The Military Writings of
Leon Trotsky

Volume 2, 1919

How the Revolution Armed


IV. Desertion and Tribunals

Deserters Help Kolchak

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

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In their fight against the capitalists, the workers use the method of the strike. However, among the workers there are corrupt, depraved or absolutely ignorant and cowed persons who disrupt the struggle of the working class during a strike by remaining at work, thus helping the capitalist against the proletariat. They are called strike-breakers. The workers have always shown very great and perfectly justified hatred towards strike breakers. The worst of the latter, those who are consciously sold to the capitalists, have sometimes been thrown into blast-furnaces or otherwise done to death. Those strike-breakers who are ignorant are worked on verbally, and if that doesn’t help, then often force is used on them as well.

What strike-breakers are in a workers’ strike against the bourgeoisie, deserters are in relation to a fighting army. Our war is wholly and exclusively directed against the bourgeoisie. Our army is the army of the workers and peasants. The struggle is being carried on for the sake of the whole future destiny of the working people of Russia and of the whole world. This war is disrupted by deserters, who try to shift the weight of war and its sacrifices from their shoulders on to those of the steadfast and honourable fighters, who thus have to carry a double burden.

Deserters are military strike-breakers.

But the crime of the deserter is incomparably more serious than that of the strike-breaker. A strike against capitalists is always waged by a section of the workers and on some sectional issue. The war is being waged by the whole working class, and on no sectional issue but for the entire destiny of our country.

By means of a strike workers decided such questions as whether the working day should be half-an-hour longer or shorter. In this war the workers and peasants are deciding the question of who shall be master in the land of Russia – the working people or their oppressors.

If the hatred felt by the conscious workers towards strike-breakers was justified, how much more justified and holy is the wrath of the soldiers against deserters.

By weakening the army, deserters prolong the war and increase the number of its victims.

Deserters are helpers and servants of Kolchak. The war against Kolchak demands a fierce struggle against deserters. All honourable citizens, commanders, commissars and Red Army men must take part in this struggle, followed by the workers and peasants in the zones adjoining the fronts. It is necessary to create, such a situation, such a feeling in the country that a deserter will find no place to lay his head, like Cain, who committed a treacherous act against his brother. A deserter’s own village must refuse to give him food or lodging. The factory where he shows up must drive him Out with ignominy. His father, mother, brother, sister, wife must spurn his hand and demand that he at once set about cleansing himself of his dishonour by returning to the army.

When he runs away from his regiment, a deserter betrays not only the regiment, not only the army, but the entire working people. Therefore, the entire people must take up arms against deserters.

Deserters are accomplices of Kolchak.

There can be no place for an accomplice of Kolchak in the family of the honest working people.

Workers, peasants, soldiers! From now on, let no quarter be given among us to runaways, self-seekers and deserters. Let them wander like the plague-stricken, away from villages and towns, until in every single one of them conscience awakes and says: ‘There is only one path of salvation for you: go back to your unit, of your own free will, and by bravery in battle wipe from yourself the shameful stain of desertion.

May 3, 1919
[Melekess is east of Simbirsk (Ulyanovsk), on the line to Bugulma and Ufa.]
En Route, No.41

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Last updated on: 19.12.2006