Various Subjects

The Supply Apparatus Needs Refreshing

(To Revolutionary War Councils)

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

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The supply situation in the active armies continues to be extremely unsatisfactory. The cause lies not only in the shortage of articles of supply but also in the highly imperfect, often slovenly, and in places unscrupulous way that work is performed by the supply apparatus.

The registration of personnel, on the one hand, and on the other, of matériel, is extremely imprecise. The supply department’s figures for personnel are grossly exaggerated. In the units there are, as often as not, unregistered stores of clothing and military supplies which are kept in the baggage-train and, when defeat occurs, are given up to the enemy.

On the other hand, articles of supply are moved from army bases up to the units which need them, and distributed among the soldiers in these units, with criminal slowness. Instead of making it their business to provide clothes and footwear for the soldiers, at any cost and in good time, so as to facilitate success in operations, the supply administrations often wait passively for lists of requirements to be submitted to them, and issue bureaucratic instructions as a result of which the supplies are moved, stage by stage, in the direction of the units concerned, which meanwhile change their location, become engaged in battle, and are deprived for a long time of the possibility of utilising the equipment they need.

It is quite obvious that we need to shake up and refresh the supply apparatus, from top to bottom.

As a general rule, commissars work alongside military specialists in the supply organisations. There have been a number of cases when the specialists have failed completely to take account of the conditions of the present war and have confined themselves to ensuring that the clerical work is done properly, while the commissars have often held aloof from the actual cares of the work, merely scribbling their signatures. Such a situation is quite unacceptable.

For this reason, it is proposed that the Revolutionary War Councils should, by means of special commissions, with the participation of the members of these Councils who have observed the work of supply, or by any other suitable means, examine the supply apparatus in its working at all levels.

In cases where the specialist is coping well with his work, he is to be given full responsibility, while the commissar receives an assignment appropriate to his abilities and knowledge.

In cases where the commissar is the one who actually leads the work, he is to be appointed commander, while the former commander, who has not shown the necessary vigour and practical ability, is to be assigned to a less responsible post.

Commander and commissar are to be kept together only in cases where they do in fact complement each other, and removal of either would have a harmful effect on the work.

In so far as by this means a certain number of competent executives will be released from their duties, they can usefully be employed to form special instruction and inspection commissions, to carry out at the lower levels of the supply apparatus the same work which it has been proposed should be undertaken at the top.

These proposals are aimed at bringing about a gradual transition to a system of complete one-man management.

For quite obvious reasons, such an organisational reform can most easily be begun in the supply apparatus. It is self-evident that the basic criterion for the re-shuffling of personnel indicated above must be a purely practical one: a post is to be filled by the man who is best able to do the work.

The stages through which this organisational reform is to be carried through on the spot are left to the discretion of the Revolutionary War Councils of the Armies, under the overall direction of the Revolutionary War Council of the front.

August 16, 1919

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Last updated on: 27.12.2006