The Labour Armies

To The Working People [1]

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

* * *

Confirming the decrees by which the introduction of labour service in the Soviet Republic has been put on a properly organised basis, the All-Russia Central Executive Committee addresses itself to the workers, Red Army men and peasants to explain the great importance of universal labour service.

It is only now, as the civil war nears its end, that the Soviet power is finding it possible to get down in real earnest to its fundamental task: reviving the country’s economy in the interests of all, improving the situation of the working masses, providing the workers with food, overcoming hunger, cold and epidemics, supplying the peasants with the products of urban industry, raising the country’s cultural level, and ensuring a better, freer and happier life for the young generations of the workers and peasants.

All citizens of the Soviet Republic are called upon to be workers on this ground, to be soldiers of the great Soviet Army of Labour.

The industrial proletariat, the vanguard element of the Soviet revolution, is called upon to show an example to all the rest of the working masses through its self-sacrificing work in the interests of raising a socialist economy. In order that the Soviet state may take care of the worker and the working woman, and of their children, every working man and every working woman must devote all their strength to the service of the Soviet state.

The peasant has obtained the landlord’s land. But this is only the first step. In the future the peasantry must receive from the socialist state the necessary agricultural implements, electric power, schools and newspapers, together with the necessary products of manufacturing industry. To bring this moment nearer, the peasantry must now help its own state of the working people with foodstuffs and with labour-power. The peasants must help the People’s Commissariat of Food to collect a food-stock of 300,000,000 poods, to feed the workers in industry and transport during the current year. The peasants must, unanimously and firmly, carry out labour-mobilisation to meet the needs of the state as a whole: procurement and transport of timber, peat and shale, clearing snow from the roads and repairing them, building huts, and so on and so forth. Only thus will the present conditions of economic ruin be overcome. Everything that the peasantry now gives to the Soviet state, in the form of articles of consumption and labour power, will later on be returned to the peasantry hundredfold in the form of products of manufacturing industry.

The workers’ and peasants’ army, which has protected the workers and peasants with its blood from the onslaught of the landlords and capitalists, must now apply all its free forces and resources to helping the cause of the country’s economic rebirth. The Red Army cannot be demobilised until the White-Guard bands have been finally routed, and until lasting and reliable peace has been made with all the neighbouring countries. But, at the same time, every soldier, even though temporarily released from his military tasks, must devote his labour to work in the economic sphere.

The All-Russia Central Executive Committee approves and greets the formation of the First Labour Army, the assignment of the Reserve Army to the task of improving transport and of the 4th Army to the building of railway lines and other works, and, finally, the formation of a Ukrainian Labour Army with the Donets Basin as its centre of activity.

The All-Russia Central Executive Committee charges the Workers’ and Peasants’ Defence Council to check on the work of the Labour Armies, establishing the closest links between them and the Soviet economic organs and introducing into the situation all such organisational changes as experience may show to be necessary.

The Soviet Republic’s economic position is extremely difficult. It can emerge from this on to the high road of socialist development only through universal, stubborn and intense work. The principle of universal labour service, proclaimed in

the Soviet constitution, must now be put into practice. All able-bodied persons must be mobilised for productive work. Workers, Red Army men and peasants must be united into one, great, Russia-wide working team. In the fight against hunger, cold and epidemics that same high intensity of energy must be attained which the working masses displayed in the civil war against their sworn enemies. In order to save the country from economic ruin we need the self-sacrifice, heroism and discipline characteristic of the best units of our army. Labour is the banner of our epoch. The best sons of the Soviet Republic are those who show the greatest energy in productive work.

Working people of Soviet Russia! Workers, peasants, Red Army men!

The All-Russia Central Executive Committee unites you in one great host for a campaign against want, disruption, anarchy, disease, disorder and threatening ruin. You, the conscious, the self-sacrificing, the best – forward!

Long live fraternal, harmonious labour, the saviour and liberator of workers’ and peasants’ Russia!


1. This appeal to the working people was written by Comrade Trotsky and published in the name of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee on February 4, 1920. Published at the same time were a number of decrees by the Government, the most important of which were the decision by the Council of People’s Commissars on the regime of universal labour service and the decree on universal labour service committees.

1 1

Last updated on: 27.12.2006