Military-Political Surveys

There Are No Fronts, but There Is Danger

Report to the Ninth Congress of Soviets, December 26, 1921 [1]

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

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The reduction in the size of the army

Comrade delegates, a year ago, at the Eighth Congress of Soviets, you decreed that we should proceed to a systematic reduction in the size of the Red Army and the Red Navy. You prescribed, in general outline, the direction and tempo for this process. According to the calculations which you approved last year, we were to reduce the Red Army so that by the middle of the year now ending it should be no more than half the size it was a year ago, before the Eighth Congress of Soviets. I reported already last year that, at the moment of its maximum development in terms of numbers, the Red Army contained 5,300,000 men. Halving this number meant bringing it down to about 2,700,000. The international situation and the need to lighten the military burden upon the working people of the Soviet Federation impelled us to push further this programme for reducing the army. At the present time the legal limits within which the Red Army and the Red Navy are confined, along with the Special Assignment Units and the universal military training apparatus, are expressed in the figure of 1,595,000 men. If we leave aside the Navy, which is extremely small in terms of manpower, and if we exclude the units of local and special assignment, and also the personnel of the staging-posts – if we take the Army in the proper sense of the word, it amounts already today to no more than 1,370,000 men. In other words, the army has been reduced to less than a third of its previous size.

This work of reduction was no easy matter. Many of you, delegates from the army, are as well aware of that as I am. It was inconspicuous work, there were no heroic episodes in it such as to attract the attention of the whole country, but it was work that meant very great strain on all the nerves of the army organism.

We sought to ensure that the reduction affected as little as possible the active part of the army, its divisions and regiments. The so-called rear services were reduced by 70 per cent. As a result, in the army now, 34 per cent of the men belong to the central and local institutions, and about 66 per cent to the active part of the army. This correlation is very much more favourable than what we had a year ago. We have managed a 13 per cent shift from the rear services to the active part of the army during this year.

What was a military secret – the overall numbers of the army and its overall formal limits – now ceases, with the transition to a peacetime situation, to be a military secret. Our peacetime army consists today, in terms of brigades, of 95 infantry and 49 cavalry brigades. Those are the overall limits of the numerical structure of our army which I consider it both possible and necessary to make public; and I think that if the Congress of soviets should now find that it needs to know the army’s structure in more detail than that, it will find its own way to that information.

The reduction in the army’s size meant the removal from its ranks of the older age-groups. We began with the men born in 1885 and earlier, a section of whom had been mobilised. Then we moved on to the classes of 1886, 1887 and 1888, and, as a result, we demobilised in the course of this year 13 complete age-groups, from 1886 to 1898 inclusive. In the army now there are three age-groups: those of 1899, 1900 and 1901. Thirteen age-groups, not including those which were only partly mobilised, have been released. Three age-groups remain in the army, not counting specialists and those Red Army men who are involved in the more highly skilled work.

The question of discharging the class of 1899 has come on to the agenda. It would be possible to keep the army up to strength numerically with two age-groups only, but the alarming circumstances which have already been mentioned and which call for maximum vigilance by the Red Army, have obliged us to suspend any further discharge of men on indefinite leave, so as to ensure that the army enjoys maximum stability and so as to retain, within the numerical limits indicated, the class of 1899, as being the most experienced and most highly trained.

The process of reduction was a process of contraction and a process of very difficult reorganisation.

The process of demobilising an army is a painful operation, signifying loss of blood and an inevitable temporary weakening of the organism. This operation has now been completed, broadly speaking. It is now up to you either to order that the army be reduced still further or that it be kept at the size we have now arrived at. But, if you ask us, the War Department, I think that I am expressing the opinion of all the army delegates present here if I say that the army’s greatest dream at present is that the reorganisation process be brought to an end, so that the army may acquire stability and firmness, with lasting estab-lishments, and so that it may really get down to the day-to-day work of preparation and training.

Improvement in the Army’s Living Conditions

If we look back over this year of intensive demobilisation and ask ourselves how the Red Army has been living, I will say that it has been living badly. It accords with the nature of our policy to tell the truth, without embellishing anything, and this applies especially to such highly authoritative legislative assemblies as this one, whose voice resounds throughout the world. Yes, our army lived badly during the past year. It lived badly because its apparatus, including the supply apparatus, was weakened by the ceaseless haemorrhage of demobilisation.

The army lived badly because material demobilisation inevita-bly brings with it ‘demobilisation’ sentiments in the country at large. We witnessed this inevitable temporary condition when public opinion in our country ceased to attend closely to the needs and requirements of the army, after the army, having completed its urgent work, had gone into stationary quarters, and started a process of continuous contraction.

In the spheres of food-supplies, of accommodation, of fuel (which is closely connected with accommodation problems), and of clothing, our army suffered severe hardships during the past year, hardships which were all the more severe because the army’s own attention was divided between those whom it was sending home and those whom it was keeping with the colours. And now, when we have reduced the army to one-third of its former size, the fundamental task – which, I hope, the Congress will fix firmly in the minds of every one of us – consists in fully ensuring the army’s supplies, without which it cannot carry out, to the full, its work of preparation. We must make the barracks more comfortable, we must ensure, above all, that it is clean, well-lit and warm. And we ask the Congress of Soviets to order, despite our poverty, which is known to all, that at least a little more comfort, warmth and light be made available to the young Red Army men. [Applause] And we must keep in mind, especially, the fact that the army consists now of the three youngest age-groups. Hardly any of them experienced the civil war, and the bulk of them need both training and education.

The fact that the army consists now of three age-groups only is, basically, a very great advantage, because it ensures homogeneity in outlook, in experience and in level of military training. But this also has its negative side, from the standpoint of the soldiers’ previous military preparation, and we have to make up for the disadvantage. It can be made up for only by means of intense work on the part of the leadership of our army, its commanders and commissars.

The Commanders

The reduction in the army has not entailed any acute changes in our commanding personnel. As before, they are drawn from a variety of sources. Among them are both workers and peasants who rose from below amid the heat of the civil war, without any military training: among them, too, are former NCOs of the old Tsarist army, there are workers and peasants who have been through our new military schools, there are former regular officers of the Tsarist Army, former army officials, and, finally, making up a rather high percentage, there are wartime-commissioned officers of that same Tsarist Army.

I will give you the approximate proportions constituted by these main groups. Those commanders who have had no military education – and here we have reckoned not from the level of the section but from that of the platoon, that is, in accordance with the former concept of who were and who were not ‘officers’ – those without military education make up 43.4 per cent of all our commanders. That was the situation in the autumn, in September and October. It is a very big percentage, one that might give some militarily-qualified foreigner the impression that our army is weak, that it is ignorant in the military sense. We, knowing our army in both its weak and its strong sides, say: these 43.4 per cent who have enjoyed no military education do have their shortcomings. We know that very well; but these are the kernel, the foundation of our commanding personnel. These are the real Red officers of the revolution, the true representatives of its spirit. They came from the factories and the villages that were threatened by the forces of Kolchak and Denikin. They led others who were less experienced and knew even less that they did. In battle they acquired that experience. And they are the commanding personnel upon whom we are building. We are introducing refresher courses for them, and on these courses they are filling in the gaps in their formal military education: we hope to put the majority of our ‘self-made’ commanders through these courses during the coming winter.

Former NCOs account for 13 per cent of our commanders – too small a proportion. We expended this precious material too vigorously. We must again apply ourselves to picking them out and making commanders of them.

Red commanders who have passed through Soviet military schools make up about 10 per cent of the total.

The sum of these three categories, the most democratic, the most ‘lower-class’ in origin, is 66.3 per cent – that is, two-thirds of the total. Wartime-commissioned officers of the old army make up 22.1 per cent, army officials 6 per cent, and regular officers 5.6 per cent: 33.7 per cent altogether.

