The International Situation and the Red Army

IV. The Events in Germany in the Autumn of 1923

The Present Situation and
Our Tasks in Building The Army

Report to the 3rd All-Union Conference of Political Workers in the Red Army and the Red Navy, October 21, 1923 [1]

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

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Revolution And War

Revolution and war have often gone together. We know of cases in history when war has produced revolution, and vice versa.

The explanation is that both war and revolution mean a very great upheaval in society, when an old, familiar equilibrium is upset, and an external upheaval produces an internal one, or the other way round.

There are common features in the nature of war and of revolution. These common features concern very closely the work in which we are both engaged. In order that war, and victory in war, may be possible, certain social, political and organisational preconditions are needed. It is necessary that the economy of a society shall be such as to make war possible, and it is necessary that the mass of the people shall agree to the war or, at least, shall not actively oppose it. But these factors do not by themselves, of course, determine success in war. There has to be an organisation which knows the art of war, which is capable of creating a war plan, allotting the roles, moving forces into action, and ensuring victory. This organisation must be an army.

There is an analogy here with what determines the success of a revolution, though, of course, the analogy is far from complete. For a revolution to be possible as a successful revolution it is necessary that the economy of the given country that shall have attained a certain level of development; it is necessary that there shall be in society a class which is interested in revolution; and, finally, it is necessary that this class shall be headed by an organisation which knows how to conduct a revolution, to develop it and to crown it with a triumphant seizure of power.

An attempt to seize power in the absence of the social and political preconditions needed is called in German a putsch – that is, as it were, an abortion of an armed uprising. But, on the other hand, if the premises for revolution are present, that is, if a revolutionary situation exists, if there is a class which is interested in revolution and which constitutes a decisive force, but there is not a party, an organisation that can lead it, or if this party is weak, if it lacks a clear plan, then the most favourable revolutionary situation can end in failure. It is just the same with war. A war can fail even in the most favourable circumstances, that is, when there is unanimity among the broad masses and they are ready to fight. If the organisation is bad, the strategy poor, the tactics backward, if the units are not coordinated, then the very best of international situations can end in failure. I speak, comrades, of these common features of war and revolution because today they have been particularly closely brought together. We have assembled our political workers in the armed forces at a highly important conference. We are going to decide on our immediate tasks, but we are going to do this in the circumstances of an exceptionally responsible historical situation. What is the reason for this? The revolution in Germany and the potential danger of war resulting from this revolution. Both for revolution and for war very careful preparation is needed, and in no case can one place one’s hopes in improvisation, or in the protection of Grandmother History. That grandmother told our fortune in 1917 and 1918, and did it not at all badly. But our enemies have learnt a lot in these last six years, and it is not possible to operate now with those rather simple methods with which we operated in 1917.

The Failure Of The Bulgarian Revolution

In the last few days we have had an example of the failure of a revolution for which the premises were favourable. I mean the revolution in Bulgaria. [2] The Bulgarian government, which came to power by a coup d’etat, is upheld by Wrangelite bayonets. [3] The political parties which made the coup d’etat constitute a very small force. The Communists are strong. The majority of the country and the peasantry, almost 100 per cent, are against the Tsankov government. Given any degree of serious preparation, we could, in the opinion of comrades who know Bulgaria (I also have some knowledge of the country, from personal observation, but that was a long time ago: my last visit to Bulgaria was in 1913) – according to all the evidence, we could have been victorious in Bulgaria, but this has not happened. Why not? The social and political premises were present. The bourgeois parties had thoroughly discredited themselves. They were replaced by the Peasants’ Party. The leadership of this party, the Stambulisky Government, discredited themselves. All sympathies shifted Leftward and were transferred to the Communist Party. The enemy’s armed forces were infinitesimal. And yet we were beaten. What was lacking was a clear, distinct plan of action and a decisive blow at an appointed moment and at an appointed place. One must not confuse a revolution with an armed uprising. A revolution is a combination of gigantic events, a revolution cannot be appointed for a certain moment, one cannot allocate roles in it beforehand: but when a revolutionary situation has been created, the revolutionary class is then confronted with a practical task: ‘Take power!’

This is essentially a military-revolutionary task. For this the enemy has to be thrown on his back, the initiative has to be taken from him, power has to be wrested from him. This presupposes a plan, an initiative, the fixing of a date, and a whole series of military operations. If the moment is let slip, the situation may alter radically, and the disintegration may set in among the ranks of the revolutionary class, with loss of confidence in their own strength, and so on and so forth.

The Situation In Germany

Where Germany is concerned, these dangers are, naturally, not precluded. At present, though, everything points to the growing less from one day to the next. The problem of the German revolution is, of course, incomparably more important than that of the Bulgarian revolution. All the same, one cannot deny that it would have been a splendid gift to us from history if, five minutes before the revolution in Germany, power had been seized in Bulgaria. But that, alas, did not happen. The curtain is now going up on the German drama, the scale of which will be very much greater than that of the revolution in Bulgaria, and here, too, those dangers of which I spoke are not out of the question. There are no revolutions that are guaranteed success beforehand. But, at the same time, it is becoming clearer and clearer to the masses that there is no longer any way out for Germany along the road of reform and parliamentarianism. The situation has fully matured for revolution also in the sense, that the basic class of society, the proletariat, is the class of decisive importance, which predominates absolutely in that country. In Germany there are 15 million industrial workers, and also between three and five million agricultural workers [4], who constitute a very militant element. There is nothing like this in any other country. Finally, let us take the frightful fall in the value of the mark, which unbalances life in its simplest, everyday relationships, day after day, cutting the ground from under the feet of every workingclass woman, every housewife, every worker, ramming it into their heads that they cannot go on living like that. Today the telegraph has brought us the news news that the dollar has risen in value to 12 milliard marks.

Along with this we see an extraordinarily rapid growth in the influence of the Communist Party in Germany. It is a young party, which was born during the imperialist war and assumed its present form after November 9 1918. [5] This party has suffered many setbacks. It met with defeat in March 1921, when it tried to seize power although the working class has had not yet been prepared for this. You will remember how the Third Congress of the Comintern severely condemned the mistake made by the German Communist Party. This caused discontent in that party’s Left wing. But the lesson proved useful. Since then, the German Communist Party has become the leading party of the German proletariat. The political shifts of recent weeks have confirmed this quite definitely. Messages from Berlin tell of the fatal effect upon German Social-Democracy of the coalition formed, in Saxony and Thuringia, by the Left Social-Democrats with the Communists. Voices have been raised against these coalitions within the Communist Party itself. The misgivings were to the effect that Social-Democracy is compromising itself more and more, and its Left wing is nothing but a manoeuvre to transfer more and more, of the betrayed mases to the Left wing of Social-Democracy. After the danger is past, Social-Democracy will pull in its Left wing and show its true face. This was the criticism put forward in our own ranks. The opponents of coalition said that if we enter into a bloc with the Social-Democrats we shall enable them to grow stronger. The Comintern and the German party thought otherwise. We are, to be sure, waging a merciless fight against the Social-Democrats. Fighting calls for very complex manoeuvres. Among such manoeuvres are the deliberate conceding of certain positions, retreats, withdrawals, and so on. It is the same in politics. The Communist Party has already achieved so much influence in Germany that the attraction towards it felt by the Social-Democratic workers is very great, but this is not sufficient to break through their old organisational shell. It is a characteristic of the worker that he cherishes a very great feeling of gratitude and love, a sense of duty, towards the organisation which awakened him to conscious life. All the older and middle generations of the German workers were awakened by Social-Democracy. The services it rendered cannot be denied, but, later, Social-Democracy deceived the workers, exploiting its influence over them in order to bind the worker masses hand and foot. Among the working class the attitude to Social-Democracy as the party which awakened them was maintainedd. Consequently, although the German workers clenched their fists against Social-Democracy, a considerable section of them have nevertheless remained under its banner. The task of the coalition, at this moment which immediately precedes the decisive battles, consisted in breaking through this shell, this organisational conservatism. What we have here, of course, is not a coalition formed in order to carry out a socialist programme on the basis of parliamentary democracy. No, what this is, essentially, is a militaryrevolutionary manoeuvre aimed at obtaining a stong position, and armaments, on a certain piece of territory, before the hour for decisive action strikes. That is how the Executive Committee of the Comintern understood and understands the experiment in Saxony. And all our information shows that the fact that the Communists have joined with Social-Democrats in the same government has shaken the organisational conservatism of the Social-Democrats to the Communists. Thus, where the Social-Democrats are in power, the fact that the coalition exists has not strengthened the Social-Democratic organisations but has caused the masses to flow over to our side. The Social-Democrats are breaking up. The influence of the fact that there is a coalition government in Germany is everywhere having a devastating effect on Social-Democracy. In Berlin the Left turn being made by the Social-Democrats is extremely marked. So, then, this move has altogether justified itself.

