The Military Writings of
Leon Trotsky

Volume 2, 1919

How the Revolution Armed


II. Commanders and Commissars


By the Chairman of the Revolutionary War Council of the Republic and People’s Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs to the Red Army and the Red Navy, May 12, 1919, no.97, Kozlov

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

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Reports have been received that among the commanders mobilised in recent weeks there are some who patently avoid fulfilling conscientiously their duty to the working people. These reports do not indicate, however, what penalties have been imposed upon the saboteurs, open or half-concealed. Yet it is clear that if Red Army men who desert are to be subjected to stern punishment, commanders who commit sabotage must be punished with twofold severity.

Thousands and tens of thousands from among the old regular officers are honourably and courageously fighting in the ranks of the working people. These are all those who refused to sell the blood of the Russian workers and peasants first to the German Kaiser and then to the Anglo-French and American stock-exchanges. These men, the best representatives of the old corps of regular officers, are working at every level of our army organisation, at the front and in the rear, and they enjoy deserved confidence and respect on the part of the Red Army and the entire Soviet country.

But among these regular officers there were also elements who, while not going over to the enemy camp, tried and are trying to avoid fulfilling their duty in the Soviet ranks. They are trying to conceal themselves in various rear institutions in the capacity of’indispensables’. And when a mobilisation measure thrusts them into the ranks of the army, they do everything they can to avoid work, responsibility and danger.

I order the relevant commanders and commissars to observe with the greatest attention and thoroughness the work done by the commanders recently brought into the army. The Field Staff is to work out, in agreement with the All-Russia General Staff, a scheme of credentials reports on the members of the commanding apparatus. At the same time, the Revolutionary War Councils and the appropriate rear institutions are to remind all saboteurs, idlers and self-seekers among the commanding personnel that the laws of war punish ruthlessly.

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Last updated on: 18.12.2006