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The Military Writings and Speeches of Leon Trotsky
New Park Publications
This work, published in 5 volumes beginning in 1979, is arguably the most important historical document to appear in recent times. It covers the period from 1918 to 1920, the period of the civil war following the Russian Revolution of 1917, and the associated war of intervention by the imperialist states the intention of which was to overthrow the new socialist republic and return the capitalist class to power. It is the astonishing record of Trotsky’s struggle to build the Red Army from the ruins of the country, defeated in the First World War and suffering famine, and lead it to victory over the enemies of the Revolution.
It is especially important because, as Lenin has explained elsewhere, such historical periods as this lay bare the essential qualities of the society in which they are fought out. All the class antagonisms, economic, political and cultural, appear on the surface of events with stark clarity. It was so in all the bourgeois revolutions of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and with direct relevance today, in the struggles of the working class to free itself from capitalist tyranny. At the same time, it is a direct record of the gigantic tasks that can be achieved by the working class when organised under their own freely chosen leaders.
The greatest of all our achievement to date is of course the Russian Revolution of 1917. Every worker knows that the working class achieved political power in October of that year. Below, under the heading “The Armies of our Enemies”, Trotsky recounts how the workers achieved state power, the monopoly right to wield armed bodies of men. We have presented the key sentences in bold type.
The Article reproduced here is from Volume 3, beginning on page 3.
OUR WORK AT BUILDING THE ARMY AND OUR FRONTS
Report to the 7th. All-
Comrades, the Red Army was first given a legal, legislative basis in the Central Executive Committee decrees of April 22 of last year, which later received specific approval in the form of a resolution of the 5th All-
The army must reflect the regime that we are building in all spheres of social and political life. This regime is characterised by the political rule of the working class, relying on the broad masses of the peasant poor and the working peasantry. The leading role of the working class in the army was consolidated in the form of the institution of commissars, who were chosen from among the most tested, reliable and self-
In the sphere of the material organisation of the army, overcoming guerrilla-
First of all, we took as the basis for our army a thorough mobilisation of the working classes of the people. We did not undertake this immediately. To be able to carry out a mobilisation, so as not to leave the matter of the country’s military defence to the arbitrary spontaneity of volunteering, we had to have an apparatus suitable for carrying out a mobilisation, in the form of local military institutions. In the first phase, a Supreme Military Council was formed, under the Peoples Commissariat for Military Affairs; its significance in the history of our military work was that it carried through, with the necessary vigour and consistency, the organisation of military districts and of military commissariats at province, uyezd, and then even at volost level. Only after this apparatus had been created were we able to proceed to take a census of the population and actually draw it into our military units. The work that was accomplished in this sphere was performed under constant and colossal pressure of war. Unlike all other countries, which enjoyed before their wars a long period of so called armed peace, during which they built and equipped their armies, we had to build our workers’ and peasants’ army – the first in the world – under the direct pressure of the demands of war, with the knife of the bandits of world imperialism at our throats. We created an apparatus, and, using this apparatus, we both built an army and, in the course of the work performed by this army, tested and corrected the apparatus.
Our country has now been divided, for the purpose of military administration, into eight military districts. These districts include 46 provincial and 344 uyezd commissariats. Their number is increasing quite rapidly. Requests are coming in from the Southern Front for experienced military commissars for the Ukrainian provinces; candidates are needed, first and foremost, for Kharkov, Poltava and Kiev.
THE FIRST MOBILISATIONS
The first mobilisation was a very serious test of our military apparatus and, in a certain sense, of our entire Soviet system. We did not lightly take our decision to carry out the first mobilisation in Moscow, which in the summer of last year, embraced 10,000 workers. For the new, Soviet order to create an apparatus which would be capable of registering, counting and finding the men liable for military service, and which would possess sufficient authority in the eyes of those called up, those mobilised, for them to present themselves and to join their units, was no easy task, comrades. The first mobilisation, of urban workers in Moscow, the most highly educated section, in the political sense, was, of course, the easiest of all. It went off successfully, and we were able gradually to apply the experience thus gained on a country wide scale. In the course of the last report period – from our last, 6th, Congress of the Soviets, until the Present Congress – we have mobilised very many men. I have no right, of course, to give figures here, but it is not a secret to any of us that we have mobilised tens of thousands in a single month, and sometimes tens of thousands have gathered into hundreds of thousands, and these hundreds of thousands have already become millions during the two years of our civil war. Comrades, these figures have a twofold significance. Millions of workers and peasants have been torn from their working lives and placed in the harsh, abnormal conditions of a fighting army. At the same time, however, the fact that the young authority of the revolutionary class has proved capable of placing millions of the country’s citizens under arms proves that this authority is strong and sturdy in the support of the working masses. Our army is made up of workers and peasants. Workers account for barely 15 to 18 per cent. But in our workers’ and peasants’ army it is the workers who hold the position of leadership, as they do throughout the Soviet land in all spheres of life and work. This is given them by their greater consciousness, their greater unity, their higher degree of revolutionary tempering.