Comrades, I have not quoted these categories in order to counterpose one to another. I said that we should not have created the Red Army if we had not possessed that precious leaven, the worker and peasant Red officers who, though unqualified in the military sense, were highly qualified as figh-ters. But the army which is alive before our eyes today and is ready to fight has fused in its melting pot a variety of human material – by way of ebbs and flows, through tragic experi-ences, even betrayals by individuals and by groups, and harsh punishment for these betrayals, through the counterposing of the Red Army to other armies and of the Red Army’s truth to their lies ... We have drawn and consolidated our command-ing personnel from various sources. But they now constitute, as a whole, a united body. Those 5.6 per cent of old regular officers have their place in the general structure of our army and we need them. And they understand and know that we value them. They themselves have learnt a great deal. I will permit myself to quote here the opinion of one of the regular officers of the old army who held a very high position before the coming of Soviet power. This is the former War Minister in Kerensky’s Government, then Major-General Verkhovsky, who now holds one of the responsible posts in the organisation of our military-education institutions. In his booklet On the Tasks of Military Education Institutions he writes:

‘The most important driving impulse in the struggle we have lived through was the striving of the workers and peasants to defend their life and welfare, together with the position they had acquired and the land they had seized during the revolution, from attack by the old, dispossessed classes. This was the basic motive which guided the masses in the struggle. The best, the advanced, the most idealistically-inclined men went forth in the name of an idea, into the struggle for socialism, for the new world of emancipated labour, and the enthusiasm of these men was the organising force around which rallied all the resistance of the republic to the forces of counter-revolution.

‘This created the will to victory which forged the Red Army and, despite the terribly severe privations, despite the defeats, crowned the struggle with a victory of major historical importance.’

Many of us would perhaps have expressed this idea in differ-ent words, would have said it differently, but it is clear that here the tongue, or the pen, of Verkhovsky speaks for almost all – I y this with confidence – of our old regular commanders, who have become assimilated into the army and form one of its necessary components.

If we consider the commanders from the angle of social origin, the picture is broadly the same. In our army today, peasants – listen to this, comrade peasant delegates, and tell them about it in the villages – peasants constitute 67.3 per cent of our Red officers. Workers make up 12 per cent – many workers have gone back from the army into industry, or into Soviet institutions – and ‘others’ account for 20 per cent. Workers and peasants together make up 80 per cent of our commanders.

Allow me also to mention here a question which is also of importance for the Congress of Soviets, and not of minor importance either, since it concerns the role played among the commanders by the Party which holds the position of political leadership in our country. According to approximate figures, before the purge, before the recent contraction of the Party through elimination of those elements which, in the Party’s view, have no place in it, about 20 per cent of the commanders were Communists. They are now fewer than 20 per cent. As for the proportion of Communists in the entire army, and not just in the commanding personnel, this is now less than 10 per cent. These figures are of very great importance. What do they tell us? The Communist Party, to which the workers and peasants have entrusted the leadership of our country, is the embodiment of the historical, political experience of the working masses. But the figures show that, even so, the party is not at all the receptacle of all the military, technical, economic, producing and trading experience of the working masses. The Party, as the Party, retains political leadership through the trust of the work-ing people. But where the function of command is concerned, Communist commanders are, shoulder to shoulder with non-Party commanders, doing the same job as the latter. The Party has been entrusted by the working masses with exercising the revolutionary monopoly of leadership in our state, guiding it through the sandbanks and shoals of very difficult circumstances. But the Party does not claim in the least, it cannot and it does not want to claim, a monopoly of military, technical, scientific and every other sort of leadership. This question is all the more important for us – and I raise it frankly here – the Party, which is a voluntary union of like-minded persons, has in recent months eliminated from its ranks a rather large number of individuals belonging to our commanding personnel. I shall not speak of those who were removed for conduct incompatible with the honour of a citizen. They are done for. But quite a few were removed because the Party found that, by virtue of their mentality, their education and their habits of thought, they do not fit into the life of our Party collective. The Party said to these men: you are absolutely honourable revolutionary warriors, but you cannot demand for yourselves the right to influence our Party programme and tactics, because your whole past has not prepared you for that responsibility. And those commanders to whom the Party has said that it cannot retain them as members, but to whom neither the Party nor the Government which it leads has denied the right to enjoy respect and to hold responsible posts are not a few in number. And we must say to them that the fact that they have

been removed from the Party does, of course, deprive them of the rights of Party membership, until – through inward effort, re-education, getting closer to the working masses, study and work upon themselves – they induce the Party to reopen its doors to them. But in so far as the Party and the Soviet power found nothing in their conduct that was incompatible with the dignity of a revolutionary warrior, these commanders who have been put out of the Party will continue, as before, along with the general body of non-Party commanders, to enjoy all the authority they need as commanders, with the support of the organs of Soviet power and – I will say – not least with the support of the entire Communist Party.

The Military-Education Institutions

Renewal of the composition of the commanding personnel calls for the development of a network of military-education institutions. We have given a very great deal of attention to this aspect. But this work, too, like the work of the commanders, requires, above all, a minimum of material well-being such as makes possible the devotion of all one’s powers to the hard and responsible task of training others and studying the soldier’s trade. Comrades, I said that we need to improve the army’s material situation, and we need to improve, we must improve, the very difficult situation of our commanders, commissars and administrative and supply chiefs. The army delegates know this very well. If it be asked why I single out this question of the commanding personnel – a young Red Army man may ask, and has the right to ask that, and the hostile foreign press will try to play up this question – I reply: we have the most democratic army the world has ever known, and the best proof of that is that 43.4 per cent of its commanders have spontaneously emerged from the masses, and two-thirds of its commanders have originated from the lower ranks of society. But there is a difference between the position of a rank-and-file Red Army man and that of a Red Army commander. The former is in the Army only for a time (and we must see to the defining of his period of service, as soon as we have established more precisely the army’s numerical composition and the annual contingent of conscripts – we are already getting down to this), whereas the latter is a professional, a specialist in his trade, and we want him to devote his whole life, or at least the best part of his life, to the Army. Thus, we have, in the one case, temporary service in the army, and in the other, a permanent profession which should provide the one who exercises it with the means of working and maintaining his family. This is why the question of the most elementary and modest safeguarding of the position of our commanders is a very important question, along with that of the material safeguarding of the military-education institutions which must become a constant source of fecundation and inspi-ration for our young army.

Our network of military-education institutions has three tiers. At the first level there is the normal school which has the task of providing us with trained junior commanders as the result of three years of study of infantry work.

We want to ensure – we are getting down to this, and hope to have accomplished it very soon – that every Red commander, on leaving the school bench, shall begin his work as a commander not with a platoon but with a section. We intend thereby gradually to eliminate that old distinction of rank whereby the section was commanded by an NCO, whose career prospects stopped there, whereas an officer only began as a platoon commander. The whole character and nature of our army is in contradiction with this artificial watershed. For us the marshal of the revolution begins with the Red Army man, and in our army there are no impenetrable barriers. It is entirely a matter of the adequate development of a network of military-education institutions. Next March our military-education institutions will summon from among the workers and peasants new strata, new groups, of young cadets. We ask, we insist – and I think the whole country will demand this – that the local authorities and all the organisations of the working people will take care to see to it that the flower of the worker and peasant youth enter our military-education institutions.

The second level of military education is looked after by the narrower circle of educational institutions which prepare com-manders of higher formations. The third level is that of our military academies. This year our military academy, the former General Staff Academy, produced its first group of graduates, its first hundred general-staff officers. That was a great achievement for the Red Army, for the creation of a young General Staff will mean the crowning of our entire edifice. But we are as yet, of course, far from having reached that stage. This first group consists of workers who have fought honourably and studied honourably, but they still have many gaps and deficiencies and these they will rectify through practical work, and we do not doubt that they will succeed in developing into a type of complete military leader with all-round qualifications.

One of the tasks involved in the education of commanders – not their training but their education – is the inculcation in our commanders of the psychology and consciousness proper to sons of a leading, governing, ruling class. This is no simple task. Your sons, comrade peasants and comrade workers, when they enter a military-education institution, do not bring with them that spirit which was an attribute of the sons of the nobility and the bourgeoisie, who, coming from families of exploiters, brought to school the firm conviction that it was for them to govern, to lead, to command, to give orders and to conquer. The foundation for all that was exploitation and oppression, but the spirit of domination which grew out of it helped them to hold the army in their grip. Our army is based on the revolutionary initiative of the working masses. And the commanders of our army – which has waged and will wage a struggle against a stern enemy – our young commanders must foster in themselves, must convert into their own flesh and blood, the stern conviction that the working class is unshakably in power in our country, that it has built an army to fight to the death, and that nobody else is going to take that power, that any force which thinks of making an attempt on the inviolability of the power of the working people in this country will be smashed. And with this question a psychological question is connected – that of the characteristic of excessive good-nature, I should say that sometimes simple-minded good-nature, of the working man. The ruling-class officer knew that when you are fighting an enemy you have to fight to a finish. Never think that the enemy is weak! A weak enemy plus your mistakes can mean a strong enemy. Whether the enemy be big or small, give him all your attention, leave no trifle out of account, and, when the fight has begun, carry it through to the end. A partial success – and this, too, is one of the weak sides of our junior commanders – a partial success must never lull you and cause you to halt, as often happens. Why does this happen with us? It happens because of the good-nature of the working man, of the proletarian and the peasant. We need, however, to educated a worker-and-peasant body of commanders who, I repeat, will turn into their flesh and blood their conviction that, once the enemy has flung down his challenge and the struggle has begun, that struggle must be fought to a finish. If you have gained a partial success, redouble your efforts, your success will then be doubled, strike three times as hard, fight to a finish, until complete victory, until the enemy has been utterly smashed!