The coalition has yet another significance for us. In Germany today a class struggle is going on which has been reduced to a very simple formula – the struggle of the proletarian masses against the fighting detachments of the Fascists. I say that it is a very simple formula because in Germany today the machinery of state hardly exists in practice. This class struggle, which has attained the final stage, finds territorial embodiment in the fact that we have not only the armed Hundreds of the proletariat all over Germany but we also see that a place d’armes for the revolution is being prepared in Saxony. On the other hand, Bavaria is a place d’armes for the Fascist kulaks, led by officers of the Kaiser’s army. We have two camps, sidebyside. Saxony and Thuringia constitute our place d’armes, where the worker masses are rallying more and more to our banner, and where we are organising Workers’ Hundreds. It is characteristic that diplomatic relations have now been broken off between Saxony and Bavaria: this rupture means that the proletariat and the bourgeoisie are definitely organising civil war. The Germans are a systematic people and even conduct their revolution in a systematic way. When you look at the revolution which is developing in Germany you see before you a sort of strict system of cogwheels, working with complete accuracy, as in the mechanism of a clock. It is to be expected that twelve o’clock will strike, and, evidently, that will happen soon.

I have already mentioned that there is now no government in Germany, that the parliament, elected on the basis of universal, equal, secret (and so on) suffrage, has renounced the government chosen by itself in favour of giving power to General Seeckt. The real machinery of state in Germany at the present time is General Seeckt, who is familiar with the machinery for exterminating the masses, with his Reichswehr of 100,00 men and with the forces of the Fascist shockbattalions (200,000 men according to some accounts, 400,000 according to other sources), which this summer carried out campmusters under the protection of the official Reichswehr. At the head of all these forces stands General Seeckt, who also has under his command the Schutzpolizei, who numbers several hundred thousand men, General Seeckt is beginning, through General Müller, an offensive against Saxony, by calling on that state to disarm the proletarian Hundreds. On the other hand, Berlin has tried to dismiss General Lossow [6], to which the Bavarian Government has replied that, if the central government insists on dismissing Lossow, then, for its part, it will demand neither more nor less than the dismissal of Gessler. And this Gessler is the Republic’s War Minister: so that Bavaria has not only broken off diplomatic relations with Saxony, it is beginning to talk with the Berlin Kerenskys in such a masterful tone that they have put their tails between their legs and withdrawn their demand for the removal of General Lossow.

That is the situation. It cannot go on for long. Either the workers’ Hundreds will be dissolved, which would mean a powerful blow struck at the German revolution (I do not say; its defeat) by which of course, the proletarian forces in Germany would not be exhausted, but which would mean, without any doubt, that in a skirmish between outposts the workers suffered defeat. Or General Müller, paralysed by the Kerenskyism in his rear, would not be able to carry out his threat, which would be an excellent thing for the revolution, after his presentation of an ultimatum. It would raise the spirits of the workers, and the very course of the revolution would become more cheerful and confident. Or else General Müller moves in his Reichswehr, the Workers’ Hundreds refuse to let themselves be disarmed and then civil war begins. One way or another – but, although the present situation in Germany may last for days, perhaps for weeks, it can hardly last for months.

I named just now the basic forces of the enemy, the 100,000-strong Reichswehr, the size of which was laid down by the Treaty of Versailles. This is an army of volunteers, consisting almost exclusively of peasants, who have been subjected to the appropriate processing by their Fascist officers. To a certain extent the 135,000-strong police force is also a weapon in General Seeckt’s hand. It is composed mainly of urban workers, except in Bavaria and Wurtemberg. Whereas the Reichswehr consists of young countrymen, 95 per cent of whom are unmarried, the police are workers, the overwhelming majority of them with families, who have been driven to join the police force by unemployment and other circumstances. In PrussiaBrandenburg this police force is to a considerable extent made up of Social-Democratic workers, and forms the guard of the Prussian Minister of the Interior, Severing. The law forbids policemen to belong to political parties, but allows them to belong to trade unions, so that these policemen are in most cases members of the free (Social-Democratic) trade unions. Competent persons estimate that onethird of these policemen will certainly fight against us (mainly in the rural areas), one third will stay neutral, and about a third will fight alongside us, or will help us. Thus, arithmetical calculation shows that the police force will be paralysed, and it will be eliminated as an independent force. Here, of course, everything depends on the policy, the tactics and strategy that we develop. But what is most important is that we should not look on the Reichswehr and the police as something united and monolithic. Such a conception is radically wrong. The young German Communist naturally exhibits, as a rule, more or less the same psychology as our young Red Army man. When he first gets into an awkward situation in battle, it seems to him that his enemy is something terrible, fearless and so mighty that, if this enemy brings his weight to bear, it will destroy and crush him, for he, the poor devil Petrov from Penza province, is a weak creature, and he feels sick at heart ... That is why an important element in the training of Semyonov, or Petrov, is educating him so that he knows that the enemy, too, is also a man, that he, too, has a heart that can feel sick ... And we, having learnt very well how to link ourselves with the masses, have all that we need in order to fulfil that task properly.

As regards the Reichswehr the situation is, of course, somewhat different from what it is with the police, but, nevertheless, one must not forget that the Reichswehr consists of 100,000 peasant lads who are scattered all over the country. In those cases when the army succeeds in resisting during a revolution, this is usually due, to some extent, to the fact that the army feels that it forms a compact mass that is made up of regiments, that each of these knows that other regiments stand beside it, so that it is confident that with this mass the revolution can be defeated. But if the army is broken up into scattered companies and battalions; which are being washed over from all sides by the waves of a stormy revolutionary movement in which millions and millions of proletarians, petty-bourgeois and poor peasants are taking part, then, under these conditions, the units of the army will feel extremely insecure and may give way to panic, and a revolutionary party can help them on in that direction. If, among the units of the Reichswehr, there are even just a few units which say to themselves: ‘There’s nothing to be done, brothers, let’s throw down our rifles’, that can produce decisive results. But preparation is required: one must study the experience of previous revolutions. And if we think of the Reichswehr as being impregnable, and do not try to break it up from within, that will be bad, because, though the French have pruned the German army down to the minimum, they have still left it just sufficient of the mechanisms of mass murder to be able to crush a revolt of the German working class.

There remains the Fascist army, which enjoys the protection of the state. If it has not been legalised, that is not because of the existence of notverychaste German Social-Democracy, but because of the existence of Poincaré, who keeps watch to see that the Fascist army does not grow into a big force. The command apparatus of the individual Fascist units is excellent. As regards fighting material, they are made up of sons of bourgeois, students, pettybourgeois and even some workers of the lumpenproletarian type. Their ranks are not completely homogeneous, and it is not certain that, when the moment of decision comes, they will lay their lives on the line. The way the Fascist units will behave will depend on how the Reichswehr behaves. The Fascist battalions are emerging from clandestinity into an official organisation of the Reichswehr: they and the Reichswehr have the same service of communications and a common command, and their mobilisation will be effected by means of the Reichswehr’ s apparatus. If this apparatus, that is, the official army, is fully maintained in being as a central apparatus – and that depends on the scope and sweep of the revolution and on the policy of our party – it will be a very substantial disadvantage for us. If the revolutionaries can manage to break the backbone of this organisation, the Fascist battalions will thereby be transformed into so many guerrilla detachments, and it will be much easier to deal with them.

There is also, of course, yet another kind of preparation to be done. Germany’s railway network is an instrument of exceptional power. It is more than 60,000 kilometres in length. If, at the decisive moment, this network proves to be in the hands of the Fascists, they will be able to throw their units into the industrial areas, they will be able to manoeuvre. It is quite obvious that this is a question of exceptional importance.

