THE BATTLE BETWEEN CHARISMA AND BUREAUCRACY
Alexandra Elizabeth Graham
B.A., University of Colorado, 1997
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Social Science
This thesis for the Master of Social Science
Alexandra Elizabeth Graham
has been approved
Graham, Alexandra Elizabeth (Master of Social Science)
The Battle Between Charisma and Bureaucracy
Thesis directed by Associate Professor Candan Duran-Aydintug
This thesis is a revisitation of Max Webers work The Nature of Charismatic
Authority and its Routinization. In Webers theory, charismatic authority is based on
personal connections and a sense that the possessor is somehow magical. Weber
states that when a charismatic leader develops bureaucracies to legitimize his/her
authority, then the leadership will naturally become routinized by the power of
bureaucracy, which is rational and precise. This thesis asks the question,what is the
result when charisma is not routinized by bureaucracy? That is, when a charismatic
leader refuses to be part of the bureaucracy, will that lead to dictatorship? To gain an
understanding, three case studies are used to demonstrate that if charismatic
leadership is not routinized, then the leadership becomes a dictatorship. The three
case studies are about the Porfirian regime in Mexico, the emergence of Kemal
Ataturk in Turkey, and the Cultural Revolution led by Mai Zedong in China.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend
I dedicate this to my mother, who shoved me into finishing my thesis, and thus my
Masters, even though I would have preferred to pour boiling oil all over myself.
My thanks to my Chair, Candan Duran-Aydintug, for recognizing my frustration at a
variety of times and helping me see the way beyond my urge to throw a chair. Id also
like to thank Jana Everett and Myra Bookman for coming on board at the last minute
to help get this thesis finished.
2. LITERATURE REVIEW AND THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK.................3
Scope of the Study.......................................9
Comparative Historical Research.........................11
Collecting the Data.....................................13
4. THE PORFIRIATO.............................................14
After the War of Independence...........................14
Plan of Tuxtepec........................................15
Pan o Polo..............................................16
Economic Changes During the Porfiriato..................20
How Diaz Fell out of Power..............................28
The Creelman Interview............................29
Diaz Runs Again...................................30
Waging a War of Independence...........................36
Beginning a Republic...................................38
The Hanging Jury..................................46
How the Movement Ended.................................48
6. THE CHINESE CULTURAL REVOLUTION............................50
100 Flowers Campaign...................................51
The Great Leap Forward.................................52
Effects of Corruption.............................54
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution..............56
Escalation of the Revolution......................61
The Gang of Four.......................................63
7. CASE STUDY ANALYSIS AND CONCLUSION.........................65
1.1 Method of Agreement,
Charismatic leaders may have great plans and objectives, but sometimes as
they gain power, they do one of two things: Either they become more and more a part
of the establishment, or they become dictators. Those that sell out follow a model
of slowly giving up parts of their agenda as they make it up through the ranks. A good
example of this might be found in Pippen.
Pippen is a stage musical loosely based on the life of Charlemagne. There is
a part where Pippen kills his father because he thinks that his father is an autocratic
cruel aging king who has no care for the hardship of his subjects. After Pippen takes
control, he decides that things are going to be different. He frees the serfs,
demilitarizes the army, creates a welfare system, and abolishes taxes. Everything is
going great, and he is quite proud of himselfuntil the neighboring countries start to
invade his country.
Pippen calls upon his chief advisor and tells him that they need the military to
fight the invaders. The advisor reminds Pippen that there is no military. Pippen
decides to create one, and pay them to be there. The advisor reminds Pippen that there
is no money, because there are no taxes. Pippen's solution is to get the peasants to
fight, but since there are no serfs, he cannot even press them into service. Upon
realizing this, Pippen looks crestfallen and says, I wish my dad were here.
The point of the story is that Pippen found out that his father was not just an
autocratic ruler who did not care about his subjects; his father actually had a reason
for his actions as king. This can be termed the calling mom syndrome, that moment
when new parents realize that their parents actually had a reason for their actions.
Analogous to this concept, leaders of revolutions sometimes become the
existing establishment because they realize that the structure already there has a
purpose. That is, it is easy to criticize and demand change (what most leaders of
revolutions do) until the leaders of the movement find themselves to be in power and
finally understand the previous kings/presidents/sultans actions.
Another possible option for charismatic leaders is to become dictators. In this
possibility, that the modus operandi that the leaders have been using to motivate their
followers runs contrary to the rules that the new charismatic leader developed of how
a country or an organization must be run. The following paper is about what happens
when charisma meets bureaucracy and charisma does not yield. Three revolutions led
by charismatic leaders in the nationalist age were chosen as cross-cultural case
studies. This has led me to wonder why does dictatorship sometimes result when
charisma and bureaucracy collide? To investigate this question, I have used Max
Webers theory of the routinization of charisma and his concept of bureaucracy which
are explained in chapter two to explain the three case studies explored to answer this
These theories are applied to a cross-cultural case study analysis to see how
bureaucratization and charismatic routinization fit in three real world examples.
Chapter three will examine the Porfiriato in Mexico, chapter four will discuss the
Turkish nationalism movement led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and the fifth chapter
will study the Cultural Revolution in China led by Mao Zedong.
The analysis of these case studies will be discussed in chapter six. In this
section, hopefully an understanding of the benefits and limitations of Webers theory
of the routinization of charisma will be clarified.
LITERATURE REVIEW AND THEORETICAL
This analysis is essentially a Weberian analysis. In The Nature of
Charismatic Authority and its Routinization Max Weber, a German sociologist,
wrote that charisma is a type of power structure based on personal loyalty and a sense
that the person with charisma is magical (48). When charisma is routinized, the leader
who possessed it becomes ordinary, thus losing his/her magic. This happens because
the holder of charisma is routinized into the power structure of bureaucracy, which is
based on logic and order (54). Weber said that over time, charisma would become
routine because the power of bureaucracy will overpower it with rationality and
legitimization. According to Weber, this will always happen because charisma is
personal, whereas bureaucracies are impersonal and accepted as more legitimate than
Max Weber was one of the first people to critically look at the concept of
bureaucracies and unmark it. Unmarking a concept is examining what the concept
means in an analytical way. Put another way, unmarking a concept problematizes it,
thus making it something worth analyzing. Previous to Webers work, it appears that
academics believed bureaucracies were thought of as benign structures which housed
the people inside of them, but did not affect those actors and did not affect the
outside. According to Weber, in Bureaucracy, bureaucracies are a good
achievement because they provide a framework for society that responds to
technology and modem life in a standardized way (66). Bureaucratic authority is
stable, rational, precise, and continuous, and as such, is superior to other forms of rule
(75). However, Weber knew around the turn of the 19th century what we know now,
that rational institutionalism has its price, namely that bureaucracies, like
Frankensteins monster, can become autonomous of their creators. The same qualities
that make up the virtues of bureaucracy are the ones that make them dangerous to
their creators. Their very rationality, preciseness, and keeping of knowledge make
them powerful entities in their own right (75).This is perhaps why charismatic leaders
will become routinized within the structure of a bureaucracy; according to Weber,
they have to be part of the bureaucracy to ensure their legitimization.
Before getting into a discussion of theory, I begin with a definition of
bureaucracy. A bureaucracy can be defined as an administrative apparatus to
regulate a system of some sort. According to Turner et al in The Emergence of
Sociological Theory. Weber observed that [bureucracy] is oriented to the
enforcement of rules in the public interest (218). They sometimes require a top-
down approach from the head of state in order to make them get out of their
The definition of charisma comes from Max Weber in On Charisma and
Institution Building. He wrote:
The term charisma will be applied to a certain quality of an individual
personality by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as
endowed with supernatural, superhuman or at least specifically exceptional
powers or qualities. These are such as are not accessible to the ordinary
person, but are regarded as of divine origin or as exemplary, and on the basis
of them the individual concerned is treated as a leader (48).
The nationalist age could be referred to as the time period from the French
Revolution in 1789 until the present, in which a population identifies itself with a
particular group of people based on similarities of language, religion, geography,
and/or personal loyalties. This identification does not have to mean that the people
have ever met one anothernationalism is often virtual. As Benedict Andersen wrote
in Imagined Communities.
A nation is an imagined political communityand imagined as both
inherently limited and sovereign. It is imagined because the member of even
the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow members, meet them,
or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their
In terms of revolution, the definition given by Hannah Arendt in On
Revolution is used. She wrote, Crucial... to any understanding of revolutions in the
modem age is that the idea of freedom and the experience of a new beginning should
coincide (29). To say that there is any way to totally wipe the past off the slate and
start all over on a blank page is somewhat ridiculous, but the rhetoric of
revolutionaries do the next best thing. For example, a revolutionary leader might
promise a brand new world for all the oppressed people who follow him/her.
Revolutionary leaders in the nationalist age might weave a fiction of a common
ideology among people who have nothing in common, except maybe loyalty to the
charismatic revolutionary leader.
This thesis seeks to explore what happens when a charismatic leader refuses to
accept routinization. According to Weber, the conditions must be right for a
charismatic leader to emerge. According to Webers Social Change Theory, as Turner
et al note in The Emergence of Sociological Theory, in Webers view charismatic
leadership emerges during times of crisis, when traditional ways of doing things seem
inappropriate, outmoded, or inadequate to the problems confronting people (215). In
this understanding, the right conditions are when a society has become stagnant, and
some kind of revolutionary change must occur to break out of the society that is not
meeting the needs of most of the people. In this type of situation, a charismatic leader
emerges and effects such a change that the society is forever changed. In order to do
this, charismatic leaders create institutions and bureaucracies to legitimate their
continuing authority. However, I want to find out what happens when the charismatic
leadership is not routinized. My tentative premise is that charismatic leaders do not
want to be accountable to the bureaucracy; thus, they become dictators by stifling
their opposition and using the legal system to force through their agenda.
According to my unproved theory, this happens because the skills needed for
charisma are not the skills necessary to run a bureaucracy. Charisma is based on
personal power. It is not bound by rules. Instead, charisma attracts others because of
its supernatural quality, its otherworldliness. Those who wield great charisma are
skilled in the art of getting those close to them to follow based on loyalty to the
person, not necessarily to that persons agenda. For this reason, the loss of the
charismatic leader is a great tragedy because it often means the loss of the agenda.
My understanding of charisma is that it is based on an adherence to the
personal whims of the person who is in possession of charisma. According to Weber,
The only basis of legitimacy for [charismatic authority] is personal charisma, so long
as it is proved; that is, as long as it receives recognition and is able to satisfy the
followers or disciples (Charismatic Authority ... 52). Once the followers cease to
believe in the power of the charismatic leader, his/her charisma is gone.
Weber notes that charismatic authority is a fleeting quality; it only really
exists at the beginning of a movement. Upon entering a stable phase, such as letting
an institution run itself, charisma eventually will become traditionalized, or
institutionalized. My conjecture leads me to believe that this loss of charisma
would be devastating to the possessor; he or she would not want to lose it, and thus
would fight to retain his or her charismatic authority and his/her bureaucratic
authority. If this happens, it is possible that a dictatorship will be the result.
The theory of the routinization of charisma tells us that the skills to run a
bureaucracy are rational, logical, and very precise. These skills have nothing to do
with personal loyalty. These skills are about effectiveness. The goal of those who are
skilled in running a bureaucracy is to set up a structure with rules that apply to
everyone at every time. This means that even if the leaders change, the bureaucracy
will stay the same.
Webers Routinization of Charisma is used to explain the actions of
charismatic leaders. If bureaucracies and institutions are antithetical to the style of
charismatic leaders, why do they create them? Obviously, the leaders have power if
they managed to overthrow the old order, so what do they gain by creating
institutions? In my hypothesis, what they gain is legitimate authority. The leaders
trade personal loyalty for a system that legalizes and formalizes their agenda.
The need for legitimization from the outside world and the masses may lead a
charismatic leader to set up bureaucracies. According to Weber, charismatic leaders,
once they have gained power, are subject to the rules of the institutions they design.
In order to create an institution that is considered valid, they very often base their new
institution on a system that already has worked, but with a slightly different cultural
flavor. This is called mimesis. Matthew Kraatz and Edward J. Zajac state in
Exploring the Limits of the New Institutionalism: The Causes and Consequences of
Illegitimate Organizational Change. that
mimesis is one of the processes ... of increased institutional isomorphism. This
process is seen as likely to occur in an organizational field that has no clear
performance criteria and no understanding of the technologies employed.
Organizations operating in fields with these characteristics cannot objectively
prove fitness to outsiders and lack proven methods to improve their own
functioning. Thus such organizations are likely to mimic the most "legitimate
and successful" organizations in their field to demonstrate fitness by their
similarity to those organizations (815).
This mimesis could be extrapolated to revolutions. For example, when
nationalist movements are being built, they generally model themselves on the
philosophies and rhetoric of the French Revolution. In the case of Chinas
Communist Revolution and the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese were basing their
model on Soviet Russia. This leads me to ask a very important question: by what
cultural rules do the new leaders of revolutions have to play?
One of the rules new leaders potentially play by is the legitimization test. This
is similar to legal precedent. There are certain myths of how an institution is supposed
to work depending on the culture. Hierarchy, for example, is one way an institution is
supposed to be organized. The more charismatic leaders appear to deviate from the
myth, the less legitimate they are seen to be. Tradition can play a huge part in
legitimacy, which is why so often symbols from past eras are reinterpreted for use in
the new system. This is especially true in nationalist movements. One rule that might
be used by charismatic nationalist leaders would be showing recognizable symbols to
the populace to get them to follow their lead. The fact that the word 'revolution'
meant originally restoration hence something which to us is its very opposite, is not a
mere oddity of semantics (Arendt 43). This is something important about
revolutions: they are reinterpreting the old and not reinventing the wheel.
Unfortunately, creating new bureaucracies may not be a skill that charismatic
leaders have. Thus, charismatic leaders might run a bureaucracy with the skills of
charisma. That is, promotions could be based on loyalty, not on hard work. If this is
true, disagreement with the charismatic leader will be nonexistent.
This study asks the following question: What is the result when charisma is
not routinized by bureaucracy? That is, when a charismatic leader refuses to be part
of the bureaucracy, will that lead to dictatorship?
