How significant were the personalities of the contenders to succeed Lenin in accounting for Stalin’s defeat of his opponents in the years 1924-29? Lenin’s death on the 21st January 1924 caused huge sadness across the country. After Lenin’s death, everyone was eagerly waiting to know who would be the next leader of Russia. In the years after Lenin’s death, there was no clear successor to his leadership. However, when Lenin was leader, Trotsky was always there for him, and he played a huge role in the Civil War, therefore everyone thought he would become Lenin’s successor. However, as well as Trotsky there were other significant contenders, such as Stalin, Bukharin, Zinoviev and Kamenev which created a huge power struggle. I believe that the personalities of the contenders were significant in this struggle. However, other factors such as ideological battles, removal of opponents by Stalin and the consolidated powerbases also had an effect. The personalities of all were all extremely different by a great margin. The most likely to win, Trotsky was intellectually gifted which greatly benefitted him.
He was also a great military leader and had good organisational skills. Trotsky has a few strong disadvantages to his personality though. His late arrival to the Bolshevik party could be interpret Trotsky as an unloyal character while his arrogance due to his intelligence made him quite a few different enemies in the Bolshevik party. Trotsky’s arrogance led to his defeat as he vastly underestimated Stalin and the threat he posed, while also decreasing his inner party support. At the time Trotsky would be clear favourite to win but his poor characteristics let him down. The next contender and winner of the battle for power was Joseph Stalin. An underdog and one of the least likely looking people to win, Stalin played his cards well and to his advantage. Being a Bolshevik from the beginning supported the fact that Stalin was a loyal Bolshevik which was a strength of his personality. Stalin being a cunning character was another strength of his and was a contributing factor to the defeat of his enemies as he was easily able to manipulate and outplay them.
His ruthlessness and his ability to easily gain support due to his position and authority to promote them also benefitted greatly to the defeat of his enemies. He had a major weakness and thorn in his side though and that was Lenin’s opinion of him. The ability to easily manipulate Stalin was also a major disadvantage for him. While Stalin didn’t look it, he had just as big of a chance as Trotsky due to his nature. Another contender in the race for leadership was the “Golden boy” known as Bukharin. Bukharin was possessed one of the best personalities of the party and his traits and strengths such as his incorruptibility and honest and well natured manner were good aspects about him. His “Golden boy” title was also helpful as it represented how liked he was by Lenin before his death. His intellectuality also benefitted him greatly and he was often referred to as the brains of the Bolsheviks. Bukharin’s main weakness though was that he had no ambition and he was too young. These factors led to a small support for Bukharin while his right-wing views also cut out some votes for him.
Another contender, Zinoviev possessed good strengths such as being a good speaker and being good friends with Lenin. These would essentially give Zinoviev a right to the leadership of the party. He was involved little in the civil war though and his dislikeable and vain nature did little to help him gain the support he needed which was why he teamed up with the last contender Kamenev. Kamenev was also a friend of Lenin but compared to Zinoviev was from a working class background which would have benefitted him greatly due to the say and respect he would have. Kamenev had little influence though and was too uninspirational greatly denting his chances Therefore, what we can infer from the personalities and strengths of each other contenders was that Stalin cleverly manipulated and took advantage of each contenders weaknesses which led to him becoming leader. Stalin would also use the past to his advantage e.g. Zinoviev’s poor revolutionary record or Trotsky’s past allegiances. Stalin would also use the personalities of other contenders to his advantage e.g. Trotsky’s arrogance or the fact that Bukharin has no ambition. There were also many other factors that led to Stalin’s victory though.
Another way in which Stalin won was the removal of opponents by Stalin. Stalin slowly but surely took out each of his opponents carefully and concisely. Stalin removed Trotsky by creating the Triumvirate with Kamenev and Zinoviev. Stalin carefully destroyed Trotsky’s reputation with Zinoviev and Kamenev with things such as questioning his loyalty to Lenin, destroying his influence by questioning his ‘Bonapartism’ ideology and question his activities leading up to the revolution. Stalin also made Trotsky miss the funeral of Lenin, shocking the party and destroying Trotsky’s influence by a huge chunk. When Stalin had taken care of Trotsky, he then took care of Zinoviev and Kamenev by splitting the Triumvirate and creating the Duumvirate with Bukharin. With Zinoviev and Kamenev in decline due to the influence they had in the defeat of Trotsky, Stalin easily defeated them. When that had happened Stalin quickly turned against Bukharin and with his growing influence Stalin removed him from the race for leadership.
At the end of everything, Stalin had removed all opponents and this was a big factor in determining Stalin’s victory due to the fact that it had removed all of the people in the way of Stalin becoming leader of the Bolsheviks. Another way Stalin took power was by increasing his influence by never actually taking a side. While everyone was on either a left-wing or right-wing stance, Stalin remained neutral as to not damage his influence with members of either side. This way Stalin would face less opposition due to him not going against a large opposition of the party. His stance on things such as the NEP also came to his advantage and he both agreed and disagreed with it at different times. Stalin also took a neutral view on how fast Russia should industrialise, he personally however took a left wing view towards this.
Courtney from Study Moose
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