The Military Writings of
Leon Trotsky

Volume 2, 1919

How the Revolution Armed

The Fight for Petrograd


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

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Petrograd has been decorated with the Order of the Red Banner. There, now, is somebody who has really deserved the award! When medals are given to individuals, mistakes can always occur, or there can be occasional cases of privilege. But in the award made to Petrograd there was neither error nor partiality. In this case the merit is plain to the whole country and the whole world.

Does Petrograd’s Order of the Red Banner bestow on the city the right to rest? Not yet. The Northern capital stands on the blockaded Baltic Sea, and from two directions, from the West and from the North-West, it lies open to the piercing winds of imperialism. Peace has not yet been concluded either with Estonia or with Finland, and there are not a few scoundrels, both Russian and foreign, who are eager to shed the blood of the Estonian and Finnish workers and peasants in order to restore the Tsarist landlord autocracy and the profits of the Anglo-French stock-exchange.

In October the Estonian bourgeoisie involved its army in Yudenich’s adventure. Yudenich was beaten. The White Estonian forces were thrown back, some beyond Luga, some beyond the Narova. Negotiations are in progress at Dorpat (Yuriev). [85] So far as the Soviet power is concerned, the purpose of these negotiations is a most sincere and conscientious attempt to make peace as quickly as possible. What is, for us, the principal condition? It follows quite clearly from our recent experience. The Estonian Government must give real guarantees for the security of our frontier on the Narova. Honest, good-neighbourly relations must be established. These conditions are comprehensible to every Estonian and every Russian worker and peasant. What we want is a real peace, not just a temporary breathing-space in which Yudenich can assemble his forces beyond the Narova and then launch another bandit raid against us.

Independent Estonia must no longer serve as a kennel for the guard-dogs of the counter-revolution – that is all that our conditions amount to.

Finland did not participate openly in Yudenich’s drive against Petrograd, although, indirectly, she did everything she could to help him succeed. In October and November we made no response whatsoever to the provocation of the Finnish chauvinists. The reason for this did not lie, of course, in any military weakness on the part of the Soviet Republic. In the centre of our country and on our victorious fronts, extending over several thousand versts, we could always have found two or three dozen regiments, that is, a force perfectly sufficient to beat out of our North-Western neighbours all desire to make an attempt, whether direct or indirect, upon Petrograd. If we firmly rejected the use of force, that was because we regard as most important the attainment and safeguarding of peace. We fight only where we are forced to fight, where we are not allowed to refrain from fighting – and we fight only so long as we are obliged to fight. The basic task of the Soviet Government lies wholly in the sphere of economic and cultural construction. Equally alien to the Soviet power are striving for territorial acquisitions and national oppression. Our entire policy in relation to Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland follows from our conviction that the existence of these countries is possible only if they maintain peaceful and good-neighbourly relations with Russia.

An Estonia or a Finland wishing to serve as a weapon of the imperialism of the great powers will inevitably be ground to dust between two millstones. A Finland and an Estonia at peace with Soviet Russia will be incomparably more independent in relation to all great-power aggressors.

We need peace. It is no less necessary for Estonia and Finland. But peace between us and them is not what is wanted by a certain third party. If the decisions taken at Dorpat express the will of the Estonian and Russian peoples, peace will be made, for the stronger side, Soviet Russia, does not want war. But if the decisions taken at Dorpat are dictated to the Estonian Government by the Anglo-French stock-exchange, for which Estonia is merely a tiny little weight in the scales of world power, their blood will flow beside the Narova.

The decision has not yet been taken. The Estonian government is hesitating. Nor has the danger yet vanished from the Karelian Isthmus, for the Finnish Government has not declared that it is ready for peace.

The danger has not disappeared. Therefore Petrograd must remain watchfully on guard over the North-Western approaches to the Soviet Republic. The time for rest has not yet come. On the contrary, the Soviet Republic is now passing through days of the greatest tension in most ferocious struggle.

No less self-control is needed in time of success than in time of defeat. Success must not lull our vigilance on any of the sectors of our immense front, and least of all on that sector where, at the apex, stands Petrograd. The danger has not passed, and vigilance must not slacken.

Greetings to Petrograd, city of the Red Banner!

Greetings, and this appeal: Petrograd, be on your guard!

December 22, 1919
En Route, No.104


85. The peace treaty with Estonia was signed on February 2, 1920.

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Last updated on: 23.12.2006