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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Speech at the session of the All-Russia
Central Executive Committee, April 22, 1918

Comrades, the crucial character of the epoch in which we live is reflected in an especially acute and painful way in the internal life of the army, which is a huge organization, powerful in the number of persons and the amount of material resources that it embraces, and at the same time extremely sensitive to all those historical shocks which constitute the very nature of the revolution.

After the October revolution, the old Ministry of War was formally transformed into the People’s Commissariat for Military Affairs. But this Commissariat actually relied, and could not but rely, upon the military organism which had been inherited from the previous epoch. The army, which had spent three years in the trenches, had received already before the revolution, in the battles fought under Tsardom, then through the inner insolvency of the regime that prevailed in the first period of the revolution, and, finally, in the offensive of June 18, a series of cruel blows, from within and from without, which were bound inevitably to bring it to a state of complete disintegration. The People’s Commissariat for Military Affairs relied upon this huge organization, upon its personnel and its material apparatus, and at the same time, foreseeing its inevitable collapse, took steps to create a new army which would have to reflect, to a greater or lesser extent in this period of transition, the structure of the Soviet regime – to correspond to that regime. Within the People’s Commissariat for Military Affairs, in one corner of it, there was set up an All-Russia Board for organizing a workers’ and peasants’ Red Army. [36] This board has now, in practice, itself become transformed into the People’s Commissariat for Military Affairs. For the old army, which in October, November and December of 1917 still survived, materially at least, as a body, although it had already long ceased to exist as a soul – this army has at last, by way of extremely painful processes, departed from the scene. Thus the task of the War Commissariat at the present time consists in taking over the huge military apparatus of the past, disorganized and disordered, but powerful by virtue of the values which it contains, examining it, organizing it, and adapting it to the army which we now wish to form.

We are at present, at the top of the organization, merging the departments of the All-Russia Board for organizing the workers’ and peasants’ army with the corresponding departments of the War Commissariat, which still reflect the old army that no longer exists. But this work affects only the very top of the organization. Furthermore, still remaining in the field of the military-administrative apparatus, we must note that a no less radical break has taken place in the localities. Having replaced the old organization of authority, including the military administration, by the Soviet organization, we found ourselves in the first period thereafter without any organs of military administration in the localities.

The local soviets took care of this work, along with all the rest, somehow or other, through their general-purposes Soviet apparatus. Under the pressure of increasing needs they began to separate off special military departments, but this was far from happening everywhere.

We have already introduced, through the Council of People’s Commissars, a statute for local military administrations in the volosts, uyezds, provinces and districts. [37] We set up everywhere a uniform type of the Soviet military-administrative institution which we have called the ‘commissariat for military affairs’ and which we have constructed on the same lines as, in general, all the ruling and directing boards that exist in all branches of military affairs. These are three-man boards on which there sit one military specialist, with the competence and scope appropriate to the dimensions of his activity, and two commissars for military affairs.

Where purely military, operational questions are concerned (and all the more so with regard to questions purely concerned with actual fighting), the military specialists possess, in all these institutions, the power of decision. This type of organization is, of course, not ideal. It, too, has grown out of the crucial character of the epoch. A new class has risen to power, a class which has weighty accounts to settle with the past. That past has bequeathed to it, in the shape of the army which has now ceased to exist, a certain material capital – guns, rifles, all sorts of military stores – and a certain mental capital – an accumulated sum of knowledge, military experience, habits of administration, and soon, all that which is possessed by the specialists in military matters, the former generals and colonels of the old army, and which the new revolutionary class did not possess. In the period when this new revolutionary class was fighting for power, and encountered resistance in its path, it mechanically smashed this resistance, and it was right to do this, in so far as, in general, the working class has the right to take state power. Only those can deny the working class the right to destroy a hostile class organization who also deny the proletariat’s right to state power.

A class which says to itself that history has summoned it to take into its hands the direction of all the governmental, social, economic and, therefore, also military life of a country, a class which considers that, having done this, in the last analysis, after overcoming all the difficulties and obstacles that follow, including its own lack of technical preparation, it will restore a hundred fold to its own society, people and nation all that it temporarily deprived them of by blows struck against its ferocious class enemies – this class has the right to power, and it has the right to smash everything that stands in its way. This is for us, for revolutionary socialists, an incontestable truth.

However, overcoming the resistance of the bourgeoisie is only the first half of the proletariat’s fundamental task, namely, the mastering of political power. The work performed by the proletariat in direct destruction of the nests and hotbeds of counter-revolution and of those apparatuses which, owing to their very nature or to historical inertia, put up resistance to the proletarian revolution, will be justified only if the working class, and the poor peasantry linked with it, having taken power into their hands, prove able to draw into their own service both the material values of the past epoch and also everything which, in the spiritual sense constitutes a certain value, a certain particle of the nation’s accumulated capital. The working class and the working masses of the peasantry have not brought forward, and could not at once bring forward, from their own midst, new military leaders and new technical directors – and this was all foreseen by all the theoreticians of scientific socialism. The proletariat is compelled to take into its service those who previously served other classes. And this fully applies in the case of the military specialists.

So as not to have to reply twice to this question, I will say here and now that it would, of course, have been very much more healthy, expedient and economic, in respect of expenditure of human energy, if we could have had, now, a commanding apparatus which corresponded to the nature of the classes which have taken power and which are not going to give up that power to anyone. Yes, that would have been much more desirable. But it isn’t the case! The most far-seeing and perspicacious members of the commanding apparatus of the old regime, or those who simply possess a certain historical experience, appreciate clearly, just as we do, that the structure of the commanding apparatus cannot at present be based on the principle of ‘one-man management’; that we are compelled to bisect the authority of the military leader assigning the purely military, operational, fighting function to someone who has studied it, who knows it best, and who must, therefore, take full responsibility for it, while, on the other hand, assigning the work of ideological and political formation to someone who, by virtue of his psychology, his consciousness and his origin, is linked with the new class which has come to power. Hence this duality of the commanding apparatus, which is made up of military specialists and political commissars, with the latter, as you know, having strict instructions [38] not to interfere in operational arrangements, neither delaying nor countermanding them. By appending his signature the commissar merely guarantees to the soldier and worker masses that a given order has been dictated by a military aim and not by counter-revolutionary trickery. That is all that the commissar is saying when he puts his name to this or that operational order. Responsibility for the appropriateness of the order lies wholly with the military leader.

I repeat, this arrangement has been recognized as correct by the most perspicacious of the military leaders themselves. They realize that, in the epoch in which we are now living, it is impossible for our military organization to be constructed in any other way. In their own field, the military leaders have all the elbow room they need if they are conscientiously carrying out their duties and are to go on doing so. And we are working only with those military specialists (I can state that this is so) who clearly understand that, regardless of their political opinions and beliefs, if they want today to lend a hand in the creation of an armed force, they can do so only through the apparatus of the Soviet power, for, in so far as the army being formed will correspond to the nature of the classes which now hold power, this army will not become a fresh factor of disorganization and disintegration, but will be the fighting organ of these new ruling classes.

