On the day that Sepp Blatter explained that he had definitely not resigned from FIFA, despite resigning quite publicly; and in the same year that Nigel Farage definitely didn’t resign or he did… or he said that he wouldn’t stand again as the leader of the UK Independence Party that he is now leading again, history applauds them for taking guidance from a genuine heavyweight.
History is rich with great men (yes, I am gendering this) not standing for the leadership (no way, not them, nope) of organisations that are less savoury than a bag of donuts in a candy floss museum. Sometimes the tactic is taken even further than ‘not standing’, take Stalin in 1941.
Realising that he had made a massive mistake with the Russo-Soviet (Molotov/Ribbentrop) Pact with Nazi Germany, which kept the USSR out of World War II until invaded by Nazi Germany, the Soviet leader resigned from the leadership of the country. He stopped leading, he left the Kremlin, he had a nervous breakdown a broken man in the face of being right royally rolled over by Hitler.
There was no way, emoted Stalin, that he could regain the trust of his beloved people; the same beloved people he’d slaughtered in their millions by gun, by forced relocation and by mass starvation. He was done. A broken man.
Or… maybe not. It’s also quite likely that he was calling bluffs in his own leadership team who were headless, lost and paranoid about each other’s power grabs as the Nazi’s stood mere miles from Moscow.
Simon Sebag Montefiore explains how Stalin’s resignation played out.
“Yes but think about it,” answered Stalin. “Can I live up to people’s hopes anymore? Can I lead the country to final victory? There may be more deserving candidates.”
“I believe I shall be voicing the unanimous opinion,” interjected Voroshilov. “There’s none more worthy.”
“Pravilno! Right!” repeated the magnates. Molotov told Stalin that Malenkov and Beria proposed to form a State Defence Committee.
“With whom at its head?” Stalin asked.
“You, Comrade Stalin.” Stalin’s relief was palpable: “the tension left his face”—but he did not say anything for a while, then: “Well…”
Beria took a step and said: “You, Comrade Stalin, will be the head” and he listed the members.
Stalin noted Mikoyan and Voznesensky had been excluded but Beria suggested they should run the government. The pragmatic Mikoyan, knowing that his responsibilities for army supply were relevant, asked to be a special representative. Stalin assigned industries—Malenkov took over aeroplanes; Molotov, tanks; Voznesensky, armaments. Stalin was back in power.
Yes, Stalin basically noted the weakness, cannibalistic tendencies and various levels of secrecy and guilt among his challengers and played the: “You can’t want me! Not after what I did! You couldn’t possibly love me!”
“But we do! We do!” came the response of weak men.
And as soon as the rest of the ‘board of USSR Plc’ asked him back, they wrote off all previous mistakes, wiped Stalin’s slate clean and put him back in supreme control.
History’s a good teacher if you take notice.
- Simon Sebag Montefiore – Stalin: the Court of the Red Tsar
- BBC: Sepp Blatter: Fifa president says he did not resign
- BBC: Farage stays as UKIP leader after resignation rejected