Various Subjects

The Red Army

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

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The Red Army is the first armed state force in history which serves to defend the interests of the working people against the exploiters and oppressors.

The aim of the workers’ and peasants’ revolution of 1917 was and remains the creation of a peaceful society of labour. But the working masses, headed by the proletariat, can create such a society only if they can defend themselves and their rule against the frenzied onslaught of their bourgeois enemies. The creation of the Red Army was a sort of test for the working class: would it, or would it not, be able to create, in a short time, an armed force with which to defend itself and open the way to peaceful socialist construction? All the events of the past year testify that the Russian working class has passed this great historical test. The Red Army has been created. It had suffered many setbacks, but, by and large, it has coped victoriously with the enemy on our numerous fronts.

At the outset, the armed forces of the Soviet Republic consisted of Red Guard units of worker volunteers, together with units of insurgent peasants. At first, these were adequate to deal with the landlords and capitalists frightened and derailed by the revolution. But, as the bourgeois classes succeeded in building their armed forces in the borderlands, with direct assistance from foreign militarism, the Soviet power found itself obliged to go over from Red-Guard guerrilla units to a regularly organised army. At first, while the military apparatus of the Soviet state was still weakly developed, the army was built on the voluntary principle. But in the summer of last year the Soviet power went over to compulsory mobilisation of the workers and of those peasants who do not exploit the labour of others. Thus, the structure of our Red Army gives it a class character: it excludes parasites, exploiters and kulaks, relegating these to the fatigue-squads of the rear levies.

There can be no doubt that the creation of a large army and the conduct of a protracted war on gigantic fronts has imposed heavy sacrifices on the economic and cultural constructive work of Soviet Russia. On the other hand, however, the very fact that a mighty Red Army has been created in an exhausted country is proof of the great economic and cultural strength of the working class. Only the lofty idea of struggle for the complete emancipation of the working people from all forms of oppression was capable of inspiring the vanguard of the working masses and helping them to overcome all expressions of weariness, disintegration and anarchy.

From this standpoint, the Red Army was a great school of revolutionary discipline: faced with a terrible danger, the Red Army suppressed in its own ranks, and succeeded in suppressing in the country at large, all manifestations of petty-bourgeois, kulak disorderliness, banditism, predatory cupidity and self-seeking.

In accordance with the entire course taken by our revolution, the leading role in the Red Army belongs to the advanced, tempered fighters, the Communist proletarians. As commissars, as members of Communist cells, and often as Red commanders, they guide the spiritual life of the Soviet regiments and make them what they should be - the fighting instrument of the Communist revolution.

Hand in hand with the hardened Communists work the new Red Commanders who have emerged from the mass of the Red Army men, or have passed through our numerous instructors’ courses, which have contributed a new body of worker and peasant commanders to the army.

The formation of the Red Army on broad principles would, however, have been impossible if we had not enlisted many, many thousands of experienced officers of the former Tsarist army, who have done and are doing very great work in the Red Army of the workers and peasants.

Through stern, tense fighting, the Red Army has liberated tens of millions of working people from under the yoke of oppressors both native and foreign. Its work has not yet been completed. While, in the East, a serious blow has been struck at Kolchak, from which he will hardly be able to recover, in the South Denikin still rules over immense spaces, including the Donets basin and two such major working-class centres as Kharkov and Yekaterinoslav. All the attention and all the forces of the Red Army are now directed towards the South. The defeat of Denikin will signify a mortal blow to the counter-revolution which has surrounded the Soviet Republic with its robbers’ ring.

There can be no doubt that the Red Army will cope with its task in the South during the next few months. Then, the huge forces and resources of the working masses of Russia will be released for free, unconstrained economic and cultural creative works. Russia will quickly heal her old wounds and will become a wealthy and a happy land, among the rest of the Soviet republics of Europe and the whole world.

July 28, 1919

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Last updated on: 27.12.2006