How did Stalin consolidate power from 1924-41?

An overview of how and why Stalin was able to gain and consolidate power.


Stalin's position by 1924

  • The key to Stalin's power was his position as General Secretary - he was able to fill party positions with his supporters
  • He also dealt with the day-to-day running of the party.
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Lenin's Last Will

  • Lenin opposed Stalin's extension of power but Stalin was helped by general dislike of Trotsky by other party members
  • Lenin never specified who he wanted to take over as leader of the party when he died.
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Stalin sided with the Right over the New Economic

  • Few members of the party felt that the New Economic Policy (hereafter this will be referred ot as NEP) was a permanant solution
  • Unexpected industrial growth in 1924-5 persuaded the Lefts that the NEP could be ditched more quickly
  • However, abandonment of the NEP could have been seen as betrayal, of Lenin's work and legacy
  • Trotsky was calling for a Permanant Revolution, whereas Stalin argued for Socialism in One Country - this was little more than a debate over priorities, rather than irreconcilable divisions
  • The party supported Stalin over Trotsky though.
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Triumph of "Socialism in One Country"

  • Having gotten rid of Left (those expelled from the Politburo were replaced by his men) he now turned on the Right
  • The NEP was to go, as it did not fit in with Stalin's new policy
  • In 1928, Stalin introduced the Five Year Plans to bring Russia up to the economic level of Western powers within ten years.
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Authority cemented by economic policies

  • Centralised control was very much a feature of "Socialism in One Country"
  • This, in turn, strengthened Stalin's grip on power.
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The Cult of Personality - Importance of propaganda

  • After his death, Lenin was raised to an almost God-like status, and Stalin was trying hard to show the people that he was Lenin's heir
  • Posters, paintings and films were used to project the image as kindly "Little Father"
  • These photos were heavily edited to improve chances of Stalin's popularity, by altering his face (as he had a pock-marked face) and men like Trotsky were removed from the pictures.
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The Purges

  • There was growing criticism from older Bolsheviks, concerning Stalin's economic policies and from 1933, Nazi Germany was a growing threat
  • The Death of Sergey Kirov (possibly an assassination under orders from Stalin) in 1934 gave Stalin an excuse for this
  • From 1934, various groups were targeted - old Bolsheviks, any party member who could have been seen as a rival, Army officers, and thousands of ordinary citizens
  • Initially, around one million people were executed, and a further ten million sent to Gulags (forced labour camps)
  • Estimates put the total deaths at nearly twenty million, with a further thirty million deported.
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