The Soviet model
I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way against holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. 1
Imagine that you are the leader of a developing country in the 20th century. Your country relies heavily on agriculture for export, and what industry you have is antiquated and uncompetitive. Your labor force is underskilled and your economy depends disproportionately on the export of produce and raw materials. In other words, your country is at least a generation behind the more industrialized nations of the world.
You might well seek a method of catching up, of closing the gap, of winning membership in the club of history's most favored nations. Now imagine you can draw upon any economic model of modernization available, deciding whether transition should proceed gradually or rapidly, democratically or in an authoritarian manner. You must also take into consideration the various factors beyond your direct control, from potentially hostile armies on your borders to potentially indifferent bankers in the world's financial centers. Bearing in mind that the longer you wait the further behind you will fall (and the less tenable your leadership position will be), what policies would you seek to implement?
For both dictators and democrats, the riddle of modernization has proven uniquely problematic over the centuries. The industrial revolution blazed one trail, but it was both long and fraught with immense suffering. Would any leader consciously choose to initiate such cataclysmic change (particularly if its duration must be telescoped and its effects intensified)? But what other choice is there? Karl Marx, for instance, had no clear-cut answer, having spent the greater part of his life critiquing capitalism without successfully constructing a workable alternative to it. His successor, Vladimir Lenin, eventually decided that the best technique