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Why Were Stalin’s Opponents Unable to Prevent Him from Becoming Leader of the Ussr by 1929?

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Why were Stalin’s opponents unable to prevent him from becoming leader of the USSR by 1929?
Within this essay question I’m going to be discussing four different factors that aided Joseph Stalin in becoming leader of the USSR by 1929. These four factors are Trotsky’s errors, errors of others, powerbases and Stalin’s own skills. Personally I believe, based on my current knowledge of all four factors, that the powerbases is going to be a highly significant factor in terms of why Stalin’s opponents were unable to prevent him becoming leader. However, the other three factors are still very important and also played a role in helping Stalin. Therefore, I will be discussing all four of the factors and what effects they had.
Errors made by Leon Trotsky were some of the main reasons why Stalin was able to become leader of the USSR by 1929. After Lenin’s death in 1924 there was wide speculation that Trotsky, head of the red army would succeed Lenin. Lenin wrote a testament outlining his opinions on the head Bolsheviks, and Stalin was described as being very dangerous and should be dismissed from the party immediately. However despite this, Stalin eventually became the leader of the USSR. The reason why Trotsky was the most likely candidate to succeed Lenin was because he was very popular among young communists, this was due to his revolutionary heroism in 1905, 1917 and during the civil war, coupled with his stirring speeches. However, despite the fact that Trotsky was clearly more suitable, Stalin still managed to outmanouver him into becoming leader of the USSR. This was because of a multitude of reasons, starting with the fact that from 1917 onwards Trotsky openly and rather viciously criticised many leading Bolsheviks, this lead too many people within the party to hate him. Furthermore, his arrogant nature and aloofness earned him even more enemies within the 1922 he was offered the position of becoming Lenin’s deputy but he declined in the fear that his religious beliefs would gain him further opposition within the party as Anti-Semitism was rife in the USSR at this time, this would’ve just made him look bad in Lenin’s eyes. Another bad move on Trotsky’s part was that in 1924 he failed to attend the funeral of Lenin due to Stalin telling him the date far too late for him to travel to get there in time. This makes Trotsky appear extremely disrespectful, this links to one of the other reasons why Stalin’s opponents were unable to prevent him becoming leader, which is his own personal qualities and tactical behaviour. By making it so that Trotsky couldn’t attend the funeral Stalin managed to make himself look like a much better candidate. Carrying on with Trotsky’s errors, from 1923-1925 Trotsky failed to build up any kind of powerbase because he naively believed that the party would make the ‘correct’ decision and pick him, this meant Stalin could manoeuvre himself into a strong position as he had a brilliant powerbase set up, another one of the reasons he was able to triumph as leader. In 1925, Trotsky began to publicise his belief in “permanent revolution” which was a very risky belief to have, he openly admits he wants to end the NEP even though it was working which made him even more unpopular, he openly criticised the growth in bureaucracy which made all the bureaucrats support Stalin so they could keep their jobs due to Trotsky suggesting the should be sacked and he resigned as Commissar for War to prove he had no desire to use the Red army to his advantage, however because of this move he had no political powerbase anymore and Stalin was once again at an advantage. Eventually, all of Trotsky’s mistakes as well as Stalin’s adeptness and skills lead to Joseph Stalin becoming the new leader of the USSR, Trotsky was then dismissed, exiled and murdered in 1941.
Powerbases was another contributor to the fact that Stalin was able to become leader of the USSR by 1929. Another likely candidate other than Trotsky was Bukharin as he was very popular and one foreign visitor even predicted that he would actually be the one who would succeed Lenin. Bukharin was the party theorist from 1917 as well as the editor of the two main newspapers, ‘Pravda’ and ‘communist’. This enabled him to influence party opinion and deny all of his opponent’s access to the press. This was a strong party powerbase for Bukharin, however he had no government powerbase due to the fact that he wasn’t part of Lenin’s Sovnarkom. One of the least appealing contenders was Zinoviev as he was seen as being too full of himself and vain. He also wasn’t part of the Sovnarkom which meant he had no government powerbase but he was Comintern from 1919 which boosted his status within the Bolshevik party. Another contender was Kamenev who, throughout Lenin’s illness, acted as head of the Sovnarkom. However, what put Stalin ahead of the rest was that he had a large powerbase within the Bolshevik party, this was because he was general secretary of the party and head of the central control committee. This meant that he had control over the party machine and could therefore rely on the support of the party members when he needed votes at the party congresses, as they were dependent on him for promotion within the party. It also meant that he could appoint his allies to government positions which would have resulted in Stalin having more power as he had lots of support and popularity. The result of Stalin having a large powerbase was that at the party congresses, he often outvoted his opponents into getting the policies passed that he wanted. This could be argued as the reason why he defeated his opponents such as Trotsky.
