There are a number of reasons as to why Stalin was allowed to establish a dictatorial rule in Russia, which can be attributed largely to his skill and achievements of a politician. The political manoeuvrings of Stalin that allowed him to gain political influence were fundamental in terms an increased official authority. Stalin demonstrated excellent initiative in both cultivating his own popularity and exploiting the failures of his opponents, but we should not overlook the power he attained due to the appeal and success of his policies and ideals.
These factors combined allowed Stalin a strong basis for the establishment of a dictatorial regime, but it was likely his use of terror, corruption and propaganda that finally rendered him a position of unchallenged dictator. The political manoeuvrings of Stalin that allowed him to gain victory over his rivals was the first important step in his rise to power that preceded his dictatorship. The first instance of this may be seen in Stalin’s pure deviousness in achieving an advantage over his main competitor, Trotsky.
Stalin informed Trotsky of the incorrect date for Lenin’s funeral, meaning that Trotsky missed the funeral on the 26th of January 1924 and appeared to lack respect for his predecessor, while Stalin acted as chief mourner. The further destroying of Lenin’s ‘Final Testament’ that warned of Stalin gaining too much power and various other criticisms ensured that Stalin retained a flawless background, keeping him the most eligible candidate for power.
These portrayals of Stalin as being Lenin’s truest comrade-in-arms and thus chosen successor would have been very helpful in his bid to gain a dictatorship, given the atmosphere of near ‘Lenin Worship’ of the time. His series of lectures on ‘The Foundations if Leninism’ at the Moscow Communist University in April 1924 would have further rendered his image as being an expert and informed, logical successor for Lenin’s dictatorship.
Through this establishment of Stalin as the dominant, most dedicated Bolshevik, we can see why he was able to establish himself as a future dictator. In the lead up to Lenin’s death, Stalin had risen to prominence with several boring but highly important and influential roles, those of Commissar for Nationalities, membership of the Politburo and Orgburo, as well as the Commissariat of Workers’ and Peasants Inspection.
These made Stalin a well-known and reliable character within the Party bureaucracy which undoubtedly lent him much support in his eventual bid for dictatorship, however it was his post of General Secretary of the Party’s Central Committee in 1922 that allowed him true political manipulation. He was able to control party membership and allocation of roles, meaning that supporters of his rivals were frequently assigned remote posts or denied membership.
A new generation of ‘Stalinist’ politicians dominated the Politburo and Central Committee, and later on allowed him to conduct great purges to ‘cleanse’ the party of any remaining opposition. The fact that no other Bolshevik at this time could rival Stalin’s political weaponry made his potential for dictatorship unsurpassable, and it is through his ability to alter the party machinery that he was able to expel the competition of Zinoviev, Kamenev and Trotsky from the Party and found an unchallenged dictatorship.
The final aspect of Stalin’s political manoeuvrings that saw him rise to dictatorship lies in his exploitation of his opponents’ errors. It is widely considered that Trotsky’s largest flaw was an excess of confidence and self-assuredness, echoing Lenin’s departing opinion in the ‘Final Testament’, and as such he likely didn’t make a true effort in the competition to succeed nor acknowledge the calibre of his rivals, thinking them beneath him.
An example of Stalin’s utilising of such a flaw may be seen in Trotsky’s criticism of the ‘New Economic Policy’ in 1924, a misreading of the environment of exaltation surrounding Lenin’s death that Stalin had created. The death of Kirov, too, was used by Stalin to his own ends. Though the circumstances under which Kirov died are uncertain, his death on the 1st of December 1934 acted as an excuse for Stalin to initiate the Great Purge. Fourteen men were executed, and further rivals were imprisoned on charges pertaining to his death, giving the undeniable impression that he was completely in charge.
It is through this political opportunism that Stalin was able to cement his dictatorship, taking every opportunity to assert himself and meaning that he surpassed any serious opposition within a few years of Lenin’s death. The subsequent placing of competent supporters in the positions of Kirov and those whose deaths followed soon meant the entirety of Russia was at the order of Stalin, his authority reaching to all corners of the Government and proving the dominance of an undeniable dictatorship.
Stalin’s control and manipulation of the public was achieved through a combination of terror and propaganda, the compliance of the public just as important as that of politicians in the formation of a dictatorship. Perhaps Stalin’s greatest point of likeability that would have lent him initial support lies within his image as a dedicated, simplistic peasant, the son of a shoemaker and married to an old Bolshevik’s daughter.
This contrasted very favourably with the rest of the party that consisted mainly of intellectuals, making him more a ‘man of the people’, an ideal candidate to embrace the role of dictating the dictatorship of the proletariat. Further efforts in propaganda include the formation of the ‘Cult of Lenin’, in which Lenin was near-deified, reinforced by Stalin’s founding of ‘The Lenin Institute’ in January 1924, giving the people the impression that he, like them, considered Lenin to be the epitome of revolutionary spirit, and would do all he could to continue tradition of a Leninist dictatorship.
