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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In the South and in the West things are going splendidly and getting better every day. The capture of Odessa is a tremendous victory. We were threatened with the very great danger from that place. The imperialists brought thither soldiers from every part of the world and of every skin-colour. In the end they ran away – the best of proofs that European imperialism has lost confidence in itself. It has become weak and confused, and through confusion, greed and cowardice it has become stupid. Our advance into the Crimea is proceeding magnificently. Simferopol, Yalta, Bakhchisarai, Yevpatoria are in our hands. We can expect to learn in the very near future that the whole of the Crimean peninsula has been cleared of the enemy. And then, from Kerch, we shall directly threaten Novorossiisk and Yekaterinodar.

The Romanians are retreating without a fight from the border areas of Bessarabia. All Bessarabia is rocking, and Romania as well. The bourgeois politicians of France and Britain do not doubt that the robber-boyar bourgeoisie of Romania, together with that country’s monarchy, will be unable to survive between Soviet Hungary and the Soviet Ukraine. A Soviet revolution is hourly expected in Austria. The German Kerensky, Scheidemann, has finally lost his head, and the waves of the Soviet revolution are rising higher and higher in Germany. In the French parliament the social-patriot Moutet [Marius Moutet (1876-1968)]; that is, a sworn enemy of the dictatorship of the proletariat, has been obliged to admit openly that the French soldier will not lift his bayonet against Soviet Russia.

Wherever one looks, the victorious Allies are seizing each other by the throat. The French vultures, with bloodshot eyes, would like to grab the whole of Germany, annex its lands and mines, make its workers and peasants their slaves, and at the same time force it to pay milliards in tribute. Wilson realises that this sort of peace programme is senseless, and threatens the French imperialists that he will break off his alliance with them.

‘If you don’t moderate your appetites,’ he tells the Paris stock brokers, ‘I shall end my alliance with you and proceed to trade independently with the Germans and the Russians.’ The French bourgeoisie does not know what to decide: in its dizzy head blind greed is combined with fear of the advancing infection of Communism.

The revolution is striding across Europe, stepping over the old frontiers that were drawn with the blood of the masses. The bourgeois classes of Europe and the whole world have under stood the inevitability of revolution, have sensed the beginning of their end. No trace remains of their past self-confidence. Formerly, the bourgeois world seemed to them to be the only possible world. The unrest of the masses seemed to them to be merely disagreeable but transient friction on the endless road of bourgeois society. This idea no longer exists. The class self-confidence of the bourgeoisie of the whole world has been dealt a mortal blow by the revolution in Russia, Hungary and Bavaria. The bourgeoisie has been shaken. Hence its wavering, its squabbles and quarrelling, its demoralisation and breakdown. The bourgeoisie is going over from its previous brigand notions of crushing Soviet Russia to the idea of tricking, bribing, doing a deal. While its hatred of the workers’ and peasants’ power remains unchanged, its former strength and self-confidence have gone. This is the revolution’s greatest conquest. The uncertainty in the ranks of its enemy increases the self-confidence of the European proletariat, and the latter’s Increasing pressure deepens the disintegration in the ranks of the bourgeoisie.

Over the heads of the Finnish, Estonian, Polish and Lithuanian White-Guard bands we look with confidence to the West, where the numbers of Soviet Russia’s allies are growing not daily but hourly. The revolution is striding forward unhindered. There is no power in the world that can halt it.

But we have no right to look only westward, for in the East we still have a dangerous foe, namely, Kolchak. He is trying to thrust a knife into our back at the very moment when we are preparing to mount the threshold of the victorious revolution of the European proletariat. This contemptible adventurer has nothing to lose. There can be no doubt that he does not hope to be able to subject Russia to himself. But with the wild frenzy of a mercenary of the nobles and the bourgeoisie he is striving to do as much damage as possible to the workers and peasants. His main task is to reach the Volga. His aim is to cut the great waterway by which, from the end of April, it will be possible to bring grain to the hungry provinces of central and northern Russia.

None of us can have even the shadow of a doubt that we shall eventually beat Kolchak’s army and wipe the counter revolutionary bands off the face of the earth. But we need this victory not eventually but immediately – we need it now. We need to safeguard Moscow and Petrograd from the severest trials of hunger in the coming months of spring and summer. We need to keep hold of the Volga.

The command of the Eastern front has been given the fundamental task of smashing Kolchak’s bands. But that is not enough: Kolchak must be smashed not on the Volga but farther off, to the east of the Volga. He must not be allowed to approach Samara, or Simbirsk, or Kazan. The Volga must remain a Soviet river throughout its length.

The working class and the poor peasantry of the Volga country will see to that!

Young workers and conscious revolutionary peasants of the Volga country! Communists! The place for all of you is now the army. Both those called up under the mobilisation order and those not so called up, you must get together in small groups and join our regular regiments. A few hundreds of firm, self-sacrificing proletarians are all that is needed to make a whole regiment indestructible.

We need carts, we need boots, we need a strengthened repair service for our rifles, machine-guns and cannon.

Everyone must help! All the forces and resources of the Volga provinces must at once be mobilised to serve the Eastern front!

In the next few weeks there will be a bitter struggle for the Volga. We must at all costs emerge victorious from this struggle! The Volga must remain our own Soviet river.

April 12, 1919
En Route, No.31

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Last updated on: 23.12.2006