A third reason for Stalin’s success was the errors of others, such as Kamenev, Zinoviev and Bukharin. So, what Kamenev and Zinoviev did wrong was that they joined an alliance with Trotsky in 1925 and called themselves the United Opposition, despite the fact that Trotsky was an old enemy and they’d previously been a part of the Triumvirate with Stalin and completely slandered Trotsky. This made the two of them appear to be extremely indecisive. The united opposition is ineffective and all three members are accused of creating a faction, this breached the ban on factionalism put forward by Lenin. As a result in 1927 Trotsky, Kamenev and Zinoviev were expelled from the communist party. However, Stalin seized this opportunity to get rid of Trotsky and allowed Zinoviev and Kamenev to re-join the party if they agreed to perform mea culpa (admitting to being wrong), the two of them made a public apology which discredits them, their power and their influence. The two of them remain in the party but Stalin is now the supreme leader due to their idiocy. Stalin is now so powerful that nobody has a chance of opposing him and his policies. One of Bukharin’s errors was that he joined an alliance with Rykov and Tomsky called the Right Opposition but they were far too late, Stalin was already very powerful by this point and the United Opposition had been torn apart. Furthermore, Bukharin continued to believe in the NEP which was not popular with higher Party groups, and proposal to achieve socialism at a slow speed left him highly vulnerable to attacks. Stalin attacked Bukharin's views by portraying them as being capitalist deviation and declaring that the revolution would be at risk without a strong policy that encouraged rapid industrialization. Having helped Stalin achieve unimpeded power against the Left Opposition in the past, Bukharin found himself easily outmanoeuvred by Stalin. Yet Bukharin still played to Stalin's strength by maintaining the appearance of unity within the Party leadership. Meanwhile, Stalin used his control of the Party machine to replace Bukharin's supporters in the Rightist power base in Moscow, trade unions, and Comintern. Stalin was able to seize power due to the errors made by Zinoviev, Kamenev and Bukharin, he was smart and used their errors to his advantage.
Finally, a fourth reason for Stalin’s success was his own personal skills and his political adeptness. Stalin was a pragmatist which allowed him to put his true beliefs to one side in order to achieve his goals. Firstly, when the Lenin enrolment is introduced in 1923 till 1925 it’s done under the watchful eye of Stalin. This gave him the opportunity to only recruit people that owed him their loyalty. Plus most of the people enrolling were poorly educated and lacked intelligence, this meant that they could be easily influenced by Stalin. Privileges associated with joining the party were linked to Stalin, therefore people were more inclined to support him. He was able to use his position of being able to vet the enrolment to his advantage and gain more supporters. This links to errors of others because Lenin made the error of trusting Stalin with such a task and it also links to powerbases because Stalin was able to build up his powerbase due to the fact that he took advantage of the Lenin enrolment. Furthermore, in March 1923 when the triumvirate was formed (alliance between Zinoviev, Kamenev and Stalin) Stalin decided to take a back seat which ended up being a very tactical move. Zinoviev and Kamenev both openly attack Trotsky through various speeches and articles believing that Trotsky was a danger to their positions within the party. However, little did they know that the real threat was Stalin, who they considered to be an ally. By taking a back seat Stalin was able to give the impression that he was above all their pettiness and squabbling but he was really playing the strings and setting them up for a downfall. They later realise this but by then it’s far too later for them. In 1925 Stalin publicises his view in ‘socialism in one country’. His clever use of propaganda means he’s able to portray his idea as a sensible and patriotic policy that will keep the Bolshevik party in power. Stalin also says that he supports the continuation of the NEP as he’s on the right side of the party at this time, this is a clear example of how Stalin uses his pragmatism to his advantage as he swaps between the Left and Right wing to achieve his aims. By this point Stalin is in a brilliant position, which evidently works out well for him as he becomes leader of the USSR by 1929.
Overall, I feel like all four factors has a significant impact upon Stalin’s rise to power and how he was unable to be stopped. However in my opinion, I think that the most significant reason was the fact Stalin had such an incredible and loyal powerbase due to him positions within the party, his powerbases allowed him to gain power and supporters. Due to his influence we know that he easily outvoted majority of his opponents. We also know that he had the power to promote his friends and supporters to high positions within the party. Taking these points into account I can identify that Stalin’s government and party powerbases were essential for his success.

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