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How significant were the personalities of the contenders to succeed Lenin in accounting for Stalin’s defeat of his opponents in the years 1924-1929
Stalin, throughout the fierce fight for power exploited his attributes to the best of his ability, however his tactics were not the only factor in his eventual success. Perhaps what’s more interesting is the systematic fails, one by one of all of his contenders – which was due to their individual personalities. Many argue this is the more significant reason for Stalin’s rise to power, and that if this had have been changed Stalin’s success would have been entirely different.
Stalin’s opponents, understandably had very different personalities. However looking in hindsight none of them seem to create a difficult situation for Stalin. This could be due to Stalin’s natural ability to change and use his opponents strengths and weaknesses, or perhaps the general naivety of many in the politburo. One main example of this is Trotsky, and his rather egotistic and arrogant personality. This intern made people weary of his power, and made him completely oversee Stalin as a contender for power.
Lenin in his testament says himself he is “not sure whether he will always be capable of using that authority with sufficient caution” and the politburo completely over saw this cautious remark for their own reputation. The evidence seems to suggest members of the Bolshevik party didn’t use their personality’s to the best if their potential. Furthermore Trotsky seemed very trivial about the whole situation. In 1924 he didn’t make Lenin’s funeral, eventually blaming that on Stalin. In the successive years after he didn’t make important politburo meetings and refused to make alliances. In 1926 he did eventually see light forming the ‘united opposition’ however by then it was too late and Stalin’s fan base was too large in the central commission.
Another example of this is how Bukharin in 1925 decided to stay strictly to the Bolshevik rules. This perhaps shows how good a man he is, but not how good a politician he is. In that situation he has seen his fellow socialist members being taken over by Stalin, but does very little to stop this. Furthermore he says himself Stalin is “an unprincipled intriguer who subordinates everything for his appetite for power” The evidence here suggests he saw the dilemma, but does very little about it.
In hindsight we now know he allowed Stalin to use his powerbase for his own political marketing. This shows the true naivety of Bukharin and how Stalin’s personality completely overshadowed anybody else’s in the politburo. Moreover this shows how truly significant the personalities of every one of Stalin’s contenders were, in allowing and creating a path for Stalin to walk to power. Perhaps if other people in the politburo were willing to play underhand tactics like Stalin, the end would have been different. In retrospect we can see personalities might not be a main factor – perhaps the individual ideologies played a larger role, but it’s the way people acted towards Stalin, completely overshadowing him that makes personalities so significant.
Other peoples personalities did play a vital role, but now in stark contrast we begin looking at Stalin’s personality strengths, and how he uses them to the best of his ability. He, from the very beginning was a ‘yes man’ following Lenin till the very end. However one major strength that Lenin foresaw was Stalin’s ability to challenge his thoughts and ideologies. Stalin from the very beginning has ‘a very strong personality’ (Lenin) and this was used this in the July days (a troubled time for the Bolshevik party) when Lenin needed this unique quality from him. Arguably this is Stalin’s biggest asset. Furthermore Stalin’s ability to change tactics and ideologies, particularly in the later stage of the power struggle was, down to an incredibly versatile personality. Moreover his ability to look into the future and plan his actions to aid his accent was stunning, as if he planned every move meticulously and almost in hindsight. Looking at the evidence, Stalin’s personality was vital in his accent, but perhaps if the others had been different the overall outcome would have drastically changed.
Personalities were vital in the success and failures of the struggle, however Stalin’s under hand tactics played an equally important role. Before and during the 5 year struggle he implemented many tactics to undermine his opponents, and one by one remove them from the possibility of power. Lenin saw this in his final years, and discussed it in his testament, however Stalin persuaded Kamenev and Zinoviev to fight his side, and intern keep his job. Furthermore his ability to switch ideologies and allies is a testament to his versatile personality. An example of this is in the later stages of the struggle, when only him and Bukharin were left for the job. Stalin suddenly rejected NEP because it was failing and turned radically left.
This sudden maneuver allowed left wing supporters and nationalist war communists to support him, as well as gaining the support of anti NEP politicians. In all this he managed to leave Bukharin to pick up the pieces of NEP. Furthermore Stalin re introduced grain requisitioning in early 1928 to make sure NEP was a complete fail. Its these quite brilliant tactics that formulate into a plan that make Stalin truly versatile and incredibly shrewd and devious. In everything Stalin did there always seemed to be a very formulated plan, and in this was surrounded by brilliant political tactics. However these tactics were merely ways of getting rid of political opponents, and due to personalities as whole, arguably tactics are not as important as other factors.
