Stalin’s Rise to Power The Stalking Horse The First Great Bolshevik u-turn The New Economic Policy

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Stalin’s Rise to Power

  • The Stalking Horse

The First Great Bolshevik U-Turn The New Economic Policy

  • Bolsheviks Haemorrhaging support
    • War Communism not working
      • Workers - unmotivated
      • Peasants - requisitioning
    • Plummeting Industrial and agricultural output
    • Shortages due to World War, Revolution and Civil War
    • Disillusionment of masses (and many Socialists) as Communist Utopia fails to emerge
    • International Isolation complete
      • No state willing to support Bolsheviks
  • Lenin listens to rightists who call for a ‘temporary’ change in economic direction
  • “We are making economic concessions to avoid political concessions” Bukharin

New Economic Policy

  • What was the rationale behind the following factors of the NEP:
    • Grain Requisitioning Abolished
    • Small businesses allowed to operate
    • Money re-introduced
    • Industrial Trusts created

New Economic Policy

  • Grain Requisitioning Abolished
    • Surpluses beyond a quota could be sold freely (and at a profit)
  • Small businesses allowed to operate
    • Artisans and small concerns were allowed to operate once more.
    • Allowed to produce consumer goods
      • Realised that the state had neglected private consumer goods for state industries
        • No incentives to work if there is nothing to buy!
  • Money re-introduced
    • Rationing and barter was proving to be too inefficient and time consuming
    • Entrepreneurs were allowed to buy and sell
      • More efficient use of time as middlemen move goods from place of production to place of distribution
  • Industrial Trusts created

Ramifications of U-Turn

  • Most Communist economic policies had been jettisoned by the NEP
  • The about-turn was hard for many revolutionaries to accept
    • ‘Betraying the Revolution’ was a common phrase heard at the 10th Communist Party Congress in 1921
  • What effect did the Kronstadt revolt have on party delegates?

Ramifications of U-Turn

  • What effect did the Kronstadt revolt have on party delegates?
    • It made most waverers realise the dangerous forces still at work in Russia.
    • It made most of them rally to Lenin’s insistence that this was a temporary tactical withdrawal
    • They realised that any internal splits could be fatal to the Bolshevik party
  • 10th Party Congress agrees to pass a ‘ban on factions’
    • Once Party Policy had been decided by the Central Committee then all Communists had to accept it and not form factions to challenge it
    • Penalty for factionalism was expulsion from the party

Was the NEP a success: Agricultural Output

  • In Millions of Tonnes
  • Figures on page 112

Was the NEP a success: Industrial Output

  • Factory Production in millions of Roubles (1926 values)
  • Figures on page 112

Was the Capitalist-friendly NEP a success

  • Annoyingly for the Communists it was
    • Production of most goods reached pre-war levels at least
      • Production doubled between 1920 and 1923
      • State run industries recovered slower than privately run industries!
    • Incentives to work returned
      • Money was more efficient than ration books
      • There were products to buy again
        • More reason to work, buy, sell or trade!
  • Return of entrepreneurs and speculators
    • Nepmen!


  • Sell foodstuffs
  • at a profit in cities
  • Buy simple
  • manufactured
  • Goods in cities
  • Scoured villages
  • buying up all produce
  • Take to country
  • And sell at a
  • profit to
  • peasants

Economic Liberalisation allowed Bolsheviks to clamp down politically!

  • GPU created from Cheka
    • Arbitrary imprisonment and Death Penalty applied to political rivals
  • Gulags created
  • Censorship
    • All non-Bolshevik newspapers closed down
    • Glavlit created (Ministry of literature and publishing)
      • All works of art to be censored before publication
      • Anti-communist artists deported or sent to Gulags
  • Most Independent Republics re-conquered and returned to Communist control
    • Ukraine, Belorussia, Armenia, Azerbaijan
    • USSR in 1922
    • Georgia reconquered against Lenin’s wishes*

Economic Liberalisation allowed Bolsheviks to clamp down politically!

