The Military Writings of
Leon Trotsky

Volume 2, 1919

How the Revolution Armed


IV. Desertion and Tribunals


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

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A deserter is a man who, in a moment of difficulty, abandons his comrades, seeking, above all else, to save his own skin. A deserter is a worthless member of the family of labour:

The workers and peasants are waging on all fronts the last, hard battle against their sworn enemies. Upon the outcome of this battle depends the question of whether the working class and the peasantry are to live or die. For, if Kolchak wins, the flower of the working class will be drowned in blood.

While the honourable sons of the working people are straining all their efforts in the struggle, self-seekers are trying to escape from the ranks of the army and hide themselves in villages and towns. In various parts of the Soviet land many agents of KoLchak are active, seeking to incite ignorant or corrupted soldiers to desert. ‘Let them fight without me, and when they’ve won, I’ll come back to a ready-made situation’ that is how the self-seeker argues.

The coward runs away, and so the brave man has to shed his blood for two. And that is not all: the coward and self-seeker who flees from the barracks or from the march-route takes with him his equipment, and often his rifle as well. The honourable soldier sometimes has to fight at the front without any boots on his feet, because the deserter has taken boots with him.

The army in the field is filled with anger against these despic able runaways. The Red warriors have long been demanding that the Soviet power make a big broom of barbed wire, and with it sweep the deserters out of all the country’s nooks and crannies.

And it is indeed high time! We cannot tolerate for one more hour a situation in which ne’er-do-wells, traitors, parasites on the community stretch themselves out on top of the stove while honourable, self-sacrificing fighters are shedding their blood for the cause of the working people.

Woe to deserters! From now on they will be relentlessly hunted down, from one end to the other of the Soviet land. All Soviet authorities, trade unions and Party organisations are required to take part most vigorously in the struggle against desertion. The chairman of house committees and of village and volost soviets will henceforth be held strictly to account for conniving at the presence of deserters, whether directly or indirectly. Those who shelter deserters will be punished in the same way as participants in acts of treason.

An end to our long-suffering attitude! The last hour has struck! Deserters shall find nowhere either refuge or hiding-place. The workers’ and peasants’ power will strike them down with the heavy hand of revolutionary punishment.

Woe to deserters!
Woe to those who betray the working people!

May 3, 1919
En Route, No.40

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Last updated on: 19.12.2006