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Stalin's Rise to Power
Transcript of Stalin's Rise to Power
The revolutionary government was chaotic and lacked structure, however the main characteristic was that the Party ruled.
Membership in the Party was essential.
At the same time, Lenin, who was leader of the Bolsheviks and hero of the revolution, was in failing health.
The future of the party after Lenin’s death was uncertain.
This uncertainty –in the government, the structure of the party and in the future in general, set the stage for Stalin to take power in the USSR.
With this assistance, Russia might also be able to put socialism back on the agenda.
Many Bolsheviks like Trotsky feared that the Bolshevik Revolution would fail without outside support from more industrialized countries.
The signs of revolution were encouraging in 1918-1920, especially in Germany.
Marx believed that socialism and communism could be achieved only after moving through a ‘capitalist’ stage. Russia in 1917 was not industrially developed enough to be considered ‘fully capitalist’.
After the November 1917 Revolution, the Bolsheviks hoped to hold on to power long enough to inspire workers across the capitalist world (Germany/Britain) to carry out their own revolutions.
These new socialist governments could then give financial and technical aid to ‘backward’ Russia.
The power struggle after Lenin’s death meant that Stalin had to form his own ideological positions and ideas to defeat others.
All leading Bolsheviks accepted the Marxist principle of ‘internationalism’.
However the nature of this was debated. ‘Socialism in one country’ versus ‘Permanent revolution’ became a key debate
Background of Stalin Personally
Since the October Revolution of 1917, the Russian state had been based on Marxist ideology. Stalin contributed nothing to this at first.
Stalin was never the ‘thinker’ of the party. He was a practical man who’s main roles were as editor of the party newspaper, Pravda, and organizer of bank raids and funding. He was appointed as General Secretary in 1922 for his administrative skills, not his philosophizing.
Stalin didn’t contribute to ‘Marxist’ ideology until the death of Lenin in 1924.
Rise to power of Stalin
Argument: Stalin took control of the party machine.
Stalin became Liaison Officer between Politburo and Orgburo in 1919.
Stalin was in the unique position to monitor both the party’s policy and its personnel. This position contributed to his understanding of the party structure and helped determine his shrewd political actions while coming to power.
Stalin became General Secretary of the Communist Party in 1922.
This placed him in a position of significant power because he was able to build up personal files on all members of the Party. He would use this information later to incriminate and antagonize his enemies in the Party.
The combination of all of Stalin’s posts gave him the “power of patronage”.
He had the ability to hire and fire key officials into the Party. He expanded his base of power by hiring his supporters, and he secured their loyalty by making clear that he could also fire them.
The “Lenin enrolment” saw the addition of 600 000 members to the CPSU by 1925.
The responsibility of hiring fell to key officials who worked directly under Stalin, and so the Lenin enrolment saw the mass growth of Stalin’s power of patronage. His base of power grew significantly.
Stalin took advantage of the “attack on factionalism” propagated by Lenin, and carried this policy into the years following 1924. Resolution on Party Unity 1921
This made it extremely difficult to mount serious opposition to Stalin within the CPSU, and provided Stalin with the means of resisting challenges to his authority.
The government under the Bolsheviks following the Revolution and the Civil War was revolutionary in nature.
The lack of order in the structure of the government facilitated Stalin’s rapid advancement in positions within the Party. At a more stable time, his quick rise to power would not be possible.
Stalin eliminated his opponents.
Stalin established the Triumvirate with Kamenev and Zinoviev to oppose Trotsky.
He was able to skilfully play on existing rivalries within the Politburo to pit his enemies against each other. He used Kamenev and Zinoviev to wage a propaganda war on Trotsky, which removed him as the Commissar of War.
Until 1917, Trotsky had been a Menshevik and Stalin used this fact to his advantage.
Stalin propagated suspicions that Trotsky was not true to the Bolshevik party. He used this in his propaganda war against Trotsky and alienate him from other Party members.
Stalin advocated “socialism in one country”, whereas Trotsky argued for a “permanent revolution”.
In Stalin’s concept, the USSR needed to overcome its agricultural and industrial problems through its own efforts in order to build a nation that was equal to the western powers. Since Trotsky opposed this, Stalin was able to characterize Trotsky as an enemy of the USSR.
When Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev formed the “New Opposition” in 1926 Stalin was able to skilfully remove them from power.
He used his control of the party machine to gain the support of the Right and outvote the opposition bloc.
In his battle with the Right, Stalin advocated an aggressive economic and industrial program. Bukharin and the Right opposed direct involvement of the State in economy.
Stalin gained support over the Right because he stressed that an aggressive economic policy was necessary to secure the safety of Russia from outside invasion.
His stance also showed his shrewd understanding of the Party mentality because he realized they would rather return to hard-line policies that carried them through desperate times, like that of the Civil War.
Background of Russia until 1924
Stalin used socialism in one country as a weapon against Trotsky and ‘Trotskyism’. Stalin portrayed Trotskyism as ‘Petit-bourgeois’ ideology at odds with Marxism and Leninism.
They said Trotsky had no faith in the ability of Russian workers and peasants to construct socialism in the USSR.
Trotskyists came to see themselves as the only true defenders of the legacy of Marx, Engels and Lenin. They labelled Stalin’s ideas as ‘Stalinism’.
Stalin’s main contributions to ideology were the notions of ‘Marxism-Leninism’ and ‘Socialism in One Country.’ They were not used before 1924.
Marxism-Leninism came to mean what Lenin (allegedly) believed and what Stalin himself believed about political issues.
Marxism-Leninism became the ‘official’ ideology of the Communist Party under Stalin. However as long as ‘Old Guard’ Bolsheviks existed, there would be doubts over Stalin’s views.
Many argued against Trotsky, saying that a policy based on ‘Permanent Revolution’ would anger surrounding capitalist states and risk further foreign intervention.
Stalin and others claimed that ‘Socialism in One Country’ would avoid this and give the Russian people the peace they needed after years of revolution and civil war.
Many new members of the Communist Party after 1924 were workers and peasants with little or no knowledge of Marxism – therefore they were easily persuaded by Stalin’s arguments.
This concept was opposed to ‘Socialism in One Country’. It argued that Russia was too economically and culturally backward to be able to achieve socialism without the assistance of more advanced states.
Russia should try to incite socialist revolutions across Europe and the world.
Trotsky had developed this theory from Marx in 1906 and was shared by most leading Bolsheviks including Lenin.
This concept wasn’t revealed by Stalin until ten months after Lenin’s death in November 1924.
It stressed the need for peace and stability and stated that, despite its backwardness and isolation, the USSR could construct socialism on its own.
Stalin also accused Trotsky of a lack of faith in the Russian people for opposing this idea.
Socialism in One Country was a complete reversal of Marxist and Bolshevik ideology.