The General Situation at the Beginning of 1920

Our Work at Building the Army
and Our Fronts [1]

First Published: This report was published in English, as Our Military Construction and Our Fronts, by the Executive Committee of the Communist International in 1920.
Misc: Report to the 7th All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Workers’, Peasants’, Red Army Men’s and Working Cossacks’ Deputies, December 7, 1919

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

* * *

The Foundations for Building the Red Army


Comrades, the Red Army was first given a legal, legislative basis in the Central Executive Committee’s decrees of April 22 of last year, which later received specific approval in the form of a resolution of the 5th All-Russia Congress of Soviets on July 10 of last year [2] Those decrees and resolutions laid down the fundamental lines in accordance with which the Soviet power, and the War Commissariat in particular ‘had to build the armed forces of the Soviet Republic. These resolutions prescribed that home-made and amateur methods be completely eliminated in that sphere which is least amenable to them. What this implied was the need to build an army on scientific, correct and regular principles. We were told that quite clearly and distinctly. One of the conclusions resulting was that we must draw former officers of the Tsarist Army into this constructive work, because they were men who knew more about military matters than was known then – or is known even now – to the representatives of the working class. At the same time, those foundations were laid down which define the nature of all our work at building the Red Army. This is not an army ‘of the whole people’, ‘of the entire nation’, not a ‘democratic’ (between inverted commas) army, not an army of the Constituent Assembly, but the army of the working classes who are fighting to reconstruct the whole of social life. Consequently, we introduced class criteria into the army. We excluded from the army – against protests which many of you will remember – the exploiting, parasitical, bourgeois and kulak elements.

The army must reflect the regime that we are building in all spheres of social and political life. This regime is characterised by the political rule of the working class, relying on the broad masses of the peasant poor and the working peasantry. The leading role of the working class in the army was consolidated in the form of the institution of cominissars, who were chosen from among the most tested, reliable and self-sacrificing representatives of the working class.

In the sphere of the material organisation of the army, overcoming guerrilla-ism meant for us getting the war economy back on to a proper basis: in the first place, reviving war industry to the needful extent, taking stock of all the property required for war purposes, and establishing a proper procedure for allocating this property and supervising the way it was expended. These were the provisions laid down by the 5th Congress of Soviets. They served as guiding instructions for all our work at building the army. After the 5th Congress of Soviets we went over with ever greater success to building our armed forces on a regular basis.

First of all, we took as the basis for our army a thorough mobilisation of the working classes of the people. We did not undertake this immediately. To be able to carry out a mobilisation, so as not to leave the matter of the country’s military defence to the arbitrary spontaneity of volunteering, we had to have an apparatus suitable for carrying out a mobilisation, in the form of local military institutions. In the first phase, a Supreme Military Council [3] was formed, under the People’s Commissariat for Military Affairs; its significance in the history of our military work was that it carried through, with the necessary vigour and consistency, the organisation of military districts and of military commissariats at province, uyezd, and then even at volost level. Only after this apparatus had been created were we able to proceed to take a census of the population and actually draw it into our military units. The work that was accomplished in this sphere was performed under the constant and colossal pressure of war. Unlike all other countries, which enjoyed before their wars a long period of so-called armed peace, during which they built and equipped their armies, we had to build our workers’ and peasants’ army – the first in the world – under the direct pressure of the demands of war, with the knife of the bandits of world imperialism at our throats. We created an apparatus, and, using this apparatus, we both built an army and, in the course of the work performed by this army, tested and corrected the apparatus.

Our country has now been divided, for the purposes of military administration, into eight military districts. These districts include 46 provincial and 344 uyezd commissariats. Their number is now increasing quite rapidly. Requests are coming in from the Southern Front for experienced military commissars for the Ukrainian provinces: candidates are needed, first and foremost, for Kharkov, Poltava and Kiev [4]

The First Mobilisations

The first mobilisation was a very serious test of our military apparatus and, in a certain sense, of our entire Soviet system. We did not lightly take our decision to carry out the first mobilisation in Moscow, which in the summer of last year, embraced 10,000 workers. For the new, Soviet order to create an apparatus which would be capable of registering, counting and finding the men liable for military service, and which would possess sufficient authority in the eyes of those called up, those mobilised, for them to present themselves and to join their units, was no easy task, comrades. The first mobilisation, of urban workers in Moscow, the most highly educated section, in the political sense, was, of course, the easiest of all. It went off successfully, and we were able gradually to apply the experience thus gained on a country-wide scale. In the course of the last report-period – from our last, 6th, Congress of Soviets until the present congress – we have mobilised very many men. I have no right, of course, to give figures here, but it is not a secret to any of us that we have mobilised tens of thousands in a single month, and sometimes these tens of thousands have gathered into hundreds of thousands, and these hundreds of thousands have already become millions during the two years of our civil war. [5] Comrades, these figures have a twofold significance. Millions of workers and peasants have been torn from their working lives and placed in the harsh, abnormal conditions of a fighting army. At the same time, however, the fact that the young authority of the revolutionary class has proved capable of placing millions of the country’s citizens under arms proves that this authority is strong and sturdy in the support of the working masses. Our army is made up of workers and peasants. Workers account for barely 15 to 18 per cent. But in our workers’ and peasants’ army it is the workers who hold the position of leadership, as they do throughout the Soviet land in all spheres of life and work. This is given them by their greater consciousness, their greater unity, their higher degree of revolutionary tempering.

The Armies of Our Enemies

As you know, comrades, our opponents, Denikin and Kolchak, who are our principal foes, started with guerrilla units. They, of course, proceeded from the other end. While we were despatching Red-Guard units of Petrograd and Moscow workers all over the country, to spread the sphere of the proletarian revolution, Denikin and Kolchak were forming shock battalions composed of officers, officer-cadets and students. Following our example, they then went over to mobilising the peasant (and even, to some extent the worker) masses. It had seemed to them at first that mobilisation would not be possible, after the break-up of the old Tsarist army and the dissolution of the old psychological ties, the breakdown of that element of discipline which was all that they knew. When they perceived that we – a party which, as they saw it, had arisen out of some sort of depths of anarchical disorder – had proved capable of mobilising hundreds of thousands, millions of men, they, too, resolved to attempt such a mobilisation – for their own purposes, of course. They carried out an extensive experiment in the East, and at the outset this produced what were apparently satisfactory results for them. This was first put to the test by Kolchak, who won great victories with his armies of conscripted men. But subsequent trial by fire and sword gave quite different results for our army and for Kolchak’s. So long as Dutov, Kolchak and Denikin’s forces consisted of guerrilla units composed of highly-trained officer and officer-cadet elements, they developed great striking-power relatively to their numbers, because, I repeat, these were elements possessing great experience, a high level of military skill. But when the heavy mass of our regiments, brigades, divisions and armies, formed through conscription, obliged them to undertake conscription of the peasantry, so as to be able to counterpose mass to mass, the laws of class struggle came into play. And mobilisation became in their case a factor of internal disorganisation, activating the forces of internal breakdown. All that was needed to reveal this, to bring it to light in practice, was for blows to be struck from our side.

And, however gratifying it may be for us to recognise the direct military strength of the Red armies, what is still more important for us is to understand and define the social, class basis of our victories. We have a regular army and they have a regular army: we have conscripted masses and they have conscripted masses – in our case these masses consist mainly of peasants, and the same is true in their case. On our side, leadership is in the hands of the workers, and, among these, of the most conscious, the revolutionaries, the Communists: on their side, the leaders are officers, students, the most conscious representatives of bourgeois interests. On our side the progress of the struggle has brought unification and tempering, but on their side it has brought disintegration and collapse. That is where the basis of everything lies.

