The Southern Front

The Fight Against Wrangel

We Need a Southern Frontier

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

* * *

In 1918-1919 the Soviet Republic had no frontiers at all, but only fronts. The North was in the hands of the Whites, who threatened Vologda and even Petrograd. The Eastern (Kolchak) front ran along the Ural and even along the Volga. In the West we found ourselves in a state of war, overt or covert, with Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania. In the South, Denikin’s front reached beyond Orel. War was being waged against us, on all fronts, by one and the same enemy, the imperialism of the Entente countries. But none of those coun-tries was in a position to send its own army against us – neither Britain, nor France, nor the United States. The working masses would not allow it. The imperialists therefore resorted to round-about methods in their fight against us. On the one hand, they helped the Russian White Guards to seize some part of our coast – on the White Sea, on the Pacific Ocean, on the Black Sea, on the Caspian Sea – and thereby created places d’armes for these White Guards, malignant boils on the Soviet organism. On the other hand, the imperialists of the Entente directed against us the bourgeois governments of the small border nations which had seceded from the old Tsarist Russia.

If we look back over the fierce conflict of the last two-anda-half years, we shall have no difficulty in assuring ourselves that, on both of these roads, we succeeded in gradually cutting the ground from under our enemies’ feet. We cleared the North: there the White Guards can find no foothold. With Finland we have concluded an armistice which will be transformed in the near future into a peace treaty. Estonia has made peace with us, and Latvia also. We are at peace with Lithuania, which rightly sees in Soviet Russia her defender against the aggression of White-Guard Poland. Thus, in the North we have reached our natural frontier, the ocean, and in the West we have established a substantial section of our state frontier by means of peace treaties. In the West, we still have to settle with Poland and Romania. We have dealt a mighty blow at Poland. True, she has now, by gathering all her strength, and by virtue of being armed to the teeth by France, thrown our forces back from Warsaw. The Polish and French bourgeois press is shouting about a major victory. Yet what this victory consists in is that, after losing 600 versts, they have recovered a few dozen. If Poland does not hurry up and make the peace there can be no doubt that we shall not merely get back what we have lost, but shall finish off White-Guard Poland.

Romania will have to come into line with Poland, that is, will have to make peace. Sooner or later, in a matter of weeks, the former Western front will be transformed into the Western frontier, on its southern sector, just as has happened already on its northern sector.

The Eastern front has moved forward from the Volga to Lake Baikal. But beyond Baikal there is no front in the proper sense of the word. There, the Far Eastern Republic has been formed, as a buffer state between ourselves and Japan. The Japanese are evacuating Chita, and General Semyonov is petitioning the Soviet power for an amnesty. [1]

In the South, however, the task has not been completed. We swept the Whites from Archangel, but we did not sweep them out of the Crimea when we should have done. Consequently, we left at the disposal of French imperialism and its hired bands in the South of Soviet Russia a place d’armes, that is, a space to which French ships could bring arms and where the White Guards could concentrate their forces and from which they could launch an offensive against us. The Crimean Peninsula is the last pawn in the hands of world imperialism. However powerful the navies of Britain and France may be, wherever Russia’s terra firma is in our hands, a navy is helpless: we have seen this in connection with the fates of Petrograd and Odessa. But the White Crimea still constitutes a serious point of support for the Anglo-French fleet against Soviet Russia. If Sebastopol were in our hands, the Anglo-French brigands would never be able to get a foothold. Recovering the Crimea means removing the last point of support for the world’s usurers in their struggle against Soviet Russia.

In Caucasia we have made peace with Georgia and Armenia. The White Guards’ attempts to raise revolt in the Kuban will have no chance of succeeding once we have cleared them out of the Crimea. We need to secure a clear and definite frontier in the South, along the shore of the Black Sea. How is this to be done? We must smash Wrangel.

August 23, 1920
En Route, No.117


1. The buffer state in the Far East (the Verkhne-Udinsk, later the Far Eastern, Republic) came into being as a result of negotiations with the Czechoslovaks in March 1920. This republic formed a Revolutionary People’s Army which fought against Semyonov, who had taken over the heritage of Kolchak and established himself in Chita. On October 21 1920 Chita was captured by units of the Revolutionary People’s Army. Together with the remains of General Kappel’s corps, Semyonov withdrew into Chinese territory, where he formed the Asiatic Division, commanded by Baron Ungem, which became notorious for its bandit raids.

1 1

Last updated on: 27.12.2006