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Stalin vs Trotsky

  • Date Submitted: 01/28/2010 10:21 AM
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Why did Stalin rather than Trotsky emerge as the leader of the USSR in 1929?

A power struggle for control of the Bolshevik party began after Vladimir Lenin’s death in 1924.   Among the several contenders, two of the most important names in this struggle were Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin.   Ultimately, Stalin was able to secure power and vote out Trotsky.   In the following essay I will discuss the reasons why Stalin rather than Trotsky emerged as the leader of the USSR in 1929.

First of all, Stalin was lucky.   Trotsky remained ill for most of the power struggle and Lenin died at an opportune time.   Indeed, had Lenin lived, Stalin would probably have been sent to the provinces to work for the party.   Dzerzhinsky, the head of the Cheka and political adversary to Stalin, also died fortuitously in 1926.   His death facilitated the infiltration of Stalin’s supporters into the political police which Stalin eventually used against his opponents.   It was also fortunate for Stalin that Lenin’s testament was not publicized.   If Lenin’s negative views on Stalin succeeding him had been aired, there would have been no possibility for Stalin’s victory.

Another reason for Stalin’s victory was his influence over the party machine through his key positions in the Politburo and Orgburo and as General Secretary. This power allowed Stalin to appoint his supporters to key positions in the party. He also controlled the membership of the party by admitting members likely to support him and expelling those members likely to support Trotsky. Stalin’s control of appointments and membership also made him a valuable ally to other contenders who needed his ability to deliver votes in the congresses.

Stalin was also politically skillful and cunning. In the Politburo, when matters of high policy were being discussed, Stalin never imposed his views on his colleagues. He carefully followed the course of the debate and invariably voted with...


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