The Communist Party and the Red Army

I said that the army – and this is the fundamental idea in the report which I am making to you – is a copy, an imprint, a reflection of our social structure as a whole. It is based on political rule by the working class, relying on the peasantry. The leading role in the working class is played by the Communist Party, the leading Soviet party. And that is why, though Jam making this report in my capacity as War Commissar and not as representative of the Party, I cannot avoid speaking of the role that the Communists play in the ranks of our army. The responsible post of commissar is held, in the overwhelming majority of cases, by a member of the Communist Party. In every regiment, in every battalion, in every company you will find a Communist cell. Our regulations, our statutes proclaim, in this connection, that the Communists in the army have no rights, only duties. It would, of course, be extremely optimistic to affirm that every Communist in the army does his duty irreproachably. We are dealing here not with a small, select group, but with a very, very large number of Communist Party members. I am not going to give the precise number, but I can say that it runs into six figures, that is, not fewer than 100,000 men are involved. In actual fact, the number is much greater, and – permitting myself to refer for confirmation to our military specialists, to the commanding personnel, a body which is to a considerable extent made up of non-Party men – I consider that I am justified in saying here, once more, that without this Communist leaven, without the self-sacrifice and exemplary valour of the best representatives of the working class, the army would fall to pieces. More than once the commanders of fronts and of armies, and the commander-in-chief himself, when some sector of a front was in an unsatisfactory state, has applied to the Revolutionary War Council, either directly or through the proper channels, for an appropriate number of Communists to be sent there. Of course, comrades, we appreciate very highly the fact that other parties, too, which consider themselves to be in opposition, and have been so in recent times, have mobilised a certain number of their members for work in the army. They are welcomed there like brothers. But I must at once, while not wishing in the least to furnish a lot of ground for polemics, mention here one fact which is, in my view, instructive and full of significance. When I carried out an inspection in Kharkov I had presented to me the commanding personnel of a regiment, about a quarter of whom were Mensheviks. I was interested in what happened to them subsequently. They showed themselves excellent and dedicated fighters who proved to be equal to the difficult situations in which the Ukrainian army was later placed. But I must add this, that when some hitch occurred in that regiment, when some discontent, some grumbling arose – and in the Ukraine such occurrences easily led to serious complications – these Menshevik commanders would go to the commissar of the regiment and ask that a Communist agitator, with Communist literature, be sent to them as soon as possible. They were good soldiers and wanted victory, and they knew that it would not help their regiment if Martov’s declarations were to be distributed in it. [6]

Comrades, in this difficult struggle, about which poets will one day write great things, we have suffered very heavy losses, of soldiers, commanders and commissars ... But we have lost Communists without number! For a Communist there cannot be, and there is not, any question of being taken prisoner: when a Communist is captured he is irrevocably doomed. There was, true, a case when one of the most outstanding workers in the Moscow district, Baryshnikov, a splendid fighting comrade, did not manage to shoot himself when he fell into the hands of Mamontov’s cavalry. Baryshnikov was hanged. Those whom you take away from their usual setting, to the great detriment of local work, and send out there not as rank-and-file conscript soldiers but as spiritual leaders, as men who are going to fight to teach others to fight, to fight and die, those men are all aware that for them there is no possibility of being taken prisoner. How many first-rate warriors, commissars and commanders have put their last round through their own heads when nothing was left for them but shameful capture! During the two years I have been visiting the fronts, comrades, I have observed how a new psychology is acquiring a finer temper! We once heard with interest of the Japanese caste of Samurai, who never hesitate to die for the sake of collective, national interests, the interests of the community as a whole. I must say that in our commissars, our leading Communist fighters, we have obtained a new, Communist order of Samurai, who – without benefit of caste privileges – are able to die and to teach others to die, for the cause of the working class.

Political Work in the Red Army

The welding together of commissars, advanced workers, members of the Communist cell, and the remaining mass of members of a military unit is effected primarily through political work such as no army before has ever experienced on the same scale. This political work has developed very extensively in recent years, thanks to the large influx of personnel, publications and resources. It is enough to mention that even in January of this year we had not one single school of literacy in the army, whereas now we have 3,800 such schools. Before January 1 we had 32 clubs but we now have 1,315. Before January 1 we had not a single mobile library, but now we have 2,392. We are spending hundred of millions of roubles a year -- in terms, admittedly, of our present miserable currency -- on cultural and educational work in the army. This work will send back to the villages and factories people who will stand two or three heads higher than when they left those villages and factories to join the army.

The Commanding Personnel

The problem of commanding personnel presented us with immense difficulties. This constituted a big problem for the state power in all critical epochs, in all crucial revolutionary periods, and it was even harder for us, with our state system which is absolutely new in class content and type. I recall how, on April 22 of last year, when I had to give a report to the Central Executive Committee defining the road for the formation of the Red Army, a report in which I insisted on the need to enlist military specialists in the army and the need to establish the institution of commissars – I would ask the representatives of the opposition to recall this fact, not for the sake of polemics but so that we may be able to learn something from each other if we really wish to work on the basis of the Soviet regime – I would ask them to recall what was said to us on that occasion. I remember it very well, without having to look up old minutes. We were told that we were not going to create an army, that this was a farcical project, that we were going to appoint commissars like a couple of archangels, one on either side of each counter-revolutionary commander. More than a year and a half has gone by since that time. You know how difficult this period has been, as regards military matters in general and, in particular, as regards the internal building of the army. There have been not a few traitors, not a few cases of former officers crossing over to the enemy’s camp.

Let us take the history of the most brilliant army the world has known, the army of the Great French Revolution. It was formed by way of an ‘arnalgain’, as they said in those days, of the old Royal battalions of the line with the new volunteer battalions. Of the 15,000 officers of the Royal Army, about half fled to the camp of the counter-revolution and the foreign foe, while the other half remained to serve revolutionary France along with the new commanders. Take the civil war in the United States in the 1860s – there the same division in the commanding personnel took place, in a new form. The higher ranks were split, with the majority going to the South, to the slaveowners, and ensuring superiority for the Southerners during the first months and years of the war, until the revolutionary army of the North had created for itself the necessary cadre of commanders, and, through them, of the army. There were ebbs and flows in this process in our case, too: a complex selection, both natural and artificial, took place, in which many factors played a role – but, first and foremost, the actual course of military operations, our failures and successes, our international situation. Collaboration between our commissars and the commanders had very great influence on events. I will permit myself to emphasise here once again that a tremendous impression was made on many former generals, colonels, and so on, by the fact that horny-handed workers from Moscow and Petrograd have shown that they possess ten times as much understanding of questions of politics and world development as the learned military specialists themselves!

The former officers have gradually learnt to treat their commissar collaborators with respect. They have seen, day after day, how the commissars, the representatives of the ruling party, delegated by the centre to perform responsible tasks, devote themselves whole-heartedly to their work, without asking for any privileges, and are in the forefront wherever the greatest danger threatens. This moral influence of the commissars could not fail to attract the best section of the commanders to the class which possesses thousands and tens of thousands of such workers to serve its needs.

Consequently, our army has not just mechanically poured into itself tens of thousands of former regular officers – and it is indeed a matter of tens of thousands – no, our army has organically absorbed many thousands of them, psychologically assimilated them, morally re-casting them and subjecting them to the new spirit that reigns in our army – not from fear but from conscience.

The Command Courses

Along with this, comrades, we established, on the basis of your resolution, a very substantial number of courses for commanding personnel for the most militant workers and conscious peasants, drawn both from the old army and from our Red Army. I shall not mention any figures, for fully comprehensible reasons, but will merely say that there are several dozen such courses. The number of courses has doubled in the year covered by this report, and the number of students attending them has trebled, so that the army is being replenished to an increasing extent, so far as the junior positions of command are concerned, with men who have come directly from the factories and the villages. They undergo short command courses: then, after the necessary military probation period, serve in the best fighting units, the most capable of them are put through military middle schools and become staff cadets, commanders of regiments and brigades, and finally, the best-prepared of them attend our Red General Staff Academy and our Artillery and Engineers’ Academy.

Proletarian Commanders

Finally, comrades, we have a certain number of responsible commanders who have not been through either the old schools or our new courses and academies. These are in many cases Communists whom we have sent to the front in order to familiarise themselves with military matters and to bring political consciousness to the Red Army men. Thanks to their personal qualities, they have quickly passed through the necessary probation for undertaking extremely responsible tasks of command. Comrade Frunze, the representative of the Turkestan Front, has spoken here. Unless I am mistaken, his only previous military experience consisted of shooting at a policeman who had fired on some workers. [7] I am unable to inform you whether or not he hit the policeman. He was sent to the front after he had worked in a district military commissariat. At the present time he commands the armies of a front and, in the opinion of the High Command, does so with success. The 8th Army, one of the best, is commanded by Comrade Sokolnikov, who was known to us, in his time as a member of the Party’s Central Committee, as an excellent journalist and orator, but a complete civilian. Now he commands an army and, again in the opinion of the High Command, commands it well. Among our most brilliant commanders is a young former Ensign, or perhaps Second-Lieutenant, Comrade Tukhachevsky, who has conducted a number of brilliant operations and decisive actions against Koichak. At the divisional level we find even more heterogeneity. There we discover numerous former NCOs who are now, to use the old terminology, generals commanding divisions. Some of our smaller armies have been commanded by a former junior non-combatant NCO whose previous occupation was peaceful enough – he was a hairdresser. In this sphere, comrades, we have no fixed pattern, no ‘principle’ of any kind, we seek good, loyal commanders wherever we can find them, and if in some place the divisions holding adjacent sectors are commanded by a former general, a metal-worker and some ex-NC0s, and if they all compete with each other in displaying skill and vigour, that does no harm to the workers’ and peasants’ revolution. Betrayals have occurred, to be sure, in recent times. Quite recently there was a major act of betrayal in Petrograd, where the conspiracy was headed by a General Staff colonel, one Lundkvist. [8] But, comrades, besides the betrayals and the traitors, besides the agents of foreign imperialism, the Lundkvists, the regular officers serving in the Red Army have produced their heroes and martyrs, in the persons of General Stankevich, General Nikolayev and others whose names have not yet been inscribed either in our memories or on paper. Steadfast General Nikolayev, who was hanged by Balakhovich, was solemnly interred in Petrograd. We buried General Stankevich not long ago here, under the walls of the Kremlin, on Red Square. He was an old man of 62. He was the second-in-command of the 13th Army and was taken prisoner during the retreat. The enemy invited him to go over to their side, but he refused. With a red-hot iron they burned in his chest that red star of ours which many comrades have seen here in Moscow. The old general put the noose round his neck himself, thrusting the hangman aside, and died worthily for the cause of the workers’ and peasants’ revolution.