THE ARMIES OF OUR ENEMIES
As you know, comrades, our opponents, Denikin and Kolchack, who are our principle foes, started with guerrilla units. They, of course, proceeded from the other end. While we were despatching Red-
And, however gratifying it may be for us to recognise the direct military strength of the Red armies, what is still more important for us is to understand and define the social, class basis of our victories. We have a regular army and they have a regular army; we have conscripted masses and they have conscripted masses-
THE COMMUNIST PARTY AND THE RED ARMY
I said that the army, and this is the fundamental idea of the report which I am making to you – is a copy, an imprint, a reflection of our social structure as a whole. It is based on political rule by the working class, relying on the peasantry. The leading role in the working class is played by the Communist Party, the leading Soviet party. And that is why, though I am making this report in my capacity as War Commissar and not as representative of the Party, I cannot avoid speaking of the role that the Communists play in the ranks of our army. The responsible post of commissar is held, in the overwhelming majority of cases, by a member of the Communist Party. In every regiment, in every battalion, in every company you will find a Communist cell. Our regulations, our statutes proclaim, in this connection, that the Communists in the army have no rights, only duties. It would of course, be extremely optimistic to affirm that every communist in the army does his duty irreproachably. We are dealing here not with a small. Select group, but with a very, very large number of Communists Party members. I am not going to give the precise number, but I can say that it runs into six figures, that is, not fewer than 100,000 men are involved. In actual fact, the number is much greater, and – permitting myself to refer for confirmation to our military specialists, to the commanding personnel, a body which is to a considerable extent made up of non-
Comrades, in this difficult struggle, about which poets will one day write great things, we have suffered very heavy losses, of soldiers, commanders and commissars … But we have lost Communists without number! For a Communist there cannot be, and there is not, any question of being taken prisoner; when a Communist is captured he is irrevocably doomed. There was, true, a case when one of the most outstanding workers in the Moscow district, Baryshnikov, a splendid fighting comrade, did not manage to shoot himself when he fell into the hands of Mamontov’s cavalry. Baryshnikov was hanged. Those whom you take away from their usual setting, to the great detriment of local work, and send out there not as rank-
POLITICAL WORK IN THE RED ARMY
The welding together of commissars, advanced workers, members of the Communist cell, and the remaining mass of members of a military unit is effected primarily through political work such as no army before has ever experienced on the same scale. The political work has developed very extensively in recent years, thanks to the large influx of personnel, publications and resources. It is enough to mention that even in January of this year we had not one single school of literacy in the army, whereas now we have 3,800. Before January 1 we had 32 clubs but we now have 1,315. Before January 1 we had not a single mobile library, but now we have 2,392. We are spending hundreds of millions of roubles a year – in terms, admittedly, of our present miserable currency – on cultural work and educational work in the army. This work will send back to the villages and factories people who will stand two or three heads higher than when they left those villages and factories to join the army.
THE COMMANDING PERSONNEL
The problem of commanding personnel presented us with immense difficulties. This constituted a big problem for the state power in all critical epochs, in all revolutionary periods, and it was even harder for us, with our state system which is absolutely new in class content and type. I recall how, on April 22 of last year, when I had to give a report to the Central Executive Committee defining the road for the formation of the Red Army, a report in which I insisted on the need to enlist military specialists in the army and the need to establish the institution of commissars – I would ask representatives of the opposition to recall this fact, not for the sake of polemics but so that we may be able to learn something from each other, if we really wish to work on the basis of the Soviet regime – I would ask them to recall what was said on that occasion. I remember it very well, without having to look up old minutes. We were told that we were not going to create an army, that this was a farcical project, that we were going to appoint commissars like a couple of archangels, one on either side of each counter-
Let us take the history of the most brilliant army the world has ever known, the army of the great French Revolution. It was formed by way of an “amalgam”, as they said in those days, of the old Royal battalions of the line with the new volunteer battalions. Of the 15,000 officers of the Royal Army, about half fled to the camp of the counter-
The former officers have gradually learned to treat commissar collaborators with respect. They have seen, day after day, how the commissars, the representatives of the ruling party, delegated by the centre to perform responsible tasks, devote themselves wholeheartedly to their work, without asking for any privileges, and are in the forefront wherever the greatest danger threatens. This moral influence of the commissars could not fail to attract the best section of the commanders to the class which possesses thousands and tens of thousands of such workers to serve its needs.
