Source: The Communist International, 1920, No. 13, pp. 61–64.
Transciption: Ted Crawford.
HTML Markup: Brian Reid.
Public Domain: Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line 2006. You can freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive as your source, include the url to this work, and note the transcribers & proofreaders above.
It will soon be three years since the period of revolutionary wars began; and for three rears the Russian Soviet Federation has been repulsing the furious attacks of its internal and external mortal foes. When this period will end, it is difficult to say. It will depend, first of all, on the development of the revolution in other countries. But we may affirm now with assurance that during this period the Soviet Federation has been victorious, and in the person of its Red Army it has the best guarantee that in future it will also be the conqueror in the war which is being forced upon it.
The existence of the Red Army is the best proof of the political capacities of the worker. and peasant masses. What Saint Simon said of the French proletariat in his celebrated Letters from Geneva in 1808 – when he accused it of not having been able to create anything but famine, in the days of its effectual rule, during the first Commune of Chaumette – is not applicable to the present proletariat. In Russia, the most backward of all capitalist countries, the working class has managed to create, in spite of incredible difficulties, a powerful fighting apparatus which is the terror of all the imperialist governments.
The Red Army was created gradually. The process of its organisation is not ended yet. It leaves much to be desired in regard to its administration, its supply department, and its technical preparedness. But it is just this that constitutes the difference between the Red Army and the permanent armies of the capitalist countries: that, while the latter, which have been created after tens of years of organising work, gave their maximum of productivity in the beginning of the war, and then during the course of the war gradually melted away, the Red Army, continuing its process of organisation during the war itself, on the contrary, is improving day by day in all respects.
In creating the Red Army, the Soviet State was faced first of all by the task of assembling a commanding staff and organising the administrative and economic apparatus. In the absence of its own commanding staff and specialists, it was compelled to utilise the more trustworthy and less compromised commanding staff of the former Tsarist army. In order to weld it closer to the Soviet Power, the latter established the institution of Commissaries. On the other hand, it was necessary also to unite to the Soviet Power, and. to imbue with the proper revolutionary spirit, the Red Army itself, which, with the development of the theatre of war, could not consist of volunteers alone, but had to be completed by the mobilisation of wider circles of workers and peasants. For this purpose a vast institution became gradually organised, which developed into a regular Commissariat – namely, the Political Administration of the Republic. (P.U.R.) The duties of the Political Administration of the Republic being chiefly political, it enters into the general scheme of the War Commissariat and at the same time remains under the jurisdiction of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. The Chief of the Political Administration of the Republic is generally a member of the Executive Committee of the Communist Party and at the same time a member of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic.
The Political Administration of the Republic is undoubtedly an institution belonging exclusively to the Red Army. All the attempts of the White Guards to create similar institutions in their armies have been, and were bound to be, complete failures. The reason lies in the fact that the Red Army is the only army in which a man entering the service does not cease to be a citizen: because only in the Soviet State is there no contradiction between the tasks of the army and the interests of the working masses. While in the Red Army military discipline is founded on an ever-increasing consciousness of the rights of the men, in the bourgeois-capitalist armies the discipline is based exclusively on a blind submission to the orders of the authorities. The bourgeois-capitalist army is strong in so tar as the workers and peasants entering it will follow the motto: “No discussion.” On the contrary, in the Red Army, the more the worker or peasant will “discuss” his interests, the clearer will he comprehend the necessity for him to be an honest and efficient Red soldier.
If the war against the Russian and foreign counter-revolution, which has now been raging for almost three years, could not but hinder the work of Socialist economic construction, and increase the economic crisis Russia inherited, it had also its positive sides. It has served as a great revolutionary school; it has served to unite the masses of the towns and villages. Millions and millions of peasants, whom otherwise it would have been necessary to visit in their remote country homes, in order to act on their psychology, were brought under the direct influence of our Communist propaganda in the barracks, bivouacs, trenches, hospitals, etc.
