In his extended struggle with Trotsky, Stalin turned to a detailed study of Lenin. Both sought to claim the legacy of Lenin, in what may be called a ‘scriptural dialectic’, in which the texts interpreted can lead to both positions. It was also part of the growing veneration of Lenin (rather sought to negate any veneration of himself). Repeatedly in those arguments, Stalin sought to counter Trotsky’s argument that socialism would be successful only with a world, or at least European, revolution. So Stalin argued that socialism in one country is indeed possible, yet that does not remove the threat of international intervention, if not the potential destruction of socialism. He writes:

The point at issue is not complete victory, but the victory of socialism in general, i.e., driving away the landlords and capitalists, taking power, repelling the attacks of imperialism and beginning to build a socialist economy. In all this, the proletariat in one country can be fully successful; but a complete guarantee against restoration can be ensured only by the ‘joint efforts of the proletarians in several countries’ … for as long as capitalist encirclement exists there will always be the danger of military intervention. (Works, volume 7, pages 122-23).

A foreboding of 1991, or perhaps a warning concerning events he hoped would never come to pass?

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