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Trotsky and the Russian Civil War

  • Geoffrey Swain

Abstract

This chapter argues that Trotsky’s organisational abilities won the civil war for the Bolsheviks, but that aspects of the organisational principles he used were thoroughly un-Bolshevik and foreshadowed the disputes of the 1920s which would ultimately see him removed from the Bolshevik hierarchy. Starting at the Sviyazhsk campaign on the Volga in August 1918, but continuing throughout the civil war, Trotsky’s skills as organiser and inspirer turned the prospect of defeat into victory. Yet his insistence on using military specialists and limiting the Party’s voice when it came to strategy and tactics, led him into a running confrontation with the other Bolshevik leaders, who repeatedly sought ways to extend Party control into the army. In Sviyazhsk Trotsky addressed all the major issues of the civil war. For him it then became simply a matter of generalising from the experience gained on the Volga to every other front of the civil war. This chapter therefore considers Sviyazhsk in some detail, before turning to the conflicts Trotsky faced in persuading the Party that the lessons he had learned there were indeed correct.

Keywords

Central Committee General Staff Individual Charge Soviet Policy Military Specialist 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. Geoffrey Swain, ‘Russia’s Garibaldi: the Revolutionary Life of M A Muraviev’ Revolutionary Russia, 2, 1998.Google Scholar
  2. Geoffrey Swain, ‘The Disillusioning of the Revolution’s Praetorian Guard: the Latvian Riflemen, Summer–Autumn 1918’, Europe-Asia Studies, 4, 1999Google Scholar
  3. Trotsky, My Life (New York, 1970), pp. 396–400Google Scholar
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  5. J.M. Meijer (ed.), The Trotsky Papers (Hague, 1964), vol. I, pp. 69–71.Google Scholar
  6. L. Trotsky, How the Revolution Armed (New York, 1979), vol. I, pp. 314, 324Google Scholar
  7. R. Service, Stalin (Basingstoke, 2004), p. 168.Google Scholar
  8. L. Trotsky, Stalin (London, 1969), vol. II, pp. 60–1.Google Scholar
  9. Geoffrey Swain, Russia’s Civil War (Stroud, 2000), pp. 104–6.Google Scholar
  10. F. McCullough, ‘Trotsky in Ekaterinburg’, Fortnightly Review, 108, 1920, p. 541.Google Scholar
  11. V. Vilkova, The Struggle for Power in Russia in 1923 (New York, 1996), pp. 152, 173.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Geoffrey Swain 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Geoffrey Swain
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LondonUK

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