The Southern Front

The Fight Against Wrangel

Woe to Those Who Do Not
Carry Matters to a Finish!

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

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Our situation on the Polish front is now completely favourable. In the South we have torn Kiev from the hands of the enemy. Though plundered, disfigured and half-destroyed, Kiev is now ours. In that direction the Red forces are advancing. In the North the enemy’s counter-offensive has been halted at present, and it is to be hoped that here, too, we shall recover the initiative.

While hailing these successes by the Red Army we must, however, consider them only in relation to the immense task which faces us, namely, to defeat, rout and crush the last onslaught by the last reserves of world imperialism upon Soviet Russia and the Ukraine.

Part of the army of the Polish gentry has been damaged, and very seriously. But only part of it. The main mass of the White-Guard forces of Poland are still in being, and retain their fighting capacity.

Protected by Curzon’s diplomatic notes, by Lloyd George’s speeches and, most important, by the aid of Churchill’s shells, Wrangel is carrying out an offensive in the south of the Ukraine, trying to make his way into the rear of our forces which are engaged in pursuing the retreating right wing of the Poles. [1]

The example of Wrangel shows, precisely, how perilous it is not to finish a task once begun. We routed Denikin in a few moves, by means of extraordinary efforts. A small remnant of the mighty White-Guard forces of Southern Russia was left in the Crimea. If we had continued our push south, hot on the heels of the retreating enemy, we should have crushed and annihilated him without a battle. But a hitch occurred in our operations when all that remained was to bring them to conclusion. [2] The army was tired after its very great effort, and the rear calmed down, deciding that the job had been done and that Wrangel, down there, would be finished off ‘somehow or other’. It was this that enabled Wrangel to swell up into a rather malignant boil on the body of the Ukraine. And now we are having to expend three times as much strength in order to clear the enemy from the Crimea. Woe to those who do not carry matters to a finish!

At present our overall position on the Polish front is favourable. But for us to be able to develop our offensive it is necessary that the front be supplied, renewed and revived without interruption. It is necessary that the armies of the Western and South-Western fronts receive, every twenty-four hours, the supplies and replacements they need, together with the necessary shot of revolutionary energy in the form of volunteer battalions and groups of Communists. If a partial setback in one locality coincides with another such setback in another locality, merges with it and becomes more serious, this can lead to a catastrophe. Every little wound must be healed at once, every gap filled up without a delay. Then partial setbacks, blunders and defeats not only will not undermine the front, they will not even hinder for long its victorious advance.

The task must be carried to a finish – not only in the south but in the west as well. This can be done only by concentrating all our forces on this task. Do not dissipate energy, do not let attention wander. What we need is not half-measures, but actions of exceptional decisiveness and on the widest scale.

All forces and resources against the Poland of the gentry and its hireling Wrangel – this is the slogan under which the next session of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee of the Soviets will meet.

June 16, 1920


1. The Polish front concentrated on itself the entire attention of the Soviet Republic and the Red Army. This made it impossible to assign sufficient forces for the liquidation of the Crimean group of White Guards. Meanwhile, under Wrangel’s command and with much material aid from the Entente, a rapid restoration went forward in the Crimea of the forces which had gathered there from various quarters after the final defeat of Denikin. By the beginning of June, General Wrangel had succeeded in forming three corps and a strong force of cavalry. The Entente supplied this army with a wealth of technical resources for combat. On June 6 Wrangel began active operations. Exploiting his superiority in cavalry, he considerably extended his place d’armes, pushing us back towards the Dnieper, from that river’s mouth up to Nikopol, and also towards Berdyansk. His subsequent northward advance threatened the units of the South-Western front which were then pursuing the Kiev group of the White Poles (see maps Nos.5 and 6.)

[2] General Denikin wrote, in The White Army, about the situation in the spring of 1920: ‘The Crimean corps under the command of General Slashchov was still firmly entrenched on the isthmuses and barred the entrance to the Crimea. The Bolshevik forces opposing us were small – only about five or six thousand. The rest were engaged against Makhno and other rebels. The Soviet Command were certain that the White armies at Novorossiisk, with their backs to the sea, were done for, and that the transference of large forces [from there] to the Crimea was impossible. The Crimea therefore did not receive much attention – an omisson for which the Soviet Government later paid a heavy price.’

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Last updated on: 26.12.2006