The Red Army on a Peace Footing

Orders, Circulars, Telegrams, etc.

Order No.254

By the Chairman of the Revolutionary War Council of the Republic to the Political Directorate of the Revolutionary War Council of the Republic, August 5, 1921, No.254, Moscow

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

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There is much reason to suppose that political work in Red Army units is falling behind the needs of life to an extraordinary extent. I was able to convince myself of this when I visited the camp at Khodynka and when I inspected the divisional junior commanders’ school, the 322nd cadre-training regiment, and the model regiment of the artillery-training brigade.

(1) To start with, newspapers are disseminated and distributed incorrectly and irregularly. Collective readings are not organised, and everything is left to chance. When asked about newspapers, nearly everyone without exception replied: ‘We read them sometimes.’ The majority had never even seen the newspaper of the Moscow Military District, Krasnyi Voin (The Red Warrior), which is intended primarily for the units in Moscow, while the minority had read only one or two issues.

(2) The life of the garrison is not reflected in the newspaper itself. This is the fault not of the editors alone but also of the commissars and the political leaders of the units. Each unit must cut a road for itself into the columns of the newspaper.

I will give examples.

Among the Red Army men of the 36th Division there are many Ukrainians. A considerable number of them spent a long time as prisoners in the hands of the Polish bourgeoisie. The way they were treated while in captivity was frightful. These former prisoners become very emotional when they talk about their experience. One, two or three articles should be devoted to this subject in the newspaper. For this purpose it will be necessary to enlist the services of a journalist, or just some comrade who can wield a pen, so that he can take down the most striking facts from what the Red Army men say, and present them without embellishment to the readers of Krasnyi Voin. An article like that would have great value for the soldiers’ education.

Most of the ordinary Ukrainian soldiers did not know who Hetman Skoropadsky was. But one of the Red Army men described clearly and precisely the doings of the Hetman, who erected a gallows in this Red Army man’s village, and on it hanged some peasants for having seized a landlord’s property. Events are developing rapidly nowadays. Since the time of the revolution a new generation has grown up which does not know about its own recent past. Yet Skoropadsky is not just the recent past, he is also a live danger so long as world imperialism exists. The Ukrainian Red Army men should know quite distinctly who Skoropadsky is, and this not in stereotyped phrases but from the vivid discourse of one or two of the Ukrainians whose political memory is strongest. All this should be reflected in the pages of the newspaper.

(3) The Political Departments are paying a lot of attention nowadays to questions of agriculture. Many articles in Krasny Voin are devoted to agricultural matters. Red Army men are taken to the Petrovsky Academy [1], where they receive agronomical information. All this is excellent, of course. But it is a pity that the Political Departments do not pay sufficient attention to the little farms that their own units possess. The state of the kitchen-gardens of the units of the Moscow garrison and the Moscow Military District has found, so far, no reflection in the pages of Krasnyi Voin. Yet it would be proper to pay a lot of attention to this matter, holding up for congratulation those units which have formed and maintained good kitchengardens, and shaming those which have not given the necessary care and labour to the work.

(4) The question of careful treatment of items of military equipment is also not sufficiently elucidated in agitation, or in political work generally. Economic propaganda should begin with the Red Army men’s boots and footcioths, not with electrification. Hardly anyone cleans his boots: either no grease has been received, or they haven’t seen it, or it is of bad quality.

But the chief reason is that no-one thinks and cares about this matter.

Commissars and Political Departments must pay very great attention to questions of economy, including the pettiest of them. Without careful and persistent attention to trifles nothing can be built, and an army least of all.

(5) The conditions are present for more successful political work. Completely satisfactory order prevails in the camp. Concern is shown for cleanliness. In the model regiment the ground in front of the tents has been decorated with coloured pebbles – a pleasant sight. Care and interest are apparent. One can build on that foundation. Progress has been made in drill and tactics andalso in musketry-instruction. It is the economic and political sides of the work that lag behind.

Just as the essence of tactics is adaptation to local conditions, so the essence of political-educational work is adaptation to people and circumstances. One cannot remain satisfied with stereotyped methods, routine, repeating the same old phrases, which no longer get a foothold in anyone’s mind. It is necessary to draw out from the Red Army men themselves, from their past and their present, material for political talks, for discussions and for articles. And, to this end, one must get as close as possible to the mass of the Red Army men, not instructing them from above but helping them to learn from below.

(6) In particular, I propose to put on the agenda the question of a special week of the Red Army man’s kit – his uniform, his footwear, his rifle, and soon. The orders relevant to this subject must be sorted out and embodied in a clear, precise instruction, to be distributed everywhere. The attention of commanders and commissars, Political Departments and the Red Army press must be focused on these matters. The political education of the Red Army man must begin with proper greasing of boots and culminate in the highest questions of the Communist International. Only then will everything be in its right place.


1. The ‘Petrovsky Academy’ was established in 1865 at the village of Petrovskoye-Razymovskoye, near Moscow, where there was an experimental farm, for the training of agronomists. Later. it was removed to Moscow. Since 1923 it has been called the Timiryazev Academy.

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Last updated on: 28.12.2006