1) Stalin’s Political Position as ‘General Secretary’ 2) Stalin’s Development of the Cult of Lenin
3) Stalin’s Elimination Opposition or Persecution of Political Enemies
1) Stalin’s Political Position as ‘General Secretary’
Stalin was the General Secretary of Communist Party. This was not a powerful post and therefore attracted little fear and jealousy. But Stalin had the power to appoint junior party officials at every level of the party and thus he appointed more junior party officials who supported him in key positions and in this way was able to control the Politburo as junior party officials elected the Politburo. He was also the Head of Control Commission and had the power to purge “unreliable” members. By 1927, the Politburo contained majority of Stalin’s supporters and this was important in ensuring Stalin had enough support to get rid of his opponents within the Party.
2. Stalin Portrayed Himself as the next successor through propaganda
When Lenin died in 1924, Stalin encouraged the cult of Lenin. He has Lenin’s body embalmed and placed on permanent display in a specially built marble tomb at the Red Square in Moscow. He also renamed Petrograd to Leningrad in honor of Lenin and made speeches glorifying him. He also portrayed himself as Lenin’s most trusted comrade. He ensured that he appeared as the Chief mourner at the funeral. He also altered many photographs to make it look as if he was Lenin’s trusted comrade. He also commissioned many paintings to achieve the same objective. When Lenin died, Stalin was the chief mourner. Stalin’s effective use of propaganda contributed to his rise of power. He effectively promoted himself amongst the people of Russia and the Party to gain support. Through propaganda, Stalin was able to create the idea and image of him as the best successor.
3. Elimination of Opposition
Stalin systematically eliminated his opposition to ensure that he would rise to power eventually. His first target was Trotsky whom he eliminated in 1925. Trotsky was the most obvious choice to succeed Lenin because he was intelligent and had strong leadership. Trotsky had advocated a “Permanent Revolution” and wanted to protect Communism by promoting Communist revolutions worldwide. On the other hand, Stalin argued for “Socialism in One Country” and wanted to focus on building up USSR’s strength first and then convince other countries that Communism really works. Stalin allied with Kamenev and Zinoviev against Trotsky. By 1927, he had the support of the Politburo to vote for Trotsky’s removal from all party posts. Later, Stalin allied with Bukharin to rid Kamenev and Zinoviev. Then he had Bukharin removed from his post. The removal of Trotsky and other rivals was very important in ensuring Stalin’s rise to power. Stalin’s patient and clever manipulation of his opponents ensured that he removed all possible opposition and paved the way to emerge as the uncontested leader of the USSR by 1929.