If the railway network were to be left in the hands of the reaction at the decisive moment, the reaction would be able to bring up support from the kulak regions – from Bavaria, East Prussia and so on. What have we got with which to prevent that happening? Above all, the railway proletariat, which will be fully able to go on strike at the most important points and to blow up railway bridges and so on. To ensure this, obviously, a good counterorganisation of the revolutionary party will be needed, with secret commanders placed at the principal railway junctions. I am not, of course, describing what exists, because I do not know about that – I am merely talking about what follows from all the experience of our own revolution. How the German comrades are acting, and what they will do tomorrow, we cannot know, but this is what follows from our experience and this is what we should do if we were again to be placed in such a situation and had again to seize power. Since revolutions happen infrequently, and in the course of six years something

may have been forgotten, I consider it necessary to remind this gathering that, in these cases, one needs to have a very wellorganised counterapparatus on the railways, because, if the revolutionary commanders have at their disposal some tough fighting squads capable of stopping the movement of trains, in opposition to the Fascist battalions, it is possible to hold up and paralyse the Fascist apparatus. And, since what is fundamental is on our side, for the 15-20 million German workers will, at the decisive moment, be on our side, this will, of course, make easier all the other manipulations, including the purely military ones – it will make them easier, but will not render them unnecessary. I must say that when I was talking privately with some Russian comrades who had observed life in Germany two or three months ago, when the situation there was not so ripe as it is today, and I asked how things were in certain organisational spheres, and got the answer: ‘We don’t know, but we suppose that, when the revolution begins, these things will be dealt with by improvisation,’ I replied that revolution improvises a great deal, but it does this only for those who have prepared for it seriously and carefully, taking everything into account, and that revolution will certainly not improvise anything for the benefit of scatterbrains. I even said that, though Grandmother History helped us a great deal on one occasion, that does not mean that she will again tell our fortune favourably.

In order to ensure military success for a revolution one needs to want to achieve this success at any price, and actively to strive for it, breaking down all the obstacles in one’s path. Will the German working class fmd in itself the necessary will to seize power, to fight and win the overwhelming majority of the masses, to make the direct leap at the throat of the enemy, so as to knock him down and take power? This transition is always accompanied by a very big internal crisis for the Party, because it is one thing to win influence over the masses, over the workers, to unite them and lead them, and another thing to say: ‘The moment has come, all forces must be concentrated and the signal given for the insurrection, staking everything on the one card.’ That requires that the party show great resolution, and here the internal inhibitions may be very strong.

There has been no armed uprising in Germany yet – it has put only one foot over the threshold. The German Communist Party lacks the tempering our Party had in 1917, it has no great past of underground activity, but it does have experience of serious struggles, for it has been its fate to pass through no few of these, although, in the past, they ended in rather serious defeats. Today the German Communist Party has a great advantage over us, as we were in 1917, in that it can draw on our experience and it enjoys the guidance of the Comintern, which, in turn, is sustained, in giving this guidance, by that same experience of ours. One may therefore hope that the internal upheavals and frictions within the party, which are unavoidable whenever a revolutionary party goes over from agitation and propaganda to the conquest of power, will be reduced to the minimum. So far as can be judged from the information we have about the conduct of the German Communist Party, the danger that it will run away from the events as they develop, that this party will, to speak plainly, funk it, is minimal, if not completely out of the question; but only events themselves can test whether this is so.

Our conclusion is that history has fully prepared the conditions for an armed insurrection in Germany, and General Müller has been given by history the task of accelerating this process, the development of which may assume a very rapid tempo in the very near future. Given a correct line by the party, the odds in this conflict are in the proletariat’s favour. I did not specify to you the numbers of the armed forces of the revolution, for fully comprehensible reasons – first, because I do not know them, and secondly, because, even if by chance I had known them, I should have had no authority to reveal them. But fifteen million industrial workers and between three and five million agricultural workers are capable of producing from their midst sufficient armed units to deal with the enemy. In general, the auguries are favourable, although, of course, as in war, it is impossible to give precise forecasts. War is not an exercise in arithmetic. That applies even more to revolution. History requires that the two contending sides test against each other the strength of their respective foreheads, and only through conflict itself is the outcome of the conflict determined, not through any process of calculation, of bookkeeping. That is why, though one can estimate the course of development and weigh the chances for and against, it is never possible to prophesy the outcome of a conflict with mathematical certainty. In the given case, of course, the fundamental data are favourable.

But the German revolution will not be decided by the internal relation of forces alone. Germany is situated in a capitalist encirclement, and a victorious German revolution will not leap out of this encirclement, which is formed, principally, by France, Belgium, Britain (across the Channel), Poland and Czechoslovakia. These are the decisive states. There are, in addition, Austria, Switzerland, Holland ... They will not play any active part but, of course, if the big neighbours decide to pursue a policy of strangulation, the little ones will be able to help by pulling on the ends of the rope, and so on. But we need to reckon with the conduct of the principal imperialist states. Let us start with Britain. Yesterday I was speaking about this to the metalworkers, and I say again now that Britain today is powerless on the continent. Britain presented us with an ultimatum, and we made certain concessions, not because she could have routed us but because we were interested in restoring economic relations to normal. The powerlessness of Britain appears to contradict the conception of her as being an extremely rich country, a strong maritime power, with her stock-exchange, her City and her Navy (although in this matter she now has a very big rival in the shape of the United States). But Britain was strong on the Continent only so long as there were two moreorless equally matched land powers fighting each other in Europe. Britain always supported the weaker against the stronger. If the weaker outgrew the stronger, then Britain would switch her sympathies. By adding her weight to the scales of Europe’s destiny, she would decide it. Intervening directly in the war of 1914, she broke violently with her own traditions, and put a big army on the Continent because Germany had too far outgrown France. You know that the patriotic British trade unions have always held pacifist ideas, at least with regard to wars on land, because their leaders were more inclined to live off their fatherland than to die for it. These pacifists supported their government only with great reluctance. During the war Britain helped France too energetically, and France emerged as the hegemon (the master of the situation) in Europe. Now, whenever Britain tries to intervene in European affairs, France doesn’t give a damn. We were able to see that in the case of the Ruhr. British diplomacy protested at first, but then gave in. An even more striking case was Britain’s policy in relation to Turkey. Britain declared Turkey to be an enemy of the human race. And what was the result? When Turkey (I mean Ankara) began to get to her feet, what could Britain do? She set Greece upon her. Turkey defeated Greece. In the end, Britain left Constantinople and the Turks marched in. Britain’s impotence on the Continent was obvious.

Naturally, the most mortal enemy of the German revolution will be none other than the British bourgeoisie. It has more than once aleady formed a coalition against revolution, for example, at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th. But Britain’s arms are short. She is not a land power. She could support France if the latter were to take the path of intervention, only by blockading German ports and delivering war materials and so on to the armies of occupation. But can France intervene? That is the fundamental question. That she can intervene in one form or another is beyond doubt. But in what form? At present she has occupied the Ruhr and is to preparing to leave it. The German revolution will have to reckon with this fact, and it would be madness if the German working class, in its armed uprising, were to go against the FrancoBelgian army of occupation in the Ruhr. By doing that it would acquire a powerful enemy, much more powerful than the Reichswehr, and would make it easier for Poincard to intervene further, since he would in such a case seem to be acting defensively. But we suppose that the German Communist Party will not do this. We, in our time, made very big concessions when the Germans occupied the Ukraine. We did not touch the Ukraine in those days, and we offered to the British and Americans to leave both Archangel and our Far East in their hands. A revolution is often obliged to make concessions, but these do not last for ever. There were times when we were squeezed into a ring around Moscow, but we worked with our knees and elbows and pushed that ring back far enough. It must be presumed that the German comrades have knees and elbows that are no worse than ours. Therefore they can reconcile themselvest to a Germany without the Ruhr, since that situation will be only temporary. [7]

However, may not France, despite the peaceloving policy of the German workers, intervene in order to suppress the German revolution? That is a question which is as much political as it is military. What occupation means we know well. There have been not a few occupations here in recent years, and not only here. We made a careful calculation of the forces needed for occupation purposes, and this was the result. In order to occupy Germany, with its cities and its close network of railways, and to occupy it seriously and lastingly, one would need not less than one million seven hundred thousand soldiers. The German and Austro-Hungarian occupation troops in the Ukraine numbered 200,000, though that occupation was only partial, with no more than the towns and the most important railway junctions occupied. Communication by rail was interrupted by the guerrillas, and guerrilla activity prevailed almost continuously in the countryside. This situation affected the German and Austro-Hungarian soldiers, who subsequently returned to their homelands as revolutionary regiments. For an occupation of Germany that would be prolonged and serious (and otherwise their would be no point in engaging in such a venture) France would need an army of 1,700,000 men, with the prospect that these soldiers, surrounded by an ocean of revolutionary workers, would become increasingly demoralised. Naturally, the German and French Communists would, for their part, help this process along, that is, they would form Communist cells in every regiment, set up underground French printing presses and carry on agitation, both spoken and written, in the French army; and the army of occupation, placed in a revolutionary milieu, would constitute material very favourable for planned and persistent agitation.

