Close

09/08/2019

To what extent was Stalin’s “socialism in one country” ideology responsible for Stalin becoming?

QUESTION
To what extent was Stalin’s “socialism in one country” ideology responsible for Stalin becoming?
To what extent was Stalin’s “socialism in one country” ideology responsible for Stalin becoming Lenin’s successor by 1927? This is my Extended Essay research question for those of you in IB and I was having trouble with writing on it and was wondering what a good approach would be? ANY THOUGHTS OR SUGGESTIONS ARE GREATLY APPRECIATED =] This is how my approach is looking so far: discussing why there was no designated heir, talking about Stalin’s role in the party, then the same thing with Trotsky, and then comparing their rivalry of Stalinism vs. permanent revolution.

ANSWER
Broadly speaking there were two philosophies – the Stalin wing which preferred to concentrate on building socialism in the USSR before exporting it and the Trotskyite wing which wanted to internationalise the Bolshevik revolution and make the USSR strong by having socialist allies elsewhere in Europe.

However I’m not convinced that Stalin became General Secretary and leader because he won the argument. His power base was as secretary to the Party and that meant he had a great deal of bureaucratic power and influence. He knew who was and wasn’t on his side and the job enabled him to promote allies at the expense of those who were allies of Trotsky. Lenin trusted Stalin because he was a good bureaucrat, but there were signs that Lenin began to distrust Stalin’s motives. After Lenin suffered a stroke in 1922 he began to write his “Last Testament” which was critical of Stalin and his ambitions. Stalin forged an alliance with Kamenev and Grigory Zinoviev against Leon Trotsky. These allies prevented Lenin’s Testament from being revealed to the Twelfth Party Congress in April 1923 and also undermined further Trotsky’s standing in the USSR and Communist party.

So to my mind you need to focus less on the ideological argument (I’m not saying that it’s irrelevant) and emphasise more Stalin’s long-term objectives. The short-term stuff was just a means to an end. Essentially Stalin outflanked and out-organised Trotsky. That in itself was some feat as Trotsky’s major power base was to control the Red Army and through that he held a lot of power.