roleve individuale të liderit dhe përcaktuesve jopersonalë të ndryshimit historik. Secili prej tyre e ka marrë pushtetin në kushte që nuk i kishte krijuar, por prej të cilave gjithsesi përfitoi. Pa këta individë, historia do të ishte ndryshe. Por sado të fuqishëm që ishin, nuk mund t’i kontrollonin të gjitha forcat që i kishin sjellë në pushtet apo që shoqëronin ushtrimin e tyre të pushtetit. Lufta jep shembullin më të dukshëm, siç duket qartë në rastet e Benito Musolinit dhe Adolf Hiterit.
Ndikimi i personaliteteve të veçantë, sipas jush, është më i madh pas tronditjeve të mëdha politike dhe ndodh më rrallë në demokraci. Edhe pse ju kufizoheni në Europën e shekullit të kaluar, si e shihni në këtë shekull rolin e figurave si Trump, Putin, Xi Jinping, Erdogan?
Duhet të presim edhe ca kohë përpara se të vlerësojmë plotësisht trashëgiminë e tyre. Por që tani është e qartë se këta njerëz, personalisht, kanë një rëndësi shumë të madhe në formimin e shekullit XXI. Secili prej tyre përfaqëson rryma politike dhe shoqërore tashmë ekzistuese në vendet e veta, por secili ka lënë pa dyshim një gjurmë të madhe personale në historinë e vendeve të tyre dhe të gjithë botës.
*Ian Kershaw is an English historian who has worked extensively on the history of Germany in the last century. It is known as the best biography of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. During his career he was a professor at the University of Sheffield and a consultant to the BBC on historical documentaries. The interview was translated into Albanian by Erjon Uka.