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The Russian Civil War remains one of the more brutal wars in Russia’s history. Considering the brutal combat that the Russian army faced in the horrid conditions of World War One and World War Two, to refer to the Russian Civil War as a more brutal endeavor is a grand claim; however, when one considers the cost of lives and the tearing apart of the homeland, it is not a stretch to lay that claim on the shoulders of the Civil War. What complicates the Bolshevik involvement in the Russian Civil War is the fact that the Bolsheviks prescribed to a state central authoritarian system of government.
In other words, the Bolsheviks believed that the state was the center of all authority and that it should be comprised of one political party. In short, the Bolsheviks were fighting for totalitarianism. Needless to say, this does not paint a picture of a faction that had universal appeal among the public. In order to centralize any problems with competing political factions, the Bolsheviks outlawed other political parties. Such an action shows that there was possible belief that perhaps the Bolsheviks ability to maintain popularity in the hearts and minds of the population was on shaky ground.
By firmly establishing an authoritarian rule, the Bolsheviks were ‘surviving’ as opposed to winning both on the battlefield and in the court of public opinion. Therein lays the central problem: if the Bolsheviks were to win the Civil War, they would need to defeat the huge volume of people in the nation who were greatly opposed to the system of government that the Bolsheviks represented. In winning, the defeated factions would have to be integrated into the Russian society and, in some cases, subjugated.
Is this really a win or is it the case of the Bolsheviks using military force to impose their rule on a society that did not want them. To a certain degree, the Bolshevik victory was a matter of the party surviving (it would have been dissolved in the face of a loss in the same manner the opposition parties were dissolved by the Bolsheviks) and the ability to rule was performed by subjugating all opposition and suppressing any pretext of freedom or democratic socialism. (Keep in mind, socialism could have been instituted without totalitarian authoritarianism, but the militaristic approach was the one preferred by the Bolsheviks)
When examining the Soviet Union and its place in history, one needs to ask the question as to what was the Soviet Union’s legacy. To a great extent, the Soviet Union was a colossal failure that squandered the minds and the will of a great people. The Soviet Union was little more than a military-industrial complex that invaded, conquered and occupied nations that despised being under the Soviet sphere of influence. Furthermore, the concept of the utopian socialist fantasyland was exactly that, a grim fairy tale fantasy where over sixty-million people living in nations that prescribed to the philosophy of communism died from famine.
When it comes to the Bolshevik’s success in the Russian Civil war, what was it that the Bolshevik’s accomplished other than the establishment of a failed military-industrial complex state? To that degree, winning the Russian Civil War was hardly a win in the sense of, say, a former colony winning independence. Ultimately, the survival of the Bolsheviks after the Russian Civil war is hardly celebratory as the eventual establishment of the Stalin regime and the advent of the long and hard Cold War hangs a dark cloud over any perceived victory the Bolsheviks could claim.