This question will be answered in each of the following case studies. Each
charismatic leader rose during a time when the society was stagnant, part of Webers
Social Change Theory. Each leader attracted followers and overthrew the previous
sociopolitical system, only to become a dictator. Porfirio Diaz called on the people to
overthrow Sebastian Lerdo because Lerdo supposedly strayed from the nationalist
principles of the 1857 Constitution developed after the War of Reform. Mustafa
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk created his own rival parliament in Anatolia to expel the
European powers from Turkey after the First World War. Mao Zedong called on the
true Chinese to join his cause to oust Chang Kai-Sheks government because the
Kuomintang (KMT) or nationalist party, was unable to support the people
economically or politically after World War Two. According to the literature
reviewed, each of these movements proceeded to change not only the system of
government, but also many aspects of life down to how people voted, what they wore,
and what they thought. Each revolution culminated with the leader as dictator at the
top, stifling his opposition, and not partaking in the rules of the institutions he
Scope of the Study
This study is limited only to instances where charismatic leadership did not
evolve into bureacratuzation, institutionalism, conformity, and rules. This is because I
am revisiting Webers Routinization of Charisma and questioning the outcome
given there. Although this study could encompass much more, I have chosen to focus
only on charisma and bureaucracy for brevity.
I have selected the Porfiriato in Mexico, Ataturk in Turkey, and Maos
Cultural Revolution in China because the literature suggests that each leader came to
power through charisma and by denouncing the right of the previous leaders to run
the country. Each revolution is, in a sense, a nationalist movement. Additionally, I
wanted movements in different cultures in different times, but all of which had the
above characteristics. This same basis for discussion, that when charisma flouts
bureaucracy, dictatorship results, might be made about any culture, although I am not
convinced that it could happen at any time. A reflection for a different study might be
that nationalism is a necessary component for dictatorship. Certainly there have been
other regimes that have been overthrown by charismatic leaders, but the level of
control that is described in these cases would not be possible without the technology
that has become available during the nationalist age.
This thesis is not at all comprehensive. I could not possibly read in my
lifetime all the information that exists about the Cultural Revolution, not to mention
what is available about Porfirio Diaz and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. For this reason,
there is a certain bias in my research because I most likely did not come across that
one article or one book that would have made all my thinking change.
Also, this thesis only analyzes a few situations where Webers assertion
prediction that charisma would become routinized was not fulfilled. There are many
examples that support Webers idea about the routinization of charisma, including the
Lastly, my preliminary layout, that dictatorship is a result of charismatic
leadership run amok, is only one of several possibilities to explain why each dictator
acted as he did. For example, this thesis does not even touch the psychological
makeup of these men. There are, I am sure, many other explanations that could
adequately take the same set of historical facts and create totally different results.
Comparative Historical Research
The methodology for this thesis is comparative historical research, which is
basically examining different historical moments to determine one causal process in
each case. According to Russell K. Schutt, author of Investigating the Social World.
the comparative historical approach ... compare[s] the histories or particular
historical experiences of nations in a narrative form, noting similarities and
differences and inferring explanations for key national events (319). Therefore, in
this case, the three historical experiences of nations will be revolutions in Mexico,
Turkey, and China.
Comparative historical research, while very interesting because the reader gets
a sense of what it was like to live in the time researched, has many drawbacks. One of
the biggest drawbacks is that almost all of the data is secondary. This means that none
of my research was done in Mexico, Turkey or China, and very little of it has first-
person accounts. Even the research that does include first-person accounts (a large
amount of which is about the Cultural Revolution) is still published with a significant
bias. This means that whether or not I want it to be, my research is biased based on
the bias of the original researcher(s).
Another drawback of comparative historical research is that it is difficult to
replicate. This is partly because the information I used can be analyzed in many
different ways. As Schutt notes, the inductive approach taken by many qualitative
comparative researchers can also make it seem that whatever the causal explanation
developed, it has been tailored to fit the particulars of the historical record and so is
unlikely to be confirmed by other cases (325). There is no disputing this fact.
Information that did not agree with my analysis was not included in my thesis
because I want to show that when charisma and bureaucracy meet, one potential
result is dictatorship.
Some comparative researchers use something John Stuart Mill called the
method of agreement (Schutt 326). This basically says that if there are four variables
between three countries, and one of those variables is considered the cause of the
outcome, and that variable is the same across all cases, and the other three variables
are not the same across cases, then, if the outcome is the same in each case, the causal
variable caused the outcome. An example of this using my case studies might have
these four variables: democratic trappings, nationalism, religion, and charismatic
leaders. The outcome in all cases is dictatorship.
Table 1.1 Method of Agreement
Variable Mexico Turkey China
Democratic Trappings Yes Yes No
Nationalism Yes Yes No
Religious Issues No Yes Yes
Charismatic Leaders Yes Yes Yes
According to this graph, and the method of agreement, charismatic leadership is the
cause for dictatorship. But of course, there are many different ways to analyze the
same data. One study alone cannot be the definitive answer to every research
question. Thus, only repeated investigations from a variety of methodologies may
come close to an accurate causal analysis.
Collecting the Data
When this thesis started, it had a different focus and three more case studies.
As I worked through the process of reading and writing, the three case studies that
really came together with three prominent leaders were Porfirio Diaz, Mustafa Kemal
Ataturk, and Mao Zedong.
I collected my data by reading anything and everything I could about the
Porfiriato, the Kemalist Revolution, and the Cultural Revolution. I started with
articles to get some basic knowledge, and then when I felt I had an idea of what I was
looking for, I moved on to books that dealt with each period in detail.
In the process of writing and rewriting, I organized my information in terms of
types of occurrences, not a strict chronological order, because very rarely in history
does only one thing happen at a time. The case studies are organized in chronological
order, so that the reader moves from the mid 19th century to the middle to late 20th
Lastly, each case study is meant to give the reader a sense of the time and the
leader in question. Each case study starts just before the charismatic leader took
power to give the reader a sense of the society before the leader changed it. Then,
each case study discusses the accomplishments of the regime before explaining how
those results were attained. Next, each case study moves into the dictatorship phase,
ending finally with an explanation of how each leaders regime ended. I have not
included what happened in the interim years until the present because in my opinion it
isnt relevant to the premise.
Porfirio Diaz was from a peasant mestizo (Mexican of Spanish blood) family
in Oaxaca, Mexico, but was destined to become one of the most influential Mexican
leaders of all time. Diaz abandoned a law degree to join the revolution against Santa
Anna in 1853, and then stayed in the military through the War of Reform (1857-
1860), in which a new nationalist constitution was drawn. This constitution declared
Mexico a secular state; among other provisions, land was divided into an ejido
system, common areas for the town to farm communally. In the war to expel the
would-be French colonizers, Diaz was the hero of the 2 de Abril entrance into Mexico
City when the French were ousted from the capital; additionally, he fought in the
Battle of Puebla (the holiday Cinco de Mayo celebrates) which was the last battle
fought between the Mexicans and the French in 1862 (Gil 1). At the beginning of his
career, Diaz was a Mexican populist who gained support by bringing together the
disaffected outs of society.
After the War of Independence
After the French left, elections all over Mexico were held, and Diaz was
elected to Congress to represent the state of Oaxaca in 1867. His brother, Felix Diaz
Sr., was governor of Oaxaca at the same time. Together they built a political machine
based on Felix Diazs political acumen, and Porfirio Diazs military record. They
supported town governments, the secular state, authority in the form of the national
army, and the anti-reelection clause of the 1857 Constitution.
The Diaz brothers launched the La Noria rebellion in 1871 against Benito
Juarez because Juarez ran again for President. The rebellion was pro-army, anti
reelection, and the propaganda spread to the masses was that Congress and the courts
were filled with intellectuals too removed from their towns to govern. However, the
rebellion was too extreme to gain widespread support. The Diaz brothers lost half of
their potential allies because they wanted to change too much too soon. The rebellion
fell apart; Felix Diaz was executed and Porfirio Diaz was sent to jail. While Diaz was
in jail, Benito Juarez died and Sebastian Lerdo became the president in 1872. In 1874,
Porfirio Diaz was released from jail, and he immediately began politicking. His
rhetoric was a less virulent version of his earlier propaganda; he was still pro-army
and anti-reelection, but this time, Diaz supported the church because Lerdo was so
anti-clerical. Diaz not only had military power as a general in the national army, he
also had support from the mestizo peasantry and the Indians because of his nationalist
stance: All were Mexican, no matter their color.
Plan of Tuxtepec
Benito Lerdo and his opponent, Jose Iglesias, ran for election in 1876. When
Lerdo won the election, Diaz staged another rebellionthis time in Tuxtepec. The
Plan of Tuxtepec had three basic tenets: adherence to the Constitution of 1857, no
reelection of the president and governors, and municipal autonomy (Koth 244). Diaz
declared Lerdos win unconstitutional under the tenet of no reelection, and he and
Iglesias created a militia with the support of the national army. When Lerdo fled to
the US, Diaz led his troops into Mexico City triumphantly on November 21,1876
(Gil 2). In this way, Porfirio Diaz became the president.
Between 1876 and 1880, Diaz ended reelections. According to the constitution
of the time, the presidential term limit was four years. Presidents were not supposed
to be able to run consecutively, although they could run every other presidential term.
He also demobilized the Jefaturas Politicos (Political Bosses), the town leaders who
were the gatekeepers between the townsfolk and the government.
In 1880, Manuel Gonzales was elected president, but everyone knew that he
was Porfirio Diazs puppet. In 1884, Diaz was elected president again. His first two
acts as president were to reinstate the Jefaturas Politicos, also known as the Jefes
Politicos, and drop the no reelection clause of the constitution. This was the true
beginning of the Porfiriato, and Mexican society was in a state of immobility.
According to Phyllis Smith in Contentious Voices Amid the Order: The Opposition
Press in Mexico City, 1876-1911, the infrastructure of Mexico was in ruin; new 19th
century technology like the railroad and telegraph almost did not exist, the economy
was in a recession, banditry was endemic, and Mexico was only a place on a map
(138). In contrast, by the end of the Porfiriato, railroads ran all over the country, the
economy of Mexico was healthy and growing due to export led development,
banditry had all but disappeared, and Mexicos standing within the international
realm was good.
The picture of the President was one of a leader who led through personal
connections and the threat of punishment for those who dared to disagree. His rank
was above the law; he was charismatic, and the bureaucracy legitimized his authority,
but ultimately he was the leader of a corrupt system.
Pan o Palo
Diaz started his reign with the Pan o Palo (bread or club) campaign. This
meant that the people had a choice: either go along with Diaz and be rewarded
(bread) or oppose him and be punished (club). He eliminated alternatives to his rule
by turning the Congress into his rubber stamp by putting his supporters into office.
These supporters at first were close loyal friends of Diaz from the days of the
revolution. As time passed, though, the governors and congressmen were chosen from
among wealthy clergyman, wealthy landowners, and other aristocrats. No matter what
their class lines were, though, they had to be loyal to Diaz. According to Carleton
Beals in Bread or the Club,
All had to sing the song General Diaz before God, and wisely toasted the
Dictator fulsomely on all public occasions, calling him the great hero of
peace, but never omitting references to his martial exploits, particularly the
April 2 victory in Puebla, as Minister Mariscal called it the greatest military
feat in history (62-63).
Don Porfirio named and removed Supreme Court members at will. Congress
could propose names for potential justices, but if Diaz did not originate the
suggestion, no matter how worthy, the name would not be proposed. By the end of
Diaz's rule, the judiciary had become perfected in corruption; they protected every
sort of shady deal projected by Porfirio's intimates (Beals 69). Supporters of Diaz
were, predictably, well compensated with land, mining titles, and other political and
As the government at the top was corrupt, it should be no surprise that the
elections for the government were farcical at best, completely corrupt at worst.
Porfirio Diaz attained and kept power through armed force. Sometimes, there were
attempts to vote for non-official candidates. Those who voted in this way were
arrested or killed, and their votes were falsified. As a consequence, no one voted
(Beals 69). The elections went on looking very democratic. Beals writes that,
The booth was set up; officials, tables, ink, ballots, urns, all the democratic
paraphernalia, but the box was stuffed with votes for the opposing candidate, a
fake counting staged, and the proper candidate declared elected by over-
whelming majority, authenticating the old proverb Who counts the votes
Often, the vote counters were the Jefaturas Politicas (JP). They supervised all
the rituals of democratic elections, making sure that elections were held on the correct
dates and in the right way. They ensured that all the money appropriated for elections
was used only for that, and when a position came up in the area, that a new election
was held. They were part of an image of an organized, modem, and efficiently run
political structure (Falcon 129).
Previously, the JP had been popularly elected, but after Don Porfirio first
demobilized and then reinstated the JP, he increasingly appointed these positions, so
the JP were increasingly loyal to him. According to Ramona Falcon in Force and the
Search for Consent: The Role of the Jefaturas Politicas of Coahuila in Nationals State
Formation, the Porfirian governments objective was to construct a relatively
centralized command structure, but one capable of imposing its policies on people in
the far comers of Mexico, as well as up and down the social hierarchy (108). The
Jefes Politicas played gatekeeper both in keeping the peasants away from the formal
government, but also keeping the national government from invading the local
Porfirio Diaz allowed the states to rule themselves as long as they did not
oppose him, and the Jefaturas Politicas were his eyes and ears to make sure everyone
stayed in line. According to Falcon, Their institution was designed to organize
power and society (108). Th& Jefaturas may be considered social managers who
controlled the masses for the elite, but they themselves were not of the elite class.
They were middle managers who constituted the bottleneck between the Porfirian
leaders and the controlled masses. From this vantage point, they controlled the
information, and they took advantage of a powerful position that was practically
above the law.
The job duties of the Jefaturas Politicas were varied. The JP regulated private
property and conversely regulated those without property. They were part of the
administration which was created to help construct a modem Mexico, free from ties
to the Spanish colonial past and the problems that came with the early independence
movement (Falcon 111-113). In Coahuila, the JP were specifically supposed to be
concerned with official state tasks such as the rites and passages of life. In fact, the JP
had such an undefined job description, that they could order criminal offenders to
labor on public work projects for the benefit of the district (Falcon 117). Not
surprisingly, this led to abuse of these powers. It was not at all unusual for criminals,
drunkards, vagrants, or political opponents to be doing the farm work or housework
of a Jefatura. The JP could deprive individuals of their liberty at a whim (Falcon
The Jefaturas were not alone in having the power to suppress opposition
throughout the country. Diaz set up the Rural Police (RP), known in Spanish as the
Rurales, which was well paid and well equipped to suppress any problems within the
country. The Rural Police were basically created to stop banditry, which was endemic
in Mexico at the beginning of the Porfiriato. The villages were barely linked by
torturous roads over the mountains, and communication by river was next to
impossible given the dangerous nature of the rivers. Geography and political
instability made it possible for those who lived by thievery alone to prosper. Because
Diaz recognized that brigandage would threaten his control of the country, he
strengthened the Rurales even before he fully came to power. Diaz hired the bandits
for more money than they were making opposing him, and in this way co-opted
Diaz dressed and armed the Rurales Policia better than the national army in
an attempt to keep the RP loyal to him, and also to keep the national army from being
able to overthrow his government the way Diaz had himself mobilized the army to
throw over the Lerdo government. The RP had standard, up-to-date uniforms,
weaponry, and equipment and they were to be in their uniforms and armed at all
The Rurales were highly praised by outsiders for their part in the pacification
of Mexico. Their existence made foreigners feel safe in coming to, and in investing
in, Mexico. Don Porfirio used both the RP and the JP as symbols of the greatness of
the new Mexico.