Consequently, our army has not just mechanically poured into itself tens of thousands of former regular officers – and it is indeed a matter of tens of thousands – no, our army has organically absorbed many thousands of them, psychologically assimilated them, morally re-
THE COMMAND COURSES
Along with this, comrades, we established, on the basis of your resolution, a very substantial number of courses for commanding personnel for the most militant workers and conscious peasants, drawn both from the old army and from our Red Army. I shall not mention figures, for fully comprehensible reasons, but merely say that there are several dozen such courses. The number of courses has doubled in the year covered by this report, and the number of students attending has trebled, so that the army is being replenished to an increasing extent, so far as junior positions of command are concerned, with men who have come directly from the factories and villages. They undergo short command courses: Then, after the necessary military probation period, serve in the best fighting units, and the most capable of them are put through military middle schools and become staff officers, commanders of regiments and brigades, and finally, the best-
Finally comrades, we have a certain number of responsible commanders who have not been through either the old schools or our new courses and academies. These are in many cases Communists whom we have sent to the front in order to familiarise themselves with military matters and to bring political consciousness to the Red Army men. Thanks to their personal qualities, they have quickly passed through the necessary probation for undertaking extremely responsible tasks of command. Comrade Frunze, the representative of the Turkestan Front, has spoken here. Unless I am mistaken, his only previous military experience consisted of shooting a policeman who had fired on some workers. I am unable to inform you whether or not he hit the policeman. He was sent to the front after he had worked in a district military commissariat. At the present time he commands the armies of a front and, in the opinion of the high command, does so with success. The 8th. Army, one of the best, is commanded by Comrade Sokolnikov, who was known to us, in his time as a member of the Party’s Central Committee, as an excellent journalist and orator, but a complete civilian. He now commands an army and, again in the opinion of the High Command, commands it well. Among our most brilliant commanders is a young former Ensign, or perhaps Second Lieutenant, Comrade Tukhachevsky, who has conducted a number of brilliant operations and decisive actions against Kolchak. At the divisional level we find even more heterogeneity. There we discover numerous former NCO’s who are now, to use the old terminology, generals commanding divisions. Some of our smaller armies have been commanded by a former non-
Cases of betrayal inevitably give rise, of course, to suspiciousness and vigilant supervision, which sometimes has a painful effect on those comrades and colleagues of ours in army work who have come to us as former officers from the sphere of the old Czarist army. Many of us have had a number of occasions to observe this difficult type of situation. But I think that a period had now begun in which we shall increasingly leave that problem behind us. The Red Army and the Soviet regime have shown their strength, and that section of commanders who waver and vacillate, looking to see where the power lies, so as to take shelter under it, is getting smaller and smaller. The process which is taking place among the higher commanders of the Red Army, the process of developing not a Party but a Soviet ideology, must now find open expression. There must now be formed such firm views, such a Soviet atmosphere among the former regular officers as would annihilate all those Tushino imposters and migrants, so that every regular officer may know that his is not temporary, mercenary service but a high achievement, a feat of the spirit and of the blood – that for anyone who cherishes an ulterior motive, anyone who harbours a grudge, anyone who looks hopefully towards the Southern front, no place may remain, morally of physically, among the former regular officers who are now honourably serving the workers’ and peasants’ republic and defending its independence and its future, on all our fronts.
In any event, comrades, in this sphere as in many others, we have left difficulties behind us, and, as a result, new prospects and possibilities are opening up before us. The transformation of the outlook of the old regular officers, the creation of extensive command cadres from among the workers and peasants, the appearance of a whole number of self-
THE SUPPLY SERVICES OF THE RED ARMY
Problems of supply presented us with enormous difficulties. Our Soviet apparatus was subjected to a very severe test in this sphere, and stood up to it. There was a period when out factories were not producing a single cartridge, rifle, machine-
The army supply services have now been concentrated, in all their stages – production, distribution, accounting. Several months ago, Comrade Rykov was put in charge of all army supplies, and given wide powers. This circumstance – the concentration of a matter of paramount importance in the hands of one man, with practical co-
Army supply is carried out, however, under difficulties, because our country as a whole is short of supplies: The workers and peasants are without foot-
To sum up what I have said about the building of the Red Army, I should say that we have no grounds for changing our methods, the line of our work in the sphere of building the Red Army. What we need to do is develop, deepen and improve these methods.
THE EDUCATION OF COMMANDING PERSONNEL
In the matter of the education of our commanding personnel we are faced with the task of increasing the number of students attending courses and bringing the actual instruction that is given close to the new conditions and forms of our war. There is still, in our teaching in this sphere, too much that is routine, old-
CARE FOR THE FAMILIES OF RED ARMY MEN
Comrades, we must improve our care for the families of Red Army men in the localities. This is a question of enormous importance, which finds reflection in the soldiers’ morale. At the presidium I was reminded about this by one of the delegates. It is an extremely serious problem. And the local Soviet institutions are not doing everything they could where this is concerned.
More care and attention must be devoted to the sick and wounded Red Army men. In that connection facts have come to light which are absolutely inadmissible and shameful for a workers’ and peasants’ country. It happens too often with us, partly because of our general poverty and partly because of the blunting of feeling for any sort of misfortune, that a soldier who has been wounded and withdrawn from the front disappears completely from the field of battle, and the medical personnel and nurses are far from always attentive in their treatment of him. I say frankly that the bourgeoisie have managed to surround their wounded – who are mostly, of course, officers – with much more attention than we provide for our wounded and sick Red Army men. I ask you, when you go back to the localities, to put this burning question on the agenda for discussion by the local Soviet institutions. We must mobilise the public, Soviet initiative of the workers and peasants, both men and women, to come to the aid of the official medical institutions of the army. The experience of Petrograd and Moscow shows that substantial results can be achieved in this respect.
