This thesis will deal with the Red Army’s military debates that took place during the Russian Civil War and immediately after. I propose to show that the debates reflected a historical situation in which Red Army officers increasingly questioned the outlook and composition of the High Command, led by War Commissar Leon Trotsky. The lack of Bolsheviks with military training had resulted in Trotsky incorporating ex-Tsarist officers into the army leadership, in an army run on the traditional manner according to standard military practice. The military sitution was so desperate that many Communists had enrolled and had great military success. These victorious Communist officers developed a fanatical enthusiasm in their own abilities to run the army, and resented both the ex-tsarist military specialists and Trotsky’s defence of them. In addition, the Communist officers, through the influence of the Civil War, developed various theories on how the army should be run, based on the fighting and on Marxism. To these young Marxist officers, the military specialists held outdated military beliefs and were ideologically incorrect and dangerous. Trotsky defended the military specialists and pointed to the Bolsheviks’ precarious position as reason for co-opting non-Marxist help. He also ridiculed the young officers’ theories, which led them to identify The War Commissar with the ex-tsarist specialists. In the end, Trotsky underestimated both the influence of the Civil War on these fanatical officers and their determination to run the army as they saw fit. The thesis is divided into 5 chapters dealing with the different debates until Trotsky’s downfall, and including, in the case of Stalin and China in the 1920’s, an example of the limits of Civil War-induced confidence that goes beyond the actual fighting period.
Last updated: 15.2.2005