The day I was Joseph Stalin

I WAS to play the part of Joseph Stalin. I don’t remember exactly who she was supposed to be. Well, you wouldn’t, would you?
EDITOR'S PERSPECTIVE: The day I was Joseph StalinEDITOR'S PERSPECTIVE: The day I was Joseph Stalin
EDITOR'S PERSPECTIVE: The day I was Joseph Stalin

A difficult ask, but having successfully taken on roles ranging from a mugger to a tiger I was pretty confident I was up to the task.

It was a history lesson and we were encouraged to act out the debating of an important subject. In this case it was to be my – by my, I mean Stalin’s – successful 30-year rule of the Soviet Union and roll out of my ground-breaking five-year plan. What could go wrong?

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The teacher said there had been some opposition to my rule – really? – and I should engage in debate with a protester, who was to be played by a girl in the class.

I had never had any power, apart from a game as captain of the school cricket team when we were bowled out for four. Mostly I had been a victim – at least that’s how I like to see it now – of those giving commands from their ivory towers. Or, more likely, asbestos-clad classrooms.

Luckily I had done a bit of revision and felt able to offer up some form of explanation for my policies, which included the collectivisation of agriculture and a purge of dissenters, I mean enemies of the working class. The Gulags would set them straight and if it didn’t, well, there was only one option left.

Oh, don’t forget I captured Berlin to end the war, and the famines, well, they were just bad luck.

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There was tension in the classroom as the whinging peasant and myself took up our places.

I felt different, stirred, passionate, emboldened, proud, as if this was meant to be. After all, I was born – when I saw I, I mean me not Stalin – almost 50 years to the day after the start of the October 1917 revolution and, as the saying goes, If you are not with us, you are against us.

I puffed out my chest – well, what there was of it – as I had seen other great dictators, er leaders, do and prepared for interrogation. After all, as the son of an alcoholic cobbler, what could anyone tell me about poverty?

Like any good politician, I had agreed to be questioned and the subordinate made it easy.

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"How can you justify it when 50 per cent of Russians oppose what you are doing?”

Open goal. “Well, 50 per cent are in support of the plan and are clearly benefiting from it. Previously it wa sonly 30 per cent. The numbers are rising.”

“He’s cheating. You can’t manipulate statistics like that.”

The teacher, clearly a visionary and a true communist, stepped in on my behalf and after some more perfunctory jousting, in which I espoused the benefits of forced labour and the building of the Metro (still the best in the world!), I was declared the winner.

It’s 40 years ago now and it’s only recently – in fact just now, as I write this – that I realise I was ahead of my time. That’s what all politicians do.

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We read about dictators now as if they were something of the past. We are shocked at imprisonments and purges, enacted to prevent free speech. Yet it’s happening in our main parties now – replace the old guard with younger officials who don’t dissent and will remain loyal to the leader’s whip.

I (Stalin) might have wiped out entire villages and towns, but you know what, it wasn’t all my fault and others were doing the same in countries throughout Europe and the world.

It just depends on who is writing the history and it’s usually the winners who earn the right to mangle the story as we find out – and will continue to do so – on a daily basis.

I never did get the part of Adolf in the follow-up debate though.

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