Independently of their general political views, serious military specialists appreciate that an army must correspond to the regime of a given historical epoch. There can be no contradiction between the regime of the epoch and the character of its army. None of us will, of course, say that the Red Army of the Workers and Peasants now being formed is the last word in Soviet armies, so far as the principles underlying it are concerned. We have based the formation of this army on the voluntary principle. But this is not a principle that answers to the character of workers’ democracy. It is a temporary compromise, resulting from the tragic conditions of the entire material and spiritual situation of the past period.

In order to create an army based on the principle of obligation for every citizen to defend a country which is pursuing an honest policy, which does not want to coerce anyone but merely to defend and maintain itself as a state of the working masses in order to create such an army, corresponding to the Soviet regime, we need the presence of a number of fundamental conditions which have yet to be created in all the other spheres of social, economic and governmental life. It is necessary to increase the country’s productive forces, to restore and develop transport, to see to the supply of food, to revive industry, to establish, business like order in the country the order of the working masses. This is the task of education and self-education, organization and self-organization, which imperatively confronts the classes now in power.

They will fulfill this task, comrades! Of that we, together with the overwhelming majority of you, are profoundly convinced. In the last analysis they will fulfill this task! But only in so far as they do fulfill this task will the present ruling classes be able also to create an army that fully corresponds to their own nature – a mighty army, as mighty as the new Communist economy will be.

We are now creating from the worker and peasant volunteers only an auxiliary organ which will have, until we create the real army of a socialist republic, to perform the most elementary functions of defense both external and internal: a weak organ, as you and I know, and as our enemies know too. This organ is weak not in relation to our internal class enemies, who are a miserable lot, without ideas, talent or strength, who are not dangerous, and who have been everywhere defeated by improvised units of workers and sailors with no military leaders no, if this army is too weak, it is so only in relation to the mighty external foes, who utilize a huge centralized machine for their mass killing and extermination. Against them we need a different sort of army – one that is not improvised, an army that has been created otherwise than for a passing moment, an army constructed, so far as this is possible in the given state of our country, according to the principles of military art and, consequently, by means of specialists. Those very units, made up of heroic workers and commanded by improvised commanders, which have performed heroic feats in the fight against the Kaledinites, the Kornilovites, the Dutovites and other bands, those units have become convinced, from their own experience, that their principle of organization is bankrupt in face of any at all well organized armed force, constructed according to the principles of military art. This is now excellently well under stood by every conscious worker, and from this understanding by the conscious workers, revolutionary peasants and Red Army men we draw our psychological support in going over to the creation of an army into which we shall also attract every thing that is viable in the old commanding apparatus, for there too are elements who will undertake this work in concert with us. And these are by no means the worst elements, as you will all understand: they are those who do not consider it possible to wait, treacherously, for the present regime to fall – which is, of course, what a certain section of the property-owning classes and a broad group of the intelligentsia are counting on. No, they do not consider it possible to wait treacherously for this to happen, hiding meanwhile in all their saboteurs’ nooks and crannies. These are elements that say that, although they are far from agreeing with the policy now being put into effect, they nevertheless regard it as being their duty as soldiers to apply all their powers to the formation of an army which cannot but correspond to the spirit of the Soviet regime.

In order to go over from the voluntary regime to the regime of compulsory militia service, that is, to compulsory military service reduced to the necessary minimum, we need a military-administrative apparatus, one capable of checking on the effectives that must be brought within the scope of military service. As yet, we have no such apparatus. The former apparatus was smashed along with all the other apparatuses of the bureaucracy, and a new one is being created only now, in the form of the military commissariats in the volosts, uyezds, provinces and districts, which are being established by the respective soviets in the localities, and which, as I have mentioned, consist of a board of three – one military leader and two commissars. They have to register all the inhabitants belonging to the relevant age-groups: it is their responsibility to serve as the apparatus which will subject the population liable for military service to the necessary registration, calling them up, organizing them, and mobilizing them: finally, these same local commissariats will be in direct charge of the forces drawn from the local population, that is, all except for the field forces which will be directly controlled by the central military authority.

The decree on local military administration has been approved by the Council of People’s Commissars and is now being put into effect. This is the necessary precondition for any organized, planned work towards the forming of an army.

Furthermore, the task consists in not only drawing commanding personnel from the old officer corps but also, now, immediately, at once, forming a new commanding apparatus out of those elements which emerge from the classes that are now in power – from the workers, the sailors, the soldiers who possess a certain minimum of general educational preparation and who have already shown their fighting spirit, their capacity for fighting, both on the front against the Germans and in the civil war. They must be given the opportunity to obtain the military training they need. There are at present very few of them in the military schools of the Republic – up to now only about 2,000 such men, tomorrow’s commanders, have passed out from courses on the elements of military science. We shall try to increase their number.

In order to go over to the militia system, to the system of compulsory military service, we need at once, before an apparatus covering the whole country enables us to create a mighty army, to introduce compulsory military training in those centers where the working masses are concentrated. And we present for your attention today a decree of enormous importance in principle: [See the decree appended to this speech. – L.T.] a decree on compulsory military training for workers and for peasants who do not exploit the labor of others.

First of all, as regards the heading, the ‘title’, so to speak, of this decree, which may evoke some objections of principle.

We do not speak of universal, compulsory, short-term military training for all citizens. We set this matter on a class foundation, and we indicate that in the very title of our decree. Why? Because the army that we are forming must, as I have said already, conform to the nature of the Soviet regime, because we are living under conditions of the dictatorship of the working class and of the lower sections of the peasantry connected with it. This is the basic fact of our regime. We are not living under the conditions of a regime of formal democracy, of universal suffrage – which, in a period of revolutionary class conflicts can, at best, serve as a referendum of the population, whereas, after the referendum, the main role will still be played by the relation of material class forces. Formal democracy, if it had existed in the first period of the revolution, in the shape of the Constituent Assembly, could have played, at best, the role of such a preliminary referendum of the population. But the decisive word would have been spoken by the actual conflict of class forces. Only miserable petty-bourgeois doctrinaires can fail to grasp this fact. For those who understand the inner dynamic of the revolution, with its sharpened struggle between classes, it is perfectly plain that through whatever formal imperfections, through whatever democratic corridors, the revolutionary regime might have passed, it would inevitably have had to end in open dictatorship by one class or the other – either the bourgeoisie or the proletariat. In our case it ended in the dictatorship of the proletariat and the poor peasantry. An army that must be capable of fighting, that is able to ensure the defense of the country, cannot but conform, in its whole structure, in its whole composition, in its ideology, to the nature of these classes. This army cannot be other than a class army.

