A power struggle for control of the Bolshevik party began after Lenin’s death in 1924. Among the contenders for the role, two of the most powerful names in this struggle were Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin. Ultimately, Stalin was able to secure power and vote out Trotsky by being politically skilful and cunning however most importantly he was lucky.
First of all, Stalin was lucky. Trotsky remained ill for most of the power struggle and Lenin and Sverdelov died at an opportune time. Before his death Lenin had wanted Stalin removed from the party this mentioned in his last testament. Dzerzhinsky, the head of the Cheka and political adversary to Stalin, also died 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 in the party with his position 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 skilful 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 the majority. To the party audiences he appeared empty of personal grudge. Stalin always adopted policies that were broadly approved by the majority of the... [continues]
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