Why Did Stalin Rather Than Trotsky Emerge as Leader of the Ussr in 1929? sample essay
Why did Stalin rather than Trotsky emerge as leader of the USSR in 1929? A power struggle for control of the Bolshevik party began after Lenin’s death in 1924. Among the contenders for the role, two of the most powerful names in this struggle were Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin. Ultimately, Stalin was able to secure power and vote out Trotsky by being politically skilful and cunning however most importantly he was lucky. First of all, Stalin was lucky. Trotsky remained ill for most of the power struggle and Lenin and Sverdelov died at an opportune time. Before his death Lenin had wanted Stalin removed from the party this mentioned in his last testament.
Dzerzhinsky, the head of the Cheka and political adversary to Stalin, also died in 1926. His death facilitated the infiltration of Stalin’s supporters into the political police which Stalin eventually used against his opponents. It was also fortunate for Stalin that Lenin’s testament was not publicized. If Lenin’s negative views on Stalin succeeding him had been aired, there would have been no possibility for Stalin’s victory. Another reason for Stalin’s victory was his influence in the party with his position as General Secretary. This power allowed Stalin to appoint his supporters to key positions in the party. He also controlled the membership of the party by admitting members likely to support him and expelling those members likely to support Trotsky.
Stalin’s control of appointments and membership also made him a valuable ally to other contenders who needed his ability to deliver votes in the congresses. Stalin was also politically skilful and cunning. In the Politburo, when matters of high policy were being discussed, Stalin never imposed his views on his colleagues. He carefully followed the course of the debate and invariably voted with the majority. To the party audiences he appeared empty of personal grudge. Stalin always adopted policies that were broadly approved by the majority of the Communist party. Hence, using his political dexterity, he maintained a good reputation within the party.
Stalin also made full use of Lenin’s funeral to advance his position. He tricked Trotsky into not attending the funeral by letting him know that he would never make it on time (of course this was not true). He gave a speech at the funeral, tactfully taking on the mantle responsibility of Leninism and the people began to see him as Lenin’s successor. These political skills contributed greatly to him becoming leader of the communist party. Stalin’s personal characteristics and qualities also helped him become leader of the party.
Stalin was perceived as dull and mediocre – the ‘grey blur’. None of the contenders saw him as a threat until it was too late. He was tough-minded and ruthless. He was determined to defend his power base and make sure that he was not removed. Stalin was also a very loyal party member who was one of the few leaders from the lower class. As such, he was less high-minded and more down to earth than the other leading Bolsheviks; Stalin was ideally suited to managing the bureaucratic and centralised party that had developed.
Trotsky, on the other hand, was responsible for his own downfall. Trotsky did not go out of his way to develop or build up his power base in the party and allowed Stalin to erode the one he already had. Just like the other contenders, he underestimated Stalin and was outmanoeuvred by him. He was high-minded, arrogant, and dismissive of his colleagues which made party members suspicious that he would cause splits in the party. These weaknesses enabled Stalin to defeat him easily.
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