Predictably, the Political Bosses and the Rural Police worked together.
Political power plus militia power equals control and corruption on a local level. Leva
(draft) was the most hated of the JP powers because anyone who opposed Diaz, the
JP, or the RP was forced to work in the national army at no pay. What was considered
opposition was left to the discretion of the parties in power. Some opposition
eschewed the work-for-no-pay punishment and went straight to Ley Fuga.
Ley Fuga was the practice of killing prisoners ostensibly because they were
trying to escape. The rationale was that prisoners were likely to be acquitted or given
a light sentence at a trial, and then they would continue their life of crime. According
to John W. Kitchens in The Rurales of the Porfirian Age, Mexico at this time was
actually relatively lenient on bandits; either the judges let them go because of
tradition, or the judges wanted part of the criminals spoils (74). These were the types
of holes in the governmental system that Diaz was trying to close, and thus Ley Fuga
came out of Diazs decree that criminals caught in the act could be summarily
executed (Kitchens 74). As the Porfiriato deepened, it became common to apply Ley
Fuga to all enemies of the regime or anyone who opposed local or national leaders.
All that was necessary was to claim that the person was attempting to escape, or that
they were in the process of committing some crime after the victim was dead
Economic Changes During the Porfiriato
During the Porfiriato, the Mexican economy went from a war-tom den of
banditry that could not attract foreign capital, to a country that used export-led
development to turn the economy around. The prosperity brought by the mining and
agricultural industry attracted foreign capital, notably American and British capital,
not only to the cities, but also to the countryside where the railroads were being built.
In fact, by the end of the Porfiriato in 1911, railroads crisscrossed Mexico. Jose Yves
Limantour, the Minister of Finance during the Porfiriato, brought this prosperity to
the Mexican people.
Limantour, along with his cohorts, called the Cientificos, the scientifics, had a
two-part plan to bring Mexico into the 19th century, economically speaking. In
Crisis Politician and Political Counterweight: Teodoro A. Dehesa in Mexican
Federal Politics, 1900-1910, Karl B. Koth notes that the Cientificos first objective
was to keep a long period of political peace. In order to assure this, it was in their
(and Porfirio Diazs) best interest to keep Porfirio Diaz in power (244). The second
objective was to mimic and befriend upper-class foreigners who could bring the
necessary technology and capital to Mexico. (Koth 244)
Diaz and the Cientificos were successful because of economic expansion and
modernization. They were able to resolve the question of how to pay for the state.
The Porfiriato was the first time since 1848 that there was a balanced budget. The
industrial revolution came to Mexico during this time. Jobs and money were plentiful.
Mexico exported raw materials and tropical foods to the world.
The US and Britain invested in Mexico, and railroads opened up
transportation to increase commerce. There were 700 km of railroads in 1876; by
1910 there were 20,000 km of railroads. Private US investors built the railroads in
order to get an edge on competition in the US, and they wanted to make sure the
railroads were stable. Mexican silver and agricultural goods were cheap; shipping was
not. Before the railroads, there was no way to move anything quickly in Mexico
because of the mountainous terrain. The US investors wanted to be able to compete in
American markets using cheap imports, but in order to do that, they had to find a way
to get the goods to the United States. The railroads connected Mexico to the exterior
world (most went to the United States), increased communications, and also had the
advantage of being able to move the RP everywhere. Foreign capital did not just help
Diaz economically, it also helped him keep control of the populace.
The laws changed during the Porfiriato to attract international business. In
1884, the Commercial Code was set up to create commercial courts and money
collection. This made it easy for people to do business, especially foreign investors.
In 1892, Diaz created Terrendos Baldidos, the Empty Lands Law, which gave people
the right to keep 1/3 of lands that they surveyed. This helped settle the desolate
frontier of Mexico in the north.
The mining and agriculture industries created an export-led economic boom.
Oil was refined for domestic use, and especially for the shipping industries. Mexico
had cheap money because it was based on silver, which made for cheap exports and
expensive imports. This meant that for the average Mexican, buying foreign goods
was still very expensive, but buying domestic goods was within their reach, so they
could benefit by the economic boom as well. Diaz used these facts to prove that the
populace was well fed and happy. But in fact, as industrialization continued, the
populace became more and more unhappyespecially in the mining sector.
The mining boom increased silver production four times over by 1910. In
1891, Mexico mined only 6.4 thousand tons of silver, but by 1910, Mexico was the
worlds biggest producer. Mexican and American miners worked next to one another
on either side of the Rio Grande. The mining boom was run almost entirely by foreign
investment. This was partly because of Diazs Mining Code, which allowed miners to
own mines they discovered. This would seem to be an equal-opportunity law, but
with few exceptions, only foreign investors had enough money either to search for the
mines, or to be able afford to pay the startup costs of actually digging the ore out of
the earth. Even if a Mexican found the mine, he or she might have to take on an
American partner to be able to turn a profit. In Mexican Mines and U.S. Capital,
Marvin D. Bernstein notes, The oft repeated complaint that newly discovered mines
were immediately bought up by foreigners was generally true... The Mexican
generally looked upon mining as a steppingstone to becoming a landlord; the role of
capitalist had little appeal (96). By 1911,90% of mining investment was foreign,
and this investment was almost always corporate, not owned by individual people
One exception to that rule was William C. Greene, who was the most famous
of the American miners in Mexico. Cananea was a copper boom town with the help
of Greene; it also was a company town that had the biggest mining strike in Mexican
In 1899, Greene organized the Cananea Consolidated Copper Company in
order to run the mines in Mexico. That same year, he created the Greene Consolidated
Copper Company in West Virginia to handle the American financing (Bernstein 101).
Two years later, Greene opened two new ore bodies in Cananea which, although they
produced lean ore, could have been exploited to create profits. Although there were
top-notch metallurgists on staff, the mines themselves were poorly designed, which
made getting the copper out increasingly difficult. Additionally, because Greene had
attempted to force five to six years of production into one year, too much copper ore
was lost. One of Greenes contractors commented that Greene could have brought
copper from the New York market cheaper than he produced it at Cananea (Bernstein
Another problem lay in the unrest of the people who were actually working at
the mine. The difference between the Mexican and American miners became clear on
payday, when the American miners were paid sometimes twice what the Mexican
miners were paid. Additionally, Americans were more likely to be promoted, and at
Cananea, Americans were more likely to be hired. On May 31,1906, the Cananea
mining strike was called. The strikers demanded a flat five-peso-a-day wage, a limit
of 25 percent of Americans in any department, and promotions for Mexican workers.
The management at Cananea refused even to consider the matter. At the lumberyard,
the strikers supervisors called out the men, and a riot ensued. At the end of two days
of fighting, the American supervisors and seven strikers were dead. It was not until
the arrival of the Rurales Policia that the strike broke. The leaders of the strike were
either exiled or impressed into the army. Two hundred soldiers were stationed in
Cananea to keep the peace. On June 7th work resumed, with none of the strikers
calls for change redressed. In fact, Greene said, President Diaz has ordered me not to
raise wages, and I dare not disobey him (Bernstein 102).
Agriculture played a big part in the Porfirian plan of export-led development.
Goods such as sisal grass, coffee, chicle, sugar, vanilla beans, and Guayule mbber
were important export commodities. In the 1880s Don Porfirio overturned the Ley
Lerdo Laws (the Laws of Reform) from the 1850s, which had broken up corporate
land holdings and given them to the towns; these plots were called ejidos, and they
were a type of communal farmland. According to Kevin J. Cahill in The US Bank
Panic of 1907 and the Mexican Depression of 1908-1909, the new Land Law of
1883 gave private companies the right to survey these ejidos, and if the individual
owners (ejidos were communal) could not produce a legal title to the land, the land
reverted to the government, which then turned right around and sold it to the
company who had surveyed it according to the Terrendos Baldidos law (797). In this
way more than 134 million acres of the best farmland in Mexico was expropriated
and sold for a profit to foreign and local interests by 1900. These lands became the
backbone of Porfirian agriculture, and had the effect of either forcing the
dispossessed Indians to work for the people who bought their land, or to move into
the city to join the industrial work force. Because the best and largest tracts of land
were foreign owned, the Mexican agricultural sector modernized, resulting in a 601
percent growth rate for agriculture, cattle and forestry exports up to 1900 (Cahill
As impressive as the numbers are, the agricultural boom was not smooth.
There were fluctuations in the market, and not all things agricultural were created
equal. The agricultural boom was based primarily on henequen plants, which are
indigenous to the Yucatan peninsula. Henequen made twine used for holding hay
bales before shipping. Because the agricultural sector was booming, the need for
henequen skyrocketed; this turned Yucatan land into prime real estate. The
agricultural boom fueled the mining boom because displaced farmers often went to
work in the mines, but the agricultural boom influenced the social changes emerging
in Mexico in other ways as well.
The agricultural changes came at a high social cost. The most notorious of
President Diazs acts was the Yaqui relocation plan to produce more henequen.
However, it was not only Yaqui Indians who were relocated. When jobs on the
haciendas were scarce because of the modernization of tractors and new ways of
farming, rural people moved to the cities to find jobs. Many of the jobs were in
mining and the newly created factories in the border towns.
Yaqui Indians traditionally lived in Sonora, which is right on the border of the
United States, south of Arizona. The Yaquis fought the frontier settlers during the
first part of the Porfiriato when the Terrendos Baldidos law came into effect, they
fought the railroads when they came through, and they fought against the wholesale
plundering of the land for minerals. Nonetheless, the Yaqui people had been moving
out of Sonora during the Porfiriato until the 1890s. Then, as Evelyn Hu-Dehart
discusses in Pacification of the Yaquis. a handful of rebels started raiding
haciendas, ranches, mines, and rural communities (133). When the Rurales were set
out to chase them down, the rebels hid with fellow Yaquis in the countryside. The
government created a policy of forcing the Yaquis to carry papers determining
whether they were good, compliant Indians, or bad, rebellious Indians. Based on these
papers, and even if the papers proved that a family had been working a plot of land
for twenty years, there was a massive deportation of men, women, and children.
Although not all Yaquis were sent to the Yucatan, at the south end of Mexico, to
work on the henequen farms, most were. This was not an accident. As Hu-Dehart
notes, It so happened that the Secretary of Development, Colonization and Industry
during this period, Olegario Molina, was also the biggest henequen hacendado of
The relocation benefited the miners, farmers, and city builders in Sonora who
wanted to be free of the troublesome rebel Yaquis, and there was a terrible shortage
of workers in the Yucatan, despite the enslavement of the Maya Indians who were
indigenous to the region. The Yaqui Indian infusion was desperately needed because
the henequen industry was becoming one of the major exports of the country, and the
hacendados (owners of the plantations) wanted to cash in on the henequen boom.
After a trial period, the Yucatan hacendados unanimously acclaimed the imported
Yaquis as superior to their own Mayans in hard work and vigor (Hu-Dehart 137).
Those who were not deported went to work in the cities to avoid being picked
up and sent to the south. They joined the increasing swell of people who were looking
for jobs in the city since there were few left in the country.
Industrialization, especially the mining industry, created an industrial sector
for consumer goods such as textiles and shoes. There were new groups of workers.
The number of employed people increased by 20,000 a year. A rural to urban
migration began to occur, especially to cities in the north. Monterey had 14,000
people in 1877; by 1910 there were 78,000 people living there. Torreon was a town of
300 in 1870, but by 1910 there were 43,000 inhabitants because two railroads went
through the town. Whole new cities were being built (not expanded). For example,
Santa Rosa was built for water energy. Urban workers were paid more than rural
laborers. This led to new groups of workers who became disassociated with the land.
There was not much difference in the living conditions of the worker in the
city or on a plantation. According to Moises Gonzalez Navarro in, Factory Work and
Salaries, people lived in hastily and badly built edifices in the city in order to be able
to go to work early in the morning; factory workers worked exhausting hours, were
abused by the company store, had work accidents, and often did not even have
Sunday off (116). In the rural areas, workers lived in badly built or crumbling
buildings on the plantations so they could easily go to work in the morning, were
practically slaves who had a diminishing work base, and were exploited by the
The peasants living along the Mexican-American border resented foreign
intervention. They were frontier people who had been turned into miners/urbanites
over a very short period of time. They became the crossroads of commerce and
industrialization. For example, the city of Chihuahua had quadrupled its population
between 1870 and 1910. Two-thirds of non-agricultural money was foreign. The
banks were European, the railroads were American, and the mines were either
American or British. The wage rates were disparate as well. Americans made more
money doing the same jobs as their Mexican counterparts. Middle wage jobs were
closed to Mexicans. Tensions began to mount among the populace who believed that
Diaz had forsaken their interests in the name of Americans business interests.
This belief was fueled further in 1903, when Diaz nationalized the railroads,
which bailed out the American investors who were heavily in debt to the Mexican
government. In 1905, the gold standard was adopted in the US and Europe. Mexican
money, still on the silver standard, was devalued, which triggered a slump in Mexican
business. This hurt the Mexican landowners, who then blamed Diaz.
How Diaz Fell out of Power
Porfirio Diaz was so busy balancing foreign and elite Mexican interests, he
did not consider the masses who brought him into power. In 1907, there was a
conflict within the Cientificos about how to proceed after the gold standard was
adopted in the US and Britain; additionally, the middle class was paying high taxes to
support the elites lifestyles, as were the workers via the mutual aid societies (labor
unions). The panic of 1907-1908 in the USA meant that all Mexicans living in the US
got kicked out; these displaced Mexicans then rioted against the Americans who were
living in Mexico. The American workers went back to the United States bruised and
angry. Mexico switched to the gold standard; that tightened the economy, which
made the panic hurt Mexicans more. Also, 1908 was a crop failure year.
