How important were the divisions among his opponents in explaining Stalin's rise to supreme power during the 1920s?

Published: March 21, 2017

The division among his opponents played the primary role in helping Stalin to rise to supreme power in the wake of a political situation that made it less probable for him to come to power. The disagreement among his opponents arose because Marx whom the communists closely followed did not describe accurately as to how a communist society should be organized. The only fact that was known to all was ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ had to be established that is, workers could run the state and the economy in their own interest. Lenin had also failed to establish this as while framing the New Economic Policy he himself departed from the socialist principles. As a result, after his death his successors were divided in their opinions on the next course of action. The two rival groups were the right wing of the party led by Bukharin and the left whose supporters were Trotsky, Kamenev and Zinoviev. The two views were as follows:

  • Bukharin felt it was important to consolidate the Soviet power in Russia based on a prosperous peasantry and with gradual industrialization. This was known as ‘socialism in one country.’ The supporters of Trotsky initially in the left front, Kamenev and Zinoviev, supported Bukharin in this policy. Trotsky believed in revolution outside Russia termed as the permanent revolution. He wanted to involve the industrialized states of western Europe in the industrialization of Russia.
  • The other area of difference was retaining of the New Economic Policy. Bukharin wanted to continue the NEP, but his earlier supporters now took Trotsky’s side to oppose the NEP.

Stalin utilized this opposition in a very clever manner. Although he held no strong views on any of the issues raised, he took sides depending on the situation. For example, when the idea of ‘socialism in one country’ received majority support, he went with it so that Trotsky could be completely isolated from the opinion of the Politburo. When the members were further divided on the issue of retaining NEP, Stalin supported Bukharin and in the process eliminated both the other opponents by voting them off the Politburo. Eventually the Politburo was full of Stalin’s yes-men and Stalin and Bukharin became joint leaders. But Bukharin too did not survive for long. Stalin wittily changed his view on NEP stating that the dominant kulaks under this were holding back agricultural progress of the country. Then slowoly Bukharin was also voted off, leaving Stalin supreme. It was also a fact that his policies started gaining huge popularity and majority as they were genuine decisions.

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