This I mean not just from the political point of view, although that, of course, is not the least important aspect for the Soviet regime. Since the working class has taken power, it must, obviously, create its own army, its own armed organ, which will fully safeguard it from danger. But also from the purely military standpoint, from the standpoint of the defense-capacity of our country under the conditions of the Soviet regime, there is only one thing to be done, namely, to build the army on class principles.

Until the time comes when this regime has been replaced by a communist regime, when the privileged class has terminated its privileged existence, and when there has been introduced, in this field, the universal obligation of all citizens to defend the communist republic, against all threats from without – until then, the army can only bear a class character.

It is being said that by taking this line we are placing upon the working class the whole weight, the whole burden of military defense, while freeing the bourgeoisie therefrom. Formally, of course, this is so, though we hope that the Soviet power will take all the measures necessary to place upon the bourgeoisie that share of the burden of defending the country, that portion of the work which will not permit the bourgeoisie to arm itself against the working class. Essentially, the matter comes down to this, that in the present transitional epoch of history the proletariat makes a class monopoly of state power and its military apparatus. This is a fact which we affirm and proclaim.

Until the proletariat has weaned the propertied classes from their hopes and attempts, strivings and plots, aimed at recovering state power for themselves: until the bourgeoisie has become dissolved in the country’s communist regime, until then the working class, holding power, must necessarily – and it is doing this – make weapons a class monopoly for itself, a means of defending itself against internal and external enemies, because, as we see both in the West and in the East, our internal enemies in Russia, at the moment of danger to the country, reach out their hands to our external enemies. That is why we have introduced compulsory military training for workers and for peasants who do not exploit the labor of others.

The decree on compulsory training which has been put before you, and your approval of which we await with impatience, because it will enable us to proceed at once with the most important part of the work of forming the army – this decree possesses enormous significance in principle.

In the first place, it restores, on new foundations, the principle of obligation, and thereby helps us to overcome the principle of voluntarism, which we adopted for a brief transitional period, and which we shall get rid of all the faster, the more completely we cope with all the other tasks of our public life. This decree will establish, if you approve it, the obligation of citizens belonging to those classes which hold power to make the greatest of all contributions to the state and to the Soviet regime – to pay with their blood, with their lives. This is what you must ratify, thereby re-imposing the obligation to serve upon men between the ages of 18 and 40.

Whoever has passed through a certain training in the art of war and has been certified as healthy enough to give the state eight weeks in a year, at the rate of twelve hours a week, that is, 96 hours during the first year, and a certain number of hours during subsequent call-ups, is thereby subject to the obligation, when summoned by the Soviet power, to join the colors in order to repulse external enemies. This is the basic idea of the decree in question, which we are inviting you to approve. Here we are not yet creating a well-ordered militia system – we are a big way from that. We are merely taking the workers and peasants in the natural workplaces where they are to be found, in the factories, workshops, farms and villages, gathering them together by means of the Soviet military commissariats, and subjecting them, in these natural units, to military training of the most elementary, basic kind, in accordance with a common program laid down for the whole country by the People’s Commissariat for Military Affairs. This is the fundamental idea of the decree. If you ratify it, that will mean that, tomorrow, we shall issue an order to the whole country for the Soviets, on their part, in the various localities, to set about this work, acting through their military commissariats and through the factory committees. It means that you, as the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’

Deputies, support us in this colossal task with all your ideological power, authority and organizational connections. Only in this way can we, in the immediate future, convert into a Red Army, as a provisional formation, those generations of the working class and the peasantry which are really capable of fighting, until these classes have transformed the entire structure of the country.

Together with this, I am presenting for your approval a decree on the procedure for assigning responsibilities in the workers’ and peasants’ army. [39] This decree has already been implemented in practice through our departmental instructions – this, of course, only because we could not get along without having any regulations of this sort to guide us. It now depends on you, and we hope that you will do this, to confirm it with your authority, your legislative power, so that we may put it into effect backed with that greater force. What the task amounts to is this, to create for the, Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army a commanding apparatus selected and grouped by the Soviet organizations as such. If we translate this into our usual terminology, it means that, where the Red Army is concerned, we restrict extremely, and in many respects nullify, the right to elect.

This point may seem contentious, but in our practical implementation of it we are encountering remarkably few difficulties. The explanation for this is very simple. So long as power was in the hands of the class which was the enemy of the classes from which the mass of the soldiers were recruited, so long as the commanding apparatus was appointed by the bourgeoisie, it was quite natural that the worker and peasant masses, fighting for their political emancipation, should have demanded the right to elect their leaders and commanders. This was the method by which they secured their own political self-preservation. Nobody supposed, or could suppose, that those improvised commanders of armies, corps and so on who emerged at the front during the workers’ and peasants’ October revolution could really perform the functions of commanders in-chief during war. But the revolution had placed before the working class the task of taking power into its own hands – and the working class, in the army as elsewhere, could not show confidence in the commanding apparatus which had been created by the enemy class, and could not but elect from its own ranks persons in whom, first and foremost, it had confidence.

What happened here was not a method of appointing commanders but one of the methods of class struggle. We need to appreciate this quite clearly.

In cases where we are dealing with a formation which is, in all respects, of uniform class composition, questions of electivity and appointment are of secondary, technical significance. The Soviets are elected by the workers and peasants, and this predetermines, from the class standpoint, the fact that it is the Soviets that make appointments to the very responsible posts of commissars, judges, commanders, heads of departments, and so on. In the same way, the elected administration of the trade unions appoints officials to a whole series of very responsible posts. Once an administration has been elected, it is entrusted, as a technical obligation, with the selecting of the appropriate staff.

We mean to say that the Red Army which exists today is not some sort of self-sufficient organism which exists for its own benefit and makes its own laws. It is merely an organ of the working class, its armed hand. It will be at one with the working class and with the peasantry linked with that class. Consequently, those organs to which the working class and the poor peasants have entrusted the formation of the Red Army must be invested with the power to select the commanding apparatus, in the localities and at the center. The decree on procedure for assigning responsibilities in the workers’ and peasants’ army has the task of ensuring this possibility.

Furthermore, we are faced urgently with the question of consolidating that provision which at present we are in practice trying, with comparative success, to put into force and operation everywhere, namely, the creation of stable, reliable cadres for the Red Army. What was characteristic of the Red Army in the first weeks and months of its formation was fluidity something which was characteristic of our economic and governmental life generally, and which, if we take a broader view, reflected very profound social change: when nothing has settled down yet, and everything has overflowed its banks, when enormous masses of people are moving about from place to place, when industry is in a state of disorder, transport deranged, when food-supplies are upset and the population are suffering from all this, especially the class which has taken state power into its hands. And not only in the War Department but everywhere, in all fields, the fundamental task of the present, new, post-October epoch is consolidation, through businesslike work at the center and in the localities, of a definite, stable, businesslike regime: attaching people to their jobs, ensuring very steady work, because, while the war aroused revolutionary consciousness, it also, at the same time, deprived the country of the last vestiges of planning and stability, in economic, governmental and everyday life.

