Stalin`s Rise to power was a combination of his ability to manipulate situationsand the failure of others to prevent him from taking power, especially LeonTrotsky. Trotsky did not take advantage of several opportunities which wouldhave helped him to crush Stalin politically. When he failed to take advantage ofthese opportunities, Stalin maneuvered himself into a stronger position withinthe party by allying with Zinoviev and Kamenev. He manipulated them intocrushing Trotsky, thus eliminating the strongest opponent in his path to power.
Stalin deftly avoided potential political ruin when Lenin formulated hisTestament in December 1922. Lenin’s Testament described what he thought of thefuture of the Party and Party leaders, especially Trotsky and Stalin. Leninwarned of a potential split in which Stalin and Trotsky would be the chieffactors. When describing Stalin, Lenin felt that he had concentrated”unlimited authority in his hands and whether he will always becapable of using that authority with sufficient caution.” (Clark 472). Thecontent of Lenin’s Testament eventually became more detrimental to Trotsky thanStalin. Coupled with the Lenin incidentally undermining Trotsky, Stalinmanipulated the content of the Testament to enhance his stature. By mentioningStalin as one of the prominent members of the Party, Lenin raised Stalin’sstature to that of Trotsky. The equivalent stature of Stalin and Trotsky madeTrotsky seem to be less important in relation to Lenin and thus to the Partyapparatus. Further damaging Trotsky, Lenin described him as possessing”excessive self-confidence and overly attracted by the purelyadministrative aspects of affairs” (Clark 472) The lattercharacterization of Trotsky was one that Stalin employed against him throughouttheir struggle for power. Lenin then added a postscript to the Testament onJanuary 4, 1923, characterizing Stalin as a poor choice for Secretary General bystating, “Stalin is too rude and this defect becomes intolerable in aSecretary General.” (Clark 474). Lenin continued on to state that”the comrades think about a way of removing Stalin from that post andappointing another man” (Clark 474). Lenin felt that if the removal ofStalin was not acted upon, the conflict between Trotsky and Stalin wouldescalate, which would in turn endanger the party as a whole. Combined with theTestament, the Postscript could have served as a tool for Trotsky to obtainpower, instead Stalin squashed it in the Central Committee. Another possibleadvantage left unused by Trotsky was Lenin’s disagreement with Stalin on how tohandle the Georgian Affair. During the war with Poland, the Soviet republicsigned a treaty with the Menshevik government of Georgia, “whichsolemnly undertook to respect Georgian independence.” (Segal 240). Leninwanted to maintain that Georgia remained a “sovereign and independentunit which would have joined the Russian federative state.” (Clark 477). AsCommissar of Nationalities, Stalin ordered the suppression of the Menshevikparty in Georgia. In order to achieve his goal, Stalin was preparing aconstitution which was “to be much more centralistic and wouldcurtail and abrogate the rights of the non-Russian nationalities” Alsoin this new constitution, Stalin was going to change “Soviet Federationof republics into the Soviet Union.” (Pro 51) Through a series of notes,after the postscript, Lenin, with a guilty conscience, admitted that he had notsufficiently stopped the new oppression of the weak by the strong and viewed thecentralistic nature of Stalin’s scheme as being “borrowed from Tsardom andonly just covered with a Soviet veneer” (Pro 71). He proceeded todictate notes on the Georgian Affair, which were scathing criticisms of Stalin’sconduct. He described Stalin as a “truly Russian man, the Great Russianchauvinist, who is essentially an oppressor” (Pro 71). Lenincommunicated to Trotsky that he desired him “take upon yourself thedefense of the Georgian affair at the Central Committee” (Clark 479) andattached a copy of his notes on the subject. Warning Trotsky not to showweakness or uncertainty and not to accept any compromises that Stalin mightoffer. He stressed the need to avoid warning Stalin and his associates of theoffensive. Stalin’s antagonism towards Trotsky was apparent. He criticizedStalin’s performance as Commissar of Rabkrin by stating that “it wasuseless to look to Rabkrin for guidance if the need arises for any change ofpolicy or for any serious reform in organization” (Pro 47). Zinoviev,the most popular member of the Politbureau, acted as Lenin’s “loud andstormy mouthpiece whos knowledge about the world was unrefined andunpolished consequently leaving him devoured by ambition to rise higher inthe party” (Pro 79). Kamenev, though less popular, was more respected byinner party leaders. Armed with a more cultivated intellect and a steadiercharacter Kamenev was attracted by moderate ideas and policies which set him upas Zinoviev’s idealistic balance. Their traits complemented each other and thusthey compromised and worked together well. The combination of these threeleaders produced a majority against Trotsky in the Politbureau. Instead ofexecuting Lenin’s intentions, he proceeded to accept an undesirable compromise.
