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Assess the Reasons for Stalin's Consolidation of Power.
Stalin’s position in the Communist Party and the roles he held was the most significant reason why he was able to consolidate his power. Stalin’s ability to defeat opposition within the party and to manipulate their weaknesses also played a part, but this was not as important as the positions he held. Stalin’s position within the party in fact greatly aided his ability to defeat opposition. All of Stalin’s efforts to consolidate his power were made possible because of his role within the party.
Stalin’s positions in the party allowed him great control over and influence over the party,thus putting him in a strong position to consolidate his power. Stalin held the positions of General Secretary, Head of the Workers’ and Peasants’Inspectorate, Liaison Officer between Politburo and Orgburo, and People’s Commissar for Nationalities. These positions afforded Stalin knowledge of all party affairs, and he was able to compose profiles on everyone, which he would be able to use for his advantage. In particular, Stalin’s role as General Secretary greatly improved his ability to consolidate his power. There had been a significant surge in party numbers, from 340,000 in 1922 to 600,000 in 1925,an endeavour started by Lenin. All the new members were screened before they were granted admission. Those responsible for the screening were mainly people who were members of the Secretariat. Members of the Secretariat were under the direct control of Stalin because of his role as General Secretary. Thus, Stalin was able to ensure that loyalty to him was a criteria of membership. This eventually helped Stalin to develop a loyal following, which would be relied on in votes. This loyal following created by monitoring who was allowed to become a member of the party greatly helped Stalin to consolidate his power, and it was his role of General Secretary that presented the opportunity for Stalin to do so.
Stalin’s roles within the party also helped him to defeat his opposition, thereby consolidating his power. Stalin, as General Secretary, Head of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspectorate, People’s Commissar for Nationalities, and Liaison Officer between Politburo and Orgburo,had control and influence over innumerable people. It was well within his power to force people to resign and appoint new people. This was the case with Zinoviev and Kamenev; Stalin had dismissed them from the Politburo after he had maneuvered the party away from following their ideas. Stalin’s authority, which was granted to him by his numerous positions within the party, allowed him to manipulate who held key positions within the party and to force those who opposed him to resign, thereby consolidating his power. Stalin’s positions within the party were the most important reason why he was able to consolidate his power; he was impossible to oppose since he was at the seat of power, and he was able to create a loyal following by exerting his powers of patronage.
Stalin’s ability to defeat his opponents also helped him to consolidate his power, though this alone was not as important as the powers Stalin had because of his positions within the party. It was in fact Stalin’s roles within the party that aided in his ability to defeat his opponents. Stalin was able to manipulate divisions within the Politburo over Lenin’s New Economic Policy to rid himself of opposition from both the ‘Left’and the ‘Right’ communists; Kamenev and Zinoviev were defeated in 1926, and Bukharin and Tomsky were defeated by 1929. In doing so, Stalin was able to ensure that he could reign over the party virtually unopposed. This was only made possible, however, because of the roles Stalin possessed. As a member of the Politburo, Stalin already had influence over the party and was a contender for leadership. Stalin was able to dismiss Kamenev and Zinoviev after defeating them in a vote due to his position as General Secretary and Head of Workers’and Peasants’ Inspectorate. Stalin was able to strengthen his chances of winning votes because he was successfully able to build a following through vetting new members of the party – an ability granted to him because of his role as General Secretary. Once Stalin had established the official party policy, he could accuse his opponents of Factionalism, and expel them from the party. Thus, whilst Stalin’s defeat of his opponents did help him consolidate his power, this was only made possible because of his positions, which enabled him to build a following and expel opponents. The defeat of Stalin’s opponents alone, through manipulating divisions on the NEP, was not as important as the positions Stalin held in consolidating his power.
Lastly, weaknesses in Stalin’s opposition –particularly Trotsky – aided in Stalin’s consolidation of power, though this was the least important reason. Trotsky was unambitious, and did not make areal bid for power. He had failed to build a following like Stalin had, and the party feared him because of his radical ideas. Trotsky supported Permanent Revolution, whilst Stalin supported Socialism in One Country. Trotsky’s views were unpopular at the time, and this prevented Trotsky from gaining much support. Trotsky also irritated members of the Politburo, such as Kamenev and Zinoviev. This weakness assisted Stalin in gaining support and consolidating his power, though it was only a slight benefit, and Stalin’s position within the party and his cunning defeat of his opponents played a much bigger part in consolidating his power.
In conclusion, the most important reason Stalin was able to consolidate his power was his position within the party.This allowed Stalin to indoctrinate new members to ensure he had a strong following, and enabled Stalin to appoint people to key positions who would be loyal to him. His skillful manipulation of the divisions within the party to defeat his opponents did help him to consolidate his power, though this was only made possible by his position in the party, which ensured he had sufficient support to win votes, and subsequently dismiss the losers of the votes, accusing them of Factionalism. The weaknesses of his opponents –particularly Trotsky - was only a slight benefit to Stalin, and merely facilitated Stalin in disposing of his opponents, though it was not the cause. Considering this, it is clear that Stalin’s position within the party was paramount in consolidating his power, and enabled him to defeat his opponents. Without holding such positions, Stalin would not have been able to reliably defeat his opponents by relying on a foundation of support from new members, and subsequently exercising his power to replace his opponents.