Stalin’s Rise to Power Analyze the methods used and the conditions, which in the rise to power of one ruler of a single party state. Stalin emerged as the victor in 1929 of a long power struggle that happened within the USSR after the death of Lenin in 1924, which was greatly assisted by the conditions surrounding him and the methods in which he used to ascend within his party. In this power struggle Stalin’s main opposition was Trotsky but Stalin was politically astute therefore giving him an advantage that Trotsky did not possess.
Lenin’s legacy also played an important role in Stalin becoming leader because anyone who assumed the mantle of Lenin would establish a formidable claim to power and practically secure his position as party leader. Stalin saw this and worked hard to achieve it. He was a politically silent man and this assisted him in his rise to power as this put him in a position to manipulate those around him into the way he wanted/needed them. All of this, along with his policy ‘Socialism in One Country’ for industrialisation which showed Stalin’s political astuteness and his ability to make decision, were factors in his rise to power over the USSR.
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Trotsky was Stalin’s main opposition in trying to gain leadership but Trotsky was not politically astute, whereas Stalin was politically astute therefore giving Stalin an opening in which to exploit Trotsky’s weaknesses. There were numerous times in the fight between him and Stalin for power in which Trotsky had opportunities to undermine his opponent. A prime example of this was at Lenin’s funeral. Although Stalin delivered the oration at Lenin’s funeral, the opportunity had first been presented to Trotsky who declined and was not present for the funeral.
After Lenin’s death, Trotsky did not appreciate the importance of appearance in order to become successor. By Stalin delivering the oration, he was leading the mourners and seen to have had a continuity between himself and Lenin. It was Stalin’s first crucial move in becoming Lenin’s successor and it was thought that Trotsky, being his main rival would try to counter it. Trotsky was aware of the threat Stalin posed to him in gaining leadership and this should have made him eager to prevent Stalin from receiving any sort of advantages that Trotsky himself could have.
The fact that he suffered from diffidence and lack of judgment further inhibited his ability to fight against Stalin. Another example of this is Lenin’s testament, written in 1922, in which Lenin had harsh criticism about Stalin and urged the comrades “to think of ways of removing Stalin from that position” Lenin was to sick in the final years of his life and as a result his testament was never shown to the public. If it had been it would have severely undermined Stalin’s reputation and served a severe blow to his image.
Trotsky had an opening in 1924 to publish Lenin’s testament which would have created another opportunity for him to challenge Stalin’s right to power but yet again, due to his own personal reasons he passed up on the chance to damage Stalin’s reputation. Although Trotsky was Stalin’s main threat in gaining leadership of the USSR, Trotsky was too arrogant and inept to counter Stalin’s strong methods in becoming Lenin’s successor. Stalin became heir to the ‘Lenin Legacy’ and this meant that Stalin gained the tradition of authority and leadership that Lenin had established during his life and the status in which he held after his death.
By Stalin appointing himself as bearer of Lenin’s legacy, it helped him to legitimise his position as Lenin’s successor. Lenin’s actions and decisions were unchallengeable and within the Party, all disputes were settled by reference to his statements and writings. After Lenin’s death, if a party member could demonstrate that he believed in Lenin’s path and therefore would continue his legacy, they would establish a formidable claim to power. This is precisely what Stalin did and by doing this, he practically guaranteed his position as party leader.
The NEP could be used by a Party member to exploit the weaknesses of a rival through their attitude towards the policy and this is exactly what Stalin did, by using Trotsky attitudes about the NEP as a way of undermining him and advancing himself also by being politically silent. Lenin introduced the NEP in 1921 as a replacement for the serve economic controls know as war communism. He indicated that he regarded it as a temporary measure, however at the time of his death, it was largely debated as to whether the NEP was to last indefinitely.
While this was going on, the power struggle that was taking place during the 1920’s bought to light questions of political correctness and a Party’s loyalty therefore opening the possibility to destroy a person’s position in the party. Whilst Trotsky had supported Lenin in 1921, rumors had surfaced as to whether this support had been genuine. Stalin used this and suggested to Party members that Trotsky was a bit suspect. This further damaged his reputation within the Party, and gave Stalin the upper hand, as Trotsky was already viewed as a disruptive force.
Although Trotsky’s stance on the NEP was fairly clear, Stalin’s view was practically unknown. When Lenin first introduced the NEP, Stalin had supported him but he had not given his views on how long the NEP should be kept in place after Lenin’s death. He preferred to keep his opinions to himself and play on the differences between his colleagues, therefore creating a position for himself where he was able to manipulate those around him, a method he continuously and successfully used in his fight for leadership. One challenge that faced Stalin was the industrialization of the USSR.
While it was unanimously agreed that the USSR must industrialise, the argument was over how this should happen and at what speed. Trotsky and Stalin both had different ideas on this. Trotsky believed in a ‘Permanent Revolution. ‘ A Communist revolution would not work in Russia because of the small working class and the under developed economy. Therefore, Trotsky felt the Russians should help the working class in other countries stage their own revolution and Russia should fight for a permanent revolution until world communism had been achieved.
Stalin disagreed and put forward a different policy called ‘Socialism in one country. ‘ This policy proposed that Russians build a socialist state inside the USSR with no outside help. He appealed to nationalism and patriotism and told the USSR they would produce a society that was vastly superior to the West. Stalin’s policy on industrialization showed he was quiet astute and when it came to decision making he thought each decision through and was very strategic.
Stalin used the conditions surrounding when he was trying to come into power in his favour and also the method he used gave him an advantage. Trotsky, being Stalin’s main political rival was the biggest threat in Stalin’s bid to gain power, but Trotsky’s many political weakness and the ways in which Stalin exploited them greatly helped him to become Lenin’s successor. This with the way Stalin represent himself and his abilities in decision making and the way he used what he had around him helped Stalin to become Lenin’s successor and gain power over the USSR.