The Military Writings of
Leon Trotsky

Volume 2, 1919

How the Revolution Armed

The Southern Front

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

ORDER No.126

By the Chairman of the Revolutionary War Council of the Republic and People’s Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs to the forces on the Southern front, July 18, 1919, No. 126, Smorodino station.
[Order No. 126 was published in an English translation in Soviet Russia for February 14, 1920, and that translation was reproduced in Leon Trotsky speaks (Pathfinder 1972) p.133.]

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

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During our retreat, Denikin’s counter-revolutionary bands committed indescribable crimes against the workers and peasants in the provinces temporarily seized by them.

The Red Army, along with the working population, is filled with hatred for the White-Guard oppressors and thugs.

Now, when the armies of the Southern front are taking the offensive there is ground for fear that the just indignation of the Red soldiers may in some cases lead to the killing of White-Guard officers taken prisoner.

In view of this possibility, I deem it my duty to address to all fighters on the Southern front these words of warning: Comrade Red-Army-men, commanders, commissars! Let your just anger be directed only against the enemy with arms in his hands. Spare the prisoners, even those who are known scoundrels. Among the prisoners and those who come over to us will be found a considerable number of such who had joined Denikin’s army either through ignorance or under compulsion. Denikin’s generals spread among the soldiers and junior officers whom they have conscripted lying rumours to the effect that the Red forces kill their prisoners. By this means the Denikinites seek, on the one hand, to confuse their soldiers and officers, so as to prevent them from going over to our side, and, on the other, to embitter their men and cause them to engage in bestial pogroms against the workers and peasants.

This makes it all the more important for us to show Denikin’s soldiers and officers that we kill only enemies. Whoever admits his guilt, whoever comes over to our side with an honest intention, or whoever falls into our hands as a prisoner will be spared.

I issue this order:

Prisoners are no case to be killed, but are to be sent to the rear, under the orders of the nearest command. Commanders and commissars are to check most strictly on the fulfilment of this order.

All cases of violation of it are to be reported through the proper channels, so that the Revolutionary Military Tribunal may immediately go to the place where the crime was committed.

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Last updated on: 22.12.2006