The Red Army on a Peace Footing

Orders, Circulars, Telegrams, etc.

Order No.278

By the Chairman of the Revolutionaty War Council of the Republic, April 22, 1923, No.278, Moscow

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

* * *

To Commanders and Commissars

The Red Army has been shrunk to the utmost limit. Reorganisations will occur less frequently from now on. The cadres must increasingly specialise and perfect themselves in their work. And then the commander and the commissar will, to an increasing extent, be merged in one person.

The reasons for the duality that exists in the command and administrative apparatus of the Red Army are known to all. The revolutionaries did not know the soldier’s trade, while the military men did not know, or did not want to know, about the revolution. The revolutionary soldier needs not only training but also education, not only to be commanded but also to receive political leadership. This is why a commissar was appointed to head the military units and the military institutions of the revolution alongside the commander. If this had not been done, the revolution would not have triumphed: without it we should not have had today a Red Army built in the image and likeness of the revolution itself.

However, organisational duality was not established to last for all time. The cadre of commissars is now not temporary, as it was in the first period of the civil war, but permanent. This means that every commissar must endeavour to master the soldier’s trade, so as to become, in time, a finished commander. On the other hand, every commander who is worthy of the name must be not only an instructor but also an educator, not only a military chief but also a revolutionary leader. Commander and commissar must, in the course of time, merge in one person.

But we cannot go over immediately to this new regime. Great caution and strict gradualism are needed. It is necessary that the present commissars become commanders and that the young commanders, at least, learn to perform the duties of commissars. This is the goal we must aim at. We must move towards it cautiously, but firmly and confidently.

A new step in this direction has been taken, in the first place where the central administrative and supply directorates and institutions are concerned. This measure has been motivated, apart from general considerations of principle, by the need for a further reduction in establishments.

Here and there it is being said that the relevant order by the Revolutionary War Council of the Republic has been understood to mean that the corps of commissars is to be completely liquidated in the very near future, and that this measure is being preceded by withdrawal of the commissars into the background. If the order has been understood in this way, then it must have been badly formulated. The Revolutionary War Council of the Republic has now given the necessary clarification. Our fundamental task is not to subordinate the commissar to the commander but to merge in one person these two functions, which are equally important, equally necessary. In all those cases where this has not yet been achieved, and until it has been achieved, commander and commissar will, as before, work side by side, their rights and duties and theft mutual relations remaining just as they have been hitherto.

1 1

Last updated on: 28.12.2006