Apprentices of the past- You’re fired!

So I’m writing this whilst watching this weeks’ “Apprentice”- I do love this show!

"Did you know, I was only 17 when I..."

From the bickering to the brilliant, the bitching to the board room, it’s intense throughout. There’s no off-season here, you make one wrong move, and “you’re fired”! Whether you’ve got the balls to brag like Baggs, or Jim’s jammy ability to avoid the firing line (“like nailing a jelly to a wall”– classic Nick!), you’re in with a shout to be Lord Sugar’s next Apprentice- unless you’re Zoe (most boring person ever… ever!)

Anyway, this got me thinking… what examples are there of historical apprentices? Often through dictatorships, leaders try to pass their power over to a person of their choosing. Often, the henchman around that leader vie for his favour in the hope that they will be the appointed one. A good question may be whether they were forced to humiliate themselves as much as these on the Apprentice are (how to ‘blow your load’… can’t wait to see Lord Sugar’s reaction to that!)


A fine example of an historical apprentice would have to be Russia’s Nikolai Bukharin. Although not always on Lenin’s side, Bukharin was seen by Lenin as the ‘golden boy’ of the Bolshevik party. His outstanding Marxist-Leninist theories sent him to the limelight, and Lenin’s Testament suggested that he was the future of the party- he was ‘hired’!

On the other hand, there were plenty who were shown the door! Again from Russia, Lev Kamenev and Gregory Zinoviev were ‘fired’ from the moment they didn’t support the October Revolution. One of whom, to be fair, was only “marginally worse” than the other- and that’s intended to be a compliment (thanks Jim for that one!). Following Stalin’s death, the collective leadership that emerged fought for power, and even potentially strong contenders like Molotov and Beria soon found themselves in a taxi heading home.

Deng Xiaoping

Now Lord Sugar does make the odd mistake (keeping Leon and Zoe for one) and history is no different. Some who were ‘hired’ but should probably have been fired include Stalin and Deng Xiaoping. Lenin’s Testament said that Stalin shouldn’t be trusted, and should be removed from his positions of influence- hardly a ringing endorsement, yet he was possibly the most powerful dictator of the 20th century! Deng Xiaoping opposed many of Mao’s policies, and fell from grace during the latter years of Mao’s rule, yet led China through the late 1970s.

A big question to finish- put these Apprentice’s together, and who would emerge the winner? Would it be an outright victory, or would they sneak through with simply one successful pitch (for example, Team Venture and ‘Covered’- horrible magazine by the way!)? It would depend on who played Lord Sugar, and what he was looking for! If you’re looking for someone who can control the ‘market share’ with an iron fist, then Stalin’s your man. If you’re looking for someone with new ideas, initiative and drive, then go for Bukharin. If you want someone to simply follow in your footsteps, then Deng Xiaoping or Kim Jong-un (Kim Jong-Ill’s successor in North Korea) would be who you’re looking for.

Who would I pick? Nikita Khrushchev.

Nikita Khrushchev

He may have a girl’s name, but Khrushchev was Stalin’s apprentice, and his role cannot be underestimated. He hadn’t quite grasped from his predecessor how to install fear into his people and those in power around him, but the USSR was, if anything, stronger in global politics than it was under Stalin. He wasn’t perfect, but he achieved much. Stalin felt ‘warm affection’ for him, but didn’t seriously see him as the future of the party. However, Khrushchev snuck under the radar, made it to the final and ultimately, rose to lead the second most powerful country of the 20th century.

“Nikita, you’re hired!”

(And don’t forget, it was Bambi’s mother who got shot! Classic Lord Sugar, he is one of a kind!)


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