Stalin and Trotsky led two very different political careers. Before 1917 Trotsky wasn t even a member of the Bolsheviks siding with the Mensheviks at the 2nd party congress in 1903 when the Social Democrats splintered into the two smaller parties: Mensheviks and Bolsheviks. Trotsky sided with the Mensheviks more pacifist views towards revolution and general protests. In fact it wasn t until after the March revolution in 1917 when he was in jail (following the July days) that he was persuaded by Lenin to join the Bolsheviks. Trotsky quickly gained support being elected to its Central Committee and then elected chairman of the soviet within months of joining.
Stalin on the other hand had been a strong Bolshevik follower from the beginning firmly believing in its militant actions. His rise to power was much slower than that of Trotsky; he worked his way up the political ladder being very Active behind the scenes e.g.: helping to plot the hold up in then Tiflis (now Tbilis) in 1907. His first recognisable role within the party was in 1912 when Lenin co-opted him to serve on the first Central Committee of the Bolshevik party. He then went on to edit the Bolshevik newspaper Pravada before he went into exile (Stalin went into exile 7 times previously but had always managed to escape) from 1913-1917.
Both Stalin and Trotsky were in Russia for the November revolution. But whilst Trotsky was acting as the military
leader using his military revolutionary committee which was set up to defend the congress of soviets .
Stalin was much more in the background playing several key roles but not as important as Trotsky who was seen as a revolutionary hero. Trotsky kept up his role as military leader to defend the revolution when Kerensky attempted to retake Petrograd with loyal troops. He organised and supervised the major breakthrough battle of Pulkovo on Nov 13th. His work throughout the revolution was not only military directly after the battle Trotsky joined Lenin in defeating the proposals for a coalition government which would include both the Mensheviks and the Social Revolutionaries.
Both Trotsky and Stalin had important roles to play throughout the revolution but at this early stage we can already see that Trotsky was playing a staring role where as Stalin was more of a dedicated background figure.
Within the new government Trotsky had several roles his first was as Foreign Commissar. His first notable actions were to implement the Bolsheviks program of peace; he called for immediate armistice negotiations with all the countries at war. In December of 1917 peace talks with Germany and its allies began in Brest-Litovsk. After the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk which Trotsky was not in favour of had been signed Trotsky resigned as the foreign commissar he was immediately repositioned as war commissar. In 1919 when the politburo was introduced he was named as one of the original five.
Stalin had two important posts within the government firstly being the commissar for nationalities from 1917-1923 and later the commissar for state control 1919-1923 this involved inspecting factories and farms etc. Checking on peasants and workers. Stalin was also an original member of the politburo and in 1922 he took on his first major role as secretary general of the central committee almost unnoticed Stalin set about solidifying his power becoming a member of many committees taking on roles which no one else wanted.
Stalin held more ministerial posts within the government whereas Trotsky again was at the forefront of the action almost acting as Lenin s right hand man. Yet it may have been a wise move of Stalin s whose qualities lay more in the ministerial side of politics.
The civil war started in the spring of 1918 and lasted until 1920 the new Bolshevik government was fighting against an array of enemies who all wished to see the restoration of the tsar these anti communist forces were known as the whites. The communists were known as the reds. Yet again Trotsky s role was vital in fact some say that without him communism could never have won. As the commissar for war Trotsky travelled all over the country in a unique mobile head quarters which was in fact a train. With this he was able to travel to the various fronts and became for the rousing speaches he gave. But before he was able to do this he had to produce an army from the shambles of the old red army he opted for a small yet well equip and trained army going against the advice of many communists who felt this would fail.
Stalin was an active politico-military leader on various fronts and held several small ministerial posts throughout the war but nothing he did compared with the work trotsky was doing.
In 1921 at the 10th party congress it was announced that the N.E.P (or new economic policy) was to be introduced Trotsky felt that this was a step back towards capitalism and therefore unacceptable but he had no supporters within the politburo so he could do nothing to prevent it. He was also unable to voice his disagreements because of the politburo rule that no one was allowed to go public with any negative views about the government.
In May of 1922 Lenin suffered his first stroke this highlighted the fact that there would have to be a successor. Trotsky obviously seemed like the natural choice yet many within the higher ranks within the party were jealous of him; they felt that he could never be trusted as
He wasn t an original member of the Bolsheviks having started out as a Mensheviks. So the other members of the politburo plotted against him forming a troika this included Stalin.
Lenin finally died in 1924 Trotsky was on sick leave with malaria in Caucasus at the time and did not attend the funeral he later claimed that Stalin had deliberately mislead him about the date of the funeral so he would not be able to attend. We can see that Trotsky didn t attend in source E which is a photograph taken at Lenin s funeral it shows us that all the other important figures from the party were present all accept Trotsky. Stalin however did attend the funeral (source e shows that he was the closest to Lenin s body) and used the occasion to pledge that he would always fight to continue Lenin s ideas. Source F is the speech that Stalin made at Lenin s funeral he uses the words unity of our party which was from Lenin s political testament he was almost trying to prove that he was a natural successor and Lenin s closest associate.
When you compare Stalin and Trotsky s careers in politics you can see just how different they both were. Trotsky though he wasn t part of the Bolsheviks from the beginning was accepted by Lenin and his followers very quickly his ability to win over any audience was thought of as amazing. He was always the front man of the party. Whereas Stalin played a more behind the scenes role using his ability to do ministerial work very efficiently to get him where he want to go which was clearly to the top.
