The War with Poland

We Are Stronger Than We Were

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

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Our retreat from Warsaw has been depicted in the enemy press – that is, the bourgeois press of the whole world – as a complete debacle for us. The more terrified the international exploiters had been by the mighty march of the Red regiments on Warsaw and Lvov, the more loudly, the more shrilly did they squeal with joy, when they heard the first rumours of our setback. Still more acute was the turn that took place in the bourgeois-gentry clique in Poland: from panic and disarray, from howling and lamentation, the oppressors of the Polish people went over at once to absolute intoxication by the successes they had achieved. The Polish newspapers again recalled the frontiers of 1772. The Polish delegation at Minsk tried to talk the language of victors, just as in the days when Pilsudski and his Patek ‘ordered’ the Soviet Government to send their delegates to Borisov.

But the world bourgeoisie’s wave of rapture is now gradually subsiding. Matters are settling down and the true significance of events is becoming apparent.

What has happened? Who has suffered defeat?

When we urgently proposed peace to the Polish Government on very favourable terms for them, the headquarters of the Western front was in Smolensk. Polotsk was under fire from the Polish artillery. The front ran between Borisov and Orsha. Gomel was in danger, and the Polish and Petlyurist forces were only a few days’ march from Kiev. Pilsudski’s army took the offensive and seized the Kiev area. To this absolutely unprovoked and insolent blow we replied with a counter-blow. With incomparable élan our Red forces cleared the enemy out of the conquered regions of the Ukraine, liberated Byelorussia and Lithuania, and stabbed deep into Poland. In their ardent forward rush our divisions inevitably became overstretched and cut off from their bases: the apparatus of communication and administration was slackened, and thereby became more susceptible to the enemy’s blows. When, before Warsaw, they came up against a concentration of White Polish forces, the Red forces recoiled. This was, of course, a major setback. But such setbacks are inevitable in a big military campaign. War does not proceed like a chronometer, in which the movement of each wheel, each hand, is calculated to a second. War is a fierce struggle between two powerful forces, and is inevitably associated with unexpected events, and this is especially true of manoeuvring, revolutionary war.

But what is the general balance of operations up to now?

  1. The armies of the Western front advanced 500-600 versts and then retreated, in face of a counter-blow, a distance of 200 versts. Thus, we advanced, altogether, 300-400 versts. The headquarters of the Western front moved from Smolensk to Minsk, which not long before had been in the hands of the Polish gentry. The Ukraine has been cleared of the enemy. Lithuania is independent. Byelorussia is free.
  2. Their momentum exhausted, the White Polish forces came to a halt. The Red forces concentrated in new positions and restored their apparatus, making it sounder than ever before. The old cadres, tempered in battles on all the fronts of Soviet Russia, pulled themselves together after the temporary setback and closed their ranks more firmly. Fresh reinforcements are flowing in a broad stream into the new divisions. Volunteers, Communists, members of trade unions are marching at the head of these fresh reinforcements, inspiring them with zeal for victory.
  3. Our comparatively insignificant losses of matériel have been more than made good. The interruption in supplies caused by the retreat has now been eliminated. The feeding of the army becomes day by day more regular and complete.
  4. The commanders, commissars and Red Army men have acquired a closer knowledge of the enemy and have learned the road to Warsaw.
  5. The line of the front runs 400 versts farther from Moscow and 400 versts nearer to Warsaw than it did on the eve of the Polish advance towards Kiev.

Such is the balance, such the result. We have dealt the Poland of the gentry a mighty blow. And today we feel more capable than ever before of dealing a second blow, mightier than the first.

We are stronger than we were. And we are growing stronger with every hour. Sound, harmonious work is going on all along the front. Not a single hour must be lost, and not a single hour will be lost.

The Western front will do its duty to workers’ and peasants’ Russia, its creator!

September 10, 1920
En Route, No.124

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Last updated on: 27.12.2006