True, France would not act on her own. She could unload part of the burden of occupation on to Belgium, Poland and Czechoslovakia. But, so far as we can judge concerning the internal situation in Czechoslovakia, the relation between the classes there is such that, although this country is a vassal state of France, it would nevertheless be unlikely to engage in military intervention, and would, in any case, be the last country to take this road. But even if both Czechoslovakia and Poland were to support an interventionist adventure by France, the latter would still have herself to supply not less than a million soldiers. At present, France has an army of 700,000 men. In order to carry out an intervention France would, therefore, have to conscript an additional 300,000, approximately. But the army’s numbers are to a considerable extent determined by its domestic tasks as well. And if Poincaré now has 700,000 soldiers, that is evidently because he needs them for some purpose inside the country itself, and so it is unthinkable that France could send the whole of her army into foreign territory. Consequently, if Poincaré were to intervene, he would need, for the occupation of his own country, an army at least no smaller than the one he has now, that is, an army of 700,000 men. In other words, he would need an army of 1,700,000 altogether, which means he would have to carry out a new mobilisation of five, six, perhaps seven agegroups. And to do that in France would be more difficult and more risky than in any other country.

The French population can be taken to number 39 millions. In the imperialist war the French lost one and a half million men. As is well known, the population of France is not increasing but decreasing. Already before the war it was steadily decreasing, and that trend continues. There is not a single family in France which has not had a husband, brother or son killed in the war, or has no war-disabled kinsfolk. What mobilisation would mean, given these conditions, is not hard to realise.

In our country, when we mobilised one age-group, we had a million men ready for service. Our country is enormous, our population is quite adequate for the greatest undertakings [laughter] and, to speak absolutely seriously, it is easier for us, with our ponderous mass of peasants, to call up men than it is to mobilise horses and carts (you know this is so), because in the latter case the very basis of the peasant household is affected. If a son goes off to the army, sufficient labour-power nevertheless remains. In France the picture is quite different. There, mobilisation and another war would mean the risk of losing the last remnants of the adult male population. Already today the male population of France is inadequate, and there are today in France, working as labourers, Italians who have fled from Fascism, Spaniards who have fled from their Fascism, Poles and Czechoslovaks. They cannot be mobilised because they are foreigners, it is Frenchmen that are needed, but the French the worker, the working woman, the peasant woman – do not want this. And France’s politicians can only shudder at the thought that they may have to mobilise a few more age-groups, and send a million soldiers into Germany, with the prospect that they will become demoralised. The ruling classes of France will think ten times before they make up their minds to do that. I do not mean to say that this is out of the question. When a ruling class is threatened with danger there is no rashness, no madness to which it will not resort. But the ruling class will think ten times before deciding on this action, and then another ten times – and that signifies and provides us with a breathingspell. What a breathing-spell means we know: a breathing-spell that lasts for a few months can save a revolution.

The German Revolution and Poland

How do matters stand with Poland? Here I pass to a question which is of decisive importance for us, which, in our agitational work inside the army, will determine the fate of our army, its capacity to fight and its conduct in the events which are developing, in those dangers which are not excluded. First of all I must repeat what I said at the provincial congress of the metalworkers. It would constitute a very great danger and disaster if the conviction were allowed to take root in the revolutionary elements of the working class, and especially in our own party, that war with Poland is inevitable, that revolution in Germany is tantamount to war between us and Poland. Such notes sometimes creep into agitation and into some resolutions that are passed. In the course of six years we have become terribly dab hands at writing resolutions, and with us every resolution is a revolutionary one: ‘We shall support the revolution with our fists ... to the last drop of blood ... long live the Communist International.’ Of course we must support the revolution, and of course it is right to hail the Comintern. If necessary we shall shed our blood, too – but all at the right time ... And where Poland is concerned there is very great danger that in our political agitation we may trip the catch. The Communist vanguard may go forward, not looking behind it, and the reserves may not keep up with us, just as happened during the Sebastopol campaign, according to the song composed in honour of General Read .[7b] This danger is just as much political as military. I can formulate my idea crudely like this. Addressing a meeting of the village soviet, the agitator says: ‘We must support the German revolution to the last drop of blood. Brothers, give us your horses.’ I fear that this sort of agitation will not produce entirely satisfactory results ... This question, comrades, which I have just formulated in an ironical way, is a question of life and death for us.

We need to think much more concretely and practically about our relations with Poland. The prospects must be thought out in a very realistic way, and then the broad masses must be aroused to think about these relations and prospects along with us. In the first place: how could a war between us and Poland arise? From the standpoint of the revolutionary philistine this is apparently a very simple matter. There’s a revolution in Germany: right, that’s it then – ’Give us Warsaw!’ [8] Such a view is absolutely wrong. First of all, the German revolution has not yet conquered, and, secondly, it is not enough to say ‘Give us Warsaw!’ in order to take that city. [Laughter] We have some experience on that score. How might war occur, if we put the question seriously, if we reject the frivolous view that arises from abstract thinking? From what cause might war begin?

If Poland were to take the road of occupying Germany, that would mean extreme danger for us as well. But Poland could not take that road alone, but only along with France, Belgium and the other allies. If the ruling classes of Europe succeeded in forming a grand coalition to crush the German revolution, they would undoubtedly set themselves the task of, this time, destroying the revolution at its root, and, therefore, annihilating our Socialist Soviet Union. We should then face the task of fighting for our existence, waging a lifeanddeath struggle. A situation like that would be clear to the most ignorant peasant. If we put aside the possibility of a great imperialist coalition – and the odds are not much in its favour so far as the immediate future is concerned – what role could Poland play in the event of victory for the German revolution? Would Poland say: ‘Give us Moscow, or Kiev’? It is hardly likely. Would she say: ‘Give us Berlin’? Again, that is hardly likely. The possibility is not ruled out that she might follow a policy of grabbing whatever could easily be grabbed – that is an international characteristic of all ruling classes. This does not mean, of course, that we agree to reconcile ourselves to this characteristic of theirs. But it is quite obvious that even a successful attempt to seize Danzig would still not decide the fate of the German revolution, and for that reason it is hardly likely that we or Poland would go to war in the absence of other, more serious reasons.

Bridge or Barrier?

But there is another question which is directly connected in a much closer, more vital and more concrete way with the fate of the German revolution and with our own economic destiny. This is the question of the feeding of the German revolution. The people of Saxony and of Berlin have no grain. It is just for that reason that doom is being predicted for the revolution. Doom was predicted for us because we were an agricultural country and had no industry. Doom is being predicted for the Germans for diametrically opposite reasons. Danger is present in each of these cases. No revolution can survive without grain. And, in the event of victory for the German workers in Berlin, they will have no need for our Red regiments to advance on Warsaw. The German workers will conquer by means of their own forces, and the German revolution will be lasting only if it conquers the internal enemy by internal forces. And so it is to the interest of the German proletariat that peace should prevail around its frontiers. Another European war might bury the German revolution under its own ruins. The question of preserving peace in Europe is a question of self-preservation for the European revolution, and for our Union in particular. The German workers need grain, and we have more than enough of that grain, so that the low prices paid for it are hurting our peasants. Only in that way, that is, by exporting grain, can one blade of the ‘scissors’ be brought up to normal, while the other one must be lowered through the expansion of industry and reduction in the prices of its products. Export of grain means export either over land or across the sea. The sea route may, in the event of a blockade, turn out to be severed, and so the only outlet to the foreign grain market that is left is the overland route, that is, through Poland. The German proletariat needs grain, and it can get this only from us. Here we come to the real solidarity, which is based on the complete identity of interest between our woikers and peasants and the German revolution. We must put the question in this way to the army, too.

We need, first and foremost, comrades, to point to the map, and to do this every day. See, this patch here is Germany. This one here is the Soviet Union. Wedged between them is Poland. Here are the railways by which we can send grain abroad. This map must enter into the consciousness of the Red Army man: without it, your agitation will be, if you will pardon the expression, so much claptrap. If we cannot supply Germany with grain, the German revolution will suffocate, and so will our Union. Every peasant in Penza province will understand that. There is no other route than the one through Poland, so that the conclusion is clear. This must be the basis of our agitational work in the Red Army. What is involved here is not the principle of international solidarity, that is, it is not a matter of abstractions which, unless you fill them with concrete data taken from the current situation, serve no purpose at all. We must ensure that the link between our fundamental interests and those of the working people of Germany becomes clear, comprehensible and tangible to every Red Army man. When we were negotiating with Poland at Riga, we strove to secure a direct junction with East Prussia, but Poland did not agree, although even if she had, the Polish Corridor would have remained. Poland lies between us and Germany. What will Poland be, a bridge or a barrier? We do not demand of the Polish Government that it carry out our policy, just as we do not intend to carry out the policy of the Polish bourgeoisie. We demand freedom of transit, paying cash for every verst. Otherwise, we are done for. If the peasants appreciate that, at the same time, the German revolution will be done for as well, that will be very good. In any case, our agitation must proceed from the fact that if we are unable to export grain to Germany, in exchange for which we shall obtain industrial products, we shall suffer suffocation from our grain, and may perish therefrom. Thus, the whole question comes down to this – will Poland be a bridge or a barrier?

