To what extent did Stalin rise to power because of his cunning personality? Explain your answer. [12m] Stalin rose in power because of his cunning and manipulative personality. He used propaganda to manipulate the images he created for himself and Trotsky as he wanted to get more popularity and support from the people because he wanted to portray himself as the legitimate successor and destroy Trotsky’s positive image as Lenin’s chosen successor. Stalin was cunning enough to prevent Trotsky from going to Lenin’s funeral by tricking him to create a negative image as he wanted to destroy Trotsky’s positive image. When Trotsky did not attend the funeral, it reflected very badly on him. Stalin also gave people the impression that he was close to Lenin by appointing himself as the chief mourner at the funeral. This allowed him to rise in power as people had the impression that he was designated to become Lenin’s successor. Stalin also made alliances with the other contenders, Kamenev and Zinoviev, to get rid of Trotsky. As Kamenev and Zinoviev did not see Stalin as a threat, they co-operated with him. After he had dealt with Trotsky, Stalin turned on the other two and removed them from their power. By using his rivals against each other, Stalin was able to rise to power without worrying about threats to his rule.
At the same time, Stalin used his position as General Secretary of the Communist Party to appoint people who were close or loyal to him. This enabled him to create a strong support base of supporters who would agree with him or vote according to his wishes. This was particularly useful when Stalin had Trotsky voted out of his positions and exiled from Russia.
However, Stalin was also able to rise because of Trotsky’s weaknesses. Unlike Stalin’s strong party support base, Trotsky only had the support of the Red Army. Trotsky was also confident that he was chosen to replace Lenin and did not bother to build up a stronger support base like Stalin. At the same time, Trotsky believed that the USSR should embark on a world revolution. These views were not popular as the Russian people and the Communist Party believed that domestic problems should be addressed first. They preferred Stalin’s views as Stalin also favoured solving the USSR’s domestic problems first and working on Socialism within the country. Due to his complacency, Trotsky’s weaknesses were exploited by Stalin and used to give Stalin better credibility as a leader. In conclusion, Stalin’s cunning personality was more important in helping him rise because Trotsky’s weaknesses were only limited to his complacency and party views. If Stalin had not used his cunning personality to manipulate his rivals and remove them as threats or build up a stronger support base, it would have been just as difficult for him to rise to power. Furthermore, Trotsky’s weaknesses were circumstances that existed as a benefit to Stalin but it was ultimately his cunning personality that allowed him to take full advantage of them.