Assess the reasons why Stalin was able to rise to power in Russia after the death of Lenin.

In the turmoil surrounding Lenin’s death, the question of who was to be his successor proved to be one that would dramatically change the face of Russia for the next three decades. But the rise of Joseph Stalin did not begin at Lenin’s deathbed, and it can no means be attributed solely to the man himself. It was only through a combination of factors ranging from the sprawling growth of government to the failure of individuals within his opposition that allowed him to emerge as the next leader of the USSR. To understand how Stalin was able to rise to power, apparently so quickly and easily after Lenin’s death, we must understand his position and standing in the party at that time. In many respects, he was regarded as a tough and loyal Bolshevik- having spent years carrying out robberies and raids to fund party activities- and yet, it seems he was never really viewed as a threat to the positions of the more educated and sophisticated members. Lacking charisma and intellectual brilliance, Stalin advanced his way through the party ranks by taking on laborious administrative tasks that others saw as beneath them, all the while making contacts and building the foundations of a web of power that was soon to become all reaching. By the time it become clear that the dull Georgian had the party in the palm of his hand, it was too late to do anything about it. And it is this web of power that defines Stalin’s rise to supremacy. As the Revolution was consolidated and government grew in scope, positions that had once seemed insignificant- and had been lumbered with ordinary men like Stalin- began to take on an unprecedented amount of influence and power. In his roles as Commissar for Nationalities, and eventually General Secretary, Stalin was in a position to influence great swathes of the party in jobs that had never been intended to carry so much weight. What these positions afforded Stalin most significantly was the power of patronage. He was able to build up a wide reaching and loyal support, promoting those who were behind him, and destroying those who were not. Key to this was the Lenin Enrolment. When it was decided in 1922 that the party should set out to increase the number of true proletarians among its ranks, it fell to the Secretariat, working under Stalin, to vet and select citizens for enrolment. Membership of the CPSU rose from 340,000 in 1922 to 600,000 in 1925. These new members were often poor and knew little of politics, but they were acutely aware that membership of the party was making their lives a lot more comfortable, and were equally aware that loyalty to those who had invited them into the party was essential to maintaining this lifestyle. These new members were therefore strongly loyal to Stalin himself, greatly advancing the influence he held. He could now rely on a huge proportion of the votes from members who personally relied on him for their position. No other contender for Lenin’s successor came anywhere close to matching this grip on the party machine, and in this sense, Stalin’s victory seems inevitable. Whatever the ability or style of his opposition, it seemed Stalin would always be able to outvote and outmanoeuvre them using the sheer numbers he had made subordinate to him. However, Stalin’s succession was not an inevitable event. In the aftermath of Lenin’s death, the power struggle that took place indicates that there was a significant enough opposition - Stalin was pitted against renowned revolutionary Bolsheviks who could potentially have unseated him, most notably, Leon Trotsky. In many ways, Stalin’s success can be distilled as the failure of Trotsky. Politics and principles were not the primary factor in this battle- much like the wider power struggle. It always came down to the fact that

