Observing his revolutionary background and other personal factors, Stalin was indeed a weak contender for the leader of Soviet Russia and lacked a strong, admirable past that perhaps people such as Trotsky did not. However, from 1924 to 1929, Stalin, with the use of manipulation, determination and tactical strategies, managed to emerge as leader of Soviet Russia. The reason as to why he created such an outcome is quite clearly an impressive doing, but what really worked in his favour and ultimately acquired him the position that eventually led to him becoming the totalitarian dictator he is infamously known for?
An important factor as to why Stalin was able to emerge as leader was due to the advantages that he had as a result of his position within the Communist Party. Stalin managed to obtain the position of Head of the Central Control Commission. His role presented him with the power to investigate and discipline members of the Party. He used this to the best of his manipulative ability by not only expelling corrupt officials, but by expelling those who disagreed and went against him ideologically.
Not only would this be to his advantage due to the fact he could rid of those who wouldn’t like to see him as leader, but it also strengthened the support and loyalty of the people within the party, thus providing him with a support base that indeed admired and thought highly of him. It is clear the Stalin knew by gaining the trust of those who had the power to ‘elect’ him as leader; he would be more favourable than the likes of Trotsky and Bukharin. His role within the Government also had a similar effect. Within the Sovnarkom, he was responsible for communicating with senior officials throughout the USSR, meaning he could once again take advantage of his position in order to gain great loyalty from those he was held responsible for. He was also able to not only expel those within the Party once again, but also within the government, reflecting the idea that he could increase his patronage and ensure that government workers who wanted to keep their jobs would remain loyal and not go against him.
Fixated at the left wing of the Party lay Trotsky, and at the right wing of the Party lay Bukharin. Stalin, however, made the decision to position himself at the centre. This was not out of being undecided, but yet another method that he believed would enhance and greater his chance of becoming leader of Soviet Russia; quite clearly, it worked and can therefore contribute to the reason as to why he did. He avoided taking any extreme positions on many of the diverse and complex issues, meaning the other contenders would have no reason to oppose him; by remaining in the middle, he suggested the idea that he believed both wings of the Party were rational and that he supported neither more than the other. He ensured that he made as few enemies as possible to secure any chance of him rising as leader. However, Stalin did oppose one contender more than the others to begin with- Trotsky. He intelligently yet cunningly attacked Trotsky by comparing him to the dictator Napoleon Bonaparte. This led to members of the party fearing that Trotsky would manipulate his position as head of the Red Army to become a military dictator. Stalin clearly attacked Trotsky first as he knew that he was a strong contender for the position of leader of Soviet Russia, so by eradicating the support he may have once obtained, he strengthened his own chances of emerging as leader.
Stalin was indeed a man who possessed great intelligence when it came to political knowledge; he knew that in order to have the ability to come out as Lenin’s replacement, he had to gain support from not only the members of the Party and government, but also the people in whom he was up against. His first action was the formation of the Triumvirate, which aimed to keep Trotsky out of power. Stalin formed the alliance with Zinoviev and Kamenev with the objective of helping to take down Trotsky as well as gaining their support which he most needed and therefore desired.
Stalin knew that by questioning Trotsky’s ideology as well as ensuring he was unable to master the power of the Party, he would eliminate all chances of him becoming leader, which would effectively lead to Stalin becoming the only real contender. The Triumvirate did in fact work in Stalin’s favour due to the fact that Zinoviev and Kamenev argued Stalin’s case when he faced the sack as a result of his rudeness and lack of tolerance as stated in Lenin’s testament. Had Stalin not made the decision to form an alliance with Zinoviev and Kamenev, he would have had little support and would have been sacked – preventing him from emerging as leader. This serves to prove that one reason as to why Stalin managed to become leader of Soviet Russia was due to the formation of the Triumvirate. Stalin progressively continued to attack Trotsky by ruining his reputation and turning as many people as possible against him in order to reduce the competition he faced.