Cases of betrayal inevitably give rise, of course, to suspiciousness and vigilant supervision, which sometimes has a painful effect on those comrades and colleagues of ours in army work who have come to us as former officers from the sphere of the old Tsarist army. Many of us have had a number of occasions to observe this difficult type of situation. But I think that a period has now begun in which we shall increasingly leave that problem behind us. The Red Army and the Soviet regime have shown their strength, and that section of the commanders who waver and vacillate, looking to see where power lies, so as to take shelter under it, is getting smaller and smaller. The process which is taking place among the higher commanders of the Red Army, the process of developing not a Party but a Soviet ideology, must now find open expression. There must now be formed such firm views, such a Soviet atmosphere among the former regular officers as would annihilate all those Tushino impostors and migrants [See note on page 195 of Volume I.], so that every regular officer may know that his is not some temporary, mercenary service but a high achievement, a feat of the spirit and of the blood – that for anyone who cherishes an ulterior motive, anyone who harbours a grudge, anyone who looks hopefully towards the Southern front, no place may remain, morally or physically, among the former regular oflicers who are now honourably serving the workers’ and peasants’ republic and defending its independence and its future, on all our fronts.

New Prospects

In any event, comrades, in this sphere as in many others, we have left the greatest difficulties behind us, and, as a result, new prospects and possibilities are opening up before us. The transformation of the outlook of the old regular officers, the creation of extensive command cadres from among the workers and peasants, the appearance of a whole number of self-taught commanders from among Party workers, the appearance of outstanding commanders like Budyonny, a former NCO of the old army who now commands with success a very large cavalry formation – this creation of a unified body of Red commanders makes it possible for us gradually to go over to one-man command. Because, of course, the combination of a commander with one or two commissars, that combination which in its time was mocked by the representatives of the opposition, is not an ideal and permanent combination in army work. On the contrary, army work requires that the commander unite in his own person military, political and moral authority. The more we acquire a reliable, stable, conscious, devoted body of commanders, the more the ground is established for introducing complete one-man command, while retaining, of course, in all its importance, the apparatus for political work. This is one of the tasks in the sphere of army organisation which we must get down to fulfilling in the near future.

The Supply Services of the Red Army

Problems of supply presented us with enormous difficulties. Our Soviet apparatus was subjected to a very severe test in this sphere, and stood up to it. There was a period when our factories were not producing a single cartridge, rifle, machinegun or gun, a period when the old apparatus had broken down and we had not yet applied ourselves seriously to creating a new one. When we revived our war industry, its production gave extremely modest results in the first month. I will say, while not being able to quote absolute figures, that last month’s production gave results that were ten or fifteen times as great as in that first month, when we first got to work. And here we can say what we said about mobilisation: this fact has two aspects. It means that we are forcing our exhausted country to work for war purposes. But we have been forced to fight. Since we have been forced to fight, we must be armed, and we want to be well-armed. We have achieved the necessary results. Our apparatus has proved capable of restoring war industry. In this respect we now stand with both feet quite firmly on the ground. The danger that we might perish from lack of cartridges, rifles, machine-guns and guns, the danger which threatened us eight or ten months ago, no longer exists – it has vanished, it is no more. This very fact, I say in passing, testifies that an apparatus which has proved capable of setting war industry on its feet within a few months will be capable of reviving industry in general when we have made accessible to this industry the sources of coal in the Donbas and of oil in Caucasia, as we have already made accessible the sources of cotton in Turkestan. Thus, in this case, the test which our military apparatus has passed is a test for our regime in general.

The army supply services have now been concentrated, in all their stages – production, distribution, accounting. Several months ago, Comrade Rykov was put in charge of all army supplies, and given wide powers. This circumstance – the concentration of a matter of paramount importance in the hands of one man, with practical co-operation from the trade unions and other labour organisations – has produced, as I have already said, great results in terms of production. In the matter of recording actually available equipment we have also achieved great successes: we know exactly what we possess and what we lack, we know how many pairs of boots and how many greatcoats we shall have next month. It must be confessed that when we began our work it was not so simple for us to count up what we possessed, to take an inventory of it, to learn to move it around in accordance with the requirements and operations of our forces. Our forces are now, basically, all shod, clothed and fed, at least on the fronts that are most accessible to us. Between our supply organs and the Supreme Economic Council, on the one hand, and the People’s Commissariats for Food and Transport, on the other ‘ properly co-operative relations have been established, which will increasingly enable work to proceed without interruptions.

Army supply is carried out, however, under difficulties, because our country as a whole is short of supplies: the workers and peasants are without footwear, underwear or overcoats. Consequently, leakages occur, here and there, through which supplies intended for the army pass into the hands of the civil population – most frequently, through the agency of the soldiers themselves. This can be explained, of course, but it cannot be tolerated, for we have, first and foremost, to clothe the Red Army. I do not even speak about the way in which equipment which is taken from the army becomes all too often material that is bought and sold, the object of criminal speculation in various markets and odd corners. As yet, we have not achieved the necessary results where this matter is concerned. We have now applied ourselves to the struggle against misuse of army equipment. I direct your attention to this prosaic problem, because it is of very great importance for us: we shall not, if we go on at this rate, succeed in keeping our army clothed and shod. We are following two lines in our fight against unbridled wastage and criminal embezzlement. The first is to secure more precise accounting not only from above but also from below, in the army units themselves, more accurate conduct of company and regimental financial affairs, precise individual equipment issue records, introduction of a soldier’s service book, in which everything issued to him is precisely recorded. The other line is not departmental in character. We need to mobilise the public opinion of the advanced workers and the conscious peasants, starting with the volost executive committees and the factory committees, against the misuse of army equipment, so that it may be made clear to everyone that, at the present time, greatcoats and boots are indispensable elements among the resources that we need to overcome our enemies. Only if this is done can our Central Department for Army Procurement, which is now working incomparably better than a few months ago, manage to furnish clothing and footwear uninterruptedly to the Red Army.

To sum up what I have said about the building of the Red Army, I should say that we have no grounds for changing our methods, the line of our work in the sphere of building the Red Army. What we need to do is to develop, deepen and improve these methods.

The Education of the Commanding Personnel

In the matter of the education of our commanding personnel we are faced with the task of increasing the number of students attending courses and bringing the actual instruction that is given close to the new conditions and forms of our war. There is still, in our teaching in this sphere, too much that is routine, old-fashioned, superficial theorising. Yet the workers and peasants who form the student body require a more practical, down-to-earth system of instruction. In this sense ‘ the complaints received from the fronts have found an echo at the centre. Changes are being made and will be carried through to the end.

Care for the Families of Red Army Men

Comrades, we must improve our care for the families of Red Army men in the localities. This is a question of enormous importance, which finds reflection in the soldiers’ morale. At the presidium I was reminded about this by one of the delegates. It is an extremely serious problem. And the local Soviet institutions are not doing everything they could where this is concerned.

More care and attention must be devoted to the sick and wounded Red Army men. In that connection facts have come to light which are absolutely inadmissible and shameful for a workers’ and peasants’ country. It happens too often with us, partly because of our general poverty and partly because of the blunting of feeling for any sort of misfortune, that a soldier who has been wounded and withdrawn from the front disappears completely from the field of battle, and the medical personnel and nurses are far from always attentive in their treatment of him. I say frankly that the bourgeoisie have managed to surround their wounded – who are mostly, of course, officers – with much more attention than we provide for our wounded and sick Red Army men. I ask you, when you go back to the localities, to put this burning question on the agenda for discussion by the local Soviet institutions. We must mobilise the public, Soviet initiative of the workers and peasants, both men and women, to come to the aid of the official medical institutions of the army. The experience of Petrograd and Moscow shows that substantial results can be achieved in this respect.

