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Debate on Foreign Policy

Modern History (Year 12) - Stalin and Trotsky's Struggle

Ben Whitten

USSR and the World

In 1917, Lenin and the Bolsheviks believed that a revolution in Russia would result in revolutions taking place globally; they assumed that Russia would be one communist country among many. By 1921, it was clear that a world revolution was of limited chance.

In 1924, divisions over Russia’s role in the world order emerged; Bukharin and Stalin advocated for “Socialism in one country”, while Trotsky argued for permanent revolution. In 1925, Zinoviev and Kamenev backed permanent revolution alongside Trotsky following their break from the right-wing side of the Party.

Left-Wing Solution

Permanent revolution. No socialist society can exist solely on its own. Communist Russia would only be secure once successful revolutions have occurred in other countries across the globe. Aggressive foreign policy would be implemented.

Right-Wing Solution

Socialism in one country. Socialism can be solely built in Russia; alone. Russia will lead the rest of the world to adopt a Communist ideology with time. There would be no immediate need to incite revolutions in other countries.

Impact of Debate

Debate over foreign policy would be crucial to the outcome of leadership struggle. The “Socialism in one country” perspective saw greater appeal to communists, as it;

  • Appealed to Russian nationalism as it stressed Russia’s importance in the world as the first communist country

Permanent revolution appeared inefficient, as;

  • Communists felt this approach suggested that communism in Russia would never work as no revolution in Europe had occurred

  • It was seen as more dangerous as many believed it would lead to war.

The debate over foreign policy placed the left-wing members of the party at a disadvantaged. Right-winged Stalin and Bukharin took the opportunity to use the debate in order to discredit Trotsky, along with Zinoviev and Kamenev.

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