  • Orthodox Church Persecuted
    • One of the remaining Tsarist Pillars
    • Priests had criticised excesses of Civil War and Communists
    • 1922 Church ordered to sell relics to help with (War communism inspired ) Famine victims
      • Church sends money but refuses to sell holy relics
      • GPU take relics by force
        • Widespread disruption and disturbances
        • Priests and congregation killed, many sent to Gulags
  • Show Trials
    • Of SRs accused of plotting to kill Lenin
      • Mainly to hide inefficiencies of Cheka which had not identified Fannie Kaplan assassination Attempt
    • Farcical Court System
      • Biased Judge (Piatakov), hostile audience
    • SRs forced to confess guilt in court
      • Most were already in custody when alleged crimes took place!
      • Good Propaganda material
      • Useful for communists to blame failures on counter-revolutionaries
      • All 34 pronounced guilty and to be executed
        • 11 executed

Back in the Economic Sphere: Conspicuous Consumption

  • Some people were making huge profits!
    • Nepmen
    • Conspicuously spending their new wealth
      • Cars, drink, fashion, jewellery, clubs, brothels
      • Get rich quick wanted to show off their wealth!
        • Old bourgeoisie had been more subtle!
      • Corruption was endemic
        • Communist party officials were often complicit in allowing Nepmen into and out of cities
  • Old time communists becoming more concerned
  • Scissors Crisis of 1923
    • Industrial Prices rose as industrial production fell behind agricultural production
    • Therefore peasants began hoarding produce so that prices would rise
      • Creating an artificial shortage – so prices did rise!
    • Highly inflationary
    • Considered capitalist exploitation by Marxists

Bolshevik Centralisation

  • Look at page 119
    • Can you draw a simplified diagram to show the relationship of the Communist Party to the Soviet Government
    • How did the Communists come to dominate the Soviet Government?
  • Page 120
    • Write a simple paragraph explaining what was meant by the term ‘Democratic Centralism’

The Bolshevik Party’s Unexpected Crisis

  • Lenin had a minor stroke in 1921
    • The Central Committee and Lenin’s doctors agreed he work only so many hours a day
    • This frustrated the workaholic Lenin
  • He had a slightly more serious stroke in December 1922
    • He had his workrate cut again
    • He had time to consider what the Revolution would be like after his death!
      • Read and fully analyse Testament
      • How does it rate the contenders for his replacement
    • Lenin was beginning to distrust Stalin
      • Over Georgia highhandedness, and rights of Nationalities within USSR
      • Stalin was denied access to Lenin by Lenin’s wife
        • Stalin insulted Lenin’s wife
        • When Lenin found out he wrote the addendum to his testament
  • Lenin had a major stroke in March 1923
    • This left him without the power of speech. a Virtual vegetable!
  • Lenin dies from a 4th Stroke in January 1924

The Riders and Runners

  • Who were the leading candidates to replace Lenin?

The Riders and Runners

  • Who were the leading candidates to replace Lenin? Diagram page 137
    • Trotsky
    • Zinoviev
    • Kamenev
    • Stalin
    • Rykov
    • Tomsky
    • Bukharin

The Riders and Runners

  • Pages 136- 139
  • Advantages
  • Disadvantages
    • Trotsky
    • Zinoviev
    • Kamenev
    • Stalin
    • Rykov
    • Tomsky
    • Bukharin

Stalin Slowly expands his power base

  • General Secretary of Bolsheviks
    • Many Bolsheviks reliant or thankful to Stalin for promotion or access to officials
    • Careerists are particularly thankful
  • Politburo Member
    • Quietly avoided enemies, followed Lenin’s lead
    • Reputation as a ‘Dependable Bolshevik’
  • Lenin Legacy
    • Stalin claims that he is just following their great Revolutionary Leader and wishes to continue his work
    • Gives valedictory speech at Lenin’s funeral
      • Trotsky absent
    • He has Lenin’s body embalmed
  • Stalin sidesteps Lenin’s Testament
    • Other Politburo members not too happy with criticsms of themselves. They quietly agree to bury the document

Meanwhile, Trotsky shows that he is out of touch with grassroots feeling!

  • Reputation for being an ‘intellectual’ and difficult to work with or for
  • Joined Bolsheviks late
  • He is on the left wing of the party
  • How does his left wing ‘Communist’ ideas alienate him from the Bolsheviks?

Meanwhile, Trotsky shows that he is out of touch with grassroots feeling!

