Stalin, the "Man of Steel" is known for his use of terror during his legendary rule, the kind of leader that would stop at almost nothing to accomplish his goals. Ruthless, ambitious and cunning are among words commonly used to describe him. However, despite the fear he invoked among the people of Russia he did indeed start jump the economy and force the backward economy of Russia into the modern world of technology. With the two underlying themes of collectivization and industrialization he was able to give Russia the push which it lacked for so many years. The question of Stalin's adequacy as a state leader still remains.
Even though there were drastic improvements in terms of the economy, the population of Russia was still quite distraught. During his rule there was famine, propaganda, poor living conditions and massive terror. This was due to the "iron fist" method of rule Stalin incorporated in his system of government. Why then did Stalin gain power of the Bolshevik party in the first place? Among the individuals qualified for the position, the greatest struggle for power existed between Stalin and Trotsky. The two were as different as night and day, Trotsky having been born into a stable family was well educated and excelled intellectually while Stalin lacked these qualities.
The main key to Stalin's success in gaining power after Lenin's death was held in his position as General Secretary within the Party, as well as his ability to plan and take advantage of situations and circumstances. The Bolsheviks were a revolutionary group, which were not quite yet familiar with the aspects of controlling a government. By to the time when they gained power, most of their efforts were put into the revolution preparation. After finding Russia in their hands in 1917, they were making the handbook for the government through trial and error as they went along. Lacking a firm structure in their government system allowed Stalin to be promoted and helped in the concealment of his rise to power.
Amidst all the chaos during the Bolshevik Party's gain of power hasty decisions were made and overlooked. Lenin needed organization within the party. He needed followers who would carry out orders to the very last details and who would not question his decisions. After Lenin's death there was an even greater need for organization because he had failed to lay the foundation for the party's operation before his death. Because of the panic, this need for immediate rule and control were in great demand. And it was Stalin who was in such a position to provide those things.
Stalin knew that he had the chance to excel because of these distractions, the Party needed his help and cooperation. Knowing this he worked hard to display his organizational skills to Lenin, and therefore was promoted frequently. Had it been a traditional form of government, he, with his Georgian and lower class origin would not have had the opportunity to be promoted throughout his career. However, Lenin noticed Stalin's hard work and his obedient nature towards the good of the Party. These qualities, though not the same kind of intellect found with Trotsky, were essential to the Party's growth at the time, and therefore worked to Stalin's advantage. With his rapid acceleration to a place of power, Stalin realized that great power was coming into his hands, and used it to his advantage.
By holding the position of General Secretary he had access to personal files, and was then in a place to appoint people of his choice to positions within the Party and government. He also had the authority over 700 officials; even the secret police came under his control. He held such a major amount of power in that title, so much that he was able to "build up vast local and national bases of support." By doing so, certain people owed their posts to Stalin and dared not oppose him, he had their support and their votes. There was no decision that he would make that they would not support. Obviously this was no mistake.
Stalin may not have known that such power and influence was coming in his direction but after everyone had overlooked it he was already realizing the possibilities that lay before him. After this realization and when he was settled in his post of General Secretary Stalin then used his cunning and organization skills to defeat his opponent Trotsky in the struggle for power after Lenin's death. However, though there was a steady climb in Stalin's case it did not go by totally unnoticed. Lenin himself stated that Stalin's power was alarming in the famous "Lenin's Testament."' Having become General Secretary, Comrade Stalin has concentrated enormous power in his hands, and I am not sure that he always knows how to use that power with sufficient caution' and further 'Stalin is too rude... Therefore I suggest to the comrades that they should find a way to remove Stalin from that position'" This letter written by Lenin was not published for public eyes; not even Stalin's opponents had taken steps toward its publication.
This was indeed a distinct window of opportunity for Trotsky, a lethal weapon he held but did not use. The reason for the letter's concealment was because Stalin's exposure would have led to open conflict and maybe the destruction of the Party. The Party which took so long to build up, and also the Party that meant too much to so many people. This leads to the weaknesses in Trotsky's approach towards Stalin. He was also quite an adequate organizer, but in the wrong area.