Regarding transport, I mentioned that we have established proper organisational relations with the Transport Department. The People’s Commissar for Transport and his deputy have, by decision of the Council of People’s Commissars, been brought into the Revolutionary War Council of the Republic. However, co-
Everything now depends on transport. I say frankly that there is more than one division on the Eastern front that we cannot at this moment, after the rout of Kolchak, transfer to the South so as to finish with Denikin. Where does this difficulty lie? In the sphere of transport. We shall, of course, overcome this difficulty. In the elevators in the store houses of the Food Department there is a large quantity of food stuffs. Where is the difficulty? In the sphere of transport. And the chief difficulty where transport is concerned if fuel. Two problems for the army result from this situation. First, the need to pay the closest attention, with very strict control and vigilance, to the use being made of rolling stock at the fronts. Today, the retention even of a single truck, not to speak of a locomotive, surplus to requirements, the unnecessary retention of a truck for even one hour is a most serious crime against the interests of the workers and peasants, and you, comrades, delegates from the fronts and armies, must, when you return to the localities, make all the workers in the War Department aware of this, and establish a state of affairs such that, if anyone fails to show a proper sense of responsibility in this matter, he will be brought to book on the very grave charge of violating the fundamental needs of the working masses in respect of food and other supplies.
At the same time, nobody is so well able as the War Department, with its extensive forces and resources, to help the railways with fuel, especially in the zone adjoining the front, where we have an enormous number of excellent Soviet workers. If Moscow is short of fuel, this is not through “bureaucratism”, as the opposition says, but because Moscow has given three-
THE FORTHCOMING DEMOBILISATION
These, comrades, are the practical conclusions. As regards prospects, the question arises before us of the further destiny of our Red Army. When it has ended its struggle and we make peace, we shall be faced with the question of demobilisation. The question may seem at present to be too hypothetical to deserve the attention of the highest legislative organ of the Soviet land. I shall confine myself to a few necessary remarks. The question of demobilisation is a very complex and responsible one, calling for a great deal pf preparation. We have started on this, and the timeliness of the move will be acknowledged by all, in view of the undoubted turn in our international situation which we have noted at the congress.
THE MILITIA SYSTEM
But if we speak of making peace within the next few months, this peace cannot be termed a perpetual peace. So long as class states remain, in the Far East, in America and in Europe, the possibility is not excluded that the peace which we hope to establish in the near future will prove to be merely a more protracted breathing space for us, until the next attack by the imperialist vultures of the West and East. Since this possibility is not excluded, our concern must be not with disarming but with changing the organisation of the state’s armed forces. We need to send back the workers to the factories and the peasants to the villages, to restore industry, to revive agriculture. Consequently, we must bring the soldier close to the worker, the regiment close to the factory, the village and the volost. Consequently, we must go over to the militia system for the armed forces of the Soviet republic. Today, objections to the militia system are subsiding more and more, even among the most conservative section of our military specialists. Actually, the world war taught something about this matter even to some of the most hardened pedants. Every one of the first-
In other words, the number of soldiers who fought during the imperialist war was five, seven, or nine times greater than the number who made up the regular armies in peacetime. This means that the armies possessed cadres of regular troops, and then, in the course of the war, each improvised a de facto militia, a large national army, which, however, was based upon the very narrow foundation of a regular army. One national army turned out to be better, another worse, but, in any case, the armies that fought each other were not those armies which the military theoreticians and general staffs of all countries had had in mind. There was no solving of a problem by means of a single lightning blow. They were obliged to have recourse to their countries basic resources, on the ground and under it, to reach down to the profoundest depths and, therefore, to improvise.
The Socialist parties of the Second International stood for the creation of a militia in peacetime. Jaurés urged this idea, with his characteristic brilliance, in the form of bills he laid before the French Parliament, in his book The New Army. True, with his democratic utopianism, Jaurés supposed that the transition to the new army would take place gradually, peacefully, imperceptibly, through partial reforms, just as the transition to socialism was, as he saw it, to be accomplished by means of gradual democratisation. In this he was profoundly mistaken. History has shown mankind a different path – a path of most ferocious bloody conflicts, of world-
THE SITUATION AT THE FRONTS
That, comrades, is all that I can tell you about the building of the Red Army. Let me now turn to the question of the actions of the Red Army on our Fronts. Maps of our fronts have been provided for you here, drawn by our field staff under the leadership of its chief, P.P. Lebedev. On these maps you will find the line of our fronts as these stood on November 27. Perhaps you will examine these maps later, at your leisure, so as not to get in each other’s way during the meeting. The fundamental ideas which I am going to set before you will be quite intelligible without your needing to have maps in front of you.
During all this time, comrades, however our military situation may have altered, in one respect it has remained the same; we have been and are surrounded on all sides. We have a Northern, a Western, an Eastern and a Southern front, with the last named divided into two sections – The Eastern properly so called, and the Turkestan front. And it is only our successes on the Eastern front that have opened for us a certain aperture into the depths of the continent of Asia. So far, however, this process has not produced all the results we had expected. It will produce them, but, as of today, we are still surrounded on all sides.
