Stalins Rise To Power

  • Created by: Louise
  • Created on: 01-04-13 11:29

Death of Lenin 1924

The death of Lenin was essential to Stalin's success - Although it could have been potentially devistating due to 'Lenin's Testament':

  • At the time of Lenin's death, Trotsky was also suffering from an illness and was currently out of the country - stalin used this to his advantage.
  • Trotsky foolishly asked Stalin when lenin's funeral was - as Lenin was so respected it was essential all USSR party members were present to show their dedication to Lenin. However Stalin told Trotsky the funeral was on a different date, causing him to miss the funeral making his reputation suffer.It seemed Trotsky was not loyal to Lenin
  • Stalin used the funeral to act as Lenin's true successor

Lenin's Testament:

  • The testament was embarrasing. All USSR party members were not spoke of nicely, due to this it was never released.
  • In the testament, Lenin requested that Stalin would be removed from his postition, but as it was ignored this never happened. Had it happened Stalin would have never came to power. This illustrates Stalin's luck during the power struggle.
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Stalin: Sucessor of Lenin?

Stalin used Lenin in order to gain respect:

  • Stalin was aware of the respect the USSR had for Lenin, and he abused this.
  • Stalin re-invented himself and claimed to be a 'Lenin desiple' - He always claimed that Lenin wanted the same things as he did - it was his way of gaining followers and leading them away from Trotsky.
  • Stalin wrote a book called 'Foundation of Leninism' to show his 'dedication' to Lenin.
  • Trotsky disapproved of all of this - this made Trotsky look bad.
  • Stalin made out that anyone who disliked Stalin's creation of Leninism, didn't like Lenin.

He also created a false image, making it seem as if he was very close with Lenin,even though in 1923/4 they argued as Stalin slated Lenin's wifeLenin knew the real Stalin, his opinion of Stalin was expressed in his testament (never released)

 Lenin had condemed the forming of factions (Factionalism) in the party and was a serious offence. Stalin later used the accusation of factionalism against his opponents.

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Stalins Position and Personality

By 1924 Stalin already had a strong position in the party:

  • He was General Secretary - This allowed him to place people (his supporters) in positions of power, which in turn meant they owed him their jobs. Giving Stalin power over most people. Had control of party organisation.
  • He was a member of the Politburo - was one of the small group who had influence in policy and decision making
  • Commisar for Nationalities - In touch with and had influence with the non-Russians within the USSR

Stalins Personality:

  • Proliteriat roots - Many people could relate to him
  • Stalin quietly and gradually gained power, he stayed in the background and went with the majority (Didn't draw attention to himself) - He was largely under estimated.
  • Stalin was also very lucky, cunning and a brilliant orator. He was politically skillful
  • He also created a false image, making it seem as if he was very close with Lenin
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  • At the time of the power struggle, the NEP was the current policy in place. It was enforced as a temporary measure by Lenin during the Civil war.
  • Everyone in the party agreed on the need to industrialise, industrialisation was the key to creating a large class of proliterian workers to build socialism,question was how?
  • Following Lenin's death the party was split into two oppositions, the Left (Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev) who wanted to get rid of the NEP and the Right (Bukharin, Tomsky and Rykov) who wanted to keep the NEP.
  • The NEP was unattractive to the left as it created a bourgeois class that didnt have a place in the socialist state, the left wanted to end NEP and start rapid industrialisation, wanted forcible grain seizure from the peasants in order to pay for industrialisation
  • The right believed that NEP should continue, encourage the peasants to become richer to spend more on consumer goods which would lead to the growth of manufacturing industry
  • Stalin stayed away from either side, he was very much on the fence. The only time he did take up any policy was in order to eliminate the opposition. He only did this when it suited him.
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Permenant Revolution & Socialism in One Country

Permenant Revolution:(Trotsky's Policy)

  • The revolution in Russia could not suceed on its own as the working class were too small and Russia was not industrialised
  • Russians should help the working classes in other countries to stage their own revolutions as Russia needed the support of working class in more industrialised countries
  • USSR should continue a revolutionary process in order to build socialism

Socialism in One Country: (Stalins Policy)

  • Communists had to accept that world revolution was unlikely to occur
  • USSR must build a socialist state without outside help. 
  • Russians would solve their own problems, create a workers society that was superior to the capitalist west.
  • Russians were good enough to do it on their own. Stalin therefore was appealing to Nationalism and Patriotism, therefore was a much more popular policy. People liked this as they felt as if they were being considered. A very clever move by Stalin.
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Weaknesses of Trotsky

Trotsky seemed the most likely candidate as leader but he had many weaknesses that meant he did not rise to power


