Consider the view that the Bolshevik success in the Civil War owed more to the weaknesses of their opponents than to their own strengths



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Consider the view that the Bolshevik success in the Civil War owed more to the weaknesses of their opponents than to their own strengths.

The Civil War began in the summer of 1918, shortly after the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Lenin’s Communist government now faced a coalition of counter-revolutionary ‘White’ forces. In addition, the Bolsheviks also faced foreign intervention in the form of Russia’s former allies in the Great War. This essay will tackle the issue of the White’s weaknesses before moving on to focus on the strengths of the Bolsheviks (Red’s). It will therefore conclude by determining the validity of the view put forward in the title.


A major weakness of the White forces was their lack of unity. For a start, they were politically divided, containing Socialists, moderates and liberals. Some groups were fighting for separatism, whilst others desired a return to a system of strong central government. They had no common aim other than their desire to overthrow the Bolsheviks. Furthermore, they had no effective leader of the stature or expertise of Trotsky or Lenin. Rather, they were divided into separate fighting forces under the command of a number of generals.
Another weakness of the Whites was the poor geographical position they held throughout the course of the Civil War. Their forces were scattered with huge distances between each another, thereby preventing any kind of concerted action taking place. This made it relatively easy for the Red forces to defeat them one by one. Any military successes they did have were not followed up. They experienced communication difficulties and had severe problems obtaining essential supplies.
Furthermore, foreign intervention in the Civil War ultimately came to little. In theory the involvement of other major powers should have spelled disaster and defeat for the Bolsheviks. At one point the Reds were fighting the forces of fourteen different foreign countries in addition to the Whites within Russia. However, the foreign powers were also disunited in their motives for involvement. The foreign powers seem ultimately uncommitted to their role in the Civil War. They were too exhausted and preoccupied with the defeat of Germany and by 1919 they had left Russian soil.
The Whites also lacked support from the Russian peasantry in their bid to overthrow the Bolsheviks. The peasantry associated the Whites with the landlord class of pre-Revolutionary Russia. Such a connection was something the Reds were also eager to emphasise; informing the peasants that any land they had gained in the revolution would be confiscated should the Whites triumph.
A final weakness of the Whites was that they took no advantage of the brutality with which Trotsky’s Red forces were certainly guilty of. Rather, they were guilty of similar ill-treatment of local populations. Both sides therefore used terror to crush any opposition.
Nevertheless, the Red’s did possess certain key strengths which are partly responsible for their success in the Civil War. Foremost upon these is the figure of Trotsky and his organisation of the Red Army. In 1918, Trotsky inherited a small and ineffectual army of workers and peasants. As Commissar for War he was able to transform this into a formidable army, numbering more than 5 million. With his slogan, “Everything for the Front”, he used conscription to the maximum and introduced a strict system of hierarchy and discipline. Both were necessary due to the inclusion of 48,000 former Tsarist officers in the army.
Another strength of the Red’s was the strong geographical position they held. They were situated in the central area of Western Russia. They controlled the Russian-speaking areas and Russia’s industrial centres. In addition, the Bolsheviks never lost control of Petrograd or Moscow. Unlike their opponents, they had access to transport and communication networks. They were able to use these to ensure troops and supplies reached their destinations. The policy of War Communism also ensured essential food supplies reached the Red Army throughout the course of the Civil War.
To conclude, there is much evidence to suggest that the view put forward in the essay title is a valid one. As has been shown, the Whites had a number of weaknesses, the most significant being their basic lack of unity, organisation and poor geographical position throughout the Civil War. Foreign intervention ultimately amounted to very little. However, we must be careful not to dismiss the strengths of the Bolsheviks entirely, particularly the assets and achievements of Trotsky. Therefore, while the success of the Bolsheviks would seem to have more to do with the weaknesses of their opponents, their own strengths also played an important part.

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Consider the view that the Bolshevik success in the Civil War owed more to the weaknesses of their opponents than to their own strengths.
The Civil War began in the summer of 1918, shortly after the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Lenin’s Communist government now faced a coalition of counter-revolutionary ‘White’ forces. In addition, the Bolsheviks also faced foreign intervention in the form of Russia’s former allies in the Great War. This essay will tackle the issue of the White’s weaknesses before moving on to focus on the strengths of the Bolsheviks (Red’s). It will therefore conclude by determining the validity of the view put forward in the title.



A major weakness of the White forces was their lack of unity. For a start, they were politically divided, containing Socialists, moderates and liberals. Some groups were fighting for separatism, whilst others desired a return to a system of strong central government. They had no common aim other than their desire to overthrow the Bolsheviks. Furthermore, they had no effective leader of the stature or expertise of Trotsky or Lenin. Rather, they were divided into separate fighting forces under the command of a number of generals.





Another weakness of the Whites was the poor geographical position they held throughout the course of the Civil War. Their forces were scattered with huge distances between each another, thereby preventing any kind of concerted action taking place. This made it relatively easy for the Red forces to defeat them one by one. Any military successes they did have were not followed up. They experienced communication difficulties and had severe problems obtaining essential supplies.






F



urthermore, foreign intervention in the Civil War ultimately came to little. In theory the involvement of other major powers should have spelled disaster and defeat for the Bolsheviks. At one point the Reds were fighting the forces of fourteen different foreign countries in addition to the Whites within Russia. However, the foreign powers were also disunited in their motives for involvement. The foreign powers seem ultimately uncommitted to their role in the Civil War. They were too exhausted and preoccupied with the defeat of Germany and by 1919 they had left Russian soil.

The Whites also lacked support from the Russian peasantry in their bid to overthrow the Bolsheviks. The peasantry associated the Whites with the landlord class of pre-Revolutionary Russia. Such a connection was something the Reds were also eager to emphasise; informing the peasants that any land they had gained in the revolution would be confiscated should the Whites triumph.






A



final weakness of the Whites was that they took no advantage of the brutality with which Trotsky’s Red forces were certainly guilty of. Rather, they were guilty of similar ill-treatment of local populations. Both sides therefore used terror to crush any opposition.

N



evertheless, the Red’s did possess certain key strengths which are partly responsible for their success in the Civil War. Foremost upon these is the figure of Trotsky and his organisation of the Red Army. In 1918, Trotsky inherited a small and ineffectual army of workers and peasants. As Commissar for War he was able to transform this into a formidable army, numbering more than 5 million. With his slogan, “Everything for the Front”, he used conscription to the maximum and introduced a strict system of hierarchy and discipline. Both were necessary due to the inclusion of 48,000 former Tsarist officers in the army.

A



nother strength of the Red’s was the strong geographical position they held. They were situated in the central area of Western Russia. They controlled the Russian-speaking areas and Russia’s industrial centres. In addition, the Bolsheviks never lost control of Petrograd or Moscow. Unlike their opponents, they had access to transport and communication networks. They were able to use these to ensure troops and supplies reached their destinations. The policy of War Communism also ensured essential food supplies reached the Red Army throughout the course of the Civil War.

To conclude, there is much evidence to suggest that the view put forward in the essay title is a valid one. As has been shown, the Whites had a number of weaknesses, the most significant being their basic lack of unity, organisation and poor geographical position throughout the Civil War. Foreign intervention ultimately amounted to very little. However, we must be careful not to dismiss the strengths of the Bolsheviks entirely, particularly the assets and achievements of Trotsky. Therefore, while the success of the Bolsheviks would seem to have more to do with the weaknesses of their opponents, their own strengths also played an important part.

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