“There is nothing higher than the title of member of the party whose founder and leader was Comrade Lenin…
…He always looked on it as an essential link for strengthening the revolutionary movement in the countries of the West and the East, an essential link for facilitating the victory of the working people of the whole world over capitalism”.
After the death of Vladimir Lenin in 1924, Iosif (Joseph) Stalin expressed these sweet sentiments in speech while simultaneously promoting himself as the worthy leader to finish Lenin’s work and lead Russia through the transition from revolution to socialism. But behind his warm words and closed doors, Stalin was exploiting a national tragedy and quietly making power grabs within the Party.
However, Stalin was the not the only Communist leader seeking power. During Lenin’s health decline in 1922, which was caused by a series of strokes, several members of the Politburo lusted to replace the Father of the Bolshevik Revolution. Within this small assembly of Party executives, Stalin, Zinoviev, and Kamenev formed a triumvirate alliance against Leon Trotsky to oppose his claim as Lenin’s natural heir.
Trotsky was regarded as Lenin’s right hand man due to his aid in the “October coup and management of the Red Army in the Civil War“. Despite his commitment and service to the Party, Trotsky did not join the Communist Party until 1917, and was attacked by the triumvirate for not being an “Old Bolshevik” . Trotsky responded by publishing the essay “The Lessons of October”, condemning Zinoviev and Kamenev for not supporting Lenin’s October insurrection.
After squashing Trotsky’s influence in the Party and eliminating him as a threat to his power, Stalin turned on his allies, Zinoviev and Kamenev, when they began to voice criticisms of his leadership. Stalin created a new partnership with Nickolai Bukharin, recently promoted in the Politburo, and continued to isolate Zinoviev, Kamenev, and Trotsky until they were rejected from the Central Committee in October 1927, and eventually expelled from the Party. Though Kamenev and Zionoviev were later readmitted after publicly reading letters of apology, Trotsky was exiled from the Soviet Union in 1929.
After Lenin’s death, Stalin used a campaign of nationalism and idealism to appeal to the public, while politically isolated and crippling any potential threat within the Communist Party. He even buried Lenin’s Testament, which criticized the members of the Politburo as generally flawed and unfit to lead, until the document’s influence could not change Stalin’s course of action. Capitalizing on the death of a nationally adored figure, Stalin preyed on the country’s tender emotional state and used Party factions and instability to assert his own dominance and tear down all opposition.
- Iosif Stalin On The Death Of Lenin quotation
- Britannica: The Struggle For Succession
- JSTOR The Soviet Succession: Lenin and Stalin
- Lenin’s Succession
- Rise of Joseph Stalin
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