The Fifth Anniversary Of The Red Army

Articles and Orders

Toward the Fifth Anniversary of the Red Army

Order by the Revolutionary War Council of the Republic, February 5, 1923, No.279, Moscow

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

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Let us lower our banners to the memory of the fallen.

Many losses were suffered along the road we have traversed. The Red Army gave the Soviet Republic its present frontiers through a succession of heavy offensives and retreats, defeats and victories. We celebrate our festival on the blood of heroes.

On February 23, 1918, under enemy pressure, the workers’ and peasants’ government proclaimed the need to create an armed force. The first units were few and weak. The young army received its baptism of fire under the walls of Kazan and Simbirsk. There, on the Volga, it learnt to believe in its own strength. In the fight against Kolchak it grew and became strong, rising to a new level after each setback. The enemy tried to break up the Red Army from within, treachery made nests in the midst of headquarters and army units. The revolutionary army cleansed itself with a red-hot iron, while not for one hour ceasing to combat the overt enemy.

The southern, Denikinite front strove to join up with the eastern, Kolchakite front. From the steppes of the Don and the Kuban the counter-revolution hurled its experienced steppe cavalry against the revolutionary North. A task arose before the Red Army – to create a cavalry force of its own. The proletarian mounted on horseback. Within a few months cavalry divisions were formed which became a Red thunderbolt on the battlefield. On the shores of the Arctic Ocean our infantry fought a stubborn war of position against the British, the Americans and the Whites, in snow-filled trenches and narro4v defiles. The Red Army twice saved Petrograd from White-Guard forces that consisted entirely of experienced fighters, armed with the last word in technique.

In the spring of 1920 the Red Army beat back the raid on Kiev by the Poland of the gentry, and in an incomparable breakthrough – without reserves, without rear services, with-out boots – reached the walls of Warsaw, seeking a revolutionary junction with the Polish working class. However, it was forced to retreat before the fresh forces of Franco-Polish imperialism, the enslaver of Poland’s working masses. In the Red Army’s rear, Wrangel, the Entente’s last card, acted as accomplice to the Polish gentry. The Red Army dealt a crushing blow to the White traitors entrenched in the Crimea. The battle of Perekop has passed into history as an incomparable example of revolutionary heroism.

Having grown in size to more than five million men, the Red Army was quickly reduced after the rout of the White fronts. While continuously contracting and training, it did not cease to fight. With blow after blow it liquidated the gangs of Petlyurists and Savinkovites, hired by Poland and Romania, in our western frontier zone. Chest-high in snow, often up to their knees in freezing-cold water, the Red soldiers cleared Soviet Karelia of the White-Finnish detachments. In Turkestan and in allied Bukhara the Red Army defeated the Basmachi bands formed and armed by British agents. It helped the Mongolian people to free themselves from the bands that were trying to turn Mongolia into a base for struggle against Soviet Siberia and against the independence of China. Finally, in the Far East, shoulder to shoulder with the local insurgents, the Red Army liquidated the last strongpoints of the White Guards and their Japanese protectors. From Murmansk to Sebastopol, from the walls of Warsaw to Vladivostok – such has been the scale of the Red Army’s operations during these five years.

Almost everywhere – in the Baltic, in the White Sea, on the Volga and on the Dnieper, in the Sea of Azov and in the Caspian – the Red Navy operated shoulder to shoulder with the Red Army. And not only on the water: the best section of the sailors often formed infantry detachments which occupied the most dangerous positions in battle.

The years of struggle and glory were also years of privation and want. Although the half-starved workers in the war industry gave all their strength to the task of supplying the Red fighters, there sas a shortage of everything, from bread to cartridges. Regiments already famous for their victories marched barefoot. Positions conquered with blood often had to be given up because there was nothing with which to answer the enemy’s bombardment. Only through the endurance and self-sacrifice of the revolutionary fighters could the struggle be carried on. Only the support given by the working masses ensured victory.

In such ways and to such an extent as it was able, the Red Army helped with economic activity all through these years. By ensuring the requisitioning of food it saved industry and the towns from starvation. It felled timber, sawed it into firewood and transported it, thereby saving factory premises and workers’ districts from freezing up. In the intervals between two tides of the civil war it devoted its divisions wholly to tasks of labour, in the Urals, in the Donbas, in the Grozny oilfield and elsewhere.