  • Very naive and he largely underestimated Stalin.
  • He attacked party beaucracy which was unpopular with the party and allowed him to be isloated by Stalin
  • In 1926 he resigned as General Commissar of War - very bad move. he gave up a lot of power and influence that he needed.
  • He appeared very arrogant - Treated others with disrespect.
  • His policy of Permenant Revolution was unpopular
  • Stalin made sure that Trotsky's loyalty to lenin was questioned
  • Jewish and a "new bolshevik"
  • Many people feared he would become a military dictator, this was unpopular as didn't fit in with the ideology of Socialism
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Weaknesses of Opposition

There was a large left/right division in the party and both sides had many weaknesses:

LEFT (Zinoviev, Kaminev)

  • They believed Trotsky was the threat (fear of military dictator) and therefore largely underestimated Stalin
  • Kept switching sides, first allied with Stalin in the triumvirate, then allied with Trotsky in the United opposition
  • Left was divided - Zinoviev and Kaminev against Trotsky
  • Could be accused of factionalism if they attempted to organise their supporters
  • Left Policy - Permenant revolution was unpopular

Right (Bukharin)

  • Bukharin lacked a power base
  • Idea of continuation of NEP - was a slower approach, unpopular with the party as it had capitalist aspects
  • Bukharin allowed himself to be outmanouevered - allied with Stalin only to be defeated when Stalin took on policies of the Left
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Defeat of Trotsky

Trotskys own personality undermined his position in the party, it was Stalins political skill however that made him able to isolate Trotsky as Stalin acted at the right time.

  • Firstly Lenins last testament was not used against Stalin, Trotsky could have used it as it was mostly positive about him
  • In 1924  - Trotsky attacked party bureacracy  - becoming less democratic. His criticisms were unpopular in the party and as the party congress rejected his view, Stalin was able to isolate Trotsky by working with Zinoviev and Kaminev. Stalin allied himself with Z and K forming a triumvirate. Thy were able to outvote Trotsky and his supporters in the politburo. Denunciations of Trotsky at meetings became routine

Trotsky was accused of Factionalism. This limited Trotskys attempt to organise his supporters. (Lenin had condemed factionalism)

Trotsky was replaced as Commisar for War in 1925. He made no moves to command the red army to protect his position. 

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Defeat of the Left

Stalin joined the right to eliminate the left. Stalins policy of Socialism in one country proved popular with the right as it appeared to fit in with the continuation of the NEP. Alliance between Stalin and Bukharin.

In 1925 at a party congress:

  • Zinoviev and Kaminev attackd Stalin calling for the NEP and a tough line against the peasants. They were uneasy about the increasing influence that Stalin had over the party. They lost every vote as Stalins control over the party was so complete

United Opposition:

  • A grouping of the lft ot the party. Zinoviev, Kaminev and Trotsky in 1926.
  • They made a direct appeal to the party masses and workers in Moscow. They tried to organise demonstrations here. 
  • This was a failure as hardly any supporters were present. They could now be accused of Factionalism.
  • Zinoviev and Kaminev removed from their power bases (local parties) and from the politburo.
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Defeat of the Right

Once Stalin defeated the left he took up the Left's policies to eliminate the Right's.

The right believed that the NEP must continue for many years. 

  • In 1927 there was a grain crisis. The party with Stalins support sent soldiers to requisition grain and hoarding grain was made a crime. Stalin had now taken up the left policy of drawing a tough line against the peasants.
  • Bukharin did not believe that the USSR could push through rapid industrialisation. He wrote an attack on the new (grain) policy towards the peasants. 
  • Stalin now commited himslf to rapid industrialisation (a left policy) now that the left were out of the way

When the right opposed Stalins decision, they could now be dennounced as factionalists. They were slowly removed from their positions:

  • 1929 - Bukharin removed from politburo

Stalin was now the dominant figure in the party and effectively the leader of the USSR

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Why did Stalin become party leader?

  • Position in the party:

 - General Secretary meant that he could appoint his supporters to high positions  - He had control of party organisation  - Had influence in policy making (politburo)

  • Personality:

 - Stayed in the background as a "grey blur" he didn't express his opinions and so his rivals largely underestimated him                                                                                              -Politically Skillful - acted at the right time in order to outmanouevre his opposition, used lenins funeral to act as lenins sucessor

  • Luck - Lenins death
  • Weaknesses of opponents - They lacked position (power bases not as strong), greatly underestimated Stalin
  • Stalins policies were popular - Socialism in one country
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No agreed successor?

After Lenins Death there was no agreed successor of Lenin, Because:

  • Unexpected death, nobody had been  "groomed" to take over from Lenin
  • Collective Leadership was favoured, a dictatorship didn't fit with the ideals of Socialism, Russian Revolutionaries had a fear of dictatorship - bonapartism. 
  • Party was largely split - Right and Left - Disagreement over continuation of NEP and how to achieve Socialism (Perm rev or Soc in one country)
  • Trotsky was the most likely candidate but was unpopular with the party
  • Lenins testament was not released so his real opinion of who should become leader was unknown
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