We occupy a central position in relation to all our fronts. This gives us an immediate military advantage and enables us to transfer reserves from a front that is less important or more stable to one that is more important or less stable. This advantage, however, imposed very heavy burdens on our means of transport, and that, in turn, is reflected in the country’s entire economic condition. This state of affairs can be ended only through a decisive victory for us in the South.
THE NORTHERN FRONT
Let us begin our review of our fronts, comrades, with the front which is least mobile, least dramatic – the Northern front. It was formed after Archangel had been seized by the British, through a landing, and principally, through an air raid. And if we recall that period, when our first regiments – what feeble imitations of regiments they were! – fled without a fight from archangel when the air squadron of the British bandits appeared above them, and if we compare with those troops the army that we have now, the one that fought before Petrograd, and defended Petrograd, we can say that we have made considerable progress since those days.
After the fall of Archangel the Northern front was a front that moved very little, for the reason that it was never of decisive importance for us. Operations on that front were conducted on a very restricted area – that is to say, over an immense area territorially, but with the direct military actions taking place in defiles, along railways and along rivers. There were three main directions on that front – Murmansk, the Archangel Railway and the Northern Dvina river. From our communiqués you know that no major military events have occurred there. But I will take this opportunity to acknowledge here the exceptionally heroic work performed by our soldiers, commanders and commissars on the Northern front. Climatic conditions are very severe there. The winter brings fierce cold and deep snow. They have sometimes had to drag their guns on sledges, themselves up to their chests in snow. In the autumn and the spring and in the summer as well, the mud is deep there, and conditions are bad for the health of the soldiers. Our Red forces, which are usually accustomed to advancing, or to becoming demoralised if there is a prolonged standstill, have formed, in that severe atmosphere of the North, units which, despite the immobility of the front, are distinguished by their magnificent stubbornness. And the Northern front has provided numerous fine regiments for our other fronts; in particular, it contributed several regiments for the defence of Petrograd, it gave us a whole number of excellent commanders and workers. It is sufficient to mention the present commander of the Western front, Comrade Gittis, and Comrade Samoilo, who now commands the 6th. Army.
The Northern Army’s task is plain and simple – cleanse our North country. There can be no doubt that the time is coming, and it is not far off, when the 6th. Army will be given by the High Command a broom long enough to sweep the White Guard bands from the White Sea and Murman coasts.
Until that time comes we shall remain firmly convinced that the 6th. Northern Army will not allow the White Guards to move south, towards Petrograd, towards Vologda, to cut the Northern railway. In the Northern Army we have, in hard and unfavourable conditions, an honourable and reliable sentinel of the Soviet Republic.
THE EASTERN FRONT
Our Eastern front has been a very important one, at certain moments the decisive front for the Soviet Republic. Allow me first of all to acquaint you with some figures which are instructive regarding the results of our struggles. These figures will make clear the extent of our victories on the Eastern front.
Taking a general view, as a result of our struggle during the past report-
It was there, on the Eastern front, that we began to create our first regular armies, before Kazan and Simbirsk, in August of last year. We had there our first big success, which culminated in the taking of Orenburg, Uralsk and Ufa. Our successes continued, with short interruptions, until the beginning of March this year, when Kolchak brought up freshly-
Thus, to a considerable extent, Siberia is now passing from the hands of the army into those of the Soviet institutions, of the Party and the trade union organisations, for the carrying out of the Soviet constructive work in the cultural sphere.
THE TURKESTAN FRONT
Our successes in the East have necessitated the separation from the Eastern front of a Turkestan Front. After we had taken and then defended Orenburg and, in that area, had smashed Kolchak’s Southern army, so that we took 45,000 prisoners, the gate to Turkestan was open; or, more correctly, the moment when the gate to Turkestan would be opened drew near. The final conjunction of the troops of the Turkestan front, that is, of our front which faces towards Turkestan, with the troops that were in Turkestan itself took place, if I am not mistaken, in the middle of September, in the area of Emba station on the Orienburg-
The Turkestan front has opened up inexhaustible possibilities for us.
Our success in the East, reuniting Turkestan with the Soviet Republic, has enhanced the prestige of the Soviet Power all over the enslaved and oppressed Continent of Asia. The first envoy we received from Asia was the special mission from Afghanistan . Turkestan is now the object of great attention on the part of all the conscious elements in Asia. And there, in Turkestan, the advances elements of Asia, Persia, India, China, Korea – which have been and still are enduring colonial and semi-
All this, however, is still in the future. Our most immediate task in Turkestan, on the military side, is to link it up completely with the Soviet Republic through the unity of organisation and unity of the army – in the first place, by subjecting all the guerrilla units which they have there to our common regime. About that, however, I shall speak in a general connection, after I have finished my review of the fronts.
