The Red Army on a Peace Footing

Speeches, Articles, Reports

Prospects and Tasks
in Building the Army [1]

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

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The Army and the Economy

The sphere of army-building has always been one for planned work, In this sphere bourgeois states, too, allowed no ‘competition’, no private enterprise – at all events, ‘private enterprise’ by the workers, directed to arming themselves to defend their own class interests, was and is always ruthlessly suppressed by the bourgeois state. Armies everywhere are strictly centralised. The strength of an army is always decided in advance, not only as a whole but also as regards its different branches. The entire internal structure of an army is worked out in conformity with a legislative act, that is, a previous organisational and economic plan. All types of weapons are standardised and laid down in legislation. As is well known, this circumstance in no way hinders the initiative and creativity of inventors, who work with maximum intensity precisely in the sphere of armaments, especially in wartime. The centralised, planned, thoroughly thought-out, thoroughly conscious, rationalised and standardised organisation of the bourgeois army itself was always a very powerful argument against the bourgeois philosophy of the sole power to save possessed by private enterprise, market competition and so forth.

The second distinctive feature of the army from time immemorial has been the ‘Taylorisation’ of movements, methods and relations, that is, a careful, detailed working-out of all the separate elements of action, with a view to achieving the maximum effect. Senseless square-bashing in no way contradicts this: in the first place because it was, in its own way, a Tayloristic method of knocking the soldiers into shape psychologically, and, secondly, because any and every method and procedure can, under certain conditions, be carried to the point of absurdity and turned into its own negation.

Only one other sphere of state activity resembles the military sphere, in its centralised and planned character, namely, the railways. Here, too, no ‘competition’ is allowed between two trains on one set of rails, or even (with very rare exceptions) any competition between two lines running parallel to each other. In the railway sphere, however, there is still extensive application of private ‘initiative’, that is, private ownership, although this is kept within the limits of an overall state plan. A really planned railway system is conceivable only on the basis of a socialist state.

In the purely industrial sphere, application of the planning principle is kept, in capitalist countries, within the limits of each separate enterprise, or of a united group of enterprises (a trust or syndicate), but the relations between trust and trust are governed by the laws of struggle for the market. Planned regulation on a broader scale and of a compulsory nature is introduced into the spheres of industry and trade only in wartime, when the entire economy has to be subordinated to the needs of a colossal active army.

The position of the Soviet state in relation to the economy is profoundly different. The working class has taken over not merely the railways but all the most important means of industrial production. Consequently, the planning principle finds, in the spheres of industry and trade, even now, under NEP, incomparably wider, more comprehensive application than in capitalist countries. The New Economic Policy allows competition between state enterprises on the basis of market relations, but not as a saving general law, only within those limits in which the state is as yet unable to cope, by planned forecasting and co-ordination, with the appropriate task of regulation. The extension of the market does not mean here that the planning principle has to contract, but only that the planning principle, which emanates from the workers’ state, has to operate with an increasing mass of material goods and values. The broad historical success of our constructive work will be measured by the extent to which the planning principle will develop, more and more as time goes by, at the expense of the market. As it becomes consolidated, state regulation must, eventually – not tomorrow, or even the day after tomorrow, but after long years – bring the economy under centralised management, as a unified whole. Even under developed socialism, of course, extensive spheres of the economy will be left to local initiative. But this very division of competence will not result from tradition but will be a component of a thought-out, considered plan.