  • How does his left wing ‘Communist’ ideas alienate him from the Bolsheviks?
    • He gives speeches attacking NEP
      • NEP was raising living standards for majority
      • NEP allowed corruption opportunities for some Bolsheviks
      • NEP Identified with Lenin (Temporary)
    • He criticises growth in bureaucracy
      • Careerists and Communist Party Bureaucracy threatened by Trotsky
      • Bolsheviks had successfully smashed the old order – they needed new staff to run such a vast country!
    • He wants ‘Permanent Revolution’
      • Most Russians tired of war
      • Russo-Polish War disaster of 1920
      • Consolidation process not completed in USSR

Stalin as the voice of moderation

  • Lenin Legacy
    • Stalin promises Continuity
  • ‘Socialism in One Country’
    • 1924 speech
    • Stalin said that worldwide revolution was not about to happen. Therefore:
      • Bolsheviks needed to build USSR into an example of what Communism could achieve
      • This would be done without any outside help
      • Strongly appealed to Nationalistic/Patriotic Russians
  • Stalin Safe Pair of Hands
    • He claimed that Trotsky could represent a Bonapartiste figure
    • He managed to convince Politburo to strip Trotsky of his job as War Commissar

Stalin isolates Trotsky

  • 13th Congress of Soviets 1924
    • The Triumvirate
      • Stalin, Kamenev and Zinoviev agree to work together in Politburo
        • Kamenev and Zinoviev have leadership pretensions of their own and do not want Trotsky hoovering up left wing support
    • Trotsky gives brilliantly stirring speeches calling for a return to revolutionary principles
      • Well instructed Stalinist delegates sit impassively and vote as intended
    • Rightists happy to support centralist Triumvirate over Left Wing Trotsky
    • Trotsky threatened with the charge of ‘Factionalism’ if he does not accept the will of the party!

The Left self-destructs

  • Zinoviev and Kamenev turn fully on Trotsky questioning his Bolshevik credentials
  • Trotsky publishes ‘Lessons of October’ which criticises Zinoviev and Kamenev’s conservatism during the Revolution
  • Stalin stays in background allowing left to tear itself to pieces
    • Zinoviev and Kamenev happy to allow Stalin to continue to appoint delegates to further alienate their enemy ‘Trotsky’

Using Factions to defeat Factionalism, 1926

  • Stalin’s Socialism in One Country call becomes popular with Right of Party
    • Tomsky, Bukharin and Rykov are happy to ally with Stalin to isolate the left of the party
  • Left realise that they are vulnerable
  • 14th Party Congress
    • Zinoviev and Kamenev called for a vote of no confidence in Stalin
      • Delegates packed with pro-Stalin supporters
      • Easily defeated
    • Zinoviev and Kamenev realise that they are dangerously exposed!

The United Opposition

  • Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev kiss and make up!
  • They want to end the ‘temporary’ NEP and return to world revolution
    • They try to appeal directly to Communist Grass roots
      • Organise demonstrations
      • Publish material, etc…
  • They formally present arguments at Central Committee meeting in 1926
    • Stalin and Right defeat them easily
    • Now! They would be vulnerable to the charge of Factionalism
    • They are banned from speaking at 15th Party Congress
  • They continue to work in secret
    • GPU monitors and reports on their ‘faction’

Put up or shut up!

  • United Opposition is officially labelled as a danger to the Revolution and is outlawed
    • Kamenev and Zinoviev agree to make humiliating retractions in Pravda
    • Trotsky refuses to back down and goes into exile
      • Central Asia
      • For many he did represent the true revolutionary spirit and many communists will call themselves Trotskyites in his honour!

Stalin turns on the Right

  • Stalin’s new 5 Year Plan 1928 - 1933
    • Rapid industrialisation
      • NEP not coordinated enough, not fast enough
      • Need Economies of Scale
    • Strategic concerns
      • Hostile Capitalist world!
    • Political advantages
      • End of ‘temporary’ capitalistic NEP
      • Return to Revolutionary Principles
        • Left no longer a threat for Stalin!
    • Requires food!
      • For increased workforce
      • To sell abroad to raise capital for industrial investment
      • Collectivisation! Needed to industrialise agricultural production and sell the produce on the world market to raise capital for the 5 year plans!