THE WESTERN FRONT
The fate of our Western front has been more directly bound up than any other with the fate of the Soviet Republic. This front, which has been left to us as a heritage from the old imperialist war, was altered to our disadvantage after the conclusion of the first negotiations at Brest-
On this Western front, which has remained immobile, since September, from Pskov southward, the northern sector has presented us with a dramatic picture of offensive and fierce conflict. What was at state was Petrograd and its fate. The world bourgeoisie cast lots for the garments of Petrograd. Petrograd was twice defended by the valiant 7th Army, in conjunction with the 15th. Army of the Western front, with the heroic support of the Petrograd proletariat, on whom you conferred the Order of the Red Banner. Fierce battles were fought there, in which the advanced fighters of the working class generously gave their heroism, their self-
Our armies defended Petrograd. But a moment came when the city was in very great danger, the moment when the question of Finland grew very acute. How did we act? I could now read to you some secret orders concerning this matter, which are no longer secret, because the events to which they refer are now behind us. From among these orders I will mention the order issued to the 7th Army concerning the Karelian frontier. In what was said by the representative of the Menshevik group who spoke here we heard a friendly warning; do not attack the small states on our Western frontier, let them decide their fate by means of their own internal forces. To this I reply that we have not in the least intended nor do we intend, to provoke, either directly or indirectly, any of the states which have been correctly described here as vassals of the Entente – despite the fact that they have more than once provoked us. At the same time, comrades, when we were fighting for Petrograd on the Pulkovo Heights, the Finnish White Guards fired on our units not only with machine guns but with artillery, and their airmen dropped dynamite on our territory. From the standpoint of international law, this was obviously enough to justify an outright declaration of war or a direct attack by us. After the first period of difficulty, in the second half of October, we concentrated in Petrograd and in front of Petrograd forces sufficient to give a rebuff in the direction of the Karelian sector. How did we act? I tell you here, and I can at any moment confirm what I say with official documents, that our order to the commander of the 7th Army, where Finland was concerned, stated that, despite provocation, the gunfire and the particular outrages committed along the frontier, the army must refrain from any act on our part which might be interpreted as showing any desire or an attempt to attack Finland. At the same time, of course, measures were taken to explain to the Finnish workers why we were unwilling to fight against Finland, to explain our complete readiness to tolerate a bourgeois Finland only two days march from Petrograd – provided that the Finnish bourgeoisie clearly understood that an independent Finland can survive at a distance of a few dozen versts form Petrograd only on condition that they never cast their forces in the scales in which the fate of Petrograd is being decided. I repeat; in the second half of the struggle we were strong enough to launch a counter-
In the battle for Petrograd our Baltic Fleet covered itself with glory as was rightly said here by Comrade Baranov, himself a sailor and a member of the Revolutionary War Council, it not only did what it could and was duty-
If we sum up our operations on the Western front, we see that, despite our withdrawal to the line I mentioned, we have, on balance, enlarged the territory of the Soviet Republic by 40,800 square versts, with a population of about two millions.
A couple of additional remarks about Yudenich’s adventure. His beaten army has crossed, as you know, into Estonia. Our forces are standing approximately on the line of the Narova, which we regard, until such changes as may be made as a result of a peace treaty, as the frontier between Soviet Russia and Estonia. Here I will permit myself to return for a moment to what the representative of the Mensheviks said from this tribune, when he gave us advice (which corresponds fully to our own line) not to attack Estonia and Finland. I drew his attention to the fact that the Estonian Government, which attacked us alongside Yudenich and waged war on our territory without any sort of excuse, that this government included the Mensheviks of Estonia.
Our struggle against Yudenich possesses some instructional interest for Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland. We have said frankly that, from the strategical standpoint, the Western front is of secondary importance for us and is therefore not the strongest of our fronts. But we have shown, in dealing with Yudenich’s adventure, that at a moment when danger to the vital centres of our country threatens from this front, our command and transport apparatus is sufficiently strong and flexible to switch the right number of fighting divisions to the right place at the right time. However tempting one or other sector of our front may have seemed to our enemies, the memory of our operations against Yudenich will remain a big notch cut in their consciousness. They will always recall and keep in mind that we shall always find, both in the centre of the country and on other fronts, a sufficient number of reserves to give a rebuff to any enemy who attacks Moscow, Petrograd or Tula, no matter from which direction he threatens us – across the Narova, across the Western Dvina, or across the Berezina.
