Joseph Stalin

I think that Stalin’s political powerbases were one of the main reasons he emerged as leader of Soviet Russia by the end of 1929. Obviously there were other factors that aided him, such as the alliances he formed, and even his personality. Obviously I don’t think that it was all down to one factor alone but rather a combination of all three. As I don’t think that he would have made the decisions he did, without having such a devious and manipulative personality.

But then he wouldn’t have been able to do most of the things he did without his powerbases so it’s obvious that they all contributed to his emergence as leader. Stalin had two main political powerbases, the first of which were his positions within the communist party. He was the General Secretary and the Head of the Central Control Commission. Stalin had been appointed General Secretary of the Communist Party in 1922, which meant he was responsible for appointing people to key positions within the party, and for any promotions.

As he had the powers to do so, he also had the power to remove party members. This role won Stalin the loyalty of many party members, who were keen for higher wages as a result of promotion. Also, Stalin’s role gave him the power to manipulate the system which decided who attended the party congresses. Stalin soon gained a powerful influence on the composition of the party’s central committee. Finally, as general secretary, Stalin gained substantial patronage within the party because he was responsible for the recruitment of thousands of party workers across the USSR.

As you can see, this position gave Stalin a huge influence over the party, and what was seen as a mundane and unimportant position was actually one of the corner stones to Stalin’s emergence as leader. Because he was in charge of recruiting, appointing and promoting party members, he was able to choose people he knew would be loyal to him for promotions and he was able to remove party members who had opposing views to him. This was very tactical of him as this meant that when he did finally emerge as leader he would have a lot of support.

He was also the Head of the Central Control Commission which was set up by Lenin in 1921in order to eradicate corruption from the party. Stalin had the power to investigate and discipline members of the party and he used this position not just to expel corrupt members but to expel members suspected of disagreeing with him ideologically. This position probably meant that many people were fearful of Stalin and tried to ensure he thought highly of them otherwise they could be expelled from the party.

The second of his political powerbases are those within the government. These included being the Commissar for Nationalities and the Commissar of Workers and Peasants Inspectorate. As the Commissar of Workers and Peasants Inspectorate Stalin was given the task of rooting out corruption amongst government workers. Once again Stalin was given the power to investigate and expel those working for the government. This increased his power of patronage and ensured that government workers who wanted to keep their jobs would be loyal to him.

Obviously he could use this position to his advantage, as he did as the Head of the Central Control Commission. Another of his government powerbases was the Commissar of Nationalities. This role made him responsible for overseeing the affairs of all non-Russians within the USSR, which at this point was roughly 50% of the population. Stalin was able to use this position to gain loyalty from those he was responsible for. Although his powerbases were important, they were not the only explanation for his success. Another important factor in Stalin’s success was his personality.

He was often seen as very manipulative and devious in his acts. An example of this was when he gave Trotsky the wrong date to Lenin’s funeral. This made Trotsky look bad in the eyes of the Russian public for missing Lenin’s funeral, which made Stalin look more devoted to Lenin as he was there and he even delivered a speech at the funeral. Stalin also tried to associate himself with Lenin as much as possible because he thought that if he was seen next to such a divine figure as Lenin, the Russian public would think of him in the same light.

Another of Stalin’s manipulative acts was the way that he always went with the majority decision at Politburo meetings. This was probably to help him eliminate his opponents, such a Trotsky. For example, regarding the NEP, he started off by agreeing with Bukharin in saying that it was a good idea, but once he had got rid of Trotsky and the NEP starting failing he changed his views and then said that it was a bad idea to help remove Bukharin. These are just a few examples of how Stalin used his devious personality to his advantage and to help him eliminate his opposition and further his own gain.

Another factor that contributed to Stalin’s emergence as leader could have been to do with the alliances he formed with the other contenders for power. He was very tactical when he made alliances because he used them to remove his opposition. For example in 1923 Stalin joins up with Kamenev and Zinovev to remove Trotsky. They agreed to have Lenin’s Testament kept secret as it showed them in a bad light. Trotsky missed important meetings and refused to form alliances and because Stalin gave him the wrong date for Lenin’s funeral he missed it.

Because of these events Trotsky was condemned for forming a faction and then stripped as Head of the Red Army. This is a good example of how Stalin manipulated others to help him remove his main opposition. Once Trotsky was no longer a problem he allied with Bukharin in 1925 to try and remove Kamenev and Zinoviev. He used his position as General Secretary to choose the majority of delegates to attend the Fourteenth Party Congress. Because of this Kamenev and Zinovev (New Opposition) were beaten and subsequently neither of them were re-elected to the Politburo.

The final alliance that he formed was once again with Bukharin in 1926 against Kamenev, Zinovev and Trotsky. He used his position as Head of the Central Control Commission to discipline his opponents from departing Leninism and then in 1927 all three were expelled from the communist party. These are all examples of how he used others to help himself emerge as leader however I don’t think he would have been able to do this without the powerbases that he had, or he devious personality.

In conclusion we can see that Stalin’s political powerbases were probably the main reason as to why Stalin emerged as leader of the Soviet Leader in 1929. He was able to manipulate his powerbases to his advantage. He did this by promoting his supporters to key roles so that he would always have support within the communist party. However, I don’t think it was primarily down to his powerbases because he had quite a devious character, and I think that if he didn’t have the personality that he did he wouldn’t have been able to come with some of the devious things he did.

For example he gave Trotsky the wrong date to Lenin’s funeral, he always shifted alliances to go with the majority, and he tried to associate himself with Lenin as much as possible so that people would think that he and Lenin were basically one in the same. Obviously another factor was due to the alliances he made, which he used to help himself remove his opposition. I think this once again links to his very sly, devious personality as I don’t think that he would have been able to do the things he did do without it.

For example forming an alliance with Zinovev and Kamenev to get rid of Trotsky, then he formed an alliance with Bukharin to help remove Zinovev, Kamenev and Trotsky, and finally once the rest were out of the way he removed Bukharin for forming a faction. Quite surprisingly his personality seems to be the underlining similarity however I don’t think it played as big a part as his political powerbases. That’s why I think that his political powerbases were the main reason for Stalin’s emergence as leader of Soviet Russia by the end of 1929.

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