The Polish chauvinists say that they ‘do not want to find ourselves gripped between the Russo-German pincers’. This is a popular expression in Poland ’the Russo-German pincers’ – as though the existence of the pincers is due to our ill-will. This is a matter of geography, and there’s nothing to be done about it. Nations cannot change their location by their own free will. In what case can Poland serve as a bridge to the Germans? If, decisively rejecting the idea of acting as a barrier, she were to say to us, clearly and distinctly: ‘I will serve you as a bridge: pay me in cash,’ that would be a very agreeable thing, a splendid outcome. But transit presupposes, of course, the absence of war. It would not be possible to convey grain through Poland if Poland were at war with us, or with Germany – there would be no rail links, no means of conveyance, no transit. Transit presupposes that neither we nor Poland intend to go to war, that we and Poland bind ourselves not to intervene in the armed conflict in Germany. Without that undertaking, the grainharvest of Penza will not reach the German market, nor will the products of German industry reach the Penza peasant. These facts are mutually dependent. This is a realistic programme, comprehensible to everyone. We are fighting to ensure peace around the German revolution. The German revolution will deal with its internal enemies by means of its internal forces. We shall feed the German worker with grain, not for nothing but in exchange for the products of his industry, for machinery which will be supplied to us through Poland, in accordance with a treaty concluded with Poland. We shall do everything we can to achieve such a treaty. To arrive at it is a task for our diplomats, and we shall support our diplomats to the end in their efforts along that road. If transit is assured, both sides will thereby bind themselves not to fight each other and not to interfere in Germany.

This is our programme for political education work in the army in the forthcoming period. This will safeguard us against the danger of tripping the catch, for otherwise it could happen that the vanguard would rush ahead and the reserves fail to keep up with it. It is not only the peasant but the worker as well who, very often, fails to understand what is meant when people talk to him about supporting the German revolution. The peasant and the worker want peace, and the Soviet Government takes this desire of their for peace as the foundation of its policy.

But this does not mean in the least, comrades, that we do not have to prepare for war. Everyone will appreciate that this situation is not such that we, conscientiously following a policy of peace, can be absolutely sure that all our partners will sing in harmony with us. That has not yet been proved.

Is there danger of war? I began by saying that war and revolution, revolution and war, often go together. The German revolution will be a rather big stone dropped into the water of European relations. This water is not so calm even now, but if a rock falls into it, the waves sweeping across Europe will be very high, equilibrium will be upset, much will be unsettled, and the danger of new upheavals will be very great. This will have its effect on the mood of the bourgeois classes, and in particular on those whose home is Warsaw. There is danger of war.

However, what are the odds where war is concerned? If there were in the world a form of bookkeeping by which one could calculate the chances for peace and the chances for war, I should be inclined to expect that these are the figures that would emerge – for peace, at least 51 per cent, and for war, no more than 49 per cent, at the most pessimistic estimate. But even if the chances for war were only 10 per cent, we should still have to be 100 per cent prepared, for if we were to become subject, unprepared, to hostile action, as a result of that 10 per cent possibility of war, we should be defeated a full 100 per cent. Consequently, our preparation for war must, in any case, go full speed ahead.

Our Tasks

This preparation does not presuppose any leaps, but means, above all, improvement and elaboration of all the work which we have been doing up to now. This is, of course, bound up with the fact that the state will have to devote more of its resources to the army and the navy than hitherto. The possibilities for military-technical, military-industrial and military-political work will become more extensive, the number of workers engaged in this work will undoubtedly increase, the militarypolitical apparatus will be strengthened and consolidated, but, along with this, the work itself will have to be carried on at a different tempo, in line with the period which we are entering. We shall all have to brace ourselves accordingly!

Among our new tasks, which are not so numerous, the most important is the development of our territorial system. You are well enough acquainted with this task. There will be a speech specially concerned with this question on the agenda of our conference. We have certainly, by introducing this system, written a new and rich chapter in the development of our Red Army. Before the musters of the territorial divisions took place [8b] there were very many doubts: would it come off, would we succeed in going over, in the revolutionary epoch, to the militia system? We carried out an experiment, and the muster of ten divisions went well, which means that the sociopolitical preconditions have, by and large, proved to be favourable for us. Secondly, our military apparatus has, with the help of the Soviet apparatus, coped, on the whole, with the tasks that faced us where the territorial formations were concerned. There are defects, of course, but we must check the result and correct these in the future. We shall expand this experiment. We propose to carry out musters of the transitory element of no less than twenty territorial divisions. It is, I repeat, a factor of exceptional importance also for our tasks in the sphere of mobilisation – here we have a free hand, since we can locate the cadres of the territorial divisions just as required, assigning them to districts in accordance with our plans of development and our strategical plans. Consequently, political and educational work in the areas where the territorial divisions are recruited is one of our most important tasks. This applies, first and foremost and most acutely, to the Ukrainian divisions, because we have in prospect the creation of territorial divisions in Right-bank Ukraine. You all appreciate how tempting this is from the military standpoint, how greatly it will reduce the work to be done in concentrating our forces, but, on the other hand, considering the particular makeup of the population in Right-bank Ukraine, it is necessary to reinsure ourselves politically in every way. This also applies, of course, to the territorial divisions in all other parts of the country.

As we expand this experiment, treating it as of the greatest importance, the question of the class essence of the territorial divisions will acquire its full weight. You know that Jaurès, the French Socialist who was assassinated on the eve of the war, wrote a book about the militia-type army, organised, as he conceived it, on democratic principles and exclusively defensive in character. In building our territorial divisions we are, in many respects, following the path indicated by Jaurès in his book L’Armée Nouvelle, but, where politics is concerned, there is a gulf between us and him. We are building our militia divisions not on a democratic but on a class basis – in the Ukraine, though they consist 70 per cent of peasants, they are under the leadership of the working class. And since we are now living under the conditions of NEP, the kulak is beginning to raise his head, capital is becoming concentrated in trade, and the huckster is starting to play an ever greater role both in the village and in the town, for we must not forget that the lower links in the economy are controlled by commercial capital, and this is growing fatter and fatter. The problem of the homogeneity of our army faces us, therefore, in its full seriousness, and the solution of this problem depends on how correctly, in the eyes of the Red Army man, we manage to carry out a purge, a filtering of the army, to eliminate both hucksters and kulaks. It must be reaffirmed, as a very strict law, that there is no place for hucksters and kulaks in the territorial divisions, any more than in the Red Army generally. This is especially important because both the kulak and the huckster seek to get into these divisions, since this would furnish them with a passport of political reliability. It is no great privilege for a kulak to hold an official ‘wolf’s ticket’, so he tries to get into a territorial division, presenting himself as a patriot of his fatherland, in order to acquire civil legitimisation by way of the military apparatus. But we shall not give him this legitimisation. This must be seen to by the military workers who share with the local Party workers responsibility for the recruitment of the territorial divisions.

Where our field divisions are concerned, we have the problem of establishing a regime adequare to the scale of the approaching danger. It is necessary that there shall emerge vividly from all our educational work, all our propaganda, an awareness that more severe and responsible times are beginning: that the commanders, the commissars, the political workers and every single Red Army man shall be filled with this consciousness, and that there shall be no more cases of non-appearance for duty, evasion, absence without leave and straight desertion. I do not say that we shall begin with naked administrative pressure where these matters are concerned. No, first of all, we need moral and political preparation, we need to create a solid public opinion.

Everything that I am saying applies also, of course, to the Red Navy, for circumstances may take shape in which the Red Navy will have to play no small part in forthcoming events, if we should be forced to defend the Soviet Union in arms. You will not, of course, ask me to develop this idea here. But the conclusion does emerge from all our plans that the Navy may, under certain conditions, be called upon to perform highly responsible work. This follows from the geography of our seas. May the sailor comrades redouble their efforts along the road to further successes.