THE SOUTHERN FRONT
Today the most important front is, and will remain until its tasks have been fully accomplished, the Southern front. Here, in the South, is our Vendée – on the Don and it the Kuban. The war in the South is the civil war that had gone on longest. It was begun by Cossack forces before the Czechoslovaks created a fulcrum for the “Constituent Assembly” and Kolchak in the East. Here, in the South, in the first campaign of this year, starting in January, we dealt a severe, almost mortal blow to Krasnov’s Don forces. Our success on the Sothern front continued through January, February, March and April, until the middle of May. In the middle of May we were dealt a heavy blow in the chest, and began to retreat. This blow was not dealt by the Don army alone: Denikin’s Volunteer Army joined in it, with forces from North Caucasia, the Kuban and the Ukraine. Only the combination of the Volunteer, Caucasian and Don armies gave the Southern counter-
THE UKRAINIAN FRONT
The Southern front is naturally linked with the Ukrainian front. In its origin, however, the Ukrainian front was connected not so much with our Southern as with our Western front. The Ukrainian front was a legacy from German imperialism. The collapse of German militarism meant that our Ukrainian front became dynamic. We advanced Southward from Kursk. Our success here was startling. Insignificant forces, together with guerrillas, under the overall leadership of Comrade Antonov-
This period when we liberated the Southern Ukraine coincided with the moment when Denikin’s and Krasnov’s forces were amalgamated. Our defeats on the Southern front, in the Donets and Tsaritsyn directions, predetermined our subsequent defeats on the Ukrainian front. The enemy was the same in both places. The extraordinary rapidity with which our defeats occurred in the Ukraine was due to the same cause as the rapidity of our successes; extreme instability of the situation in the Ukraine. The numerous changes of regime in the Ukraine had shattered social relations and the people’s psychology, and for a long period transformed broad circles of the peasantry into human material which is extremely difficult to form into a crystallised whole. This is true also of the unconscious section of the Ukrainian working class. A good dozen different regimes succeeded each other within a couple of years, and under these regimes the Ukrainian kulak alone kept firmly on his feet, missing no opportunities for gain. Regimes rise and regimes fall, but the Ukrainian kulak stays put as master of the countryside. This Ukrainian kulak has armed himself with a rifle, for he is, so far, tougher and more determined than the middle peasant, not to mention the poor peasant. In short, the element of anarchy and of the destruction of all foundations for human existence in the Ukraine is the Ukrainian kulak, who, having seen off all the regimes that there are in the world, has become insolent and armed himself to the teeth. It can be said with certainty that no regime will survive and stabilise itself in the Ukraine until the Ukrainian kulak has been disarmed. This is the new task for the Red forces which are entering the Ukraine. The Ukrainian front is now wholly merged with the Southern front, for the enemy is one and the same in both places. This enemy is Denikin, whom the Ukrainian kulak has helped to conquer the Ukraine. Our command is now, in the Ukraine as elsewhere, moving forward the regular units of our Red Army. There will, perhaps, be no easy triumphal march of revolt, for our Ukrainian troops have been ordered not to occupy a single town or a single uyezd unless sufficient forces are available to ensure that this uyezd can be brought permanently under local Ukrainian Soviet authority, and does not become the property of separate irresponsible bands. We shall advance in a planned way. I say “we” because by virtue of the agreement made between the Ukrainian Central Executive Committee and the All-
Our advance is now proceeding with a degree of success with which we can, by and large, be satisfied. We have not yet, of course, recovered such extensive areas in the South as in the East, where our forces have advanced, in the lengthiest of their directions, a distance of 1,750 versts, as the crow flies, reckoning from the point where the front stood when Denikin was north of Orel. The last phase of our offensive developed in the second half of October. Everywhere we advanced after very fierce fighting. On the South-
Comrades, since we are now advancing fairly rapidly on all fronts, the picture I have given you is already out of date to some degree. This picture is dated November 27 and today is December 6. During the intervening period we have taken the following towns: Oster, Kozelets, Lebedin, Novy Oskol, Khotmyzhsk. And news has come in, though this is not yet officially confirmed, that we have taken Bogodukhov, so that we are now within 40 versts of Poltava, and the same distance from Kharkov. In the interval between the compilation of the picture I gave you today, the following towns have been taken on the South-
DENIKIN AND KOLCHAK
Denikin was undoubtedly much more dangerous to us than Kolchak. The more success Kolchak had, the further Westward he advanced, the greater was his distance from his main base, from Japan and America, and he depended on the narrow thread of the Trans-
WHITE CAVALRY AND RED
Furthermore, Denikin was, and still is, to a certain extent, rich in that type of weapon which it is hardest of all to create, namely, cavalry. While in the ponderous positional warfare of the imperialist conflict, cavalry, however one may evaluate its contribution, was a subsidiary type of weapon, in our “light” war (light as regards the rapidity of advances and retreats, though not in the casualties involved), our war of field manoeuvres, cavalry plays an immense, in some cases decisive role. Cavalry cannot be improvised quickly, it requires trained horses and suitable commanders. Cavalry commanders were drawn either from aristocratic, mainly gentry, families, or from the Don region of the Kuban, from localities where men were born to the saddle. In all countries and in almost all epochs the cavalry constitutes the most conservative and privileged arm of the service. In civil wars it was always extremely difficult for the revolutionary class to create cavalry. The army of the great French Revolution did not find this easy to do, and still less did we. If you take the list of commanders who have gone over from the Red Army to the Whites, you will find a high percentage of cavalrymen amongst them. His superiority in cavalry in the first period of struggle served Denikin very well, and enabled him to deal us some heavy blows. But the Soviet Republic told the proletarian that he must get on horseback, ordered the metal worker, the textile worker and the baker to become cavalrymen-
Besides the Red Cossacks of whom Comrade Poluyan, himself a Red Kuban Cossack, spoke with justified pride, we have a mass of cavalrymen from the proletariat of Moscow, Petersburg, Ivanovo-
Comrades, there is a task to be performed in this connection, a task which is coming our way in those regions which, by the strength of the Red Army, are now being brought into, or restored to, the family of our federative Soviet Republic. I refer to the Ukraine, North Caucasia, Turkestan and Siberia. In all these regions there are large numbers of insurgent workers and peasants who have fought there, rifle in hand, against the counter-
A guerrilla movement has its own orbit, its defining line of development. It usually has an initial nucleus composed of the most self-
And this danger is now arising before us again in the Ukraine, and to a somewhat smaller extent in Northers Caucasia, in Siberia and Turkestan. We must approach the question from the very outset fully armed with our past experience.