Lenin intended on expelling Stalin from the party for at least two years.
Trotsky stated that he “was against removing Stalin but he agreedwith Lenin in substance” (Pro90). He wanted Stalin to apologize toKrupskaya, behave more loyally to his colleagues, and most importantly stoppushing the Georgians around. Stalin accepted these terms with great enthusiasm.
Eager to rectify his behavior, Stalin prepared a written statement to thegeneral congress that denounced the Great Russian Chauvinism that was beingexacted upon the Georgians. The most serious of Lenin’s strokes occurred afterthis. The final stroke was debilitated him, by paralyzing him, rendering himspeechless, and causing him to suffer from sporadic spells of unconsciousness.
The generous terms of Trotsky’s compromise and Lenin’s last stroke had multipleeffects upon his ability to obtain party leadership and affected how Stalinpursued his leadership goals. Stalin’s triumvirate successfully kept Lenin’sTestament and Postscript inside of the Central Committee. Kamenev objected bystating that it should not be published “because it was not a speech givenat the Politbureau.” (Vol 243) Zinoviev thought that the document shouldonly be distributed to the Central Committee. Stalin suggested that there was noreason to publish the document because Lenin did not leave any instructions to.
Tomsky, Solts and Slavatinskaya, all agreed with Zinoviev. The opposition topublication was apparent and the triumvirate succeeded in suppressing Lenin’sdocuments. Further action against Trotsky was being undertaken by thetriumvirate. By using his position as the General Secretary of the Party, Stalinbegan to install supporters of the ring in place of Trotsky supporters. Partyorganizers were employed on the criteria that they were against Trotsky.
Political biographies were being reviewed and references to Trotsky were beingreduced thus slowly eliminating him from important moments in history. The deathof Lenin in January of 1924 allowed the triumvirate to begin to openly attackTrotsky. They labeled Trotsky a factionalist. He wrote two letter that gaveStalin and his allies enough ammunition to render Trotsky politically powerless.
In the first letter Trotsky blamed the Scissors Crisis on “seriouserrors of economic and political management by the leadership… which was aneffect of the extreme worsening of internal Party conditions was due to theprocess of bureaucratization that had overwhelmed the Party” The nextletter, named the Trotskyist Manifesto,’ stated that, “the Partyhierarchy, increasingly selects the memberships of conferences and congresschanging them into mere extensions of the hierarchy and the factionalism mustbe stopped by those who instituted it and a more comradely unit must beinstalled in order to achieve internal Party democracy.” (Vol 248). Thisletter opened up the opportunity to accuse Trotsky of reverting back toMenshevism. The Thirteenth Party Congress proceeded to condemn Trotsky and hissupporters’ opinions as “a Menshevik revision of Bolshevism.”(Vol249) Labeling Trotsky as a factionalist enabled Stalin to finally start topoint out how Trotsky was in disagreement with Lenin and thus was an enemy tothe Party. Stalin took this power and developed himself into the interpreter ofLeninism. Stalin worked on eroding Trotsky’s reputation that was built upon theOctober revolution and the civil war. He characterized Trotsky’s roles in theaffairs to be over inflated. Eventually, after constant political attack,Trotsky was informed that under article 58 of the criminal code, “i.e.
the charge of counter-revolutionary activity”(Pro 391) he would bedeported to Alma Ata in Turkestan. Expulsion was the last step in Trotsky’sfailure to achieve power. He was taken to Constantinople from where heeventually emigrated to Mexico. Stalin’s ability to take advantage of Trotsky’serrors allowed him to move on to crush the less significant former alliesKamenev and Zinoviev. After eliminating his political opponents Stalin would notbe opposed by anyone until his death.