Sandeep Malhotra

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Was Bolshevik victory in the Russian civil war largely due to the failure
of their opponents rather than to their own successes?
There is some truth in the above statement, however it is important to
recognise the strengths of the Red army and Communists, as although the
Whites had certain weaknesses, the Communist’s still won the civil war. The
way in which the Communist won the civil war reflected many of their
strengths, which I will go on to, discuss. But the Whites did fail in their
attempt to gain power due to a number of core reasons including the
composition of the white forces, various ideologies and insufficient
commitment to the cause. ” The whites were never more than an uncoordinated
group of forces whose morale was seldom high. They were a collection of
differences often led them into bitter disputes among themselves”1 from
this quote we can see the numerous weaknesses within the Whites which went
on to help the Bolsheviks win the civil war. However on the whole it must
be said although the Whites did have their problems the Communists and the
Red Army fought a successful war and won it, thus although the Whites were
a reason for the communist success the role that the Red army played must
not be underestimated.

Some Historians have argued that there was a lack of commitment on behalf
of the whites in the civil war. The cause of this civil war must be looked
at if we are to discuss commitment of the whites. The Civil war was caused
by the October revolution of 1917 and the seizure of power by the
Communists and their commitment to remain in power and not let anyone else
in power, this can be seen by a comment made by “Trotsky, replying to
Martov who was urging the revolutionary party to form a coalition with the
Menshiviks and the SR’s, ‘Your part is over. Go to the place where you now
belong from now on the trash bin of history'”2. Although the quote from
Trotsky highlights one reason for civil war another cause of the civil war
was the famine mainly due to the first world war and the problem it caused
there was a number of problems that were highlighted by the first world war
which caused tension too, problems that were going to take time to be
solved yet there was impatience. The problems that were ongoing in Russia
does mean that there should have been commitment to the cause, however the
white army had many desertions (although many armies suffered from this)
the white armies found it more difficult to recruit and keep their ordinary
soldiers than the reds. A lack of commitment to fight for the Whites was
also caused by doubts on the land issue as many of the white generals were
from the ruling class as “for them it was a question returning to the past
and they tried to restore it in form and sprit”3, the fact that certain
White generals wanted to return to the past meant that many peasants would
not support them and their allegiance was with the Bolsheviks and the red
army. This shows that the whites had a lack of commitment and a central
ideology also thus this may tell us why communist victory in the Russian
civil war was largely due to the failure of their opponents.

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Although there was a lack of commitment that was a reason for the White
failure another important factor in the Whites defeat was a lack of co-
operation. Although Pipes says “The ability of the whites to carry on
against such overwhelming odds and at one point even to seem near victory
suggests that, country to conventional wisdom it is they who had superior
generalship and morale”4 it is true of Pipes to say that they may have
had more general this is mainly because generals were mainlyfrom
aristocratic backgrounds and thus were in opposition to the Bolshevik
party, however it must not be mistaken the Whites did lack co-operation and
commitment. Their mutual suspicions and their differing goals caused this.

The White forces did not co-operate in their military planning, a reason
for a lack of co-operation was the geographical factor with Russia being a
huge country it was difficult to communicate. However as I will go on to
explain the Red army were rather effective in communication across Russia
and this went on to help them win the civil


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