The Country is Getting to Know the Army More Intimately

The training and education of our army is now acquiring an unusual character through our going over to stationary quarters, through the circumstance that we are now for the first time finding it possible to bring the Red Army and the country face to face. Comrade delegates, you have frequently welcomed our army in your provinces, at your annual congresses, after its victories and trials and also alter its defeats, for your link with the army has never been broken. But if we ask whether you know our army, we must answer: no, you do not know it. You know the mounted army slightly. Why so? Because the mounted army, that precious section of our army, was unique, and it focused your attention. You knew about that. But you hardly know the infantry at all. Our army as a whole did not come into being in peacetime, when regiments publicly occupy certain quarters, and have numbers and names. Our army was built in battles, military secrecy hid it from you, you read in army communiques about how some N regiment or some N division had had such-and-such a success, or such-and-such a setback. The army has now ‘returned home’, for the time being. It is being attached to the local soviets, to the workers’ organisation, to the provinces and towns. From anonymity and obscurity our army is moving into a zone of bright light. It will be as though under a bell-glass. You will get to know our divisions, brigades and regiments – you will know them and will follow theik progress, and if the mounted army has enjoyed a constant stimulus to its energy in the fact that the country knows it and follows its progress, it will be no less of a stimulus to the energy of all units of our Red Army when the local soviets and the whole Soviet Republic come to know them. Henceforth our Red Army as a whole and every one of its divisions, every one of its regiments, will be able openly to write its brief but already rich and bright history. We possess not only an army, but also the traditions of a revolutionary army. These traditions we must write down, we must fix and imprint them in the minds of the young Red Army men. That link between divisions and local soviets the example for which was given by the Moscow and Petrograd Soviets, and which is now being extended ever more widely over the whole Soviet land, is a phenomenon that is important and valuable in the highest degree. Every regiment must have its patron, not an individual patron but a collective one – a local soviet, or other organ of the Soviet power, on the basis of the closest spiritual and material association.


The question of our army’s technique is a very difficult one. Our enemies have built and continue to build their hopes mainly upon this. They know that we have boundless spaces and countless numbers of people, but are weak technically.

And that is true. An army’s technique, by and large, reflects its country’s production-technique. But, at the same time, an army’s technique can, within certain limits, outstrip its country’s production-technique; and since it can, it must. We are now witnessing only the first signs of a revival of our economy. We do not doubt that these signs will become transformed already in the next few months into indisputable facts that show the development of our economy. We must simultaneously make every effort to build our military technique, to provide our army with the weapons of war that it needs. This applies especially to aircraft. We need a strong air force. We need armoured forces. It is necessary – and you will order this to be done – that the economic organs shall calculate their pluses and minuses more precisely where aircraft are concerned, and that the War Department, for its part, shall bring forward more suitable skilled elements for aviation work, so that the army may obtain the air arm appropriate to the tasks and requirements of forthcoming trials.

The Army’S Economic Work – Guard Service

Our army’s economic work has undergone very big changes. Last year the army’s independent economic work played a big role. There can be no question of that now. The so-called labour units were, by decree of the Council of Labour and Defence, detached from the Red Army and transferred to the People’s Commissariat of Labour, and then disbanded. The army was reduced numerically and its attention had to be concentrated above all on the work for which it exists, that is, on preparing itself to defend the frontiers and the independence of our country. Use of the army for economic purposes, apart from combating natural calamities such as snow-drifts, floods, and so on, is necessarily being restricted to the army’s own self-service needs: but in that sphere, too, the use of Red Army men’s labour is permissible only in so far is it does not disrupt tasks of training and education. There are two spheres in which the army is performing important, although far from identical, economic functions. One is the sphere of educating the army itself in the spirit of an economical, conscientious and honest attitude to public property generally and, in particular, to the public property which has been entrusted to the Red Army. Precise accounting, careful maintenance, cleaning, repairing, again accounting and again maintenance – this is the economic work of the Red Army as such. The second, and principal, economic role of the Red Army consists in defending with its bayonets the economic work of the Russian workers and peasants, against any attacks from without.

In peacetime a very important part of the army’s service is constituted by guard service. Let me say a couple of words about this. The role of the sentry who guards institutions, storehouses, the property of the Republic, is far from always and everywhere understood among us as it should be: this is the result of relations not yet being firmly settled, being still primitive. And yet, comrades, if you want to have an army – and you do want this – an army that knows its high calling, knows it thoroughly, even in peacetime, then start with the soldier on guard, start with the sentry. When a young peasant from Penza province, 19 years old, is on sentry duty, he is, in the words of our garrison regulations, an inviolable person, he is a manifestation of the supreme will of our state, and, consequently, he must be given full attention, he must be surrounded by an atmosphere of support and respect, so that he may feel, during the difficult hours in which he is on guard, that he is not just the rank-and-file soldier Ivanov, but the incarnation of the will of the Workers’ State, which he is defending, rifle in hand.

The Red Navy

Comrades, I could apply much of what I have said to our Red Navy. But this also has had its own particular fate, and I will say a few words about that. The fate of the Red Navy has been profoundly tragic. In these years we have had at our disposal an ocean of land, and on that dry ocean we have manoeuvred. We advanced, we retreated, and we built our Red Army. We were without an ocean of water, they had cut us off from that. Our navy found itself locked up within narrow confines. Remember how our Navy went into the October Revolution, how many vanguard elements, the bravest, most resolute fighters in the land forces came from a naval background. And how many of them laid down their lives on all the fronts of our civil war! They gave splendid executives to the Soviet power in all parts of the country. The Navy was weakened when it was cut off from the sea, when it was shut up in narrow confines, and when, above all, the counter-revolution laid its hand on this complex instrument of war. A series of cruel, merciless blows was struck at our navy by the hands of the Russian White Guards and of foreign imperialism. Often our sailors, the best of them, feel in their hearts bitter resentment that the Navy has been, so to speak, forgotten for the time being: people talk about the Red Army, but they talk and think too little and too rarely about the Red Navy. We shall not here engage in prophecies. We do not know how world history will go, and we do not know in which direction or when its oceans and seas will start to flow. But we do know one thing, namely, that we need to conserve a nucleus of men and technique for our Navy, to defend our shores. Resuscitating the Navy within these defensive limits is a complex task. It can and must be accomplished, on the basis of the revival of the country’s economy as a whole. Here I repeat what I said about the Red Army’s technique. The Soviet power must do all it can to conserve and consolidate the basic manpower nucleus of the Red Navy, and to equip it within the necessary limits of technique needed for defence of the maritime approaches to the Soviet Federation. Within those limits, let no-one have any doubt of it, the Navy will perform its responsible task.

Universal Military Training

We have an important organ of the army in the apparatus for universal military training. We expected that transition to the militia system would take place more quickly and more directly. That did not happen. The transition proved to be slower, on account of the whole world situation. The contraction of the Army severely affected the universal military training apparatus. But, comrades, the universal military training apparatus has, in principle, been entrusted with a tremendous task, which will expand – namely, the pre-call-up preparation of the young generations. This means developing ways of transition to the militia system. It means developing sport in our country, linking this with military matters and with labour. And we say to the comrades in the universal military training apparatus: ‘You are passing through dark days, conditions are difficult for you,but let the country breathe just a little more freely, let it obtain just a little more material prosperity, and then the universal military training apparatus will carry out an enormous amount of military-education work in our country.’