And so it is necessary, on the basis of the new tasks of the revolution, to apply ourselves to persistent, regular and systematic work. This must, of course, first and foremost, find expression in the army, for allowing some phenomena that prevail in it to continue is incompatible with the existence of the army in general. Let us recall what these phenomena are. What did we see in the first weeks? The army’s extreme fluidity. This meant that many people went into the army and passed through it as through a yard that serves as a thoroughfare. They secured for themselves, for a few days, food and a greatcoat, without feeling under any obligation: some of them collected their first pay and then transferred to other units, or simply left the army altogether. Such elements as these were, of course, a minority, but they demoralized part of the army, disorganizing it structurally. The relevant decree, which is being put before you, must put an end to this chaos, this irresponsibility: it will attach each volunteer to the unit he has joined, for a period of six months. A volunteer will be bound not to quit his unit before six months are up, and if he violates this obligation he will be liable to prosecution as a criminal. [40]

Finally, we propose that you adopt and approve the formula of this solemn promise which every Red Army man is to make, pledging loyalty to the regime which has taken him into its military service. The terms of this Red Oath express the very meaning of the creation of the Red Army.

This solemn undertaking, we think, must be given by every soldier of the revolutionary army, before the working class and the revolutionary section of the peasantry of Russia and of the whole world, on the First of May. There is no contradiction here, although, at first sight, it may seem paradoxical that the First of May celebration, which was for us always a celebration of struggle and protest against militarism, should for us, for revolutionary Soviet Russia, already in this year become the day when the working class has to manifest its will to arm, to defend itself, to create in our country a strong armed force which will correspond to the nature of the Soviet regime and be able to defend and protect that regime. The point is that the First of May celebration will take place in Russia in conditions quite different from those prevailing in the other countries of Europe, where the imperialist war is still going on and where the imperialist classes are in power. Just because of that latter circumstance, which is already absent in Russia, over there the First of May has to be, now more than ever before, a day of special protest against the machinery of capitalist imperialism. Here, on the contrary, this day has to be a day of demonstrations in support of the proletarian army, and on this day we propose to bind, by a solemn promise, an undertaking – if you like, a socialist oath of allegiance – our Red Army men to serve the cause for which we have enlisted them in the ranks of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army.

We need the sanction of the Central Executive Committee for ail the decrees we have presented. You may amend them, but – you may not reject them altogether, for this would mean repudiating the very essence of the cause which you are defending; The Central Executive Committee cannot repudiate the task which the revolution has set before it.

This task consists in saying with authority to the workers and to the working peasants that today the fundamental task of the October Revolution is to re-create, on a Soviet basis, a powerful, mighty army which will be a lever for the workers’ and peasants’ revolution and a mighty factor in the international revolution.

I do not intend to enter here into the field of international politics. It is clear and obvious to every one of us that our revolution is under threat not only from the Russian bourgeoisie and its assistants, both willing and unwilling, inside the country, but also from foreign militarists. Enemies menace us from every corner of capitalist Europe and Asia.

And if we want to hold out until the moment when our foes suffer a mortal blow at home, we must create the most favorable conditions for ourselves. In particular, in the military sphere we can achieve this end by creating internal revolutionary discipline, even if only in the rudimentary army that we have at present.

In general, we must create a workers’ and peasants’ army, preparing reserves for it in the factories, giving military training to the workers, so that, if danger threatens us in the next few months, we shall be able to clothe the present skeleton of a workers’ and peasants’ army with the flesh and blood of these trained reserves. At the same time, so far as we are able, we shall prepare new commanding cadres, both through courses of instruction and by means of those elements of the former commanding apparatus who have begun and will continue to work honestly with us to increase the country’s capacity to defend itself.

if you give your sanction to our military work – which, comrades, is taking only its first steps – you will thereby enable us to implement in the localities all the proposals that we have made, consolidating and defending the measures we have taken. If you do this, I hope, comrades, that we shall increase the country’s defensive capacity to the same degree as we shall increase the entire economic and state strength of our country m general.

You will amend what you find it necessary to amend, and reject what seems to you wrong – but recognize this one thing, that Soviet Russia needs an army to serve as the organ of defense for Soviet, that is, for workers’ Russia. This army must be no dilettante affair, no improvisation. To this end we must draw all the valuable specialists into work in it.

But here, naturally, the thought arises that particular individuals may try to use this army for purposes inimical to the working class – as an instrument of counter-revolutionary conspiracies. Such fears do arise in our own midst. From time to time we come up against them, and so it is necessary to examine what foundation there is for these fears.

Those who entertain such fears say that the representatives of the old commanding apparatus will try, and try successfully, to create centers of counter-revolution within the new army. If that were the case, comrades, it would mean that all our work was doomed to inevitable collapse. It would mean that those workers, too, who in their factory have engaged an engineer, appointed him to an administrative or technical post, given him a wide field for his creative work and laid responsibility upon him, are thereby risking restoration of the capitalist regime, a return to slavery and oppression. But this is not so!

All the theoreticians of socialism foresaw, predicted, wrote about this – how, in the period when the working class came to power, it would need to draw into work all the viable, valuable, qualified elements that had previously served the ruling propertied classes. The theoreticians of socialism also often wrote that, if necessary, the working class would pay these specialists twice or three times as much as they received under the bourgeois regime, merely so as to attach them to itself. And this will not be ‘expensive’, either, in view of the advantages that will accrue from the rationalization of the economy on the basis of the socialist revolution. The same can be said in relation to the army, as the country’s organ of defense. The outlay and expenditure incurred by the working class and the peasantry in order to have a well-constructed army will be repaid a hundred fold.

Where the internal enemy is concerned, the Soviet regime is too firmly established for us to have any fear of danger ‘from the generals,’ so to speak. If, comrades, any of the specialists should feel the temptation to try and use the army against the workers and peasants in the interests of counter-revolutionary conspiracies, it stands to reason that we should vividly refresh such conspirators’ memories of the October and other days. And they know this perfectly well!

On the other hand, comrades, among the military specialists, in so far as I have managed to get to know them personally, I have found very many more valuable elements than we had supposed existed. For many of them, the experience of the war and of the revolution has not gone for nothing. Many have understood that a new wind is blowing over Russia, they have understood the new mentality of the awakened working class, they have understood that they must deal differently with it, speak to it in a different way that the army must be built differently from before. Military specialists of this kind do exist.

They exist. And we hope that we shall draw extensive cadres from among the young generations of the former officers of the old army, and shall fertilize our work for the formation of the army with their knowledge and experience.

It is only necessary to say, with weight and authority, that Russia today needs an army, on pain of death, and that the work which we are now doing will enjoy your support. We need your support, and, comrades of the Central Executive Committee, you will give it to us!


[Concluding speech at the same session. – L.T.]

