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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There are many bands operating in the Ukraine at present. All of them are led by atamans – Petlyura, Zelyony, Sokolovsky, and so on and so forth ... Almost every day some more petty atamans make their appearance. They seize weapons and recruit to their bands either deserters, or ignorant Red Army soldiers, or kulaks from the villages, or ordinary highway robbers.

These bands are making life impossible in the Ukraine. They plunder the peasants, commit pogroms in the towns, destroy railway lines, derail trains, and slaughter hundreds of thousands of absolutely innocent people – old men, women and children.

What do the leaders of these bands want? That is clear, without much thought being needed: each one of them calls himself ataman, and therefore strives for authority, for power and wealth. They all think that the Ukraine is now just a huge prey that has been thrown to the vultures for them to tear apart, and each one hastens to grab for himself as big a piece of it as he can.

Among them there are a number who have been directly bought by Denikin. Besides thugs, thieves and brigands, there also sometimes fell into the clutches of these atamans some soldiers and peasants who are honest but ignorant, lacking in consciousness. Life in the Ukraine is hard now, for the many years of war, the German occupation, the reign of Skoropadsky, the plundering carried out by the French and British, the crimes of the Petlyurists, all these experiences have shattered, exhausted and debilitated the country. In order to save the Ukraine, to revive it so as to ensure a better income for the worker and the peasants, to make their lives easier and happier, what is needed is intense, combined work by millions of peasants and proletarians, for the common good of the working people.

But there are many ignorant peasants who see only the dif ficulties of life and know of no way out. These are approached by tempters – agents of Denikin and Petlyura, bandits of the Zelyony and Sokolovsky type, who call on them to join their ranks, promising them freedom and an easy life. Each province, and almost each uyezd, has formed its own band. As a result of the violence and brigandage of these bands, the Ukraine is being still further exhausted and impoverished. A few more months of this outrageous, disgraceful, bloody anarchy, and the Ukrainian people will be reduced to a corpse.

This is why the Soviet power has made it its principal task of the present moment to cleanse the Ukrainian land of all rebel atamans and bandits. Power in the Ukraine must belong only to the united Ukrainian peasantry and working class. Their will is expressed through the All-Ukraine Congress of Soviets and the All Ukraine Central Executive Committee. There can be only one armed force in the Ukraine – the Red Army, created by the will of the working masses of the Ukraine. There is no room for any bands, any guerrilla detachments, any atamans, batkos, bandits and thugs.

The Revolutionary War Council of the Russian Socialist Federation Soviet Republic, together with the Council of the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic has taken all measures necessary to ensure that within a very short time Ukrainian banditry shall be eradicated and the Ukraine’s bandits ruthlessly crushed.

Now, when Comrade Voroshilov, as special plenipotentiary of the Defence Council, is setting about this task, I consider it my duty to address a final word of warning to all those soldiers and peasants who have been drawn into dishonourable bandit gangs but who are still capable of changing their minds and renouncing their work of Cain before it is too late.

In the first period of Soviet power, a lot of bands flourished in Great Russia. They were all annihilated long ago: their guiltiest members were shot, and the rest are expiating their crimes in places of detention. The same fate awaits the bandits of the Ukraine. Firm, reliable units have been sent to all parts of the Ukraine, with the task of finding and collecting arms, catching deserters and exterminating bands. The purge will be carded through to the end.

Misled soldiers, misled peasants, all of you who bear the shameful name of Grigoriyevites, Petlyurists, Zelyony’s men, Sokolovsky’s men, and so on – listen to this warning from the Revolutionary Soviet power! For your own good, for the good of your children and for the good of the whole Soviet Ukraine, give up banditry. Hand over your bloodthirsty, predatory ata mans, surrender voluntarily to the Soviet power: you will meet not with harshness but with leniency at its hands, as repentant prodigal Sons who have returned to the family of labour.

The Ukraine must be cleansed of vultures and kites! Then the Red Army will deal with Denikin in short order. Then the Ukraine will begin to live a peaceful, free and happy life.

Death to the black crows of banditry and atamanism!

Long live the power of the workers and peasants in a free and happy Ukraine!

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Last updated on: 22.12.2006