Army Transport

Regarding transport, I mentioned that we have established proper organisational relations with the Transport Department. The People’s Commissar for Transport and his deputy have, by decision of the Council of People’s Commissars, been brought into the Revolutionary War Council of the Republic. However, co-operation at the top is not enough. Our railways have, under the conditions of civil war, devoted the bulk of their forces and resources to military transport work. This very close co-operation, which has been made our duty by a decision of the Council of People’s Commissars, must be put into effect in the localities as well, especially throughout the lengthy zone of the front and adjacent areas. Many representatives of the armies and fronts are present here, and I permit myself to direct your attention to this question of first-rate importance.

Everything now depends on transport. I say frankly that there is more than one division on the Eastern front that we cannot at this moment, after the rout of Kolchak, transfer to the South so as to finish with Denikin. Where does the difficulty lie? In the sphere of transport. We shall, or course, overcome this difficulty. In the elevators in the store-houses of the Food Department there is a large quantity of foodstuffs. Where is the difficulty? In the sphere of transport. And the chief difficulty where transport is concerned is fuel. Two problems for the army result from this situation. First, the need to pay the closest attention, with very strict control and vigilance, to the use being made of rolling stock at the fronts. Today, the retention even of a single truck, not to speak of a locomotive, surplus to requirements, the unnecessary retention of a truck for even one hour is a most serious crime against the interests of the workers and peasants, and you, comrades, delegates from the fronts and armies, must, when you return to the localities, make all the workers in the War Department aware of this, and establish a state of affairs such that, if anyone falls to show a proper sense of responsibility in this matter, he will be brought to book on the very grave charge of violating the fundamental needs of the working masses in respect of food and other supplies.

At the same time, nobody is so well able as the War Department, with its extensive forces and resources, to help the railways with fuel, especially in the zone adjoining the front, where we have an enormous number of excellent Soviet workers. If Moscow is short of fuel, this is not through ‘bureaucratism’, as the opposition says, but because Moscow has given threequarters of her best workers to all our fronts. But at these fronts the best workers, drawing upon the forces and resources of the War Department, can ensure, first and foremost, that the railways of the front and near-front zones receive the necessary quantity of firewood. This is already being done, and it must go on being done, with increasing vigour.

The Forthcoming Demobilisation

These, comrades, are our practical conclusions. As regards prospects, the question arises before us of the further destiny of our Red Army. When it has ended its struggle and we make peace, we shall be faced with the question of demobilisation. This question may seem at present to be too hypothetical to deserve the attention of the highest legislative organ of the Soviet land. I shall confine myself to a few necessary remarks. The question of demobilisation is a very complex and responsible one, calling for a great deal of preparation. We have started on this, and the timeliness of the move will be acknowledged by all, in view of the undoubted turn in our international situation which we have noted at this congress.

The Militia System

But if we speak of making peace in the next few months, this peace cannot be termed a perpetual peace. So long as class states remain, so long as powerful centres of imperialism remain, in the Far East, in America and in Europe, the possibility is not excluded that the peace which we hope to establish in the near future will prove to be merely a more protracted breathing space for us, until the next attack by the imperialist vultures of the West or the East. Since this possibility is not excluded, our concern must be not with disarming but with changing the organisation of the state’s armed forces. We need to send back the workers to the factories and the peasants to the villages, to restore industry, to revive agriculture. Consequently, we must bring the soldier close to the worker, the regiment close to the factory, the village and the volost. Consequently, we must go over to introducing the militia system for the armed forces of the Soviet Republic. Today, objections to the militia system are subsiding more and more, even among the most conservative section of our military specialists. Actually, the world war taught something about this matter even to some of the most hardened pedants. Every one of the first-class militaristic states entered the world war with an army which appears tiny when compared with the armed forces that they threw into battle in the world war at the moment of its highest development.. Here are a few figures. On the eve of the war, Russia had 1,320,000 soldiers, but during the war this number increased to 6,860,000. France had 630,000, which increased to 4,500,000. Germany had 770,000, which increased to 5,490,000. Austria-Hungary had 390,000, which increased to 3,500,000. The United States had 252,000, but brought this number up to 1,790,000.

In other words, the number of soldiers who fought during the imperialist war was five, seven or nine times greater than the number who made up the regular armies of peacetime. This means that the armies possessed cadres of regular troops, and then, in the course of the war, each improvised a defacto militia, a large national army, which, however, was based upon the very narrow foundation of the regular army. One national army turned out to be better, another worse, but, in any case, the armies that fought each other were not those armies which the military theoreticians and general staffs of all countries had had in mind. There was no solving of a problem by means of a single lightning-blow. They were obliged to have recourse to their countries’ basic resources, on the ground and under it, to reach down to the profoundest depths and, therefore, to improvise.

The socialist parties of the Second International stood for the creation of a militia in peacetime. Jaures urged this idea, with his characteristic brilliance, in the form of bills to be laid before the French parliament, in his book The New Army. True, with his democratic utopianism, Jaures supposed that the transition to the new army would take place gradually, imperceptibly, through partial reforms, just as the transition to socialism was, as he saw it, to be accomplished by means of gradual democratisation. In this he was profoundly mistaken. History has shown mankind a different path – a path of most ferocious bloody conflicts, of world-wide imperialist slaughter and then civil war. But the idea of a militia, that is, of the transformation of the army into an armed nation, bringing the army close to the land and the factories, forming territorial dl’stricts for the regiments, brigades and divisions, each with its own cadre of commanders and each undertaking the military training of the local workers and peasants, so that every worker and peasant of the appropriate age-group belongs to a particular district, and is consequently included beforehand in a particular regiment and can at once be called up and placed under arms – that idea confronts us as the only possible prospect for our standing army in peacetirne. We must switch our system of universal military training on to that path, and this will mean an enormous amount of work. [9]

The Situation at the Fronts

That, comrades, is all that I can tell you about the building of the Red Army. Let me now turn to the question of the actions of the Red Army on our fronts. Maps of our fronts have been provided for you here, drawn by our field staff under the leadership of its chief, P.P. Lebedev. On these maps you will find the line of our fronts as these stood on November 27. Perhaps you will exarnine these maps later, at your leisure, so as not to get in each other’s way during the meeting. The fundamental ideas which I am going to set before you will be quite intelligible without your needing to have maps in front of you.

During all this time, comrades, however our military situation may have altered, in one respect it has remained the same: we have been and are surrounded on all sides. We have a Northern, a Western, a Southern and an Eastern front, with the last-named divided into two sections – the Eastern front properly so called, and the Turkestan front. And it is only our successes on the Eastern front that have opened for us a certain aperture into the depths of the continent of Asia. So far, however, this process has not produced all the results we had expected. It will produce them – but, as of today, we are still surrounded on all sides.

We occupy the central position in relation to all our fronts.

This gives us an immense military advantage and enables us to transfer reserves from a front that is less important or more stable to one that is more important or less stable. This advantage, however, imposes very heavy burdens on our means of transport, and that, in turn, is reflected in the country’s entire economic condition. This state of affairs can be ended only through a decisive victory for us in the South.

The Northern Front

Let us begin our review of our fronts, comrades, with the front which is least mobile, least dramatic – the Northern front. It was formed after Archangel had been seized by the British, through a landing, and principally, through an air-raid. And if we recall that period, when our first regiments – what feeble imitations of regiments they were! – fled without a fight from Archangel when the air squadron of the British bandits appeared above them, and if we compare with those troops the army that we have now, the one that fought before Petrograd, and defended Petrograd, we can say that we have made considerable progress since those days.

After the fall of Archangel the Northern front was a front that moved very little, for the reason that it was never of decisive importance for us. Operations on that front were conducted on a very restricted area – that is to say, over an immense area, territorially, but with the direct military actions taking place in defiles, along railways or along rivers. There were three main directions on that front – Murmansk, the Archangel railway and the Northern Dvina river. From our communiqué’s you know that no major military events have occurred there. But I will take this opportunity to acknowledge here the exceptionally heroic work performed by our soldiers, conimanders and commissars on the Northern front. Climatic conditions are very severe there. The winter brings fierce cold and deep snow. They have sometimes had to drag their guns on sledges, themselves up to their chests in snow. In the autumn and the spring, and in the summer as well, the mud is deep there, and conditions are bad for the health of the soldiers. Our Red forces, which are usually accustomed to advancing, or to becoming demoralised if there is a prolonged standstill, have formed, in that severe atmosphere of the North, units which, despite the immobility of the front, are distinguished by their magnificent stubbornness. And the Northern front has provided numerous fine regiments for our other fronts: in particular, it contributed several regiments for the defence of Petrograd, it gave us a whole number of excellent commanders and workers. It is sufficient to mention the present commander of the Western front, Comrade Gittis, and Comrade Samoilo, who now commands the 6th Army.

