(CIVIL WAR, LENIN and RISE of STALIN – continued)

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Stalin's Growing Influence

In 1922, Lenin was still suffering from the effects of the assassination attempt in August 1918. The bullet in the base of his neck and the other in his collar bone were still there. On May 26 at the age of 52 he suffered his first stroke. And in November he gave his last speech. His likely successor was thought to be Leon Trotsky, the leader second to Lenin in the coup of 1917 and the leader of the Red Army. Among the Bolsheviks a bad historical analogy was being circulated. It compared Trotsky to Napoleon Bonaparte, the idea being that Trotsky, a military leader, could be considered a danger to the Russian Revolution.

The Communist Party was governed by a five-man politburo: Lenin, Trotsky, Kamenev, Zinoviev and Josef Stalin. The Communists were supposed to be comrades, but Stalin, Kamenev and Zinoviev disliked Trotsky, and Trotsky did not care for the intellects of any of these three – differences within an ideological organization like the Communist Party, the ideological intensity making differences more deadly.

Trotsky and his supporters were being outvoted in the Central Committee – a body of Communists in the hundreds. In theory the Central Committee had power over the Politburo. It was the Central Committee that was supposed to decide who would sit on the Politburo. The Central Committee was the creation of a greater body, a Party Congress, consisting of delegates from the Communist Party members in general, which met for that purpose of choosing Central Committee members. Party Congresses were supposed to meet every five years. The Party Congress of 1921 is said to have had around 700,000 or so delegates. Trotsky and his supporters were concerned about democracy within the Communist Party. Trotsky complained that people were being chosen to positions within the Party from above rather than by their peers and that this was making the Party hierarchical. He complained that the party hierarchy addressed its rank and file only with commands and discouraged independent views.

Trotsky and his supporters also complained about Communist Party mismanagement, and they complained that the Party was ignoring the needs of industrial workers – who theoretically were the heart of the social revolution. Zinoviev and Kamenev claimed that Trotsky's charges were "anti-Marxist deviations." Zinoviev went so far as to call for Trotsky's arrest.

In the eyes of many members of the Central Committee, the clash between Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev left Stalin appearing as a patient man of reason. Stalin was viewed as a man who had little interest in anything other than the revolution and the betterment of the working class. While other Politburo members held more glamorous duties, Stalin had taken on the job of General Secretary of the Communist Party – seemingly mere bureaucratic work. In contrast, Trotsky was the War Commissar, Zinoviev was head of the Comintern and Kamenev was the Party's leading writer. Unlike Stalin, these three had intellectual pretensions, and each was writing his memoir.

Modest though Stalin's position appeared, to the younger rank and file, Stalin, now in his early forties, appeared to be one of the old heroes of the revolution. Romantic heroism was alive among those who had recently joined the Party. And as General Secretary of the Party, Stalin was adding to his admirers by making numerous appointments to positions within the Party.

Stalin had usually deferred to the opinions of Lenin – a man more exalted than he. But after Lenin was partially incapacitated from his stroke, Stalin moved an opinion forward that differed from Lenin's. This was about the issue of nationalities within the Soviet Union – Ukrainians, Georgians, Byelorussians, Armenians, Azerbaijanis, to name a few. Lenin's position was for keeping these former subjects of the tsar's empire as equal member republics within the "Union of Soviet Republics." Stalin labeled Lenin's position as "national liberalism, and trying to advance his opinion he clashed with Lenin's wife, Krupskaya, who was handling Lenin's affairs. She complained to Lenin of Stalin's rudeness to her. And Lenin wrote a memorandum advising the Party to "remove Stalin" from his post as General Secretary on the ground that Stalin was rude and inclined to abuse power.


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