The Military Writings of
Leon Trotsky

Volume 2, 1919

How the Revolution Armed

The Eastern Front

Kolchak’s Offensive (March-April 1919)

What Does Russia Need?

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

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Russia needs rest and peaceful labour. The Russian people need to heal themselves of the grave wounds inflicted upon them by the war caused by the Tsar and the bourgeoisie. Working Russia needs to restore its economy, on new, comradely, cooperative principles.

What Russia is suffering from most of all at present is the forced continuation of the war. The workers have had to quit the factories and defend their country, rifle in hand, on our numerous fronts. Our disordered railways have been wholly given up to military trains and trains carrying supplies for the armies, while the towns are groaning for lack of food. Mobilisation after mobilisation has taken the workers from the fields. Life is hard for the peasants because disorganised and weakened industry cannot provide them with the agricultural implements they need, or with cloth, or, in general, with any necessities.

Both the peasant and the worker need peace, above all. Given two or three years of peaceful labour we could restore and increase our economy, both urban and rural. We could put right both land and water transport, establish a proper exchange of products between town and country. The workers would get bread and meat and milk. The peasants would experience no shortage of nails, cloth, calico, or sugar. We need peace so that the peasants and the workers may appreciate to the full what tremendous gains the Russian revolution has brought the people: no landlords, no land-captains, no greedy capitalists, no usurers – labour in common for the common good!

We need peace. But the enemies of the working class and the peasantry do not want to leave us in peace. In order to get back their lands, their ranks and their capital, the landlords and capitalists have several times raised revolts; they called the Germans into the Ukraine, then they turned to calling in the British and the French, the Americans and the Japanese, surrendering Archangel and Siberia to them.

The peasants and the workers need peaceful, tranquil, honest, comradely labour, but the landlords and capitalists promote conspiracies and revolts, blow up railway bridges, and compel the peasants and workers to create a strong Red Army to defend the country from oppressors both native and foreign.

Soviet Russia’s most formidable foe was German imperialism. But that now lies all in ruins. The German revolution overthrew the Kaiser. We were freed from the most fearful enemy.

The imperialists of France, Britain and America, after conquering the German Kaiser, hatefully threatened the workers’ and peasants’ Russia. All our internal enemies, the supporters of the Tsarist autocracy of the nobles and bourgeois, hoped strongly for help from Anglo-French imperialism. But nothing came of it! The French, British and Americans now have their hands full at home. They are having to fetch their troops back in a hurry. The danger from that quarter has dispersed like smoke.

Thus, the principal enemies of workers’ and peasants’ Russia are departing from the scene. The peace and tranquil labour that we desire is coming nearer and nearer. But in order that we may at last be able to lay aside rifle and machine-gun and take up plough and hammer we must finish with the last enemy who dares to menace Soviet Russia, namely, Kolchak.

If Denikin’s army in the Donets area and in North Caucasia is still offering resistance, this is only because it hopes that Kolchak will win. If the Estonian, Lettish, Polish and Lithuanian White Guards are still resisting the Red regiments, this is only because they count on Soviet Russia being weakened by Kolchak’s bands. Finally, if the Anglo-Americans, having practically given up the idea of making war on Russia, are still marking time in our North this is only because they have not yet lost their last hope for the success of Kolchak’s bands.

A blow struck at Kolchak will have decisive significance. The rout of his army will not only secure the Urals and Siberia for Soviet Russia, but will also have immediate repercussions on all the other fronts. The collapse of the Kolchakites will lead at once and inexorably to the complete collapse of Denikin’s Volunteers (‘volunteers’ under the lash) and the final break-up of the Estonian, Lettish and Polish White-Guards and the Anglo-American forces in the West and in the North. [The text has ‘east’, but this must be a mistake for ‘north’.]

Russia, the working classes of Russia, need peace above all. But if this peace is to be won, we must smash Kolchak’s bands, and this is now the principal task facing the entire country. Kolchak is our last serious enemy. Three-quarters of the Red Army, if not nine-tenths, can be demobilised after victory over Kolchak. The workers will go back to their lathes, the peasants will go back to their fields. The railways, set free, will start to work exclusively in the interests of the economy. From liberated Turkestan cotton will come to our mills. From the Donets Basin coal will be sent to our factories. The railways will bring the peasants cloth, tools and agricultural machinery, and start to supply the towns with grain and other food stuffs. The country will breathe freely. Emancipated labour will come into its own. Two or three years of peace and tranquillity, and you won’t recognise Russia. Our villages will flourish. In our towns economic and cultural activity will be in full swing. The children of the workers and peasants will have access to all the sources of knowledge. The socialist country will take a mighty leap forward along the road of prosperity, knowledge and happiness.

But we need peace. And to obtain peace we need to crush the chief and now almost the only, disturber of the peace – Kolchak.

This is the task on which we must in the coming spring concentrate all our forces, all our will-power.

Russia must and will live! Kolchak shall perish! In the course of this spring his bands will be crushed by the fists of workers’ and peasants’ Russia.

April 14, 1919.
En Route, No.32

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Last updated on: 23.12.2006