Alternatively the power bases’ of other opponents could be as significant as personality in the war struggle for power, and the defeat of all his opponents. All Stalin’s opponents had important roles within the Bolshevik party, and in many ways – more significant roles than Stalin. One in particular is Trotsky. Head of the Red army, and an incredibly influential role within the Politburo. Lenin says himself “personally he is, to be sure, the most able man in the present Central Committee” His power base is remarkable, with huge amounts of Kudu’s within the Bolshevik party. However – arguably as well as him being too “self-confident” Stalin used this wealth of power base to his advantage by forming the Triumvirate with Zinoviev and Kamenev. When we turn to other members such as Bukharin, we see that generally their powerbases, although more significant for policy making were not as useful for gaining power as Stalin’s, and perhaps this was a significant reason for their in individual defeat. Stalin’s role within the party was General secretary and head of enrolment and promotions.
This involved the inner workings of the Party. The evidence indicates that Stalin used his role, from 1922 to strengthen his fan base within the party and Central committee, which later in 1925/26 seemed to secure his position within the party, in 1923 it was up to 30%, and steadily rising. This seems to indicate his role and power base far out saw anyone else’s within the party, and that actually he was in the perfect position to take up power, even foreseeing this in 1924 – by controlling what Lenin saw from the politburo, and vice versa. Stalin took up a highly administrative role, and this worked in his advantage, however the evidence suggests that if other factors were stronger, such as opposition personalities that Stalin still wouldn’t have made it to power. Arguably in this light personalities seem more significant.
Ideologies of the opposition and Stalin play of key significance in how arguments were won and lost. For example, Trotsky stayed far left with all his ideologies – perhaps in a more noble way than Stalin, and eventually he was engulfed by Stalin’s devious tactics. Another example would be Zinoviev and Kamenev, in the triumvirate staying right of the spectrum. However when they rejoin to form the left and united opposition – they lose huge respect for changing ideologies within the party. Interestingly this seems like an incredibly vital point – leading onto Stalin’s ideological viewpoints. Throughout the start of the political struggle, he sways right – but doesn’t involve himself in any main arguments about, for example rapid industrialisation. This tactic to stay the middle man has its disadvantages.
For example he is described by members of the Bolshevik party as ‘a grey blur’. However it also has its advantages. Stalin was then able to sway from his very Right views within communism – to left views with not much notice – he was able to move ideologies to strengthen his fan base and his viewpoints. For example when the NEP failed – he removed himself from it, thus allowing Bukharin to take the blame – and him stay in the positive public spotlight. It’s this very middle ideological viewpoint that the evidence suggest allowed Stalin to change as he did, allowing him to use it to his great advantage. Despite this, other arguments perhaps suggest it is not the most significant factor in Stalin’s accent within the government, and that actually his deceitful, arrogant and shrewd personality was the true reason that allowed him to flourish the way he did.
In conclusion, looking at all the evidence it is clear a combination of factors were involved in Stalin’s accent of power. On one hand it seems Stalin’s powerbase seems to be the primary factor, that despite anyone’s efforts his place within government allowed to build a vast fan base in such a short amount of time. Furthermore others power base didn’t seem to match the superiority of his, even though on the forefront they seem more important, Trotsky is a prime example of this. On the other hand his tactics seem the obvious significant factor – looking at how he manipulated allies and oppositions, such as Bukharin and Zinoviev. More over his ability to control the politburo with his allies over the testament suggests that this could have been a primary turning point for Stalin’s direction on how to achieve power.
However diving into the muddle of linked causes, personalities seems to come out on top. The tactics and moral high ground was generally taken by his opposition, but it seems they didn’t play hard enough. They didn’t morally want to use underhand tactics and switch ideologies – because they believed in what they were fighting in. It’s this decorum that contributed more than anything else. Looking at the other side of the spectrum Stalin’s fierce personality, with no conscience seems to be the perfect mix to manipulate not only the communist party – but the general public as well. It is this sheer inhumane ability to be deceptive in this way that allows the evidence to suggest, on the top, personality is the most significant factor in accounting for Stalin’s defeat of his opponents in the years 1924-1929.