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Title: Stalin essay


M Bison - September 28, 2008 06:12 PM (GMT)
How far was Stalin’s position as General Secretary the key reason in his succession to leadership by 1929?

By 1929, Joseph Stalin had ascended to the top of the Bolshevik party. He had used his position as General Secretary to full effect in his quest to gain this position, but this was not the only factor in his struggle for leadership. Weather it was the major one or not is up for debate, and will be addressed in this essay.

Stalin’s position as General Secretary was a strong one indeed. He had the authority to control who and how people entered the party, and was capable of placing people in the positions he wanted within the party. He used the position to do just that, placing his supporters in important places within the party, and removing competitors, such as Trotsky, from their own positions, and gradually fazed his opponents out, replacing them with those loyal to him. Also, being responsible for the careers of most of the party, many of the lower level Bolsheviks were loyal to him simply for the sake of their careers. The party had become very beurocratic, with most party members simply doing as they were told and working hard in order to advance their position, and these men were exactly the kind that could be manipulated via Stalin’s position, and he did so with great effect, for example in the voting’s to remove Trotsky from his positions within the party. He also had access to the personal files of each party member, including those of his opponents. If a potential opponent had ever stood against Lenin in the past, Stalin knew about it, and had the ability to bring it up at crucial points if he so wished.

In 1923, the Lenin enrolment began. This enrolment brought in a huge influx of new members, effectively doubling the party size from 300,000 to 600,000 in a relatively short amount of time. The vast majority of new members were what is known as New Bolsheviks, characterised by being mainly working class, poorly educated, very hard working, obedient, and careerist. Many were also Anti-Semitic. This was a contrast to the Old Bolsheviks that once dominated the party, who were mainly middle class intellectuals, many of whom were Jewish. The New Bolsheviks were beurocratic, doing what they were told without question, and working hard to fulfil their roles, much like Stalin himself in his earlier years within the party. Additionally, these new members were vetted by the General Secretary, and were thus directly under Stalin, allowing him to dominate them with ease.

Against his own wishes, by the time of his death, Lenin was held at an almost godlike status. To Stalin, this presented an opportunity. He did all he could within his power to make himself appear as Lenin’s natural successor. For example, at the funeral of Lenin, he delivered the main eulogy, in which he promised to carry on Lenin’s legacy. Interestingly, Trotsky had not appeared at the funeral, and there is a possibility that this was due to Stalin lying to him. Stalin made sure that he supported Lenin’s views, and example of this being the NEP.

During the disagreement over the NEP, Lenin created a ban on factionalism, which was passed in March 1921. What this meant was that any open disagreements within the party were disallowed, and open criticism was an incredibly risky manoeuvre, if not outright impossible. Later, Stalin would use this law potently. He would accuse anyone that opposed him openly of factionalism, saying that they went against what Lenin would want. He used this tactic against Trotsky, accusing him of creating “Trotskyism”, with ideas such as permanent revolution that went against Lenin’s own ideas. This eventually resulted in Trotsky being usurped from his positions, before being exiled out of the party, and then out of the USSR entirely.

Stalin had never been held in greatly high regard by his colleagues, none of them viewed him as a legitimate threat. He wasn’t a great speaker or debater, and his work went largely unnoticed by the other Bolsheviks. In the past, he had been described as a “grey blur” amongst the Bolsheviks, his personality not being a particularly outstanding one. This led to him being severely underestimated by his opponents in the race for the leadership following Lenin’s death. His beurocratic nature and job was not one any of the more democratic Bolsheviks wished to have, nor did they feel it was of any particular importance. When he shifted his views in order to take advantage of popular consensus, for example his stance on “communism in one country” vs. “permanent revolution”, little heed was paid.

