A “ruthless tyrant” (Totsky), Stalin built up power within the Bolshevik party, at first quietly and almost unnoticeably, but then used the combination of his position to assure him almost limitless powers. He removed his opposition step by step tactically switching sides of the party, and thus clearing his way up to the top. Essentially Stalin emerged the dominant political force by 1929 because he removed all opposition from the party making him the prime leader of the party.
Stalin held a number of what at first seemed as insignificant posts, which later gave Stalin as extensive amount of power within the party. His titles were Commissar of Nationalities (1917), Chairman of Orgburo (1919), Chairman of Workers and Inspectorate (1919) and later General Secretary of the Party (1921). With these posts Stalin had access to personnel files on all of the party members. Due to the structure of the party at the time this unintentionally gave him prerogative, as he became the indispensable link in the chain of command.
Stalin also gained the right to appoint and withdraw individuals to/ from official positions within the party. He used this to his advantage and appointed “his own people,” (ie: those who were loyal to Stalin and followed the same ideology as him,) in key positions. Stalin therefore replaced individuals from key positions and replaced them with his supporters. This in result gave him overwhelming power as he could count on these people to vote for him and therefore no matter the ability of the individuals or groups that opposed him, he could always out-vote and out-manoeuvre them. Hence Stalin could now influence the party leading to him becoming a dominant political force by 1929.
Starting from 1923 Lenin decided to increase the membership of the party with more industrial workers, which carried on until 1925 and was known as “Lenin’s Enrolment.” Over 500,000 workers were recruited, doubling the party’s membership and this was to have important consequences. The new members were largely uneducated and politically naï¿½ve. As a general secretary, it was Stalin who was responsible for supervising “Lenin’s Enrolment.” E.H. Carr pointed out that the Bolshevik Party changed “from the elite party of Lenin to the mass party of Stalin.” Stalin was therefore building prodigious support, later leading to him becoming the dominant political force in Soviet politics.
Stalin was also strengthened unintentionally by Lenin and his attack on the “Factionalism.” Lenin condemned the party squabbling and the opposition to party from within the party. Lenin effectively quelled and frustrated any serious attempt to reprehended party policy or decisions. This made it increasingly difficult to form legitimate opposition from within the party. This bourgeoned Stalin’s power as firstly he was a beneficiary of the attack on “factionalism” and the charge of “factionalism” provided him with a ready weapon for resisting challenges to the authority he had already began to exercise. This was one of the tactics employed by Stalin to secure him the next successor to Lenin. Due to these tactics Stalin emerged as the dominant political force by 1929.
The party was divided among many issues with the New Economic Policy having the greatest significance. Those who were critical of the NEP were branded left communists and those who accepted that as long as the NEP continued to meet the nation’s food needs then it should be preserved, were branded right communists. Stalin’s view was that a rivals attitude towards the NEP might be weakness to be exploited; if it could be established that his views indicated deviant Marxist thinking it becomes possible to undermine, if not destroy, his position within the party. Stalin therefore switched sides of the party by switching sides of the argument to undermine his rivals step by step. Therefore his rivals would loose credit while he would gain credit.
However the main and most notorious tactic used by Stalin was to keep his political status within the party centre. This way Stalin could easily move from left to right to weaken and plot against his rivals. The Politburo saw Trotsky as a grater danger than Stalin. Stalin therefore first formed triumvirate with Zinoviev and Kamenev to block Trotsky, who was soon accused of criticising the Cult of Lenin and his absence in Lenin’s funeral was made to be seen as heresy. The new proletarian membership helped Stalin to remove Trotsky as the party was not impressed by the cultured image of Trotsky. As a result Trotsky was outvoted in 1927, which led to congress accepting the proposal that Trotsky is to be expelled from the party and was soon internally exiled.
As his next step, Stalin used the fact that Zinoviev and Kamenev sided with Trotsky over the issue of NEP against them and to also get them out of his way. Stalin moved to support the right of the party, who believed in NEP as a saviour of Russia’s present economy. In result, the 1925 party congress defeated all left wing motions and denounced the ‘lefts’ as “traitors of the revolution.” Hence Kamenev and Zinoviev were exiled from the party.
After the left of the party had been defeated Stalin started work to defeat the right of the party. After two good harvests at the end of 1925 Stalin used the argument that grain prices were falling as peasants were withholding grain to force up the price of grain. Stalin saw this as capitalism at the expense of the cities. He introduced a criminal law causing the concealment of grain to be a crime.
He sent soldiers into the countryside to punish the peasants, This led to fighting in some areas and Bukharin in result denounced Stalin as a “tyrant.” Bukharin and his followers were condemned as “right-wing deviationists.” At the end of 1928 Bukharin resigned as editor of ‘Pravda’ and along with Trotsky and Rykov they were expelled from the party. Therefore now Stalin had successfully removed the opposition from both sides of the party, filling the gaps in the party with his followers and in result leaving him as the only political force to rule the Soviet Union.
In conclusion Stalin destroyed his opposition in order to leave him as the only obvious candidate to succeed Lenin as the leader of the Bolshevik Party. Stalin rose to power using his strategic position as the General Secretary to his advantage. The structure of the party also benefited him as his actions did not seem to be that significant in his fight for power at first hand and therefore hiding him from condemnation.