As an introduction to discussing the temperaments of bad guys, it is important to consider culture and historical trends surrounding them, before one starts to understand an individual’s temperament. Context: the culture is the other side of temperament. For example, the most influential person on the peaceful ending of the Cold War, Mikhail Gorbachev is not popular in Russia.
We might want to ask, who was the worst? Mao, Stalin, or Hitler: the three biggest political murderers in modern times. Who was the most evil and nasty? Were these guys Evil? Depending on different criteria, one could make the case on each being the most evil. On the other hand, what is evil? What is bad? China, Germany, and Russia were countries that had seen a lot of death and misery already. Similar leaders in their countries were not nice either. The Kaiser Wilhelm, Tzar Nicholas II, and Chiang Kai-Shek weren’t exactly viewed as nice and warm and fuzzy people either. Consider the fact, Mao Zedong is still revered in China (although mostly in rural areas).
Mao: A Life, Philip Short
Stalin: Edvard Radzinsky
Adolf Hitler: John Toland
We all know that most of us can do bad things. Stanley Milgram showed us that. Again, I think that the book Mistakes were made, but not by me, is an important book to read, to better understand ourselves and how we self-justify our actions.
But getting back to the “baddies,” it has been estimated that Mao Zedong was responsible for more deaths than Stalin or Hitler. On the other hand, Mao had more to “work with.” We, course of, cannot be precise in these matters. As Stalin said “A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.”
Stalin was the only one of the three that actually started out personally killing others. He served as provocateur, a revolutionary terrorist against the brutal Tzarist regime in Russia, and later became an enforcer for Lenin. Mao Zedong was a student getting his teaching degree, when he started seriously getting political; China had been, to some degree, in chaos for sometime before Mao entered the fray. Hitler was a corporal in WWI, then, within the chaos of Munich during the Weimar republic, he got political in the beer halls.
So violence and death was more of a norm when these guys got started, but they, in some sense, took that tradition and habit for killing in their countries to the extremes.
What were each of the three driving for? Mao was a true revolutionary – he believed in “constant” revolution. Once he obtained power, he continued the revolution. All of his family and most of his children had died in revolution or war. He really didn’t have much to lose by the time the Cultural Revolution occurred, except his legacy. Hitler wanted to purify Germany: make it great or die. Stalin was out for himself; he wanted control; he liked killing. He made sure that there was no possibility anybody else could amass enough power to challenge him. He would have those who killed for him be killed, he would have those who killed the killers, killed. He would have those who killed the killers of ….
I would say the Stalin was the most evil, but all three were evil and bad. However, all three were quite different in Temperament and their actions. All three were political geniuses, and they obtained power in powerful countries to do major evil in the world.