The Political Administration of the Republic is a vast organisation including in its central administration about 600, and, in its branches in the army and the military institutions about 16,000, collaborators. In respect of organisation, the Political Administration of the Republic is a hierarchical organisation adapted to the entire military hierarchy. The Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic has under its immediate direction and control the Revolutionary Councils of the various fronts: the latter direct and control the Revolutionary Military Councils of the armies, the latter again the Revolutionary Military Councils of the divisions, and so on. In the same way the Political Administration of the Republic has under its direction and control the political administration of the fronts, the latter, the political administration of the armies, which in turn has under its control the political sections of the divisions, to which are subordinated the political commissaries of the brigades, and to the latter the political commissaries of the regiments. After the December Congress of Political Workers, it was decided to create political commissaries, or as they are now called, “political instructors” of companies, and this measure was immediately carried out. These instructors have under their immediate direction and control the Communist nuclei in the companies. This relates to the active field army.
The structure of the army in the rear, behind the battle fronts, is analogous. The district war commissariats have district Political-Enlightenment Sections, which are directly subordinated to the Political Administration of the Republic. To the district Political-Enlightenment Sections are subordinated the Enlightenment sections of a given government, to which were formerly subordinated, in their turn, the county sections which are now abolished everywhere, except in the Ukraine.
The duties of the Political Sections of the armies are not limited only to political work among the Red soldiers. These Political sections work also among the population in the regions of the army’s operations. In the territories evacuated by the White Guards, their duties consist in creating a provisional local administrative-economic apparatus, operating until the moment when it can be replaced by elective Soviets. These provisional administrative-economic organs are called Revolutionary Committees. Besides the region immediately adjoining the front, they may be established behind the front regions if the war conditions necessitate this. The Revolutionary Committees are subordinated to the Political Sections of the corresponding Revolutionary Military Council, and simultaneously, in the hierarchical line, to the next higher administrative apparatus – the Executive Committee of the province (or directly to the Commissariat of the Interior, if the Revolutionary Committee is created for the entire province). As the Political Sections of the army are Party organisations, but only on military lines, they must be connected with the local organisation of the Party. Therefore, the Regulations of the Party Committees and Political Sections of the fronts, armies, and divisions provide that the Chief of the Political Section should be a member of the local Party Committee, with the right of a decisive vote.
In order to give an idea of the work of the Political Administration of the Republic, we shall cite a few figures from the last report of the Political Administration, which was laid before the Congress of Political Workers in December, 1919.
For the six months from June to December, the budget of the Political Administration of the Republic amounted to 664,217,000 roubles. Out of this sum 215,000,000 roubles were assigned to the Political Sections of the fronts, and 106,000,000 to the military districts. Out of this sum 47,000,000 were assigned exclusively for the maintenance of schools for reading and writing: out of which 33,100,000 roubles for the existing schools and 14,000,000 roubles for new ones to be opened. The third important item of expenses in the financial estimate of the Political Administration of the Republic is the supplying of agitational libraries, literature, and newspapers to the Red soldiers and The population of the territories adjoining the fronts. These expenses amounted to 159,000,000 roubles. The maintenance of the Central apparatus demanded 18,000,000 roubles. For the period of August-September-October the fronts, armies, and separate army sections were supplied with the following: literature, 6,519,000 copies; school and sporting appurtenances, 153,864 articles; theatrical-musical and moving-picture appurtenances, 24,000 articles. By November 1 the stock in hand of the Political Administration contained: the literary department, 7,280,000 copies; the school and sporting department, 167,000 articles; and the theatrical, moving-picture, and musical department, 25,000 articles. The amount of literature mailed during these three months attained about 60,000 poods. This quantity includes 3,700 libraries, averaging each about 140 volumes – total 518,000 volumes. This figure covers agitational pamphlets, leaflets, placards sent directly by the Political Administration of the Republic through its dispatching apparatus. Besides this, 520,000 copies of newspapers are dispatched daily from Moscow to the armies and military circuits for distribution among the Red soldiers and the population of the regions adjoining the fronts. These papers are dispatched by the Central Organisation of the Press, and are not included in the above mentioned 60,000 poods. Bednota (Poor People) has the greatest circulation, 383,000 copies, Pravda (The Truth) 70,000 copies, and the Izvestia (News) of the Central Executive Committee 40,000 copies. Over and above this, 25 daily papers are published in the armies, and circulate daily 250,000 copies. In this way 800,000 copies of all the papers are daily circulated in the Red Army. However, these figures are not sufficient. Simultaneously with the newspapers, the Political Sections of the fronts and armies publish daily an enormous quantity of leaflets, pamphlets, placards, the number of which in general surpasses by several times the publications of the Political Administration of the Republic.
