The Military Writings of
Leon Trotsky

Volume 2, 1919

How the Revolution Armed

The Eastern Front

Kolchak’s Offensive (March-April 1919)


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

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Decisive weeks in the history of mankind have arrived. The wave of joy amused by the establishment of the Soviet republic in Hungary had not yet died down when the proletariat of Bavaria seized power and streTched out the hand of fraternal alliance to the Russian and Hungarian Soviet republics. [73] The workers of German Austria [The republic set up in Vienna in November 1918 called itself ‘German Austria’ and proclaimed that it formed part of the German Reich. However, by the peace treaty signed at St Germain the republic was obliged to remove the adjective ‘German’ from its name and to abjure union with Germany.] are hastening in their hundreds and thousands to Budapest, where they are volunteering to join the Red Army. The movement of the German proletariat, which had subsided for a moment, is flaring up again with increased force. Miners, metal-workers, weavers are sending fraternal greetings to the victorious Hungarian revolution and calling on the German soviets to make a complete change of front, to break with imperialism – their own, Anglo-French and American – and to ally themselves closely with Russia and Hungary. There can be no doubt that this movement will be given still greater sweep by the victory of the proletariat in Bavaria, whose Soviet Government has severed all ties with the murderers in Berlin and Weimau with Ebert and Scheidemann, the servants of German imperialism and assassins of Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg.

In Warsaw, which the Allied imperialists are trying to make the centre of the offensive against Soviet Russia, the Polish proletariat is rising to its full height and, in the person of the Warsaw Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, is sending its greetings to the Hungarian Soviet Republic.

The French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pichon, a sworn enemy of the Russian revolution, reports to his parliament on the sad state of affairs: ‘Odessa is being evacuated’ – this was even before Odessa was taken by the Soviet troops – ‘the Bolsheviks are penetrating the Crimean peninsula, and the situation in the North is unfavourable.’ Bad luck! The Greek soldiers who were landed on the shores of the Crimea were mourned, according to the reports of the Allied diplomats and newspapers, on Crimean donkeys, but these donkeys did not get to the Isthmus of Perekop in time. Bad luck! Evidently the donkeys, too, have started to kick over the imperialist traces ...

The foreign consuls do not want to leave the Ukraine and are urging their governments to recognise the Ukrainian republic. Wilson has sent to Budapest, instead of occupation troops to smash the Soviet republic, the honey-tongued General Smuts, to negotiate with the Hungarian Council of People’s Commissars.

Wilson has finally changed direction and has apparently forced France to give up all hope of an armed campaign against Soviet Russia. The war with Soviet Russia which the French commander-in-chief, General Foch, was demanding would have had to go on for ten years, in the opinion of American politicians.

Not six months have passed since the decisive victory of the Allies over the Central Empires, when it seemed that the might of Anglo-French and American imperialism knew no limits. At that time none of Russia’s counter-revolutionaries had any doubt that the days of the Soviet Republic were numbered. But events are stubbornly going the Soviet way. The worker masses of the whole world are rallying to the banner of Soviet power, while the world bandits of imperialism are being let down even by Crimean donkeys. We can now expect, from one day to the next, news of the victory of the Soviet republic in Austria and Germany. Perhaps it is not out of the question that the proletariat of Italy, Poland or France will disturb this order of proceeding and outstrip the working class of the other countries. These spring months are going to be decisive in the history of Europe. At the same time, this spring will finally decide the fate, too, of bourgeois-kulak, anti-Soviet Russia.

In the East Kolchak has mobilised all his forces, bringing all his reserves into action, because he knows well that if he does not win now he will never win. A spring has come that will decide. Kolchak’s partial successes are, of course, trivial in comparison with the overall conquests achieved by Soviet power in Russia and throughout the world. What does our momentary loss of Ufa signify beside our capture of Odessa, our entry into the Crimea and, especially, the establishment of the Bavanan Soviet Republic? What does our withdrawal from Belebey, due to military considerations, signify in comparison with the mighty growth of the proletarian revolution in Poland and in Italy? Nevertheless, it would be criminally light-minded for us to despise the danger represented, in the East, by the White-Guard bands of Kolchak. Stubbornness, staunchness, vigilance and courage in armed struggle have alone secured, up to now, the international successes achieved by the Russian Soviet Republic. The victorious struggle of the Red Army on all fronts has raised the morale of the European working class and made it possible for first the Hungarian and then the Bavarian republic to arise and be consolidated. Our work is still not over. Denikin’s bands have not yet been finally smashed. Kolchak’s bands are still advancing towards the Volga.

A spring has come that will decide. Our strength is multiplied tenfold by the knowledge that the wireless telegraph stations of Moscow, Kiev, Budapest and Munich are exchanging not only fraternal greetings but also the terms of practical agreements for joint defensive struggle. But we must direct the main point of our increased strength here, on our own territory, against the most dangerous foe, against Kolchak’s bands. The comrades in the Volga country know this very well. In Samara province all the Soviet organisations have been put on a war footing: the best forces have been placed at the service of the army, for forming reinforcements and for carrying on work of agitation and enlightenment among the Red troops. The party, soviet and trade-union organisations in Syzran have responded unanimously to the call of the central government to support the Eastern front. From the best of its workers and peasants Syzran, which itself groaned not so long ago beneath the heel of the White Guards, is mobilising a special shock regiment. The country beyond the Volga has become the focus of attention for all Soviet Russia. To fulfil our international duty, we must first of all smash the bands of Kolchak. To support the victorious workers of Hungary and Bavaria, to help the revolt of the workers in Poland, in Germany and throughout Europe, we must establish Soviet power definitively and irrefutably over the whole extent of Russia.

To the Urals!This is the slogan of the Red Army and of the entire Soviet land!

The Urals will be the last pass to be crossed in our intense struggle. Victory in the Urals will not only give bread to our hungry country and cotton to our textile industry but will enable our heroic Red Army to take, at last, the rest it has deserved.

April 9, 1919


73. The Hungarian Soviet Republic was formed on March 21, 1919. Under pressure from the revolutionary masses, the petty-bourgeois government of Count Károlyi was obliged to resign and hand over power to the Social-Democratic Party. The latter, lacking any authority among the masses, had to share power with the leaders of the Hungarian Communist Party. A Council of People’s Commissars was formed, comprising both Communists (Bela Kun, Tibor Szamuely, Varga and others) and Social-Democrats. The Entente replied to this revolution with blockade and war, hurling at Red Hungary the White troops of Romania and Czechoslovakia. After a four months’ struggle the Romanian army took Budapest and proclaimed the dictatorship of Admiral Horthy. The organiser of the Red Army, Tibor Szamuely, shot himself [Szamuely was killed while trying to cross the border fromn Hungary into Austria. ], tens of thousands of Communists and proletarians were shot, and some emigrated to Austria, where they were set free thanks to intervention by Soviet Russia.

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Last updated on: 23.12.2006