The political figure of Stalin still evokes many positive and negative emotions. Since his activities at the head of the Soviet state contributed to the breakthrough to a superpower, while accompanied by colossal sacrifices. How did this man reach the heights of power and what did he pursue - the creation of his own cult of the leader? Or building a new state? And how did he see him? What drove him? And why did he deal so cruelly with his fellow party members?
The formation of the future leader and the formation of his political philosophy began in the early 20s at the end of the era of Lenin's rule and the fierce struggle of Lenin's entourage for power and for choosing the further path of development of the state.
The beginning of the path to the post of general secretary
Stalin's advance to leadership in the party and state was largely due to the decisions of the fateful X Congress of the RCP (b) (March 1921). It was with this congress that Stalin's path to the post of general secretary began.
This period was characterized by colossal problems in the construction of the Soviet state: mass protests of the population against the policy of "war communism", confusion and vacillation in the party, which led to the creation of many party factions and platforms, and the imposition of "discussion about trade unions" on the ambitious Trotsky. And the peak of discontent was the uprising in Kronstadt.
Trotsky suffered a serious political defeat at the congress, and his idea of "labor armies" was rejected. And a program was adopted for the transition to a new economic policy, the inadmissibility of factionalism and the need to purge the party from "petty bourgeois elements." The congress outlined the ways of reorganizing the leadership of the party. And, above all, he focused on strengthening the organizational foundations aimed at eliminating factionalism.
In preparing for the congress, Stalin showed himself to be a good organizer in the formation of the "Leninist platform." And after the congress he was elected secretary for organizational work.
The fact that the Secretariat and the Organizing Bureau did not cope with the tasks assigned to them contributed to a serious strengthening of Stalin's positions. And Stalin (as the chief specialist in organizational matters) enthusiastically began to restore order. Under his leadership, a party "purge" was carried out, which led to the expulsion of more than one hundred thousand "petty-bourgeois elements" from the party and the strengthening of the Leninist platform.
Stalin's experience, efficiency and loyalty to the Bolshevik line were noticed by Lenin. By that time, he was already seriously ill. And in the face of Stalin I saw a figure capable of resisting Trotsky's ambitions and strengthening his own position.
The rubicon for Stalin was his election after the 1922th Party Congress (April XNUMX) at the suggestion of Lenin as general secretary, whose responsibilities so far included purely organizational work and nothing more.
Immediately after the XNUMXth Congress, the Central Committee began to reorganize the organizational forms of the work of the central apparatus and local party organizations. Stalin vigorously set about reorganizing the Central Committee apparatus. He considered the building of a ramified and effective apparatus to be one of the central tasks. And he saw the selection and distribution of party, state and economic personnel as the main instrument in achieving this goal.
The apparatus became the alpha and omega of Stalin's political strategy, one of the fundamental foundations of his entire political outlook and the forthcoming struggle for power.
Lenin, nominating Stalin for this post, appreciated in him the talent of an organizer. He was distinguished by his decisiveness and firmness of character, as well as the fact that he shared all the fundamental principles of Bolshevism. Nevertheless, between Lenin and Stalin in 1922-1923 there were several conflicts based on personal grounds and dictated in many respects by Lenin's illness.
On the instructions of the Politburo, Stalin provided conditions for Lenin's treatment and tranquility in Gorki, limiting his rest from public affairs. It was to him that Lenin turned with a request to bring poison if he could not recover. The views of Lenin and Stalin seriously diverged on the issue of "autonomization" and the form of state structure of the USSR. Then Lenin's point of view won out.
In December 1922, Lenin handed Krupskaya a letter to Trotsky on one of the issues of commercial activity. She violated the established rules for limiting Lenin's activities. And Stalin rudely reprimanded Krupskaya for such willfulness. She told Lenin about this. And relations between them became sharply complicated.
Lenin at this time wrote his "letter to the congress" or "political testament", in which he gave characteristics to the leading members of the party Trotsky, Kamenev, Zinoviev, Bukharin and Stalin. In the letter, he pointed out Stalin's personal shortcomings (rudeness, disloyalty, desire to expand his power) and did not rule out the possibility of replacing him as Secretary General.
This letter from Lenin then (like a sword of Damocles) hung over Stalin for years. But at that time it was considered inappropriate to remove him from this post.
Struggle against Trotsky and the "Left Opposition"
Immediately after Lenin's death, the struggle for leadership in the party intensified. On the one hand, Trotsky and his entourage spoke. On the other, there is a "troika" consisting of Zinoviev, Kamenev and Stalin.
