Everyone believed Trotsky would take leadership after Lenin died, even if they didn’t want him to. No one thought it would be Stalin. Therefore, Stalin felt he had to defeat Trotsky in order to become leader. However, the fear of Trotsky becoming leader isn’t the only factor in explaining Stalin’s victory in the power struggle.
Lenin died, January 21 1924. This is when the Lenin Legacy begun. Stalin took it upon himself to give a speech at Stalin’s funeral; he personally swore to carry on the work of Lenin. As General Secretary he supervised the Lenin Enrolment (expansion of the party in tribute to Lenin). He published a book “Foundations of Leninism”, a basic understanding of Lenin’s ideas for the uneducated. Stalin emphasised his commitment to Lenin by dishonoring Trotsky and other Bolsheviks by saying they were unfaithful.
Stalin used the Decree against Factionalism to accuse opponents of disloyalty to the memory of Lenin. Stalin used the Lenin Legacy to his advantage all the way through the power struggle. In 1924, when The Lenin Enrolment was announced, the party increased from 500,000 to over 1 million members by 1926. The new members were young, in-experienced and lacking education. This meant Stalin could easily influence them.
Zinoviev and Kamenev both feared Trotsky’s power more than Stalin. They teamed up with Stalin, in order to over-throw Trotsky. He was unpopular as he was extremely arrogant. Thus when he missed Lenin’s funeral due to Stalin telling him the wrong date, he became even more hated. In a Marxist fashion, Trotsky travelled the world, informing people of world revolution. This meant Stalin could build a good relationship with Russia, persuading everyone he would carry on the work of Lenin.
In December 1924, Stalin spoke of “socialism in one country” Trotsky strongly disagreed and as a result he was accused of Factionalism. In January 1925, the Central Committee removed Trotsky from the War Commissariat. From 1928 onwards Trotsky lived his life in exile before being murdered in 1940.
Stalin had allied with Zinoviev and Kamenev but after Trotsky’s defeat they were concerned that Stalin had too much power within the Party. Kamenev was defeated, his lost control of the Moscow Party. However Zinoviev fought back, he held onto the Leningrad Party and attacked the NEP policy. They argued that it was capitalist and it was time to introduce rapid industrialisation. However, they also questioned Socialism in One Country, which meant the attack was also against Bukharin.
They realised that without an international revolution they wouldn’t reach Marxism Utopia, as the economic backwardness of the country would destroy the Soviet Union. Therefore, Stalin and Bukharin united. Once again, Stalin accused Zinoviev of Factionalism. Bukharin’s popularity and Stalin’s control of the delegates allowed them to defeat Zinoviev.
At the 14th Party Congress in December 1925, angry delegates shouted down the slander of Stalin and defeated the programme of Zinoviev and Kamenev by 559 votes to 65. 1926, Zinoviev lost control of Leningrad to be replaced as Chair of the Comintern by Bukharin. Following this, Zinoviev and Kamenev tried to form an alliance with Trotsky (he had spoke out about the NEP policy in 1924) but there was little trust between them. In 1926, they released copies of Lenin’s Political Testament but it didn’t work, they were seen as Factionalists.
They were removed from The Central Committee and secret police were used to stop the Political Testament being published. They were sent to exile.
Stalin had defeated the Left wing of the politburos; he now planned to attack the Right wing. By 1926, the Soviet Union was effectively ruled by Stalin and Bukharin. Stalin saw the NEP as a compromise with the peasantry. Ironically, he now agreed with the United Opposition’s policies to introduce rapid industrialisation. He turned against Bukharin, Rykov, and Tomsky.
In November 1929 Bukharin lost his position in the politburo. Stalin used his powers as General Secretary to purge the trades’ leadership thus Tomsky losing his post on the Central Council of Trades Union and his place in the politburo in 1930.
21 December 1929, Stalin’s 50th birthday, Pravda call him “the Lenin of today”, Stalin had finally won the power struggle.
When looking at all of the factors for why Stalin won the power struggle, the fear of Trotsky coming into power seems a small influence. However, it was the difference in personalities and different views for the county that kick started the power struggle. Trotsky did not fight for power; he simply fought for what he thought was right. Even though he was an ex-Menshevik, he kept closest to the theory of Marxism. For example, when he lost his role of The War Commissariat he didn’t fight back.
He never believed he would be in charge because he was Jewish. While it was important, I do not believe the fear of Trotsky to be the crucial component in Stalin winning the power struggle. He was a vindictive creature that would go to the extremes to get what he wanted. His political genius was much more vital. Without it I don’t think he would have got where he did.
He was cunning in the fact that he was able to not only defeat the bodies of the politburo but also, use their skills to his advantage and then turn against them. As well as this, being General Secretary was a big advantage, it allowed him to keep the Political Testament a secret. The Lenin Legacy was also extremely important. When he expanded the Bolshevik party, I believe he brainwashed many of the new members. He used their lack of education against them.