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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This task is a clear and simple one: to smash Kolchak, to destroy his army. But it cannot be accomplished while retreating. It is necessary to go over to the attack. This is the principal task of the Eastern front, of its soldiers, commanders, and commissars. Going over to the attack, that is the demand of the moment.

During recent weeks the armies of the Eastern front have been retreating. The Perm army has already been retreating for months. This has created a certain habituation to retreat. Units are retreating when there is no justification for this whatsoever in the relation of forces and the objective situation.

Our Eastern front is being strengthened not daily but hourly. The country is working intensely to supply it with reinforcements and all the supplies it needs. But for victory it is not enough to have soldiers and armaments – an unwavering will to victory is needed. This must be aroused and tempered in the next few days.

When a ball rolls along under the impact of a jolt that is given to it, it does not stop until it has exhausted all the kinetic energy it has received. This sometimes happens with armies, too, when they have lost their will-power. But in the armies of the Eastern front there is not even the shadow of loss of the will to victory. There is only a weakening of its tension. The commanders and commissars must themselves take the initiative in the advance, and transmit this initiative to the army as a whole.

The season when the roads are impassable has given us a brief respite. This will enable us to bring order into disorganised ranks, to throw out the worthless elements, to renew and give an airing to the commanding personnel and the commissars, where this is needed, and thereby to prepare for the advance.

An end to the retreat! We must smash Kolchak. He can be defeated only through an intense offensive all along the front.

Such an offensive will entail many fewer losses than a protracted retreat. One decisive blow, and Kolchak’s regiments, created by force and held together by the whip, will shatter into fragments. Such a blow we must deliver.

Commissars and commanders! The Soviet Republic lays a very great responsibility upon you at this time. You dare not lose a single day, a single hour. You must shake up your units and arouse in them an unconquerable will to victory. Not one step back! The hour for the offensive has struck.

Woe to those regiments which fail to obey a military order! Honour and glory to the brave soldiers, commanders and commissars of the Eastern front!

April 24, 1919
En Route, No.36

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Last updated on: 23.12.2006