In addition to all this, the United States played its part in toppling Diaz. The
reasoning for this was economic. The American investors were disgruntled about the
small size of previous oil field concessions, and to add insult to injury, Mexico did
not buy armaments from the Americans; instead they bought firepower from
Europeans. According to David M. Pletcher in American Railroad Promoters. the
American investors believed they had done more than their share by creating railroads
and mines, putting them into operation, and extracting a profit for themselves and
Mexico as a whole (94). They did not care if the Mexican government split the profits
evenly or not, but they resented it when the cash cow started to dry up and President
Diaz did not just immediately side with the Americans to keep it going.
To sum up, by 1908, the only groups of people who still wanted Porfirio Diaz
as President were Don Porfirio and his family, and those who had their jobs because
of him. Miners, peasants, factory workers, and Indians had been exploited during the
Porfiriato, and they wanted him out. The American investors wanted to destabilize
Diazs regime because they distrusted him to make economic decisions that would
benefit them. The Mexican elite wanted him out because they blamed him for the
Panic of 1907-1908. Diaz raised their hopes by giving an interview saying that he
would not run for President again.
The Creelman Interview
In 1908, James Creelman, an American journalist, interviewed Porfirio Diaz.
In this interview, Diaz said that he would not run again for president. He said:
It is enough for me that I have seen Mexico rise among the peaceful and
useful nations. I have no desire to continue in the Presidency. This nation is
ready for her ultimate life of freedom. At the age of seventy-seven years I am
satisfied with robust health. That is one thing which neither law nor force can
create. I would not exchange it for all the millions of your American oil king
(qtd in Creelman 80).
This created a crisis: who was going to replace him? A debate came over one word,
inquebrantable which means unyielding or unbreakable (Koth 248). The bureaucracy
owed their government jobs to Diaz; they worried that if he left, all their jobs would
be in jeopardy. Letters were written to Diaz encouraging him to stay on and run for
reelection. These letters were published in the newspapers, but Diaz said nothing
more (Koth 248). The bureaucrats started abandoning him in favor of looking for an
opportunity to position themselves. Diazs silence encouraged writers to write books
calling for a liberalization of Mexican political institutions. For example, Francisco
Madero penned The Presidential Succession of 1910. which urged Mexicans to accept
the president's word and to begin organizing opposition parties (Koth 248).
Because Diaz said that he was going to step down, an opposition party formed
to nominate a presidential candidate. They nominated Patricio Leyva. Democratic
clubs, which had been springing up across the country with the backing of Bernardo
Reyes, criticized the rich elite. They brought in anyone who was on the outs with the
Porfirian government. This motley crew included striking miners, unemployed farm
laborers, Yaqui Indians, Mexican landowners, and Americans who had lost their jobs
in Mexico. These democratic clubs inspired Francisco Madero to organize anti-
reelection clubs. Politics started to move into the rural areas; their propaganda was
growth versus the beauty of Cuernavaca. Madero asked the masses if the growing
economy had made their lives better, and if the destruction of the beauty of
Cuernavaca was worth that improvement. These political organizations gave options
to the peasantry for the first time in 30 years.
Diaz Rims Again
All this led up to 1910 when the presidential election was planned. Diaz,
contrary to his declarations of 1908, ran for president. He had retired to his home in
Cuernavaca for some rest and relaxation; his public explanation was that he had
rheumatism. The reality was that he was watching to see who would declare
opposition since Diaz had publicly announced he would not run again (Koth 247). He
saw who his enemies were: Francisco Madero and Bernardo Reyes. Madero took
the tactic of using the railroads to travel around the country to organize the outs.
Diaz did not see Madero as the bigger threat, so spent more time sabotaging Reyes. In
the end, Diaz faced a decision of who his running mate should be. He could allow
Madero to run against him and his very unpopular vice-president in a clean campaign
and possibly lose; he could manipulate the election results and it would be politics as
usual which would risk a revolution; or he could change up his vice-presidential
candidate with the very popular and politically moderate Teodoro Dehesa. According
The latter choice was not without considerable merit. Enjoying an excellent
reputation among the middle and popular classes alike as an honest and
efficient administrator, Dehesa was also known throughout Mexico as an
adamant enemy of the Cientificos. A Diaz-Dehesa ticket would have had an
excellent chance of satisfying the electorate (243).
However, in a farcical situation, Don Porfirio chose to run against himself. On one
presidential ticket it was Porfirio Diaz and the unpopular Ramon Corral, on the other
ticket was Porfirio Diaz and Theodoro Dehesa (Koth 243). Not surprisingly, Diaz
won the election. On November 10,1910, Francisco Madero began a revolution on
the same grounds that Diaz staged a revolution in 1876: Diaz was not a real
nationalist, he was a puppet of the foreigners and he had lost sight of the constitution
Madero went through Mexico to carry out a true political campaign against
Porfirian regime. He organized a political revolt for November 20,1910, but
everyone who was supposed to have participated was arrested on November 19.
Madero went to the US to watch; the revolt happened, but the people he planned to
execute the revolt did not, and other people did. Rural towns revolted and organized
successful guerrilla campaigns in Maderos name. Proof that the Porfiriato was
falling apart was the under armed federal army, which produced an unexpected
success of the revolution in the mountains. The key event was in 1911, when
Maderistas took Cuidad Juarez from the federal army. Diaz offered Madero a deal:
Diaz would go into exile, there would be free elections, and Delabarra, Diazs old
friend and fellow revolutionary, still would be on the judicial (rubber stamp) bench.
Madero took the deal, and the Porfiriato was officially over. Porfirio Diaz fled to
France, where he died 20 years later.
A charismatic leader is one who is perceived as having special talents or is
somewhat magical, and for this reason easily becomes a leader. It could be asserted
that charismatic leaders, once in power, must build bureaucracies in order to maintain
their status. Over time, the leader will become ordinary as he/she performs the day to
day rituals of running a country, and for this reason, the leader is seen to lose
his/her charisma. One way to maintain the charisma however is to continue to
perform extraordinary acts and refuse to brook any dissention. When this happens, it
appears that the charismatic leader becomes a dictator.
Part of the job of a charismatic leader in a democracy is to pander to the elite
in order to push through reforms. When making huge sweeping changes, it takes a
leader who can convince the masses and the other people in power to do what he/she
wants, and also to be able to use the institutional framework to silence opposition to
Diaz started his career as a charismatic leader who used the voice of
nationalism and military prowess to gain control of the country. Proof of his charisma
is found that even after he was jailed for leading a failed rebellion, he managed to stir
the souls of the populace to follow him in another rebellion. He used his charisma to
gain support for the restoration of the 1857 Constitution, and to push through very
progressive reforms. However, once Diaz allowed re-election, and reinstated the Jefes
Politicos, he started down the road of dictatorship. He used the JP and the RP to
maintain local control by co-opting banditry, quelling most of his opposition, and to
move the Yaquis to the Yucatan. Corruption was rampant even at the highest levels.
Diaz appointed only those who would support him, thus making a mockery of the
dialectical system needed for democracy. It could be argued that his pandering to the
foreign investors and to the elite of Mexico only demonstrated that in the end, the
progressive nationalist stance that he rode to get into power was only a ruse.
This example is one way to demonstrate that charisma, if not routinized, leads
to dictatorship. Dictatorship can be overthrown if another charismatic leader comes
along to upset the stagnant society of corruption that is part and parcel of a
dictatorship. In this case, the charisma of the new leader is stronger than the charisma
of the old leader, and thus, the old leader loses his/her authority.
Mustafa Kemal, or Mustafa Kemal Ataturk as he was later to be known, was
the founder of modem day Turkey. He accomplished in thirty years, from the
beginning of the Young Turk rebellion in 1908 to his death in 1938, what it has taken
most European countries two centuries to do: transform a society from a theocracy to
a country based on rationality and democracy. Ataturk identified himself with the
nation by giving the nation his ideas of freedom and progress: freedom from Islam,
and progress towards Western civilization. In The Personality of Ataturk, Kemal
H. Karpat notes Mustafa Kemal assumed the name AtaturkFather of the
Turksbestowed on him by the National Assembly in 1934. Thus, his full name
became, literally translated, the Chosen, the Perfect, the Father of the Turks (895).
The Ottoman Empire at the end of the 19th century was a loose confederation
of many different nationalities, religions and languages. There were Arabs, Kurds,
Greeks, Jews, and Christians; additionally, many different languages were spoken. Of
these groups the two most powerful and numerous were the Muslims and the Turks
(Turks were Muslim, but not all Muslims were Turks). By the beginning of the 20th
century, the Ottoman Empire was crumbling from the inside, and this was being
helped on its way by the outside. Most of the empire was held together through Islam,
although Christians and Jews lived within the boundaries of the empire as minorities.
Late 19th century Ottoman Turks had two types of identity: Muslims and Ottomans.
According to David Kushner in Self-Perception and Identity in Contemporary
Turkey, the first was associated with the increasing Islamic Empire and civilization;
the other was viewed with loyalty because of the power they wielded as champions of
Islam (219). Thus, Ottomans would define themselves as Ottomans generally, and
specifically as Arab Ottomans, Macedonian Ottomans, Turkish Ottomans etc. The
head of the Ottoman Empire was the Sultan-Caliph Abdul Hamid, whose duties were
both political and religious, and these duties were not kept separate in any way.
It was against this theocracy that the Young Turks set their revolution. They
wanted to restore the constitution of 1876, which gave power to the Sublime Porte
(Ottoman Parliament). This restoration would separate these powers so that the
religious leader, the Caliph, was still in place, but the role of the Sultan would be in
opposition to, and thus checked by, a parliamentary system.
According to Hasan Kayali, author of Arabs and Young Turks: Ottomanism.
Arabism. and Islamism in the Ottoman Empire. 1908-1918.
It would be wrong to view the 1908 revolution as a nationalist revolution,
though the argument can be made that it set afoot political and social changes
which, after many transformations facilitated a revolution of the Kemalist
kind. The Young Turks wanted to preserve the Empire and its main
institutional underpinning, the monarchy (4).
The Young Turk period can be viewed as a preparation to Ataturks dictatorship,
especially because so many of the changes implemented by Ataturk were attempted
by the Young Turks. For example, the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP)
which was set up by the Young Turks, tried to implement education reform, literacy
reform, and a precursor to Turkish nationalism, which they called Ottomanism.
According to Kayali, The CUPs political program stressed equal rights and
obligations for all Ottomans (72). Nonetheless, Europeans and Christians accused
the CUP of Turkification. They believed the CUP was implementing a systematic
process of depriving non-Turks of their established social, political and cultural
rights (Kayali 82). Despite their agenda to strengthen the crumbling Ottoman
Empire, Young Turks were such novices at politics that they failed to keep the
Ottoman Empire from collapsing (Kushner 221). Its important to include this
information because although Ataturk was only a minor figure in the Young Turk
revolution, some of his ideas and nationalist ideologies came from this period.
Mustafa Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was part of the Young Turk Revolution in
1908 insofar as his interests coincided with the ideology of the Young Turks to
abolish the current Sultanate and have a country run by the people who lived in it.
Where Ataturk parted ways with the Young Turks was in personality conflicts with
the leaders and in ultimate goals. Ataturk felt that the Committee of Union and
Progress did not go far enough in their revolution. Whereas the Young Turks wanted
to keep the Ottoman Empire with the Sultan-Caliph but with freer elections, Ataturk
wanted to create a whole new country based on the nationalism of the Turks.
Waging a War of Independence
Mustafa Mustafa Kemal Ataturk had the experience to wage war because he
had risen through the ranks of the Ottoman army during the First World War. He was
the hero of the Gallipoli campaign that kept the Allies from gaining ground in the
Ottoman Empire from the Mediterranean. In addition, as Feroz Ahmad notes in The
Making of Modem Turkey. Ataturk had political credibility because of his
involvement in the Young Turk movement as part of the Third Army, which crushed
a religious insurrection in Constantinople, called the 31st of March Incident (36).
Ataturk was well educated, having gone to both religious and secular schools, as well
as having graduated from a military academy, where had been exposed to European
nationalist philosophies. He used these philosophies to legitimize his message when
he was gamering support for his revolution. He used the rhetoric of nationalism to
bring people together to believe that everyone in Turkey belonged to one nation the
Turkish nation and thus they should fight the Allied Powers who were controlling
the monarchy and indeed the country.
Ataturks revolution came from the terms of the Treaty of Sevres following
the First World War, which would have split the Ottoman Empire territories for the
British, the French, the Italians and the Greeks. Additionally, it would have created a
Kurdish state to act as a buffer between the new Turkey and British Iraq. In His
Name Meant Father Turk and That He Was, Eric Lawlor writes,
The Ottoman Turks had occupied Greece and parts of southeastern Europe for
centuries. But under the Treaty of Sevres, signed by representatives of
Ottoman Turkey and the Allied powers (with the exception of Russia and the
United States), Turkey was to consist only of Istanbul and parts of the
Anatolian peninsula (116).
The treaty required the Ottoman forces to disarm their populace. Mehmed VI
Vahdettin sent Ataturk to Anatolia in 1919 to force the Turkish soldiers to lay down
their weapons and put down the Defense of Rights associations which had formed
in Thrace and Anatolia to fight the annexation of Turkey and the creation of the
Kurdish and Armenian states. Instead of following orders, Ataturk reorganized the
soldiers, and harnessed the outrage of the people to start a resistance both against the
Allies and the Sultan. When the Sultan ordered him back to Istanbul, Mustafa
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk replied, I shall stay in Anatolia until the nation has won its
independence (Lawlor 116). Then he moved his army west, set up a parliament and a
rebel government in Angora (later to become Ankara) in 1920, and launched an
assault on the Greek army in western Anatolia (Lawlor 117). Ataturks government
was called the Grand National Assembly, with Ataturk as the President. In response
to the nationalists move led by Ataturk, the Allied powers invaded Constantinople.
Two years later, Mustafa Mustafa Kemal Ataturk had driven out the Greeks
and negotiated for the Allies to withdraw their forces and their claims for territory.
Ataturk was fortunate to be able to exploit the bickering of the Allied powers.
According to Feroz Ahmad, the Allied powers were more determined to prevent
each other from obtaining territory which would give one a strategic advantage over
the rest than on crushing the Turks (47). Turkish nationalists called him Gazi, which
means conqueror when the Turkish state was officially recognized on July 23,
1923. The determining factor of Ataturks success was his ability to drive the Greeks
from Anatolia. His militaiy feat convinced the other Allied powers that he was a force
bigger than he really was, and they backed down individually, instead of coming
together collectively and trouncing Ataturk.
Beginning of a Republic
The republic of Turkey was declared on October 29, 1923. Three days later,
Parliament voted to abolish the sultanate. Sultan Mehmed VI fled on November 17
aboard a British destroyer. This new Turkey was going to be a western style republic,
with a parliamentary system, and a new constitution without the influence of religion.
