The Military Writings of
Leon Trotsky

Volume 2, 1919

How the Revolution Armed

The Southern Front

III. The Red Army’s Second Offensive in the Ukraine
(August-December 1919)

ORDER No.147

By the Chairman of the Revolutionary War Council of the Republic and the People’s Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs, September 4, 1919, No.147, Orel

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

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Mamontov’s cavalry have been carrying on their brigandage up to now almost with impunity because we have organised our intelligence and communications so badly. The local authorities have often relied on obscure rumours instead of precise facts. Uncertainty is the mother of panic. And yet our uyezd and volost revolutionary committees have remained in a state of uncertainty. Even now the local organs often pass on rumours and malicious fabrications instead of providing intelligence reports. All this must stop.

1. Mamontov’s commanders circulate through various channels the rumours that suit their book – about the direction their cavalry are going to take, or about innumerable Denikinite forces that are supposed to be following at their heels. The task of the revolutionary committees and of the local Soviet authorities in general, and especially of the military institutions, is to organise precise intelligence, constantly and strictly checking every rumour and report. It is especially important to check on our own reconnaissance patrols, on horseback and on foot, because, as the facts testify, they often avoid contact with the enemy and rely in their reports on hearsay cock-and-bull stories.

I issue this warning: the circulation of unverified statements as though they had been confirmed will be punished in the same way as malicious panic-mongering. Whisperers, chatterboxes and gossips are to be ruthlessly prosecuted!

2. Some units assigned to local defence have shown a complete lack of staunchness and have abandoned their positions when they encountered the enemy. This has resulted in Mamontov’s bands invading villages and towns, and slaughtering helpless and unarmed working men and women.

I issue this warning: cowardice, self-seeking, desertion on the internal front will be punished in the same way as on the external front – by shooting.

3. Task-forces and detachments assigned to the task of pre venting access to certain points (railway junctions, bridges, towns . . .) must be strictly checked. So far as possible, experienced commanders must be chosen for them. These task-forces must include a group, even if only a small one, of firm Communists. Severe punishment must be applied to self-seekers.

4. Where a force is fairly large (several hundred men and upwards) a small battle-police unit composed of firm fighters must be attached to it, capable both of fighting and of dealing with deserters and self-seekers.

5. In the struggle against Mamontov’s cavalry it must be firmly kept in mind that it is better to have 50 resolute and self-sacrificing fighters than 500 wavering and unsteady ones. Mamontov’s Cossacks are self-seekers and cowards. They don’t want to fight. They show boldness only in relation to unarmed men, women and children. When they meet a rebuff they take refuge in flight. Therefore, every detachment must have attached to it a few selflessly resolute daredevils.

6. Since Mamontov’s Cossacks are mere thugs and bandits, they must be exterminated by all means available. No-one has the right to avoid participation in the rounding-up of Mamon toy’s bandits and thugs, by groups or as individuals. A revolutionary committee that allows the bandits to pass it by is a traitor to its neighbours. Such treachery is punished severely in wartime. In the name of the Revolution I call on each and everyone to show not only firmness and endurance but also selfless heroism!

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Last updated on: 22.12.2006