Comrades! The first of the opposing speakers [41] said that we are creating an army not to defend the country, but in order to carry out what he called certain ‘experiments’. I have already said, in my report, that if the dangers confronting us were confined to the danger of an internal counter-revolutionary coup, we should have no need of an army at all.

The workers of the factories of Petrograd and Moscow could at any moment form fighting units adequate to the task of nipping in the bud any attempt to restore power to the bourgeoisie by means of an armed rising. Our internal enemies are too insignificant and wretched for us to need to create, in order to combat them, the well-proportioned apparatus of an army constructed on a scientific basis, and to set in motion the entire armed power of the people.

If we need such a force at the present time, it is precisely because the Soviet regime and the Soviet country are threatened with very great danger from without, and precisely because our internal enemies are strong exclusively by virtue of that class cohesion which united them with our external class enemies. And, in this sense, we are experiencing precisely now the moment when the struggle for the regime which we are creating is faced directly and immediately with the question of increasing the country’s all-round defensive capacity. We shall not protect, we shall not defend the Soviet regime otherwise than by giving a direct, vigorous rebuff to foreign capital, which is advancing against our country, for no other reason than that it is the country where the workers and peasants rule. This simple circumstance is the knot which history has tied.

Just because the working class is in power here we are today an object of hatred and hostile schemes on the part of the world’s imperialist bourgeoisie. This is why every conscious worker and every revolutionary peasant must support the army, if, too, he holds dear what is now being built in Russia – as yet, badly and awkwardly, which I know just as well as any of our critics; but, all the same, what is being built is infinitely dear to us, for it gives promise of a new epoch in history, and thereby constitutes for us the most valuable conquest in all the history of human development up to now.

When they say we are carrying out experiments, I don’t know what they understand by the word ‘experiment’. The whole of past history was nothing but a history of experiments carried out on the working masses: in the past there was the epoch of experiments by the nobility upon the bodies and souls of the peasant masses; I know that there was also, in past times, the epoch of experiments by the bourgeoisie upon the souls and bodies of the working class. We have been witnesses to such an experiment for several years now, throughout the world, in the form of the frightful imperialist slaughter.

Nevertheless, there are persons, considering themselves socialists, who, contemplating the stupendous experiments of the four-years world war, say that the heroic attempt of the working masses of Russia to free themselves, and to rebuild life upon new principles, is an ‘experiment’ which does not deserve support, that we are creating an army not to defend the revolutionary conquests of the working people, but for some coterie, Party or other such purposes.

But I say that if any epoch there can be which gives rise to a need for an army to fight for aims that are the most just of all aims, then it is the present epoch. If it is possible for there to exist a regime which, being in need of defense, has the right to demand this defense from the working masses, this regime can only be a regime of rule by the working masses themselves. Despite the mistakes made by the latter, despite the roughness of their regime, despite the fact that it has ridden too harshly over the hides of certain of the intellectual gentry – despite all that, the Soviet regime has the right to develop. It will consolidate itself: but for that it needs an army. And that army we will create.

Then they point out that there is duality in the projected army, and this, they say, is the principal fault both in the army and in the regime which has created it. Of course there is duality – duality which consists in the fact that we are in an epoch of transition from bourgeois rule to the socialist order: duality which consists in the fact that the working class has mastered political power but has thereby not merely not completed its work but, on the contrary, has only approached its fundamental tasks, the reconstruction of the entire economy, of all social life, upon new principles: duality which, finally, consists in the fact that the working class is in power only in Russia and has to resist an offensive by the capital of other countries, those countries where the working class has not yet risen for the final decisive struggle and taken state power.

This is a duality, or contradiction, which is inherent in the very essence of our revolution. It is not a question of the regime, of its political form or of the principle on which its army is constructed, but of the clash between two formations, the bourgeois-capitalist one and the socialist-proletarian one. This contradiction can be overcome through protracted struggle. We are merely trying to create the weapon for waging this struggle and trying to ensure that this weapon shall conform to the requirements and obligations of the regime which we are called upon to defend.

They tell us, furthermore, that we cannot be serious in proposing to give military training to the workers and peasants, since we are allotting only 96 hours in the year for this work. I must remind them, first of all, that among the worker and peasant masses there are scattered a great many elements who have already undergone military training, and we need to muster these elements afresh in those natural points of concentration, the factories, farms and workplaces generally.

I must say that I do not consider myself personally competent to judge just how many hours and weeks are needed in a year for our future people’s army to master the fundamentals of the military art. It may be that this period really is too short. If so, then we shall increase it, when it has become clear from the actual experience of the workers and peasants themselves that 96 hours is not enough for them. But to suppose that in the length of the period proposed there is, on our part, some design or scheme aimed at not giving the workers and peasants full military training – that is, I repeat, the very ultimate in chicanery and demagogy.

From the Right there were also objections to the principle of unquestioning obedience to orders. What, they asked, if these orders should be counter-revolutionary?

If they want here to introduce into the constitution of our army the right not to carry out counter-revolutionary orders, well, please note that the whole text of the solemn promise, which I read out, is directed against counter-revolution, both Russian and world-wide. This is the fundamental spiritual pivot of our army ... [A voice: ‘Unquestioning obedience to the commander?’]

Naturally, if the Soviet regime as a whole, together with its entire army, should become the victim of counter-revolutionary generals, then, of course, history will have let us down, and this whole regime will be condemned to the scrap yard.

But, after all, the prospect looks different from that, and life is not presenting to us in that way the matters in dispute. One might imagine, from what has been said, that we were now being ruled by counter-revolutionary generals, and ought to be stirring up criticism of them among the masses. Such power of criticism is, in any case, to be met with in every one of our Red Army men, to no less an extent than in all those critics and counselors who, as is known, hindered us in our work of cultivating in the soldiers, workers and peasants a salutary distrust of their class enemies wherever they might be found. There is quite enough of that distrust among the workers and soldiers.

But, through a natural psychological reaction, the presence of this pre-October lack of confidence in the Government and its orders has led among us to a situation in which everyone tries to pass each order, each regulation, through the apparatus of his criticism, his distrust and his judgment – which holds up fulfillment of the order, is destructive to work, and ought not to happen, in the interests of the working people themselves.

Thus, for example, reaction against Tsarist centralism led to every province and every uyezd setting up its own Council of People’s Commissars, its own Republic of Kaluga, Tula, etc., etc.

This is basically a creative and living principle of reaction against the old absolutism, but it needs to be brought within a strictly defined channel. A centralized state apparatus must be created. It is self-evident that all the soldiers, workers and peasants must, together with us, ensure that they have an apparatus for controlling all the commanding personnel through the Central Executive Committee and through the Commissariats. And we possess this apparatus of supervision and control. If at present it is a poor affair, it will come to be arranged better as time goes by.