The public opinion of the army and the navy must understand, on the basis of an evaluation of the entire situation, that hard days are coming, and that the responsibility borne by every one of us will be multiplied many times over, and in this situation failure to report will acquire great importance. The musters went well, on the whole, as I have said. But there are also certain facts, which are, to be sure, quite exceptional in character: for example, of the reinforcements for the Bessarabian Division which were due to come from the Poltava area, 50 per cent deserted and even, apparently, organised themselves into bands. The proportion of men reporting for duty with the territorial divisions was 98 per cent. Is that good? It is excellent. But 2 per cent did not turn up, and that is a pimple that may become an abscess. You know that, during the war, letters used to be sent to the army from Voronezh province saying that Petka was staying at home, and that was that. You know what the consequences sometimes were. I want to point out that if there is no clear and plain regime where this matter is concerned, these 2 per cent who fail to turn up may cause more and more loosening, and shake the firmness of the entire organisation. We must therefore devote strict attention to strengthening the army in this respect. Failure to report for duty must be treated as a grave offence incurring a definite punishment. Success in this direction is conceivable, of course, only if it proceeds parallel with internal unification of the army. Broadly speaking, things are going pretty well in this sphere, but the comradely solidarity of the Red Army man with the commander and the commissar must be raised, in view of these circumstances, to a greater height than before. Any and every illegal action, injustice or lack of care where the Red Army man and his needs are concerned must be banished and eradicated. Things in everyday relationships that at first sight may seem trifles which, though negative in character, are of secondary importance, now become crimes of tenfold gravity. There must be a systematic armed struggle against arrogance, rudeness and formalism, so as in good time to weld the army together and consolidate it.

To return to the subject of failure to report for duty. In the report by the Ukrainian comrades I found also the following passage which is highly alarming, even though, as I have said, it is, of course, an exception. ‘It is to be noted that the political workers tried to get out of working in the territorial units ...’ and so on. The attention of the Central Committee and the Party committees needs to be drawn to this. If this harmful example were to spread, it would threaten us with great calamities, and it would then become quite impossible to talk of establishing solidarity in the army. Such phenomena will disappear as soon as the party, right down to its deepest levels, takes account of the seriousness and responsibility of the situation.

The national factor assumes very great importance now. In so far as we are now going over, on a wider scale than before, to the forming of territorial units, which are directly linked with the local population, the national factor and the national language acquire heightened importance. In many localities attempts have been made to carry on political talks in the local national language. This must be welcomed, and efforts in this sphere must be increased tenfold. We must not allow political problems to be made difficult, first, because they are difficult in themselves, and, second, because they are presented in an unfamiliar language.

Of no less importance is the question of the youth, of relations with our Young Communist League members. In order to increase the sense of responsibility, both ours towards the youth and that of the youth towards the revolution, and, in particular, to increase the significance of precallup preparation, as the only serious basis for our future territorial-militia army, we need a closer link between our military-political organs and the Young Communist League. Yesterday a plenary meeting of the YCL’s Central Committee was held, at which they discussed problems connected with military work. One of the comrades raised the question whether it might not be necessary to reconsider the position regarding YCL cells in the army. I gave a categorically negative reply. Such a move does not follow from the situation. On the contrary, the more acute the international situation becomes, the less permissible is it to multiply organisations within our army. We have the Party organisations, which are combined in complex ways with the army organisations, and both are headed by tried and tested old workers who possess experience. If we were to create yet another organisation, in the form of YCL cells, that might lead to very undesirable friction and difficulty. While we are obliged to reject this idea, we must, at the same time, redouble our care for the Young Communist League members who join Red Army units, so that they may not lose their Young-Communist outlook, so that we may educate them to become tomorrow’s Party members.

The question of comradely solidarity, attention to everyday conditions, care and respect for the individual personality, is connected with the question of sobriety in the army. And this is a very serious question – the fight against samogon. [9] In those places where samogon is in full flood, campmusters proceed less well, and the formation of territorial divisions falls to go smoothly. We therefore need to wage ruthless fight against samogon. And the more serious the situation, the sterner must this fight be.

We have to try and increase the number of Communist rankandfile soldiers in the units. At that same plenum of the Young Communists’ CC I was asked if a slogan could not be issued for YCLers to join the army as rank-and-file soldiers. We cannot, of course, issue such a slogan. We cannot survive without political leaders in the army. We do have to calculate who is to serve as an ordinary soldier and who as a political leader. But it will be possible to form an unshakable nucleus in the army only if we increase the percentage of Communists who carry bayonets.

These are, in fundamental outline, the tasks of our internal work in the army. Parallel with this work must go, and is going, more intense work in the sphere of war industry, because our capacity to fight will be 50 per cent determined by our success in the sphere of war industry.

I come back to the question to which I have devoted the greater part of my report, that of the moral preparation of the army, the navy and the entire population, because these are all inseparably interconnected. You know how the territorial musters that were held excited the people, and what a beneficial effect they had on the people in many places. Consequently, the method of educating the Red Army which we are adopting at this time will to a considerable degree also be a method of educating the masses of the people, and it will proceed from concrete, practical explanation of the question at issue and wellfounded stepbystep progress. I will try once again to formulate where the danger lies. We know too much, and our listeners often know too little. We all have an evaluation of the developing events – the connection between war and the German revolution, and the prospects of this revolution – firmly fixed in our minds. All that has settled profoundly into our thinking, and, therefore, when we expound a question, forgetting the listener, we skip from one subject to another, and the listener gets the impression that he is looking at rainy weather through a fine sieve – he sees that something is appearing there, indistinctly, but he can’t make out what it is, exactly. We write well and in a revolutionary way: ‘and we will pour out our blood’, and ‘we will support’, and so on, but the resolution does not sink into the listener’s head. To be sure, people adopt the resolution, they vote for it, but often they only do this because they trust us in advance – and sometimes they do it from indifference, which is worse.

What do we need? We need to ensure that a notch is cut in the consciousness of the listener, by which, as though mounting a ladder, he can rise from one stage to the next, so that he remembers today what was told to him yesterday. That is why I directed your attention to the map. The listener’s attention has to be riveted to the map, and he must point out and name here is Russia, here Germany, here Poland, and this is the way the grain is to go. We have to awaken him, to make him follow events day after day, for the situation is subject to change. He must be involved in the course of events, and not fed merely on abstract declarations about the German revolution in general, about duty, about the Comintern, and so on. The situation changes from one day to the next: and what does the ideological life of a conscious person mean if not that he follows this movement day by day, takes account of what has happened, forms hypotheses, looks forward to the next day, to fresh events, and tests his hypotheses, finding confirmation or refutation? His consciousness, his thinking, anticipates something, gets ready for something, and he becomes a generally conscious person. The level of the conscious person can vary: Marx on one level, and, on a different level, a young peasant from Penza. But the latter, too, must be an actively thinking citizen. We have to approach him in such a way that he works over everything with his own brain and advances from one day to the next, so that he receives every fresh event concretely explained, and knows the essential character of the policy of our neighbours, the essence of events as they develop. It is impossible to keep the army in ignorance for one or two months and then suddenly unload a whole mountain of facts on it. Agitation must be carried on in such a way that the peasant’s brain organically absorbs certain facts and relations: then he will work along the right lines. And in order to attain this result we must, above all, ruthlessly banish from our explanations and our agitation that official discourse which is often observable among us, and which sometimes recalls, in an extremely repulsive way, the official discourse of former times, with its conventional terminology, with its ‘How glorious’ and its ‘God save the Tsar’. [10] We are a revolutionary party, a revolutionary class, a revolutionary state, and we cannot tolerate lying official discourse in any circumstances. I became especially aware last summer of the existence of this official discourse among us. There fell to my lot the privilege of being ill for a few months. While undergoing treatment in Caucasia I read a whole number of historical sketches about our army units. During the last few years numerous symposiums have been published here dealing with regiments, divisions and armies. It is a splendid fact that we are looking back over our past, and drawing the conclusions from it – but in these writings there is also more than enough of official discourse. How is this expressed? Let us speak bluntly. It is expressed in the conventional, bombastic lies of false romanticism. It is made to appear as though there is no division, no regiment that is not absolutely ideal: as soon as it was born, as soon as its umbilical cord was cut, a bogatyr at once strode across the face of the earth – and where failures occurred, that was clearly due to the fact that the enemy’s numbers were enormous whereas there was only a handful of us. Comrades, this won’t do! This is not right for us! It suited the Tsarist Army, but it is not right for us. It is a most harmful thing. The glory of the Red Army has no need of these artificial procedures, and our young Red Army men and their commanders can only be corrupted by such lying official discourse. I do not speak from any moralistic standpoint, from the standpoint of Kant, with his ‘categorical imperative’, the obligation always and everywhere to speak the truth (I should like to see where in the world anyone lives in accordance with that imperative). Nor do I speak from the standpoint of the harmonious society of the future, in which, of course, everything will be truthful, in which there will be no conditions conducive to lying (fear, hatred, enmity). I speak of what exists today, what is happening before our eyes. Lies and cunning, trying to catch people out, trickery, treachery – all these are facts and methods inseparably bound up with the class structure of society and its internal struggle. And, indeed, how can one overcome an enemy without deceiving him? What is camouflage but lies expressed in colours, figures and shapes? We most willingly leave abstract preaching of the obligation to tell the truth to priests and to British politicians, the biggest liars in the world. We can free ourselves of this official discourse. But whereas we can deceive the enemy, deceive him wherever we can and to the best of our ability, we can in no case deceive ourselves. And official discourse is selfdeception, a crust of lying words, expressing rituals, which gradually accumulate and are presented to new entrants to the Red Army for their edification. But very great harm comes of this. From all the historical sketches steeped in official romanticism one thing emerges, namely, that all our regiments consisted of heroes and all their actions were heroic. Now, there are two possibilities. Either the young comrade, if he is intelligent, will not believe this. Then he will not believe, either, on another occasion, when we are telling him the truth: he will be filled with mistrust of the Red Army’s ideology. Another group will regard all this official romanticism as something that does not concern them. Finally, a third group will believe, sincerely and naively: and when in his first skirmish under fire, a young commander gets the shits (nothing can be done about it, this happens to the best of us), he will say to himself: ‘I’m good for nothing, I’m not at all like those real heroes I read about in the books.’ Under the influence of official romanticism he forms a false conception of reality which, in the end, may kill his confidence in himself – and without that, no-one can be a fighter, let alone a commander.

