The Military Writings of
Leon Trotsky

Volume 2, 1919

How the Revolution Armed

The Southern Front

I. The Red Army’s Offensive
towards the Ukraine and the Don (January-May 15, 1919)

It Is Time To Finish It!

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

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The front runs all along the frontiers of the Soviet Republic: in the North, in the East, in the South, and in the West.

Our North was occupied by British, American and French forces, together with small groups of Serbs and Czechoslovaks. In the summer of last year they were hoping to get from there to Vologda and Yaroslavl and then, eastward, to Nizhny Novgorod, Vyatka and Perm, so as to link up with the Czecho slovaks and White Guards in Siberia. But nothing came of this plan. We held Vologda and drove the Czechoslovaks away to the East.

Today, the Northern Front offers our enemies no hopes or prospects at all. The French newspapers talk of the withdrawal – from Archangel and Murmansk of the foreign forces that were landed there. American soldiers are meanwhile fraternising with our soldiers and saying, rightly: ‘You are fighting for your Commune, but what are we fighting for?’

On the Eastern front we have recently had one big setback, the loss of Perm, and one big success, the capture of Ufa. In general, the situation on the Eastern front is favourable to us. Until recently we were being opposed there by Right SRs and Mensheviks, allied with open Black Hundreds. Now, Admiral Kolchak has seized power and banished his former assistants, the SRs and Mensheviks. In the enemy’s camp there is thus disruption and internecine conflict – which suits us very well. Our forces on the Eastern front are advancing on Orenburg. The capture of that important place will open the road to Turkestan. The Red Army of the Republic of Turkestan is advancing from there to meet us. [45] From Turkestan we shall get the cotton so badly needed by our textile industry.

On the Western front things are going splendidly. There, the impotence of the Russian bourgeois-landlord White Guards has again been revealed. As soon as German militarism collapsed and German Soviets were set up in the occupied parts of West em Russia, the Russian White Guards realised that their days were numbered. They made deals with the German officers and with the governments of Britain and France. From Paris and London, and also from Berlin, from their own Scheidemann, the German officers received orders not to surrender to the Soviet authorities any towns, railways or military equipment. But the German soldiers had already ceased to obey their offic ers. They refused to fight against the Red regiments, and tried to get back home to Germany as soon as they could. The White-Guard regiments commanded by General Dragomirov suffered a mortal defeat before Pskov. From that moment the Soviet forces have been advancing further and further westward, liberating town after town, province after province.

At the northern end of the Western front the Soviet forces are moving on Revel, and the day when the capital of the Estonian Soviet Republic will be freed is near. Riga has already been taken by our Lettish regiments, and so Red Latvia has secured its capital. Soviet forces have entered Vilna, the centre of Soviet Lithuania. The population are everywhere joyfully welcoming their liberators. It must not be forgotten that Riga was captured by the Germans in Kerensky’s time, that is, before Soviet power was established, and they had captured the Lithuanian capital, Vilna, already under Tsardom, so that the city passed directly from the Tsar’s rule to that of the Kaiser and thus never knew freedom.

In all these western provinces we are coming upon a lot of military stores, both our own and those left by the Germans, and this is enabling the Federative Soviet Republic to form fresh, strong divisions there, which will stand on guard for the revolution against foreign invasion.

The situation has also changed in the Ukraine. After the Kaiser had fallen, Skoropadsky fell. True, the Anglo-French brigands tried to take the Hetman into their service. But before their thirty pieces of silver could reach Kiev, the Hetman had been obliged to save his skin. He was replaced by Petlyura and Vinnichenko. These are old acquaintances of ours. A year ago they betrayed the Soviet Republic by making an alliance on the Don with Kaledin and Kornilov, and at Brest-Litovsk with the German Kaiser, against the workers’ and peasants’ Soviets.

When the Ukrainian Soviets triumphed, Petlyura, Vinnichenko and the other traitors called on the German and Austrian forces to help them. After occupying the Ukraine, the Kaiser got rid of Petlyura and Vinnichenko, so as not to have them under his feet, and installed Skoropadsky. After the fall of Skoropadsky, Petlyura and Vinnichenko have again been try ing to come forward as friends and protectors of the Ukrainian people. But their days are numbered. Nobody trusts them. They are now calling on the British and French for help, just as, previously, they called on the Germans. They have no support among the people. The Ukrainian insurgents have already cap tured a number of centres in the Ukraine, including, above all, such an important centre as Kharkov. There can be no doubt that this movement will spread wider and wider. The Ukraine will soon become Soviet land. From there we shall get grain and sugar, and we shall send them textiles when we obtain cotton from Turkestan.

Further on, to the South.East, stretches the very important front between Voronezh and Tsaritsyn, where we have not yet won decisive victories. This is Krasnov’s front. Here, relying on the rich kulak element among the Cossacks, all the sinister, anti-popular elements of Russia, bourgeois, landlords, monarchists, officials, kulaks, have assembled. Here they have formed their camp of oppressors and robbers, to fight against the socialist revolution. Previously, they received help from German imperialism, and boasted of this. Now they are being helped by the Anglo-French imperialists, and the Kras novites are again treating it as a matter for pride. They do not mind whence they get bullets and shells, provided that these do damage and bring losses, wounds, death and destruction, to workers’ and peasants’ Russia. The Krasnov-Denikin bands here form a barrier that cuts us off from very rich areas where large reserves of grain, coal, iron-ore, kerosene and petrol await us.

The struggle on the South-Eastern front has bcen dragging on for a long time, without any decisive change ever occurring. Undoubtedly we are faced here by a dangerous foe: first, because this foe fights with the energy of despair, knowing that if he is beaten here he has no hope left; and, secondly, because the Krasnov-Denikin forces contain many officers who are serving in the ranks, and this fact endows the White-Guard regiments with power of attack. The Krasnovites hoped that they would succeed in holding out on the Don until Anglo-French forces arrived. Even so recently as two months ago it seemed beyond doubt that the British and French would indeed sent them an army of a million men, to crush Soviet Russia. But the situation has now changed. There is much discontent among the people in France and Britain, with unwillingness to continue the war. Among the imperialist governments them selves, in Britain, France and America, disagreements have emerged on the question of whether it would be advantageous or not, dangerous or not, to become committed to war with the Soviet Republic.

The more successfully our operations proceed in the East and the West, the harder does it become for the imperialists to launch an offensive against us. The road to Moscow is getting longer and longer for them, because the frontiers of the Soviet Republic get wider every day. It can be said with confidence that if we crush Krasnov’s bands we shall show the whole world that we are invincible, and then the most frenzied imperialists among the Anglo-French brigands will have to give up the idea of sending British and French workers and peasants against us.

The fate of the Soviet Republic is now being decided on the Don front. This decision has been dragged out far too long. It is time to finish it! We have concentrated large forces on the Southern front. Much organisational work has been accomp lished. The regiments, divisions and armies are headed by reliable commanders and the best of our commissars. The whole country is looking with the greatest hope to our South Eastern armies. Everyone senses that the days and weeks of the denouément are near: Krasnov’s cavalry rush from one sector to another, making thrusts into the Red front. But on this front, too, we shall soon settle with the enemy and crush the bastion of counter-revolution.

Soldiers, commanders, commissars of the Southern front! Your hour has struck!

It is time to finish it, time to clear the South, to open the road to the Caucasus, time to strike a mortal blow at the most inveterate enemy of workers’ and peasants’ Russia and give our exhausted country security, peace and ease.

January 7, 1919


45. This note is missing – ETOL.

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Last updated on: 21.12.2006