The Northern army’s task is plain and simple – to cleanse our North country. There can be no doubt that the time is coming, and it is not far off, when the 6th Army will be given by the High Command a broom long enough to sweep the WhiteGuard bands from the White-Sea and Murman coasts.

Until that time comes we shall remain firmly convinced that the 6th Northern Army will not allow the White Guards to move south, towards Petrograd, towards Vologda, to cut the Northern Railway. In the Northern Army we have, in hard and unfavourable conditions, an honourable and reliable sentinel of the Soviet Republic.

The Eastern Front

Our Eastern front has been a very important one, at certain moments the decisive front for the Soviet Republic. Allow me first of all to acquaint you with some figures which are instructive regarding the results of our struggles. These figures will make clear the extent of our victories on the Eastern front.

Taking a general view, as a result of our struggle during the past report-year, our forces have recovered for the Soviet Republic 1,194,000 square versts, with a population of 15,880,000; these figures do not include the area or population

of Turkestan, for which not even approximate data can be provided at the moment. Of this amount, the Eastern front alone had recovered for the Soviet Republic by November 27 1,300,000 [sic] square versts, with a population of 13,213,000 – the lion’s share of all the Red Army conquests. These figures are already out-of-date, for in the last few days our army has made significant advances. You know that the conduct of operations on the Eastern front has been principally in the hands of the present Commander-in-Chief, S.S. Kamenev, who is here, at the 7th Congress of Soviets, in one of the boxes.

It was there, on the Eastern front, that we began to create our first regular armies, before Kazan and Simbirsk, in August of last year. We had there our first big success, which culminated in the taking of Orenburg, Uraisk and Ufa. Our successes continued, with short interruptions, until the beginning of March this year, when Kolchak brought up freshly-formed reserves from out of the depths of Siberia and struck at us with a heavy mass of men, forcing our troops to fall back. Everyone remembers those critical weeks in March and April, when Kolchak’s troops drew near to the middle reaches of the Volga, when they were only 70 or 80 versts from Kazan and 30 versts from the Volga at Spassk. The world stock-exchange was already quoting Kolchak as the crowned ruler of an enslaved country. It was then that the first great effort was made by the Soviet power, by the Party and the workers’ organisations. Within a short time, fresh units were mobilised’, formed, armed and trained, and thousands of Communists poured into the armies of the Eastern front. Our general constructive work in the military sphere was given a new tempo, a special degree of tension was achieved. Formation administrations were created at the front which supplemented the work being done by the All-Russia General Staff under the leadership of N.I. Rattel. [Rattel, who was Quartermaster-General of the South-Western front during World War 1, was one of the first Tsarist generals to come over to the Bolsheviks after the revolution.] The intensity of our work in the sphere of the army’s political education was doubled and trebled. Under experienced operational leadership this produced results already at the end of April. Beginning in April we went over to the offensive at Buzuluk, Bugulma, and Belebey, an offensive which developed further without a break during May, June, July and August. We crossed the Urals, crossed the Tobol, threw the enemy back beyond the Ishim. At the beginning of September Kolchak made his final effort, bringing up his last reserves to oppose us. We withdrew two hundred versts behind the Tobol and dug in there. Our forces reorganised themselves, absorbed reinforcements, and once more took the offensive, this time dealing Koichak his death-blow. The facts and all the reports that we have received from there testify to this. The most recent report given by I.N. Smirnov, one of the most outstanding workers in our Siberian armies and the Chairman of the Siberian Revolutionary Committee, states: ‘Altai Province has been seized by insurgents. We have despatched a revolutionary committee thither. Tomsk and Yenisei Provinces are in the grip of revolt. The guerrillas are finishing Kolchak off. The army and the Siberian Revolutionary Committee are faced with primarily organisational tasks. The watchword for this winter must be creative work."

Thus, to a considerable extent, Siberia is now passing from the hands of the army into those of the Soviet institutions, of the Party and the trade-union organisations, for the carrying out of Soviet constructive work in the cultural sphere. [10]

The Turkestan Front

Our successes in the East have necessitated the separation from the Eastern front of a Turkestan front. After we had taken and then defended Orenburg and, in that area, had smashed Kolchak’s southern army, so that we took 45,000 prisoners, the gate to Turkestan was open; or, more correctly, the moment when the gate to Turkestan would be opened drew near. The final conjunction of the troops of the Turkestan front, that is, of our front which faces towards Turkestan, with the troops that were in Turkestan itself took place, if I am not mistaken, in the middle of September, in the area of Emba station on the Orenburg-Tashkent Railway, which is now operating throughout its length. It has been put to rights technically and the first trains loaded with cotton have. passed along it, while trainloads of army units have been sent down it into Turkestan. The difflculty lies, there as everywhere else, in the supply of fuel, but the commander of the Turkestan front has hopes and prospects that these problems will be overcome by means of local resources.

The Turkestan front has opened up inexhaustible possibilities for us.

Our success in the East ‘ reuniting Turkestan with the Soviet Republic, has enhanced the prestige of the Soviet power all over the enslaved and oppressed Continent of Asia. The first envoy we received from Asia was the special mission from Afghanistan. Turkestan is now the object of great attention on the part of all the conscious elements in Asia. And there, in Turkestan, the advanced elements of Asia – Afghanistan, Persia, India, China, Korea – which have been and still are enduring colonial and semi-colonial oppression of their countries, will find new ideas and new means for their national and social liberation.

All this, however, is still in the future. Our most immediate task in Turkestan, on the military side, is to link it up completely with the Soviet Republic through unity of organisation and unity of the army – in the first place, by subjecting all the guerrilla units which they have there to our common regime. About that, however, I shall speak in a general connection, after I have finished my review of the fronts.

The Western Front

The fate of our Western front has been more directly bound up than any other with the fate of the Soviet Republic. This front, which had been left to us as a heritage from the old imperialist war, was altered to our disadvantage after the conclusion of the first negotiations at Brest-Litovsk. When German militarism collapsed, we took the offensive, in the persons of our Estonian, Lettish and Lithuanian-Byelorussian units ‘ and this offensive reached its highest point in March. Considerable parts of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Byelorussia fell under the rule of the working class. They formed their own armies there, but at that moment the Entente showed itself able to arm and move against us in good time the bourgeois-kulak elements, together with the peasant elements ideologically and materially under their control, of these countries which had been separated off in the Western zone from the former Tsarist empire. In April these White-Guard armies took the offensive against us. This happened at the same time as Kolchak’s offensive in the East and our fierce battles in the South. We were not able to withstand with sufficient success the offensive of the White armies of Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Consequently, the workers’ power gradually retreated in the West, surrendering one point after another, including such major centres as Vilna and Riga. Only at the beginning of September was this retreat halted, along the line of the Western Dvina, from Polotsk to the Dvina, and then along the line from the Berezina to the Pripet. That is where we stand at the present time.

On this Western front, which has remained immobile, since September, from Pskov southward, the northern sector has presented us with a dramatic picture of offensive and fierce conflict. What was at stake was Petrograd and its fate. The world bourgeoisie cast lots for the garments of Petrograd. [11] Petrograd was twice defended by the valiant 7th Army, in conjunction with the 15th Army of the Western Front, with the heroic support of the Petrograd proletariat, on whom you conferred the Order of the Red Banner. Fierce battles were fought there, in which the advanced fighters of the working class generously gave of their heroism, their self-sacrifice and their lives, under the very harsh conditions of the cold days of our early winter: the battlefield before Petrograd was a real battlefield, and many of the bravest and best now lie there forever!