By separating church and state, Ataturk accomplished something that had never
happened before in western Asia (Lawlor 116).
According to Lord Patrick Kinross in Ataturk. the new Parliament had one
party: the Peoples Party, which was packed with Ataturks followers and with
himself as the leader (430). The Assembly still needed to elect ministers, and the Gazi
was afraid that this would encourage factionalism and personal power plays
especially among the Islamists, who wanted to restore the Sultanate in a new form. To
stop this, the Kemalists voted to dissolve Parliament. Before the new elections,
Ataturk instructed his followers to resign and refuse new posts if asked. This left the
opposition to create its own list of ministers (Kinross 432). It was a definite challenge
to Parliament to openly fight him, and he knew that they would not do it. He let it be
rumored that he was willing to fight with his Presidential Guard if there was a
showdown between the opposition and himself. Although the opposition groups
futilely tried to produce an acceptable list, they could not because of the people that
Ataturk had instructed to refuse any post. Then, Ataturk pretended that he had not
engineered this situation and that the Parliament was in anarchy. As President, this
gave him the right to create peace any way possible. After two days without a
government, he invited some of his fellow political leaders to dinner. While eating, he
announced, we shall proclaim the Republic (Kinross 433).
With his friend and fellow politician Ismet Inonu, Ataturk drafted a new
Republic, complete with changes to the existing constitutional law. In it, the President
would be elected by the Grand National Assembly to be the head of state. The
President would appoint the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister appointed the
other ministers with the approval of the Assembly, but not on the suggestion of the
Assembly. The Assembly accepted the Republic on October 23,1923, but there were
over one hundred abstentions (Kinross 433).
Mustafa Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was not opposed to Islam, but he was
opposed to religious fanaticism, and he wanted to create a republic that made religion
personal instead of political. This was one reason he abolished the Caliphate. It was
clear to him that as long as the Caliphate existed, his opposition could use the voice
of religion to oppose him. To counter this, Ataturk spoke of the need to cleanse and
elevate the Islamic faith, by rescuing it from the position of a political instrument, to
which is has been accustomed for centuries (qtd in Ahmad 54). He feared action
invoking religious fervor because he himself had used this tactic in his campaign
against the Greeks during the War of Turkish Independence and in the Great War.
According to Gavin D. Brockett in Collective Action and the Turkish Revolution:
Towards a Framework for the Social History of the Ataturk Era, 1923-38, Ataturk
knew the power of religion, and wanted to break the Turkish people of religions hold
He insisted that the Juma prayer (the holy prayer on Fridays) be in Turkish
instead of Arabic, because the people should be able to understand the sermon in
Turkish, not in an ancient dead language (Kinross 437). This pronouncement led to
One such protest was in Bursa; Ataturks directives were not clear as to
whether only Turkish or whether a combination of Turkish and Arabic were
permissible for the Muslim Call to Prayer and the reading of passages from the
Koran. Because of the misunderstanding, Calls to Prayer were proclaimed in the
traditional Arabic. On one occasion, a local police officer happened to hear it and
declared his intentions to inform his superiors. This sparked protests against the new
language at Mosque (Brockett 47).
Kemalists were confident that the Turks, if given the opportunity to learn
about rational nationalism, would choose the western ideal instead of the mystic
religions (Brockett 50). Secularism in Turkey was two faceted. On the one hand it
separated the society from their Islamic roots, but at the same time secularism was
supposed to bind the people together as one modem nation (Brockett 50). Ataturk
wanted to break the bonds of Islam as a rale of law, and recombine those bonds to
create a sense of secular nationalism among the masses. He accomplished this by
altering the institutions of law to emphasize Turkish solidarity and de-emphasize
Islam as a common thread among the Turkish people.
The Fez. One way to ensure that religion was publicly unacceptable was to
change the outer trappings of Islam. Ataturk changed the outward face of Turkey by
passing a law to outlaw turbans, fezzes, and other headgear associated with Islam or
the Ottomans. He insisted that all men wear the western hat with a brim. The idea
behind this seeming absurdity was that although the fez had only been worn in
Turkey for approximately a hundred years, it had become synonymous with Islam to
Turkish society. In Islam, costume has a very symbolic significance, and the Gazi
hoped that if the people came to reject one, then they would naturally reject the other.
If we will be a civilized people, said Ataturk, we must wear civilized international
clothes. The fez is the sign of ignorance (qtd in Lawlor 117). Starting in 1925, he
decreed that Turkish men would be required to discard the fez and wear Western hats
Although the Gazi shocked the Turkish mind set by wearing the shapka (the
western hat), he did first try to ease the populace into seeing the hat without fear. First
he added a small brim to the headgear worn by the army. He said it was to help the
soldiers keep the sun out of their eyes and thus be able to fight more effectively if
necessary. Then he ordered all civil servants to wear hats to work; some resigned
rather than wear the symbol of the infidel. He had the national press run articles about
the positive aspects of hats and hat etiquette such as how to high to raise the hat when
first meeting someone (Lawlor 118). By passing a hat law, Ataturk forced the male
populace to at least look like modem European men. The hope was that they would
be treated as modem European men, and thus learn to act modem and appreciate
The Veil. Part of the hat laws included unveiling women, but this was not the
only change Ataturk made in the lives of women. He passed laws in 1934 to allow
them to vote and to run for political office. He believed that the education of women
was even more necessary than the education of men because women are the backbone
of a family, and thus need to be the strongest component to keep the family strong. In
a speech he once said, We need men who have better minds, more perfect men. And
the mothers of the future will know how to bring up such men (qtd in Kinross 477).
This was even more radical than the abolition of the fez.
According to Kinross, the ordinary male Turk at this time viewed women as
inferior people who needed protection in society; it was a collective and individual
duty to make sure that women were supervised, decently clothed, and acting
appropriately (475). Women did not appear with men at social gatherings; Turkish
society was in essence segregated. On public transportation women and men sat on
opposite sides with a curtain between them. In girls schools, the only male teachers
were eunuchs. Additionally, there were certain ladies days set aside to go to the
theatre (Kinross 476).
In creating laws to give women rights in society, Ataturk had to walk
carefully. He reminded the public that women had played an important part in the
War of Independence; he declared that no other country could exhibit the heroism
anywhere near to these sublime, these self-sacrificing, these divine women of
Anatolia (qtd in Kinross 476).
Although he could not go so far as to abolish the veil entirely, he clearly
wished that Turkish women would no longer to give the impression that they were
blindfolded and embarrassed in their movements (Kinross 477). Ataturk wanted men
and women to work together in creating this new Turkish community, and often
spoke about the need for equality in civil society. During one speech he said:
Is it possible that, while one half of a community stays chained to the ground, the
other half can rise to the skies? There is no questionthe steps of progress must be
taken by the two sexes together, as friends, and together they must accomplish the
various stages of the journey into the land of progress and renovation. If this is done,
our Revolution will be successful (qtd in Kinross 477).
Eventually Turkish society came to accept women in a variety of professions,
and even in politics. This was one process Ataturk did not try to shove through
quickly. This was a good strategy because womens rights in Islam was and still is a
thorny issue. If he had pushed through womens rights too quickly, Ataturk most
likely would have had a rebellion to quell. But by creating the infrastructure for
women to succeed, he allowed them to make their own inroads, and prove their own
The New Alphabet. Another secular law that was introduced during Ataturks
reign was the Alphabet law, but unlike the laws for women, this Ataturk pushed
through very quickly. The Turkish language had for centuries been written in Arabic
for religious reasons, but it did not accommodate the sounds of Turkish at all. Arabic
Turkish was hard to learn, hard to write, and thus, most people were illiterate.
Ataturk, wanting to break with anything associated with the Ottoman past and
anything associated with religion, decided to create a Turkish alphabet using Latin
characters because the sounds of Turkish are more closely associated with western
He named an alphabet commission and told them to create and implement a
new alphabet. He asked them how long the changeover from Arabic Turkish to
Latinized Turkish was likely to take. The commission told him it would take five
years. These five years would allow the Latin script to be taught in school and printed
side by side in newspapers. Ataturk believed that the people who could read, would
read only the Arabic script, and disregard the Latin letters (Kinross 502). The change
will happen in three months or it will not happen at all was the Gazis reply (qtd in
Lawlor 119). The commission worked day and night and after six weeks they had the
new alphabet. They worked hard to please the Gazi because they were loyal to him
and they believed that he knew what was best for Turkey.
In 1928, the new alphabet was passed into law, and Ataturk went around the
country making sure everyone was learning it. Civil servants were given an
ultimatum to either learn the Latin characters or find a new job; government officials
were invited to dinner at the Gazis home only to be made virtual prisoners until they
mastered the new characters; everyone under 40 was expected to enroll in literacy
classes. Prison inmates learned how to read and write in the Latinized characters to
get their sentences reduced. Ataturk traveled around the country with a chalkboard
teaching peasants how to write their names. Any place became a classroom, including
street comers, show windows, the English cemetery, ships, and public transportation
(Lawlor 119). By the fall of 1929, teachers were to teach only the Latin characters.
They protested, as they themselves did not know the Latin characters, they could not
teach their students. There were no textbooks, as there was no typeset, and these had
to be procured, and then learned by the typesetters before anything could be published
(Kinross 504). In 1929, because there was not proper type, only one book was
published in Turkey, but only two months after the law went into effect, the new
alphabet was in general use.
Predictably, children and illiterates picked up the Latin script more quickly
than those who already knew Arabic because their minds were not cluttered with that
information. Soon the children were teaching their parents and grandparents (Kinross
505). In less than a year, one million additional Turks were literate. By 1931, Arabic
script was all but gone from official use (Lawlor 119).
These secularizing laws, the fez, womens rights, and the Latinized Turkish
alphabet are part of what made Turkey a secular state. However, this was done
through the elimination of Ataturks political, national, and religious opposition.
Interestingly, although Ataturk wanted to be westernized and modem in every
way, he was afraid of opposition to his rule. This is in the nature of a charismatic
leader; their faithful follow on personal loyalty, not because they legally have to.
Ataturk was loath to allow any form of organized opposition that he could not control
through personal loyalty. Threats to his personal control included: any affiliation with
the Ottoman Union and Progress Party, communist organizations, or fanatical
At the beginning of the Turkish republics history, there were efforts by the
Kemalist elite to purge the political and socio-religious elite of opponents and
associations that might be influenced by Ataturks opponents (Brockett 45). This
purge came in the form of the Law for the Maintenance of Order. This law legalized
the Tribunals of Independence, which was a hanging jury used for the settlement of
the Kurdish rebellions and the conspirators to assassinate Ataturk.
The first and most lasting of the oppositional groups to Kemalist ideology, not
only while Ataturk was alive, but until the present day are the Kurds. They are a
diasporic group of people who live in Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria, and are a loose
band of many different tribes who share nothing except the Kurdish name. Currently
in Turkey, Kurds are a 25 million strong minority out of a population of
approximately 62 million. Under the Treaty of Sevres, the Kurds were supposed to
get an independent Kurdistan; Ataturks nationalist movement ended their hopes of
obtaining a country of their own. Naturally, the Kurds were disappointed. According
to the Kemalists, the Kurds have always been in accord with Turks; they are part of
the state (Kushner 224). According to Kurdish nationalists, Kurds were considered by
the Kemalist government to be mountain Turks who lived in Anatolia, and the
Kurds were forced to give up their own language and customs and adopt the new
Turkish language and customs which threatens their identity.
Sheik Sa'id Rebellion. The Sheikh Said rebellion was viewed as a religious,
not national, rebellion by the Kemalists. They did not see that Sheikh Said riled up
his followers with cries to Allah as Ataturk had also done during the War of
Independence; what they did see was the green Islamic banner accompanying the
forces who took over government offices, imprisoned guards, and invaded the cities
of Elazig and Diyarbekir (Kinross 451).
Because of the rebellions, the Peoples Party created an Independence
Tribunal to judge all those who rebelled against the state. The judge of the
Independence Tribunal was Bald Ali, who had a fearsome reputation as a hanging
judge (Kinross 487). The Kurdish rebels surrendered, hoping that if they did so they
would not be hung. Nonetheless, they were all condemned as traitors. Forty people,
nine of whom were sheikhs, including Sheikh Said, were hung. Before mounting the
scaffold Sheikh Said remarked with a smile to the president of the tribunal, I like
you well, but we shall settle our accounts at the Last Judgment. Teasing the military
commander, he said, Come, General, say good-bye to your enemy (Kinross 456).
The Hanging Jury
The Kurdish rebellion was the first time the Independence Tribunal was used,
but it was not the last. The same year that the Kurds rebelled, there was a conspiracy
to assassinate the Gazi. In 1925, Ziya Hurshid suggested blowing up Mustafa Mustafa
Kemal Ataturk at a Grand National Assembly session. His fellow conspirators
disagreed with that plan; the plan to shoot Ataturk was agreed on, but the conspirators
decided to hire someone else to do the actual assassination. (Lawlor 119) Theirs was
a bumbling plan to kill Ataturk, and when it went wrong because Ataturk showed up
at Izmir a day later than the planned assassination, one conspirator turned himself in.
Kinross relates the story that Ataturk met with the would-be assassin without the man
knowing who was questioning him.
The man admitted that he had intended to kill Mustafa Kemal. He had been
paid to do so; he had been told that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was a bad man
who did harm to the country; the assassin did not know him personally. But
how, asked Kemal, could you kill a person you had never seen? You might
have picked the wrong man. The assassin explained that Kemal was to be
pointed out to him before he fired. Kemal then drew his revolver and handed
it over to the other, saying, Well, I am Mustafa Kemal. Come on, take this
revolver and shoot me now. The man looked at him in amazement, then sank
to his knees and sobbed (Kinross 486).
Instead of seeing it for what it was, four men who wanted to kill him, Ataturk
took the opportunity to round up everyone who had ever opposed him, and accused
them of being part of a political conspiracy to kill him in order to overthrow the
Peoples Party. Ataturk cried crocodile tears during the trial, telling the people of
Izmir, My heart is full of sorrow and I shudder with horror. I had hoped that most of
those friends of mine in Parliament, with whom I take pleasure in exchanging ideas,
would be incapable of seizing power by means of conspiracy (qtd in Kinross 488).
