The Military Writings of
Leon Trotsky

Volume 2, 1919

How the Revolution Armed

The Southern Front

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


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

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In the zone near the front there have recently appeared what are called ‘Green’ forces. What are they?

It is usually said that the Green bands consist of runaway soldiers, deserters, who do not want to fight for either side. At first sight, this is indeed how it seems: the Red forces are fighting for the freedom and independence of the working people, the White forces are fighting to restore the power of the landlords, the capitalists and the Tsar, and the Greens want merely to save their own skins, and so they go off and hide in the woods.

But, in fact, the results turn out differently. The latest intelligence tells us that the Green bands have joined Denikin’s army and are fighting on the side of the Whites against the workers and peasants. How has this come about?

Very simply. The bulk of the Greens are, of course, ignorant self-seekers and cowards. But Denikin’s officers are operating everywhere as secret organisers and provocateurs. If a White-Guard provocateur openly proposed to deserters and self-seekers to go over to Denikin, they would, of course, refuse, because they want to fight for the interests of the landlords even less than they want to fight for the interests of the working people. The Denikinites have therefore resorted to a cunning trick in order gradually to get the deserters under their control.

In various places secret White-Guard agents have appeared and started to gather deserters into Green bands, assuring them that in this way they will not have to fight either against the Reds or against the Whites. However, once the bands have been formed, they find themselves between two fires: on the one hand, the Soviet troops, and on the other, pressing them hard, the White Guards. The position of the Green bands, caught between hammer and anvil, becomes hopeless. Then the Denikin agents start to come out into the open: explaining to the deserters whom they have deceived that there is no other solution for them, they lead them into the camp of the Whites, under Denikin’s protection. And Denikin begins to drive them before his machine-guns against the workers’ and peasants’ Red Army. In this way deserters who had hoped to escape from the war by hiding in the woods, find themselves in the front line of fire and are now being shot to death from both sides.

And that is quite as it should be. Between Reds and Whites, between landlords and peasants, a war to the death is being fought. There can be no room for Greens in this war. Better an open White-Guard enemy, whom you know, than a low-down ’Green’ traitor who crouches for a time in the woods and then, when the Denikinites approach, sinks his knife in the back of the revolutionary fighters.

The Soviet power shows the greatest leniency to those deserters and draft-dodgers who honestly and of their own free will return to the ranks of the Red Army. But there can be no quarter for the bandits, self-seekers and looters who come together in ‘Green’ bands. They must be exterminated in good time. The woods and the volosts must be purged of the ‘Green’ scoundrels.

Our Southern front has been strengthened and is preparing to strike the decisive blow. But before the Red regiments go over to the offensive against the Whites along the whole front they will crush the ‘Green’ vermin under their heel, so as to ensure that their rear is secure.

The ‘Green’ is the worst enemy of the people. Strike your first blow at the ‘Green’!

July 11, 1919, Voronezh
En Route, No.59

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Last updated on: 22.12.2006