It is quite a different matter if we give a living, truthful picture of the past of our regiments, of their failures and shortcomings, of the cases of panic that occurred. Then the novice who finds himself in some serious trouble under fire, if he gets confused and his heart shrinks, will not give in to despair but, knowing what life in battle is like, will make an effort of will in order to overcome his disagreeable feeling. We have no need of selfdeception as an educational method.

Official self-deception has a further serious consequence the corruption of the army. Where official discourse set in, it corrodes the army, like rust, in all directions. Official discourse finds expression for instance, in false reports. The army suffered from this during the civil war, and we must rid ourselves of it at all costs. False reports result from a feeling of false shame and false official pride, from the need to present some mistake one has made in a wellcombed form. The falsity of this official discourse does not, of course, occur in 100 per cent of all reports, it usually comes to not more than 15 per cent, or 33 per cent, or, at most, 50 per cent. These reports make their way up from below and are concentrated at the level of the higher command. Cosmetics and camouflage are found at every level of the military hierarchy. It thus happens that when such reports have passed up through the various channels, the staff of a division or of an army have been given a picture utterly different from the reality. The question of truthfulness in reports is one of the most important questions in educating a soldier, increasing his sense of responsibility. Truthfulness in reports is the precondition for making correct dispositions and issuing the right orders, because one needs to have a good idea of what the situation really is if one is to decide what to do next. This question is, I repeat, one of exceptional importance, and the task which follows from it can be performed only if we declare war on official discourse in all its manifestations. [11]

The army must be a selfacting organism, which thinks critically and estimates situations. This does not in the least rule out discipline: on the contrary, truly revolutionary stern discipline can be based only on critical thinking by the entire army. If the army rids itself of all official discourse, lying and conventionalism; if this army does not subscribe automatically to resolutions at meetings but forms its opinion because it has taken account of the situation; if we carry on our work in this way, increasing internal cohesion, comradely spirit and criticism, which are combined very well with strict discipline, we shall not only raise our army to a higher level but shall draw into conscious political life, along with the army, also the ponderous masses of the peasantry. More concreteness, clarity and practicality, in all our politicaleducation work! Its guiding idea will, as before, be the struggle for peace, but in the new situation created by the German revolution. Don’t exaggerate, don’t rush ahead, but march in step with events. We shall pursue a policy of demanding transit and non-intervention. In the event that, nevertheless, we find ourselves under the necessity of going to war, this fact will be understood by the most backward peasants as the result of inescapable objective circumstances. We made every effort to safeguard peace and, nevertheless, war has been forced upon us – so we must defend ourselves to the end. Methodical work must be carried on against official discourse in the army, preparing the soldiers’ public opinion against all possibilities and difficulties. This is our basic task, and if we do fulfil it, then, should war be forced upon us, we shall fight as noone has ever fought before!

From Concluding Remarks

Comrades, so as not to forget it, I want to mention a particular detail, a formal question which may seem a very minor one, but which has its importance. This is the name to be given to our territorial divisions. We call them sometimes ‘militia’, sometimes ‘territorial’. The word ‘militia’ is not suitable because in our country we call the police the militia. The peasant and the worker know that. And yet here we have part of the army. ‘Territorial division’ – you would have to give the peasant an encyclopaedic dictionary for him to know what this means, and then he won’t say it, and this term won’t enter into popular usage. What does ‘territorial division’ mean? Some comrades say, in a fit of despair: don’t call it anything, just say ‘division’. It would be very tempting to call it simply a division, like any other, field division. But the trouble is that it differs from a field division, and everyone notices that it differs somewhat from a field division: in its mode of recruitment, its structure, in everything, it is decidedly different. Consequently, anybody who is at all interested wants to have a name to call it by. What is it to be called? There is an old, discredited name which I proposed, but which met with a rebuff. I should have your support for it. It is: opolchenie. [12] I see how, already some of you are shaking your heads. This is at present, of course, comrades, merely a modest proposal which I am not forcing on anyone, but which I should like to be discussed and weighed by a commission or in some other way. Eventually we shall have to decide on some name. ’Opolchenie’, ‘a division of the opolchenie’, ‘the Red opolchenie’ – that doesn’t sound bad to me. The traditions of the word are bad. To the soldier of the old army it still evokes bad associations, bad memories, but this won’t be the case with the youngster. And if we take the word opolchenie, this is, in my opinion, a splendid word: in the first place, it is not a foreign word, like ‘militia’ or ‘territorial’, but a real Russian word. From it we get ‘opolchatsya protiv vraga’ (to take up arms against the enemy), we get the word ‘polk’ (a regiment); we get ‘opolchit krestyan’ (arm the peasants); ‘preyratitikh v polk’ (for a regiment of them); ‘opolchit rabochikh’ (arm the workers); ‘opolchit protiv vraga’ (arm against the enemy) what could be better, it’s a most splendid word. I think that this could well find acceptance. The oldtime opolchenie was something quite different. That’s over and done with. But this is the Red opolchenie, the workers’ and peasants’ revolutionary opolchenie. Give it your consideration, please, comrades, and perhaps I shall find support among you. But at present these divisions are roaming about nameless, like lost souls.

’But what’, one of the comrades has asked, ‘may British imperialism do, in Persia and Turkey, if we intervene in military operations? May it not leave the world revolution without the oil of Baku? And, in general, is there danger from that side?’ There is danger from every side, including that one, of that there can be no doubt. Should the great storm burst, the enemy will, of course, try to harm us absolutely everywhere. What can one say about this? We have to keep a sharp eye on Caucasia, as ’You did not say anything about the role of Romania.’ True, I did not; and it is indeed hard to say anything about the role of Romania, for Romania’s role has always in the past been hard to define. As you know, Romania is allied with Poland, but Romania always betrays her allies. She always betrayed them in the past, waiting to intervene in a conflict at the moment when it seemed to her that the chances were absolutely sure, but sometimes she miscalculated. So far as we know, the Polish general staff does not, in its calculations, count on Romania as a reliable ally, because it knows the character of the ruling caste of that country. One thing can be said, that if a really big counterrevolutionary European coalition is formed, then, probably, Romania will join in the dance, because the chances of victory will be great. If, however, this is not formed – and putting together this world coalition is no simple or easy matter – Romania will keep to a waiting position. This position will, of course, depend also on what our forces look like, both in the Ukraine and in the other areas directly adjacent to the western frontier of our Union. In any case, one thing is certain, that in Romania neither we nor the German revolution have a friend that is quite obvious.

’What role will be played by the buffer states – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania – in the event of revolution in Germany? What should our attitude be towards them?’ I think that what I said about Poland applies also to them, to a greater or lesser extent. Everything that I said applies, on a smaller scale, to these states. Our policy towards them should be the same, that is, insistently peaceloving – not passively peaceloving, but insistently. Love of peace sometimes requires that a man bang his fist on the table, demonstrating the need to preserve peace to someone who does not want to understand this.

