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Historical Investigation: The Origins of Stalin

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Christy Pototsky

on 11 March 2015

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Transcript of Historical Investigation: The Origins of Stalin

Historical Investigation: The Origins of Stalin
Research question: How did Stalin emerge as leader as of the Soviet Union?
Plan of Investigation
This historical investigation aims to:
-give a timeline of Stalin's rise to power
-determine the reasons why he was able to defeat his political opponents with political trickery and ideology
-determine the political, economic, and social factors which allowed Stalin to gain power in the early 1920s.
-determine how bureaucracy and centralized government led to dictatorship

This historical investigation will not:
-go into events during Stalin's rule, which really began in 1929. I won't discuss the Great Purges in 1933, which consolidated his power
-go into depth with events before 1917

Using the subjects
given in the textbook
Stalin was truly the natural successor after Lenin's death. However, in his final testament Lenin criticized virtually every person that would be capable of succeeding him, but it was Stalin whom he was most critical of. In fact, he even urged for his removal from his position as General Secretary, as he might misuse his power.
Summary of Evidence: Power Politics
Evaluation of Sources
Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini: Totalitarianism in the Twentieth Century By Bruce F. Pauley is a history text that I found on Questia. The chapter that I used was called Seizure of Power and it went in depth with how the Bolsheviks took power, what factors led to dictatorship, and how Stalin "purged" the influence of his political rivals. The only drawback to this source was that it only focused on the very beginning of Stalin's rise to power and sort of skimmed over the rest.
Summary of Evidence: Structural Explanations

Stalin was a product of Russian history and the administrative system set up after 1917.

-Some see Stalin as just another Russian absolutist: the "Red Tsar".
-The impact of civil war from 1918-1921 was that leaders were appointed instead of elected. As Stalin's power grew, the more he was able to control state and party positions. As a result, bureaucracy increased, allowing Stalin absolute control over Politburo and the Central Committee.
-With greater bureaucracy, the Communists needed to recruit former tsarist bureaucrats, who were inefficient and held contempt for the common man. So, the communist leaders needed to stress strict central control.

Evaluation of Sources
"Stalin's Takeover of Power." BBC News. BBC, 2014. Web. 26 Jan. 2015. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/history/mwh/russia/stalinstakeoverofpowerrev3.shtml>.

Todd, Allan, and Sally Waller. Authoritarian and Single Party States. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2011. Print.

Pauley, Bruce F. Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini: Totalitarianism in the Twentieth Century. Wheeling, IL: Harlan Davidson, 1997. Print.

The beginning of Stalin's rise to power is after the Revolution in November 1917 and especially in the political and economic problems of 1921-1924. It would be easy to assume that the natural successor to Lenin (who died in 1924) would be Leon Trotsky, often regarded as the second in command. But Joseph Stalin, the secretary of the Communist Party, got the job - why?
Summary of Evidence: Politics
-Stalin's rise to power is not only dependent on his own manipulations, but the weaknesses of his opponents.

-A struggle for power developed between Stalin, the secretary of the Communist Party, and Trotsky, the Commissar for War. In a way, the struggle was about what the Soviet Union would become, for Trotsky believed in world revolution, whereas Stalin advocated 'Communism in one country', stating that Russia needed to establish its power before attempting to spread revolution. This appealed to common people who had been fighting since 1914 and wanted peace.

- When Lenin died, Stalin was a member of the Politburo the Orgburo and the Secretariat
I also used the history textbook, Authoritarian and Single-Party States by Alan Todd and Sally Waller. It was really helpful because it gave me my research question and it was really well organized and defined all the terms on the side. The most helpful section was the timeline. Both of these sources were contemporary sources, but because they were textbooks, they were generally unbiased. It would have been impossible to find reliable primary sources.
-He manipulated the political and ideological differences amongst the Bolshevik leaders.

-The major leaders of the Communist Party in the beginning were Lenin, Trotsky, Bukharin, Zinoviev, and Kamenev. None of them even considered Stalin a threat until it was too late. Trotsky, Stalin's main opponent, even dismissed him as a "mediocrity" and a "grey blur".
-In April 1922, Stalin was appointed general secretary of the Communist Party, allowing him to appoint and dismiss Communist Party officials.
-Stalin told Trotsky the wrong date for Lenin's funeral, so Trotsky turned up a day late. Stalin used to deliver a momentous speech, portraying a close relationship to Lenin, that was never there. And so it was Stalin who became party leader in 1924. Trotsky was dismissed, then exiled and murdered in 1940.
-With Kamenev and Zinoviev, Stalin formed a ‘triumvirate’ in order to put pressure on Trotsky. Zinoviev hated Trotsky for personal reasons.
-Trotsky, although a brilliant speaker, visionary and military leader, but was less skillful in the everyday party politics.

Stalin originally fell in the political center of the party, he strategically shifted his policies to eliminate threats to his eventual power.

First, he allies with the Left to destroy Trotsky
•Stalin tricked Trotsky into not attending Lenin’s funeral
•Trotsky felt to be too arrogant; Stalin in contrast a “team player”
•Kamenev and Zinoviev side with Stalin against Trotsky
•Trotsky removed

Then, he allies with the Right to destroy Kamenev and Zinoviev
•With Trotsky gone, the Left Wing is weak
•Bukharin, the editor of PRAVDA, the newspaper, controlled public opinion. He and Rykov side with Stalin against Kamenev and Zinoviev

In 1927, he moves to the center to destroy Bukharin and Rykov
•Stalin had by now packed the Politburo and the Party with his own followers
•To please the Left, Stalin calls for rapid industrialization and collectivization
•To please the Right, Stalin calls for “Socialism in One Country”

Stalin exploited the weaknesses of his political opponents:
-Lenin was too sick
-Trotsky was unable to form his own faction, as he was seen as an ideological figure.
-Zinoviev and Kamenev were too career-driven.
-Bukharin was not communist enough, supporting the NEP, which promoted privatization.
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