Our armies defended Petrograd. But a moment came when the city was in very great danger, the moment when the question of Finland grew very acute. How did we act? I could now read to you some secret orders, or parts of orders, concerning this matter, which are no longer secret, because the events to which they refer are now behind us. From among these orders I will mention the order issued to the 7th Army concerning the Karelian frontier. In what was said by the representative of the Menshevik group who spoke here we heard a friendly warning: do not attack the small states on our Western frontier, let them decide their fate by means of their own internal forces. To this I reply that we have not in the least intended nor do we intend, to provoke, either directly or indirectly, any of the states which have been correctly described here as vassals of the Entente – despite the fact that they have more than once provoked us. At the same timel comrades, when we were fighting for Petrograd on the Pulkovo Heights, the Finnish White Guards fired on our units not only with machine-guns but with artillery, and their airmen dropped dynamite on our territory. From the standpomt of international law, this was obviously enough to justify an outright declaration of war or a direct attack by us. After the first period of difficulty, in the second half of October, we concentrated in Petrograd and in front of Petrograd forces sufficient to give a rebuff in the direction of the Karelian sector. How did we act? I tell you here, and I can at any moment confirm what I say with official documents, that our order to the commander of the 7th Army, where Finland was concerned, stated that, despite the provocation, the gunfire and the particular outrages committed along the frontier, the army must refrain from any act on our part which might be interpreted as showing a desire or an attempt to attack FinIand. At the same time, of course, measures were taken to explain to the Finnish workers why we were unwilling to fight against Finland, to explain our complete readiness to tolerate a bourgeoisFinland only two days’ march from Petrograd – provided that the Finnish bourgeoisie clearly understood that an independent Finland can survive at a distance of a few dozen versts from Petrograd only on condition that they never cast their forces into the scales in which the fate of Petrograd is being decided. [12] repeat: in the second half of the struggle we were strong enough to launch a counter-offensive, but we told the command in that sector: ‘Do not reply to provocation, but if Finland intervenes, if she crosses the frontier, if she tries to strike at Petrograd, then give a full reply, don’t just repulse the enemy but take the offensive and carry it through to the end.’ The army was ordered to make responsible for any attempt on Petrograd not merely the Finnish bourgeoisie as a whole but every individual Finnish bourgeois in Vyborg and Heisingfors – to treat them all as bandits who had attacked the Petrograd proletariat.

In the battle for Petrograd our Baltic fleet covered itself with glory: as was rightly said here by Comrade Baranov, himself a sailor and a member of the Revolutionary War Council, it not only did what it could and was duty-bound to do on the water, in its natural element, but at critical moments it put ashore thousands of sailors whom we sent to the places of greatest danger.

If we sum up our operations on the Western front, we see that, despite our withdrawal to the line I mentioned, we have, on balance, enlarged the territory of the Soviet Republic by 40,800 square versts, with a population of about two millions.

A couple of additional remarks about Yudenich’s adventure. His beaten army has crossed, as you know, into Estonia. Our forces are standing approximately on the line of the Narova, which we regard, until such changes as may be made as a result of a peace treaty, as the frontier between Soviet Russia and Estonia. Here I will permit myself to return for a moment to what the representative of the Mensheviks said from this tribune, when he gave us the advice (which corresponds fully to our own line) not to attack Estonia and Finland. I draw his attention to the fact that the Estonian Government, which attacked us alongside Yudenich and waged war on our territory without any sort of excuse, that this government included the Mensheviks of Estonia.

Our struggle against Yudenich possesses some instructional interest for Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland. We have said frankly that, from the strategical standpoint, the Western front is of secondary importance for us and is therefore not the strongest of our fronts. But we have shown, in dealing with Yudenich’s adventure, that at a moment when danger to the vital centres of our country threatens from this front, our command and transport apparatus is sufficiently strong and flexible to switch the right number of fighting divisions to the right place at the right time. However tempting one or other sector of our front may have seemed to our enemies, the memory of our operations against Yudenich will remain as a big notch cut in their consciousness. They will always recall and keep in mind that we shall always find, both in the centre of the country and on other fronts, a sufficient number of reserves to give a rebuff to any enemy who attacks Moscow, Petrograd or Tula, no matter from which direction he threatens us – across the Narova, across the Western Dvina, or across the Berezina.

The Southern Front

Today the most important front is, and will remain until its tasks have been fully accomplished, the Southern Front. Here, in the South, is our Vendée – on the Don and in the Kuban.

The war in the south is the civil war that has gone on longest. It was begun by Cossack forces before the Czechoslovaks created a fulcrum for the ‘Constituent Assembly’ and Kolchak in the East. Here, in the South, in the first campaign of this year, starting in January, we dealt a severe, almost mortal blow to Krasnov’s Don forces. Our success on the Southern front continued through January, February, March and April, until the middle of May. In the middle of May we were dealt a heavy blow in the chest, and began to retreat. This blow was not dealt by the Don army alone: Denikin’s Volunteer Army joined in it, with forces from North Caucasia, the Kuban and the Ukraine. Only the combination of the Volunteer, Caucasian and Don armies gave the Southern counter-revolution superiority over our forces, which during the first four months of this year had struck a hard, a deadly blow at Krasnov’s army, and got within 40 versts of Novocherkassk. [13]

The Ukrainian Front

The Southern Front is naturally linked with the Ukrainian Front. In its origin, however, the Ukrainian Front was connected not so much with our Southern as with our Western Front. The Ukrainian Front was a legacy from German imperialism. The collapse of German militarism meant that our Ukrainian Front became dynamic. We advanced southward from Kursk. Our success here was startling. Insignificant forces, together with guerrillas, under the overall leadership of Comrade Antonov-Ovseyenko, cleared the whole of the Ukraine in a short time. In May we conquered the Crimea, in June the Black Sea coast.

This period when we liberated the Southern Ukraine coincided with the moment when Denikin’s and Krasnov’s forces were amalgamated. Our defeats on the Southern front, in the Donets and Tsaritsyn directions, predetermined our subsequent defeats on the Ukrainian front. The enemy was the same in both places. The extraordinary rapidity with which our defeats occurred in the Ukraine was due to the same cause as the rapidity of our successes: the extreme instability of the situation in the Ukraine. The numerous changes of regime in the Ukraine had shattered social relations and the people’s psychology, and for a long period transformed broad circles of the peasantry into human material which it is extremely difficult to form into a crystallised social whole. This is true also of the unconscious section of the Ukrainian working class. A good dozen different regimes succeeded each other within a couple of years, and under these regimes the Ukrainian kulak alone kept firmly on his feet, missing no opportunities for gain. Regimes rise and regimes fall, but the Ukrainian kulak stays put as master of the countryside. This Ukrainian kulak has armed himself with a rifle, for he is, so far, tougher and more determined than the middle peasant, not to mention the poor peasant. In short, the element of anarchy and of the destruction of all the foundations for human existence in the Ukraine is the Ukrainian kulak, who, having seen off all the regimes that there are in the world, has become insolent and armed himself to the teeth. It can be said with certainty that no regime will survive and stabilise itself in the Ukraine until the Ukrainian kulak has been disarmed. This is the new task for the Red forces which are entering the Ukraine. The Ukrainian front is now wholly merged with our Southern front, for the enemy is one and the same in both places. This enemy is Denikin, whom the Ukrainian kulak has helped to conquer the Ukraine. Our command is now, in the Ukraine as elsewhere, moving forward the regular units of our Red Army. There will, perhaps, be no easy triumphal march of revolt, for our Ukrainian troops have been ordered not to occupy a single town or a single uyezd unless sufficient forces are available to ensure that this uyezd can be brought permanently under local Ukrainian Soviet authority, and does not become the property of separate irresponsible bands. We shall advance in a planned way. I say ‘we’ because by virtue of the agreement made between the Ukrainian Central Executive Committee and the All-Russia Central Executive Committee in June of this year, our army has been united with that of the Ukrainian Republic, with a single command, and this arrangement will continue in full force until the Ukrainian Soviet authorities tell us that the bond is to be severed. [14] We are convinced that this will never happen. We are advancing systematically, stubbornly and consistently in the Ukraine, and the fate of the Ukraine will be decided at the same time as that of the Donets area and the Don region, after which the fate of North Caucasia will also be decided.

Our advance is now proceeding with a degree of success with which we can, by and large, be satisfied. We have not yet, of course, recovered such extensive areas in the South as in the East, where our forces have advanced, in the lengthiest of their directions, a distance of 1,750 versts, as the crow flies. In the South we have, so far, traversed 250 versts, as the crow flies, reckoning from the point where the front stood when Denikin was north of Orel. The last phase of our offensive developed in the second half of October. Everywhere we advanced after very ,fierce fighting. On the South-Eastern sector of the Southern front we enjoyed success in the first period. Then a hitch occurred, which, however, the High Command has good grounds for regarding as only temporary. We are now advanc-’ ing mostly in the centre and on the right flank, but this is something determined by the temporary distribution of our forces and the enemy’s, by the strategical combinations of the front. In general, we enjoy superiority of forces on this front, the initiative is in our hands, we have reserves, we have supplies, we have a firm command – in short, complete victory over Denikin and the counter-revolution in the South is assured.