The trial was a travesty of justice the 33 accused had no counsel and were
not allowed to appeal their sentences. The members of the Progressive Party were
condemned for planning the assassination attempt, and the former members of the
Union and Progress Party were sentenced for creating anarchy and disorder in the
country (Kinross 488). Because the trial was so obviously a mockery of justice, the
accused took the only option they had to maintain their honor: They refused to plead,
and when asked if they had anything to say in their defense, they said no (Kinross
488). The trial lasted three weeks, and at the end, fifteen people were executed
Two weeks later, another trial in Ankara was held which rounded up another
50 people accused of attempting to overthrow the Kemalist regime. These trials were
the culmination of the feud between Ataturk, the remnants of the Young Turks, and
religious opposition that had been posed by the short lived Free Party in Parliament
(Kinross 491). As at the Izmir trials, the accused were assumed guilty until proven
innocent. Because of the lack of damning evidence, out of the 50 accused, 37 were
acquitted. The rest were exiled, incarcerated or hanged (Kinross 491-492).
After the trials, Ataturk had no more need for the Independence Tribunal. It
had served its purpose: to put down any rebellions or disagreements with the Gazi.
Kinross relates the story that One evening at a party at Chankaya the Gazi remarked
casually to Bald Ali, I have decided to abolish your tribunal. It is no longer
required (493). This statement ended the mockery of justice that prevailed while
Ataturk supressed his opposition through death.
How the Movement Ended
Mustafa Kemal was known as Mustafa Kemal Ataturk because he passed into
law the western custom of surnames in 1935. Until then, Turks had only one name
the one they were given at birth. A second name might be added denoting birthplace
or family place. For example, one might have been named Soner of Istanbul or Soner,
Murats son. Because the country was full of people who had shared names, with
increasing modernization it became difficult to determine who was who. Ataturks
solution was easy: Turks would be like Europeans and adopt family surnames.
Everyone had the opportunity to adopt his or her own surname. This is when he took
the name Ataturk which means father of the Turks (Lawlor 119).
Three years after the family name law, he died of cirrhosis; the man loved his
Raki, the strong tasting anisette drink of the Turks. This is officially how his
movement ended, but his legacy still lives on. When he died, there was no revolution,
and no backlash to his policies. His second in command, Ismet Inonu took over the
reigns of the government for another 16 years.
It seems that Ataturk was the embodiment of a charismatic leader. His
followers believed that he was chosen for greatness by a higher power, for how could
he have possibly lived through the battlefields of the Great War and the War of
Independence? The evidence suggests that he used nationalist rhetoric to persuade
others to follow him and to follow his example. Even after he came into power, his
personal charisma helped him to get the masses to follow his lead, as can be seen with
the abolition of the fez and the alphabet laws.
However, Ataturk dealt with his detractors with an iron fist. He used the
Independence Tribunals to silence his opposition. When he was trying to set up a
Parliament, Ataturk announced that a republic was going to be created, rather than
having a democratic vote on it. The President appointed the Prime Minister; the Prime
Minister appointed the other ministers with the approval of the Assembly, but not on
the suggestion of the Assembly. The point of this is that the Prime Minister owes
his/her job to the President, and is unlikely to appoint ministers of which the
President would disapprove. Thus, although the system looks democratic, it appears
that it is merely style with no substance.
This case study suggests that a charismatic leader can maintain his/her
popularity even while being a dictator by continuing to astonish everyone with his/her
acts of change. Ataturk certainly managed to maintain his charismatic authority, even
though all the while he was subverting the process of democracy that he was
THE CHINESE CULTURAL REVOLUTION
Mao Zedongs regime began October 1,1949, after a civil war with the
nationalists, who were driven to Taiwan. Maos communist plans included land
reform, which converted private ownership of plots of land to communal ownership
so that everyone was participating in true communism. True communism in this
case was the idea of no economic classes, everyone sharing equally, no one being
exploited by the rich, no job more or less important or having more status than
another. The Cultural Revolution was one of the processes to create true communism.
It also had the benefit of keeping personal power for Mao by discrediting people in
the party who appear to have disagreed with him. Because the Cultural Revolution
(CR) had its roots in events that began nine years before the CR actually began, we
must first look at these events to give a context for the revolution to come.
Who was Mao Zedong? Answers to this question vary. Personal accounts of
Mao Zedong abound. One such account is by Quan Yanchi, who wrote Mao Zedong:
Man. Not God. According to Quan, Mao was a man who never backed down from a
fight, who had such confidence and conviction [it] often prompted him to do
extraordinary things (13). This confidence is in line with Webers definition of
charisma. Even in situations where Maos charisma might have been called into
question, or when Maos willfulness turned out to be a source of misjudgment, he
could still rally a large force around him and sustain its moral with his self confidence
and his unbending will (Quan 28). However, Mao was also a man of great
sympathies. During the Great Leap Forward, one of Maos guards brought buns from
his hometown to show Mao how the peasants were eating. The buns had turned
moldy on the way, and as they were mostly made of chaff and wild herbs, they were
very hard. When Mao took the first bite, his eyes turned red, he tried not to choke,
and he started crying. He thought of all the misery of the peasants and the gap
between his ideals and the harsh reality for millions of Chinese (Quan 55).
As an example of Mao refusing the restraints of bureaucracy, Quan writes about an
incident when Mao wanted to swim in the Yangtse River. His guards deemed the
river too dangerous to swim for the nations most valuable leader. In a rage, Mao
said, You said I am no longer my own master. I can accept that, but how about
making an exception this one time? (67). This demonstrates that Mao did in fact run
into the bureaucratic wall that Weber described, but as a charismatic leader, he
resisted becoming part of the bureaucracy.
100 Flowers Campaign
At the beginning of 1957, the Communist Party encouraged the populace,
especially the educated populace, to voice their concerns and criticisms of the
government. According to Suzanne Ogden in Chinas Unresolved Issues: Politics.
Development, and Culture. Mao encouraged this movement because he saw the effect
of suppressing the views of the masses in Hungary and Poland in 1956, and he
wanted to avoid the same kinds of uprisings (44). Thinking that there would not be
anything other than minor criticisms, the Communist party promised no reprisals, and
in fact told the populace that it was their duty as good communists to express their
concerns. This was known as Letting One Hundred Flowers Blossom. Soon after
this movement, 550,000 intellectuals were then labeled Rightists for their criticism,
and became victims in the Anti-Rightist campaign. Some view this as a diabolical
plot to expose the opposition, but to others, Mao was just shocked at the outpouring
of criticism and he panicked. Ogden states that,
In Maos view, [the intellectuals] had stepped beyond the bounds of accepted
criticism and into the territory occupied by those whose hearts, if not their
ownership of the means of production, were antisocialists. As a result, Mao
concluded that, although socialist transformation had eliminated an unequal
distribution of the means of production, it had not eliminated the exploitative
bourgeois attitudes of those who had once belonged to the capitalist class (as
most intellectuals had) (45).
According to Ogden, Mao was shocked that so many intellectuals still had the
desires of capitalists, and he realized that the process to truly become socialists was
going to be very long. One way to change the hearts and minds of the populace was
humiliation and ostracism. Another way was to regroup people so that their
traditional bonds (language, family, geography) were broken. One example of this
policy was the Great Leap Forward.
The Great Leap Forward
The Great Leap Forward (1958-1961) was a disastrous agricultural policy.
What happened was the abrupt collectivization of millions of people into small
groups to farm, even in areas of China that had never been farmed because of
weather, soil conditions, etc. The peasants were grouped into huge communes
because in 1957, Mao believed that the peasants and rural cadres had fallen into a rut
of individualism, departmentalism, absolute egalitarianism or liberalism (qtd in
Spence 576). This was a euphemism for saying that the rural people in China were
still trying to gain a better living after collectivization; that the cadres were cheating
the government by exaggerating shortages in order to pay less to the state and keeping
the difference; and that the people in the country resented the higher wages and
standard of living of the urbanites (Spence 576). A commune was very much like a
small self-sufficient town. It could support a high school, a hospital, a radio station, a
power plant, banks, and large road and irrigation work projects that could not be
handled with a small group effort, but a large collective of people could finish these
At the end of 1957, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) experimented with
using Chinas huge human resources to open up areas of China to farming that had
never seen a hoe. By the end of January 1958,100 million peasants had supposedly
newly irrigated 7.8 million hectares of land. According to Jonathan Spence in The
Search for Modem China. The massing of huge numbers of rural and city workers
for giant irrigation, terracing, and construction projects changed the face of China's
landscape and brought prosperity to previously infertile regions (580). Mao was sure
that if Chinas people could be motivated in this way, they could not only prepare the
ground but also harvest the agriculture with equal improvement. All that was needed
was finding the right way to organize the people and keep them motivated (Spence
By the summer of 1958, a good harvest raised hopes that the right
organization was huge communes. Throughout China, 740,000 cooperatives had
merged into 26,000 communes, and made up 99 percent of the rural society (Spence
579) . The committee was overjoyed over the production numbers, and attributed them
to the communal system. Unfortunately, the grain production figures were grossly
overinflated. The cadres had inflated the numbers to meet their quotas for fear of
being accused of being Rightists (Spence 580). Instead of the surplus that the
committee was celebrating, there was a shortage of grain.
The next five years were even worse. In 1957, the average amount of grain per
person was 205 kilos a year. In 1958, the number dropped to 201 kilos, and in 1959
there were only 183 kilos per person. The amount went down again in 1960 to 156
kilos per person, and finally hit rock bottom at 154 kilos per person per year in 1961
(Spence 583). Thirty million people died during the Great Leap Forward because of
the famine, up to ten percent of them were children under ten, who died from
progressive malnutrition (Spence 583).
Thirty million people died, not only because of overinflated production
numbers, but also because of crop failures that came as a result of terrible droughts.
Maos response to the somewhat disappointing agricultural production was to think of
ways to inspire the local party leaders to mobilize the masses. He hoped that by
giving power to the local party leaders, the decentralization would lead to the greater
communist belief, and the countrys economic problems would be fixed by the
spontaneous energizing of the nation (Spence 575). The opposite effect happened.
Greater local autonomy led to widespread corruption. Rural cadres protected
themselves from the Great Leap famine by stealing grain from those who could not
fight back or who were not in the cadres favor. Even after the famine eased, the
corruption continued (Spence 592).
Effects of Corruption
The issue of corruption was so serious that a large number of leaders,
including Chairman Mao, Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping, agreed on a
new program that would reeducate the masses in basic socialist values. According to
this plan, called the Socialist Education Campaign, the society was to reemphasize
class struggle and fight for the four cleanups which were: accounting procedures,
granary supplies, property gain, and the system of work points in return for different
types of labor performed in the communes. More than 10,000 cadres were relocated
or sent down to the rural areas to learn from the peasants through manual labor and
to educate the peasants in Chinese socialist thought (Spence 592).
To find out if the Socialist Education Campaign was working, Liu Shaoqi and
his wife Wang Guangmei traveled the countryside. Wang Guangmei was especially
effective at disguising who she was by wearing ordinary working clothes, traveling
under a false name, and hiding her face behind a gauze mask ostensibly to protect her
from dust and germs. While she stayed in the town of Taoyuan, she took part in mass
meetings and found a loyal group of informants who helped her put together files on
so-called model cadres; these files included corruption such as bribery and capitalism.
Out of the 47 ranking cadres in the town of Taoyuan, forty were publicly criticized
and/or removed from office (Spence 593). Corruption that widespread meant that
something must be wrong with the institution. Mao had stepped down as Chairman of
the State in 1958, and Liu Shaoqi succeeded him. In the next eight years, Mao
determined that the party had strayed from his original leadership because of Liu.
Liu Shaoqi was at the forefront of the effort to resocialize the peasants into
good Chinese communists, but Mao began to conclude that the leaders, especially Liu
Shaoqi, were capitalist readers, against him personally, or both. There had been
divided opinions about the policies of the Hundred Flowers Campaign, the Great
Leap Forward, and the speed at which the Socialist Education Campaign had been
implemented. According to Spence, Mao began to feel threatened, that, Liu Shaoqi,
Deng Xiaoping, Chen Yun, and Zhou Enlai, veteran revolutionaries all, seemed less
and less to share his vision of governance through continuing struggle; indeed they
barely seemed to need his presence or his inspiration (596). According to Weber,
charisma is the opposite of bureaucracy. If the bureaucracy is working, there is no
need for charisma. Mao began to feel his authority, based on charisma, was fading.
To counteract this, he fought back by creating a revolution that would allow his
charismatic leadership to shine.
According to Spence, one of the reasons the Cultural Revolution was launched
was to get rid of Liu Shaoqi because Liu had become too powerful in Maos mind.
This was demonstrated with the investigative work teams. Liu felt that correction of
CCP abuses should be handled quietly, so that the public would continue to believe
that the party was in control. Mao believed that if there were problems within the
party, these problems should be rectified in public, with open debate and criticism.
Mao was calling for a socialist campaign that would pit the proletariat against the
bourgeoisie, but Liu was concentrating on the four cleanups, in order to fix economic
problems (Spence 595). If Mao was to oust Liu to get his way, Lius followers had to
be sidelined first. The straw that broke the camels back for Mao was when he called
for criticism of Hai Rui Dismissed from Office, a play written by the CCP Vice
Mayor of Beijing, Wu Han, about an honest Ming official who offers constructive
criticism to the emperor and is killed. There was not enough enthusiasm among the
party cadres supporting this criticism, and Mao became convinced that the senior
cadres had been infected with bourgeois thoughts and attitudes, and thus needed
reeducation. To begin this reeducation, in August of 1966, Mao called for the students
to join the Red Guard and rise up against the capitalists within the government and
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution
Many schools of thought about why the Cultural Revolution occurred have
emerged; I dont know what all of them are, so I am focusing on three. The first is
that the CR was part of a continuing revolution, namely a revolution within the
revolution. In this line of thought, the CR was a way to give substance to collective
life through a better understanding of socialist principles such as egalitarianism in
every sphere of life. The second school of thought is that the Cultural Revolution was
merely a period of lawlessness, violence, and rejection of science in favor of
ideology. According to this theory, the Cultural Revolution ended in economic
stagnation and great loss of life, especially among those who were educated in the
practicalities of running a country (Petras 447).
The third line of thought is more complex. According to the third theory of
why the Cultural Revolution occurred, there is no straightforward explanation
because there were too many strands of thought which both fed on and impeded each
other. First there was Chairman Maos belief that the original Chinese Revolution
was slowing down because of the enormous bureaucracy which could not handle
innovative decisions, and also because many party bureaucrats were saying all the
right socialist slogans, but were in reality taking the capitalist road. Second of all,
Mao was worried that his colleagues would shove him aside because of his advancing
age and disagreements about the pace and direction of change. Third, there was an
openly fractious struggle between the Shanghai radicals including Jiang Qing, Maos
wife, and the Peking officials who wanted to keep their power bases. Fourth, there
were the personal ambitions of Lin Biao, who supported Mao in an effort to expand
the role of the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) in order to contribute to cultural
change (Spence 603-604).