The triumvirate was formed in May 1922 with a sharp exacerbation of Lenin's illness. He actually retired from the leadership of the party. And the "troika", closely cooperating with each other and ignoring Trotsky, began to preliminary discuss and prepare decisions on all the most important party and state affairs. And actually ruled by the state.
The triumvirate lasted for about two years. Lenin was still alive. And none of the members of the troika risked taking any decisive steps.
In addition, Trotsky's positions were still quite strong after the defeat at the Tenth Congress. And all members of the triumvirate retained the appearance of unity among themselves in the face of a common enemy. It was an alliance of people united by the goal of defeating a common enemy in the person of Trotsky, who claimed to take the place of the sole leader after Lenin's death. And to provide assistance and support to each other as long as it is beneficial to them.
The collapse of the triumvirate was predetermined in connection with the intensified struggle for power after Lenin's death. In addition to attacks on Trotsky, confrontation between the members of the triumvirate grew. At the XII Party Congress (April 1923), the confrontation between Zinoviev and Trotsky intensified. Stalin, despite his contempt for Zinoviev for his irrepressible vanity, ambition, idle talk and political worthlessness, supported his comrade-in-arms. And he, in "gratitude" after the congress, launched a failed campaign to remove Stalin from the post of general secretary.
The aggravation of the confrontation resulted in the formation of the so-called "left opposition". In the fall of 1923, Trotsky imposed a party discussion, provoked by a letter from 46 prominent party workers, in which they accused the leadership of the party, or rather the troika, of the collapse of the economy, usurpation of power, imposition of party functionaries and removal of the party masses from decision-making.
At a party conference (January 1924) on the very eve of Lenin's death, the results of the discussion were summed up and a resolution was adopted condemning the petty-bourgeois deviation in the party, which meant Trotskyism. At this stage, Stalin, in his struggle for a key political role in the leadership of the party, emphasized the struggle against the highly respected Trotsky, who was backed by leftist ideas about a "permanent" world revolution. Stalin, through his cadres, prepared the conference well for striking a blow at Trotsky and Trotskyism, so that he could no longer recover from it.
The party conference, through the cadres skillfully placed by Stalin, dealt a powerful blow to Trotsky, after which he actually found himself in a position of political bankruptcy, although he continued to hold high party and state posts. However, the defeat was not complete and did not remove Trotsky from the ranks of the candidates for political leadership.
After Lenin's death, the country entered a fundamentally new phase of development, since, due to the prevailing circumstances, he could not develop an integral program of socialist construction. The inconsistency and ambiguity of his statements opened up a wide field for their interpretation by the opposing groupings in the parties, which had turned into an object of a fierce, not so much theoretical struggle, but into a real personal rivalry and struggle for power.
Stalin understood better than his rivals how to interpret Leninism as a powerful weapons in internal party battles. Lenin's "political testament" criticizing his personal shortcomings did not play a significant role in his rise. He successfully confronted his main rivals in the person of Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin. And in the end he managed to outplay them.
At the 1924th Party Congress (May XNUMX), the first after Lenin's death, the "trio" of winners, united on a temporary coincidence of interests in the personal struggle for power, felt themselves on horseback and triumphed over Trotsky, who licked his wounds and never recovered from the blow inflicted to him by Stalin in the process of party discussion.
Stalin, showing restraint, caution and iron restraint, begins to promote the cult of Lenin as a kind of forerunner of his own cult.
Knowing his support in the party, he makes another move at the first plenum and submits his resignation, which is naturally not accepted. Convinced of the strength of his positions after the congress, Stalin literally two weeks later launched an attack against his former comrades-in-arms and rivals - Zinoviev and Kamenev. On his initiative, the "troika" unofficially expanded to the "five" by joining the "leading nucleus" Bukharin and the chairman of the Council of People's Commissars Rykov.
In parallel, for the consolidation of his position, Stalin is conducting a broad campaign not only to politically discredit Trotsky, but also seeks to bury Trotskyism as an ideological trend. The final defeat of Trotsky did not yet correspond to his plans, since he already foresaw the inevitability of a direct confrontation with the Zinoviev-Kamenev group.
In January 1925, Stalin and Bukharin sent a letter to the Politburo with a proposal to release Trotsky only from the post of chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council and keep him a member of the Politburo. The plenum of the Central Committee adopts such a decision. And Trotsky loses his post. Stalin dealt with Trotsky later. In January 1928, he was exiled to Alma-Ata. And in February 1929 he was exiled abroad.