Comrades, since we are now advancing fairly rapidly on all fronts, the picture I have given you is already out of date to some degree. This picture is dated November 27 and today is December 6. During the intervening period we have taken the following towns: Oster, Kozelets, Lebedin, Akhtyrka, Priluki, Lokhvitsa, Gadyach, Grayvoron, Pavlovsk, Novy Oskol, Khotmyzhsk. And news has come in, though this is not yet officially confirmed, that we have taken Bogodukhov, so that we are now within 40 versts of Poltava, and the same distance from Kharkov. In the interval between the compilation of the picture I gave you and today, the following towns have been taken on the South-Eastern front: Kalach, Staraya and Novaya Kriusha, and Bukanovskaya station. On the Turkestan Front our men have taken the fortified position of Uil. On the Eastern front we have taken Atbasar, Akmolinsk, Semipalatinsk, Pavlodar, Slavgorod and Kainsk.

Denikin and Kolchak

Denikin was undoubtedly much more dangerous to us than Kolchak. The more success Kolchak had the further westward he advanced, the greater was his distance from his main base, from Japan and America, and he depended on the narrow thread of the Trans-Siberian Railway. In Denikin’s case, however, the greater his success, the closer he drew to his main base, to Britain, to the Black-Sea ports, to the Western Front, where he could try to link up overland with rich sources of supplies of all kinds, from Britain and France.

White Cavalry and Red

Furthermore, Denikin was and still is, to a certain extent, rich in that type of weapon which it is hardest of all to create, namely, cavalry. While in the ponderous positional warfare of the imperialist conflict, cavalry, however one may evaluate its contribution, was a subsidiary type of weapon, in our’light’war (light as regards the rapidity of advances and retreats, though not in the casualties involved), our war of field manoeuvres, cavalry plays an immense, in some cases decisive role. Cavalry cannot be improvised quickly, it requires trained horses and suitable commanders. Cavalry commanders were drawn either from aristocratic, mainly gentry, families, or from the Don region and the Kuban, from the localities where men were born to the saddle. In all countries and in almost all epochs the cavalry constituted the most conservative and privileged arm of the service. In civil wars it was always extremely difficult for the revolutionary class to create cavalry. The army of the Great French Revolution did not find this easy to do, and still less did we. If you take the list of commanders who have gone over from the Red Army to the Whites, you will find a high percentage of cavalrymen amongst them. His superiority in cavalry in the first period of the struggle served Denikin very well, and enabled him to deal us some heavy blows. But the Soviet Republic told the proletarian that he must get on horseback, ordered the metal worker, the textile worker and the baker to become cavalrymen – and they fulfilled this duty to the Soviet Republic.

Besides the Red Cossacks of whom Comrade Poluyan, himself a Red Kuban Cossack, spoke with justified pride, we have a mass of cavalrymen from the proletariat of Moscow, Petersburg, Ivanovo-Voznesensk and elsewhere. The proletarian has obeyed the order of the Soviet Republic and mounted on horseback, and this undoubted success in the field of creating a force of cavalry shows that the road which you prescribed, the road of proper, methodical construction, based on those foundations of the art of war which are not accidental and which cannot be changed at will, because they reflect the overall development of mankind, technically and in all sorts of other ways, in both its positive and negative features – that this road of constructive work has justified itself. It is precisely by following this road of combining revolutionary enthusiasm with regular, methodical organisation that we have secured the independence and the inviolability of the frontiers of the Soviet Republic.

About Guerrilla-ism

Comrades, there is a task to be performed in this connection, a task which is coming our way in those regions which, by the strength of the Red Army, are now being brought into, or restored to, the family of our federative Soviet Republic. I refer to the Ukraine, North Caucasia, Turkestan and Siberia. In all these regions there are large numbers of insurgent workers and peasants who have fought there, rifle in hand, against the counter-revolution, native or foreign, and with whom we are now more and more coming into contact. In the Ukraine we have already made direct contact with the Ukrainian insurgents. In Siberia, thanks to the insurgents, whole regions and provinces are being united with Soviet Russia. The same will be true of North Caucasia after our South-Eastern Front has dealt the decisive blow, as it soon will do, to the right flank of Denikin’s army. Having encountered the guerrillas, we must clearly define our policy towards them. And in this matter, comrades, we have already learnt something.

A guerrilla movement has its own orbit, its definite line of development. It usually has an initial nucleus composed of the most self-sacrificing workers and revolutionary peasants. Around this nucleus other elements grow, in proportion as the guerrilla movement meets with success. And, finally, when success has become clear and beyond doubt, adventurers, bandits, seekers after easy pickings pour into it. Consequently, in a guerrilla movement there are combined elements of heroism with elements of anarchy and banditry, self-sacrifice with all sorts of moral brutishness. The more a guerrilla movement stagnates, the longer it remains a guerrilla movement, the more it degenerates into a Chetnik movement, something like the armed bands in the Balkans which slaughter each other across the backs of the peasants whom they plunder and crucify.

And this danger is now arising before us again in the Ukraine, and to a somewhat smaller extent also in Northern Caucasia, in Siberia and in Turkestan. We must approach the question from the very outset fully armed with our past experience.

The Ukraine must and will be an independent country, belonging to the Ukrainian workers and peasants. But individual groups of insurgents are not the personification or the embodiment of the will of the Ukrainian workers and peasants. The Ukrainian proletariat and peasantry express their will in their Soviet state, economic and cultural creative work, and in so far as this work develops in the form of Ukrainian national culture, in the Ukrainian language, none of us, of course, will ever try to obstruct the development of a free Soviet Ukraine. Moreover, just because the Ukrainian people was an oppressed people, crushed by the imperialist Russifiers, it is and will long continue to be sensitive towards any slights, or statements that can be interpreted as attacks on the Ukrainian language, school or culture. It would be contrary both to principle and to practical considerations of current policy, to give offence, directly or indirectly, to this sensitivity. Indeed, as Comrade Rakovsky put it very well, it is necessary, rather, to ensure that the Ukrainian language becomes the language through which the working masses of the Ukraine receive Communist education. But this question must not be confused with the guerrilla question. Ukrainian comrades, the question of the guerrilla movement is not a question of national culture or language, it is a question of military expediency. For us there is no difference between the guerrillas in the Ukraine, in Siberia and in North Caucasia. And if we let the Ukrainian guerrilla movement continue in the hope that a Ukrainian army will be formed out of it, we shall destroy the Soviet Ukraine once again – and this time for a long period. What is the position? The guerrilla units contain, as we have said, elements of varying and even contrasting value. Once our basic front reaches them, the guerrilla units must be left in the rear, in order to undergo profound internal reformation. The weeds must be cast out of these units, while the best elements must be subjected to the necessary training and disciplining. And we have given a direct order to the armies that, when they encounter guerrillas, they are not to allow a single detachment or a single volunteer from among them to join the active army straightaway, without previously passing through the holding units located in the rear. If a genuine volunteer, an honest worker or peasant, wants to fight for the cause of the working class, he will accept the sacrifice of spending a month in a holding battalion, being taught what we teach the Red Army in matters of drill, tactics and politics. If he is unwilling to do this, it means that under the guise of a volunteer we have here a bandit, one of those, of whom there are not a few, who join the army in order to rob, oppress and ruin the Ukrainian peasants. There can be no place in our ranks for any such. I do not doubt that, with the full approval and support of all that is conscious and honest in the Ukraine, all the advanced workers and peasants, we shall, by means of organised military force, pursue a firm and unwavering policy the guerrilla movement. Makhno’s volunteers constitute, of course, a danger to Denikin so long as Denikin rules in the Ukraine, but, on the other hand, it was they who betrayed the Ukraine to Denikin. And tomorrow, after the liberation of the Ukraine, the Makhnovites will become a mortal danger to the workers’ and peasants’ state. Comrades, the Makhno movement is not an expression of Ukrainian national culture. No, it is a Ukrainian national abscess which must be lanced once and for all.


These, comrades, are the considerations which I have been able to put before you concerning our army-building work in the rear and concerning the work of the Red regiments at the fronts. Everything permits us to suppose that the protracted preparatory work we carried out previously has ensured that we do not merely achieve casual, transient victories, that it has furnished the guarantee of complete victory on all fronts, and, in the immediate future, on our principal and most dangerous front, the Southern front. Consequently – and this is the basic conclusion which we are justified in arriving at – the Soviet regiine has created an army in its own image and hkeness, and this army has learnt how to conquer. That, comrades, is a considerable conclusion to be drawn in evaluating all our work and all our subsequent constructive activity. Every one of us knows that an army is not something extemal to a given society, but reflects all of its aspects, both the weak and the strong. Why is militarism hateful to the working class? Because under the bourgeois, noble, class order it was something set over the working masses as the crown of their slavery: in the military sphere the domination of the noblemen and the capitalist assumes distinct, obvious, clear-cut and particularly burdensome expression. The economic dependence of the peasant or the worker on the rich master is transformed in the army into the open subordination of the proletarian or peasant soldier to the noble or bourgeois officer, a subordination that is not merely military but also social, class subordination. Just as the French Republic deceives the masses by means of the outward forms and frainework of democracy, so also it has developed in the army a democratic phraseology in order the more securely to enslave the French workers, as soldiers, to the interests of the French stock-exchange. Everywhere, no matter what country you take, and whatever form of social relations may exist in it, the army wholly reflects these relations and translates into its distinct language of command regulations the fundamental characteristics of the social and state regime. Thus, it is historically true that war is a cruel but also a sure and reliable test of the soundness of social organisms. There may, of course, be cases when, even so, a sound organism will be smashed in war, because superior material force is brought against it. But there cannot be a case, comrades, no, there cannot be, when a rotten, worthless, decomposing, ‘moribund’ organism can create a strong army capable of waging war. That is the conclusion that we reach.

