How Did Stalin Become Leader of the USSR?

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How did Stalin become leader of the USSR?

Lenin’s death in 1924 created the chaos that helped Stalin rise to power. Lenin left behind him a Russia that required an almost perfect leader to guide it in the right direction after the chaos and turmoil that had it had witnessed when socialist party, the Bolsheviks, turned it upside down in the October Revolution of 1917. The regime in Russia was essentially a dictatorship and so the Russian people had no say in who would be their ruler. Therefore it was all down to what happened within the party.  There were several contenders to become Lenin’s successor. Trotksy, who seemed perhaps most likely to take over, was described by Lenin’s political testament as being “the most capable man in the Central Committee” with “outstanding ability”. He was the one who had led the Red Army to success in the Russian Civil War and he can also be credited for being the organiser of the October Revolution. Lenin probably favoured him but there was also Bukharin, who was very popular with the Russian people because of his pro-NEP policy and his more realistic approach to communism (concentrating on one country, gradual industrialisation…). Lenin described him as “the favourite of the whole party” in terms of his charming ways and general likeability. He also had a considerable amount of influence over public opinion thanks to his position as the editor of Pravda, the party’s paper. Another pair of strong contenders was Zinoviev and Kamenev who worked as a team, complimenting each well. Whilst Kamenev was a powerful, intellectual man who had experience, dating from the 1905 revolution, Zinoviev was a good orator who was good at getting things done. The last candidate was Josef Stalin. He seemed the least likely to succeed. Stalin worked by himself, in the middle of the party, going against Marx’s view that power should not be concentrated in one man’s hands. Compared to the others, Stalin did not really seem to compete in terms of his ability. Sukhanov, a member of the social revolutionary party at the time, described him as a “Grey Blur…the most eminent mediocrity”. Furthermore, Stalin lost Lenin’s support altogether after a couple of events. Firstly, when Stalin returned to his homeland, Georgia, on an assignment from Lenin, he left the country in such a state of violent terror that Lenin started looking upon him with caution and dislike. Secondly, Stalin infamously hurled abuse down the phone at Lenin’s wife, Kruspskaya, after she refused to arrange a meeting between the members of the Central Committee concerning Lenin’s testament. Lenin then added another paragraph to his testament saying that Stalin was “too rude” and all the wrong things for his position as general secretary and he suggested that he be removed from this post. So, after all this, how is it that in 1929, Stalin was the sole ruler of the USSR?

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One reason is that Stalin’s opposition (Lenin and the rest of the party) had a number of weaknesses. These weaknesses were to help Stalin in his climb to power. A number of these weaknesses were present well before Lenin died. The earliest came from the fact that Marx’s dialects didn’t clarify exactly how socialism was meant to be achieved so no one could accuse Stalin of going against communist principles in terms of how he became leader. Secondly, the party had never been very strong because there had always been a well defined split in between those on the ...

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