Stalin's Authority Over the USSR
During the period between Lenin's death, 1924, and the end of the
'Great Purge', 1939, Stalin managed to assert personal authority over
the USSR by gaining complete control of the Communist Party and using
terror to eliminate opposition to his role as leader.
After a successful joint effort with Kamenev and Zinoviev to remove
Trotsky from the Communist Party, Stalin turned his attention towards
eliminating Kamenev and Zinoviev themselves, as they were a threat to
his influence over the party. Both had attacked Stalin's authority and
criticised the idea of having one single leader in the party.
Therefore in 1926 party meetings were held in Moscow and Leningrad and
attended by critics of both Zinoviev and Kamenev. These meetings saw
that loyal members of the party were put in control of the two cities
and that Zinoviev and Kamenev were removed as Secretaries of local
parties. Zinoviev and Kamenev however, in 1926, joined with Trotsky in
the 'United Opposition' to attack the policies of the Communist Party.
Rather than debasing the party as they had hoped, this action led to
their complete removal from the Politburo in 1926 and 1927. Opposition
from the Left had therefore been dealt with, leaving only Stalin and
Bukharin as the main figures in the party, bringing Stalin closer to
complete control of the Communist Party and therefore the State.
Opposition from the Right now became apparent with Bukharin's attack
on policy to the peasants in Notes of an Economist, September 1928.
Those on the Right were now denounced as factionalists and gradually
removed from their positions. In 1929 for example, Bukharin lost his
presidency of Comintern, editorship of Pravda and his seat in the
Politburo. Similarly, Tomsky was sacked as head of trade unions and,
in 1930, he and Rykov (both supporters of the NEP) were removed from
the Politburo. As Fitzpatrick states, "Like previous oppositions to
Stalin the Right was defeated by the Party machine which Stalin
controlled". By eradicating his most powerful opposition from the
party, Stalin secured his position as leader and gained almost
complete control of the Communist regime, which, in time, would lead
to the assertion of his personal authority over the USSR. This may be
seen as cunning on Stalin's part, but there is also the view that he
was simply the beneficiary of the mistakes of other leading figures of
the party as he was the only one who appeared to stick to party
Stalin's abandonment of the New Economic Policy in 1929 is another way
in which he gained control over the USSR. He did not consider the NEP
as being Communist as it allowed the peasants to "have their little
bit of capitalism" (Lenin). The policy allowed peasants to sell extra
surplus in free markets and legalized small businesses....