Stalin Takes Power 1924–1929  



When Lenin died in 1924, everybody expected Trotsky to take over the leadership.   Instead, Stalin schemed his way into power, using his position as General Secretary, and a series of ruthless political moves .



Reed Brett on Stalin's rise to power


Stalin and Trotsky - a comparison

Prof Rempel on Stalin vs Trotsky

Frank E Smitha - online book VERY hard


Historiography - recent attempts to rehabilitate Stalin's reputation.



Lenin died in 1924.   Everyone thought Trotsky, the brilliant leader of the Red Army would become leader – especially as Lenin left a Testament (will) saying that Stalin was dangerous and should be dismissed.  

But it was Stalin who took power.



Stalin was made General Secretary of the Communist Party in 1922.   Everybody thought it was a dull, unimportant job.   Stalin used it to get his supporters into important positions.


Trotsky was unpopular

Trotsky was brilliant, but nobody liked him:

  • they thought he was too big-headed.

  • Secretary Stalin told him the wrong date for Lenin’s funeral, so he missed it – this made him more unpopular.

  • Trotsky also wanted to try to cause a world revolution; many Russians feared that this would ruin Russia.


Politically ruthless

The Politburo was divided into two halves.  

The Leftists (Zinoviev and Kamenev) wanted world revolution, and to abolish the NEP, but they hated Trotsky because they thought he was too ambitious.

The Rightists (Bukharin, Rykov and Tomsky) wanted to continue the NEP until the USSR was stronger.


Stalin played one side against the other to take power:

  1. First, he allied with Zinoviev and Kamenev to cover up Lenin’s Will and to get Trotsky dismissed (1925).   Trotsky went into exile (1928).

  2. Then, he advocated ‘Socialism in one country’ (he said that the USSR should first become strong, then try to bring world revolution) and allied with the Rightists to get Zinoviev and Kamenev dismissed (1927).   Stalin put his supporters into the Politburo.

  3. Finally, he argued that the NEP was uncommunist, and got Bukharin, Rykov and Tomsky dismissed (1929).


Source A

I am not sure that Comrade Stalin will always use his power properly.  

Comrade Trotsky, on the other hand, is distinguished by his outstanding ability.

Lenin’s Will (1923).


Source B

Stalin (right) with Lenin.   Stalin was one of the people who looked after Lenin in his last illness.





Source C

Later Soviet propaganda – such as this 1936 poster – portrayed Stalin as the natural successor to the great Communist heroes Marx, Engels and Lenin.



Draw a timeline, 1919–1929, to illustrate Stalin’s rise to power.