I recall once more both our debates of April 22 last year in the Central Executive Committee and the declaration nrade today by the rapporteur of the opposition party. I recall them and I bring them together in my mind. We were told (it was Martov who said this): ‘You will not create an army’ – that was said on April 22 last year – ’You will not create it because the foundation is rotten.’ But we have created an army. Today Martov tells us that we have shown our strength in both the military and the diplomatic spheres, that we have proved equal to these tasks. I assure you that I speak without any ulterior motive, and without a shred of irony ‘ when I say that I felt glad when Martov, talking of our army and our international struggle, said ‘we’, for he thereby contributed a certain ideological and political strength to our work, and strength is what we need. But in his statement he spoke of ‘arbitrariness, anarchy, breakdown, moribund Soviet institutions, a dying constitution’. I ask each one of you, how could a regime such as Martov depicted in his statement, a regime of arbitrariness and anarchy, with moribund Soviet institutions, how could such a regime have created the army which, as Martov admits, has proved equal to its task? The army which is opposed not by fourteen foes, as Churchill said (I have tried to count them up, and it turns out that twenty-one nations are represented), but by one foe, international counter-revolution, the world bourgeoisie. In the struggle against this all-powerful force, our Red Army has shown itself equal to its task. This has been acknowledged by those opponents who were saying eighteen months ago: ‘You won’t create an army’, and who now say: ‘You have created an army, and a good one.’ And how can they not say that, when this army is beating, over an expanse of nine or ten thousand versts, the enemy mobilised and armed by world capital? Yes, we have created this army – and who are we? The workers and peasants, those who uphold the Soviet order. They have created it. Therefore, this order which has given birth to this army, and which sustains and supports it, is a robust and sound order. There are weaknesses in it, defects, flaws and gaps. It is easy to point them out. The Soviet mechanism and its constitution are not operating ideally, because the best forces of the Moscow Soviet, the Petrograd Soviet and all the Soviets of Russia are fighting and dying at the fronts. All right, let us admit that in dying they are violating some paragraph or other of the Soviet Constitution, but let us console both them and ourselves with the fact that they are saving the Soviet Republic and the revolution. The army that you have created is flesh of your flesh and soul of your soul. This is our Soviet Constitution, alive and armed. For our soldiers fight and die with the slogan: ‘Long live Soviet Russia! Long live the world republic of the working class! [15]


1. The report to the 7th All-Russia Congress of Soviets was published as a separate pamphlet, with the title, Our Work at Building the Red Army And Our Fronts, by the publishing department of the Political Administration of the Revolutionary War Council of the Republic, Moscow 1919.

2. On April 22, 1918 the All-Russia Central Executive Committee adopted decree on compulsory military training. This decree was published in Vol.I of How The Revolution Armed, p.157.

On July 10, 1918 the 5th Congress of Soviets adopted a resolution on tht creation of a Red Army; this resolution is also included in Vol.I on p.433.

3. For more about the Supreme Military Council’ see Vol.I, note 48.

4. Though the Red Army in the civil war ultimately totalled over five million, it never had more than half a million rifles, and the maximum number of combatants in it never exceeded 600,000, with 700 guns and 2,800 machineguns, (Sir John Maynard, The Russian Peasant and Other Studies, 1942, p.116).

5. By December 1919 the initiative on the Southern,the most important froni was wholly in the hands of the Red Army. By mid-December we had cut the railway linking Kiev and Kharkov, and the latter city, surrounded on threat sides, had fallen to us. On December 16, Kiev fell to the onslaught of units of the 12th Army, followed on December 30 by Yekaterinoslav. The bulk of Denikin’s units quickly retreated, some to the Crimea, the others to Caucasia It was in this connection that the Southern Front put up a request for the sending of experienced military commissars for the Ukrainian provinces.

6. Martov made a big political speech at the 7th Congress of Soviets, and read a declaration on behalf of the Mensheviks’ Central Committee’ in which the Soviet Government was blamed for ‘non-fulfilment’ of the Constitution and other even more ‘serious crimes’.

7. Frunze was convicted in 1910 of an attempt to kill a policeman. He was imprisoned until 1914, and then exiled to Siberia. He had obtained deferment from the call-up through being a student, and so had never served in the Tsarist army.

8. The conspiracy which was headed by Lundkvist, the Chief of Staff of the 7th Army, was connected with Yudenich’s operations against Petrograd. The basic task that the plotters set themselves was to surrender Petrograd to the White Guards. Rodzyanko’s [The reference is to A.P. Rodzyanko, not to be confused with his brother P.P Rodzyanko (author of Tattered Banners), who served with Kolchak.] offensive in May 1919 came too soon, and the conspirators, unprepared, were not able to organise a revolt inside the Red capital. In mid-June 1919 the strategically important fort of Krasnaya Gorka was seized by a small force of White-Guard rebels; within a few days after insignificant fighting, this fort was retaken by a detachment of Red sailors. Mass searches carried out in Petrograd revealed a large quantity of arms, and through the energetic work of the Cheka’s organs a plot was exposed, of which one of the leaders was the Chief of Staff of the 7th Soviet Army’ the former Colonel Lundkvist. He had provided the Whites’ headquarters with detailed information concerning the distribution of the Red units and all our operational orders. The exposure of this plot prevented serious complications for Petrograd.

9. After the end of 1919 the local apparatus for universal military training acquired an organisational form which was more like a militia. The departments and sections for universal military training which were attached to the military commissariats were reorganised into territorial regimental and battalion districts and company areas. After that, active work began on introducing pre-call-up preparation.

10. After KoIchak’s unsuccessful attempt to launch a counter-offensive on the River Tobol, the Red units of the Eastern front began on October 2 5, 1919 a fresh, vigorous pursuit of the army of the ‘Supreme Ruler’. Petropavlovsk was taken on November 2, and Omsk on November 14, with the capture of many prisoners and trophies. After the taking of Omsk, Kolchak, with his army disrupted through ceaseless retreat, hastened to withdraw towards Krasnoyarsk. On December 24, Tomsk was taken, after a short struggle. On January 7 Krasnoyarsk, surrounded on all sides, fell to our forces, and the remnants of three of the enemy’s armies surrendered to us there. The subsequent offensive developed even more impetuously than before. By January 1920, after the capture of Irkutsk, all Siberia was reunited with Soviet Russia (see annexed to Map. No. 1 [NOTE: THIS MAP IS 350k IN SIZE]

11. ‘And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, “They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots”.‘ (Matthew, 27:35)

12. Speaking at the First All-Russia Congress of Working Cossacks, on March 1 1920, Lenin emphasised how imdortant the non-belligerence of Finland, the Baltic states and Poland had been at the time of Denikin’s push towards Moscow: ‘If all these small states had taken the field against us ... there is not the slightest doubt that we would have been defeated’ (Collected Works, Vol.30, p.389). An important factor in the comparative passivity of the border states during this crisis was their distrust of the Whites’ intentions towards them – a victory for Denikin and Kolchak would probably mean an attempt to restore ‘Russia one and indivisible’, and the serious friction that occurred between Yudenich and his Estonian ‘hosts’ gave a foretaste of this.

13. On military operations on the Southern front during 1919, see Volume II, pages 235-444 and corresponding notes.

14. On June 1, 1919 an agreement was concluded between the All-Russia Central Executive Committee and representatives of the Ukrainian, Lithuanian and Latvian Soviet Republics, on unifying the military organisations of the fraternal republics and creating a unified military command.

15. In this report, as on several previous occasions, Trotsky uses, speaking of the ex-Tsarist officers serving in the Red Army, the Russian equivalent of St Paul’s famous phrase in Romans, 13: because ‘the powers that be are ordained of God’, one ‘must needs be subject [to them]’not only for wrath [from fear], but also for conscience sake’.

1 1

Last updated on: 26.12.2006