Into this life of battles, labour and hardships burst epidemics of devastating power. Their effect was immeasurably more fearful than that of the enemy’s fire. Not merely the hospitals but the barracks as well were transformed for weeks, and sometimes for months, into so many multitudes of typhus-victims. History has seldom seen such suffering. But, through the power of the revolutionary spirit of the awakened masses, the army overcame everything, mastered everything, endured everything and arrived at victory. The numbers in the Red Army and the Red Navy have now been reduced from 5,300,000 to 600,000. Millions of former fighters have been dispersed to different corners of the country, to villages and factories, to work-benches and to various institutions of the Soviet state. On the day of its fifth anniversary the Army will mentally include all of them in its family, and, first and foremost, it will press to its heart with brotherly feeling those Red fighters who bear on their bodies the harsh traces of battle and victory – our Red disabled. A few tens of thousands of them remain, in all: as a general rule, the enemy not only killed prisoners but also finished off the wounded.

Soviet Russia built its army from scratch, from among the workers and peasants. Exploiters were not allowed to join the army. To train the Red Army men and to provide proper guidance in the building of the army, thousands of former officers were recruited. Among them the revolution found not a few honest and valiant servants, who devoted all their powers to the cause of the working people. At the same time, a new body of commanders has been educated in the military schools during these years, men intimately linked with the workers and peasants.

In being cut down to 600,000 men, our army has been increasingly transformed into an armature of cadres for the many-mullioned proletarian and peasant reserves. We Are thereby entering the path that leads to wider application of the principles of the militia system. All the more important, all the more vital for the army, in consequence, is further development of pre-call-up preparation and the establishment of an unbroken bond between our armed forces and the working masses, the local Soviets, the trade unions, the Young Communist League and the Communist Party organisations.

As commissars, agitators and political workers, the advanced proletarians brought enlightenment to the army, uniting and inspiring it in the most difficult moments. The Red Army’s faith in its high calling constituted an inexhaustible fund of strength: every Red Army man knew and knows that, unlike all the armies that have existed before this time, ours has as its task to fight for the well-being of the working people against their exploiters. The Red Army is the shield of the oppressed and the sword of those who rise in revolt!

People who say that there will always be wars are grossly mistaken. No, wars will disappear, just as human sacrifices have disappeared. But they will cease only along with the cessation of all forms of human slavery. The world Communist Party has as its task to rebuild the whole world on principles of solidarity and fraternity between men, regardless of nation, race or colour. The triumph of Communism will be the beginning of a new, truly human epoch, an epoch of labour, love and joy.

But, today, predatory capital is still the master in all countries except Russia. The revolutionary Communist Party is growing everywhere. But the bourgeoisie will nowhere surrender without a hard fight. It will ruin the whole world rather than renounce its profits. The exploiters look with hatred at the only country where the working class is master. Soviet Russia is the citadel of the world revolution. The hearts of all working people yearn towards Moscow. The Red Army is the shield of the oppressed and the sword of those who rise in revolt!

Remember, warriors: imperialism’s hatred of us will not weaken with time, it will strengthen. In the sixth year of the existence of the Soviet Republic, world capital refuses, as before, to recognise us. It still hopes to find the moment when it can strike a mortal blow at us. That is why the Red Army is needed today, by workers’ Russia and by the world revolution, no less than when it was called into being by the will of the Soviet power.

Young warriors! The five years that lie behind us will be for you a school of great heroism. Learn from the past, prepare for the future. Self-sacrifice, endurance, readiness to give your life for the cause of the working class – that is what the five years of the history of our army teaches us. While finding support and inspiration in this past, we must excel it. We want peace: but no-one knows when the enemy’s ill-will may compel us once again to take the field. Let us, in the sixth year that lies ahead, meet every month and every day as though it were the last month and the last day of our preparation. The warriors of the revolution must not merely not lag behind the soldiers of imperialism – on the contrary, they must surpass them in all things.

Red Army men, commanders, commissars! Let us bow our colours today before the memory of the fallen. Let us pay tribute to the heroic past – not in order to comfort ourselves, but in order to work ten times as hard. Our tomorrow must be and will be more glorious than our yesterday.

Study! Grow stronger! Take heart! Get ready!

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Last updated on: 29.12.2006