Various Subjects

What is a Good Regiment
and What is a Bad One?

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

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One sometimes hears, comrades, that a certain regiment is bad, that no reliance can be placed upon it. It does not obey military orders. What does this mean? After all, in a regiment there are several thousand men. Does it mean that the entire regiment consists of bad, depraved workers and peasants, who want to betray the working masses to the capitalists and the landlords? No, this cannot be true. We allow into the army only workers and working peasants who do not exploit the labour of others. There is no place in our army for capitalists, landlords and kulaks. There can therefore be no question of the mass of the soldiers wanting again to put their necks submissively under the yoke of the bourgeois or Tsarist monarchy. In that case why does a regiment turn out to be bad? Why does it not obey military orders?

In my view, comrades, the reason is this: in every regiment, in every unit generally, there are three sorts of soldier. There is a tiny section of bad, spoiled soldiers, corrupted by bourgeois noble ways, who have lost their moral ties with the working class. These are self-seekers, whose principal concern is only for themselves: to them it does not matter whether the worker is a slave or the master of his country. Such self-seekers and traitors constitute an insignificant minority. On the other hand, there are also in the regiment some more conscious, revolutionary soldiers who, even earlier, before the revolution, fought against Tsarist and bourgeois tyranny, who are fully and consciously prepared to give their lives for the cause of the working people. Such courageous, selfless fighters are still, as yet, a minority. Between these, the best, most conscious soldiers, and the self-seeking traitors there are present in every company, in every regiment, a large number of average soldiers. These are, in character, honest working people from the country or the town, but they are not yet sufficiently conscious, they have not yet managed to grasp the meaning of the revolution and the tasks of the Soviet power. These average soldiers sometimes fall under the influence of the self-seekers, but more frequently they respond to that of the good, conscious soldiers. In cases when the best soldiers in the regiment are in disorder, not meeting together and uniting their forces, it may happen that the self-seekers, the bawlers, come to the top and confuse the ignorant, not-very-conscious average soldiers. It is then that the regiment fails to do its duty to the working class, and that people say of this regiment that it is a bad, unreliable regiment. But it is enough for the best soldiers to unite closely and to appeal to the consciousness and conscience of the whole regiment for the overwhelming majority of soldiers, even though still without much consciousness, to unite around their vanguard detachment, and 99 out of 100 of them prove to be splendid, honourable fighters for the revolution. Realising that a different spirit reigns in the regiment, the self-seekers hold their tongues, the bawlers fall silent, and those kulaks who have accidentally got into the regiment take cover. I have observed changes like this in a regiment on more than one occasion. In the course of a week or two, a regiment that had been accounted bad becomes regenerated all of a sudden. This means that the advanced workers and the revolutionary peasants in the regiment have come together in a closely united group, as the mind and heart of the regiment, and the mass of the regiment has immediately fallen into line with them, throwing over the worst, corrupted elements.

That is why, when people tell me that such-and-such a regiment is bad, I reply: I do not believe it, it cannot be so: that regiment can and must become a good one. Conscious soldiers, advanced workers, revolutionary peasants, forward! Rally closely round the commanders and commissars, raise your voices in appeal to the conscience of your regiment, explain to all the soldiers the sacred task of the Red Army, establish inviolable, firm revolutionary discipline. Commanders, seek support among the best soldiers in the regiment. Trust the intelligence and conscience of the armed workers and peasants, show energy and will-power, and you will find support among all the soldiers – and the Soviet Republic will have one more excellent regiment.


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Last updated on: 27.12.2006