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 the bourgeois press and among those who echo what it says it was widely alleged that I had said at a meeting that occupation by the Germans was preferable to occupation by the Japanese. Novaya Zhizn picking up this dirty gossip, raised the question of what plans and diplomatic combinations were hidden behind this statement.

I have actually spoken on this subject already, and, alas, more than once.

Ever since the Anglo-French (especially the French) press began to insist upon the need for military intervention in Russian affairs by the Allies, so as to push our country into war with Germany, I have declared, in complete conformity with general Soviet policy, that we cannot regard interference by the Allied imperialists in any other light than as a hostile attempt on the freedom and independence of Soviet Russia.

This means that if they try to effect a landing, we shall resist with all the means at our disposal.

So far as that matter is concerned, we see no difference between encroachment by the Germans and ‘friendly’ encroachment by the Allied armies.

Furthermore, in order to illustrate this idea of mine, I have said more than once that the ‘Allies’ would be able to make a serious military attack only with the help of the Japanese army. Fools alone can imagine that the Japanese army will invade Russian soil for no other purpose than to help the Allies and free Russia from the Germans.

If Japan interfered in Russian affairs it would be solely in order to enslave Russia and, on encountering the German forces, to extend to them the hand of friendship.

If, I added, Russia were to find herself, even if only temporarily, faced with the necessity of choosing between a Japanese and a German occupation, then, certainly, we should have to recognize that a Japanese occupation would be not less but more dangerous for the fate of the Russian people, for we have incomparably fewer grounds to hope for the possibility of profound internal changes in Japan, in the near future, than in the case of Germany.

That was the gist of what I said at the meeting.

I expressed myself in exactly the same sense not only at the meeting but in my talks with French officers, British representatives and the Serbian minister Spalaikovich, a few months back.

Those who interpret this argument, which is logically quite irrefutable, as pointing towards an alliance with Germany against the ‘Allies’ must be persons who either understand nothing or are being paid not to understand.

As regards the statement published in one newspaper that I spoke about possible co-operation by Germany in the fight against the Czechoslovaks, this, too, belongs to the category of those provocative rumors, spread by the Right SRs and Mensheviks, which played a substantial role in stimulating the Czechoslovak mutiny. At the joint meeting in the Bolshoi Theater [73] I have already declared for all to hear that only scoundrels can spread such rumors. I have no reason to change anything in that declaration.

Izv.V.Ts.I.K., June 22, 1918& 


July 1, 1918

Notwithstanding the direct protest made by the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs, foreign troops have landed at Murmansk. I have been instructed by the Council of People’s Commissars to take the necessary measures to protect the White Sea coast from the aggression by foreign imperialists. In fulfillment of this task entrusted to me, I declare:

  1. Any aid whatsoever, direct or indirect, given to the foreign force which is intruding into the Soviet Republic will be regarded as treason to the state, punishable by martial law.
  2. The movement of prisoners-of-war towards Murmansk or Archangel, either as groups, whether armed or unarmed, or as individuals, is unconditionally forbidden. Any breach of this prohibition will be punished by martial law.
  3. No-one, whether Russian or foreigner, can go to the White Sea coast without the permission of the military commissar of the nearest district. Travelers approaching the coast without this permission will be liable to instant arrest.

Izv.V.Ts.I.K., no.135 July 2, 1918


The measures taken by the People’s Commissariat for Military Affairs to deal with the landing by our former allies at Murmansk are completely in accordance with the instructions I received from the Council of People’s Commissars and, in particular, from the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs.

Any attempt made by our former allies to transform the White Sea coast into a base for their operations will meet with an uncompromising rebuff from us.

As is known, I have dispatched the armed forces needed to safeguard the Northern coast against any encroachments whatsoever.

The force landed by our ex-allies is numerically insignificant, and more symbolic than effective. The Anglo-French imperialists apparently count on establishing in the North a pole of attraction for all sorts of adventurers, mercenaries, counter-revolutionaries and traitors. To this end, our ex-allies have long since been bribing certain groups of the White-Sea coast inhabitants, and, in particular, the Murmansk Soviet [74] and some of the military and naval representatives in the area.

At the same time, an attempt was made by French and other officers to move to the North substantial units of Czechoslovak, Serbian, French and Russian White Guards, especially airmen, so as to form a powerful occupying force at Murmansk, and later at Archangel.

Two groups of prisoners-of-war, consisting of 100 Serbs and 200 Italians, did actually succeed in getting through to Archangel, with a certain quantity of weapons. A most searching inquiry is now under way to establish the routes by which these groups traveled and who it was that helped them.

