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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A letter to the head of the General Staff Academy

The former commander-in-chief of the armies on the Northern Front, Novitsky [The Novitsky referred to here is V.F. Novitsky (1869-1929), who was commander-in-chief of the Northern Front (i.e., army group) facing the Germans in 1917, and after the October Revolution taught at the General Staff Academy. He complained about a speech by Zinoviev, who said that the military specialists should be squeezed like lemons and then thrown away. He later worked in the Red Army’s Supreme Military Inspectorate. D.N. Fedotoff-White (in The Growth of the Red Army) is wrong in identifying this Novitsky with F.F. Novitsky, another former Tsarist officer, who served as chief of staff to Frunze on the Eastern Front and died in 1944.], has replied to a communication from one of my colleagues in the Commissariat with a telegram addressed to me in which he explains why he had to decline to take up the appointment offered to him. Ex-General Novitsky’s explanations were published in the press on the same day that he sent his telegram to me. The gist of what Mr. Novitsky says is that collaboration by military specialists should be made possible by showing confidence in them and observing guarantees of their professional and human dignity – on which, Mr. Novitsky claims, they cannot count at present.

I have dealt in official statements with the question of the mutual relations which can and should exist between the Soviet power and those military specialists who have been called by it to serve in the work of building the armed forces of the Soviet Republic, and I see no need to return to the matter in connection with Mr. Novitsky's demonstration; but I cannot refrain from pointing out that this demonstration is directed not against the Soviet power but against those military specialists who consider that they ought to work to ensure the country's capacity to defend itself. What Mr. Novitsky is doing in his letter is calling on all the military specialists to engage in sabotage of the defense of the Soviet Republic. No other interpretation can be put upon the letter. Meanwhile, Mr. Novitsky is a professor at the General Staff Academy. The immediate task of the Academy is to train military specialists for forming the Soviet army.

It is quite natural that Mr. Novitsky’s demonstration should prompt me to raise with you, as head of the Academy, the question of how far a call to sabotage work on defense is compatible with the vocation of military instructor.

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Last updated on: 15.12.2006