Soviet Union Table of Contents
After Lenin's death, two conflicting schools of thought regarding the future of the Soviet Union arose in party debates. Left-wing Communists believed that world revolution was essential for the survival of socialism in the economically backward Soviet Union. Trotsky, one of the primary proponents of this position, called for Soviet support for permanent revolution (see Glossary) around the world. As for domestic policy, the left wing advocated the rapid development of the economy and the creation of a socialist society. In contrast with these militant Communists, the right wing of the party, recognizing that world revolution was unlikely in the immediate future, favored the gradual development of the Soviet Union through NEP programs. Yet even Bukharin, one of the major right-wing theoreticians, believed that socialism could not triumph in the Soviet Union without assistance from more economically advanced socialist countries.
Against this backdrop of contrasting perceptions of the Soviet future, the leading figures of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik)--the new name of the Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik) as of December 1925--competed for influence. The Kamenev-Zinov'ev-Stalin troika, supporting the militant international program, successfully maneuvered against Trotsky and engineered his removal as commissar of war in 1925. In the meantime, Stalin gradually consolidated his power base and, when he had sufficient strength, broke with Kamenev and Zinov'ev. Belatedly recognizing Stalin's political power, Kamenev and Zinov'ev made amends with Trotsky to join against their former partner. But Stalin countered their attacks on his position with his well-timed formulation of the theory of "socialism in one country." This doctrine, calling for construction of a socialist society in the Soviet Union regardless of the international situation, distanced Stalin from the left and won support from Bukharin and the party's right wing. With this support, Stalin ousted the leaders of the "Left Opposition" from their positions in 1926 and 1927 and forced Trotsky into exile. By the end of the NEP era, free debate within the party thus became progressively limited as Stalin gradually eliminated his opponents.
Data as of May 1989