urging the party to “think about ways of removing Comrade Stalin from that position”. perhaps the only man whose word would have held significant enough influence. But the Testament was never made public. The concept of Trotsky as his own worst enemy is essentially accurate. acting with an almost god-like authority over the party . no matter how great. rather the re-assure the party that as its potential new leader. he was the right hand man and close personal friend of Lenin. that is not to say that Trotsky was incapable of winning his own following– he was a talented orator and intellectual. whilst carefully withholding his own views. And he came close to doing so. It must be noted that since it’s rapid and shock ascension to power. could have defeated him. This idea of Stalin as the logical successor to Lenin is also a powerful one. and yet. This is exactly what happened in the case of Kamenev and Zinoviev and Stalin’s defeat of the Left. but never loyalty– he failed to ever come close to matching the party following that Stalin enjoyed. When this was completed. By 1924. The Revolution was born in blood. the Bolshevik party had always been authoritarian in nature. It was this playing of different factions against each other. It had had to be in order to survive. He seemed to lack the timing and deviance of Stalin when it came to acting in a certain way or adopting a certain policy at a moment that would bring him the greatest political advancement. the man who could be trusted to put the USSR at the top of priorities rather than fighting for the abstract assertions of some political faction. Stalin effectively shifted left himself. But it was Trotsky’s actions that created the situation in which it was only a single man. he found himself isolated. He also addressed Stalin's rudeness. and it continued in that vein. Much preferring to destroy the positions of others rather than specifically advocating his own. But perhaps there was one man who had the ability to single handily threaten Stalin’s rise: Lenin. he had done great work in his establishment of the Red Army. Stalin’s personal politics were rarely revealed until he established ultimate authority in the 1930s. Consider the status Lenin held.. has concentrated enormous power in his hands. Stalin’s influence within the party was such that it is hard to imagine any single man. frightening potential support and leaving Stalin free to present him as an out of touch radical. unacceptable in a General Secretary. Perhaps unscrupulously. In what became known as his Testament. eliminating him as a potential leader. he would ensure the safety of the Revolution. Whereas Trotsky was flamboyant and brilliant. methodical and apparently down to earth. Stalin took no issue in siding with his enemies in order to defeat other threats. Trotsky instead took the Left hard line. In the turmoil after Lenin’s death. before U turning and destroying those he had just fought besides. The new working class members were unlikely to be impressed by a cultured. much more to their liking. and I am not sure he always knows how to exercise that power”. Rykov and Tomsky in the Right. and therefore.. The power Stalin had concentrated would end up unchallenged by Lenin himself. and swiftly liquidated those on the right who had just supported him. the natural leader of the party. Lenin declared “Comrade Stalin. leaving the door open for Stalin. Trotsky could attract distaste or admiration. this could have proved disastrous. As well as Stalin. Stalin was a simple man. Stalin was able to destroy Trotsky’s cause. the Testament criticised nearly all the members of the Politburo and it was collectively decided the document was to be hidden. Stalin abandoned his former comrades and allied with Bukharin. never truly aligning to either that allowed Stalin to manoeuvre himself to the top. He called for International Revolution and the abolishing of the NEP. However.Stalin understood the party machine and Trotsky did not. intelligent Jew. With them gone. Lenin had established a cult of personality around himself. Arguably one of Stalin’s greatest abilities was the manner in which he was able to pragmatically align himself into the political position that would afford him the greatest advantage at a given time. This ability to detach himself from the messy day to day wrangling of theoretical political specificities meant Stalin almost took on the role of the moderator. Forming a triumvirate in the Politburo with them. and subsequently had Kamenev and Zinoviev removed from their posts.

watering down the plentiful criticism that could have been made. the power that Stalin held by the time of Lenin’s death makes it seem unlikely that any other man could have filled the vacuum of leadership that Lenin’s death left. the fact of the matter was that it was almost impossible to ever mount an effective opposition. or a veiled attack on the party itself. as the plausible and logical continuation of the regime that Lenin’s revolution had established. And in truth. any man other than Stalin could have taken up the position of leader of the USSR. but when it came to truly having a grasp on the ever sprawling bureaucracy that was the Soviet government. Stalin rose to power because once the ball had been set in motion. Other party members were more charismatic. It must also be noted that the concept of free debate and discussion was something entirely alien to Russian politics. It was therefore only Stalin that remained. It seemed logical then. He knew how to manipulate and twist it with a deviance and timing that was unsurpassed.and it was only under his dictatorial guidance that the Bolsheviks were able to consolidate their Petrograd revolution into the establishment of a nationwide government. Stalin was the only one who could have provided this leadership. and Stalin was nothing if not an autocrat. better speech makers. the fact of the matter is that Stalin understood the Bolshevik party. There were other potential leaders: Trotsky. the disregarding of the Duma. positioning himself as strongly as possible then using the clout of his support to scatter any who opposed him. It is hard to see how. This worked hugely to Stalin’s advantage. by 1924. . Kamenev and Zinoviev all held admirable revolutionary reputations. This situation was made worse by Lenin’s attack on factionalism. those opposing Stalin had to always first carefully moderate their words to ensure they could not be used against them. Although his opposition were plentiful and wasted opportunities to have a greater effect than they eventually did. they were simply too involved in factional politics to play a part in the bigger picture. all others were too concerned over what would come of them if they tried to stop it. Once he established his power base. that if authoritarianism had gotten the party this far. any attack against him could be presented as this factionalism. it could continue to serve it well. effectively. Fearing accusations of disloyalty. It was simply not considered accepted by those in power that others may disagree with you without wanting to destroy you. but in hindsight. both by his doing and that of others.essentially calling any man he dared to speak out against the decisions of the Central Committee a traitor to the party. and in more recent years. Soviet Russia had become an authoritarian state. After centuries of Tsarist oppression.