See all History Matters transcripts on Youtube

youtube thumbnail

Why didn't Trotsky take over the USSR after Lenin?

3 minutes 27 seconds

Speaker 1

00:00:00 - 00:00:23

After Lenin came down with the case of the deads, it wasn't long until Joseph Stalin took over as the undisputed leader of the USSR. As many of you will know, Lenin was not a fan of Stalin and openly didn't want him to succeed. And yet, Stalin won out in 1924 and a few short years later the Soviet Union was under his absolute control. Which raises the question, why? Why did Stalin take over the USSR instead of somebody like Trotsky?

Speaker 1

00:00:23 - 00:00:50

So, as of Lenin's death, the Politburo consisted of these 7 men, all of whom had some chance of succeeding Lenin. Publicly, the new policy going forward was that the USSR would be led by a committee of equals who would vote on policy. Privately, scheming. Stalin was quick to act, and along with Lenin's deputy, Lev Kermenev and a man called Grigory Zinoviev who was in charge of Comintern, the 3 formed an alliance. This alliance was called the Troika which had the sole purpose of blocking Leon Trotsky from power.

Speaker 1

00:00:50 - 00:01:15

Why? Well the primary reason was that there were major policy disagreements between them. As a result of economic troubles during the Russian Civil War, Lenin had implemented what was called the New Economic Policy. This allowed for things like the private sale of goods for profit into the new communist economy, which Trotsky had opposed. Trotsky was very popular with the general population in the USSR and this popularity meant that he could rally support, especially from the military which for the other members of the Politburo could cause problems.

Speaker 1

00:01:15 - 00:01:41

As such, with a gentle push from Stalin's, Zinoviev and Khmenev publicly denounced Trotsky as being an enemy of Lenin's vision. Over the next year and a half, both sides tarnished the other's reputations until everybody involved looked quite bad. Except for Stalin, because he had kept quiet. Trotsky's reputation as a military leader was particularly damaged and he had to resign as head of the Soviet Armed Forces. Whilst all of this was going on, Stalin was making friends with the other Politburo members like the editor of Pravda, Nikolai Bukharin.

Speaker 1

00:01:41 - 00:02:12

He also made friends with the man actually doing the day-to-day running of the USSR, Alexei Rykov. And this is where Trotsky fell short. Stalin was willing to concede points to make friends and put gaining power over any ideological purity, whereas Trotsky would concede precisely nothing and his staunch opposition to the deeply held beliefs of his fellow communists did not win him any friends. When it was time for new internal elections to the Politburo, Stalin's new friends were able to band together and got Khmenev demoted whilst bringing in more friends of Stalin. This spooked everyone else who suddenly thought, hey, this Trotsky guy might not be so bad after all.

Speaker 1

00:02:12 - 00:02:35

As such, new alliance, the United Opposition. They opposed the new economic policy, wanted faster industrialisation and more interference in foreign affairs to spread communism. These may or may not have been good points, but it didn't matter because Stalin was in control of most of the levers of power at this point. And so he just used the secret police to threaten members of the United Opposition into silence. He got Trotsky deselected and soon afterwards he outlawed opposing the Politburo's policies.

Speaker 1

00:02:35 - 00:03:07

Trotsky was then exiled to the Kazakh region of the USSR and was then kicked out of the country in 1929. And so, with Trotsky dealt with, Stalin was free to fully assert his control over the party. And subsequently, of the 7 members of the Politburo who served just after Lenin's death, Stalin purged most of them and assassinated Trotsky in Mexico in 1940, leaving himself as the unparalleled ruler of the USSR. I hope you enjoyed this episode with a special thanks to my Patrons... James Bizonette, Kelly Moneymaker, Korsho Wolf, Sky Chappell, Katoitska, Jerry Lambdin, Alex Schwin, Adam Stalter, Jordan Longley, Rod D.

Speaker 1

00:03:07 - 00:03:07

Martin, Wyan Hockey, Marcus Arsner, Captain Psydog, Marvin Casale, Spencer Lightfoot, Winston Cawood, Boogily Woogily, Daniel Tabian, Camoon Yoon, Miss Isette, Gustav Swann, Aaron The White, Anthony Beckett, The McWhopper, Maggie Paskowski, Copper Tone, Spinning 3 Plates, Shuenin, Words About Books Podcast, and Charles I.