In accordance with my orders, these two groups have, of course, already been disarmed and placed under arrest.

The central food-supply administration received an application from the French military mission for an issue of foodstuffs for a thousand men who were allegedly being sent through Murmansk to France. This is, as we know, the formula by means of which adventurers, mercenaries and crooks are being mobilized for the occupying forces. Officially, they are being sent ‘to France’, but in reality they are destined to raise a revolt on Russia soil and to seize our Northern coast.

A few days ago a group such as this, consisting of a few dozen Czechoslovak and Polish White Guards and French officers, was detained in Moscow and put in prison. The measures taken provide some guarantee that no further sudden movement and concentration towards the North by similar groups can occur. Those Russian traitors who treat as normal the barefaced arbitrariness committed by foreigners in our North, and provide help to it, will be dealt with in short order.

The picture before us is now extremely instructive for any honest observer. Exactly the same groups and classes of the population show themselves Anglophil or Germanophil in orientation, depending on whose help is nearest to hand. The Cadets and Right SRs go along with the Japanese in the Far East, in the North with the British and French, in the Ukraine and on the Don, and at Pskov and Dvinsk, with the Germans, and the Cadet who makes an agreement with Skoropadsky in no way blames as unpatriotic the Cadet who is ready to sell Russia to the Anglo-French stock-exchange speculators, while the latter fully ‘understands’ his colleague in the Ukraine.

Krasnov operates according to a German orientation. His brother Dutov leans towards the Czechoslovaks and the British. The third man, Semyonov, has hired himself out to Japan. All three of them are fulfilling the instructions of the Russian bourgeoisie. This is their patriotism, their national dignity, their national honor.

In conclusion, I should just like to draw attention to the specific activity of the French military mission in Russia during the revolution. It is hard to conceive anything more limited, short-sighted and helpless than a French petty-bourgeois clad in a General’s uniform or a diplomat’s frock-coat. Above all, this petty-bourgeois is ignorant of geography and incapable of finding his feet in an unfamiliar setting. As a result, the activity of France’s agents in Russia was entirely directed against the elementary interests of France. I shall not deal in detail with the actions of the French diplomatic and military representatives, but will mention only the most important of these.

France raised up the Romanians against us [75] – and the Romanians ended by transporting the German troops into New Russia.

The French raised up the Rada against us, helping it with money and military leadership – and the Rada ended by allying itself with Germany and Austria-Hungary.

The French supported Kornilov, Kaledin and Krasnov – and Krasnov is working with Skoropadsky.

It was the French who pressed hardest for Japanese intervention. But one would need to be really as innocent as Tartarin [Tartarin is a character in stories by Alphonse Daudet who is not so much innocent as disposed, Walter-Mitty-like, to believe his own tall stories about his adventures.] to suppose that Japan wants to get involved in an armed conflict with Germany, and not merely to grab the Russian provinces of the Far East.

This was, and still is, the policy of all the agents of France on Russian territory. Mr. Clemenceau is nothing but an hysterical petty-bourgeois, a journalist who has not recovered from a state of chauvinist intoxication. He is in charge of the policy of unfortunate France, which has been drained of blood. Through his agents he is everywhere creating enemies for himself.

Let us actually try, in a calm way, to answer the question: what is it that the British and the French want? They want to involve Russia in the war, to create a new Eastern Front. The Soviet power does not want this. Hence the idea of overthrowing the Soviet power.

Let us assume for a moment that they succeed in their aim. Does any sensible person imagine that the working class and the revolutionary poor peasants, who undividedly follow us, would quietly and for a long time put up with the establishment of bourgeois government that made an alliance with Anglo French imperialism?

The moment that the Soviet power was overthrown would see the beginning of a civil war throughout the country on a scale twice and three times as great as before. There could be no question of Russia making any contribution to the war under these conditions.

A Russian bourgeois government would find itself under such pressure from the working people that any independent policy would be quite beyond its capacity. A government headed by Milyukov and Kerensky in Russia would be incomparable weaker even than Skoropadsky’s government in the Ukraine. And Skoropadsky’s government depends entirely on the support from foreign bayonets.

In the immediate future we shall extend this mobilization of certain age-groups to all parts of Russia.

I do not doubt that the All-Russia Congress of Soviets [76] will sanction the transition to compulsory military service for the sake of protecting the security of the Soviet Republic from imperialist onslaughts. And then the last word on all this will be spoken by the working class of Europe and of the world.