But, alongside this, it also needs to be established that an order is an order, that a soldier of the Red Army is a soldier, that the army of the workers and peasants is an army that in this army battle orders are given which must be obeyed unquestioningly. If they have been countersigned by the commissar, then it is he who bears responsibility for them, and the Red Army men are bound to carry out such orders. If this simple rule is not enforced, then, of course, there cannot be any army at all. What holds an army together? Confidence in a certain regime, in that ruling power which, in certain circumstances, it creates for itself and itself supervises.

If we preserve this overall confidence – and we think that we shall preserve it – then the Soviet regime, the regime of the revolutionary class, has the right to demand of its organs, of its military units, that they submit to and obey the orders which issue from the central government and which have been checked by the Central Executive Committee.

And to those of our military specialists who conscientiously doubt whether we are capable of introducing discipline, we say that if it was possible under the rule of Tsardom, the bureaucracy and the bourgeoisie, if it was in those days possible to establish a subordination that was directed against the worker and peasant masses, if in those days it was, in general, possible to create a state power directed against the working class, then we certainly will be ten times, a hundred times more capable, psychologically and historically, of introducing iron discipline into an army which has been created entirely for the defense of the working classes.

The opposing speakers want, you see, to defend and protect us from counter-revolutionary intrigues. First of all, let us see who it is that wants to protect us from counter-revolutionary intrigues. It is those who collaborated with Dukhonin, with Kerensky.

Citizen Dan told us here how, as he put it ‘Napoleons are produced,’ how it is that the commissars can’t be vigilant enough. But, as I recall, the Kornilov affair developed not under the Soviet regime but under Kerensky’s regime [Martov: ‘There will be a new Kornilov affair.’] ... There hasn’t been a new one so far, and at present we are talking about the old one, about the one which did occur and which set its vivid mark forever on somebody’s brow. [Applause]

And now, for Dan’s edification I will remind you, comrades, that our commissars, the commissars of the Petrograd Soviet of those days, knew how to distinguish between operational orders and counter-revolutionary intrigues.

When Dukhonin, against his own will and at Kerensky’s demand, sought in October to withdraw the garrison from Petrograd, so as to deprive the revolutionary capital of its power, he motivated this order by operational, strategic necessity. Our Petrograd Soviet commissars said: ‘It’s quite clear that this is a new experiment.’ And this experiment was being carried out by the coalition government of those days, together with the Mensheviks who were in it, under the supreme aegis of Kerensky. Documents which we found, bearing the signatures of Kerensky and Dukhonin, supplied full confirmation of this suspicion.

I remember that Dan and his co-thinkers appeared before us in those days, on the rostrum of the Petrograd Soviet, declaring: ‘You wish not to carry out the operational order issued by the military authorities and the Government regarding the Petrograd garrison. You won’t even dare to enter into discussion about it.’ And that order was, essentially, a counter revolutionary project to strangle Petrograd. We divined that this was so, but you [turning to the Mensheviks] were blind, and so we overthrew your old authority and took power into our own hands. Historically, we were right as against you.

Unfortunately, I do not hear Citizen Martov’s rejoinder, and it is not clear to me whether he was at that time with us or with Dan and Kerensky. [A voice: ‘It is shameful, Trotsky, that you have forgotten the role that Martov played.’]

Citizen Martov’s position always has about it something extremely delicate, which almost eludes the grasp of crude class analysis – something that compelled Citizen Martov at that time to appear as the righteous man alongside the sinner Dan. Citizen Dan was at that time with Kerensky. Consequently, Citizen Martov was personally in opposition to Dan. But now, when the working class, with all its mistakes, its ‘lack of education’, its ‘lack of culture’, has come to power, you and Dan are together on one side, in opposition to the working class.

But history, which generally takes things in their historical dimension, their class scale, history will write that the working class came to power at this time in very difficult circumstances, made mistakes and corrected them, while you stood outside it, to one side of it, against it: and this has been shown afresh by the re-elections to the Moscow Soviet. [42] [A voice: ‘The figures were falsified.’] I know that when somebody else was in power, when it was Kerensky and Dan ... [Dan: ‘I have never been in power.’] I beg your pardon ... When Dan’s well-known opponent Tsereteli was in power [laughter], there really were some attempts to falsify elections to the Soviets, and they found expression in the fact that the whole party was prosecuted under Article 108. [43] [Applause]

I recall, however, that as a result of this falsification, we nevertheless emerged as the majority in all the Soviets.

When the Second Congress of Soviets was convened, the Dans wrecked it, falsified the will of the workers in the Central Executive Committee, in the Democratic Conference [44], garbled the will of the revolutionary democracy here, there and everywhere, with the direct participation of those who are now opposing me. And in the face of all this falsification we proved to be in the majority, in power – so that our Party must be viable and sound. Falsification, whether real or imaginary, cannot harm such a party, but a party which resorts to falsification as the explanation of its downfall is a dead party.

Coming back to the problems of the army, it must be said that, naturally, we do not shut our eyes to any of the dangers that confront us, dangers which we did not invent but which have been put before us by all the previous course of development. At the same time, only our methods are the right ones for the struggle against these dangers.

To be sure, we are asked: ‘But was everything in that previous development necessary, was it all historically inevitable? The disruption of the old army, the uncovering of the front – was that necessary?’ I, too, ask whether it was necessary. However, it can be acknowledged that that was inevitable which could be precisely foreseen.

And if you will refer to our speeches at the June Congress of Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies [45], if you will look at the minutes of that congress and read the report of our first intervention there, you will see that we said to Messrs. the Mensheviks and SRs (the SRs were then still united): ‘If you want to destroy our army, then hurl it into an offensive. If you want to deal it a mortal blow, undermining its faith in the revolution hurl it into an offensive.’ That was the declaration we made on June 4, and on June 18 the Government of Kerensky and Dan hurled the army into an offensive.

That’s what dealt the army the final, fatal blow! At that time Citizen Martov understood this: he knew that what would ensue from the offensive was the tragic, panic retreat of our mortally sick army. [Martov: ‘But you corrupted it and brought it to the point of final breakdown. I said: leave the army to the Bolsheviks and they will debauch it.’] Citizen Martov forecast, do you see, in addition to this, that after his co-thinkers had dealt a mortal blow to the army, the Bolsheviks would corrupt this army. Why was history so ungenerous that, between Citizens Dan and Kerensky, who dealt the army a mortal blow, and the Bolsheviks, who infected this army, which had been battered to the point of death, with some sort of plague, it did not find a place for Citizen Martov, so as to save this army?

I do not doubt, of course, that when the Socialist order has arrived, some future collector of aphorisms will write down what Citizen Martov said.

But at present we are talking not about aphorisms but about the revolution, that revolution which is now being made, about that working class which is now fighting, which wants to maintain state power, making it the instrument of its own emancipation – and we say about that class: if we made mistakes along with it, we also learnt along with it to try again, and along with it we shall conquer. That’s where the difference lies between us and Citizen Martov’s group.

