After Lenin’s death in 1924, and until 1929, there was a power struggle between seven candidates, who were all members of the Politburo, to decide who would succeed him and take control of the newly formed USSR. The contenders, Stalin, Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin, Rykov and Tomsky, all had strengthsthat would improve their chances of rising up to claim the leadership of communist Russia and weaknesses that would boost their opponent’s likelihood to power and lessen their own opportunities. Now, for each contender we will consider their personal qualities taking into account their strengths and weaknesses.
Leon Trotsky was one of the two likely successors due to his extraordinary skillsas an organizer and orator. But, these would be overshadowed by his unpopular character. Trotsky was one of the most important members of the Politburo. He was a great intellectual whose writings and contributions to the Marxist theory were second only to Lenin’s. Trotsky’s oratory skills enabled him convince crowds and gain the support of numerous people, mostly young. Also, the fact thatTrotsky had proven he was an able army leader during the Civil War, when he lead the Red Army, earned him the respect and support of the military. In addition, it had been Trotsky who had planned and encouraged the October Revolution to take place, proving his loyalty and devotion to the Bolshevik party. Still, many old Bolsheviks saw Trotsky as an outsider and were not convinced of his loyalty since hehad previously been a Menshevik and had joined the party in 1917. Trotsky was very ill during this time, and because of that he was absent at Lenin’s funeral and at the Politburo which lessened his popularity and influence in the country and increased his contender’s, especially Stalin’s. Trotsky was not considered by many as good candidate to become leader because he didn’t have the necessarypolitical skills and was disliked by many due to his arrogance and disrespectful manner towards his comrades.
The other likely candidate was Stalin, an old Bolshevik whose political cleverness was only rivaled by his cruelness and aggressiveness. Stalin was a hard-working party member and activist who had contributed to the party at an early stage by robbing banks to earn funds. Stalin’spositive attitude towards work made it possible for him to accumulate power by accepting all working offers he received such as a post as Editor of Pavda and Commissioner for Nationalities. Unlike Trotsky, Stalin was sly and politically cunning and he used this talent to control the masses and gain their support. Despite his popularity, Stalin was looked down upon by many of his peers because of hishostile and merciless attitude brought about by his paranoia. At the time of the October Revolution, Stalin was not an influential member of the party and did not, therefore, have a major role in the planning or execution of the outbreak. Also, Stalin had constant clashes with Trotsky and Lenin caused by his aggressive manners.
Gregory Zinoviev was a long-standing member of the Party whoseachievements were eclipsed by his unpopularity and cowardice. Zinoviev had been an active member of the Party since 1903 and had worked closely with Lenin throughout his life, he even rode with Lenin on the train from Germany that brought him back to Russia in 1917. Zinoviev was a good orator but he was not an intellectual and was disliked by many because they considered him a coward. Also, Zinoviev,like Kamenev, opposed the October Revolution, since he wanted a socialist government. This brought about many disagreements with Lenin.
Led Kamenev was an intellectual who had gained the respect of his comrades, including Lenin, but he did not posses the qualities to become a leader. Kamenev was liked and well regarded by most people. He was an intellectual, superior to Stalin and Zinoviev,...