Stalin turns on the Right

  • Right Opposition formed to fight Collectivisation Proposals
    • Bukharin, Tomsky and Rykov
      • Argued that Persuasion and incentives were better than force
  • The role of Peasants
    • Stalin claimed that they were a bourgeois class who did not want socialism or revolution
    • Right claimed that they were a rural working class party
  • Stalin took support from remainder of left
    • Happy to see a return to revolutionary principles
  • He took some support from the right
    • Promises of a strong Industrial USSR that could defend itself fully
  • Bukharin made a convincing defence of the NEP but outvoted by Stalin’s delegates

Charging the Right With Factionalism

  • Right Opposition named as a danger to the Revolution
    • Bukharin and Tomsky charged with factionalism and lost Politburo seats in 1929
      • Bukharin lost his jobs as editor of Pravda and head of Comintern
    • Rykov remains for a year longer before he was removed from his seat.
  • Stalin places ‘Yes men’ into vacated Politburo seats
  • By 1930 Stalin is in complete control of the Bolshevik Party and therefore of the USSR

Essay Title

  • Stalin’s rise to power was thanks to his appeal to moderate rank and file Bolsheviks. How far do you agree with this statement!
  • 1932, Stalin’s wife commits suicide with a gun given as a birthday present!

Mixing Economics with Politics

  • Brutality of Collectivisation
    • Peasants fail to voluntarily enter Collectives
    • Force, terror and propaganda used to get peasants into communes
      • De-Kulakisation
        • Kulaks identified as a class enemy
          • Kulaks were just successful peasants
        • Artificial Class warfare created as peasants encouraged to identify Kulaks
        • Kulak possessions forcibly seized
        • Kulaks used as an example to other peasants
          • Follow orders or lose everything and be sent to Gulags in Siberia

Mixing Economics with Politics

  • Brutality of Collectivisation
    • Peasants preferred to slaughter own animals and destroy crops than hand it over to collectives
    • Look at chart page 171
  • Urban communist authorities recruited to carry out collectivisation
    • Rural communist parties could see the impact of the policy
    • Communist seizures of grain continue
    • Famine widespread from 1932 – 1934
      • Yet still seizures are made!
  • Collectivisation was a human and economic catastrophe BUT it did show who was in charge!

Mixing Economics with Politics

  • 5 Year Plans also falter
    • 1928 – 1932
    • 1933 – 1937
    • 1938 – 1941
  • Hugely ambitious targets set
      • Electrification of Entire Economy
      • Pig Iron to Triple
      • Coal to Double
      • Light Industry ^ 70%
      • National Income ^ 103%
      • New industrial cities to be created from scratch
  • Local bidding wars on targets as officials tried to prove that they were fully committed to Stalin’s socialist goals
  • Bureaucrats would also increase locally set ambitious targets

Mixing Economics with Politics

  • Failure built into system
    • Heavy Industrial output did increase but nowhere near as much as thought possible
    • Consumer production collapses as all resources relocated to heavy industry
    • Bottlenecks created as industries waiting on other industries who cannot make their targets!
    • Worried managers start bending the rules to achieve targets
      • Health and Safety a disaster zone
        • Industrial accidents increase massively
        • Resources hoarded – dare not allocate them to a rival factory
        • Resources hijacked – groups of managers would lie in wait for trains carrying goods to rival factories and hijack them

Mixing Economics with Politics

  • Blame needed to be apportioned?
    • Who was at fault for failures of 5YP
      • Stalin?
      • Communist bureaucrats?
      • Local Managers?
      • Foreigners?

Mixing Economics with Politics

  • Blame needed to be apportioned?
    • Who was at fault for failures of 5YP
      • Stalin?
        • Of course not, you’d be sent to a Gulag for even thinking it!
      • Communist bureaucrats?*
        • It is not our fault, we are just the middlemen.
      • Local Managers?*
        • If only we had the resources we were promised. We are trying our hardest
      • Foreigners?
        • It must be the fault of Jealous Capitalist Wreckers who cannot bear the thought of a successful socialist republic

Mixing Economics with Politics

  • Blame needed to be apportioned?
    • Who was at fault for failures of 5YP
      • Foreigners?
        • 1933 Metro-Vickers trial
          • British specialists were found guilty of sabotage in a show trial.
        • Most foreign experts were forced to leave or voluntarily left
    • Targets quietly lowered
    • Felt that groundwork had been completed
    • Blame had been apportioned

Congress of Victors

  • 17th Party Congress, 1934
    • Stalin advertised this congress as proof of the success of the Socialist model
      • He wished to ask for a redoubling of efforts
  • Stalin’s Unexpected Shock!
    • Elections for the Politburo were seen as a mere formality.
      • However, Stalin was shocked to discover that he did so poorly in the election.
        • Kirov (Leningrad Boss) got 1222 out 1225 delegates
        • Stalin got the support of only 900 delegates!
      • Kaganovich and Stalin ‘Found’ some extra votes for Stalin who now came top of the election.
    • This was a serious shock to Stalin who thought that he had packed the delegates with his own supporters.