It was said earlier that the army of a bourgeois state possesses all those features with which bourgeois thought reproaches the socialist economic system. In the army everything is determined by laws, statutes, regulations, establishments and schedules, right down to the number of buttons on a soldier’s underwear. What is the situation as regards the planning principle in the Red Army? In this respect the Soviet Republic lags extraordinarily far behind bourgeois states. And this is not surprising. We started to build our army almost from nothing, if you do not count the material side that we inherited from the old regime, together with military habits diffused among the population. The initial growth of our army took place in complete opposition to the planning principle. At the fronts whole divisions were improvised from scratch: executive committees formed, at their own discretion, units, regiments, reinforcement companies, squadrons, and so on. The apparatuses of administration and supply took shape ‘as needed’, and displayed in their structure all the forms of organisational fantasy, not disciplined either by Taylorism or even by the most elementary results of experience. Everything, from beginning to end, was a matter of collective improvisation. If the working class had been lacking in that power of improvisation, that initiative and energy, the revolution would have perished. But this does not in the least mean that improvisation remains forever or for a long time the only, or even the basic, method of a victorious revolution. On the contrary the socialist revolution would have perished if it had tried to canonise improvisation as a method of construction.

In December 1920 a period opened which saw extensive demobilisation and reduction in the size of the army, contraction and reconstruction of its entire apparatus. This period went on from January 1921 to January 1923. During this period the army and navy were reduced in strength from 5,300,000 to 610,000 men. The reduction was carried out in separate, rather fortuitous stages, under the impact of jolts coming, in the main, from our economic situation. It can be said that the army was reduced in the same sort of improvised way that it was built up. To a certain extent, of course, this was unavoidable. It was impossible to predetermine at once the minimum size needed for the army and the chronological programme for reducing it, since the whole situation, both internal and international, continued to evolve – and, moreover, in the features of greatest importance to us – precisely during the course of our work at reducing the size of the army. Nevertheless, it is impossible not to mention that glaring errors were committed in this sphere. Foresight was sometimes not shown in cases where it could have been shown. In the main, the fortuitous reductions aggravated the instability of the demobilising army, and, although they were carried out in the name of the economy, they resulted, on the contrary, in excessive material expenditure. By March 1923 the army, together with the navy, had settled into the limits laid down. Since that time much work has been done to bring organisational and material order into the army, that is, above all, to establish the necessary concordance between manpower technique and the administrative apparatus. But the previous history of the Red Army – both of its growth and of its contraction – already enables even the uninitiated to conclude that there must stitl be, in the army’s structure, quite a few vestiges – that is, features inherited, without being critically thought out and studied, from the epoch of improvisation and work done hastily and roughly. Not only in the sphere of technique but also in that of systematisation of our own experience, or bringing order into the army’s organisational forms, we have lagged to an extraordinary degree behind the capitalist states. Their work in this sphere bears a much more planned character. We shall have to work devilish hard to catch up with them.

Our Advantages and Our Backwardness

This does not mean, however, that all the advantages are on the side of the bourgeois armies. Without deluding ourselves, we can say that that is not the case. After all, an army is not merely technique, or organisational form, it is, above all, a moral collectivity. Regulations, establishments, orders – all these count for only a third, if not a tenth, in governing human relations. The formal elements of discipline and subordination can be maintained only on the basis of a mental bond, a sense of solidarity, a feeling of comradeship, and faith in the justice of one’s cause. In this sphere our superiority is beyond doubt: the immensity of it is perhaps not clear even to some of us. We waged our past revolutionary wars under conditions of foodrequisitioning in the countryside and frightful hunger in the towns. The peasantry often wavered between support for the Soviet power in its struggle with the Whites, and revolt against it. The townsfolk writhed in the torments of hunger. The majority of the intelligentsia sabotaged the revolution. Among the commanders in the army treachery was not infrequent. It is precisely in all these spheres that serious successes have been achieved during the last eighteen months or two years. The new regime has become established in the eyes of the broadest masses of the peasantry as a state system which may make mistakes, and may even commit injustices, but which is basically the only regime possible today for ensuring collaboration between the workers and the peasants. The Communist Party has come to be seen by the whole population as the axis of this new regime. The majority of the intelligentsia, or, at least, its viable part, has radically changed its orientation – towards the Soviet power. Even in the Church a change of waymarks has taken place, in the sense of an adaptation to the new order, with which it is necessary to reckon as an accomplished fact ‘for many, many a year’. Meanwhile, a new body of commanders has grown up and continues to grow up among us, inseparably linked with the mass of the worker and peasant population. Nowhere in the world is there, nor can there be before a revolution, an army so monolithic in its sentiments as ours. Nowhere in the world is there, nor can there be, such a bond between the army and the country as here. Nowhere in the world is it possible at present to go over to the militia system. But we have undertaken this task. And if we are making the transition gradually, it is not from political fears but from considerations of an organisational and technical character: this is a new task, of immeasurable importance, and we do not want to take a second step until we have made sure of the first one.

