Was Lenin Responsible?


To what extent was Lenin responsible for Stalin’s rise for power?

Lenin died in 1924 and the state was left without an appointed successor. He ruled the USSR for 7 years after he managed to topple down the Provisional Government in 1917.  There was a struggle for power after his death to rule the Soviet Union but eventually, Stalin was the figure who outmaneuvered other contenders and took over the state. Although, the blame was to be pointed towards Lenin this essay will discuss further other factors that drove Stalin’s rise for power.

Ultimately, one of the most significant contributing factors to Stalin’s rise for power is Lenin’s own mistake. He was responsible for not appointing his next successor before his death which made it easier for Stalin to pursue for power over the state. This mistake gave Stalin many opportunities he wouldn’t otherwise have had. The reason for this as many people assumed is because Lenin was not convinced enough to trust his Party members and neither any of them managed to gain his absolute supports and credence. Consequently, Stalin, by using his skillful political attributes have resulted in gaining many supporters from others within the Party members and the public, despite Lenin being brutally honest in his Testament stating that he despised Stalin. Therefore, Lenin was responsible for Stalin’s rise for power.

Moreover, it is agreed that Lenin’s responsible for Stalin’s rise for power as he did not publish his own Testament stating his criticism towards Stalin. In the Testament, Lenin  set out his views and comments on the weaknesses and strengths of each Bolsheviks members, including the thought of removing Stalin from General Secretary position. Also, he mentioned that Trotsky should be his successor for his loyalty and commitment during Civil War, unlike Stalin who did not participate in it greatly. Nevertheless, Lenin’s Testament was dismissed by the party members when they found it after Lenin’s death. The reason for this was that the testament also criticized the other Party members and they wanted it as a secret to the public as it would also decrease their chances to win. Hence, Lenin’s Testament late publication was another mistake made by Lenin and evidently shows that he was responsible for Stalin’s rise for power.

Additionally, Lenin appointed Stalin as the General Secretary of Politburo in 1922 and that became the important factor for Stalin’s rise for power. This position served many advantages and privileges that Stalin soon learned the benefits of it to gain power. One of the privileges he had was the access to personal files of all party members. With such grant, he made use of these vital information as a tool to fight against his rivals. Every weaknesses he discovered from the sources that questioned their loyalty towards Lenin have made him effective to place supporters in primary positions. Also, when it comes to Votes on party issues, Stalin could always outvote and outmaneuver his opponents easily. Another privilege was that he set up all the agendas for the Politburo meetings which may have benefited him. Most importantly, Stalin could replace the old members of Politburo and hired his own supporters which then allowed him to grow his reputation. Therefore, Lenin was responsible for Stalin’s rise for power as he appointed Stalin as the General Secretary, thus allowing him to gain greater strength from this position.

However, despite Lenin was significantly responsible for Stalin’s rise for power, the weaknesses of other opponents also became another important factor. The contenders failed to see Stalin as a threat and with this mistake, Stalin was able to gather his supporters in the Party. Trotsky, the main opponent of Stalin however was unpopular due to his background as a Jew and his over-ambitious policy of ‘ Permanent Revolution’. This concept was seen as impossible by other Party members and as a result, Stalin’s policy of ‘Socialism in One Country’ won their votes as it primarily focused on developing the Soviet Union. Another reason to Trotsky’s defeat was his absence at Lenin’s funeral. There was an assumption that it was Stalin who deliberately changed the dates of the funeral to Trotsky making him perceived as disrespecting Lenin by others. Stalin also highlighted the concerns of his loyalty and commitment towards Lenin as Trotsky was once a Menshevik but later converted to Bolsheviks. Not to mention that Stalin emphasized Lenin’s rule against the Factionalism which limited Trotsky to organise his own supporters like he effectively did in Russia Revolution epoch with the Red Army. Yet, such hard-work and experience was blatantly ignored as his every flaws people used to be not bothered about were now painted on his face. Hence, the weaknesses of Stalin’s opponents became another responsible for his rise for power.

Furthermore, in his Political Repression, Stalin implemented a policy of ‘Party Purges’ in which helped him rising his power in the Soviet. It was to eliminate dissenting members of the Communist Party and anyone else he considered a threat. At least 750,000 people were executed during the Great Purge, which took place between about 1936 and 1938. More than a million other people were sent to forced labor camps, known as Gulags. The first event of the Great Purge took place in 1934 with the assassination of Sergei Kirov, a prominent Bolshevik leader. Kirov was murdered at the Communist Party headquarters by a man named Leonid Nikolayev which many speculate that Stalin himself ordered the murder of Kirov. After Kirov’s death, Stalin launched his purge, claiming that he had uncovered a dangerous conspiracy of anti-Stalinist Communists. The dictator began killing or imprisoning any suspects, eventually eliminating all the original Bolsheviks that participated in the Russian Revolution of 1917. Among those purged were opposing members of the Communist Party, government officials, army officers and any accomplices including Lev Kamenev, Grigorii Zinoviev, Nikolai Bukharin and Aleksei Rykov, to name a few, were accused of treason. It is believed that Stalin was not afraid of threats from other countries as he saw his own people as the actual enemies.

On the other hand, propaganda also played an important role in rising Stalin’s power once he took over the state. Stalin enforced the policy of ‘Socialist Realism’ in which all forms of arts created only for promoting Stalin as a generous and benevolent father figure of the state. This included the picture of an idealistic society in Soviet Union under communism that is developed by collectivisation and rapid industrialisation. Hoping that people would not see it otherwise as in actual reality, people suffered in their most extreme cases and their living conditions were worsened than before. However, Stalin did manage to deceive the eyes and people praised him by all of the warming and careful propaganda as a result. They became more patriotic and supportive towards Stalin as evidently illustrated during Germany’s invasion. Hence, the battle was named ‘ The Great Patriotic War ‘ as the Soviet gained victory although the country suffered many deaths. More evidently is when Stalin died as many people were seen mourning over his death despite of his cruel treatments towards his own people. It is proven that the role of propaganda was also another important factor contributing to Stalin’s rise for power.

Therefore as much as Lenin and his mistakes were real reasons in the success of Stalin’s rise for power, these other reasons contributed to the same. The essential tool of propaganda that Stalin took advantage of to influence his people proved his brilliance in political strategies and thus, resulting an unexpected outcomes to his rise for power.

stalin and lenin


Question is from May/June History A’ level 2016, Paper 4.

Essay’s Grade – A

Written by – Nurul Nadia

P/S : I’m open to any critical comments on my essay.

Thanks for reading! Let’s stimulate our insatiable curiosity minds. 




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