Fight against the "new opposition"
After defeating Trotsky, Stalin begins to put pressure on the Zinoviev-Kamenev group. In the spring of 1925, the confrontation between them entered an extremely tense phase. His opponents tried to raise the issue of reviving the troika, but suffered yet another defeat. And Stalin remained the first among equals, whose superiority could still be challenged by rivals.
Stalin saw the struggle for power not as an end in itself, but as a mechanism for realizing the building of socialism in one country. This was the basis of Stalin's entire political philosophy and the foundation on which the system of his state views was formed, as well as his transition to the position of a statesman. Marxist dogmas about the world proletarian revolution gave way to the national idea of strengthening and developing the Soviet state in conditions of rivalry with other countries.
Stalin stressed that supporting the revolution in other countries is an essential task of the victorious October. Therefore, the revolution of the victorious country must see itself as an aid to accelerate the victory of the proletariat in other countries and advance the revolutionary cause. He regarded Soviet Russia as a top priority; it should not serve the cause of the world proletariat, but, on the contrary, revolutionary upheavals should be placed at the service of building socialism in one country.
Based on this, he fought for power, he needed associates not to advance the world revolution, but to build a powerful socialist state. There were practically no such people in Lenin's circle. Hence the bitterness and irreconcilability of the struggle with former comrades-in-arms. He saw power itself as an instrument for the implementation of certain political goals that he set for himself. There were, of course, personal motives for the struggle for power. And they put their stamp on the acuteness of this struggle.
To build such a state, industrialization was necessary. And he was looking for ways to obtain material, human and other resources to solve this problem. They could only be taken from the village. And as a result - the merciless and rapid collectivization carried out by him.
The Zinoviev-Kamenev grouping was not going to give up its positions. Using his strong position in Leningrad, Zinoviev formed a faction that openly challenged Stalin. By the fall of 1925, in preparation for the XIV Congress, the so-called "new opposition" had developed.
In the political fate of Stalin, the XIV Congress (December 1925) became a decisive stage in the creation of the necessary political, ideological and organizational prerequisites for turning him into a sole leader. It is unique in an unprecedented political battle between the majority of the party leadership, headed by Stalin, and opponents of the majority.
The "New Opposition", headed by Zinoviev and Kamenev, decided to go all-in at the congress. Stalin, being a brilliant master of political intrigue and tactical maneuvers, was fully armed and prepared for the battle. On the eve of the congress, his group demonstratively called everyone to unity, in contrast to the opposition, who sought to split the party. This position was supported by the majority in the party.
The main issue at the congress was the definition of the general line of the party. Stalin pursued his line of building a socialist state in a capitalist environment, and for this his economy must be industrial and independent, relying on internal forces. The opposition believed that it was necessary to seek a compromise with the capitalists and prepare a world revolution. Kamenev again raised the question of the inadmissibility of forming a "leader" and demanded that Stalin be removed from his post.
The congress supported Stalin in everything and adopted a program for the industrialization of the country, the "new opposition" was defeated. At the plenum after the congress, Stalin transformed the Politburo, Zinoviev and Kamenev were transferred from members to candidates, and his supporters - Molotov, Voroshilov and Kalinin - were introduced.
Stalin decided to change the leadership of the party organization of Leningrad, headed by Zinoviev. A commission was sent there, which included his loyal ally Kirov. He showed himself in Leningrad from the best side, quickly gained popularity and even love from the Leningrad people. And Stalin, in the interests of the cause, left Kirov to lead in Leningrad.
The defeat of the "new opposition" was due not only to the personal qualities of the secretary general as a skillful strategist and tactician. This was facilitated by his course not to kindle the fire of the world revolution, but to build and strengthen the Soviet state. And this was the cornerstone of the Stalinist concept of building socialism in one country.
The defeat of the opposition did not become the complete and final end of the confrontation at the top of the party, since Stalin had not yet become the only leader.
So far, he has received a legitimate consolidation of the first among equals in the highest echelons of power and among the broad party masses. He came close to creating a solid foundation of his own power, which he strove for throughout his political life, fighting to establish and expand his positions of power. This was the prologue of a new round of struggle, for which Stalin prepared according to all the rules of waging a political war.
Struggle against the "Trotskyite-Zinovievist opposition"
Discontent of the population with the power of the Bolsheviks was brewing in the country. The NEP went through a series of acute economic crises that led to imbalances in prices for manufactured goods and agricultural products.