Another reason as to why Stalin was able to emerge as leader of Soviet Russia was through the takedown and destruction of yet another possible contender- Bukharin. After the Triumvirate split, Stalin tactically formed a Duumvirate with Bukharin who was clearly his next victim of manipulation. He used Bukharin to help him prevent the left wing from seizing control, which not only allowed the left to be attacked, but also lured Bukharin into thinking he had the support from Stalin, which clearly wasn’t the case. Stalin knew that Bukharin was a man of intellect as he was known as the Party theorist, and so he took advantage of this to make up for his lack of authority as an intellectual. Stalin’s use of Bukharin was proven effective at the Fourteenth Party Congress. Bukharin easily demolished Zinoviev’s arguments in favour of world revolution, thus proving the Duumvirate was an effective move in contributing towards Stalin’s victory as leader. Stalin once again used his position as General Secretary to assist them, he was able to appoint the majority of the delegates who attended the Congress, which put his mind at ease knowing they would vote for himself and Bukharin. It’s clear that one of the main reasons as to why Stalin emerged as leader of Soviet Russia was due to his role within the Party and the government.
Stalin’s break with the NEP was yet another move that allowed him to become leader of Soviet Russia. He had managed to take down three of the possible contenders, and was now left to defeat Bukharin- something he had obviously planned from the start. Due to the fact the NEP began to fail, Stalin came to the realisation that if he wanted to emerge as leader, he would have to adopt the policies he once opposed- rapid industrialisation and agricultural collectivisation. His swing to the left is therefore a prime reason as to why the final contender was defeated. Stalin knew that with Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev removed, the supporters of the left wing had no leader and so it was his aim to gather their support to help him acquire that desired position. Stalin also coolly adopted radical economic ideas that were similar to that of War Communism, which allowed him to appeal to the heroic aspirations of many Communists who had never been fully reconciled to the alterations of the NEP. What made Stalin such a great contender was his flexibility, he purposely changed his ideas to fit the role that would gather as much support and as much loyalty as possible.
The final reasons as to why Stalin was able to emerge as leader of Soviet Russia was through ideological battle and tactical manoeuvring. Bukharin’s incompetence, which was brought about due to the increasing problems within the NEP, and the destruction of his theoretical prestige, simply enhanced the success of Stalin.
He was rapidly becoming a growing figure in ideological stature. He used this to produce The Foundations of Leninism which was widely read by new recruits to the Party. In doing this, he was appealing to yet more people and therefore gaining support as well as educating people in his ideas. It was short and simple to read, and due to the fact a vast majority of Russia’s population lacked much literary knowledge, they were able to read it with ease and were therefore influenced extensively. Stalin continued with his devious movements and manipulating plans by ensuring that the public were aware of Bukharin’s disagreements with the ‘idolised’ Lenin. He made it his job to ensure that every small disagreement was republished and discussed in the media. Stalin knew that by destroying Bukharin’s reputation as a Leninist, people would no longer support him and so would turn to Stalin as the newly desired leader. He also described Bukharin’s acts as Trotskyism – a truly clever choice of a word that would indeed turn any support away from Bukharin.
Stalin’s tactical manoeuvring were what finally and ultimately allowed him to take the title after much deliberation amongst the Party. Stalin was talented in the way that he knew when the perfect time was to retreat. It was once Bukharin won a victory against him at the Central Committee meeting in April that Stalin made the risky yet effective move of temporarily stopping grain requisitioning- this was quite clearly a popular decision amongst much of the population. Moreover, he used the deviousness of his personality to lure people into believing he had formed an alliance with Zinoviev and Kamenev. As well as this, he tactically managed to delay Bukharin’s plane twice. Stalin indeed knew what he was doing; his deviousness was nothing short of impressive and it clearly worked in his favour to gain the power in the end. It was perhaps Stalin’s deviousness that had allowed him to sail to victory. Zinoviev, Kamenev and Bukharin all fell for his tactics and only realised what he was doing when it was too late to alter the outcome; he was a true political figure.
To conclude, there are many reasons as to why Stalin was able to emerge as leader of Soviet Russia, but the most important reason is due to the deviousness that he possessed. Had he not been devious in ensuring he remained in the centre of the Communist Party for a large duration of time, or forming a Triumvirate with Zinoviev and Kamenev, and then a Duumvirate with Bukharin, he wouldn’t have accumulated a great deal of success. He was also devious in the way the he used his positions with the Party and government. His high positions enabled him to appoint those who he knew would support him and remain loyal to him, and additionally, expel those who disagreed with him or who he knew would not remain loyal. Stalin was indeed an intellect when it came to tactics and political aspects, and so it is understandable that he eventually emerged as the leader of Soviet Russia rather than the other contenders.