Between the years 1924-1927 after Lenin’s in January 1934 death a power struggle with the remaining Bolshevik leaders occurred. The remaining victor was Stalin, who managed to successfully eliminate all other contenders and appear to the public as Lenin’s successor and “disciple”.
Leon Trotsky was a Marxist revolutionary and theorist, brilliant orator, politician and founder and leader of the Red army. He undoubtedly had the brightest mind in the Bolshevik party and his theories about communism formed the basis of much of the Bolshevik party policy. However, what he had in pure intellectual ability he perhaps lacked in political shrewdness. Unlike Stalin, Trotsky was not forceful in asserting his authority in the Bolshevik party, and simply seemed to easily and naturally exist , accumulating power through his natural ability as a leader. Trotsky also did not possess the competitive nature many other Bolshevik leaders had and refused to speak out against policies of many other Bolsheviks that he disagreed with, for fear that it would the Bolshevik party as a whole. Though he was passionate and held the fundamental beliefs of the party, he lacked the political motivation to ensure that he remained in the top position. He was more concerned about the continuation of the party, particularly carrying out Lenin’s wishes, rather than pursing his own political agenda.
An example of Trotsky’s political naivety is his failure to use Lenin’s testament to his advantage. Lenin’s testament was written in 1922 with the intention that the material would be presented to the next party congress, and therefore made public. The testament criticized all of the Bolshevik leaders, however was also particularly damning about Stalin who “has concentrated an enormous power in his hand” through his position as General Secretary but “( I am not sure) that he always knows how to use that power with sufficient caution” and recommends that “comrades think of a way of removing Stalin from that position and appointing another man in his stead” whereas Trotsky was described as “distinguished by his exceptional abilities , personally he is, to be sure, the most able man in the present central committee”. Pushing for the testament to be publicised as Lenin has intended would have put Trotsky ahead of Stalin, as well as his other opposition such as Zinoviev, Kamenev and Bukharin. However he allowed other members of the Bolshevik party to repress the Testament to prevent damage to the reputation of the competence of the party leadership with the Public and the rest of the party. Again, Trotsky managed to place the interests of the party as a whole above his own personal interests, but to his own detriment.
The first major mistake made by Trotsky after Lenin’s death was his failure to attend Lenin’s funeral. Arguably this may have been due to Stalin tricking Trotsky so he was unable to get back to Petrograd in time for Lenin’s funeral. This was significant because Stalin was the one that was present and therefore was viewed by the public as Lenin’s successor. Stalin delivered a eulogy promising to carry out Lenin’s dying wishes, as his next “disciple”, despite Lenin clearly denouncing his ability to lead in his testament when he was alive. He cleverly put himself in the position of the next Bolshevik leader without being questioned, it was now expected he would be the one to take power. Meanwhile, Trotsky was out of the public eye and was not seen to be carrying on Leninism; he was forgotten while Stalin basked in the glow of the public’s attention. Stalin’s ability to manipulate the memory of Lenin to his own success was vital in ensuring his rise to power. He could be relied upon to uphold Lenin’s legacy.
Stalin was almost the complete opposite of Trotsky, being very cunning and able to manipulate any