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Stalin's Defeat of Trotsky and His Allies: Key Sources

Chris Corin elucidates important documents relating to the power struggle after Lenin's death.

Chris Corin | Published in History Review

Studying the sources relating to the conflict between Stalin and Trotsky between 1923 and 1927 is highly revealing. It shows the importance of Stalin’s position as Party Secretary and the way he used it, how Lenin was used as a weapon, and how the ban on factions was exploited.

Distrusted and feared, Trotsky became increasingly estranged from the party leadership. He became, in Ian Thatcher’s words, ‘a voice on the margins’. In October 1923 that voice was raised in an open letter of complaint to the Politburo demanding changes in the party organisation. A week later, inspired but not co-ordinated by Trotsky, a group of his supporters launched the Declaration of 46: a sweeping criticism of the record of the party leadership in which the triumvirate of Zinoviev, Kamenev and Stalin were dominant. It is important in the formation of the Left Opposition, and the full text is available on the internet. The signatories did not agree on everything, and some added their own comments, but all wanted more radical economic measures. The Declaration stated that the ban on factions of 1921 ‘had outlived itself’ and that freedom of expression should be allowed within the party. The key point was that the party had become ‘bureaucratised’, and that Stalin had killed the tradition of internal party democracy. This became a central grievance of all the oppositions of the 1920s.

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