’Is it possible that revolutionary Germany may be occupied by France’s coloured troops, what is the likelihood of this, and, if so, what would the prospects be?’ It is, of course, possible that France may throw in 200-300,000 coloured troops – but not more than that, because the development of colonial troops is a slow process, owing to the inadequate cultural level of the native population. The prospects, I should say, are two-edged. These black units are inclined to indulge in unrestrained violence, atrocities, and so on, owing to their cultural backwardness, but, on the other hand, they are also inclined to mutiny, to offer passive or active resistance, to massacre their officers: they can yield to propaganda – not Communist propaganda, of course, but a way to approach them must be found. There are not many literate men among them. The Arabs, of course, are more cultured than the Negroes, but it is quite possible to work among the Negroes, too, since there are Negro revolutionaries, Negro Communists. So that would be the specific form of our general task of disintegrating the armies of occupation.

’How are we to understand the interview you gave to the American senator?’ [Laughter] [13]

I think that this does not call for explanation. I talked with the American senator in extremely popular language, and what is comprehensible to an American senator should be all the more comprehensible to a worker in the field of political education in the army. What did I say to him? I said to him what I said in my report given here, only more simply and briefly. That peace must at all costs be preserved, that we feel great sympathy with the German revolution, but have no intention whatsoever of sending troops to Berlin to help. I told him that we shall not send one single soldier beyond the borders of our Union unless we are compelled to do this by pressure from hostile forces. This is a quite correct idea, which I invite you to share.

Speaking seriously, how do we pose the question, and how shall we pose it? The sixth anniversary of the revolution will soon be here. What slogans shall we issue – shall we say: ‘Long live revolutionary war!’ or ‘Long live peace!’? For my part, I shall vote for the slogan: ‘Long live the peace!’, and I think the Central Committee of the Party will issue that slogan. ‘Long live the victory of the German revolution!’ ‘Long live peace between the peoples of Europe!’ That is what I said to the senator, and, from the impression I received, it seemed to satisfy him.

Another question: ‘Does the Polish ruling class not know that victory for the revolution in Germany will predetermine the same thing in Poland?’

This is a mere abstraction, and so a way of posing the question which is inadequate for practical struggle. Of course, if the Polish ruling class as a whole were to come to the conclusion that the revolution will conquer, become consolidated, and last for years, then, naturally, the result would be that it would have, for the sake of self-preservation, to start a struggle against that revolution. But the essence of the matter is that the revolution has not yet triumphed in Germany, and its outcome is not predetermined. In Poland itself different trends are in conflict within the ruling classes, and these estimate differently the chance of the revolution in Germany. All this has to be taken into account. The revolution in Germany will go through various stages, with ebbs and flows. The ruling classes of the neighbouring countries will hope that this revolution will soon collapse, that it will be a passing phenomenon. An attempt by the extreme Right, imperialist wing to intervene immediately will encounter opposition from the middle and pettybourgeoisie. One must not imagine the ruling class of a bourgeois country as one whole creature with one single mind, which evaluates all events in perspective and logically deduces the corresponding decisions. A fierce internal struggle goes on there, evaluations change, moods fluctuate, decision replaces decision, and so, in this way we gain time. This is thatbreathing spell of which I have already spoken. It is not, of course, out of the question that intervention may occur already in the initial phase; but there are, as I have said, many obstacles in the way of that happening.

Concerning the abstract agitation, the official discourse, about which I spoke at the end, let me quote, as an example, a few lines from I won’t say which report. Here is what it says: ‘The recent events in Germany created enthusiasm in the majority of the units. The series of resolutions adopted by different units testifies to the general readiness to support the German proletariat. There is no other material on the revolutionary mood of the Red Army men.’ When I read that, I shook my head over it. I should be very doubtful of the correctness of the actions of political workers who estimate in such simplified fashion the enthusiasm of our regiments: they subscribed to a resolution, therefore they are ready to go to the aid of the German workers. I doubt that very much. I think seriously, comrades, that in this responsible period we need to break ourselves of this sort of bureaucratic way of estimating. This question is no laughing matter.


1. The report on The Present Situation and Our Tasks in Building the Army was published as a separate pamphlet by the Supreme Military Publishing Council, Moscow, 1924.

2. The peasants’ revolt in Bulgaria, led by the Communists, against the reactionary Tsankov Government, took place on and after September 20, 1923. It broke out simultaneously in several parts of Bulgaria, but was savagely suppressed by the government, with the help of the Wrangelites. Some of the rebels fled to Yugoslavia.

3. Some of Wrangel’s forces, after their expulsion from the Crimea, settled in Bulgaria, where they tried to preserve their military organisation. Stambulisky sought to disarm and evict them and so, together with the Macedonian nationalists who hated him for his policy of friendship with Yugoslavia, they helped his opponents to seize power. The Bulgarian Communists took up a stance of ‘neutrality’ when the coup occurred. The Executive Committee of the Comintern rebuked them for this and on June 23, 1923 issued an appeal to the workers and peasants of Bulgaria in which they said: ‘Stambulisky’s government persecuted the labour movement in the interests of the village bourgeoisie and the village usurers ... But if Stambulsky’s Government persecuted the workers, Tsankov’s Government wants to annihilate them. Whoever mistakenly thinks that the struggle of the now triumphant White clique against Stambulisky is a struggle between two bourgeois cliques in which the working class can be neutral will now be taught better ...’

4. Kommunistichesky Yezhogodnik (The Communist Yearbook) gives the number of agricultural workers in Germany as 7,000,000. But this figure, obtained by statistical combinations based on pre-war data, is certainly exaggerated. We have taken the minimum figure. [Note by Trotsky]

5. November 9, 1918 was the day of the German revolution when Wilhelm II was overthrown and a republic proclaimed. See note 70 to Volume One.

6. General von Lossow led the Reichswehr contingents in Bavaria. He and his men took an oath of allegiance to the state of Bavaria, on the blue-and-white flag of the Wittelsbach monarchy.

7. The line that a victorious revolution in Germany should be prepared to ‘reconcile’ itself, even if only temporarily, to the French occupation of the Ruhr was, of course, irreconcilable with the line put forward by Radek in his famous ‘SchLageter speech’ of 20 June 1923, at the meeting of the enlarged ECU (Leo SchLageter – the Wanderer into the Void’, in Labour Monthly, September 1923). Schlageter, a Nazi, had been shot by the French in May, for sabotage of their railway communications in the Ruhr. Radek appealed to the nationalist-minded petty-bourgeois of the Schiageter type to rally to the German Communist Party as the leadership that could bring about Germany’s liberation – national as well as social. Humbert-Droz, the Comintern representative in Paris, reported in September that the German Communists’ flirtation with German nationalists, encouraged by Radek, was causing uneasiness in the French Communist Party. At the Fifth Congress of the Comintern, in 1924, during the post-mortem on the German events, one speaker said that, as soon as the Ruhr conflict began, some comrades had begun to act politically as though Germany, an advanced monopoly-capitalist country, had suddenly sunk to the level of a semi-colony like Morocco.

7b. A song with humorous verses composed by L.N. Tolstoy, making fun of the unsuccessful offensive by General Read on the river Chernaya, during the Sebastopol campaign.

General N.A. Read was killed in the battle of the Chernaya (1855), while making Russia’s last attempt to relieve Sebastopol L.N. Tolstoy, then a young officer serving in the Crimea, wrote some verses in which he mocked this failure. They included these lines:

Any fool will do: you had
Better sent out there Read,
And let me look on.

8. ’Give us Warsaw!’ was the most popular slogan of the Red Army during the successful phase of the Russo-Polish War of 1920.

8b. The possibility of carrying out an extensive experiment in constructing the armed forces of the Republic on militia principles was first made widely known in January 1923, at a conference of commanders of military districts, fronts and independent armies. On January 12 of that year the Revolutionary War Council of the USSR issued an order for transforming the first ten divisions into territorial divisions. The first musters of these divisions were held between October 510 and 15. These musters took place with hardly any failures to turn up for service and with a great show of enthusiasm. The results of the first musters emphasised with unquestionable clearness that it was possible, under the conditions of the Soviet Union, to apply the territorial principal of recruiting to the army.

9. Samogon is home-distilled vodka – ’Russian potheen’.

10. God save the Tsar was adopted as Russia’s official national anthem in 1833. A religious hymn, Kolslaven (‘How glorious’), was also sung on state occasions.

11. The preceding passage anticipates the theme of Trotsky’s article Functionarism in the Army and Elsewhere, in Pravda of December 4, 1923, which was included in his book The New Course.

12. The opolchenie was originally the levée en masse raised to oppose invasion e.g., against the Poles at the beginning of the 17th century and against Napoleon in 1812. Between 1874 and 1917, however, this name was given to the territorial reserve consisting of men over normal military age, or unfit for normal service (like the German Landsturm).

13. For the interview with the American Sentator, click here.

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Last updated on: 30.12.2006