Izv.V.Ts.I.K., July 4, 1918


July 17, 1918

In connection with the Anglo-French landing on the Murmansk coast and the overt participation by French officers in the counter-revolutionary mutiny of the Czechoslovak mercenaries, I hereby give the strictest instructions to all institutions of the War Department, and to all service personnel generally, to provide no assistance of any kind to French or British military or navy officers, not to permit them to move from one town to another, and vigilantly to observe all their actions, since these are the actions of persons who, as facts show, are capable of plotting on the territory of the Russian Republic against the sovereign rights of the Russian people.

This order is to be sent out by telegraph, and to remain in force until the reasons for it have been eliminated, which will be announced in due course.

Izv.V.Ts.I.K., no.149, July 17, 1918


July 22, 1918

Yaroslavl has been for the last week the scene of a carefully organized revolt. Agents of Anglo-French imperialism, White Guards of the monarchist and SR persuasions, bourgeois adventurers, monks, grammar-school boys and criminal thugs came together in a fierce revolt against the workers and peasants. Treachery put into the rebels’ hands an abundance of artillery stores. Participation by numerous officers gave the rebels all the advantages of military technique. Nevertheless, the Soviet forces succeeded in surrounding the town, suppressing the revolt, and disarming and taking prisoner many of the rebels. The stern fist of the revolution has descended upon the heads of the criminal enemies of the people.

The flag of the Soviet Republic waves once more over Yaroslavl.

Published in Izv.V.Ts.I.K., No.154, July 23, 1918 and in Izv. Narhomvoyen, July 24, 1918.


In various parts of the country the Soviet authorities have detained Russian, Polish, Serbian, Czechoslovak and other officers and soldiers who have revealed that they had been sent either to Murmansk or to the Czechoslovaks by French recruiting agents. The foreign imperialists are thus daring to recruit, on Russian soil, mercenaries for their struggle against Russia.

I issue this warning:

  1. No-one has the right to go to Murmansk, to Archangel or to the zone of the Czechoslovak revolt without permission in writing from the People’s Commissariat for Military Affairs.
  2. Anyone who sells himself to the foreign imperialists in order to take part in revolts or in the occupation of Russian territory will be punished with death.

This warning is to be hung in railway stations and railway carriages, printed in the Russian, Polish, Serbian and Czechoslovak languages, so that no-one may plead ignorance of it.

July 23, 1918

Izv.N.K.po.V.D., July 25, 1918


August 6, 1918

To the member of the Board of the People’s Commissariat for Military Affairs Comrade Kedrov, to the Kazan Revolutionary War Council and to the Vologda Province Militia Commissariat, August 6, 1918

The circumstances under which Archangel was temporarily lost [78] show that certain representatives of the local Soviet power far from always display those qualities which are obligatory for every revolutionary occupying a post of responsibility: endurance, energy and courage.

It has again been confirmed that there are Soviet representatives who, at the first sign of danger, hasten to take to their heels, considering that their most important task is to save their own lives.

Creatures of this sort have nothing in common with the revolution. They are not fighters or Communists, but wretched Soviet careerists who have temporarily attached themselves to our great cause.

Any representative of the Soviet power who leaves his post at a moment of military danger without having done all he could to defend every inch of Soviet territory is a traitor. Treachery in wartime is punished with death.

I instruct you immediately to detain and arrest all those Soviet workers in Archangel who, according to evidence strictly verified by you, must be regarded as deserters, so that they may be brought to trial before the Supreme Revolutionary Tribunal.

Published in Izv.V.Ts.I.K., no.166, August 6, 1918


To all, to all, to all. Announcement by the People’s Commissariat for Military and Naval Affairs, August 22, 1918.

When, in April, the Japanese landing at Vladivostok was being prepared, the General Staff in Tokyo circulated by the Allies’ cables the story that the Trans-Siberian Railway was under threat from German and Austro-Hungarian prisoners.

I then sent out from Moscow, along the Trans-Siberian line, American and British officers who were obliged to confirm officially that all the reports about a threat to the line from prisoners were foolish inventions. [For the Webster-Hicks report on prisoners-of-war in Siberia, mentioned here, see Bunyan, J., Intervention, Civil War and Communism in Russia, April-December 1918 (1936) and sources given there. About 50,000 former German and Austro-Hungarian prisoners-of-war eventually served in the Red Army. They fought in Transcaspia against the British-Indian forces which had entered from Persia and on the Manchurian frontier against Ataman Semyonov. They also played, along with the Lettish and Chinese units, an important role in internal security, as in the suppression of the Left SR revolt in Moscow by Bela Kun’s Hungarians. K. Paustovsky describes (In That Dawn, p.159) the suppression by an ‘Internationalist’ unit of a mutiny in the Red Army. Trotsky makes another reference to the Webster-Hicks report in his speech of April 14, 1918, published as A Paradise in This World, by the British Socialist Party in 1920 (pp.5-6).]