Banditry and the New Economic Policy

I must devote a considerable part of my exposition to the use of the Red Army to defend revolutionary order and the fight against counter-revolutionary banditry. I thus pass to a section of my report which is closely bound up with the internal political and economic life of the country. The first half of the year covered by my report was a time which saw an unprecedented development of banditry. The year was opened by Kronstadt, Tambov, bandit movements in Siberia, Caucasia, Transcaucasia and the Ukraine. The second half-year brought a radical change in this situation. Here and there, of course, bandit gangs still remain, but they are just gangs. Banditry as a broad social phenomenon, as the armed detachments of the broad kulak (and, in part, middle-peasant) masses in various districts, is a thing of the past. This we find to be the case in all parts of the country. Consequently, it is something more than an achievement by the War Department. It signifies a whole socio-political turn, and this is closely connected with the turn in our economic policy. If the question of our new economic policy were to be discussed here, if I were to be asked to reply, from the standpoint of my report, to the question: does our new economic policy signify a plus or a minus, a step forward or a step back, a movement towards communism or a retreat from it? If you were to ask me: what was our previous economic policy, a mistake or a necessity? (on that score a great many very intricate, very subtle questions could be formulated), I should answer: at the beginning of this year there was Kronstadt and there was Tambov, but now this is not so, and we are sure that there will be no recurrence there. Is the economic policy a step forward or a step back? The liquidation of banditry – not just military liquidation, but political liquidation as well – is a very clear, very distinct, direct, soldierly-sharp testimony that our military [2] [sic] policy is an immense step forward. True, it could be said that, as compared with the idea of all-planned, all-socialist all-construction in every corner and every sphere, on every square inch of our territory, it is a step back. But as compared with Kronstadt and Tambov it is an immense step forward. Was the old policy a mistake, and, if so, within what limits? This is now an academic question, which can be left to the historian to answer. But that the Soviet power correctly and in good time changed its policy when such change was clearly and distinctly required by the actual situation, and that it thereby created a better atmosphere, in the Red Army as well as elsewhere, created new attitudes within it – that is a fact, and upon this fact we are now building.

The history of banditry in our country is the history of landlord and bourgeois counter-revolution. Banditry is its expression and its instrument. The history of banditry is the history of counter-revolution’s retreat from the Muscovite heartland to the borderlands. But, while withdrawing to the borderlands, banditry continued for a long time to be a broad movement of the rural upper circles, and, in part, of the urban petty-bourgeoisie, and this was true especially of the Ukraine. The Petlyura movement in the Ukraine began as a national-democratic movement. Later, it degenerated into armed detachments of the kulak upper circles, and towards the end it disintegrated and became transformed into bands and gangs which had lost support even among the upper strata of the Ukrainian countryside and which must now base themselves outside the Ukraine, mainly in Poland and Romania.

The Bandit Gangs and Foreign Capital

Let us take what I may perhaps be allowed to call the ‘classical’ case of banditry, namely, the Makhno movement in the Ukraine. Only yesterday an extraordinarily interesting document came into my hands. It must be mentioned that, thanks to the disintegration among the émigrés of all shades, we are getting hold of a huge quantity of documents issued by all these Russian ministries and Ukrainian ministries which reside in various streets in Paris, Prague, Vienna, Berlin and so on, communicating with each other, setting forth their plans, their ‘reasons of state’, and so on. Our intelligence directorate is duty-bound to reproduce these documents in a rather large number of copies, which imposes a heavy burden on us in view of our shortage of paper, which you know about. And here is one of these documents, – I am afraid of making a mistake: it is from ... Petlyura’s department of foreign relations. Please do not think that I have made a mistake: this institution is so named – ’department of foreign relations’. I cannot give its exact address. Whoever is curious to know can find this out from our intelligence directorate. This department informs all Petlyura’s envoys in Central Europe that Makhno and his bands are in Romania. Makhno, as is proper in a strictly constitutional state, where the liberties of citizens and émigrés are protected as they are protected in that classical country of freedom and constitutionality, Romania, has received a friendly welcome. In this report there are even some homely details about how six thoroughbred horses – which had, of course, been brought from the Ukraine – were sold in order to ensure that Makhno could live comfortably in Bucharest. And here he is, in this very ‘department of foreign relations’ of the Petlyurist Government, where they ask him about what is happening in the Ukraine. At first, of course, he replies in terms of exaggerated personal dignity, but later on the report says literally this: ‘As a result of systematic questioning, Makhno’s fate emerges as follows. After losing its footing in the Ukraine, after Wrangel’s defeat, the Makhnovite organisation began to look for allies. With this aim it transferred a considerable part of its forces to the Don country, where, however, it discovered that there were no substantial anti-Bolshevik forces to be found on the Don, either, and the Don could give no help to the fight against the Bolsheviks. After that, they moved eastward, so as to make contact with Antonov; but there, too, they found the same situation as on the Don and in the Ukraine. From there they went to Kursk, where again they discovered that the anti-Bolshevik forces were insignificant and crushed.’ I must mention that, a few lines earlier, the report says that the whole importance of the Makhno movement lay in Makhno’s exploitation of the conflict between Wrangel and the Soviet power, and only in relation to the aims of that conflict was it able to play a certain role.

After that, the report goes on, the Makhnovites tried to make their way into Poland, but, as they feared that the Reds might bar their way, they took, instead, the road to Romania, a country where they also felt secure, and in this they were not mistaken, because, so far as Russian counter-revolutionary bands are concerned, Poland and Romania are merely two different rooms in one and the same flat.

We have another report, comrades, on the activity of the bands which are thrown on to our territory from time to time. This concerns the ‘Black-Sea Committee for the Salvation of Russia’. [2b] (They are saving Russia on the Black Sea, too!) This committee is headed by Socialist-Revolutionaries. Disclosures which have undoubted political significance have proved that the so-called Black-Sea peasants’ militia led by the Black-Sea Committee for the Salvation of Russia, is financed by Armenian and Russian industrialists behind whom stand two groups: one (we can name them precisely) is British and the other Italian-British oil interests and Italian manganese interests. They, you see, are vitally ‘interested’ in the destiny of democracy in Caucasia and Transcaucasia! The Italian manganese merchants and the British connoisseurs of Baku oil have their military agency in this committee for salvation set up by the SRs. The activity of the SRs is expressed in the organising of frenzied bands armed with money from Italian and American [sic] industrialists, which slaughter Russian people and destroy Russian railway lines.

The Knights Of The Second International

There you have the living reality, and in the light of this living reality I recall that British socialists belonging to the Second International, like Citizen Henderson and some others, empty-headed democrats, although they now write in their publications about the need to give de jure recognition to the Soviet Government (to such fearful heights have these people risen!), at the same time they lay down their conditions for this: let the Soviet power withdraw its troops from Georgia, let it give the right of self-determination to the Georgian people – and then esteem for it on the part of the democrats of the whole world will mount to the point of giving de jure recognition to Soviet power in Russia. Splendid, Messrs Socialists of the Second International, Citizen Henderson and democrats whose heads are full of wind and other light materials, but let me ask you this: well, suppose we were to withdraw the Red troops – which, incidentally, live in harmony with the workers and peasants of Georgia – suppose, let’s say, that the Georgian workers and peasants were to say that they agree to our withdrawing the Red forces: will you, esteemed democrats, in that case, give us a guarantee that the British oil-industrialists and the Italian manganese-industrialists will not establish in Tiflis and Baku the rule of a committee for the salvation of Baku oil from the workers of Azerbaijan? There’s a question for you! They ask for trifles: they ask for the disarmament of Transcaucasia, and yet this very same report from which I have quoted to you says that in Prague (one of the centres where ‘Russian’ policy is made), in the émigré circles of Prague, it is regarded as a very big achievement that the Black-Sea Committee for the Salvation of Russia has at last concluded an agreement with a Georgian rebel committee for the seizure of Tiflis. The Black-Sea Committee for the Salvation of Russia, that is, the SR agents of British oil interests and Italian manganese interests, concludes an agreement with those interests’ Geor-gian Menshevik agents. If we were so naive as to believe in the windy arguments of these same pseudo-democrats and were to withdraw our forces, if the Georgian workers were to ask us to do this, then through Batum would come, just as the Japanese came through Vladivostok (the British know the sea-routes well, they are good at geography), through Batum would come elements, either in SR-and-Menshevik or in openly-monarchist dress, who would open the road for foreign conquest further eastward, towards Baku.

We can say to the Second International: if you want to test the strength of the principles of democracy, turn your eyes a little away from Transcaucasia and take a look at the Far East. There we also have a republic which is completely democratic, where the government is elected on the basis of universal, equal, direct and secret suffrage. The British government recently concluded a very important agreement with Japan, yet only the other day Japan, acting through its military agents, the Kappelites, seized Khabarovsk from us. Khabarovsk fell. A town in a democratic republic fell before the onslaught of monarchist bands, armed against democracy from the resources of foreign imperialism. But, comrades, before I speak in more detail about this, I must mention an example which is nearer to hand.

