The Military Writings of
Leon Trotsky

Volume 2, 1919

How the Revolution Armed

The Southern Front

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

The Tenth Army

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

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Like some of our other armies, the Tenth was formed mainly out of guerrilla detachments. These detachments included many heroic workers and peasants who strove to defend at any Cost the freedom that had been won by the working people. But, as always happens, the guerrilla flag attracted many scoundrelly and rotten elements, idlers who settled upon army rations like flies upon sugar. And it frequently happened that the heroism of the best fighters was brought to naught by the shameful cowardice of the self-seekers. But not by this only. More than any other army, the Tenth was lacking in proper military organisation, by which every regiment forms part of a regularly constructed division, while a division is an organ of an army that is directed according to a common conception and plan. So long as the Tenth Army was a guerrilla army, self-will on the part of certain commanders, who refused to obey orders, was m vogue. There was no proper supply service, and its place was often taken by arbitrary seizures carried out by individual units. In the case of bad units these seizures became plundering pure and simple, and gave rise to justified indignation on the part of the local population. The best elements in the army combated all this, as it was necessary to do. The most conscious workers and peasants among the Red Army men supported this struggle.

The Tenth Army pulled itself together. Numerous unworthy commanders were removed, while other guerrilla commanders, the best and most honourable among them, understood that a step forward had to be taken – namely, the establishment of regular organisation and of real military order.

The reconstruction and re-education of this army was accomplished during the autumn and winter of last year, with great success. The army went over to the offensive, dealt Krasnov many hard blows, reached the Manych and crossed to its southern bank, at the end of a fighting advance of about 400 versts.

But Denikin’s reserves proved stronger. Our armies of the Southern front, weary and betrayed by Makhno’s activity in the Ukraine were unable to withstand the onslaught of Denikin’s forces. The Tenth Army started to fall back. In the course of the retreat the army’s apparatus inevitably suffered some derangement. Furthermore, the firmly established order was frequently violated, and the disorganisers and self-seekers started to lift their heads again. However, thanks to its battle-hardened cadres, the Tenth Army survived this severe test. It stopped retreating, and halted the enemy. Today it has itself taken the offensive and is already pressing the enemy with considerable success.

If this success is to be developed and transformed into a shattering blow at Denikin’s right flank, the establishment of order in the organisation of the Tenth Army and the elimination of the last vestiges of guerrilla-ism must be carried to conclusion.

An army is an army. This army is an organisation of armed warriors of the working class and the working peasantry. There must be no families with the army: their place is in the rear. The soldier must think only of crushing the enemy. A family that is being dragged along behind it in a cart is a burden for an army. The Soviet power must take care of the soldier’s family, in the rear. Families increase the army’s baggage-train, making the units less mobile and less vigorous. The first task to be performed is the removal from the army of the soldiers’ families, who must be transferred to the rear, where they will receive from the Soviet power the help that they need.

An army is an army. Its carts are meant to carry supplies for the fighting units. They must not be burdened with one unnecessary pood. If captured trophies are not assigned by the regulations to a particular unit, that is, if it does not need them for its fighting tasks, they must be immediately removed by the army administration and transferred to the proper quarters. Woe to the unit that has too long a baggage-train!

An army is an army. It is an aggregate of soldiers bound together by unity of command and unity of iron discipline. Where discipline is violated, where orders are not obeyed, where the regulations are not observed, where the necessary measures are not taken for carrying out reconnaissance, mounting guard, maintaining liaison, sending reports, there can be no long-term, lasting, serious victories. An army then ceases to be an army. It is the sacred duty of the commanders and commissars of the Tenth Army to implement our Red regulations in the life of their army.

The Tenth Army has been reinforced numerically and is growing bigger day by day. Materiel that had been expended or lost is being replaced, and more than replaced. The Soviet land is straining every nerve to ensure that everything needed is made available to this army, which had in the past no few achievements to its credit and which is now operating in one of the most important directions.

Comrade Red Army men, commanders and commissars of the Tenth Army! In greeting you at this turning-point for the Southern front, I call upon you at the same time to make an heroic and unanimous effort to purge your army of everything that weakens and disorganises it, to establish in it unity of will and deed, to transform it into a mighty hammer of steel which will strike from the banks of the Volga a mortal blow at the skull of the counter-revolution on the Don and in Caucasia!

August 18, 1919
En Route, No.83

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Last updated on: 22.12.2006