This fact is well-known to ex-Ambassador Francis and to the former head of the American Red Cross in Russia, Colonel Robins.

Now, when intervention by the Allies has become an accomplished fact, the American Government has picked up the Japanese lie and is trying to present it to the world in warmed up form.

According to the American statement, the aim of the Allied intervention is to bring help to the Czechoslovaks against armed German and Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war who have attacked them. Participation by these prisoners in the struggle against the Czechoslovaks is no less a monstrous invention than the Japanese statement about danger to the Trans-Siberian railway from the Germans.

It is true that there are in the Soviet forces a certain number of former prisoners of war, revolutionary socialists who have become Russian citizens and are ready to fight against any imperialism, from whatever direction it may come. It must, however, be said that the internationalists who are soldiers in the Soviet army make up no more than one-twenty-fifth of the Soviet forces as a whole.

Izv.V.Ts.I.K., No.181, August 22, 1918


73. The reference is to the joint session of the Fourth All-Russia CEC and the Moscow Soviet of Workers’, Peasants’ and Red Army Men’s Deputies on June 4, 1918.

74. Insignificant detachments of Allied troops (mostly British) occupied Murmansk already during the World War, to provide protection for the deliveries of artillery and ammunition from the Entente. After the October Revolution these detachments remained at Murman, and after the German landing in Finland in April 1918 they were reinforced, and the Allied command began negotiations with the Merman Territory Soviet for joint operations against the Germans. At the end of June, representatives of Britain, the USA and France, on the one hand, and the presidium of the Murman Territory Soviet, on the other, made a pact whereby the representatives of the Entente undertook to supply the territory and the military units there with all their requirements. They also undertook to supply the Murman Territory Soviet with financial aid, food and manufactured goods. On its part, the Territory Soviet, betraying the Soviet power, was to refrain from hindering the organization of armed forces and the de facto occupation of the Territory by Allied troops. The military leader of the Territory Soviet, ex-General Zvegintsov, took part personally in these dealings with the Allies. As a result of this adventure, the Murman Territory was occupied by the troops of the Entente.

75. At the end of February 1918, after our units had left the Romanian Front, the Romanians, at the insistence of the French mission, crossed the Dniester, occupied Rybnitsa [Rybnitsa is on the eastern bank of the Dniester. It is now included in the Moldavian SSR] and attempted to advance further so as to occupy the whole of Bessarabia and the area round Odessa. Our young Red Army units, led by Comrade Yegorov [The ‘Yegorov’ mentioned here is not Marshal A.I. Yegorov (1883-1939) but, probably, V.N. Yegorov (1869-1948) who subsequently (July 1919) took over command of the Southern Front from V.M. Gittis (with A.I. Yegorov as his second-in-command)], inflicted a heavy defeat on the Romanians, and forced them to withdraw behind the Dniester. Five days later, the Romanians allowed the Germans through. On March 13 the Germans occupied Odessa and continued to advance rapidly.

76. The reference is to the Fifth All-Russia Congress of Soviets which was held between July 4 and 10 in Moscow.

77. Note 77 is omitted in the source.

77. Archangel was occupied during the night of August 2-3, 1918. The following is a summary of preceding events on the Northern front. On July 4 a British cruiser landed a party on Solovetsky Island and put the Russian wireless station out of action. On July 11 the British occupied Soroki (30 versts to the south of Kem) and began preparing to occupy Archangel.

Nor were the White organizations dozing. With the help of the British counter-espionage center in Petrograd and also on their own initiative, White Guards of various political nuances had begun to assemble in Archangel already from May onward. The naval authorities entered into relations with the Allies, and a Volunteer partisan unit was formed from White officers. Colonel Potapov facilitated the freedom of action of this unit by his distribution of the forces of the Archangel garrison. Fleet Commander Veselago failed to take any measures to block the channel. On July 31 Onega was taken, on August 1 the island of Mudyug, and during the night of August 2-3 a White-Guard revolt broke out in Archangel, accompanied by a landing from the sea. With the direct assistance of the French ambassador, Noules, the American ambassador, Francis, and the Italian ambassador, Della Toretta, a Supreme Government of the Northern Region was formed, consisting of Chaikovsky (Popular-Socialist) [The Popular-Socialists were a right-wing breakaway from the SRs], Liathach (SR), Maslov (SR), Ivanov (SR) and Gukovsky (SR).

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Last updated on: 20.12.2006