The Military Writings of
Leon Trotsky

Volume 2, 1919

How the Revolution Armed

The Fight for Petrograd

ORDER No.158

By the Chairman of the Revolutionary War Council of the Republic and People’s Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs, October24, 1919, No.158, Petrograd

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

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A heavy blow has been struck at Yudenich’s bands.

The boastful, lying telegraphic reports of the Anglo-French imperialists had already announced Yudenich’s capture of Petrograd. But the heroism of the soldiers, commanders and commissars of the Red Army put an end to that bloodthirsty project of the international vultures. Petrograd has not surrendered and will not surrender. The Seventh Army is advancing. The Whites are retreating. The number of prisoners taken and of men crossing over from the White camp is increasing hourly.

Comrade Red Army men! Spare the prisoners! Give a comradely welcome to those who come over to our side. Only a tiny minority of those in the White army are dishonourable, corrupt, venal enemies of the working people. The overwhelming majority consist of men who were duped or who were forcibly mobilised. Even among the White officers a considerable section are fighting against Soviet Russia under compulsion, or have been deceived by the agents of the Anglo-French and Russian stock-exchange speculators and landlords.

Against the White Guards who attack us and threaten Petrograd we act and shall continue to act with ruthlessness. We shall pursue them with fire and sword, until we have wiped them from the face of the earth. But we shall spare the prisoners. Senseless bloodthirstiness is alien to the workers’ and peasants’ Red Army. Those who come over will not find themselves in the slightest danger among us. Whosoever has understood the dishonourable character of the White-Guard campaign, in whomever the conscience of the working people has awakened, and who boldly comes to join us, is our friend and brother!

This applies not only to rank-and-file soldiers but also to officers. On the Eastern front many hundreds of officers have come over to us from Kolchak’s army, being filled with the greatest respect for the organisation, cohesion and heroism of the Red Army. They are now serving in our ranks.

There can be no doubt that the approaching breakdown of Yudenich’s army will impel towards us the better part of the officers who are now still in Yudenich’s leading-strings. Every one of them who sincerely and honestly wants to serve the workers’ and peasants’ power will find a place in our ranks.

Woe to the unworthy soldier who sticks a knife into an unarmed prisoner or a soldier who has come over to us.

Long live the conscious warrior of the Red Army, merciless to the enemy but magnanimous to the prisoner and the soldier who has come over to our side.

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Last updated on: 23.12.2006