The Military Writings of
Leon Trotsky

Volume 1, 1918

How the Revolution Armed



Transcribed and HTML markup for the Trotsky Internet Archive by David Walters

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In face of the unprecedented calamities and dangers threatening the Soviet Republic there is only one path of salvation: it is the path of sustained work and revolutionary discipline.

We must increase the economic strength of our impoverished country.

We must ensure armed defence of the Soviet Republic against the beasts of imperialism.

In these terrible days every honest citizen has the duty to be a worker and a soldier.

The next few days will see the introduction of a law on universal compulsory military training. [8]

The Republic places upon experienced instructors the duty to render every citizen, in town and country alike, capable of answering the first call to go, arms in hand, to the defence of the homeland.

Military training will be carried on outside ordinary working hours. Nobody will dare to ask for any sort of recompense for the hours that he devotes to his supreme civic duty, namely, studying how to defend the Soviet Republic.

In order that, in a moment of emergency, all armed citizens may go to the defence of the country, we need to create firm, reliable cadres. This is the urgent task of the months and weeks immediately ahead of us. The Soviet Republic, encircled by enemies, is proceeding without delay to organise battalions from the staunchest and most self-sacrificing fighters. Their livelihood and that of their families will be looked after from the people’s common resources. The Soviet cadres must be welded together with iron discipline, trained, equipped and armed in accordance with the latest requirements of the art of war.

Just as industry needs engineers and just as agriculture needs scientific agronomists, so, too, the task of defence needs milit ary specialists. The Soviet Republic urgently summons the military specialists to work. The grave situation of Russia, which the world’s beasts of prey want to crucify on the cross of imperialism, prompts all honest military and naval specialists to the realisation that they dare not stand aloof. The Soviet power gives them full opportunity to devote all their powers, know ledge and talents to the cause of organising the country’s defence. The specialists must become instructors, military teachers, technical leaders of the Army. In the specifically military sphere they must be given the decisive word, and upon them must be placed the whole burden of responsibility.

In the sphere of the moulding, ideological welding and political education of the people’s army, the decisive word will belong to the Soviets, at the centre and in the localities. This work will be carried out in accordance with a common plan, worked out with the participation of the best military experts and under the constant military-technical supervision of special inspectors.

The Soviet Republic needs an army that will be able to fight and conquer.

It is the responsibility of the Soviet power to make sure that none of the separate institutions or units of the people’s army are transformed into foci of counter-revolution, into instruments directed against the workers and peasants. Political control over the entire organisation and life of the army will be entrusted to military commissars. The post of military commissar is one of the most responsible and most honourable in the Soviet Republic. The commissar will safeguard the closest internal bond between the Army and the Soviet regime as a whole. The commissar will incarnate the principle of revolutionary duty and indestructible discipline. The commissar will ensure, with the full force of his authority and power, immediate and unquestioning fulfilment of the operational and combat instructions issued by the military leaders.

These are the principles which the Government lays down as the basis for creating the Army: universal and obligatory military training in schools, factories and villages; immediate formation of firm cadres from the most self-sacrificing fighters; bringing in military commissars as guardians of the highest interests of the revolution and of socialism.

In the name of the Socialist Republic, the Council of People’s Commissars calls upon all Soviets, all conscious workers and peasants, all honest citizens who are devoted to the people’s cause, to redouble their efforts in the great work of safeguarding the independence and freedom of our country.

Liberated Russia will not be enslaved. It will arise and grow strong, it will cast out the beasts of prey, it will live in fraternal unity with the liberated peoples of all lands.

Ml that is needed is that, in these dark days of calamity affecting the whole people, all true sons of Revolutionary Russia shall have no thought, no desire, no commitment but the salvation of our blood-drained homeland.

Let there be no wavering, no doubts! Work, order, perseverance, discipline, self-sacrifice – and we shall triumph!

L.T. March 21, 1918


8. The decree on universal compulsory military training was adopted by the All-Russia Central Executive Committee of the Soviets on the basis of Comrade Trotsky’s report of April 22, 1918.

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Last updated on: 15.12.2006