Stalin’s manipulation of the central organs of the Communist Party was they key reason for his rise to power by 1929. How far do you agree with this statement? Use the sources and your own knowledge to answer the question.
The rise of Stalin to his position of extreme power is a result of a number of factors varying from Stalin’s personal characteristics and political skills to the situation of Russia in the years 1924.29. The argument that Stalin came to power as a result of his control of the central organs is strong. However, it is vital that the other factors are not dismissed as they all play an importance in Stalin’s rise to power.
Source A strongly supports the argument that it was his control of the party that resulted in his rise to power by explaining how Stalin had total control over the party and was able to allows his supporters to move up to the higher levels of the party, in which his main rivals were replaced with. Stalin’s control and organisation of the Secretariat was a key factor that helped him to gradually replace his opponents with his supporters, therefore allowing him to maximise his support of the whole party. This source explains how it was not only the control of the central organs but also Stalin’s political cunning that was key to his rise in power. Stalin’s
Source B supports this argument to a certain extent but explores other factors that were vital to his rise in power. This includes Stalin’s policies and in particular “Socialism in one country” which urged for modernisation through industrialisation without the help of those outside. This policy carried undertones of nationalism and patriotism, appealing to the masses despite it clearly going against the Marxist theory. Socialism in one country proved far more popular than “Permanent Revolution” as it gave the Russians historic roles. However, it was not just this one policy that contributed to his popularity. His positions on the NEP and his decision to go for rapid industrialisation at the end of the 1920’s were supported by the majority of the party. It can also be inferred from the source that Stalin’s political skill played a major role as he was responsive to the mood of the times and exploited this to his benefit.
An alternative explanation is found in source C where a modern historian’s intentionalist interpretation of Stalin’s rise to power informs of Stalin’s ruthlessness being of great benefit to him. Furthermore, during the 1920s Stalin would often speak last at Politburo (The key decision making body) and would float in and out of alliances. His lack of loyalty to any of his colleagues was extremely beneficial to him, as he would cunningly float in and out of alliances as a way of gaining popularity. This was the case with Stalin’s change of policy on the NEP when he turned and attacked the right wing of the party and adopted the very policies of which he had smashed with the left of the party. Stalin’s cunning and intelligent political attributes are key in his rise to power. Furthermore, the source offers the idea that his own personal characteristics, being a disloyal and ruthless, played a dominant part in his climb to supreme power.
However, there are a number of arguments that have not been presented in the sources. Stalin’s political skills, personal characteristics, policies and his control of the party organs have all been contested in the sources but there are many other factors that must be considered. Firstly is Stalin’s position in 1924 before Lenin’s death. Stalin had began to lay the foundations for his rise to power before Lenin was dead by exploiting the weakness of the central organs due to Lenin’s ill health. As a result of Stalin laying the foundations when Lenin was still in power he was able to become General Secretary in 1924. This came about due to Stalin being the link between the leader Lenin and the Politburo. The position of Stalin before Lenin’s death is a factor that must not be ignored, as it was when Stalin began to lay the foundations of what became his rise to power.
His role of the General Secretary was key to him becoming more powerful within the party and being able to have his supporters entered into the party at the higher levels. Secondly, Lenin’s funeral played an important part in Stalin’s rise, as he was able to show how he could manipulate events. Stalin played a crucial part in Lenin’s funeral promoting his intention of continuing Lenin’s work. Trotsky failure to attend the funeral just further added to Stalin’s growing popularity and raised questions about Trotsky’s respect towards Lenin. Another crucial factor that added to Stalin’s success was the weakness of his opponents and in particular, Trotsky. Trotsky attacked the policies of the party and believed that it was becoming far too bureaucratic.
These comments were only to increase his unpopularity as the bureaucracy had grown in size during Lenin’s reign as leader; therefore Trotsky was criticising Lenin’s leadership. This was not a good idea as Lenin was a cult figure in Russia and a much respected past leader by the party members. He also came under particular pressure when faced against the Triumvirate (Stalin, Zinoviev and Kamenev). By this time Trotsky’s support was absolutely minimal and he made little effort to gain support or even organise the support he had.
By 1926 Trotsky’s weakness was finally exploited as Stalin was in the position to expel him. By 1929 Trotsky was neither in the party or the country as Stalin had expelled him from the party and country. Finally, there is an element of luck that contributed to Stalin’s rise. For example, Lenin’s testament was not read out which was lucky for Stalin as he said that Stalin was “too rude” and even went as far as to say that he should be removed from his current post of General Secretary. Moreover, for most of the struggle for power, Trotsky, whom was possibly his closest challenge, was ill. Trotsky’s illness was the reason he was not in Russia for Lenin’s funeral and relied purely on Stalin for the date of the funeral.