To appreciate our moral-political superiority it is enough to compare the reaction to Curzon’s challenge in Britain and here. [2] [3] Over there, what Curzon did provoked not only a protest by the Opposition in Parliament, but also, what is incomparably more important, profound indignation among the worker masses. The conduct of Soviet diplomacy in relation to this matter meets, on the contrary, with unanimous, undivided support by the entire country. And this is not a formal, ‘official’ unanimity, as some ‘democratic’ cretins among the émigrds keep saying, but an incontestable, inalienable, capital conquest of the revolution, and on this moral capital we shall build everything, the Red Army included. In the event that a new war is forced upon us, our moral-political superiority gives promise of making itself felt to the very great benefit of the Union of Soviet Republics.

This fundamental advantage of ours, ensured by the social revolution, gives us the right not only to think confidently about the future but also fearlessly to reveal our present backwardness, organisational, technical and in every other respect. And this backwardness is very serious. The army’s level of technique reflects the country’s general level of technique and, in the immediate sense, the state of industry. Here, in the sphere of industry, the basic knot is tied on which the survival and further development of the Soviet republics and, above all, their defence, depend.

What is an army of 600,000 men, given our expanses and our population? It constitutes, first and foremost, the cadres of the wartime army: in part, a strategic covering-force, in part, a potential vanguard of shock-troops, but, mainly and primarily, the cadres of our future, wartime army. The quality of the cadres is, of course, of the greatest importance for the combatcapacity of our future, wartime army. But cadres constitute only one of the conditions needed. In addition, we must have a proper system of mobilisation and replacement, strictly thought out, calculated and prepared in terms of organisation, depending on all the special features of the Soviet Union and the possible direction from which hostile attacks may come. Furthermore, we need a proper system of supply for the army, embracing all its requirements, to function throughout the period of the operations required for winning victory. These are the three elements – not counting political work – that will condition the work of the Red Army in a future war.

It is quite obvious that what constitutes the biggest difficulty for us is technique, in its present extremely complex and increasingly complex forms. We are poor in aircraft, poor in chemical weapons, poor in armoured forces, poor in artillery, poor in engineering equipment, poor in means of transport, both purely military and general state means. These are all indubitable facts: our enemies know about them, and we feel their reality every day. No miraculous leaps are achievable in this sphere. We have to align ourselves with the economy, that is, primarily, with industry, with its general development, its gradual advance. State industry must, in the next few months, give to the army the maximum that it is capable of giving. But we cannot demand from the economy sacrifices that are unbearable, that is, which would threaten to undermine the development of industry and thereby cut the root on which the army itself depends. Determining the upper limit of economic sacrifices for the sake of defence is one of the most important -perhaps, now, the most important – task of our general state plan. The tempo of army-building, while brought up to the maximum, must at the same time correspond to the fundamental tempo of the country’s economic development. To get out of step with that would mean undermining the country’s capacity for defence. It is, of course, impossible to estimate in advance, with any degree of precision, the tempo of the country’s economic development over a number of years, but we can and must forecast this with a certain, even if only rough approximation – so as subsequently, on the basis of experience, to check the draft plan and make the necessary corrections thereto.

