The Military Writings of
Leon Trotsky

Volume 2, 1919

How the Revolution Armed

The Southern Front

III. The Red Army’s Second Offensive in the Ukraine
(August-December 1919)


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

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The career of ex-Colonel Mironov has come to a shameful and miserable end. He considered himself, and many others considered him, a great ‘revolutionary’. Mironov fought against Krasnov and attached himself, with his first guerrilla units, to the Red Soviet forces. What was the reason for Mironov’s temporary adhesion to the revolution?

This is now perfectly clear: personal ambition, careerism, an endeavour to climb on the backs of the working masses.

It is the revolution’s task to establish complete and lasting rule by the working people. The representative and leader of the exploiters on the Don was General Krasnov, just as Denikin is now. Consequently, the struggle of the Soviet forces was directed against Krasnov. The aim of this struggle was to raise up the Cossack poor, the most downtrodden, to organise and unify them, with their help to crush the Cossack nobles and kulaks and to make possible a new, more just and happier life on the Don.

Mironov had no understanding of this or any sympathy with it. He thought that if Krasnov was defeated and replaced as Ataman of the Don by his former Colonel Mironov, that would solve all problems. He conceived the people’s revolution as a change of individuals at the top, that is, he saw in the revolt and struggle of the working people merely a means for advancing his own personal career. When he began to notice that the victory of the Soviet forces was leading to rule not by him but by the local poor, he grew angry and bitter. He began to agitate more and more against the Soviet power. And how could he do otherwise? After all, this was the power of the working people’s Soviets, and not that of the Cossack Colonel Mironov!

When the Red forces advanced to the Don, unjust and even harsh actions were undoubtedly committed in various places by particular Soviet representatives and bad Red Army units against the local Cossack population. These mistakes were due to the fact that the Cossacks had supported for too long the accursed White-Guard movement. A thoughtful and honest person must understand the reasons for this mutual bitterness and exert every effort to mitigate the antagonism between the Red troops and the local Cossacks, to eliminate it altogether, and to replace it with mutual understanding and co-operation. Particular mistakes and false steps by representatives of the Soviet power will be corrected by that power itself, and the central government will punish sternly all those local representatives who do not understand what their tasks are in relation to the working people.

Mironov acted quite differently. He decided to make political capital out of the blunders and mistakes of particular local officials, winning popularity, fame and glory for himself. In his incoherent appeals and speeches, he began to depict himself as the defender and protector of the Cossack masses, stirring them up against the authentic Soviet power. He began to put around, in concert with Denikin, the false rumour that the Soviet power wants to destroy Cossackdom. Mironov began to falsely present the fight against the Cossack generals and kulaks, on behalf of the Cossack poor and middle peasants, as a struggle against the working Cossacks. [65]

It was obvious to serious old revolutionaries who had fought against the oppressors for decades, that Mironov was heading for downfall.

During the revolution not a few such unlooked-for zealots on behalf of the working people, revolutionaries for a day were brought to the surface. Some responsible comrades tried to make Mironov understand, to hold him back from the brink of the abyss: ‘If representatives of the Soviet power on the Don have made mistakes,’ they told him, ‘we shall correct these mistakes by our joint efforts, and shall as quickly as possible draw representatives of the Cossack lower orders into the Soviet administration ... The working people’s revolution is a hard and heavy task, it cannot avoid making big mistakes, but, in the end, only the Soviet power will lead the people, including the working Cossacks, on to the broad highway.’

However, these speeches were not to Mironov’s liking. All his objections came down to this one: ‘Make me Ataman of the Don and all will be well.’ But the Soviet power could not, of course, agree to take such a step: in the first place, because the working Cossacks of the Don had no need of an Ataman, what they needed was their own Cossacks’, peasants’ and workers’ Soviet power: and, in the second place, it was impossible to grant any power at all to the unbalanced, incoherent bawler and babbler Mironov.

Having finally become convinced that he was not going to be made Ataman, Mironov resolved upon a desperate step. Like the Ukrainian Ataman Grigoriyev, who resembled him like his own brother, Mironov raised the banner of revolt against the Soviet power. How Grigoriyev ended is well-known. After the first clashes, the troops he had deceived were scattered and broken: they fled or fell into the hands of the Red armies.

Grigoriyev himself was killed. It is quite obvious that a similar wretched and shameful end awaits Mironov, only it will come even more quickly. Grigoriyev did manage for a time to draw behind him several thousands of deceived, ignorant peasants, led by kulaks. But Mironov succeeded only in attracting a few miserable hundreds of supporters at the very outset. Like all bankrupt adventurers, Mironov spreads stories about his strength, saying that he has behind him 7,000 sabres, and soon, whereas in fact he has not even 700.

Within a week of rebelling against the Soviet power the Ukrainian ataman Grigoriyev made contact with Denikin, seeking his protection and support. Mironov, as is known, swears that Denikin is not his friend but his enemy. But what fool will believe the oath of the traitor Mironov? Denikin says to him self: ‘Mironov has rebelled against the Soviet power, and so Mironov is my helper.’ Mironov says to himself: ‘Denikin fights against the Soviet power, which I hate, and so Denikin is my defender and support.’ One hand washes the other:

Denikin does not hinder Mironov, Mironov helps Denikin. There can be no doubt that secret links are already being established between them, sinister intermediaries passing from Denikin’s camp to Mironov’s and back again, behind the backs of the Cossacks deceived by Mironov.

What will happen next? It is not hard to prophesy. Mironov will push himself now into this place, now into that, trying to bring confusion into the 23rd Division, which he formerly commanded. Nobody will follow him. The kulaks will not, because they have their leader, a stronger and more reliable one – Denikin. The working Cossacks will not, because they have no need of Ataman Mironov but only of the power of the working Cossacks’ deputies.

Mironov’s adventure will burst like a soap-bubble, but not without having done considerable harm to the cause of the working masses. History will plant an aspen stake on Mironov’s grave, as the fitting monument to a despicable adventurer and wretched traitor.

September 13, 1919
En Route, No.94


65. In order that Mironov’s programme may be more clearly understood, here are excerpts from the Order-Appeal issued by Mironov, as commander of the Don Corps, on August 22:

Honourable citizens of the Russian Republic! The town of Kozlov where the Southern front has its headquarters, is being evacuated. Before the onslaught of Denikin’s hordes, the Red Army, being without moral foundations, is retreating, just as it is retreating on the Western front before the onslaught of the Polish legions.

The ring around the Russian revolution, after the frightful human sacrifices made upon its altar, is drawing tighter. Land and liberty are threatened with mortal danger, which the Hungarian revolution has not removed.

'The causes of this disaster must be sought in the constant evil deeds of the ruling party, the Communist Party, which has aroused universal discontent and indignation against itself among the working masses.

The appeal ended with the following call:

'What is left for the Cossack to do, when he knows that his house has been given to someone else, his holding seized by others, and his cattle driven off to a pen in the steppe? Only to set fire to his stanitsas and farmhouses. Thus we see in the Cossacks as a whole those who are taking harsh vengeance on the Communists for their desecration of truth and justice, which, together with the universal discontent prevailing among the working peasants of Russia, caused by the Communists, threatens to bring final ruin to the conquests of the revolution and a new, severe enslavement of the people. To save the conquests of the revolution only one way is left to us, namely, to overthrow the Communist Party.

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