The above mentioned budget of 664,000,000 roubles proved to be insufficient; for the first six months of 1920 the draft budget of the Political Administration of the Republic amounts already to 4,000,00000 roubles.
The cultural-educational work of the Political Administration consisted in the opening of schools, courses of study, Red Army universities, clubs, theatres, cinematographs, dramatic and musical circles, libraries, and reading-rooms for the peasants. The number of schools grew from 674 by May 1st, 1919, to 3,800 by October: 1st; the number of theatres from 642 to 1,415; matographs from 133 to 250; dramatic circles from 12 to 161; libraries from 1,614 to 2,492. Besides, by the first of October there were three Red Army universities, eight courses of study; 400 village reading-rooms. These figures cover only the courses of general educational character, and they do not include the Courses for Instructors, which exist in the Political Sections of the fronts and armies.
As we have said above, the Political Sections of the army direct the work of the Communist nuclei. By October 1st the number of Communists in the active army amounted to 60,000, and in the other military organisations to the same figure. In October, November, and December, in all the armies a Party week was arranged, during which hundreds of thousands of Red soldiers joined the Communist Party. The proportion of the new members averaged from 20 to 25 per cent. of the entire Red Army. In some regiments, as, for instance, the Taman regiment, all the men joined the Party. If we bear in mind that the Party week was carried out in October, at the most difficult moment for the Soviet State and the Red Army, when the White Guards had passed Orel and were moving on Tula, one may positively assert that the best elements of the Red Army joined the Communist Party.
The Political Administration and the Political Sections penetrate into all the military institutions, beginning with the All-Russian General Staff and ending with the hospitals and ambulances. The Army, Navy (the sea, river and air fleets), lines of communication, munition factories, supply organs, – are all within the sphere of the political influence and political control of the Political Administration and its organs.
For agitation purposes, the Political Administration has at its disposal agitational trains. At all the important railway junctions there are so-called “agitational points,” which supply the passing military echelons with printed matter, information, working also at the same time among the local population. The Political Administration shares the direction of these points with the People’s Commissariat of Public Instruction and the Political Administration of the Railways. 
This vast army of “Politworkers” – such is the general and already favourite name of the Political Section collaborators – together with the Communist nuclei and the staff of commissaries, constitute the very soul of the Red Army. Even our enemies, who are unsuccessfully trying to organise analogous institutions in their armies, speak of their decisive influence in the victories of the Red Army. Kotamin, an officer who deserted the Red Army for the White Guards in his report to Kolchak which fell into our hands at the time of our advance on Tobolsk, ascribes, the victories of the Red Army to the “fanaticism” of our commissaries, that is to say, of our “Politworkers” – and he is right. The invincibility of the Red Army is due to its strong and powerful Communist organisation!
1. Note. – The Political Administration of the Railways is an institution which is analogous to the Political Administration of the Republic. At present, in connection with the militarisation of industry, political sections will be organised in its various branches. Thus, for instance, there is already a political section of militarised coal mining industry, in the Donetz River basin.
Last updated on 16.10.2011