Various Subjects

Firing, Or Making A Noise?

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

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Fire-discipline is still lacking in our units, especially the more backward ones. Firing takes place in a disordered, unsystematic and often aimless and senseless way. Men fire not because it is necessary to fire but because they have rifles in their hands and cartridges in their bandoliers. They fire not because they see the enemy but because they are afraid of him. This is not firing but senseless noise-making. Just as a frightened child, in the dark, shuts his eyes and stifles his fear with a scream, so a cowardly soldier tries by making a noise with his rifle to stifle his own cowardice.

This noise-making with rifles is supplemented by blazing away with artillery. Bad gunners, influenced by bad infantrymen, fire off shells in an unknown direction, at an unknown enemy. This is not firing but waste of shells. The enemy suffers no harm from it and it demonstrates to him the helplessness of the artillery unit which wastes shells in such a fashion.

This noise-making and waste of shells must be stopped, at all costs.

In the first place, we must conserve cartridges. One does not pick these up on the steppes, they have to be manufactured, by intense labour. The working class which has created our ammunition says to us: “Use these cartridges when you need to: don’t waste them, don’t expend public property in a senseless way.”

Secondly, the infantryman guilty of noise-making is squandering not only ammunition but also his own powers. By fooling himself he becomes unable either to spot the real enemy, or to adapt himself to the lie of the ground, or to strike a blow.

Fire discipline is an extremely important component in military discipline as a whole. The soldier must control himself and his weapon, and fire sparingly but accurately. That is what fire-discipline means. It is the task of commanders to train their men in the self-control and skill needed for this. A commander who tolerates noise-making is a useless commander. He must be taught if he knows no better, and punished if he does not care.

Credentials records for commanders are now being introduced in the Red Army. Every commander will be listed, and a strict record kept of his work, and on the basis of these records commanders will be selected for more responsible posts, more serious assignments. When these credentials records are compiled, special attention must be given to a commander’s fire-control. It is necessary that the entire commanding personnel, from top to bottom, make it their task to put an end to senseless shameful noise-making, which must be replaced by organised, intelligent and accurate firing.

When this task has been accomplished, no infantryman will ever find himself short of cartridges, and the Red Army will really become invincible.

September 10, 1919

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Last updated on: 27.12.2006