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Impact of Lenin's Death

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

Ben Whitten

Positions in the Party

  • General Secretary: Controls the Politburo agenda, selects delegates for Party Congress, controls promotions and appointments within the party; could influenced the topics discussed in Politburo meetings, could fill Party Congress solely with his supporters, had the power the reward loyal people

  • Head of Rabkrin: Controls discipline in the Party; could investigate and sack anyone from the Party who opposed him

  • Head of the Red Army: Seen as a threat as Party members believed he may use the army to seize power, gained loyalty of army members, some of whom were Party members, however, many members of the army were not members of the Party and consequently could not attend Party Congress

  • Head of Media: Editor of Pravada (Communist magazine/newspaper); could publish own views and criticise views of others

  • Head of Petrograd Party: Loyalty of many in the Party

  • Head of Moscow Party: Loyalty of many in the Party

The contenders for the different positions include:

  • General Secretary and Head of Rabkin: Stalin

  • Head of the Red Army: Trotsky

  • Head of Media: Bukharin

  • Head of Petrograd Party: Zinoviev

  • Head of Moscow Party: Kamenev

Impact of the Party Positions

Stalin’s roles in the party were viewed as mundane and insignificant, however, these roles would ultimately gain him the power of patronage in the Party. In 1923, Stalin appointed approximately 30% of delegates to Party Congress, and this figure grew year by year; Stalin could increase his influence and control over important decisions. Few saw the impact and significance of Stalin’s roles until it was too late.

Trotsky’s role as the Head of the Red Army saw little real power – his role put on a facade and made him appear threatening in the party. Zinoviev and Kamenev saw support in their roles from the largest section of the Party, while Bukharin’s position helped him form public opinion.

Ultimately however, Stalin’s power of patronage saw extension throughout the Party and he was able to undermine any opponents even with respect to their roles.

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