Planned Work

Here we come face to face with the question of planned work. The entire next period of Soviet constructive work will proceed under the sign of going over from rule-of-thumb methods, improvisation, administrative guerrilla-ism, to systematic work in accordance with a draft plan. This is a question which far from all of us have thought out as we should. Some will object: ‘He’s talking about us, saying that we work by rule of thumb and anyhow!’ Others, on the contrary, are inclined to be sceptical where planned work is concerned (’Where is it? What is it?’) presenting this scepticism as the very last word in statesmanlike sobriety and revolutionary realism. Sometimes one and the same person uses both sorts of argument, alternately. But if we leave aside cheap and vulgar buffoonery regarding planned work, we find that what all this criticism amounts to is that an all-embracing, universal, ‘strict’ (that is, administratively enforceable) plan is beyond our powers: how can there be any question of such a plan! The Twelfth Congress of the Communist Party [3a] gave a formulation of the tasks of planned economic construction, which, while mentioning the objections referred to above, possesses importance at the level of principle for military work as well.

‘In Soviet Russia’, says the Congress resolution, ‘all the principal means of industry and transport belong to one proprietor, the state, whose active intervention in economic life must necessarily bear a planned character, and, in view of the dominant role played by the state, as owner and master, the planning principle thereby acquires, from the very first, exceptional importance.

‘All previous experience has shown, however, that the plan of a socialist economy cannot be laid down a priori, by theoretical or bureaucratic means. A genuine socialist economic plan, embracing all branches of industry, with their inter-relations and the relation between industry as a whole and agriculture, is possible only as the outcome of protracted preparatory economic experience on the basis of nationalisation, steadily pursued efforts at practical concordance between the work of different branches of the economy, and proper recording of the results.’


‘It is necessary to make a clean sweep, at the centre and in the localities, of all attempts by departments and institutions to secure some decision or other by roundabout means, by stating that it is urgent or must be done at once, or by improvising: such attempts are to be seen as manifestations of economic short-sightedness and most pernicious survivals of administrative guerrillaism.

‘The success of the work of any department must be evaluated to a considerable extent as a function of its timeliness in submitting drafts and proposals to the State Planning Commission, for comprehensive elaboration and co-ordination. Even more so must the success of the work of the State Planning Commission itself be evaluated as a function of its own timeliness in spotting economic problems, in correctly forecasting the immediate future, and in alerting particular departments to the task of timely coordination, both budgetary and practical, of those spheres and branches of their work which require such coordination.

‘It is necessary to combat, through the State Planning Commission, the creation of all sorts of temporary and fortuitous commissions, for investigating, directing, checking, preparing and so on, which are a major evil in our state activity. Proper regulations must be secured through normal and permanent organs. Only thus can these organs improve and develop the flexibility they need, through all-round adaptation to the task assigned to them, on the basis of continuous experience.’

In military matters, administrative guerrilla-ism and petty production ‘commissionism’ is even less tolerable than in any other. Correctness of conception, accuracy of machinery, precision of execution – these are the basic factors in serious, practical, economical work which produces real results. One cannot trifle with these factors in any sphere, and least of all in the military sphere.

The military plan finds financial expression in the military budget.

Budget, Technique, Supply

First and foremost, we must really ensure, one hundred per cent, all forms of supply for the present army of cadres. This matter does not need to be developed, merely to be put into execution. Parallel with this, but at a second level of importance, must go the accumulation of stockpiles sufficient for arming the very much more numerous army of wartime. These two tasks cannot, of course, be accomplished within a few months, nor even within a single budget-year. States very much richer than ours often have recourse, when they want to take serious measures to strengthen their armed forces, to establishing a special military budget calculated not just for one year but for five, six and seven years ahead. This method is all the more obligatory for us because we are only now undertaking the systematic and planned building of our army and navy. The country’s economy is reviving. There are grounds for counting on the continuance of this process and on its tempo increasing in the next few years. It is quite obvious that the country will be able to set aside an increasing share of its increasing income for the needs of defence. Therefore we can reckon that our military budget will enjoy, in the next few years, a modest but firm upturn. This prospect regarding the budget, with careful allowance for actual possibilities, allowing for reduction rather than increase in the country’s resources, is what we must take as the basis for our military and war-industry plan. We must observe the necessary proportionality between the different branches of war industry, in relation both to the army’s current supply needs and to the stockpiles. This means that the plan for current army-building and the plan for mobilising and expanding the army in case of war must be co-ordinated with the plan for developing war industry, and the latter can only be a component part of the general state plan for industry as a whole.

