The Labour Armies


By the Chairman of the Revolutionary War Council of the Republic and People’s Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs to the 3rd Red Army – the First Revolutionary Labour Army

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

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1. The 3rd Army has completed its military task. But the enemy has not yet been completely wiped out on all fronts. The predatory imperialists are still threatening Siberia and the Far East. The mercenary armies of the Entente are still threatening Soviet Russia from the West. The White-Guard bands are still established in Archangel. Caucasia has not yet been liberated ... Consequently the 3rd Revolutionary Army will remain under arms, will retain its organisation, its internal cohesion, its fighting spirit, in case the Socialist Fatherland should summon it to new military tasks.

2. Fully conscious of its duty, however, the 3rd Revolutionary Army does not wish to waste its time. During the weeks and months of the breathing-spell, however long this may last, it will use its forces and resources to revive the country’s economy. While retaining its military strength, dreadful to the enemies of the working class, it will at the same time transform itself into a revolutionary labour army.

3. The Revolutionary War Council of the 3rd Army is joining the Council of the Labour Army. In that body, along with the members of the Revolutionary War Council, there will be representatives of the principal economic institutions of the Soviet Republic. They will provide the necessary guidance in the different spheres of economic activity.

4. The hungry workers of Petrograd, Moscow, Ivanovo-Voznesensk, the Urals and all the other industrial centres and areas need food. The main task of the First Revolutionary Labour Army is to collect, in a planned way, all surplus supplies of grain, meat, fats and fodder in the area where it is stationed, to make a precise record of the foodstuffs so collected, to assemble these materials vigorously and rapidly, at the railway yards and stations, and to load them on to the trucks.

5. Industry needs fuel. A very important task for the Revolutionary Labour Army is to fell and saw timber, and to transport it to the railway yards and stations.

6. Living-quarters are needed by those engaged in woodcutting and other work. The Revolutionary Labour Army will build huts where these are needed and will provide accommodation and comforts for the workers who take over.

7. Spring is coming, the season for work in the fields. Our exhausted factories are as yet producing few new agricultural implements. The peasants have many old implements, however, which are in need of repair. The Revolutionary Labour Army will make available its workshops and its smiths, fitters and joiners to carry out repairs to agricultural implements and machinery.

When work begins in the fields, the Red infantrymen and cavalrymen will show that they know how to wield a plough to turn up the Soviet land.

8. Urals and Siberian proletarians and peasants live and work alongside the workers-soldiers of the 3rd Army. Units of the Labour Army, their Red Army men, commanders and commissars, must maintain friendly, harmonious relations of comradeship and collaboration with all the working people.

9. All members of the army, from top to bottom, must deal attentively and fraternally with the trade unions, the local Soviets, and all executive committees, big and little, keeping it firmly in mind that theirs is an organisation of the working people. Work in the localities must always be carried out in agreement with them, explaining to them the task assigned to the Labour Army by the Soviet Government, and calling on them to give practical support to this great undertaking.

10. First and foremost, the Red Army must take measures to ensure that, in the area where it is working, not a single factory suffers from a shortage of food. If the honest Red Army man is to try and emulate the factory workers in his work, he must at the same time see to it, through his supply apparatus, that the worker is on an equal footing with him as regards rations.

11. Tireless energy in work – just as on the march, just as in battle!

12. All technicians, specialists and craftsmen in the army must be registered and put in the right places, so that the entire military machine may get to work at once in its new field of action, quickly and smoothly, without any interruptions or hold-ups.

13. Precise record must be kept of forces expended and results achieved. There must be careful, conscientious supervision of tools and material used. Not one pound of Soviet grain, not a single log of the people’s timber, must be unaccounted for and wasted. Everything must contribute to the foundation of a socialist economy.

14. Commanders and commissars are answerable for their units at work just as in battle. Discipline must not waver by so much as a hair’s breadth. The Communist cells must be models of endurance and staunchness at work.

15. Communications between the units of the army are to be strictly maintained. Vigilance must not slacken. Tempering is not to be relaxed.

16. Commanders and commissars must send up through the proper channels labour-operational reports on the amount of grain collected, loaded and transported, on the number of cubic sazhens [A sazhen is 2.13 metres – Editor] of timber felled and sawn, and on all other forms of work performed. These operational communiques will be published in the daily newspaper of the ‘First Labour Army’, with specific mention of each regiment, each separate labour unit, so that the most diligent and zealous regiments may be honoured for their services, and the backward, slovenly or idle units may try to emulate the advanced ones.

17. The Political Department must work with redoubled vigour, educating the worker in the soldier while preserving the soldier in the worker.

18. Tens and hundreds of thousands of printed appeals and speeches must explain to the most backward Red Army men, and all the workers and peasants living around them, the significance of the great task which the 3rd Army is undertaking.

19. The Army’s Revolutionary Tribunal is to punish loafers, parasites, saboteurs and squanderers of public property.

20. Strict record must be kept of the personal composition of units, so that no conscienceless absences from work may occur.

21. A deserter from work is no less contemptible and dishonourable than a deserter from battle. Both are to be punished severely.

22. The most conscious soldiers, advanced workers, revolutionary peasants, Red Army men – to the forefront!

Give an exarnple by your tirelessness, your self-sacrifice, to the backward elements, leading them on to the same path as yourselves!

23. Reduce the army’s rear to the minimum. All who are not needed there are to go to the front line of labour.

24. Begin and end your work, wherever possible, to the sound of socialist anthems and songs, for your work is not slave labour but lofty service to the socialist fatherland.

25. Soldiers of the 3rd Army, now the First Labour Army! Your initiative is a great thing. All Russia is being roused in response. The Soviet wireless has already broadcast to the whole world the news that the 3rd Army has, of its own free will, been transformed into the First Labour Army. Soldier-workers, do not disgrace the Red banner!

January 15, 1920, Moscow
Izv.V.Ts.I.K., No.10

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Last updated on: 27.12.2006