The Ukraine must and will be an independent country, belonging to the Ukrainian workers and peasants. But individual groups of insurgents are not the personification or the embodiment of the will of the Ukrainian workers and peasants. The Ukrainian proletariat and peasantry express their will in their Soviet state, economic and cultural creative work, and in so far as this work develops in the form of Ukrainian national culture, in the Ukrainian language, none of us, of course, will ever try to obstruct the development of a free Soviet Ukraine. Moreover, just because the Ukrainian people was an oppressed people, crushed by the imperialist Russifiers, it is and will long continue to be sensitive towards any slights, or statements that can be interpreted as attacks on the Ukrainian language, school or culture. It would be contrary both to the principle and to practical considerations of current policy, to give offence, directly or indirectly, to this sensitivity. Indeed, as Comrade Rakovsky put it very well, it is necessary, rather, to ensure that the Ukrainian language becomes the language through which the working masses of the Ukraine receive Communist education. But this question must not be confused with the guerrilla question. Ukrainian comrades, the question of the guerrilla movement is not a question of national culture or language, it is a question of military expediency. For us there is no difference between the guerrillas in the Ukraine, in Siberia and in North Caucasia. And if we let the Ukrainian guerrilla movement continue in the hope that a Ukrainian army will be formed out of it, we shall destroy the Soviet Ukraine once again – and this time for a long period. What is the position? The Guerrilla units contain, as we have said, elements of varying and even contrasting value. Once our basic front reaches them, the guerrilla units must be left in the rear, in order to undergo profound internal reformation. The weeds must be cast out of these units, while the best elements must be subjected to the necessary training and disciplining. And we have given a direct order to the armies that, when they encounter guerrillas, they are not to allow a single detachment or a single volunteer from among them to join the active army straightaway, without previously passing through the holding units located in the rear. If a genuine volunteer, an honest worker or peasant, wants to fight for the cause of the working class, he will accept the sacrifice of spending a month in a holding battalion, being taught what we teach the Red Army in matters of drill, tactics and politics. If he is unwilling to do this, it means that under the guise of a volunteer we have here a bandit, one of those, of whom there are not a few, who join the army in order to rob, oppress and ruin the Ukrainian peasants. There can be no place in our ranks for any such. I do not doubt that, with the full approval and support of all that is conscious and honest in the Ukraine, all the advanced workers and peasants, we shall, by means of organised military force, pursue a firm and unwavering policy [towards?] the guerrilla movement. Makhno’s volunteers constitute, of course, a danger to Denikin so long as Denikin rules in the Ukraine, but, on the other hand, it was they who betrayed the Ukraine to Denikin. And tomorrow, after the liberation of the Ukraine, the Makhnovites will become a mortal danger to the workers and peasants’ state. Comrades, the Makhno movement is not an expression of Ukrainian national culture. No, it is a Ukrainian national abscess which must be lanced once and for all.
These, Comrades, are the considerations which I have been able to put before you concerning our army building work in the rear and concerning the work of the Red regiments at the fronts. Everything permits us to suppose that the protracted preparatory work we carried out previously has ensured that we do not merely achieve casual, transient victories, that it has furnished the guarantee of complete victory on all fronts, and, in the immediate future, on our principle and most dangerous front, the Southern front. Consequently – and this is the basic conclusion which we are justified in arriving at – the Soviet regime has created an army in its own image and likeness, and this army has learned how to conquer. That, comrades, is a considerable conclusion to be drawn in evaluation all our work and all our subsequent activity. Every one of us knows that an army is not something external to a given society, but reflects all of its aspects, both the weak and the strong. Why is militarism hateful to the working class? Because under the bourgeois, noble, class order it was something set over the working masses as the crown of their slavery; in the military sphere the domination of the noblemen and the capitalist assumes distinct, obvious, clear-
I recall once more both our debates of April 22 last year in the Central Executive Committee and the declaration made today by the rapporteur of the opposition party. I recall them and I bring them together in my mind. We were told (it was Martov who said this): “You will not create an army” – that was said on April 22 last year – “You will not create it because the foundation is rotten.” But we have created an army. Today Martov tells us that we have shown our strength in both the military and diplomatic spheres, that we have proved equal to these tasks. I assure you that I speak without any ulterior motive, and without a shred of irony, when I say that I felt glad when Matrov, talking of our army and our international struggle, said “we”, for he thereby contributed a certain ideological and political strength to our work, and strength is what we need. But in his statement he spoke of “arbitrariness, anarchy, breakdown, moribund Soviet institutions, a dying constitution.” I ask each of you, how could a regime such as Martov depicted in his statement, a regime of arbitrariness and anarchy, with moribund Soviet institutions, how could such a regime have created the army which, as Martov admits, has proved equal to its task? The army which is opposed not by fourteen foes, as Churchill said (I have tried to count up, and it turns out that twenty-