The Bolsheviks were able to consolidate their power in the years after the Revolution because they were better organised and better led than their opponents. In addition, they had a compelling ideology, and offered more to Russia’s peasants and workers than their opponents did. More than anything, though, they were willing to do whatever was necessary in order to succeed.
In the weeks following the Revolution, the Bolsheviks implemented the promises they had made to the people. They gave land to the peasants, improved wages and conditions for industrial workers, and initiated peace negotiations with the Germans. Not everyone welcomed the Bolshevik coup, however, and when a wave of strikes and protests broke out, Lenin arrested the leaders of these disturbances and closed their printing presses. He also held an election for the Constituent Assembly (the Duma), but closed it down when he didn’t win enough seats. Next, he signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (March 1918), taking Russia out of World War One. No sooner had the Bolsheviks consolidated their power in Petrograd, Moscow and the major cities of the northeast, than their enemies elsewhere in the country set out to destroy them. Although the White forces outnumbered the Red Army by more than five to one at the beginning of the Civil War, the Bolsheviks were able to defeat them, by playing to their own advantages. In the first place, they were united, while the White Armies were divided – both physically and ideologically. In addition, the Bolsheviks controlled the internal lines in Russia, and could move troops easily from one front to another. They also controlled the major industrial and population centres. The Bolsheviks were also better organized and better led. Lenin introduced the policy of War Communism to allow all Russia’s resources to be mobilised. He also appointed Trotsky as Commissar for War. Trotsky built the Red Army into a force of five million men, then used his tactical genius to out-think the Whites. Lenin demonstrated his ruthlessness by unleashing the Red Terror on his opponents. During the Civil War, the secret police (the Cheka) killed tens of thousands of people. Finally, the Bolsheviks were aided by mistakes made by their adversaries. The Whites