A long-term plan – a five-year plan, say – for the development of the armed forces will naturally break down, in its turn, into a series of partial plans, for the different types of weapon, principal and auxiliary. These partial plans will have to be carefully worked out, within the framework of the budgetary progress mentioned above, properly allotted among the internal requirements and needs of the army and navy.

We have referred to the principal and the auxiliary types of weapon. It is however, a peculiarity of our epoch that what were auxiliary types of weapon are quickly coming to the forefront. This applies primarily to aircraft and to chemical warfare. Aircraft have no independent means of destroying the enemy: they make use either of dynamite or of machine-guns, which give them a new sphere of activity. Chemical means of warfare, however, constitute a fully independent type of weapon, one which poisons people. We do not approach-this question from the humanitarian standpoint. Which is more humane, to shoot a man, blow him up, cut him down, burn him or poison him, is a question we leave entirely to the discretion of the League of Nations and the Bishop [sic] of Canterbury. The last war showed clearly enough that all sanctimoniously humanitarian restrictions fall away like a husk after the first shot has been fired. And until there has been a change in the present situation, that is, until bourgeois rule has been overthrown, the Soviet Union cannot follow, in matters of defence, any rules of conduct but ‘an eye for an eye, and gas for gas’.

The first place in our technological concerns must be occupied by aircraft. This task is made easier by the fact that aviation possesses quite independent and, moreover, immense economic and cultural importance, which cannot, unfortunately, be said either of howitzers or of asphyxiating gases. Combining military aviation with civil means, primarily, co-ordinating the programme of the Commander of the Air Fleet with that of the Society of Friends of the Air Fleet and the All-Union Society of the Volunteer Air Fleet. A start has been made in this. It would be radically wrong to try and squeeze civil aviation into the framework of military types and plans of aircraft, but it is necessary to ensure beforehand the line of junction between them, to secure, without detriment to economic and cultural requirements, the maximum uniformity in type of aircraft and co-ordination of the whole aviation organisation. Civil aviation must become a reserve for military aviation. We shall not, for quite understandable reasons, go into details about that here. The general direction to be taken by the impending measures is clear from what has already been said. And what is clear, above all, is that the defence of the Soviet Union is directly and immediately dependent on the consolidation and development of state industry.

‘A plan is a splendid thing,’ some will object, ‘including a plan for building the army and war industry, calculated for a five-year period. But what if an enemy attacks us before this period has elapsed? What happens in the event of a sudden war? Don’t we need to take, beforehand, emergency measures to ensure a minimum degree of preparation against unexpected attack?’ Such and similar arguments constitute, in essence, disguised opposition to the plan. The essence of planned work consists in maintaining and developing the necessary proportionality between the constituent elements of the armed forces. It is perfectly obvious that, if a warlike blow were to be struck at us, we should be best prepared for it if our previous work had been carried on in accordance with a plan. Plans of preparation, not only military but also general economic ones, will, of course, be disrupted by the outbreak of war. But it will be a case of one plan disrupted for the sake of another. Because we need to have in reserve a plan for mobilising the industry of the country’s entire economy in the event of a big war – and a new war, if it should come, cannot be otherwise than a big one.