Before he died, Lenin left a testament, detailing his hopes for the Bolsheviks after his death. In it, he included criticisms of the main contenders for his position. This included Stalin, whose criticisms were particularly damning. He said that he wasn’t sure that Stalin “knows how to use that power (as General Secretary) with sufficient caution” and that he was “too rude”. He even proposed that Stalin be removed from power. To Stalin, these criticisms would be crippling, and certainly the end to any chance he had of leadership. This was a golden opportunity for his opponents to take him out of the race, but they did not take it, which was a major error on their part. This is possibly because the testament criticized every candidate in the race, and they didn’t wish to be put in peril, and they didn’t view Stalin as much of a threat at the time anyway. Also, the testament praised Trotsky most heavily, and the candidate did view him as a threat, the most difficult one at that. Trotsky himself stayed out of the debate, unwilling to become involved. This was a huge mistake on his part, which would cost him dearly. Thus, the testament never became public, and was kept secret for years.

Leon Trotsky was Stalin’s main opponent. The man was a genius, possibly the smartest man in the USSR, and he was an excellent speaker and debater. He had the ability to make people join his side with a single speech, and had been one of the major factors in the Bolsheviks winning the civil war. However, he also possessed some major weaknesses, which Stalin would go on to exploit with lethal efficiency.

One of Trotsky’s weaknesses was that he had joined the Bolshevik party late, in 1917. Previously, he had been a Menshevik, a party which opposed the Bolsheviks, and this could make him seem untrustworthy. He had a history of disagreeing with Lenin in the past, and the Cult of Lenin that had sprouted following Lenin’s death made this a major and exploitable problem. He may have been the smartest man in the USSR, but this made him extremely arrogant (something Lenin himself had pointed out in his testament), and he didn’t view Stalin as much of a threat. Outside of his debate and speech work, he lacked much of the planning ability that people like Stalin had, and often failed to take opportunities, for example the Georgian Question, in which Stalin had invaded Georgia for the USSR, leading to the deaths of many and greatly disturbing Lenin, could have been crippling to Stalin had Trotsky brought it up. He also missed an opportunity with Lenin’s testament. He’d often think of the party before he’d think of himself, which sometimes left him vulnerable. Additionally, he was Jewish, and at the time much of the USSR, as well as many of the New Bolsheviks, were anti-Semitic.

Stalin’s position as General Secretary was indeed a great asset to him, but it was one of many, and it was possible he could still have ascended to the leadership without it (if with far greater difficulty).

SilverSurfer092 - September 29, 2008 08:40 PM (GMT)
First actual paragraph error.
beurocratic is spelled wrong. I don't know the correct spelling, but I know that it is spelled wrong.

M Bison - September 29, 2008 08:50 PM (GMT)
QUOTE (SilverSurfer092 @ Sep 29 2008, 08:40 PM)
First actual paragraph error.
beurocratic is spelled wrong. I don't know the correct spelling, but I know that it is spelled wrong.

It is.

Spellcheck didn't give me the correct spelling, after I changed it more than five times. So I gave up it.

super_wolverine_Man - September 29, 2008 09:29 PM (GMT)
QUOTE (M Bison @ Sep 29 2008, 08:50 PM)
QUOTE (SilverSurfer092 @ Sep 29 2008, 08:40 PM)
First actual paragraph error.
beurocratic is spelled wrong. I don't know the correct spelling, but I know that it is spelled wrong.

It is.

Spellcheck didn't give me the correct spelling, after I changed it more than five times. So I gave up it.

Bureaucratic

M Bison - September 29, 2008 10:15 PM (GMT)
QUOTE (super_wolverine_Man @ Sep 29 2008, 09:29 PM)
QUOTE (M Bison @ Sep 29 2008, 08:50 PM)
QUOTE (SilverSurfer092 @ Sep 29 2008, 08:40 PM)
First actual paragraph error.
beurocratic is spelled wrong. I don't know the correct spelling, but I know that it is spelled wrong.

It is.

Spellcheck didn't give me the correct spelling, after I changed it more than five times. So I gave up it.

Bureaucratic

Correct, apparently.

I've already printed the essay to hand in, so to late now I guess.

They aren't grading my spelling, fortunately.




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