The Military Writings of
Leon Trotsky

Volume 2, 1919

How the Revolution Armed

The Southern Front

II. Denikin’s Offensive (May 15-August 1919)


[According to sailors’ tradition, in a storm at sea the ninth wave is the most dangerous to a vessel: if it survives that, the vessel can be considered safe.]
Transcribed and HTML markup for the Trotsky Internet Archive by David Walters

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What we are now experiencing is the ninth wave of the counter-revolution. It presses upon us on the Western and Southern Fronts. It threatens Petrograd. But at the same time we know well that, now, the counter-revolution has marshalled its last forces and thrown all its reserves Into battle. This is its last, its ninth wave.

What an immense difference from the situation in the summer of last year! Then we still had powerful international enemies who could have crushed us with a direct armed ons laught. They were held back for the time being by the bloody international conflict. At that time Count Mirbach sat in Mos cow as the representative of powerful German militarism. In the East the Czechoslovak hirelings of bourgeois France rose in revolt. The first Anglo-American expeditionary forces landed in the North. Soviet Russia stood face to face with European militarism, armed to the teeth and its power as yet hardly shaken.

At the same time, the situation inside the country was extre mely strained and unstable. The peasants had not yet appreciated the necessity of the war that the capitalists and landlords, of our own country and of others, had forced upon us. We were taking our first steps along the road of compulsory mobiisation. The peasants often resisted these steps. The mood of the peasants was reflected in our first, barely united regiments. A wave of senseless, purposeless, but often extremely bloody mutinies tolled, during the spring of last year, through the units of the Red Army. The confusion and vague discontent among a considerable section of the peasants and soldiers infected even the more backward section of the workers. The petty-bourgeois SR and Menshevik parties cal led, openly or half-openly, for revolt against the Soviet power.

Behind the cover that they provided, White-Guard elements organised monarchist plots.

What an immense difference between the internal and international situation of the Soviet Republic then and now!

Huge masses of the peasantry have come to understand from experience, both of our military defeats and of our successes, that our war is their war, that our army defends the interests of the peasants. Despite the fact that the Soviet power was obliged to conscript a number of peasant age-groups, despite the fact that the burden of war has grown much heavier during this year, we have seen at the same time a very great step forward in the direction of complete identification of the peasantry with the Soviet power. The peasants are, of course, unhappy about the war, but they have realised that it is due not to the Soviet power but to the bourgeois enemies of the working people. After the insignificant outbreaks in March we have seen abso lute calm among the peasants and mobiisation has proceeded satisfactorily in almost all provinces. If we except isolated pog rom movements such as the revolt in Gomel, or Grigoriyev’s drunken mutiny, in localities which have known Soviet power only in recent months, we see throughout all the rest of the country a growth in solidarity and discipline in the Red Army’s regiments. As for the proletariat, it has shown through its voluntary mobilisations its unbreakable bond with the Soviet order.

The international situation has changed to the same extent. German and Austro-Hungarian militarism has been smashed to pieces. French and British militarism still exists outwardly, but it is rotten within and incapable of fighting. Neither America nor Britain, and still leSs France, is in a position to send a single army corps to Russia to fight against the Soviet power. They still have at their disposal a huge material apparatus of war, an uncountable number of guns, machine-guns, shells and car tridges, armoured cars and tanks. Compelled by the strength of the French and British workers and peasants to refrain from direct struggle against us, the Anglo-French bandits are supplying deadly weapons to the Russian counter-revolution.

It must be admitted that the latter has greatly strengthened itself during the past year. In May 1918 the Russian capitalists and landords relied exclusively on the Czechoslovaks and, in general, on foreign bayonets. Since then, they have managed to create armed forces of their own. In this matter the bourgeoisie was helped to the maximum, on the one hand, by the SRs and Mensheviks, who organised for Kolchak his ‘people’s’ army under the banner of the Constituent Assembly, and, on the other, by the Anglo-French imperialists, who provided the White Army with material supplies and with the instructors it needed. A year ago we had grounds for fearing that, after disposing of Krasnov and Dutov, we should come face to face with our main enemy – with German or with Anglo-French militarism. Today we know for sure that by disposing of Kolchak and Denikin we shall achieve complete invulnerability for the Soviet Republic and give a powerful stimulus to the revolution in Europe and throughout the world.

The counter-revolution has not and will not have available any forces greater than those which Denikin, Kolchak, the White Estonians and the White Finns have now moved against us. On the Southern front, in the East and before Petrograd the Russian counter-revolution, and with it the world counter revolution, has staked its entire fate on one card. On our part we need one last effort of all our physical and moral forces in order to hurl back the last desperate onslaught of the dark forces of the old, bourgeois society.

The counter-revolution has cast against us its ninth wave: it will break against the armoured chest of our workers’ and peasants’ regiments.

Yevstratovka station.
[Yevstratovka is about 100km east of Valuiki, on the line from Voronezh to Rostov-on-Don.]
June 1, 1919
En Route, No.50

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Last updated on: 21.12.2006