The people that Mao thought to be his enemies were those in power who had
taken the capitalist road, and these people were in all levels of the communist party.
The idea of the Cultural Revolution was to swap the intellectuals and peasants
because, according to Maoist thought, the proletariat (peasants) had not been
corrupted by capitalism, but the intellectuals (who largely lived in the cities) had been
corrupted because they had too much time on their hands thinking about how to
appear to be good Chinese communists while actually partaking in bourgeois luxury.
There were two kinds of class struggle going on during the CR. The first was the
democratic debates among the masses who just wanted to be good communists. The
other was a top down purge by party elites who wanted to maintain or better their
position. The Cultural Revolution called on the poor and uneducated to attack the
well off and the educated. Mao enlisted students as revolutionary successors. He sent
intellectuals and party officials to learn from the poor and middle class peasants under
the supervision of the army under Lin Biao. This was called the send-down policy,
and it lasted for over ten years. Mao knew whom to send down because everyone had
been divided into different classes according to their family backgrounds. According
to Feng Jicai in Ten Years of Madness: Oral Histories of Chinas Cultural Revolution,
Good class background referred to the families of workers and poor peasants, and
bad class background meant families of landlords, rich peasants, and capitalists
In China at the time, the bureaucratic class was the center of authority and
thus was in charge of distribution of goods. One would naturally assume that these
people in power would be more likely to save their children from the send down
policy, but in fact these children were more likely to be targeted because they came
from bad class background. According to Zhou and Hou in Children of the
Cultural Revolution, although the cadre leaders children were more likely to be
affected by the send down policy, there is evidence that high-rank cadres succeeded
in getting their children back to urban areas through various back-door channels
(16). No matter what theory of ideology one takes, two aspects seem to be clear:
Party cadres and their families were targeted because Mao sensed their opposition to
the fundamental ideologies of his communist revolution. Additionally, because of the
CR, Mao regained the authority he had lost when he stepped down in 1958.
Besides the send down policy, which lasted throughout the CR, the Cultural
Revolution had two parts: the Red Terror from 1966 to 1968, and then the political
infighting that lasted until Mao died in 1976.
After Chairman Maos call for sweeping away monsters and demons, which
meant sweeping away class enemies of all kinds, the violence of the CR escalated.
Red Guards, educated young men and women mostly of high school and college age
from good family background (workers, peasants, children of the revolutionaries
who were deemed loyal to Mao), joined together in an effort to bring the revolution to
all areas of society. During the summer of 1966, the Red Guards ransacked and
confiscated the property of all people who were suspected of being capitalist readers.
These class enemies were subject to mass criticism, humiliation, and/or torture;
then, they were sent to the countryside to learn from the peasants. Millions were
killed in the process.
The Red Guards were called on to defend the proletarian revolutionary line as
outlined by Chairman Mao. They were encouraged to destroy the four olds,
anything belonging to old ideas, cultures, customs or habits. In that vein then, they
were given free rides around the country to spread the party line, and of course to
destroy anything that was not conforming to that party line. As one participant told
After the Cultural Revolution broke out, I never doubted its policies. At the
start of the movement, I joined other students in denouncing one of the senior
teachers in our school. She used to be the principal of the school. During the
Anti-Rightist Movement, she was labeled a "Rightist" and forced to become
the janitor as a result. When we made her to "confess" her crime, some
mischievous students stuffed garlic into her mouth until she couldn't bear it
anymore. Then they mixed the garlic with shoe-polish and forced her to
swallow that. They even stuffed her mouth with grape leaves wrapped around
mud. At that time, it never occurred to me that we were being vicious. On the
contrary, we felt justified and heroic because of our firm class stand. That was
how we felt at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution (21).
During the Red Terror, several ancient sites and historical relics were either destroyed
or damaged because they represented the old China. Places of worship were
attacked; street names, products, schools, and department stores were renamed to
celebrate the revolution. People who went out of their houses not looking properly
proletarian (short hair, plain dress) were at risk of being revolutionized on the
street. They might be criticized, struggled against, or held down while their clothes or
hair were cut. No one was safe from the Red Terror, not even the people who thought
they were acting as good communists.
Why did the Red Guards act as they did? Jonathan Spences theory is that the
young Red Guards had been repressed by the state and by their parents for years
because the young had been told to live quiet lives of sacrifice to the revolution, and
obedience to the state, all under strict supervision. When Mao called on them to rise
up against their parents, teachers, party cadres, and the elderly, the Red Guards threw
off all restraint; the natural targets were those who seemed responsible for their
cramped lives. To them Mao stood above this fray, all-wise and all-knowing (Spence
606). Maybe the students were repressed jack-in-the-boxes who were given an
opportunity to revolt, but it also appears that the Red Guards were trying to gain
status and legitimate authority in the name of Mao. The students seemed to have been
caught up in a revolutionary fervor to change the system, following a charismatic
leader who had gained power when they were only children. They apparently so
identified themselves with Mao that they went too far in trying to prove their loyalty
In the years between 1967 and 1978, more than 17 million urban educated
youth, mostly students who had graduated from junior or senior high school, were
relocated to rural areas in order to learn from the peasants. Many of these students
were proud to be there to do their part for Chairman Mao. The send-down policy was
a continuation of the Socialist Education Campaign of the early 1960s. Many stayed
in the country for ten years. One of Feng Jicais interviewees was sent to
Heilongjiang Province in northeastern China.
Most of us were assigned to do farm work in the Agricultural Company. The
job was particularly tough because the field had no draining system. At
harvest time, if we were caught in a storm, the field might be covered with
seawater, and it was impossible to put mechanical harvesters to use. Instead
we had to use sickles to cut the wheat, and we had to be fast. The wheat had to
be cut at daybreak as soon as the dew went dry. We couldn't stop harvesting
until it began to dew again at dusk. The dew made it more difficult to harvest.
After a day's work, we were always completely exhausted.... Harvesting
soybeans in September was even more difficult. By then the soybean fields
were full of rainwater, which froze at night. We had to put on our felt
stockings, leather boots and sweat pants in order to tread the thin ice puddles.
But when the sun rose, our backs were baked in the hot sunshine, and we had
to take off our shirts because of the heat. It was miserable to feel hot in our
bodies, yet to feel ice-cold in the feet. Because of these working conditions,
many people suffered from arthritis, rheumatism, and nephritis for years
afterwards. However, at that time, no one dared duck the hard work due to the
pressure of public opinion. It was a shame to be lazy. One of our slogans was:
"Long live our little sickles!" Sometimes we would rather use our sickles and
put the harvesters aside, even if the conditions allowed us to use the machines,
because only then could we be sure not to waste a single grain (Feng 20).
The send down policy did not only affect students. Those accused of being
rightists were also sent down to work in the fields of rural China. The difference was,
for the accused rightists, there does not seem to have been a sense of camaraderie or
of doing something positive for the revolution. On the contrary, for the accused
rightists, the send down policy was nothing more than an additional punishment.
Although they may have followed the letter of the law in memorizing Mao Zedongs
little red book, it is unlikely that they truly believed in the spirit of it as did many of
the sent-down youths who believed in the superiority and correctness of Maos
ideologies. They followed him and were loyal to him, even when that loyalty was
clearly not in their best interests. Such is the power of charismatic authority.
Escalation of the Revolution
Lin Biao, the bureaucrat who was in charge of the send down policy and the
Peoples Liberation Army, (PLA) became Maos choice for Lius successor after Liu
Shaoqi was drummed out of China. However, the evidence shows that just as Mao
had second thoughts about Liu, he also had second thoughts about Lin and the way
the Lin had been handling the send down policy (Spence 616). Thus, he began to
undermine Lins authority so that he had no way to oppose Mao.
By 1970, Mao felt that the party had been adequately shaken up, and so turned
on the PLA, suggesting that the arrests and interrogations had been careless and
arrogant. Maos new plan of action was to drop the ideological purity that Lin had so
assiduously put out during the 1960s, and instead replace it with a three part policy he
called throwing stones, adding sand to mud, and undermining the cornerstone
(Spence 616). In this way, Mao first started (just as with Liu Shaoqi) with the senior
army officers directly below and loyal to Lin; they were all forced to make public
self-criticisms. This was throwing stones. The next step was to add sand, which meant
changing the personnel in the Military Affairs Commission, so that Lin Biao had less
support. The cornerstone was Lin Biao himself, and Mao increasingly criticized the
work styles of the PL A (Spence 616).
According to official CCP documents, Lin Biao was desperate at his
crumbling political ambitions. He tried to drum up support for an assassination
attempt on Mao Zedong, but because no one would support him, he eventually tried
to flee to the Soviet Union. However, Lin died in a plane crash because of a lack of
fuel (Spence 616-617).
From 1969-1976, the revolutionary committees ran China. The CCP was split
between Maoists and pragmatists. The masses got caught in the massive tug of war
between the party cadres. They were asked to tell on each other in order to save
themselves. Those who did not turn against another were then accused of being
against Mao, and then they were locked up and tortured. It was called a mass
dictatorship,these forced confessions and beatings. But forced or not, as people
confessed, more and more became involved (Feng 24).
After the Red Terror, almost anyone could join the Red Guards, and many
joined for fear of being targeted if they did not. During the escalation, the Red Guards
within each city divided into opposing groups: the rebel faction (pragmatists) and
the conservative faction (Maoists). They debated and fought, escalating from words
and big character posters to rocks and eventually guns. In cities where the Maoists
had more power, that was where the most suppression and killing occurred.
According to a participant interviewed by Feng:
Chairman Mao was the red commander-in-chief. Wherever he pointed, we
went. Without his command, how would we little people dare to rebel? At that
time, all we had in mind was to bare a red heart and a readiness to give our
lives for the revolution. Eveiy night we went out to put up big character
posters. There was no bonus, no pay. The only incentive was that we were
happy to follow Chairman Mao to our deaths. Thus as our fortunes changed
for the better, our persecutors suddenly changed their identities as well by
setting up their own rebel organizations. We became two opposition factions
intent on fighting to the end. Both sides claimed to be defending Chairman
Mao's revolutionary line, and each accused the other of opposing the red flag
while holding one in their hands (Feng 147).
According to these first hand accounts, this was how the Cultural Revolution
continued until Mao died of ALS (Lou Gherigs disease) in 1976.
The Gang of Four
In 1976, Mao died. A month after, the Gang of Four was arrested for being
cultural leftists. The Gang of Four included Jiang Qing, Wang Hongwen, Zhang
Chunqiao, and Yao Wenyuan. They got their name from an admonition from
Chairman Mao in 1974 not to create a gang of four (Ogden, 60). Their arrest was
the first shot of moving the policy of the country more to the political right.
The Gang of Four was accused of almost every crime possible: factional
attacks on Zhou Enlai, forging Maos statements, mitigating criticism of Lin to
protect themselves, organizing armed forces, interfering with the education program,
inciting the masses to fight each other...the list went on and on. In short, the Gang of
Four was blamed for everything that went wrong with the Cultural Revolution. As
was part of the pattern of the Cultural Revolution, once the Gang of Four had become
too powerful, they were knocked down on the basis of the ways that they had
achieved power. The members of the group that had proved so ingenious in thinking
up a miasma of charges against prominent CCP leaders and intellectuals during the
Cultural Revolution now found themselves on the receiving end of the same process
(Spence 652). Thus, it could be argued that the Cultural Revolution ended in poetic
justiceit cannabalized itself.
Before he was Chairman Mao, he was merely Mao Zedong. He led a civil war
in China overthrowing the nationalists to bring the Communists to power. He led
through charisma, for his troops loved him unabashedly and without reservation.
When he became Chairman Mao, the populace celebrated him; even during the 100
Flowers campaign, the intellectuals trusted him when he asked for criticism. When
the Great Leap Forward obviously failed, the populace did not blame Mao. Instead,
they celebrated that he cried when he ate a chaff biscuit. They continued working in
the communes despite the failure of the project because they supported Mao. Even in
the send-down policy, which was supposed to battle corruption, the masses tried to
learn everything in the Little Red Book to become good communists.
Despite the fact that his projects failed, despite the fact that intellectuals were
punished, despite the fact that over 30,000 people died in one year from famine, Mao
wasnt considered a dictator until the Cultural Revolution. The CR appears to have
been a permanent revolution to relegitimize his authority in the Committee. People
fought against one another in the cities, all in the name of Mao. People of bad class
background were terrorized for nothing more than the appearance of appearing
bourgeois. The Cultural Revolution was a revolution meant for the charismatic leader
to regain his authority over the masses that already loved him.
CASE STUDY ANALYSIS AND CONCLUSION
Max Weber states that for a charismatic leader to arise, the climate must be
such that a change is needed. According to his theory of Social Change, the climate of
a nation must be stagnantit doesnt work for anyone anymore except for the elites
of the society. When a change must come, that is when a charismatic leader appears.
This is why each case study begins slightly before the charismatic leader gains power;
I want to demonstrate what each stagnated society looked like before the revolution.
Then Weber goes on to note that in this situation, once a charismatic leader has
gained control and sets up bureaucracies, the leadership will become routinized. What
I see is that although Weber is correct about the climate for change, and although he
is correct about how charisma works, perhaps the routinization of charisma happens
less often that Weber has stated. From the evidence of the case studies in the three
preceding chapters, I have begun to conclude that although attempts at routinization
had occurred, and certainly bureaucracies were in place, in none of these cases did
leadership become routinized. Instead, they all became dictators who refused to be
subject to the bureaucracies they put into place.
What these case studies perhaps demonstrate is that charismatic leadership, as
predicted by Max Weber, is expected to become routinized by the creation of
bureaucracy. However, when a charismatic leader does not become part of the
bureaucracy, when in fact he or she is above the law, then one conclusion is that the
charismatic leader becomes a dictator. According to this conclusion, this happens
because the nature of charisma and the nature of bureaucracy are in opposition to one
another. The charismatic leader, once in power and having no one to be in opposition
to, holds a job which calls for a different set of skills than getting into power. These
skills require coalition building, acceptance of opposition, and the ability to be
patient. Leaders create institutions to legitimize their authority, but dictators find
ways to get around having to be subject to the authority of the institutions that they
have created. Essentially, dictators are above their own laws.
Diaz, Ataturk, and Mao all rode in on a wave of nationalism, bringing with
them an ideology of change. Additionally, each attempted to make grand sweeping
changes in all aspects of life. Diaz and Ataturk both succeeded in westernizing by
emulating the dress and following the logical and rational philosophies of Europeans.
