The Military Writings of
Leon Trotsky

Volume 2, 1919

How the Revolution Armed

The Southern Front

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

There Must Be Order

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

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At the moment, what the Soviet Ukraine needs more than anything else is firm order. The struggle against the Germans, against Skoropadsky, against Petlyura, and against the French and British has shaken the country up and unsettled many people, and consequently, has made it hard to establish order. But order is necessary, firm workers’-and-peasants’ Soviet order. All forces and all resources must be accounted for and properly distributed. So long as we are at war, the bulk of forces and resources must go to the army.

First and foremost, an end must be put to banditry. It is impossible to tolerate for one day longer a situation in which depraved scoundrels calling themselves atamans and batkos assemble equally depraved bands, and plunder the peaceful population, smash railway installations, organise the derailing of trains, and destroy hundreds and thousands of human lives. We must completely exterminate all the Grigoriyevs, Zelyonys and Makhnos and all their kulak helpers and accomplices.

Firm order must be established in the Red Army. Experience has shown that the bravest Ukrainian detachments sometimes retreat without justification before Denikinite units, merely because the Ukrainian detachments still lack proper organisation and fail to observe with the necessary care the rules of guard-mounting, reconnaissance and liaison.

A review of the garrison of Poltava which had been ordered for nine o’clock on July 21 did not begin until ten, simply because certain units of the garrison were an hour and more late in turning up. This is unacceptable, and testifies to absolute slovenliness on the part of the commanders and commissars. What will happen on the battlefield to a unit which, under peaceful garrison conditions, turns up an hour late for a parade which had been announced the previous day? A rule must be firmly laid down in the Ukrainian army: the commander and the commissar are answerable for every hour. The Ukrainian military commissars put up with disorders and connive not only at faults but also at real crimes. This practice must cease. Commissars – the military commissars of units in particular – must act as bearers of the idea of revolutionary Soviet order and firm discipline.

Many Ukrainian commanders allow themselves to commit unheard-of violations of the rules and regulations. Commanders of units grab workers and peasants who have been mobilised in a certain locality for service in that locality, and arbitrarily embody them in their own units.

Work in the units is carried on in a slack way. Negligence is apparent in everything. Weapons are badly looked after.

Many commanders think to win the love of their units by making no demands on the comrade Red Army men. But when it comes to fighting, the unit will see how helpless it is, and will curse the commander and the commissar who took up a slovenly attitude to the training and education of their soldiers. Many soldiers who have suffered the hardships and trials of war find themselves left without boots or uniforms. It is painful and disgusting to see honourable fighters having to walk barefoot, and wearing filthy, lice-ridden shirts. And, on the other hand, there are not a few self-seekers and scoundrels who get into units as volunteers, obtain uniforms, and then at once set off for home. Others roam from one unit to another. This low-down behaviour must be stopped, with an iron hand. Deliberate plunderers of army property must be punished ruthlessly.

The Ukraine can quickly become a rich and happy land. The Ukrainian army can quickly become an invincible army. But, for this, there must be order.

Down with slovens, loafers, gasbags and sluggards!

Death to bandits, impenitent self-seekers and looters!

Long live firm revolutionary order, everywhere and in everything!

July 21, 1919
En Route, No.66

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Last updated on: 22.12.2006