Poland and Banditry

I have said already that, as banditry, forced out by the turn in our internal policy directed towards establishing more correct relations between the working class and the peasantry, retreated to the borderlands, a moment came when the bandits passed beyond our frontiers. I mentioned incidentally that they passed principally into two countries which are sufficiently well known to all of you. And if you were to ask me, trying to catch me out, why we cannot reduce the Red Army, I should point, comrades, to the map which hangs here. [3] This map could be variously titled: it could be called: ‘Russo-Polish (or Soviet-Polish) relations’, it could be called: ‘The Treaty of Riga in operation’, it could be called: ‘The triumph of international law’, or it could be called: ‘The defence of Western civilisation against Soviet barbarism’. This red line on the map is our frontier with Poland, as laid down by the Treaty of Riga. This dotted red line is the frontier which separates us from Bessarabia, which was seized from us. The Treaty of Riga was signed on March 18, 1921; here [pointing to the map] is its history since then. I don’t know whether these arrows have been marked clearly enough, whether they are sufficiently visible, especially to those of you who are sitting at a distance – I think these innocent arrows should have been made clearer, thicker, so that they could be seen from all the seats in this hall, without exception. These arrows are of different colours, but they have one and the same meaning. They are the bands which from over there, from Poland [pointing to the map] have been sent in here, across our frontier. The arrows are of different colours because they refer to different periods, and not because they differ in quality. They are all of one quality, that which bears the trademark of the Second Department of Poland’s General Staff. Some of them are smaller, some larger. This, however, did not depend on the goodwill or ill-will of the Polish General Staff, but only on the forces at its disposal. It did what it could to throw on to our territory bands as big as it could manage, so as to do us as much harm as possible.

Now look again. This is the frontier with Poland according to the Riga Treaty of March 18. You will see, comrades, how it is all indented and pierced by these arrows. This is no joke, not subject-matter for a newspaper-article. What we see here are systematically-organised bands which are disrupting our economic life, our constructive work, every month and every week. Some of the arrows are longer, like poisonous snakes, some are shorter, like leeches. All are directed into the body of the Russian people, the Russian workers and peasants. All this, do you see, is in accordance with the Treaty of Riga. If you turn the pages of the book of our negotiations with Poland since the Treaty of Riga – I do not even speak of our attempts to make peace with Poland before the war, before the Treaty of Riga – then after a certain time no right-minded persons will believe what is in this book. They will say: it cannot be that the Russian workers and peasants, even though exhausted and weakened, should have shown such incredible restraint, such amazing persistence in struggling to maintain peace and avoid bloody war. Remember all the protests by Chicherin and Rakovsky regarding the bandit activities of Savinkov and Balakhovich. Remember the latest episode, at the end of September, when it seemed that in Poland’s upper circles they really wanted to go to war with us, whatever the cost. [4] At that time the Council of People’s Commissars sent me to have a look at what was happening on our western frontier and check on what state our troops were in. The commander-in-chief came too. That was in September but on October 6 we received good news from Comrade Karakhan, our ambassador in Poland: a new agreement had been signed with Dombski, there would be no more bands, all active counter-revolutionary thugs were to be expelled from Poland. That was on October 6. But on October 25-26, in that same month, from that same Poland, these [pointing to the map] very long arrows, very big bands, were hurled at us.

I am addressing the Congress of Soviets, the speeches are being taken down in shorthand, and I must impose some restraint on myself in my choice of expressions. But that is hard to do – very hard.

What does this mean, comrades? And can we go on living in a situation in which we are constantly subjected to these raids and blows – ‘pinpricks’, it may be said? But pinpricks, too, are not such harmless things. Doctors tell us that it is enough to prick or cut a section of skin in order to bring about the death of a whole organism. What is this if it is not an attempt, under the guise of peace, constantly to rend and demolish the outer integument of Soviet Russia, so as by such exhaustion-inducing measures to cause us to perish? I ask you, can we go on living in such a situation? Impossible! And that is why we need the Red Army. And that is why we must build and strengthen it.

Romania And Banditry

After that, it remains to say a little about the second ‘room’ in the same flat, about Romania, with whom we have a provision-al, temporary frontier. We tried to negotiate a permanent frontier and permanent relations, but we did not succeed, for Romania actually broke off negotiations because she did not want to remain neutral in the event of an attack on us by another state. Across this dotted line the Romanians hurl bands at us in exactly the same way as the Poles do across this unbroken line, and at the same intervals.

The latest appearance of Tyutyunik’s bands in the Ukraine was liquidated – they were routed, and in part thrown back over the frontier. From the standpoint of internal politics, the most important fact is that these bands, the latest bands of Tyutyunik and Paliy, met with absolutely no sympathy in the localities; they wandered about in a vacuum, and that was precisely why they were soon liquidated, and the bulk of them ground to dust. We know who is behind this – it is not only Poland and Romania. We know that, in the last analysis, the Second Department of the Polish General Staff and the army headquarters at Bendery and in Bucharest are merely relay-stations for French imperialism. We have no doubts on that score. And the news which the telegraph brings us, that the negotiations will soon take place, those negotiations which we have long been waiting for, which we are waiting for now, and into which we shall most willingly enter, this news about for-thcoming negotiations for the establishment of peace, with Soviet Russia included, will become more concrete and mean-ingful for us as soon as France ceases to subsidise the bands which violate our peace, our labour and our frontiers.

The Far East

Here, comrades, I come to a question which is of particular topical importance, the question of the Far East, where, I repeat, we have lost Khabarovsk. We have, of course, temporarily lost, and then later recovered for good, many a town more important, bigger and nearer to Moscow than Khabarovsk – but in this case the conflict is profoundly instructive in character, not only for us but also for the working class of the whole world. Monsieur Briand has said more than once, and in Washington in particular, that he is waiting, waiting impatiently for the time to come when a government will have been formed in Russia which expresses the national will. The national will, in their conventional language, which we consider a language for defrauding the working masses, means a government artificially fabricated by means of pressure from above and oppression by capital, under the fiction of universal, direct, equal and secret suffrage. But look comrades, at the Far-Eastern Republic: what is it? It consists of Russian peasants and Russian workers. Why is it ‘Far-Eastern’ and not Russian, why does it exist separately, and not with us? Why are there no soviets there? Who is in power there? The Communists. On what basis? On the basis of universal suffrage, of democracy. Why? Because the peasants and workers of the Far East have said to the Japanese, American and French imperialists: ‘You want democracy – well, here’s a democracy for you, elected by us, on the basis of universal suffrage. You have promised that if Russia becomes a democratic republic you won’t touch her – well, here’s the Far-Eastern Republic, as the flank of that Soviet Federation.’ So, does this Far-Eastern democracy enjoy independence and inviolability? Perhaps thugs and bandits of all denominations are not tearing it to pieces, perhaps in May of this year (in which the same thing had already happened once before) there did not take place over there a military coup d’etat carried out under the guidance of Japanese instructors? What a tremendous exposure of their utterly false democratism! We, comrades, have so far done too little to disseminate the appeal of the People’s Assembly of the Far-Eastern Republic. I cannot read it all, unfortunately. Listen, comrades, peasant and worker delegates, listen to the voice which comes to us from the Far East, from eight or nine thousand versts away:

‘For the fourth year already the Japanese bayonet is violating the will of the Russian people. Japan began by landing troops at Vladivostok. Now, in the fourth year of Japanese intervention, it is in practice master of the entire Russian coast of the Pacific Ocean. Japanese fortifications, trenches and barbed-wire entanglements have been established on Russian territory. Japanese mines have been laid in Russian rivers. The mouth of our principal river, the Amur, is not only closed to our trading vessels but has been transformed into a base for hostile military forces, a base from which they will carry out attacks and from which Japan will extend and con-tinue her conquests.

‘Having seized the lower reaches of the Amur, Japan seized Russian Sakhalin in the same forcible way. There the Japanese lord it as though in their own country, selling off our timber, our fish and our mineral wealth. No Russian may enter the island of Sakhalin or the lower reaches of the Amur without permission from the Japanese authorities.’

