Contrasting red and white propaganda

In class, we’ve talked a lot about red propaganda. Red propaganda, when aimed at the whites, portrays them as greedy capitalists who seek to exploit both the working class and the peasants. Since we’ve talked so much about how the reds portrayed their enemies, I thought it would be interesting to look at some white propaganda as well. To examine the differences, i’ll take one image that we’ve seen in class as an example of red propaganda, and add an image of white propaganda that I found online. 

White propaganda poster on the left : http://chumpfish3.blogspot.com/2007/04/russian-civil-war-white-army-propaganda.html

Red propaganda poster on the right: http://www.iisg.nl/exhibitions/chairman/sov05.php

When I look at these images, the white propaganda stands out to me much more than the red propaganda. However, the white propaganda lacks any convincing or realistic message. While it portrays Trotsky as the ultimate source of evil, it provides no link to communism. The red propaganda, however, is more realistic, portraying a capitalist as an ugly, self-centered predator who is out to get the average person. If I am correct in concluding that the white propaganda is simply unbelievable, this lack of effectiveness could be amplified by the difficulty of spreading this already ineffective propaganda. While the reds held cities and more densely populated areas, the whites were unorganized and their support was spread out over large areas. Thus, the reds would likely find it much easier to spread their message than the whites.

Some of my suspicions were confirmed by Christopher Lazarski, in his article explaining why white propaganda was ineffective (http://www.jstor.org/stable/4211088). Lazarski cites a lack of understanding the necessity of propaganda, combined with a lack of central ideology as key factors in the lack of influence that white propaganda held. In key areas, which Lazarski identifies as southern Russia, red propaganda was able to agitate the population’s discontent with the country’s political situation, while white propaganda failed to have any central, effective meaning and therefore fell short of what Lazarski calls nearly flawless red propaganda. Strong red propaganda, which was weakly challenged by white propaganda, became a likely essential tool in winning the information war and thus the support of the Russian people.

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4 Responses to Contrasting red and white propaganda

  1. Mary Kate says:

    Ryan, I agree with you. Much of the successes the Red Party had were aided by their insightful use of propaganda. And due to their already pronounced stance within the major cities or Russia, they were able to spread their propaganda thoroughly. Since pretty much anyone of important status was located in or had direct contact with the major areas that the Red Party occupied largely, they were able to gain supremacy since their propaganda could reach the more influential people. Since the White Party was, as Ryan stated, poorly organized as well as being spread wider across Russia and, in turn, further from their fellow White Party members, they had much less success in spreading their propaganda or even creating propaganda that could compete with the Red Party. Overall, I believe that the Red Party’s triumph was significantly aided not only by their strong propaganda, but also by the White Party’s lack of influential propaganda.

  2. Dr. K says:

    That sounds correct, MaryKate, but I take Ryan’s post to say even more than that. Ryan, are you suggesting that Red propaganda was more effective because it was able to take advantage of real discontent, and therefore real potential support for the Reds, among the population? In short, does it suggest that the population inclined slightly Communist?

    • ryan says:

      Indeed I am suggesting that the Red propaganda was able to take advantage of real discontent and build support for socialism, in comparison to the White propaganda which contained no effective argument, partially because this lack of central ideology among the whites probably left them to be perceived as little more than remnants of the old, failed regime. After such a long period where the Russian people clearly recognized that the Monarchy could not continue to be an effective government, the lack of agenda for the Whites left Red socialism to be the only real alternative. I believe that the Reds were able to harness this discontent of the old regime and failure of the Whites through their propaganda.

  3. Nick says:

    Ryan, while I agree with you that the Red army definitely was able to spread their propaganda more easily and effectively, I think that this was almost solely to the central control of Russia that they had, and not because of a lack of clear ideals or messages. To me, the poster on the left conveys very clearly that the communists are causing mass destruction of Russia, and specifically the deaths of many people (as can be seen from the skulls at the bottom). It seems to me that this is much stronger of a message than the anti-capitalist messages of the red army, because it touches on one of the worst things imaginable: the large scale loss of human life. Therefore, I think it is fair to conclude that the Russian citizens were not as a whole more communist-inclined, but simply that those who did support the Reds were more centrally located. Don’t forget that the peasants, those who were affected the worst by the new communist regime, made up most of Russia’s population. However, because of their relative isolation throughout Russia as well as their general lack of resources, they were not able to cohesively bond together nearly as effectively as the Reds.

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