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)


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

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The revolt of a section of the Don Cossacks has already dragged on for several weeks. This revolt was incited by Denikin’s agents, counter-revolutionary officers. It found support among the Cossack kulaks. These kulaks drew behind them a considerable section of the Cossack middle peasants. It is very possible that in some cases the Cossacks had suffered some injustices at the hands of particular military units passing through their territory or of individual representatives of the Soviet power. Denikin’s agents were able to exploit these injustices in order to fan the flame of revolt. White-Guard scoundrels masqueraded in this region as supporters of the Soviet power, so as the more easily to worm their way into the confidence of the Cossack middle peasants. In this way, counter-revolutionary trickery, kulak interests and the ignorance of the masses came together for a moment in a senseless and criminal revolt in the rear of our armies on the Southern front.

A revolt in the rear is for a soldier like a boil on a worker’s shoulder. In order to fight, to defend the Soviet land, to crush the landlord-Denikinite gangs, it is necessary to have a reliable, tranquil, friendly rear among the workers and peasants and the working Cossacks. Consequently, the most important task of the moment is to clear the Don of revolt and of rebels.

The central Soviet authority has ordered that this task be disposed of in the shortest possible time. Splendid reinforce ments have been and are being sent to help the expeditionary forces operating against the ignoble counter-revolutionary revolt. Our best organisers are being sent there to ensure the fulfilment of this urgent task.

We must put an end to the revolt. Our Red Army men must be imbued with clear understanding that the rebels of Beshinskaya or Yelanskaya or Bukanovskaya stanitsa are direct helpers of the White-Guard generals Denikin and Kolchak. The longer the revolt drags on, the heavier will be the casualties on both sides. There is only one way to reduce the bloodshed: to deliver a quick, hard, smashing blow.

We must put an end to the revolt. We must lance the boil on the shoulder and cauterise it with a red-hot iron. Then the arm of the Southern front will be freed to strike a mortal blow at the enemy.

May 12, 1919
En Route, No.44

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Last updated on: 21.12.2006