By the end of 1924 it was plain for all to see that Stalin was in a much better position within the party than Trotsky was. Stalin had gained almost unlimited authority within the government taking on the jobs which none of the other politburo members wanted. He was not only a member of the politburo but part of the Orgburo which ran the organisational side of the party not to mention his most important role as General Secretary of the party. With all this power he was able to give his supporters posts throughout the party. As head of the Control Commission he was also able to get rid of any members who didn t agree with him (any who he felt threatened his position) he did this under the pretence that he was purging the party- getting rid of those that were unreliable.
Lenin s death was the next situation where Stalin was able to outshine Trotsky at the funeral which Trotsky did not attend (see q1) Stalin pledged eternal allegiance to continuing Lenin s ideas. In May of 1924 Lenin political testament which had previously been a secret was brought forward it had been Lenin s wish that upon his death it would be read as it gave his views on who should become leader. Source s A and B show us just small sections of the testament but we are able to see why Stalin was so worried about it being published. In both sources Lenin denounces Stalin calling him rude he also noted Stalin s enormous power and told the party to take caution to it. But in Stalin s favour a special meeting of the Central Committee was held to discus the matter Stalin s fear was supported by Zinoviev and Kamenev and together they argued that Lenin s worries could be nothing but groundless and therefore there could be no reason to publish the testament. By pure luck the Central Committee agreed and the testament was surpressed.
There were also a lot of arguments within the politburo throughout 1924 about the future of the soviet s economy. The strongest arguments were between Stalin and Trotsky over their very different theories. Trotsky believed in permanent revolution he didn t think that communism could survive in the USSR alone source G highlights his slogan which he stuck to until death. Stalin put forward an opposite theory the theory of socialism in one country he felt that the USSR should always be put first source H highlights Stalin s slogan which he stuck with till the very end. Trotsky did not have much support within the party as the theory had already been tried in 1919 when they had set up an organisation to help revolutionaries in other countries the organisation was known as Comintern and all of the attempts had failed. Thus making Trotsky s theory seem impossible.
All of these points helped to strengthen Stalin s position as well as weaken Trotsky s.
It was during the arguments with Trotsky over their different theories that Stalin joined forces with the Rightists: Bukharin Rykov and Tomsky they all wanted to continue Lenin s N.E.P. However Stalin did not join them because he agreed with the N.E.P but because he felt that they would help him drive out the Left: Trotsky Zinoviev and Kamenev out of the politburo (his primary concern was to get rid of Trotsky). With the help of the rightists Stalin was able to ensure that Trotsky was voted down in the politburo he also arranged for his supporters to vote against Trotsky in meetings of the Party Central Committee.
He even went as far as to make his supporters boo Trotsky s supporters in public meetings by the end of 1925 Stalin s position had been strengthened further. As three of his old friends had been elected to the politburo with their help Stalin was able to secure the dismissal of the lefts from the politburo.
Trotsky Zinoviev and Kamenev didn t join forces to try and defend themselves until 1926 they formed the united opposition this was thought of as a strange alliance as they had formerly been such bitter enemies yet their actions were too late and alienated them further from the party. They re desperate action of supplying the world press with copies of Lenin s testament lost them all their power within the party as many felt they were no longer trustworthy. The final result was that they were expelled from the party although later Zinoviev and Kamenev were allowed to re-enter all their previous power lost. Source D is a propaganda poster showing the left opposition Trotsky as the organist the one leading the group telling them what to do etc. Zinoviev as the singer just singing the words he s been given and Kamenev as the parrot simply copying being non-selective having no brains. These posters were one way for Stalin to get his views across they enabled him to voice his views throughout the USSR.
Once Stalin had dealt with the Left he had gain even more power within the party in 1928 Stalin argued in favour of ending the N.E.P in order to expand industry as fast as possible. But by arguing against the N.E.P he was in fact going against the rightists who he had joined so he could defeat the left. This was no longer a major problem as Stalin had a majority of supporters in the politburo so any arguments they had fell on deaf ears. This finally resulted in the rightists resigning from the politburo in 1929. Leaving Stalin at the age of 50 the supreme leader of the communist party.
Trotsky was exiled from Russia in1928 when he was deported to Alma Ata in soviet Central Asia and in 1929 he was exiled from the whole of the USSR. Trotsky was to spend the rest of his life almost as a refugee travelling first through Europe to places such as Turkey Norway and France and then on to America and finally Mexico. Trotsky never stopped fighting to build a revolutionary socialist movement based on the principles of both Marx and Lenin. Yet his ideals were becoming more and more unrealistic as time went by. By the 1930s they seemed almost impossible as in the USSR Stalin was reshaping Russia with his counter-revolution and the rest of Europe was under threat from the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini.
It is hard to say just how effective Trotsky was throughout this period; he was writing many books including an autobiography My Life (1930); and an in-depth History of the Russian Revolution (1931-1933). He even had his own small group of followers although they were not the people Trotsky expected or wanted to follow him. They were mainly highly educated intellectuals who had never experienced the struggles of working class life.
I personally feel that Stalin still felt threatened by him and was not content until he had irradiated Trotsky s entire political life from the history of Russia. Trotsky s name was removed from all official publications and photographs of him were destroyed his supporters were purged from the party many were imprisoned or even killed.