These exercises of impressing propaganda upon the public would have led the population of Russia to feel Stalin the most relatable of any potential successor, making the acceptance and imposition of Stalin’s dictatorship an easy one, and lowering the resistance and opposition that someone taking on such a position may otherwise be concerned about. The appointment of younger, Stalinist politicians into important posts after the purges further made Stalin’s cause relatable to an enthused and indoctrinated younger generation.
This assisted in the maintenance of Stalin’s absolute dictatorship and allowed him to interpret Leninism on a more abstract level and manipulate it to his own means, as younger politicians would not be well-versed in traditional, orthodox Leninism, and felt less comfortable confronting their leader about it. Though Stalin’s image and propaganda captured the support of many, the defeat of any semblance of opposition could only be achieved through terror.
Throughout the initial stages of Stalin’s influence as a dictator, many kept in line for fear of losing their posts, however in order to ensure complete compliance at all levels of society, it was deemed necessary to embark on the aforementioned ‘Great Purge’. Though useful in assisting political manoeuvrings of Stalin, perhaps the greatest value lay within the terrorisation of nation that would surely result in submission. As soon as 1935, party members were being expelled, imprisoned, executed and exiled for ‘counter-revolutionary activity’ and a variety of charges of that nature.
These always resulted in confessions (likely because of threats of torture and towards family), which held further usefulness in the consolidation of Stalin’s dictatorship, as a sense of security was instilled within the public upon the dealing with of ‘enemies of the state’. Through the executions of hundreds of thousands and the imprisonment of ten million by 1940, Stalin ensured that only his staunchest, truest supporters were left alive, people now made an extra effort to be a ‘good Bolshevik’ and would be too scared to challenge Stalin on any level.
Though the purges undoubtedly damaged Russia in terms of both the workforce and innovation seen over the period, there is no denying that a base of strong, propaganda-based support, combined with a fear to feel any differently, made Stalin a dictator with no match. However, the merit of Stalin’s leadership and policies that gained him a significant following of genuine supporters during the course of his career was an essential factor in the establishment of the dictatorship.
The first aspect of ‘Stalinism’ that appealed to his followers lay in the policy of ‘socialism in one country’. It was an initial assumption that the revolution of Russia would result in the subsequent downfall of international capitalism, a founding principle of Leninism. When this did not happen, Trotsky and his followers wished to pursue it in a more pro-active fashion, however Stalin took potentially risked the stability of his dictatorship through proposing a more isolated policy, in which Russia would not rely on international aid and pursue self-sufficiency.
It was the appeal of relief from a decade of wars, as well as having minimal involvement in an unstable Europe, that consolidated Stalin’s theory as the official view of the Soviet Government. The acceptance of this seemingly unorthodox theory granted Stalin a whole new level of authority and esteem that would lend itself to his bid for dictatorship, and the encouragement of ‘influentials’ gave him confidence and support in his later endeavours. The constitution of 1924, the work of Stalin and his supporters, was a further example of support gained through legitimate means.
The birth of the USSR was one important development, universal suffrage seeming to be the other. These were both inkeeping with the widely-held ideals of a proletarian dictatorship, and Stalin won a lot of support for his dictatorship through fulfilling the desires of the people. Stalin’s bid to return to more traditional communism was received with great enthusiasm by many who had felt the New Economic Policy was too far a deviation from the principles of Marxism, as well as those that had felt it had fulfilled its purpose.
The planned economy detailed a series of 5-Year Plans, and while these quotas were not met at first, the incredible strides made brought Russia up to the standards of the European capitalist states, with such achievements as machinery output increasing four-fold, and the restoration of almost all pre-1914 outputs. The success of Stalin as a leader through his policies and the changes he made were fundamental to the development of his dictatorship, and it was because of his capability as a politician that he could achieve a political standing to exert his later efforts of terror and propaganda.
There are numerous aspects to the rise of Stalin that allowed him to achieve dominance as a dictator in Russia. The role of both propaganda and terror, especially in the latter years of his establishment, are undeniable factors in his rise though were only able to be exercised once Stalin had reached a level of respect and esteem in politics through his own achievements. It may be suggested that Stalin achieved a position of influence initially through political manoeuvrings and manipulation, and through this development was then able to capture the support of the people and remaining politicians through the merit of his policies.
Through a combination of support gained through successes enhanced by propaganda, and elements of terror to ensure that support was unconditional, Stalin established a dictatorship that could not be challenged. When this is focussed on the question and linked effectively, this is top class. You use examples well in places. The style is strong and you come to a fair conclusion. Your economic section loses focus a little and there is a drift into narrative in places.