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A large political controversy arose within the Soviet Union in 1924. The former leader of the Bolshevik Party and Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin, died on the 21st of January of that year. Lenin had maintained the Communist Party since 1917, and was the central person in determining its policies.
Lacking an evident successor, he jeopardized the welfare of the Communist Party by leaving the group to risk of division, as party members were caught in conflicts of appointing a new leader. The date of the death of Lenin was disadvantageous for the Soviet Union, as there were controversies surrounding potential routes towards socialism, the growth of a bureaucracy within the country, and leadership within the party. The struggle over power that key party leaders endured lead to a conflict that would last the next five years. Joseph Stalin was perceived to be a minor contender in the beginning of such rift, whereas Leon Trotsky was famously regarded as the “chief contender.” Trotsky was the most threatening in terms of power, as he was the commander of the Red Army from August 29th of 1919 to January 25th of 1925. However, by the year of 1929, Joseph Stalin was to emerge as the sole leader of the power struggle.
Stalin’s race to become the all mighty ruler fully started after Lenin died of a stroke on the 21st of January 1924. With Lenin gone, Stalin started to eliminate the other members of the Communist Party: Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Rykov, Tomsky, and Bukharin. He very cleverly switched between the left wing and the right wing, by making alliances with one wing; by appealing towards the disliking of the opposing side of the party. Stalin knocked out all other party members along the way, even those who were considered to be his friends. His violent childhood, misguided early life and the death of his first wife caused him to lose an emotional compass; turning him into a vicious competitor in the Communist Party. Trotsky was one of Stalin’s major competitors for the title of all ruling leader, however even he could not stop this man of steel, a name that Stalin, fittingly, appointed to himself as he joined the party. Stalin secured himself as the supreme leader of the USSR, through a combination of political scheming, preying on the mistakes of his opponents, and the manipulative way in which he formed his power base; all three factors being closely interwoven within his political interactions he shared.
Stalin’s skill of manipulation was a major factor in playing the crucial part of his rise to power, and exercised his ability of such in various instances. He hid his own political agenda when befriending Kamenev and Zinoviev so that they would help him get rid of Trotsky by constantly attacking him in speeches and making him appear as an unworthy member of the party or political opponent. Such an alliance, as was the one formed between the three of them, was classified as a triumvirate and was not allowed within the Bolshevik party, this led to Zinoviev and Kamenev being later eliminated from the party. Stalin cleverly exposed them and their conspiring against Trotsky after he eliminated Trotsky as a threat; so that he would have more power. In the beginning of Stalin’s journey towards political control of the Soviet Union, he was most concerned about Trotsky and saw him as a threat to his success, and was why he tried to get rid of him. He used many manipulative techniques to eliminate Leon Trotsky as a political competitor.
Firstly, he used Vladimir Lenin’s funeral to show that he was an ally to Lenin and that Trotsky was not so should therefore not be the one to take the power of Russia. However, these were both not true because Lenin and Stalin were not allies, behind the scenes they were very cautious of each other. Lenin was especially aware of Stalin and could tell there was something wrong with him. This led to Lenin writing the ‘Lenin Testament’ which advised his party colleagues that Stalin should not take power because he was malevolent and they should be cautious of him.
However, Stalin used his manipulation to suppress this testament. Nevertheless, Lenin’s funeral could also be classed as lucky for Stalin. This was because Trotsky was ill at that time with pneumonia and was therefore unaware of the correct date of Lenin’s funeral, Stalin took advantage of this and misled Trotsky by telling him the funeral was on another day when he asked him.
Stalin then acted as a pallbearer in the funeral and carried Lenin’s coffin, this showed him to be an ally of Lenin which meant that the people of Russia would think he should take power because they loved Lenin as a leader and respected him. However, Stalin was not a true ally of Lenin and used his manipulation to try and show the contrary.Another key factor which helped Stalin rise to power was his cleverness. He did many clever things which helped him rise to power in Russia. Firstly, he formed a triumvirate with Zinoviev and Kamenev. They were also members of the left-wing Bolshevik party. Lev Kamenev joined the Bolsheviks in 1905 and Gregory Zinoviev joined in 1903.
He used the triumvirate to attack Trotsky. At the time Stalin had most power out of the three so he was in charge. This meant he got away with forming a faction.
Factions were banned in the Bolshevik party because it was thought that they would lead to splits within the party, this theory was correct. This action led to Zinoviev and Kamenev being dismissed from the party, however, Stalin got away with it because of the power he had. The consequence of the triumvirate was that Trotsky’s reputation was damaged which increased Stalin’s chances of success in taking hold of Russia.
Also, it meant that Stalin eliminated two party colleagues who could have taken control of the party, which again increased his chances of taking the power of Russia. Another way Stalin used his intelligence and cunning ways was by suppressing ‘Lenin’s Testament’. A long time before Lenin died there was much controversy between his relationship with Stalin.
Publicly they seemed like very good friends but behind the scenes, they were very cautious of each other. Lenin was especially worried about Stalin. He could tell that Stalin was someone who needed to be watched as he had many characteristics about him which made him seem abnormal. One of these was that he was ruthless, this could have been due to the death of his first wife who he loved very much.
The testament also possessed statements that incriminated Zinoviev and Kamenev.Lenin and Stalin have evidenced their outstanding brilliance as mass leaders in every revolutionary requirement: in Marxian theory, political strategy, the building of mass organizations, and in the development of the mass struggle. The characteristic feature of their work was its many-sidedness. Both men of action as well as of thought, they have exemplified in their activities that coordination of theory and practice which was so indispensable to the success of the everyday struggles of the masses and the final establishment of socialism. Both have worked in the clearest realization of the twin truths that there can be no revolutionary movement without revolutionary theory and that revolutionary theory unsupported by organized mass struggle must remain sterile.
Like Marx and Engels before them, Lenin and Stalin have shown superlative capacities in translating their socialist principles into successful mass action. Lenin had many possible successors. Among the contenders of the Communist Party, there were Kamenev and Zinoviev. However, the real struggle to succeed Lenin was between two leading figures and bitter rivals in the Communist Party, Josef Stalin, and Leon Trotsky.
The struggle between these two was long and hard and it was not until 1929 that Stalin made himself completely secure as the supreme leader of the USSR. Stalin achieved this through a combination of political scheming, the mistakes of his opponents and the clever way in which he built up his power base, all three factors being closely interwoven within his political interactions with his competitors.