In our approach to the training of the army we do not at all restrict ourselves to 96 hours, as Citizen Martov tries to insinuate, depicting compulsory training as a fiction. We know that the working class is, fortunately, imbued with a very big stock of criticism. Whatever else it may lack, it has plenty of that. It has not much habit of organization, it has at present little capacity for systematic work, for discipline, but it is saturated through and through with the disposition to check and to distrust.

This disposition is a great asset. It must be supplemented with discipline, planning and other qualities which are needed to administration and struggle. If 96 hours are not sufficient for the worker, a period twice or three times as long can be laid down. If he doesn’t like the generals, he will dismiss them, and us along with them. But at present we are accomplishing our task of creating the army in harmony with the working class, leading it against you, and in that we see the source of our pride.

On the other hand, you say that we are not allowing the bourgeoisie to receive training. Here you put forward two arguments. ‘You don’t let the bourgeoisie in, and you suppose that by so doing you safeguard the army from counter revolution. But what is this bourgeoisie? A mere five per cent. Can it be supposed that by such childish means the army can be safeguarded from counter-revolution?’ At the same time you say that we are condemning all our military activity to failure because we are not letting the bourgeoisie into it. If this bourgeoisie is so insignificant, why should we argue about this five per cent, about whether or not to include it? A mistake of five per cent at a time when all accounting and calculation is in so unsatisfactory a state here is a mistake of no importance. And the center of gravity does not lie with the five-per-cent bourgeoisie.

The bourgeoisie has a big tail made up of barely-conscious, ignorant petty-bourgeois, kulaks, minor exploiters, ignorant petty-bourgeois elements. In the present situation we could not include them because they could be included in the Soviet army only by means of very severe repression. All these shriveled-up, backward elements hate the proletariat and the revolution. These elements exist not only on the Don, but also in Orenburg, and in order to draw them over to our side we need first to achieve some very big victories in the field of organization. We must show these benighted, muddled and deceived elements, in practice, that the Soviet regime, the workers’ power, is capable of organizing agriculture on new principles, running the factories in the people’s interest, and creating an army for this purpose.

Then they will see with their own eyes that the new regime is working in their interests, and there will then be no danger that by including them in the army we bring civil war into it.

Of course, these ideas are valueless in the eyes of those who do not believe in the victory of the working class. But what do they believe in, then? For what do Messrs. the Mensheviks hope? When history breaks loose, it will not stop at the editorial office of the newspaper Vperyod [46], but will roll down further. You know very well that, after we have gone, you will constitute no sort of support for the revolution.

We are the only bulwark of the workers’ revolution: with all mistakes we are making at present, we must and will do our work, correct our mistakes, strengthen the Soviet power, rally the masses around us. History does not proceed in such a way as to allow of experiments. The present struggle is not at all such as to allow of our approaching it like a game of chess: we’ve lost one game – well, so what, we’ll win the next. If we fall, then, certainly, you won’t be the ones to set things right – the cart of the counter-revolution will roll over your skulls, too!

But now, under present conditions, with the difficulties and dangers that exist, we need the cart that we have – to reinforce it, to improve it, and to drag it onward and upward, not allowing it to roll downhill. For this purpose, as I have already explained, we need an army. It is said that we have only now realized this. That is not true. But it is one thing to understand this in an article, and another thing to make possible the actual building of an army.

In our shattered country, where the old, sick army burst at all its seams, and scattered, disorganizing transport and ruining everything as it went – in such a country we could not build a new army until the old one had been finally liquidated.

Only now are we proceeding to register the population.

The Red Army is only the skeleton of the future army. Of course, the Red Army can serve only as a cadre around which the trained elements of the workers from the factories must be rallied.

Here I am going to answer the observations of my first opponent, which amounted to this: do we intend, for Party reasons, to exclude the Mensheviks and Right SRs from the army? We did say that absolutely all workers and peasants who do not exploit the labor of others are to be given training. If this argument has to be understood as meaning that among the workers to whom we shall give military training there are no Mensheviks, and among the peasants who do not exploit the labor of others there are no Right SRs, then this retort would perhaps have some force. But the fault here does not lie with us. We are acting on firm and sound class grounds, and we show by doing this that we have no fear of a worker, even if he is a Menshevik, or of a peasant who does not exploit the labor of others, even if he considers himself an SR.

When, at the time of the October Revolution, we fought for power, workers and peasants belonging to the parties mentioned gave us their support. They supported us at the time of the October insurrection against their own leaders – to the honor of these workers and to the shame of their leaders.

Besides all this, it is said that posts of command must be assigned through election. Through election by the masses of the people? Or through election by the soldiers alone?

The undoubted danger that lies in electricity is that the army may be penetrated by tendencies to military syndicalism, so to speak, that is, that the army would come to look on itself as an independent entity which makes its own laws. We say that the army is an instrument of the Soviets which create it, which themselves draw up the lists and select the candidates for posts of command. These lists, don’t forget, are compiled by the Soviet authorities and published for everyone to read. All appointments are passed through the filter of the Soviet regime.

The Soviets will direct the army and educate it, they will ensure that it has a well-defined commanding apparatus. There can be no other procedure. You cannot propose anything different from that.

If it is perfectly clear in relation to the army in general, as a specific organ, that the principle of election, from top to bottom, is impracticable, then this must apply with even greater force in relation to an army which is only now being formed.

How can it separate out from itself, through elections, a reliable, militarily competent commanding apparatus, when the units are only starting to be put together? This is quite unthinkable. Or is this army not to trust the Soviets which are forming it? That would be an internal contradiction. Such an army would not be viable. Consequently, comrades, there is here no weakening of the so-called democratic principle: on the contrary, this principle is placed on a broader Soviet foundation.

Citiizen Dan said quite rightly that it is not any particular measures of agitation against generals that will ensure the viability of the democratic army, but the overall character of the regime. Quite right. But he consequently also rejects the regime itself, root and branch, rejects the Soviet regime of the workers and the poor peasants in the localities. [Dan protests] Oh, I know that Citizen Dan recognizes the regime of the Soviets, but not of those Soviets which actually exist, not of the earthly Soviets but of those most heavenly Soviets into which he leads us as archangel. These celestial Soviets Citizen Dan does recognize. I, however, have in mind the Soviets of here and now, in which Citizens Dan and Martov are the minority and we are the overwhelming majority. The regime of these Soviets does not deny itself. This regime exists and means to go on existing.

The criticism of the Red Army now being formed which is voiced by our adversaries comes down to a criticism of the entire regime of the Soviets, the regime of rule by the working class and the peasants. And they are right. But this means that if the army which we are building stands firm, then the entire regime will stand firm. And, contrariwise, if this regime holds out, its army will perish with it.

Whoever takes a conscientious look at what is now happening in our country will agree that our main effort must be directed at present towards reconstructing the country’s entire economic apparatus, its transport and food-supply, and towards constructing an army to care for the external protection of the Soviet regime.

