Why Stalin emerged as sole leader of USSR in 1929

Role as General Secretary; Luck; Trotsky; Others; Personality; Politics and Policies.

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  • Reasons that Stalin emerged as sole leader of USSR in 1929?
    • His position as General Secretary
      • He controlled the party machine through key positions in the Politburo, Orgburo and his role as GS.
      • He could control who attended meetings - filled them with his supporters, he got more votes at Congress in 1924 even through Trotsky was better. T couldn't complain as he had signed the ban on factions.
      • Had access to crucial information that would help his arguments. He could delay congress if he didn't think he would win. Delayed congress in 1925 until he knew he would have a majority over Zinoviev and Kamenev.
    • Politics and Policies
      • Stayed in the background so was not thought of as a serious contender and played opponents against each other.
      • Responsive to the moods of the time and would change his policies accordingly.
      • Adopted policies that were mainly popular with the other party members.
      • Perspective on NEP changed with the masses so it was always popular.
      • Opportunist, used the right to defeat the left and then the left to defeat the right.
      • He introduced over 1m people to the party, their low literacy levels and lack of knowledge about Leninism/Marxism meant they just voted with their local leaders who all sided with Stalin after his role as Commissar for Nationalities.
    • Personality
      • Tough and ruthless - not prepared to give up his major positions.
      • Appeared to be an honest, hardworking, ordinary man.
      • Able administrator, hence why Lenin gave him the job of GS.
    • Trotsky was responsible for his own downfall...
      • He didn't play the political game - he didn't see it as important to attend Lenin's funeral as he was sick which made Stalin much more popular.
      • He joined the party late (1917) and some felt that he was not loyal enough and was going to become a dictator.
      • Arrogant and didn't see the need to form alliances which is part of the reason that he was defeated in the votes.
      • Unlike Stalin, he didn't go out of his way to build up a power base, and was happy to give up the Red Army. The army were crucial to success in the past (Tsar in the revolutions).
      • Unlucky - suffered from an undiagnosed illness which meant that he couldn't attend important meetings.
      • Not a team player.
    • Failures of the other players.
      • Bukharin was too right wing and not Marxist enough
      • Kamenev and Zinoviev were unpopular amongst the other Bolsheviks
      • Kamenev had spoken agains Lenin's April Thesis
      • Kamenev and Zinoviev had spoken against the October 1917 Revolution which was heavily criticised in Lenin's Last Testament.
    • Luck
      • Trotsky was ill for most of the power struggle.
      • Lenin's Last Testament was never read out and would have shattered Stalin's career as a footnote said that he was too rude to run the country after he was rude to Lenin's wife.
      • Lucky that Trotsky didn't come to the funeral.
      • Sverdlov - an able organiser who worked a lot with Trotsky on the October 1917 revolution - died of Spanish Flu in 1926

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