The Bolsheviks’ Victory – History Essay
The Bolsheviks were victorious because they were a stronger, more cohesive team than those of the White Army. It can be argued that for any civil war to come to
a definite end, one side must be decisively victorious. Since history can attest to the Bolsheviks’ victory, it can be argued that they won primarily because of their own strengths and not because of their enemies’ shortcomings. When examined more closely, it can be seen that the Bolsheviks’ were superior in their economic, military and political policies and could therefore decisively defeat the White Army.
Centralized Position (Economic Strengths)
Seized power in Petrograd, Moscow and consolidated their power in Central Russia, forcing Whites to build bases in largely non-Russian territories
Bolsheviks controlled populated urban centres, industry and fertile agricultural lands.
They had prepared defence positions that were easy to defend against White attacks – and they were forced to attack to try and wrestle the two capitals away.
With such heavily industrialized region, the Bolsheviks were less dependent on foreign aid than Whites.
Bolsheviks were able to coordinate military operations in a more rational way, especially with use of railways.
Superior Army & Administration (Military Strengths)
Red army adopted best aspects of Imperial army – especially administration, barracks and depots
Had strict mobilization orders and were methodical about them
May 1918 – 306,000 men
Dec 1920 – over 445,000 administrators alone
Mobilized 5.5 million men, 800,000 were actual combatants
This was only possible through the cooperation and coordination of the military, security and political organizations.
Trotsky not afraid to discard “revolutionary innovations” to make Red Army efficient & effective
No longer elected by men, but appointed w/ authority
? Appointed former Imperial officers to command (called Specialists)
o Had party Cadres attached to every one, to keep an eye on them so they don’t defect
o Held their families hostage to ensure loyalty
o Efficient use of Cheka Security to keep Red Army in check (Capital punishment used)
Trotsky not afraid to reorganize command structure
o After loss of Perm in Dec. 1918
? Understood tactics necessary to quell rebellion by peasants – when negotiations failed, the Cheka stepped in to “take care” of the peasants
? This form of terror and intelligent organization made the Red Army function in the field of battle
? Raised morale by showing up at front lines
? Red Army is largely responsible for Bolshevik victory
? Bolsheviks’ administration – collected grain efficiently, dealt with White leaders quietly, thoroughly searched for arms and executed those withholding them
Ideology and Propaganda (Political Strengths)
Based their power on majority of people represented by Soviets – replaced Soviets with only Bolsheviks, claim was now true
Nov 1917: Got peasants on their side by proclaiming seized lands now in hands of peasants
o Even though contradicting the party’s own precepts
He didn’t make extravagant promises – Red propaganda destroyed White claims of restoration of democracy or empire in Russia easily.
Handled foreign affairs well – no ties to former allies of Russia: fresh start, new approach.
All were politicians, not diplomats, so they could play their enemies off of one another
o Whites appeared to be puppets of Britain and France, while Reds were Russian patriots
While still extreme, Lenin’s political decisions led Bolsheviks to victory
o handing land to peasants
o policy of non-commitment to foreign powers
o policies came first, civil war later – regular meeting of leadership, held elections
All major military decisions were still made by Lenin
? White army had many of the former Imperial Army’s top generals and officers so their high levels in the military had a lot of tactical and strategic experience
? White army practically had the monopoly of former Imperial Administrators, which gave them a distinct advantage in terms of experience on how things should be run.
? The White army not only received financial aid from various global powers, but also received troops to help bolster their ranks from these various powers.