While Stalin focused his efforts toward the Party, in gaining control there, Trotsky was developing the Red Army. This was unfortunate, for the organization in terms of the Party was a leading factor for Stalin's victory over Trotsky. "Stalin could win by means of the Party, while Trotsky could only start another civil war." States historian Hellmut Andics. This failure to direct his talents towards the proper direction caused a great rivet in his platform. Although he is described as being among "intellectuals, inspired theoreticians, brilliant writers, nimble debaters" Trotsky still lost the battle in the end. Why was this? Despite these qualities which Trotsky possessed in abundance he failed to apply them correctly.
He often lacked good judgement on his part and in turn, the tables were turned on his because of it. A prime example of this lack in judgement was his hesitation to publish Lenin's testament. When he finally decided to use it as a weapon against Stalin it ended up working against him in the end. For his denial of its precious existence showed great hypocrisy on his part.
This was an unfortunate situation due to his decision to keep the letter contained. Another oversight on Trotsky's behalf was the failure to realize the importance of public appearances after Lenin's death. His declining of the opportunity to make a major speech at Lenin's funeral in January 1924 was nothing compared to his actual failure to attend at all! This absence was like a direct insult to Lenin, and the party. Therefore, Trotsky only tarnished his reputation further while Stalin took the honour of giving the oration at Lenin's funeral. The people of Russia saw Stalin as a supreme man who was true to Lenin until the bitter end.
This situation with Lenin's funeral brings up the point of loyalty. Through his planing tactics Stalin was able to secure his reputation as the loyal Leninist. Being fully aware for the people's fondness for Lenin he promised them the continuation of Lenin's tradition through his oration at Lenin's funeral. "In leaving us, Comrade Lenin commanded us to keep the unity of out Party as the apple of out eye. We swear to thee, Comrade Lenin, to honour thy command." This loyalty Stalin portrayed was also evident as he gave his undivided support when Lenin ordered the Bolsheviks to severe the ties with other parties in order to launch a "takeover " of power. While Trotsky was amongst those who opposed the idea, who wanted to become stronger as a party before staging a Bolshevik coup, Stalin despised him for his resistance.
This image of loyalty was another major factor Trotsky failed to establish and seeing that Lenin was practically a god in Russia, support for him and his ideas was essential to the winning of the people's personal favor. This is further illustrated in a more general sense. Stalin's past and upbringing had given him a different attitude towards the world than that of Trotsky's. Stalin was a master at manipulating the thoughts of the people, using his practicality to relate to the peasants and workers. After Lenin's death there were many ideas as to what was best for Russia. Trotsky believed that Russia would not be able to recover from their problems without foreign assistance.
However, Stalin twisted this idea around and stated that the people only needed to depend on themselves and contribute hard work in order to revive the condition of the state. Therefore, he made people think of Trotsky as a "coward and opportunist" and that he was a man who did not believe in the strength of the soviet population. On the other hand there was Stalin, a model follower of Lenin and Leninism, exactly what the people loved and wanted. This support from the public was also an important element to the success of Stalin.
Coming from a low class family he could easily relate to and understand the needs of the people. Alternatively we have Trotsky, the son of a well off landowner who showed prevalent signs of great intelligence and outstanding military skills, this being evident in his Red Army's defeat of the White Allies. However, the uneducated peasants, who were also the grand majority of the population could not begin to relate with the sophisticated theories of Trotsky. Stalin's purely political and practical tactics were much more suited to them.
This also brings us to the point where we can discuss the ignorance of Trotsky's ideology in the opinion of Max Eastman. "He is full of his own sense of the purposes and ideas of others which would make him adroit in the achievement of his own. He behaves at times with the blundering presumptuousness of a child." This particular comment is highly contradictory because there is just too much evidence of Trotsky's outstanding performance. He may have made mistakes, but he was an educated, experienced and close follower of Lenin. What he did was for the benefit of the state, for if he worked purely for personal power and recognition he would have used his intellectual stamina to defeat Stalin. Trotsky was not the kind of man who would wish suffering upon his people; so many times he had stood up in the battlefield to defend them.
