Was Bolshevik victory in the Russian civil war largely due to the failureof their opponents rather than to their own successes?There is some truth in the above statement, however it is important torecognise the strengths of the Red army and Communists, as although theWhites had certain weaknesses, the Communist’s still won the civil war. Theway in which the Communist won the civil war reflected many of theirstrengths, which I will go on to, discuss.
But the Whites did fail in theirattempt to gain power due to a number of core reasons including thecomposition of the white forces, various ideologies and insufficientcommitment to the cause. ” The whites were never more than an uncoordinatedgroup of forces whose morale was seldom high. They were a collection ofdispossessedsocialists,liberalsandmoderates,whosepoliticaldifferences often led them into bitter disputes among themselves”1 fromthis quote we can see the numerous weaknesses within the Whites which wenton to help the Bolsheviks win the civil war. However on the whole it mustbe said although the Whites did have their problems the Communists and theRed Army fought a successful war and won it, thus although the Whites werea reason for the communist success the role that the Red army played mustnot be underestimated.
Some Historians have argued that there was a lack of commitment on behalfof the whites in the civil war. The cause of this civil war must be lookedat if we are to discuss commitment of the whites. The Civil war was causedby the October revolution of 1917 and the seizure of power by theCommunists and their commitment to remain in power and not let anyone elsein power, this can be seen by a comment made by “Trotsky, replying toMartov who was urging the revolutionary party to form a coalition with theMenshiviks and the SR’s, ‘Your part is over. Go to the place where you nowbelong from now on the trash bin of history'”2. Although the quote fromTrotsky highlights one reason for civil war another cause of the civil warwas the famine mainly due to the first world war and the problem it causedthere was a number of problems that were highlighted by the first world warwhich caused tension too, problems that were going to take time to besolved yet there was impatience.
The problems that were ongoing in Russiadoes mean that there should have been commitment to the cause, however thewhite army had many desertions (although many armies suffered from this)the white armies found it more difficult to recruit and keep their ordinarysoldiers than the reds. A lack of commitment to fight for the Whites wasalso caused by doubts on the land issue as many of the white generals werefrom the ruling class as “for them it was a question returning to the pastand they tried to restore it in form and sprit”3, the fact that certainWhite generals wanted to return to the past meant that many peasants wouldnot support them and their allegiance was with the Bolsheviks and the redarmy. This shows that the whites had a lack of commitment and a centralideology also thus this may tell us why communist victory in the Russiancivil war was largely due to the failure of their opponents. Although there was a lack of commitment that was a reason for the Whitefailure another important factor in the Whites defeat was a lack of co-operation. Although Pipes says “The ability of the whites to carry onagainst such overwhelming odds and at one point even to seem near victorysuggests that, country to conventional wisdom it is they who had superiorgeneralship and morale”4 it is true of Pipes to say that they may havehad more general this is mainly because generals were mainlyfromaristocratic backgrounds and thus were in opposition to the Bolshevikparty, however it must not be mistaken the Whites did lack co-operation andcommitment.
Their mutual suspicions and their differing goals caused this. The White forces did not co-operate in their military planning, a reasonfor a lack of co-operation was the geographical factor with Russia being ahuge country it was difficult to communicate. However as I will go on toexplain the Red army were rather effective in communication across Russiaand this went on to help them win the civil