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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The country has roused itself. The danger advancing from the East has awakened the great energy of the working masses.

Forces are mobilising, the will is being concentrated: a rebuff is in preparation.

The country is weary, of course. This weariness has been accumulating for many years. The people, burdened with labour, has never emerged from its state of weariness. Weary, it was thrown into the hell of the imperialist slaughter. The February revolution lured it with the phantom of liberation, only to disappoint it and increase its weariness.

The October revolution roused the forces of the people and showed them the way forward. But that same October revolution, which constituted a terrible threat to the bourgeoisie of the whole world, led to a series of furious attacks on the workers’ and peasants’ power. For seventeenth months we have been waging an almost uninterrupted struggle. They attack us and we defend ourselves. The workers and peasants did not and do not want war, but they did not and do not want to be turned once again into beasts of burden, to be driven at Kolchak’s command.

Our exhausted country has defended itself and is still defending itself, pouring out its blood. The German imperialists were the first to count on the country’s weariness, then the Anglo-French vultures, and now it is Kolchak’s turn. He knows, of course, that he cannot conquer workers’ and peasants’ Russia, with its many millions of inhabitants. But he counts on our people’s suffering loss of heart.

So many calamities, adversities and burdens have fallen to the lot of the working people of Russia during the last five years that one might wonder where they could find the strength to resist and repulse an attack. And Kolchak hopes that the Russian worker will hang down his head, that the Russian peasant’s heart will sink, that they will lose courage and say: ‘We have no strength left with which to resist, let anybody come who wants to – Kolchak, the King of England, the Mikado of Japan. Let them plunder and strangle, let them do whatever they want: we can’t and won’t resist any longer.’ This is what Kolchak counts on.

And, indeed, if the people’s spirit were to be broken, that would mean, our ruin.

But it is not so! It will not happen!

Before our eyes something great is taking place. The terrible danger has brought forth a new uprush of energy and power from the depths of the people. This happens, too, with an individual. Tired, worn-out, half-asleep, he is dragging himself along a forest path, ready to collapse under the first tree-stump and sleep the sleep of the dead. But then, through the evening hush of the forest, he hears the whistle of a robber – and that traveller, half-dead from fatigue, now roused and awakened, stares into the dusk and seizes hold of a stick, a stone, a knife, whatever weapon comes to hand. Mortal danger has restored in him the energy that had ebbed away.

The Russian people are now like a great traveller. Having thrown off the chains of their former slavery, they are marching towards new, great goals – towards the building of an honest, just life of labour and happiness, based on principles of fraternal labour. But the road is a difficult one. There are ups and downs, potholes and ravines, and sharp stones underfoot. And venomous snakes lurk beneath the stones along the road. A black crow, croaking hatefully, circles overhead and waits for prey. But the traveller, surmounting obstacles, continues on towards his goal, though exhausted with hunger. At certain moments it seems as though he has stopped, either from fatigue or in order to meditate. It is even as though a doubt has stirred In his mind: shall I ever get there?

That was the moment that Kolchak seized. He scraped around, concentrated everything he had, and from Out of the Siberian rear he struck at the Russian people. ‘You are exhausted, proletarian: peasant, you are weary. Your heart has faltered, you are giving up the struggle – therefore, you will now be mine. I will crush you under my feet, I will shackle you with irons, I will fasten on you a new muzzle of autocracy, with red-hot rods of steel I will force you to serve, as before, your age-old masters, the landlords, the manufacturers, the generals and admirals. And Russia will again be the Russia of the Tsar and the nobles.’

But Kolchak did not get it right. He observed correctly that the people were tired. This tiredness affects everyone. The whole country wants peace and tranquil labour. But there is not only tiredness. The people have consciousness, and an unconquerable will to freedom, independence and happiness. The Russia of today is a new Russia – not the Russia of the nobles, the bourgeoisie, the Tsar, or Kolchak, but a workers’ and peasants’ Russia. The alarm-bell has rung out all over Russia, and not only the workers of Petrograd and Moscow, not only the working population of the Volga country, who are directly menaced by Kolchak, but also the peasants of the most out-of-the-way uyezds and volosts have heard it and understood that the last powerful and dangerous foe is threatening everything that the people have won and, what is most important, their whole future. Before every worker and peasant, before every conscious and honourable soldier of the Red Army the question is now posed: who is to live and who to die – Russia or Kolchak?

Russia means the working people who have taken the government of the country into their own hands and are applying themselves to heal its old wounds and sores and to build a new, rational life. Russia means a people numbering many millions who want to live in peace and fraternity with all other working peoples. Russia means the young and rising generations, our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, to whom we shall hand over a country freed from the barbarism and brutality that weighed upon it for centuries.

Kolchak is the embodiment of all the former injustice of Russian life. To transform the whole country into a frightful hard-labour prison, in which the warders and executioners would be the exploiters who are now aggrieved, and the convicts would be the workers and peasants – that is the only purpose of Kolchak’s campaign.

The country has roused itself. In the provinces, the uyezds and the volosts one question is now the centre of universal attention – how to gather together and concentrate all forces and resources for the purpose of repulsing Kolchak. Besides the mobilising of five age-groups proclaimed by the Council of People’s Commissars, all the provinces are trying to form model units composed of the more conscious, revolutionary and self- sacrificing workers and peasants, as volunteers. The example has been set by the Volga provinces, where the Communists of Syzran, Samara, Simbirsk and Kazan are, with feverish energy, forming themselves into revolutionary shock regiments. The workers of Moscow have one thought, one care – to safeguard the Eastern front. Heroic work in the interests of the Eastern front is being carried on in Petrograd. The workers of Penza have sent a telegram to say that they are forming a shock regiment, in all haste. In Yaroslav and Vologda provinces the Communists are doing their duty, mobilising the best fighters for the Eastern front. Russia has roused itself, province is competing with province and uyezd with uyezd in the task of repulsing Kolchak. This is a noble contest, inspired by ambition which is the reverse of vain, being an endeavour to render the maximum service to the cause of the workers’ and peasants’ revolution.

The danger on the Eastern front is great. Kolchak’s forces have not yet been beaten, and even his advance towards the Volga has not been halted. But it can already be said, with profound confidence, that Soviet Russia will reply to the Kolchakite threat with a mighty, crushing rebuff.

Do not waste a day, not a single hour! Assemble all forces and all resources and set them to work! Put every worker in his proper place! Every province, every uyezd, every volost must now work as though the burden of Kolchak’s invasion had to be born wholly by itself alone. These spring weeks will decide things for good and all. If Kolchak’s forces are scattered, then what remains of Krasnov’s and Denikin’s bands will disappear

In their wake, the British will withdraw their occupation forces, and Hindenburg will take himself off with his wretched ‘iron’ battalions.

Kolchak is the only serious danger threatening us. This danger will be overcome, eliminated, crushed. Workers’ and Peasants’ Russia wants to live, and will live.

Death and destruction to Kolchak!
Long live Workers’ and Peasants’ Russia!

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Last updated on: 23.12.2006