Kirov’s Mysterious Murder

  • December 1st 1934
    • Kirov went to his Leningrad Office without his normal bodyguard.
    • The normal guards were missing
    • Leonid Nikolayev was waiting in a toilet near Kirov’s office
      • He shot Kirov and then fainted!
      • Kirov had been having an affair with his wife!
      • However, how had he got into one of the most secure buildings in Russia?
      • Stalin personally interrogated Nikolayev
      • Look at Page 209 for a whole series of suspicious coincidences

The Consequences of the Kirov Murder

  • The Kirov murder provided Stalin with an excuse to act ruthlessly to suppress counter-revolutionaries in the Communist Party itself.
  • Stalin’s December 1st Law
    • Based on Hitler’s Enabling Act
      • Trial of accused to take place within 10 days
      • Executions without any appeals
      • Anyone suspected of counter-revolutionary activity could be detained!

The Consequences of the Kirov Murder

  • Leningrad Party Purged of ‘terrorists’
    • Victims were interrogated and tortured to reveal names of acquaintances and possible motives
    • Links were made to Trotsky, Kamenev and Zinoviev
    • The Left Opposition was blamed with trying to launch a counter-revolution to restore Trotsky!
    • Any Communists who had supported the Left Opposition in the 1920s were now in serious danger
    • Show Trials used extensively
      • Zinoviev and Kamenev confessed in court to the murder of Kirov
        • Had been promised lenient sentences and safe conduct for their families
        • Promises were broken – They were shot the next day and families sent to Gulags

The Purges Gain Momentum

  • The more left opposition members rounded up the more names that they revealed. This lead to more prisoners releasing yet more names.
    • Targets and quotas were set for finding wreckers, counter-revolutionaries and Trotskyites
      • Keen to prove loyalty, authorities would reveal extra long lists of suspects who themselves would reveal names to try and get themselves out of trouble

The Yezhovschina

  • Yezhov was the head of the NKVD
    • Bloody Dwarf!
    • He had been criticised for not finding all of these so called terrorists quickly enough
    • Stalin demanded a speeding up of arrests within Communist Party.
      • Turned on the Right!
        • They were against the 5 Year Plans
        • Useful to blame failures to achieve targets on internal critics of regime
      • A Trotskyite-Rightist Bloc was creatively invented
        • Tomsky committed suicide before they got to him
        • Bukharin and Rykov Show Trials and executions

Purge of Red Army

  • Spanish Civil War going badly
    • Trotskyites involved from other countries
  • Stalin impressed by Hitler’s Night of the Long Knives
  • Stalin had diverted a lot of resources to army and needed to be sure of their loyalty!
    • Tukachevsky beaten into confessing a plot to overthrow Stalin.
    • Denunciations speed up as victims try to save their skins.

Purge of the NKVD

  • Stalin realised that denunciations were running out of control
  • He needed a scapegoat for the worst excesses of the purges
  • ‘dizzy with success’ article in Pravda
    • Perhaps some communist officials have become carried away with the plot
  • 3,000 NKVD personnel were executed
  • Yagoda was executed in 1938
  • Yezhov was executed in 1939
  • Beria takes over and calms things down

Benefits to Stalin

  • Destroyed internal opposition to Stalin
    • E.G. 90% of delegates to 17th Congress of Victors died in Purges
    • Left and Right Opposition members eliminated
    • Politburo packed with compliant yes men.
    • Armed Services ‘loyal’ to Stalin
    • He could blame economic failures on others
    • Stalin blamed excesses on over keen local communists
    • NKVD purged of those who did most of the killing!
  • ‘His power was now complete

1936 Constitution

  • At the height of the purges, Stalin advertises that he has introduced the most democratic constitution in the world.
    • Freedom from arbitrary arrest
    • Freedom of speech and of press
    • Right to demonstrate
    • Respect for privacy of the home and of personal correspondence
    • Employment for all
    • Universal suffrage
  • It was written by Bukharin and Radek who both died in the purges!
  • For international consumption only!
    • Saying one thing and doing another.

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