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)


(Notes from the archives)

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

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1. We shall explain to the Cossacks in words, and prove in deeds, that our policy is not one of vengeance for the past. We shall forget nothing, but we shall not take revenge for past actions. Future relations will be determined by the conduct of the different groups among the Cossacks themselves.

2. The criterion in our relations with the different strata and groups of the Don Cossacks will be, in the period immediately ahead, not so much a class evaluation of the different strata (kulaks, middle peasants, poor peasants) as the attitude of the different groups of the Cossacks themselves towards the advancing Red Army. We shall take under our resolute protection and armed defence those elements among the Cossacks who meet us half-way. We shall allow those strata and groups of the Cossacks who maintain a waiting attitude to look, around them and find their bearings, while not ceasing to keep them under observation. We shall ruthlessly destroy all those elements who give support, whether direct or indirect, to the enemy, or make difficulties for the Red Army. These criteria are purely practical, very clear and very simple, and their good sense and fairness will be understood by every Red army man, including the Cossacks in the Red Army, and also by the local population, both Cossack and non-Cossack.

3. We shall take strict care that the advancing Red Army does not commit robberies, rapes and so on. We must keep it firmly in mind that, in the circumstances of the Don region, every outrage committed by the Red forces becomes a major political fact and creates very serious embarrassments. At the same time we shall demand that the inhabitants provide the Red Army with everything it needs: we shall collect in an organised way, through the special food committees, and take care that payment is made fully and in good time.

4. The social groupings among the Cossacks are very amorphous. Nevertheless it is possible broadly to foresee that the groups characterised by their attitude to the Red Army will coincide, very roughly, with the Cossack poor peasants, middle peasants and kulaks. Although the Don middle peasant (and, even more so, the Kuban middle peasant) is richer than the kulak of Tver or Novgorod, all the same, class antagonisms are developing their effects on the Don, too, even though the proportions in terms of property possessed are different. We must at once give a demonstrative political character to our support to the poor and a section of the middle. peasants, helping those who have suffered at the hands of the Whites.

S. A similarly demonstrative character must be given to our punishment of those elements which have entered the Don region during its liberation and committed abuses of one kind or another against the Cossacks.

6. We must clearly and persistently put forward, in agitation and in practice, the idea that we are not going to force anyone into communes.

7. When forming provisional organs of local authority we must take all measures to ensure that those we draw into them are representatives of the inhabitants who have stayed put, and who are therefore not hostile to us. At the same time it is absolutely necessary that there should be in each executive committee at least one non-Cossack (inorogodny) [The inorogodnie (‘outlanders’) were the non-Cossack peasant settlers in the Don region, who made ups large proportion of the inhabitants and were often in conflict with the Cossacks.] Communist, who will show far more vigilance towards counter revolutionary sentiments and conduct in the locality.

8. Thorough organisation of Soviet communications and intelligence.

September 16, 1919

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Last updated on: 22.12.2006