The failure of grain procurements in 1925 due to the refusal of the peasants to bring most of the grain to the market, took advantage of Zinoviev and Kamenev. They accused Stalin of the capitalist path of development of the peasantry and the need to return it to the socialist path by means of state coercion. They proved the impossibility of building socialism in the USSR because of its economic backwardness until the revolutions in the developed countries were defeated and the USSR provided the necessary economic assistance.
Thus, Kamenev and Zinoviev went over to Trotsky's platform. And by the spring of 1926 a united "Trotskyite-Zinoviev opposition" was formed. The struggle for power over the disputes over the ways of further development of the country was of a fateful nature and went far beyond personal rivalry and the struggle for political supremacy. Now Stalin needed power as a tool and means of implementing the strategic program of building a socialist state.
The united opposition accused Stalin of betraying the ideals of not only the world, but also the Russian revolution to please the "NEP", support the rich peasantry, the policy of degenerating the dictatorship of the proletariat into the dictatorship of the party bureaucracy and the victory of the bureaucracy over the working class. They considered the well-to-do peasants to be the main source of funds for industrialization and demanded to impose a "super tax" on them, which should be directed towards industrialization.
In the fight against the opposition, Stalin adopted the tactics of combining methods of politically discrediting his opponents, debunking their political platform and proving the ruin of their proposed path for the country's further development. He mastered this art in full and became a grand master of internal political battles and confrontations.
At the April and July plenums of the Central Committee of 1926, a powerful blow was dealt to the opposition, and at the October plenum, Zinoviev's work in the Communist International was declared impossible because he did not express the party line. Trotsky was relieved of his duties as a member of the Politburo, and Kamenev was relieved of his duties as a member of the Politburo. At the party conference, the Trotskyite-Zinoviev bloc did not receive a single vote and actually lost influence in the party.
The opposition began to create illegal organizations, hold illegal meetings and attract workers to their participation. The plenum of the Central Committee in August 1927 threatened Zinoviev and Trotsky with expulsion from the members of the Central Committee if factional activity continued. However, the opposition did not stop.
In May 1927, the opposition sent a platform letter to the Politburo - "Statement of the 83s", in which the idea of building socialism in one country was declared petty-bourgeois and had nothing to do with Marxism. Support for the world revolution was offered as an alternative. And there was a demand for concessions to foreign capital in the area of concession policy.
They also put forward the thesis about the Thermidor of Soviet power and its degeneration, which excluded the possibility of any compromise with Stalin's group. During the celebrations of the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution, opposition leaders staged parallel demonstrations in Moscow, Leningrad and other cities, which virtually no one supported. All this ended with the exclusion of Trotsky and Zinoviev from the Central Committee in October 1927.
At the 1927th Congress (December 75), the defeat of the united Trotskyite-Zinoviev opposition was formalized organizationally, the congress decided to expel XNUMX active opposition figures from the party, including Kamenev. At the congress, Stalin strove to achieve the complete and unconditional surrender of the opposition and to lay the foundation for eradicating this possibility in the future.
This congress was a decisive stage in the establishment of Stalin as the main leader of the party, and in the eyes of the party masses, he increasingly acquired the aura of a consistent and unyielding fighter for party unity. The opposition was crushed and looked pitiful, Kamenev in a speech at the congress declared that their way of creating a second party was disastrous for the proletarian revolution, and they renounce their views. Stalin, feeling himself a complete winner, again resorted to his favorite trick - he proposed his resignation, which was rejected.
The defeat of the Trotskyite-Zinoviev opposition did not become the final of the internal party struggle; Stalin was preparing for new battles with his opponents. His victory was not complete as long as there were people in the party leadership who were able to challenge him. Stalin needed a one-man power, where his voice in any scenario will always be decisive.
Fight against the "right-wing opposition"
In 1928-1929, a fierce struggle against the so-called Right deviation unfolded. Bukharin was the main political and ideological exponent of this deviation, along with him the chairman of the Council of People's Commissars Rykov and the leader of the Soviet trade unions Tomsky became the leading figures of this deviation.
The disagreements in the position of Stalin and Bukharin consisted in the incompatibility of approaches to the development of the country's economy and the forms of class struggle under socialism. Stalin believed that the NEP policy pursued since 1921, in principle, could not bring the country out of backwardness in a hostile environment. He defended the course of pursuing a mobilization economy, allowing for accelerated modernization and ready to quickly switch to a military track.
Bukharin insisted on the continuation of the NEP policy, the gradual development of socialist forms of management and the priority satisfaction of the needs of the population. In the confrontation between Stalin and Bukharin, it was a question of choosing a strategic course for the country's development.
