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.134

By the chairman of the Revolutionary War Council of the Republic and People’s Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs to the commanders and commissars of the Ninth Army of the Southern Front, July 29, 1919, No.134, Penza

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

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The Ninth Army of the Southern Front has many military achievements to its credit. Having been formed to aconsidera ble extent out of guerrilla detachments, it was brought into line last autumn and acquired a regular organisation. There were cases of insubordination and misbehaviour on the part of individual commanders. The tribunal punished the disorganisers severely. The discipline of the commanding personnel became a model for the Red Army men. If the discipline of the commanders has weakened in any way during the retreat, it must be restored and raised to the proper level.

The Ninth Army has suffered more than others. It fell back under heavy blows from a very powerful enemy. The break-up of the Soviet guerrilla armies of North Caucasia had freed Denikin’s forces in North Caucasia and made it possible for them to be transferred to the Don and the Northern Donets. That was the reason for the defeat of the Southern front and of the Ninth Army in particular.

Denikin has now used up all his reserves. He no longer enjoys numerical superiority. Our armies of the Southern front have been brought up to strength with fresh replacements and have received substantial reinforcements. The supply service has been brought up to scratch. The Southern front has been provided with all it needs. The task now is only to allocate the supplies that have been made available, as required, among the units. It is the duty of commanders and commissars to watch most attentively over the rapid and energetic movement of supplies and their precise distribution among the units and the Red Army men. During the next few days it must be ensured that every soldier is fed, clothed, shod and armed.

The entire country is now concerned about the Southern front. Commanders, commissars, and after them, Red Army men, must realise we are now already considerably stronger than Denikin on the Southern front. Our forces are growing with exceptional speed. Military echelons and through goods-trains are moving southward in an unbroken stream. We now have to organise all this and to become inspired with the idea of a decisive offensive.

The Ninth Army has, with others, been retreating for a long time. This fact has to a certain extent told on the morale not only of the rank-and-file but also of the commanders and commissars. There have been isolated instances of treachery and desertion to the enemy by responsible commanders. Individual traitors and fools were found who imagined that Denikin was capable of halting the great world-wide process of the workers’ and peasants’ revolution, just as, earlier, the more retarded section of the former officers believed in the omnipotence of Skoropadsky. The treachery of short-sighted careerists cannot, of course, induce the Soviet power to change its policy regarding the former officers, the immense majority of whom are honourably and courageously serving the working class and the working peasantry in the ranks of the Red Army.

The task of the commanders and commissars of the Ninth Army is now to prepare the army for a decisive offensive during the next few weeks. In every unit the commanders and political workers must be checked on. They must be imbued with redoubled energy and conscientiousness in their work. It must be explained to all the Red Army men that we are now both stronger numerically and also better armed than our enemy. In the units held in reserve, in the holding battalions, training must be carried on at the highest intensity, and in this training extensive use must be made of the experience of recent clashes with Denikin’s forces, especially his cavalry.

The armies of the Southern front are ordered to go over to the attack and smash our last large-scale enemy. The Soviet Republic expects that the Ninth Army will do its duty along with the rest. Commanders, commissars, and all responsible workers generally in the Ninth Army must henceforth make their watchword: ‘Another two or three weeks of continuous, intensive preparations for the offensive, and then a swift, irresistible charge southward, until Denikin’s forces have been completely annihilated!’

With this watchword I greet the glorious Ninth Army!

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Last updated on: 22.12.2006