Mao attempted to sinify Marxist thought by applying a European industrialized
ideology to an Asian agrarian society. All of them swept in huge changes
economically and culturally, but the changes came at the cost of democracy and
Diaz first gained fame when he led the 2 de Abril battle against the French. He
was part of the stagnant society that called for change from the elites, and supported
the 1857 Constitution that created communal lands for peasants and no reelection.
However, the Constitutional changes were barely enforced, and in fact, nothing really
changed for most of Mexican society. They were still largely landless and working
under a system of paternalism that kept them on the edge of starvation, while the
elites ate like kings. This is the type of stagnant society Weber wrote about. After his
first rebellion landed him in jail, Diaz rode into Mexico City with a plan to promote
democracy and equality for everyone. Weber wrote, charismatic authority may be
said to exist only in the processess of originating. It cannot remain stable, but
becomes either traditionalized or rationalized, or a combination of both (54).
According to Weber, Diaz was supposed to become part of the system; it was
supposed to apply to him. However, his actions to silence his opposition was
absolutly antithetical to the system he purported to create. Although the government
was stable, it was not a democracy; the trappings were all kept up by the local powers
as a form of loyalty to Don Porfirio. He created the Jefaturas and the Rurales to quell
opposition at the local level. Diaz accomplished all his changes by silencing his
opposition through co-optation or incarceration. Jefaturas are an example of how
Diaz managed to keep his charismatic authority because these people were loyal to
him based on their jobs. Because they were loyal to him, they helped him suppress
opposition. The Rurales are another example of a group of people loyal to Diaz for
their jobs. The fact that these people were criminals as often as not had no bearing.
Because of their previous activities, criminals were probably desirable because that
gave Diaz even more leverage over them. Diaz used the RP and the JP to suppress
opposition to his rule. This opposition grew as the ramifications of economic
development became clearer to the populace.
Additionally, the evidence suggests that he used the power of his personality
to push capital-attracting legislation through Congress, and ignored the social affects
of that legislation. Diaz intervened on the side of the foreign investors because he
wanted their money, but also because they were willing to sing General Diaz above
all. His charismatic authority may have been waning for the average Mexican, but
was still shining among the elites who fueled the mining boon. Diaz created a rubber
stamp Congress and judicial branch by stacking them with his supporters.
This dichotomy was also found in the agricultural sector. Diaz was seemingly
oblivious to these changes affecting the peasantry. Evidently he felt that it bettered
the Mexican people (this most certainly was the worldview given to him by the elites
of Britain and the United States). Diaz managed to bring foreign investment by using
the JP and the RP to make banditry almost non-existent. This, along with his personal
charisma aimed at the elites, brought money to Mexico.
All the economic changes brought social changes too. Diazs acceptance of
the Yaqui relocation scheme is evidence that although he had campaigned on equality
for all Mexicans, Yaquis were not considered equals in Mexican citizenry, and thus it
was acceptable to just move them at will. Moreover, their relocation shows evidence
that Diaz was bent on crushing whomever did not exemplify personal loyalty. The
Yaquis had revolted, thus proving that they were in opposition to Diaz, and needed to
be suppressed. Their relocation made urbanization more possible.
Diaz could push through economic legislation that favored foreign interests as
long as the Mexicans did not feel exploited. But it appears that when the masses
began to realize that Don Porfirio was a tool for the elite, that is, when the economy
had a downturn and the only people not hurt by it were government officials and the
foreign investors, that was when even the Mexican landowners realized that Diazs
charismatic authority was waning.
According to Ramona Falcon, The Porfirian regime carefully observed the
details and appearances of a formal democracy while emptying it of all content
(Falcon 129). At first Diaz was surrounded by people he trusted and who had been
part of his revolution to get into power. As the Porfiriato deepened, he was
surrounded more and more by rich foreign and Mexican elites. While they had to
flatter him to get favors, he also had to flatter them to get them to invest in Mexico.
He accomplished this by mimicking their behavior.
Secondly, Diaz set up the JP and the RP to ensure that everything on a local
level went his way. Elections were rigged, opposition was silenced, and the
countryside was made safe for foreigners.
Thirdly, Diaz changed the economic institution to attract foreign capital.
Terrendos Baldidos, the Mining Code, the Land Law, and the Commercial Code were
all designed with the elites in mind. Even when miners struck, as they did at Cananea,
Diaz intervened on the side of Greene.
Fourth, Diaz was willing to sanction the relocation of the Yaqui Indians in
order to increase henequen production and keep the newly burgeoning urbanization
going smoothly. Diaz overlooked the domination of the economy by corporations
because they had money, and the literature shows that he liked being surrounded by
them. They were, if not exactly his friends, at least his compatriots.
Lastly, Diaz realized too late that his charismatic power was gone for the
masses. When he failed to appease the Americans, they turned their backs on him.
When the economy spiraled downward because of the Panic of 1907-1908, his
charisma could not save his authority in the face of starving masses.
Diazs leadership very obviously did not become routinized. The evidence
suggests that he thought he was too important to Mexico. Part of this surely had to do
with all the people around him who flattered him, but mostly his own desire to keep
his charisma intact might have been what drove him. If opposition succeeded, Porfirio
Diaz would have seen that success as a sign of his own weakness. Thus, by making
sure that no strong opposition succeeded, he ensured that his own power and charisma
In short, part of the job of a charismatic leader in a democracy is to pander to
the elites in order to push through reforms. When making huge sweeping changes, it
takes a leader who can convince the masses and the other people in power to do what
he/she wants, and also to be able to use the institutional framework to silence
opposition to his/her rule. In this way, Porfirio Diaz demonstrates that charisma is not
always routinized, despite Webers assertion.
Mustafa Mustafa Kemal Ataturk came to preeminence during the First World
War as an Ottoman soldier. As Turner et al note, in Webers view charismatic
leadership emerges during times of crisis, when traditional ways of doing things seem
inappropriate, outmoded, or inadequate to the problems confronting people (215).
Ataturk saw the moment was ripe to create a republic out of the ashes of the defeated
Ottoman Empire by playing the allied powers against themselves. He led an army
against the Greek forces and defeated them. This was not only a military feat, it was a
boost to nationalist morale because so many of the Allied powers thought that
Ataturks rebellion was bigger than it was. When finally the Ottoman Empire was
dismantled, the Sultan had fled, the Caliphate was banned, and Ataturk rode into
Istanbul with the support of almost eveiyone.
Ataturks charisma was supposed to be used to create new bureaucracies and
get the business of the republic rolling. Although that was true, certainly Ataturk did
use the power of his personal brand of persuasion effectively, he used his charismatic
authority to convince those loyal to him to do his bidding by refusing to work with
the opposition, and he also used them to draft changes to the Constitution to make the
President almost unimpeachable as long as the Grand National Assembly was stacked
by his followers. Nonetheless, despite his charismatic leadership he still had 100
members of the Assembly abstain rather than vote for the changes to create a
The evidence supports the contention that Ataturk used the Law for
Maintenance of Order to create the Independent Tribunal to silence his opposition,
both religious and political. The tribunal was a hanging jury for the Kurdish members
of the short-lived Free Party, and past enemies of Ataturk. The tribunal for the Sheik
Said Rebellion was one example of what happened to a group of people who
opposed Ataturk. They were silenced through death because they opposed Ataturk
using the voice of religion. Former Young Turks and those who offended Ataturk,
were silenced for political, not religious, opposition.
Ataturk managed to keep his power legitimately until he died; it was not
power just of the personality. However, it appears that he created a bureaucracy that
was increasingly dictatorial and less willing to brook dissent. This trend seems to be
evident even at the beginning when Ataturk dissolved Parliament to bully the other
ministers into accepting a republic. Ataturks influence on the everyday, such as
abolishing the fez and creating a new alphabet demonstrates that he worked through
charisma to create change on a local level.
However, Ataturk apparently also used the legitimate authority of the laws to
punish/silence his opposition as was seen with the Sheikh Said rebellion and the
assassination attempt conspiracy. Ataturk used the laws that he created to punish
those who offended him personally, and he used them indiscriminately. This
demonstrates that even though he supposedly was beholden to the rules of the
bureaucracy, he still used the power of his personality to get something accomplished.
It could be argued that Ataturk never became routinized, largely because he was
always in the process of creating, never allowing the system to run on its own.
Mao wasnt fighting against an already established stagnant society as Weber
predicted. Instead, Mao fought against the potential for a return to that society. The
Second World War had just ended, and the Empire of China had just repatriated the
Japanese from their occupation of the entire Chinese eastern seaboard and the
industrial heartland of China. The fight for power was bitterest between the corrupts
nationalists who could not create democracy and capitalism, and the communists who
wanted Chinese society to skip the problems of capitalism and move straight into
socialism. It was this civil war that brought Mao into power in 1949.
The stagnant society that Weber wrote about occurred later in Maos reign,
when the populace did not conform to the communist ideology that Mao was working
so hard to achieve. Additionally, Mao had, as Weber predicted, become routinized by
the party bureaucracy he created.
However, he regained his charismatic authority by leading a new revolution
against his own institution. Mao started a revolution targeting the reeducation of the
bureaucracy into his personal ideology. He seemingly targeted anyone in the
bureaucracy who could have garnered enough support to overthrow his regime. The
two most notable examples are Liu Shaoqi and Lin Biao. Mao silenced his opposition
by claiming that they were Rightists. The literature shows that students were caught
up in a revolutionary fervor to change the system, following a charismatic leader who
had gained power when they were only children. They so identified themselves with
Mao that they went too far in trying to prove their loyalty to him. It became difficult
to tell whether the masses were fighting of their own accord or if the party leaders
were pulling the strings for their own personal power. It seems to me thought that
Mao was not worried. His charismatic authority was at an all time high because
everyone was working for him either out of fear or out of admiration. His status and
personal charisma lasted up until his death in September 1976.
Why did Maos continuing revolution become an institution of its own? The
evidence seems to suggest that charisma feeds on the process of creating. The whole
point of the Cultural Revolution was to shake up the system so that no institutions
really existed. Hannah Arendt wrote in On Revolution. The fact that the word
'revolution' meant originally restoration hence something which to us is its very
opposite, is not a mere oddity of semantics (43). What was Mao restoring? His
power apparently, but he seemingly was also bringing back the original Maoist
thought that had gone so awry during the Great Leap Forward. The evidence supports
the assertion that he was trying to regain the sense of the hopefulness and
revolutionary spirit within his bureaucracy and within the masses that the Civil War
against Chiang Kai-Shek was based on. The CR was supposed to be a whole new
paradigm, except for the part of having the same leader.
After Mao stood at the helm of China, his single party spread out into a huge
bureaucracy. Mao started to feel his authority slipping after the criticisms of the 100
Flowers Campaign. He tried to use social humiliation to reeducate the masses, (thus
using his legitimate authority); although that worked for a while, after the Great Leap
Forward, what I see is that he realized that he had opposition in the hearts of the
people making up his party. Instead of allowing the institution to legitimize his power
the way that Diaz and Ataturk did, Mao created a new revolution. Mao took the
power back from the institution to maintain and strengthen his cult of personality, his
sense of being supernatural, superhuman, or at least, extraordinary.
The evidence provided in the three case studies leads me to believe that each
dictators leadership did not willingly become routinized. Instead, each leader found
new ways to use their charisma outside of the bureaucracy. Diaz used his charismatic
authority to impress the elites of Mexico and foreign investors to get them to invest in
Mexico and make them all very rich. Ataturk used the force of his personality to
shove through the alphabet law. He personally went to rural areas to visit schools and
towns to teach peasants how to write their names in the new Latinized script. It seems
to me that Mao resisted the institutionalization of his charismatic authority the most;
he reverted back to a form of struggle that was tried and true to keep his charisma
intact: he started a revolution. This evidence leads me to conclude that although
Weber is right about how charisma works and charismatic leaders come to power,
charismatic authority will not always eventually become traditionalized. Instead, if
the possessors of charisma refuse to be part of the bureaucracies they have created,
they will become dictators.
In the nationalist age, a time where the masses feel a sense of camaraderie
despite having never met one another, it seems that charismatic leaders are especially
effective. They can call on this amorphous sense of nationalism to link themselves
with that sense. For many, Turkish nationalism may have been Ataturk. Chinese
Communism was Mao. The leaders embody this powerful sense of cultural and
national pride. In that way, they are supernatural, superhuman, or at the very least,
Diaz, Ataturk and Mao were all great leaders during the nationalist age. One
way of looking at their histories would be to question the concept of leadership, and
what it really means. This is a huge area that has been examined in a lot of depth by
others. I havent taken this tack because the literature is so enormous. Instead, I am
reexamining Webers Routinization of Charisma to see if his contention is true all
The evidence about Diaz, Ataturk and Mao suggests that perhaps the job of
being in power is different than the job of getting into power. The jobs require
different sets of skills, but very often the person who gets into power wants to stay in
power. This means designing institutions that will support their claims to being the
Each of the case studies is an example of a charismatic leader who called on
the power of nationalism to create institutions for the function of human society.
Porfirio Diaz used nationalism to wrest power from Sebastian Lerdo in order to bring
stability and prosperity to Mexico. The institutions he created or modified were
designed to silence opposition to his rule on all levels of society from the Jefaturas
Politicos and the Rurales Policia to the rubber stamp Congress, and also to entice
foreign investors to bring out the prosperity of Mexican oil, silver and agricultural
Mustafa Mustafa Kemal Ataturk used nationalism to fight against the Allied
Powers and the Sultan-Caliph to create a new independent Turkish republic out of the
ashes of the Ottoman Empire. The institutions he created were designed to modernize
Turkey to make it more rational and logical in the economic and legal systems, and
the society to become less religious and supernatural. He accomplished this through
obvious outward appearances such as abolishing the fez and the veil, but also in
education and literacy of the Latinized Turkish alphabet.
Mao Zedong used nationalism the least; he was not fighting against another
country, he fought a winning battle in a civil war against the KMT and Chiang Kai-
Shek. The institutions he created were designed to change the hearts and the minds of
the Chinese people to believe in communism. He used the Anti-Rightist Campaign,
the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution to educate those whose hearts
were not truly in accord with his ideology. What resulted was the death of
cumulatively 40 million people in a period of 25 years.
The evidence shows that Webers assertion that bureaucracy will always
routinize charisma does not seem to fit in all cases. These leaders were charismatic.
Their revolutions did change things in their countries. But their personalities were not
suited to the ideology that they tried to create for everyone else. They are examples of
what happens when charismatic leaders resist becoming institutionalized in the
nationalist age: they may tend to become dictators.
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