On the issue of the class struggle, Stalin defended the theory of an aggravation of the class struggle as one moves towards socialism, since the resistance of the capitalist elements will inevitably increase and they must be suppressed. This theory gave Stalin the opportunity to introduce emergency measures, and in the future, large-scale repressions.
Bukharin considered this to be Stalin's invention and refuted his theory by the fact that in this case the most fierce class struggle occurs when classes will already disappear and this is absurd. Bukharin's main slogan was an appeal to the peasantry
He defended the formula
"Growing kulaks into socialism."
The attitude towards the kulak became the main issue in the village.
During the 1927 procurement campaign, the kulak farms began to refrain from selling their grain reserves in anticipation of higher prices, which led to an increase in the price of bread and the introduction in 1928 of the rationing system. Repressive measures were taken against the kulaks, they began to seize grain by force, arrest them and exile them to remote regions, middle peasants and peasants who were disliked by the local authorities began to fall under this. Grain riots and uprisings swept across the country, which exacerbated the political struggle at the top.
The leaders of the right bloc argued that the Stalinist course and its policy were a dead-end path for the further development of the countryside, it was not capable of leading the country onto the path of effective development. And fraught with the threat of class antagonism between workers and peasants.
In February 1929, they sent a statement to the Politburo, in which they accused the secretary general of serious distortions of the policy in the field of agriculture and industry. And in the fact that Stalin essentially imposed on the party a course of military-feudal exploitation of the peasantry.
Stalin, using already worked out methods of influencing the party and state apparatus, convinced everyone of the viciousness of the platform of the "right opposition" and, with massive propaganda, introduced this to the masses. The tactics he chose gradually shaped his image, first as an exemplary leader, relying on collegiality and the first among equals, and later as the sole leader.
The Bolsheviks' blind admiration for discipline was for them above the interests of truth; Stalin skillfully used this circumstance and did not hesitate to overstep the norms of morality and party principles when it was dictated by strategic interests.
As a result, Stalin achieved another victory over the opposition, the November 1929 plenum decided to remove Bukharin from the Politburo and warned Rykov and Tomsky that in case of the slightest attempt on their part to continue the struggle against the party line, organizational measures would be applied to them. Rykov was still the nominal head of government.
The political and organizational defeat of the right bloc predetermined the paths of further socio-economic development of Soviet society as a whole. historical era. It was then that the question of a fundamentally new course of the country was decided. It was also a turning point in the political biography of Stalin, not only his personal power was significantly strengthened, but conditions were also created for the implementation of the socio-economic turn in the development of Soviet society outlined by him.
At the 1930th Party Congress (July XNUMX), tasks were formulated to implement Stalin's plans. The main purpose of the congress was to approve the general line of the party, of which Stalin was personified. Rykov spoke and repented on behalf of the opposition at the congress, his speech was expressed in worthy tones. He understood that he had lost the political struggle, and there was no reason to count on leniency.
Stalin, on the eve of new aggravations of the situation in the country, considered it extremely important and obligatory to confirm the historical necessity and political inevitability of the struggle against Bukharin's group. In September 1930, without much ado, after thorough preliminary preparation by the secretary general, Rykov was removed from the members of the Polyutburo and lost the post of chairman of the Council of People's Commissars, Molotov became the new head of government. Tomsky also lost his seat in the Politburo, although, like Bukharin, he joined the new Central Committee.
Stalin was aware of the fact that the position of the right against the excessive pace of industrialization and extraordinary measures for collectivization enjoyed fairly wide support among the party masses, especially against the background of growing difficulties with the supply and introduction of the rationing system. In this regard, he did everything possible so that the leaders of the opposition and their views received the harshest assessment at the congress and, in general, in the country.
Stalin's victory over the right was undeniable, he forced their leaders to make repentant speeches and tried to create such an atmosphere that their speeches were constantly interrupted by remarks of condemnation and mistrust on the part of the delegates. He understood that the defeat of the right did not at all make them supporters of his political course.
They lost the open confrontation, but deep down they were sure that they were right and in one form or another could oppose Stalin's policy.
Stalin understood that the defeat of Bukharin's group did not eradicate the political orientation in the party, which they defended. In part, they retained their influence in the party and their views were supported by certain groups of communists.
Stalin naturally feared that with any sharp turn of events, the picture could radically change. And they can become, in the eyes of society, the conductors of a development path that is different from the one proposed by it, since the real situation in the country was far from favoring it. All this predicted an intensification of the political struggle, in which Stalin's opponents would lose not only their posts, but also go to Calvary and part with their lives.
To be continued ...