Edexcel IGCSE History – Dictatorship and conflict in Russia, 1924-53
Ø Strengths of Trotsky:
· He could rival Lenin on intelligence and on his writings on Marxist theory, and was a good orator, able to manipulate and rouse crowds, making him particularly popular with the younger, more radical elements of the party.
· He had made a massive contribution between 1917 and 1924, including planning the October Revolution, and leading the Red Army, which played a crucial role in the Civil War victory.
Ø Weaknesses of Stalin:
· There was no real evidence for him playing a key role in the October Revolution or the Civil War. However, he had come into conflict and shown a tendency to disobey orders in the Civil War.
· In his Last Testament, Lenin wrote that Stalin should not become leader, and Stalin’s Russian was very poor; he had a thick accent of his native Georgia.
Ø Reasons why Stalin became leader:
· One reason why Stalin came to power is that his primary opponent, Leon Trotsky, had several key weaknesses. Trotsky was a former Menshevik, and had only joined the Bolsheviks in 1917, and so people questioned his loyalty. From late 1923, for three years, he suffered attacks of an undiagnosed fever, which sapped his strength and left him less able to resist the frequent political attacks mounted by his rivals (especially Stalin). He also seemed dismissive of other Bolsheviks, and his uncompromising views could lead to splits in the party. He thought himself to be above making political deals and alliances.
· By contrast, Stalin was politically cunning, and his tactics played a crucial role in his rise to power. Throughout his campaign, Stalin was cautious about giving his opinions on key issues such as the continuation of Lenin’s NEP. To begin with, he sided with those on the left of the Party (Kamenev and Zinoviev), in order to prevent Lenin’s testament (which heavily criticised Stalin, Kamenev, and Zinoviev) from being published, and eliminate Trotsky from the race, by tricking him into missing Lenin’s funeral. He then joined Bukharin on the right of the party in 1925 to form a duumvirate, and got rid of Kamenev and Zinoviev by accusing them of forming a faction with Trotsky in their United Opposition (Lenin had banned factions before his death in 1924). In 1927-28, there was a grain crisis, which Stalin blamed on the NEP and thus used to annul the contention of Bukharin. The only view which Stalin maintained throughout was his idea of ‘Socialism in One Country’, which was more attractive to Party members than Trotsky’s ‘Permanent Revolution’, as it gave the Russians a special historic role, and this helped him to gain support.
· Finally, Stalin had several personal strengths which helped him to become leader of the Party. He was a very loyal party member, and one of the few leaders with genuine proletarian roots. He was General Secretary…