At the end of this appeal, our Far East says: ‘The people of Russia’s Far East have lifted their voices more than once in protest against the wrongs and the violence committed by Japan. So far there has been no response to our protest.’ The reference is, of course, to the capitalist states, the ‘great democracies’, those which assembled in Washington, whither we were not invited, but where they decided without us the fate of the Pacific Ocean. Look at the map. The Pacific Ocean is a large mass of water ruled over by the navies of the United States, Japan and Britain, and these states, together with France, have concluded an agreement concerning the Pacific Ocean. But this ocean has two coasts, one American and the other Asian. And many hundreds of versts of that Asian shore enclose the domain of the Russian peasants and workers. In Washington, however, they are settling this question without us. Nor is that all. After the conclusion of the agreement between the four imperialist states, bands whose starting point was Vladivostok gathered strength, moved northward in the direction of Khabarovsk, seized that town, an important point on the Amur, and are now trying to advance westward. Who arms them? Japan. The three other partners allow this to happen, which means that they instigate it. A voice of protest reaches us from the Far East, a voice that summons us to help. And, of course, the All-Russia Congress of Soviets cannot ignore the voice of our far-off brothers who today, at this time when we are discussing the question, are defending, 8,000 versts way, the flank of the Soviet Federation. For there can be no doubt that the Far-Eastern Republic is merely a defensive formation prompted by the ‘reason of state’ of the Russian working man in the Far East, who has endeavoured in this way to hold back the onslaught of Oriental imperialism.

We see now this fact of life. We fling captured Khabarovsk in the face of all the European pseudo-democrats. We fling it in the face of the Second International and we say: so much for your shield of democracy – it has protected nothing. Perhaps you will tell us to withdraw our forces from the Far Eastern Republic as well? But the trouble is that there are too few of them there. We say that, while the attack from the East to the West has not, up to now, been held back by the democratic shield, we do not doubt that, in some month, sooner or later, this attack will be halted by the Red bayonet. We have retreated more than once, comrades, and we shall probably have to retreat again more than once in our lifetime. We possess pati-ence and endurance. And therefore, across those 8,000 versts we reply to the Far East that, while we cannot help so quickly and decisively as we should wish, nevertheless our help will come! We call on the workers and peasants of the Far East to remember that neither the fate of Khabarovsk nor that of Vladivostok has been decided by those ‘Four’ for good and all. Besides the Four there is a Fifth – the Soviet Republic and its Red Army.

The Bands in Karelia

And, finally, our most recent experience where democracy and international law are concerned is depicted on another, more modest map [5], where the Karelian Labour Commune is shown, lying to the west [sic] [6] of the frontier which we voluntarily granted to Finland, taking its economic interests into account and reconciling them with our own. To the right of this line lies the Karelian Labour Commune. It covers an area twice the size of Belgium, with a sparse, scattered population of about 150,000, spread over a huge, often impassable expanse. In this Karelian Labour Commune the Soviets of the working Karelians rule. Here, on this side, under the fiction of universal suffrage, foreign capital rules, acting through its agents, the Finnish bourgeoisie. During our peace negotiations with Finland our diplomats announced, by way of information, that Karelia was being given autonomy, like all the other parts of our many-millioned federation that wish to have this. But the Finnish ruling class is dissatisfied with the class content of Karelia’s autonomy. They prefer, they rate higher, their own form of state self-determination. We knew that when we signed the treaty with them. We knew that this was a treaty between a proletariat organised in its own state and a bourgeoisie organised in its own state, a bourgeoisie which had crushed its own proletariat and killed many thousands of workers. We knew that, and we signed the treaty knowing beforehand that our autonomy would differ from the Finnish concept, just as the proletariat and the working peasantry differ from the bourgeois exploiters. That, after all, was the meaning of the peace treaty with Finland. And there is nothing surprising in that.

But in the autumn of this year, when the frightful spectre of famine arose in the Volga region, when the enemy thought that the hour of doom was near for the Soviet power, they began preparing, on that frontier as well, to launch an autumn attack upon us. They fixed this, originally, for August 28, but then postponed it to September, and then again to October. And here, comrades, these arrows [pointing to the map] show the White-Finnish bands that were sent from Finland into Karelia. Their numbers and their direction are shown here quite precisely. These bands started to cross into our territory on October 24 and 25 – on almost the very same day as the bands of Tyutyunik and Paliy, and in fulfilment of one and the same plan.

As a result of the reduction in our army, no troops whatsoever had been left in the Karelian Commune. We had removed the one brigade which was there. Why? We had no reason at all to suspect that even a regiment, let alone a brigade, was needed in those, parts for the maintenance of internal order. True, we miscalculated where our north-western neighbour was concerned. We miscalculated, and unquestionably, we, as the War Department, we must bear responsibility for that. We did not trust in the fiction of international law, of course we did not, but, all the same, with all our lack of confidence in bourgeois fictions, we did, this time, accord too much significance to the letter of a treaty. Of that we were guilty. We withdrew the brigade, leaving merely weak frontier units that were capable only of combating smugglers but not of conducting military operations. And on October 24, 25 and 26 the bands began to move in from Finland. Expanses that are boundless, roads that are impassable. While we were concentrating the necessary forces to be sent there, these bands were establishing themselves in the frontier zone. All bourgeois Europe reported that our routes to the North had been cut, that we were cut off from Murmansk, and so on and so forth.

Nothing of the sort! The bands never reached the railway-line. They were dozens of versts distant from it. And what is most instructive, and gives one a clear idea of what they are like, is that they are afraid, in general, of advancing eastward. These are not bands of local men, as the Finnish press lyingly asserts, with the foreign press following it, when they write about a ‘revolt’ in Karelia. There has been no revolt in Karelia, but there has been an invasion from across the Finnish frontier by White-Karelian, émigré and White-Finnish bands, led by Finnish officers – specifically, officers of Finland’s 2nd Division. These bands began their operations in accordance with an agreement made with the Petlyurists and Savinkovites, an agreement reached through Viktor Savinkov, who went to Finland for the purpose of organising these actions.

Furthermore, the Finnish Government – isn’t it amazing? – put in a complaint to the League of Nations, that is, it stated that in the Soviet Republic the Karelian people have Soviet self-determination. The League of Nations is to decide the question of Karelian self-determination. How the Finnish politicians imagine this is going to be done, I don’t know. The question of the self-determination of the working people of Karelia can be settled otherwise than it has been settled up to now only by armed force. This is what the White bands are trying to do. Force is their argument. Against the argument of force we counterpose force. But what is the League of Nations supposed to do? Japan and France belong to the League of Nations. We are having to talk with the Japanese member of the League of Nations now, somewhere in the area of Khabarovsk, and the conversation of our Red Army units and guerrilla detachments is not carried on in the diplomatic language of the League of Nations. Is it contemplated that the League of Nations should engage in armed intervention here in Karelia? If so, then that means that Finland is going to conclude an agreement with some third state for the purpose of armed invasion of our borders – because diplomatic intervention merely serves to clear the way for armed intervention. Whether Finland wants this is not clear to us. We are not clear as to how far the Finnish Government appreciates what is happening, being, as it is, subject to incitement not only by the White-Guard émigrés but also by the extreme elements of Finnish, chauvinism and, especially, by foreign imperialism. It would appear that the Finnish Government is merely drifting. At first it tried to resist, then it began to connive, and it ended by openly supporting the White-Guard bands. We receive information that a band is being formed in some place in Finland, and within a week or two we record the presence of this band in some place in Karelia. The Finnish Government provides these bands with the military supplies they need. Our commander-in-chief is now in the area of Soviet Karelia, with the task of examining the situation at first hand and giving the necessary direction to the operations which are in prospect there. This morning he reported to me as follows, and I consider it possible to make this report public: ‘A survey of the state of feeling in the volosts shows that, out of 46 volosts, 26 are indubitably and actively on our side. The attitude of 14 is passive or undecided, and those where the Whites meet with a certain sympathy number 11’ – out of 46.

I ask you to remember that the expanse of territory con-cerned is enormous, and the roads are difficult to traverse, so that there are many volosts there whose sentiments have not yet been elucidated.

‘However, this figure of 11 volosts is obviously exaggerated. According to all the reports received, manifestations of banditry have been observed only in 7 volosts (Tunguda, Reboly, Voknavolok, Tikhtozero, Ukhtitsa, Porosozero and Maslozero).

‘The most striking proof of the loyalty of the inhabitants to the Soviet power is the fact that destruction or damage by the population to our lines of communication, which run quite unprotected over immense areas, has been recorded only in the zone immediately adjoining the frontier, and there has been only one case of this.

