The Labour Armies

Bread For The Hungry! Fuel For The Cold!

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

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The centre of Soviet Russia is hungry and cold. And yet there is both bread and fuel to be had in our immense and wealthy country. We have inexhaustible resources of labour power. What do we lack? Organisation of work.

Under the bourgeois order, work was organised by the capitalists, the entrepreneurs, the managers. They owned the means of production (the factories, the machines, the raw materials), hired labour power, extorted profits and took them for themselves. Driven by hunger and by habit inherited from their fathers, the workers went to the factories, submitting their strength to capital. And production forged ahead.

The factories have now been taken from the capitalists and become the property of the working people. There is raw material and there is labour-power — but as yet we have not created, we have not devised a new form of work-organisation corresponding to the new conditions of production — without capitalists, without bosses, without the master’s whip.

This new organisation of work, on co-operative, social, socialist principles, we must create everywhere.

The imperialist war, and the civil war that followed it, exhausted and ruined the country. Our economy can be revived only by concerted, intense harmonious work. All Russia must be transformed into one big factory, in which every citizen is a working man, every citizeness a working woman, and the master is the working people as a whole.

We need to begin with what is basic — bread and fuel. We must supply the factories with wood and coal. We must feed the workers in industry and on the railways. Then manufacturing industry will revive, and the peasants will get the products they need — textiles, nails, salt, farm implements.

We must begin with what is basic: with rye-bread and logs of wood. Everyone must be drawn into this vital task: men and women workers, men and women peasants, Red Army men released from military tasks, and, finally all those who in bourgeois society lived idly and who, under the Soviet order, have not yet been drawn into productive work.

Soviet Russia belongs to the working people. Every member of the working people belongs to Soviet Russia. The socialist state must care for every one of its workers. This can be ensured only if every worker takes care of the socialist state as a whole. The village must work not for itself alone but also for the town. The town must work for the village. The railways must link the town with the village and facilitate the exchange of the respective products of their labour.

The age-old bourgeois-egoist rule: ‘It’s no concern of mine’ does not apply now. The country can be saved from hunger, cold and the threat of epidemics only through intense, tireless, truly heroic work on the part of all citizens, for the common good. All for one, one for all.

This means universal labour service. It is everyone’s duty — that is, everyone must devote his knowledge, his intelligence, his strength, and, if need be, his life, to that great whole which is called socialist Russia.

The old organisation of work, on capitalist foundations, has been destroyed irrevocably and forever. The new, socialist organisation is only taking shape. We must all become conŽscious, self-sacrificing builders of the socialist economy. Only thus can we emerge into security, warmth and comfort.

We must begin with what is basic: grain and timber.

Our train is making its way to the northern Urals, so that we may devote all our strength there to the task of the organisation of work,[1] in which the Urals workers, the Urals peasants and the Red Army men of the First Labour Army will join hands.’5

Bread for the hungry! Fuel for the cold! That is the slogan for our train, this time. February 8, 1920, Moscow-Yekaterinburg. ‘En Route’, No. 106

1. An eye-witness account of the activity of Trotsky in the leadership of the First Labour Army is given in Chapter XI of A Prisoner of the Reds, by Captain Francis McCuUagh (1921).

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Last updated on: 28 April 2013