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 situation on the Eastern front continues to be alarming. Reinforcements are too slow in coming up. The necessary effort is not observable in the tempo of work of Soviet institutions. This is due to a considerable extent to the fact that during one and a half years of Soviet power we have grown too familiar with dangers and with the victorious mastering of these dangers. Many comrades think: ‘How could Kolchak possibly conquer the Soviet Republic?!’ – and with that thought they rest con tent. This mood threatens us with the greatest dangers. In any case it has the effect of very seriously slowing down the mobilisation of the necessary forces, and thereby putting off the hour of our victory. Yet we need a quick victory. We have no right to waste time. The country is famine-stricken. The country needs grain, coal, oil and cotton. All this can be supplied to the workers and peasants only by means of a quick and decisive victory. And such a victory is possibly only given a truly revolutionary effort on the part of all the advanced forces of the working class and the conscious peasantry.

Work is proceeding too slowly. Many decisions and measures which might have been taken today are being put off till tomorrow. Much time is being lost in the transmission of orders from one institution to another. The responsible workers in the localities by no means always check on the fulfilment of decisions. Too many of them let themselves be lulled with words.

Local interests still often exercise too great an influence on work to support the Eastern front. Too large a number of executives prove to be ‘indispensable’ for local work. Those who are assigned to the front are not removed from the localities soon enough. The handing over of responsibilities takes too long. Rolling-stock for the movement of reinforcements is not ordered in good time. Disparity and discrepancy is to be found everywhere. In one place an hour has been lost, in communicating with another place half an hour has been lost, in that place, in turn, entire days have been lost ... And the result is that the reinforcements reach the front a whole week later than would have been possible. Time is of more decisive importance in war than in any other sphere.

Comrade members of province and uyezd executive commit tees and Party committees! It depends on you to give a fresh sweep to all this work. No small amount of routine, red-tape, new Soviet Oblomovism [Oblomov, the protagonist of Goncharov’s novel (1858) named after him, is an embodiment of complacent laziness. As the critic Marc Slonim writes, “He firmly believes that inactivity is a symbol of social superiority, and that work is a curse”. He is contrasted with his friend Stolz, an industrious and methodical German.] has accumulated already in our Soviet mechanism. The work of service to the Eastern front must not be paralysed by these faults. The Central Committee demands that local organisations now devote three-quarters of their forces to work for carrying through successive mobilisations, troop-formations and the despatch of reinforcements to the Eastern front. This decision by the Party’s Central Committee is to be taken literally. Therefore, of every four local Party workers, three must be transferred to war work in the broad sense of the word. Once again I repeat: every province, every uyezd must act as though the threat from Kolchak stood directly on its own border and could be warded off only by its forces.

It is necessary to hasten the despatch to the front of the comrades mobilised by the Party and the trade unions.

All energy must be shown in despatching 10-20 persons from each volost, in accordance with the decision of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee and the Defence Council on April 25 of this year.

Measures must be taken at the same time to speed up the systematic formation and forwarding of planned replacements.

The Russian working class is facing its last severe trial. This trial it will sustain, and victory will be won – but on one condition, that we do not lull ourselves with optimism, do not rely on others, do not put our trust in ‘maybe’, do not waste a single moment of time!

Let every Soviet executive, every Party member hang above his desk or his lathe this inscription: Remember the Eastern front! Don’t waste time!

April 30, 1919,
En Route, No.39

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Last updated on: 23.12.2006