The Red Army and the National Question [4]

Our army-building work must henceforth reckon, to an incomparably greater extent than before, with the fact that the country which the Red Army is called upon to defend is not a country but a whole continent, that our state is not a national republic, but a union of national republics. Amid the flames and thunder of the civil war this fact was taken little note of, and the conclusions following from it were often, through necessity (but sometimes through ill-will), ignored and even trampled upon. The Soviet Union is now going over from a temporary-camp situation to one that is more stable and settled. The mutual relations of the independent and autonomous republics and regions within the Union are assuming more formal and precise expression. The constitution of the Soviet state is being given the clearly expressed character of a union. An army is the most material, sharply defined and irrefutable expression of statehood. If, in the structure of the army, or in its morale, there should be a lack of coordination with the structure of the Soviet union-state, which, in its turn, reflects the relation between the class and national factors in the population, such lack of coordination, or still worse, contradiction, would have the most serious consequences, in the first place for the army and then also for the state. Our army is not a Great-Russian army: it is the army of a great union, of which Great-Russia constitutes the core. The Great-Russian proletariat has the greatest experience of revolutionary struggle and of state-building, including army building. This imposes greater responsibilities upon it, but does not confer greater rights. All the other nationalities of the Union, who were previously oppressed by Tsardom and the bourgeoisie, accept and will accept the comradely assistance of the Great Russian proletariat, its ideological and material help, its advice and indications. But they do not want to take orders from the Great Russians. Even a hint of order-giving irritates them, because it reminds them of their still quite recent state of subjection. While this is true in relation to the state apparatus generally, it is shown a hundred times more sharply in the army. The slightest insincerity, the slightest inequality, the slightest violation of comradely relations and mutual trust in relations between the army and its units, on the one hand, and the national elements of the Soviet Union, on the other, would be fatal. This is perfectly clear even if we look at the matter only from the angle of military defence. The Great-Russian nucleus of the Union is surrounded by an almost closed ring of national republics, Soviet and non-Soviet, formed on the territory of the one-time ‘one and indivisible’ state, which perished, in part, because it stubbornly persisted in one-ness and indivisibility. A potential threat from without would, consequently, through the mere logic of geography, be aimed, in the first place, at the national republics and regions on the periphery of the Soviet Union. If, between the mass of the people in the national republics and the Red Army there were to be alienation – we will not speak of enmity – defence would become impossible, and the Red Army would start to rot morally, from the periphery inward to the centre. We saw this happen during the imperialist war, in the case of Austria-Hungary and, in parallel fashion, in that of Tsarist Russia. In this matter a mere ‘Soviet’ changing of names and disguises, on which some fools and careerists set their hopes, is quite insufficient: very radical changes need to be made in the very essence of relations and connections. By what road can this goal be reached?

In the first place, it is necessary right now to set about preparing conditions for forming national units and armies. Great difficulties will undoubtedly be encountered along this road, difficulties rooted in the differences of economic and cultural level between the different parts of the Soviet Union, and the sometimes complex interlacing of national groups within particular republics, and, finally, the absence in the case of some nationalities of any sort of military training in the past. It is not possible to leap over these difficulties. But they must be overcome systematically. We must begin with a proper network of military-education institutions, fully adapted to national and local conditions, and capable of providing the future national troops, in a planned way, with completely trained cadres. At the same time it is necessary, rejecting all stereotypes, carefully to study the conditions and forms under which the local population can be drawn into performing military service. Needless to say, this work must be done not over the heads of the national republics, but in the closest contact with them and through their own state and Party apparatus. In particular, the Revolutionary War Council of the Republic must be transformed into the Revolutionary War Council of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics – and not only in name but also in substance, that is, in its composition and methods of work. The development of the militia system will make it possible to maintain genuine and unbreakable ties between the army and the population, in all its national heterogeneity.