‘The commanders of the bandit units are either Finnish elements from beyond the frontier, officers of the Finnish army, or local elements who served in Miler’s [7] counter-revolutionary army. Words of command are, in many of these units, given in the Finnish language. Officers from Finland’s 2nd Division have arrived in Karelia.

‘In the reports we have captured (for example, those signed with the Finnish surname Ekkel) there are statistical data on the number of households in the villages, which testifies to the alien character of the bands.’

Further on in the commander-in-chief’s report there is a list of the new bands of small size which have appeared from over the frontier in the last few days, and the statement that during engagements these bands use signal rockets to communicate with each other and with their headquarters across the frontier.

‘When our intelligence agents abroad report the formation in Finland of a particular band, these reports are always confirmed by the appearance of a new band on our territory, at the corresponding point.

‘Men in Finnish naval uniform have been observed among the bands. Finnish-made cartridges have been found, from the Riikhimaki factory. [8]

‘The bands are obviously afraid of getting cut off from their base across the frontier. All the foreign reports concerning the Murmansk railway, about how it has been destroyed and so on, are products of fantasy. The line is unharmed.

‘Absolutely no addition to the strength of the bands through volunteering by the local inhabitants has been observed. Everywhere that we have come into contact with the enemy, as in the Rugoozero direction, we have noted decrease and not increase in the size of the bands. Their reinforcements come from outside.’

Meanwhile. Finland, in the persons of its activists, that is, the extreme chauvinists, grows more and more reckless in what it prints in its chauvinist press. Thus, you can read, day after day now, in the leading Finnish newspapers, that Soviet Russia is insufferable as a neighbour. The phraseology about being a barrier against Soviet barbarism is familiar not only to the rogues of the Paris boulevards but to the journalists of Helsingfors as well. They write that it is for them, do you see, insufferable to have Russia as a neighbour! What do you require us to do, gentlemen from Helsingfors? We cannot transfer our country elsewhere. We live where we live, and we shall stay where we are. They don’t like the self-determination of Karelia and they don’t like the self-determination of Petrograd – a magnitude greater than Karelia, and very near the Finnish frontier. They would prefer bourgeois self-determination for Petrograd, just as we – and we do not hide this, for it is no secret – would prefer proletarian self-determination for Finland, and we say this frankly in our newspapers. But it is one thing to express one’s preference in a newspaper and another thing to discharge such bandit arrows as these [pointing to the map]. We are not sending such arrows into Finland, because we are honourably fulfilling the treaty: even though we have no liking at all for that treaty, we fulfil it, because this conduct is dictated by reason of state.

The Finnish Army numbers 35,000 men. The population of Finland – I don’t know whether the workers killed by the Finnish bourgeoisie have been properly deducted from this figure – amounts to 3,300,000. In the Finnish Army the officers openly boast (and this is said in the Finnish press) that Mannerheim – you know him [9] – will soon march on Petrograd. There has been some dancing around Petrograd more than once already, and the Finns have played some part in it. Many of you, both in the time of Yudenich and in the time of Kronstadt, when Finland’s Mannerheims tried to establish contact with the mutinous fortress and fleet, enjoyed a close-up view of this. We have had the devil’s dance around Petrograd more than once, and we have had enough of it. Just as we do not want to put up any longer with this way of fulfilling the Treaty of Riga, so we cannot put up with constant shameful threatening of proletarian Petrograd!

Comrades, at the Congress of Soviets, where delegates of the workers and peasants are assembled, I do not have to say how sincerely and honestly we want peace; but peace demands that Karelia be cleared of the bands, and we advise Finland, advise her very strongly, not to put an elbow or a hand over that line [pointing to the map] because we are going to pass along there in the next few days. With full awareness of our responsibility we advise the Finnish commanders not to be in any hurry to measure the distance between Helsingfors and Petrograd, because, if it should come to measuring that distance – and we do not want to do this – it may turn out that the road from Petrograd to Helsingfors is shorter than the road from Helsingfors to Petrograd.

We Want Peace

After what I have said, there is no need for me to prove to the Congress of Soviets that we need a strong Red Army precisely because we want peace!

You have come here from different places, some of you from the starving Volga region, and our starving and dying Volga peasants, men and women, and the peasants’ children, who are dying before their parents’ eyes, do not want to conquer other people’s lands – that is obvious without any need for long discources. One would have to possess the very great stupidity of foreign imperialist journalists, ministers hostile to us and parliamentary windbags to suppose that we, who are now engaged in healing our frightful wounds amid terrible economic ruin, are setting ourselves aggressive military tasks, that we are preparing to enslave somebody or attack somebody. Falsehood, slander, lies!

Yes, we still retain an army of over 1,300,000 men. That is true. But what about the international situation, the imperialist encirclement? And what about the size of our country? If you compare the two countries in terms of population, our army is less than half the size of the army of France, and if you compare these countries in terms of territory, our army is only one-eighteenth as big as the French. But we have to defend our territory, the land that lies under our feet. And what about the dangers of the world situation? What is dangerous in France’s position? Briand spoke about that in Washington. The danger to France consists in this, that if her grip weakens, those whom imperialist France is strangling will try to get up from the ground, on to their knees and, maybe, even on to their feet. That is the danger threatening France. But if our grip were to weaken, they would force us to the ground and, probably, strangle us. If one measures the extent of territory, the size of population and the degree of danger, we need an army one hundred times as big as that of France – and even then its relative size would not match theirs. Ours is the most defensive of all the armies in the world. Have we not proved that, are we not proving it every day? Has not our policy been an intense struggle for peace, at the price of very heavy concessions? And what of our recent statement about recognising the Tsarist debts? Yes, you know it, the whole world knows it, that we, a proud and victorious revolution, having taken power and defended ourselves against countless enemies, have agreed, given certain conditions, to recognise the old Tsarist debts – may they be thrice accursed. We have announced this. Why? Out of reverence for what the usurers of the whole world regard as sacred obligations? Nothing of the sort! This is not payment for the past, because this was not our past but a past that was against us – no, this was payment to safeguard our future. We say: if those who lent money to the Tsars will agree, in exchange for our paying them the Tsars’ debts, to leave us in peace, to enable us to breathe, to live and to work, then we are ready to pay them ransom, not with the blood of Red Army men but with the produce of our labour, with gold.

It is reported that the British and French merchants and industrialists are saying in the stock-exchanges: that’s not yet all – besides the state debts there are the claims of the aggrieved private investors. There is no difference of principle here, so far as we are concerned. Let us talk together about it! Our diplomats have spoken about this matter more than once.

Our diplomats are very patient. They are used to propaganda, and, patiently, persistently, day after day, when fresh demands are put to them, they say: let us sit down at the table and discuss claims both governmental and private. And there is, of course, no difference, so far as we are concerned, between these claims: all that matters to us is the conditions – that and only that. This kind of declaration, which we have made many times, signifies our endeavour to buy ourselves off from war. The Treaty of Riga was such an attempt. But what is each one of the arrows on this map? A provocation to war – precisely, each one, taken separately, for they. do not coincide in time. But how have we responded? We have exterminated each band, taken separately, and we have made our payments under the Treaty of Riga, according to those articles which obligated us to make this or that payment.

It cannot, of course, be said of us that we are non-resisters, disposed to offer first this cheek and then the other to be struck. No, we are revolutionaries and we know how to fight. But in the struggle for peace we show the maximum self-restraint. Not indefinitely, however, but only up to a certain limit. And, comrades, there is danger that somebody is going to go beyond that limit. On the one hand, every day sees many telegrams appearing in our press about how recognition of the Soviet power is not far off: how they are assembling in London or at Cannes, and are going to invite us there, and intend to talk definitely about recognising the Soviet power. Everywhere, of course, that they invite us to engage in negotiations for establishing peace, even if it be not such a peace as we regard as just and necessary, we shall go and, I hope, reach agreement. But it is precisely this atmosphere of impending changes in the international situation that compels our sworn foes, the White-Guard émigrés and the extremists among the foreign imperialists, to say to themselves: strike the iron while it is hot, or soon it will be cold. The last months, perhaps the last weeks, remain, and if a decisive blow is struck at the Soviet power now, then, perhaps all these negotiations will miscarry. It is in this connection that a development is taking place in the policy of the imperialist cliques of Poland and Romania – where, by the way, Averescu, with whom we had a score to settle, and who in 1918 signed an undertaking to return Bessarabia to us after two months, has been replaced as Prime Minister by Take Jonescu, whose entire political career has consisted in rabid incitement of the Romanian bourgeoisie against the Ukraine and the whole Soviet Federation. In these circumstances we need to maintain twofold, tenfold vigilance.