And in order that this may be possible, in order that we may succeed, let there be less of this petty criticism, this barren skepticism, which gives us nothing except libelous articles: let there be more faith in the class which has been called by history to save the country! This class, the proletariat, will survive and withstand not only the miserable criticism from the Right, but also all the colossal difficulties that history has loaded upon its shoulders.

And we, rolling up our sleeves, will get down to the work of creating an army. For this we need your unanimous vote that this work is necessary, so that we may receive support in the localities in carrying out the tasks of organizing food-supply and transport, of fighting against wantonness, hooliganism, disorder and negligence.

Give us this vote of confidence and we shall endeavor to continue to deserve it by our work along this road which you point out and assign to us.


36. The All-Russia Board for Organizing the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army was formed out of the personnel of the People’s Commissariat for Military Affairs so early as December 20, 1917. It consisted of Comrades Podvoisky, Mekhonoshin, Krylenko, Trifonov and Yurenev. It was this Board that drew up the theses on creating the Red Army on the voluntary principle. It also led all the work involved in the formation of the first volunteer units, and co-ordinated the activity of its regional and provincial organs. The Board continued in existence until May 8 1918, when, in its place and in place of some other central institutions, the All-Russia General Staff was formed.

37. The decree on organizing volost, uyezd, province and district commissariats fo rmilitary affairs was published by the Council of People’s Commissars on April 8, 1918.

38. The first order defining the duties of Commissars and members of War Councils was issued on April 6, 1918. The particular importance of this order makes it necessary to reproduce it in full:

‘On Military Commissars and Members of War Councils. The military commissar is the direct political organ of the Soviet power in the army. His post is one of exceptional importance. Commissars are appointed from among irreproachable revolutionaries capable of remaining, under the most difficult circumstances, the embodiment of revolutionary duty. A commissar’s person is inviolable. Insult to a commissar when he is on duty, and, still more, violence against a commissar, is tantamount to the gravest of crimes against the Soviet power. The military commissar must see to it that the army does not become dissociated from the Soviet system as a whole, and that particular military institutions do not become centres of conspiracy or instruments to be used against the workers and peasants. The Commissar takes part in all the work of the military leaders, receives reports and despatches along with them, and counter-signs orders. War Councils will give effect only to such orders as have been signed not only by military leaders but also by at least one commissar. All work is to be done with the cognizance of the commissar, but leadership in the specifically military sphere is the task not of the commissar but the military specialist working shoulder to shoulder with him.

‘The commissar is not responsible for the expediency of purely military, operational, combat orders. Responsibility for them rests entirely with the military leader. The commissar’s signature on an operational order means that the cornmissar vouches for this order as having been motivated by operational and not by any other (counter-revolutionary) considerations. In the event that he disapproves of a purely military instruction, the commissar is not to delay its application, but merely to report his disapproval of it to the War Council immediately above him. The only operational order that may be held up is one regarding which the commissar has formed a well-grounded opinion that it was inspired by counter-revolutionary motives. If an order has been signed by a commissar, it possesses legal force and must be carried out, whatever the cost. Responsibility for seeing to the precise fulfillment of orders rests with the commissar, and all the authority and resources of the Soviet power are at his disposal for this purpose. A military commissar who connives at the non-fulfillment of orders is liable to instant removal from office and prosecution. Commissars are to link the institutions of the Red Army with the central and local institutions of the Soviet power and ensure the co-operation of the latter with the Red Army.

‘The commissar shall see to it that all workers in the Red Army, from top to bottom, do their work conscientiously and energetically, that funds are disbursed economically and under the most stringent supervision, and that military property is preserved with all possible care. Commissars of the Supreme Military Council are appointed by the Council of People’s Commissars, Commissars of district or city-district soviets are appointed by agreement between the Supreme Military Council and the leading soviet of the given district or city-district. For the commissars of the Supreme Military Council a Military Commissars’ Bureau is established. This Bureau is to unite the activity of the commissars, answer their inquiries, draw up instructions for them, and, if need be, convene Congresses of Commissars.’

Signed by the People’s Commissar for Military Affairs and Chairman of the Supreme Military Council Trotsky.

39. By the Decree on appointment to posts, appointments to the post of section commander were left to the discretion of the company commander concerned. For appointments to the post of platoon commander, the local commisariats were to compile lists of candidates from among those who had received special training or had distinguished themselves by their courage and capacity for leadership in battle. In accordance with these lists, the commanders of independent units, together with the commissariats, accepted candidates for performance of the duties of platoon commander. In battle and on the march, all posts of command were to be filled by appointment. In fully-formed units, appointment was made by selection from among candidates from the whole of the given unit. Commanders of independent units and brigades were to be appointed from lists of candidates provided by the People’s Commissar for Military Affairs. Commanders of divisions and larger formations were to be appointed by the People’s Commissar for Military Affairs, in agreement with the Supreme Military Council, and the appointments reported to the Council of People’s Commissars.

40. The Decree on the period of service was the first step in transition from the system of volunteering to the obligation to serve in the Red Army for a definite period of time. The full text was as follows:

(1) Every citizen who voluntarily joins the Red Army is to be obliged to serve in it for not less that six months, reckoned from the date of signing his engagement.

(2) Every Red Army soldier who voluntarily leaves the army before the expiry of the period laid down is to be punished by imprisonment for between one and two years and loss of rights as a citizen of the Soviet Republic.

41. The first opponent to speak was the Menshevik Ilyin.

42. The re-elections to the Moscow Soviet were concluded on April 23, 1918 and showed a brilliant victory for the revolutionary proletariat. Out of the 803 deputies elected, 354 were Communists, plus 150 sympathizers.

43. Article 108 of the Criminal Code of 1903: Under this article, persons charged with treason and spying were liable to prosecution. Persons prosecuted under Article 108 were deprived of electoral rights. This article of the Tsarist code was utilised by the Provisional Government to accuse the Bolsheviks of spying for Germany and deprive them of electoral rights in the Soviets.

44. The Democratic Conference was convened by the Provisional Government and met between September 14 and 23, 1917. Invited to participate were co-operators, representatives of front and army committees, of zemstvos and cities, and of provincial soviets and trade unions. The delegates from the soviets were in a minority. From the Democratic Conference emerged the Council of the Republic (the Pre-Parliament), which was to function as the representative organ of the Republic until the Constituent Assembly should meet. The Bolsheviks walked out of the Pre-Parliament. The Democratic Conference enjoyed no authority in the country and merely helped to intensify the class struggle.

45. The June Congress was the first Congress of Soviets, held in June 1917. Speaking at this congress Comrade Lenin said that ‘the June offensive is a turning-point in the entire Russian revolution’. [see Lenin’s Collected Works, Vol.25, p.25.]

46. The newspaper Vperyod the organ of the Central and Moscow Committees of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (Mensheviks). The editorial board was led by Martov, Dan and Martynov.

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Last updated on: 15.12.2006