His ideas were good ones, just that the people could not see anything besides Leninism. By being unable to relate to the peasants of Russia, Trotsky set himself far apart from the people whom he was supposed to be in charge of. Despite his drastic contrasts with the Russian peasants the greatest failure of Trotsky by far, was his inability to utilize situations to his advantage. Stalin had jumped at the chances his position as General Secretary and provided. Securing his place in the party by personally appointing his colleagues, guaranteeing the party's support for his ideas and decisions. By seizing power at the early stage, even before Lenin's death, Stalin displays a sort of cunning for masterful planning.
Establishing himself when he had the power to set the foundation for his rise to power later on. Trotsky held a vast amount of potential as well, but he failed to manipulate circumstances to his advantage. It is commonly thought that Trotsky was Lenin's preferred, having supported and worked so closely to him throughout his career. This was true, though his absence at Lenin's funeral arose many questions regarding Trotsky's loyalty towards Lenin the fact underneath all the questions was that Trotsky admired Lenin above anyone else. "If Lenin was the architect of the Revolution, Trotsky was the master builder." States historian Michael Lynch. And this clearly illustrates the close and respected relationship Lenin and Trotsky had together personally and professionally.
In addition there are so many questions as to Trotsky's behavior concerning the struggle for power. Why did he hesitate to make Lenin's testament known to the public? He being fully aware that the contents would be a fatality blow to Stalin's platform. These are questions we would not have to ask in the first place, had Trotsky handled circumstances with better care and judgement. The irony of the situation being the fact that he obviously did not lack intellectual skills, on the contrary he knew very well the situation and the effects and the consequences of Stalin's coming to power. "He is needed by all of them; by the tired radicals, by the bureaucrats, by the Nep men, the upstarts, by all the worms that are crawling out of the upturned soil of the manured revolution. He knows how to meet them on their own ground; he speaks their reputation of an old revolutionary.
He has will and daring. Right now he is organizing around himself the sneaks of the Party, the artful dodgers." But why then, after such insightful thought does he not attack? Militarily speaking Trotsky could conquer but on political terms he failed to excel. Trotsky seemed aware that he was not quite designed for the role of Party leader, the monotonous work it demanded. His writing is a reflection of his awareness of the situation, not his ignorance. However, this is where Stalin took advantage, being used to hard work and using his ability, not his intelligence to excel, he was able to take the lead from Trotsky. Knowing that the peasants of Russia needed practicality not dreams.
Stalin's cunning in politics and his careful thought and manipulation of situations by far gave him his advantage over Trotsky. This is the main opinion from many historians, the idea of Stalin's manipulation and cunning being the vital ingredients in his rise to power. By being able to utilize his influential position as General Secretary he masterfully paved the road to his rise which was to come later on. With the use of his practical thought he was able to identify with the people of Russia and therefore could better serve them. He was aware of the qualifications and steps required in the gaining of power over the Party and he took those required steps to achieve his goal.
This is where Trotsky had failed, with all his intellect and organizational skills where the military was concerned he lacked judgement concerning critical situations such as the publication of Lenin's testament. As he was a military genius he made considerable reputation for himself, as one of Lenin's leading member and as a mass contributor to the success of the Bolshevik Party. However, he was not designed for politics, nor was he experienced in the monotonous work required for that area, an area in which Stalin excelled. It is very natural to look at the state that Russia was in today; and easily say that Trotsky was far more suited for the position of power for many reasons. He was educated, he was Lenin's right hand man, and was highly respected, and came from a respectable family.
However, the Party was in need of control, stability and a firm ruler. A powerful man to take control of the entire state, a man made of steel, that man was Stalin. Bibliography Andics, Hellmut. Rule of Terror. (Great Britain: Constable & Co Ltd, 1969) Eastman, Max. Since Lenin Died.
(Great Britain: White friars Press Ltd, 1925) Lynch, Michael. Stalin and Khrushchev The USSR, 1924-64. (Great Britain: Hodder & Stoughton, 1990) Lynch, Michael. Trotsky The Permanent Revolution. (Great Britain: Hodder & Stoughton, 1995) Wolfson, Robert.
Years of Change European History 1890-1945. (Great Britain: Hodder & Stoughton, 1978).