The Russian Civil War

The Russian Civil War

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The Russian Civil War The following were equally important reasons why Lenin and the
Bolsheviks were able to hold onto power during the Civil War:

Trotsky's organisation of the Red Army

The disunity of the White opposition

War Communism

The Leadership qualities of Lenin

Explain how far you agree with this statement.

The four reasons why Lenin and the Bolsheviks were able to hold onto
power during the Civil war are all relevant and important reasons, I
am going to look into whether or not they are all as important as each
other.

Leon Trotsky was a superb leader, who built up the red army from next
to nothing. He introduced conscription, for men over eighteen years
old. Trotsky bought in around 50,000 former Tsarist officers with
experience, and he appointed political Commissars (fanatical
bolsheviks) to each unit, to make sure that orders were carried out.
As well as introducing new methods and orders, he had experience in
armies, and was very courageous - exactly the type of leader that was
needed for a Red Army victory.

The order which Trotsky issued to the Red Army during the Civil War:

'I give warning that if any unit retreats without orders, the first to
be shot down will be the commissary of the unit, and next the
commander. Brave and gallant soldiers will be appointed in their
places. Cowards, dastards and traitors will not escape the bullet.
This I solemnly promise in the presence of the entire Red Army.'

This shows the lengths which Trotsky was prepared to go to, to achieve
a victory for the red army.

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He was ruthless, and knew that he needed
to be, to achieve a victory for the Red Army, the Bolsheviks, and the
second revolution.

I think that, based on what I know about Trotsky, and his leadership
skills, he was an excellent, and very powerful leader, and that his
organisation of the Red Army is a very important reason as to why the
Bolsheviks were able to hold onto power during the Civil war.

The White army lacked good leaders, commanders were often cruel, white
generals did not trust each other, and there was much fighting and and
arguing because groups had different aims or beliefs.

Some groups wanted the Tsar back, while some wanted a revolutionary
change, some wanted a military dictator, others wanted a
constitutional government. The only aim which they all had in common
was that they wanted to see the Bolsheviks defeated. White generals
would not trust each other, meaning that they would not co-ordinate
their attacks, which was hard anyway as their armies were so
scattered, and communication difficult. This was an advantage to the
Red Army, who could easily then defeat White armies individually, one
by one.

The Whites did appear to have the advantage of support from foreign
powers: Britain, France, Japan, the USA, and several other countries.
Their governments did not want to see Bolshevism spread into Europe,
and their own countries. This gave the Whites supplies and armaments,
although these were very valuable, the troops did not fight, tired of
war, and some sympathetic to the Bolsheviks cause. Infact, the
intervention of other countries helped the communists. They portrayed
themselves as the defenders of the normal Russian people from foreign
invaders, while the Whites were being used by capitalist powers. So
even what could have been an advantage for the White Army turned out
to be a help to the Reds.

Whilst Lenin had helped a lot during the time when the Bolsheviks were
trying to gain power and support, I do not think that his role was as
much of a success during the Civil war. Lenin's job was now to run the
government, organising food and industrial production. This was not an
easy job. there had been food riots, and industry was collapsing as
starving workers left the cities. But it was still crucial to keep the
Red Army well supplied. To achieve this, Lenin introduced the policy
of 'War Communism'.

In towns the state took control of industry, the factories were told
what to produce. Lenin put in his own managers, who imposed strict
discipline on the workers. Food was rationed but only those working
could get ration cards, and factory workers and soldiers were given
larger rations, this was a good strategy by Lenin, as it encouraged
people to join the Red Army, or work in factories to help keep the
army well supplied. However, people did get annoyed by the way that
things were being run. One report said that: 'One might have thought
that these were not factories but the forced labour prisons of the
Tsarist times.'

Peasants had expected life to be better after the Bolsheviks took
power, however Lenin was making things worse for them, in peasants and
workers eyes. The message which was given to them by Lenin and the
Communists was that for a Red Army victory, first everyone had to
suffer, then life would be a lot better.

In the country things were no better, food was already scarce, and
Lenin desperately needed food for the workers. Since peasants were
unwilling to sell their grain for money, which was becoming
increasingly worthless, Lenin sent units of Cheka to seize food.
People found hoarding food supplies were punished harshly, peasants
resisted, many deciding to produce less grin, because they assumed it
would just be taken away. The struggle became bitter, and the
situation worsened. Lenin was losing himself and the Red Army support.
Many peasants, as well as workers, began to think that the workers'
state was worse than the government of the Tsar, which they had been
so keen to be rid of. According to an internet source 'Lenin's policy
of War Communism during the Civil War created social distress and led
to riots, strikes and demonstrations.' I think that this statement has
a lot of truth in it, and that whilst Lenin was a good leader for the
Bolsheviks before they took control, his ideas about how to run the
government, and deal with workers and peasants were inapropriate, and
other methods would have been more successful, and of help to the
Bolsheviks. Lenin's leadership qualities were of not great help here,
and War Communism was no success at all. Fanya Kaplan who shot Lenin
at the end of August in 1918, made a statement to the Cheka,
describing Lenin as a "traitor to the revolution"

I have come to the conclusion, after analysing the four reasons given
why Lenin and the Bolsheviks were able to hold on to power during the
civil war, that they are not all equally as important. Overall I think
that Trotsky's organisation of the Red army, and the dissunity of the
White opposition are more important reasons than War Communism and the
Leadership qualities of Lenin.

Trotsky's organisation of the Red Army is a very important reason as
to why Lenin and the Bolsheviks were able to hold onto power, as he
built the Red Army up, almost from scratch, he introduced
conscription, and I think that he was a great asset to the Communists,
and the Red Army. The disunity of the White opposition is another
important reason as to why Lenin and the Bosheviks were able to hold
onto power; I think that if they had been more organised, with better
leaders, and less disunity, a victory for the White Army would have
been possible. War Communism was a failure, peasants resisted, the
economy was close to collapsing, and food shortages only worsened.
Whilst Lenin may have been a good leader in the past I do not think
that his leadership qualities were a help to the Red Army, as he spent
most of his time organising War Communism, which led to peasant
uprisings, and was no success.
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