But this is a long-term process. Parallel with it must proceed intense work at educating and re-educating the present Red Army, to develop within it a clear awareness that it is the armed force a union of national and autonomous republics. It is necessary systematically, persistently, firmly, tirelessly – and, where necessary, also ruthlessly – to drive out national prejudices, the heritage of chauvinism, arrogance, the great-power attitude. It is necessary that units of the Red Army, and, above all, their political and commanding personnel, shall know the character, peculiarities and history of the nationalities among whom they are stationed. Military centralisation, insofar as this results from the inevitable demands of army life, must be effected in such a way that the local inhabitants and, above all, their leading circles, may clearly understand the practical need for centralisation. And, to this end, it is necessary that the War Department itself shall take account of the admissible limits of centralisation. Any administrative excesses must be ruthlessly extirpated; any vestiges of Arakcheyevism, however ‘Soviet’ or even ‘communist’ these may be, must be burnt out with a white-hot iron. From this standpoint it is necessary to carry out a very serious purge of the army apparatus in the national republics, expelling Shchedrin’s ‘Tashkent people’ and their spiritual heirs. [5] Military administrators, commissars and commanders who have shown ill-will where the national question is concerned must, after proper investigation and public trial, be dishonourably discharged from the Red Army. [6] Our army is a great school of revolution. It must become also a school of the national question. In other words, it must, day after day, in practice, study how the working people of different nationalities can, by their joint efforts, in harmony, without clashes or hold-ups, build together the edifice of socialism.

Our potential enemies are stronger than we are technically. This capital advantage they will still retain for years yet (if they last that long). We, as has been said, will do everything we can to reduce the inequality that exists in this sphere. But, however important the machine, it is man who makes and runs this machine. Here the superiority is conclusively and completely on our side. We have undertaken to change part of our army into a territorial militia. From workers who have not ceased to work in the factory and from peasants who are still cultivating the soil we shall build divisions capable of going forth at any moment and, side by side with field divisions, either accepting or giving battle. Two years ago we could not yet decide on such an experiment. Today we are setting about it with complete political confidence, but without, of course, shutting our eyes to the organisational difficulties that have still to be overcome. Within two or three years, our experiments with the militia will occupy a more prominent, perhaps more decisive, place in the defence or our country. Not one of the big capitalist countries of Europe can decide to take such a step, because the ruling class would incur thereby the risk of creating an army dangerous to itself: and still less will the bourgeoisie to be able to do so in two, three or five years’ time, for the deepening of class contradictions in the bourgeois world is taking its course. We, however, shall grow stronger. That is why we meet the coming day in firm confidence. An army is made up of men and machines. As regards machines, they are the stronger, but as regards men it is we who are the stronger – and, in the last analysis, it is men who decide.

May 18, 1923
Voyennaya Mysi i Rivolyutszya 1923, Book 2


1. The article printed here was published, together with the article The Weapon of the Future (See in Volume V, in the chapter Building the Air Force), as a separate pamphlet by the Supreme Military Publishing Council, Moscow 1923, under the title: Prospects and Tasks in Building the Army.

2. The reference is to Curzon’s ultimatum of May 8, 1923.

3. On the Curzon Note of May 8, 1923 and Soviet reaction thereto, see Stephen White, Britain and the Bolshevik Revolution: A Study in the Politics of Diplomacy, 1920-1924, London 1979, pp 158-169. Arthur Ransome describes, in Chapter 39 of his Autobiography (1976), how he arranged an unofficial meeting between Litvinov and the British representative in Moscow, R.M. Hodgson, which helped to ‘de-fuse’ the crisis and ensure a moderate response from the Soviet Government.

3a. The Twelfth Congress of the Russian Communist Party was held between April 17 and 25, 1923.

4. This section needs to be read with Lenin’s remarks on the national question in his 1923 Testament in mind: Trotsky here gives indirect expression to Lenin’s criticism of the line promoted by Stalin.

5. The allusion is to Saltykov-Shchedrin’s book Gentlemen of Tashkent (1869-72), satirising Tsarist colonial officials in Central Asia.

6. ‘Dishonourably’ represents here the Russian expression ‘with a wolf’s passport’, referring to a document which excluded a person from employment in government service, access to educational institutions, and so on, which was given to ex-convicts in lieu of an ordinary internal passport.

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Last updated on: 28.12.2006