Release Marty and Badina!

I will mention an episode which shows how the proximity of recognition of the Soviet power is interwoven with bloodthirsty hatred of everything that actually tends towards rapprochement with Soviet Russia. You remember the days when Briand was making his speech in Washington, a speech filled with hatred of the Soviet Republic, a speech in which he depicted us as a people who are seeking to enslave other peoples, a menace to civilisation, and so on. In those same days and hours the proletariat of Paris was electing to the Paris municipal council two convicts, Marty and Badina. Marty and Badina are two French sailors. They were in the French naval vessels which operated against Odessa, in the Black Sea, and when the order was given to bombard Soviet Odessa, Marty and Badina gave the signal for mutiny: the French sailors refused to bombard Odessa and the ships were withdrawn. These heroes were arrested. If Marty and Badina were not shot, it was only because all the working people of France were against the war on Soviet Russia: they were sentenced, instead, to many years of penal servitude. And on that day when Briand, that sham representative of the French people, on the basis of universal suffrage, was slandering the Soviet Republic in Washington, the workers of Paris made a correction to Briand’s speech by electing to the municipal council two convicts – our friends Marty and Badina. A wave of protest rolled over all France, with the demand for freedom for Marty and Badina. How did the French Government respond to this – that government which is now supposed to be going to negotiate with us, and which, therefore, must admit that Marty and Badina were right when they did not want to bombard Odessa? By way of mercy, they are ‘releasing’ the sailors from the convict prison and sending them to Africa, to Biribi [10], to the disciplinary battalions, where hundreds and thousands of rebellious citizens of France have perished under the scorching sun. And we here, comrades, in the Congress of Soviets, say: ‘Gentlemen, bourgeois of France, do you want to conclude an agreement with us? As regards the Tsarist debts and other claims, we are ready to negotiate with you. We are ready to do this because you still exist; but if you want the Russian workers and peasants to believe that you really do wish to conclude an agreement with us, and not to torment us further in the way you have tormented us up to now, then give us a little earnest for our future payment to you of the Tsarist debts – give us back Marty and Badina!’

Our Revolutionary Unity

True, the press and politicians who are hostile to us say that it may be the case that the Soviet Government is really in favour of peace, but there exists in Russia a war party which has large, ambitious plans and wants aggressive wars and the enslavement of other countries. They do indeed depict us in their own likeness. We know a country – and it is not separated from us by any seas – in which, when the minister of foreign affairs signs a treaty, the country’s chief of state and military authorities send out bands to make up for this act of his. There is such a country. We say that what we see in that case is a division in the will of the ruling classes, and this is a very dangerous situation, because division of the will leads to uncoordinated, that is, unwise and sometimes senseless actions; and unwise, uncoordinated and uncontrolled actions in the sphere of international relations sometimes lead to wars, where this eventuality could have been completely avoided by the exercise of goodwill and common sense. But, comrades, if here, in our Soviet Republic, which has undergone so many changes in these four years, which has fought, which has tacked and manoeuvred both in the economic field and in the sphere of pure Soviet state there had been so much as a hint, even just a little hint, of division in the Government’s will, a hint of conflict between a peace party and a war party, we should have had a hundred occasions to perish during these four years. What constitutes our strength, comrade delegates – and let this be known to all journalists and diplomats, both those who are present here and those who are absent – is our unshakable revolutionary unity. It is false – a childish delusion, or else a deliberate slander – that among us there is a party, or even a group, or individual persons, who want war. If such there were, then we should say that they must be put into a strait-jacket. But there are no such persons among us. Nobody here wants war. This is proved by our entire policy. Both our guiding Party and the Soviet power say that we all want peace – but they are not giving us peace. And so we have to be ready to deal with the possibility that irresponsible groups and cliques outside Russia may bring the disasters of war down upon their people and ours, despite the fact that all the advantages of peace are within reach. We do not have a war party and a peace party, but we do have a practical division of labour. And I think, comrades, that the Red Army wants peace no less than the whole country does – that same Red Army which, if need be, will fight, and will fight to a finish.

Our agitation will not consist of calls to launch an offensive. The Russian peasant and worker have no need of that. They love their country. These peasant and worker statesmen stand at the helm, in the person of their Soviets. What do they need? Calls to action? No. They need to understand the international situation clearly, to understand what is, so as to know which way to steer the ship. All our propaganda and agitation in the army will consist in explaining to our younger brothers, our sons and grandsons, that which is. This map here we shall show not just to the commanders but to every rank-and-file Red Army man, and this other one as well, and all through this winter we shall explain to the Red Army what is. And what is? There is our fight for peace, on the one hand, and, on the other, there is tireless, merciless provocation. But we are in no case dummies of international patience. And we are in no case agreeable that the provocateurs of various countries shall sharpen upon our bodies their valour or their insolence. The danger has grown in recent weeks, not declined, despite the news of intensified talk about recognising us. This we shall say to every commander and commissar, and the commissar and the commander will say this to every Red Army man. We shall check both from the reports of our intelligence agents and from the leading articles of the Polish, Finnish, French and other newspapers, day by day, how feverishly the pulse of world imperialism is beating. And we shall say to our Red Army man: prepare for the worst, because we, the Communist Party, and the whole world working class cannot yet, today, guarantee our country against new wars.

This winter we shall diligently study the soldier’s trade and prepare assiduously for the spring and summer, for all those dangers which arise for us out of the international situation in all its innumerable contradictions. This winter we shall be more or less safeguarded against unexpected attacks (except on the part of Finland, for the Finns are good at moving on skis). But with the spring, and the spring thaw on the roads for wheeled traffic, there will open for us – one can’t say a series of unexpected events, for to some extent we are expecting them, but hard trials, in new and bloody turns of history. That is not out of the question. I should not wish that you suppose from what I have said that the danger is greater than it is. It is better to exaggerate danger than to underestimate it. We go forward into the spring and the summer with our unconquerable striving for peace, but at the same time we go forward strengthened, braced and trained, having lost nothing of the experience gained in our four years of civil war. And if a blow should be struck against our frontiers, our inviolability and freedom, we shall say: we did not want that, we were not trying to expand, we have too much work on our hands as it is – but, since you wanted it, so much the worse for you. The year 1922 is not the year 1918 or the year 1919. In 1922 we are ready to protect the present Soviet frontiers; but, if you force us to it, we shall demonstrate that in 1922 it is easier to expand the Soviet frontiers than to reduce and contract them.


1. The resolution adopted by the Ninth Congress of Soviets (December 22-27, 1921), on Comrade Trotsky’s report, ‘declared the complete willingness of the working people to make the sacrifices necessary to maintain the Red Army and approves the measures taken by the Government with the aim of improving the position of the Red Army men in respect of food, accommodation, clothing and hygiene, and also of increasing their pay.’ The resolution also noted that the organs of government had the duty of creating conditions of existence for the commanding personnel such as would make it easier for the commanders and commissars to carry on their extremely responsible work of training and educating the Red Army. The Congress approved the system of attaching military units to local and central Soviet organs, and recognised as suitable for further development the measures taken by the War Department with a view to establishing in the army more correct organisational relations towards it, and increasing, along with political consciousness, also the spirit of economy, tidiness and precision, among commanders and commissars and also among all the rank-and-file soldiers.

2. ‘Military’ is presumably a mistake for ‘economic’, which the sense appears to require here.

2b. ‘Black Sea’ refers here to the former Black Sea District, along the eastern shore of the Black Sea, including Novorossiisk and Sochi.

3. The report There are no fronts, but danger exists and the report Springtime machinations by our enemies were published as separate pamphlets by the Supreme Military Publishing Council, Moscow, 1922. See Map No.3.

4. The reference is to the Polish ultimatum of September 18, on which see notes 8 and 50.

5. See Map No.4.

6. ‘West’ is evidently a slip for ‘east’. The Karelian Labour Commune was formed in June 1920. In July 1923 it became the Karelian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic.

7. General Ya.K. Miller commanded the White forces on the Archangel front in 1919.

8. Riikhimaki is an industrial centre about 40 miles north of Helsinki.

9. See Volume I, note 25.

10. Biribi is not a place-name, but the name of a game played in Algeria with nut-shells. The punishment companies were used for stonebreaking, and the prisoners compared the fragments of stone to these nut-shells: ‘Biribi’ became synonymous with the punishment companies.

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Last updated on: 29.12.2006