The International Situation and the Red Army

IV. The Events in Germany in the Autumn of 1923


At the Celebration of the Fifth Anniversary of the Russian Young Communist League, October 29, 1923

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

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Comrades! Permit me to convey to you, on the fifth anniversary of your glorious League, a fraternal greeting from the Red Army and the Red Navy. Greetings are now no matter for surprise to you, comrades. As I read in the evening paper, you received greetings today from Toronto, Chicago and Buenos Aires. But I hope, all the same, that you will not refuse to accept this greeting from the Znamenka. [1]

Comrades, when one looks at the Young Communist League, which renews itself, year after year, from the springs of the worker and peasant youth, one is forced to compare it with what existed not so long ago, about 20 or 25 years ago. About that period you can get an impression from Gleb Uspensky’s description, in The Manners of Rasteryayeva Street [The Manners of Rasteryayeva Street was published in 1866.], of the life of the workers and working-class youth in Tula in the middle and later years of the last century; or from Gorky’s description of a provincial town, The Small Town of Okurov [The Small Town of Okurov was published in 1910.], or from the picture of his childhood which he has set before us in his latest writings. If, I say, one looks at you and compares what one sees with what used to be, it is obvious what a long stretch of history’s road we have traversed, dear friends, during these last few years. There, in the Okurov of yesterday, the life of the petty-bourgeois, the life of the workers (not much different from that of the petty-bourgeois), the old habits, the Old-Testament beliefs, the whole daily round of life, was like a corked bottle, with no outlet to the free world. But now you, the worker and peasant youth, have broken not only ideologically with the swamp of Rasteryayeva Street. Remember how, in Uspensky, the districts where those workers and working-class youth lived who made accordions were at daggers drawn with the youth who made samovars – they formed two camps, two hostile worlds. [Tula was ‘Russia’s Birmingham’.] It is this group exclusiveness, this isolation, this dullness of the old way of life that you have overcome: you now have links with Chicago and Buenos Aires, and it is no accident that your brothers and sisters in spiritual arms send you their greetings on the fifth anniversary of your League.

There is the yardstick for that stretch of history’s road that we have traversed in these five years, long as five centuries. Your League was – and this has to be said not merely for a day of celebration – your League was and is an historical factor, a force which is participating in the creation of new forms of social life. Your League has made great sacrifices in this period, and, in so doing, it has not weakened, it has grown taller each time by a whole head. The struggle was waged on a variety of fronts, but each time that we suffered defeats, whenever a difficult hour came our way, when the Party and the Soviet power gathered strength to defend themselves or to strike a blow, we turned to your League, which was then still quite young. And on each occasion there came forward from your ranks a fresh wave of devoted fighters who felt that they were part of the working class and who died in its ranks and under its banner. As far back as those days when, before Kazan, before Sviyazhsk, the foundations of the armed forces of the Soviet Republic were being laid [2] a valiant handful of youngsters rushed thither from Moscow. Many of them fell in the fighting before Sviyazhsk. And constantly, whenever our fronts expanded, and when sometimes – and this happened several times – the ring of fronts clenched closer and closer around the Moscow centre, your League produced ever fresh detachments which linked their fate in blood with that of the Red Army, and, later, of the Red Navy.

Two years and more ago it became possible for us to reduce the size of the army. The Young Communist League went over from a war footing, if not to a completely peacetime footing, then almost to that. A period of study began, a period of struggle against the still mightly laters of Okurovism, the deposits of Asiaticism, of lack of culture, of barbarism. The Young Communist League member began, starting with the ABC, to mount to the heights of materialist philosophical thought, while cold and hungry, sharing in this, as in everything else, the fate of the whole working class. Two years and more ago a large section of the YCL devoted their efforts to advancing our backward culture and technology. It was you, members of the Young Communist League, who created the factory workshop school. At every congress, at every responsible meeting of the trade unions YCL members now speak, and the older generations listen to the strong, metallic voice of the incoming shift of the proletariat. History has swung a large and heavy hammer in order to forge the character of your generation. Hardly have you left the field of battle, hardly have you applied your young mouths to the sources of knowledge and technique, than you hear already the new alarm-bell which warns of the approach of another terrible conflict. I speak of the events in Germany, which are engrossing our thoughts and our will.

Each day brings news, by radio or by telegraph, of how the class struggle in today’s half-dismembered and utterly ruined Germany is growing more acute and moving towards its inevitable culmination. We already see how French imperialism has resorted to open dismemberment of Germany. Bavaria, backed by French bayonets, is acting like an ‘independent state’. In Koblenz sits the traitor separatist government of the new Rhineland ‘Republic’. In that same Koblenz, 125 or 130 years ago, French Royalist émigrés took refuge from the thunder and lightning of the great French revolution of that time, but, today, German monarchists are taking refuge under the protection of French bayonets from the thunder and lightning of the advancing new wave of proletarian revolution. The starving German worker is coming forward in the role of pioneer of a new phase of class battles. [Applause] Yes, we applaud from our hearts the revolutionary ardour of the German proletariat, of the Communists who are their true leaders. We look distrustfully at the behaviour of the so-called ‘Left’ Social-Democrats. We follow with a keen eye the development of the civil war, which has already passed through a number of hard stages. So far, comrades, the German proletariat has not grasped the wheel of victory with its iron hand. Difficult hours, days, weeks and perhaps months still lie ahead. We are separated by distance from the German workers. But from here, from this Red celebration of the Young Communist League, we call to the proletarians, men and women, of Berlin, Dresden, Chemnitz and other cities and districts: ‘Brothers and sisters, we are with you in spirit!’

The conflict that is rending Germany is upsetting the equilibrium of all Europe. We do not know what tasks and trials the morrow is preparing for us. We do not know that they will be, but we foresaw them in the comparatively calm days of the lull. Not for nothing did your League, amid its studies, assume patronage of the entire Red Navy! What were you saying when you did that? You said thereby that you were clearly aware that stern struggle still lies ahead, that, while fighting against barbarism and backwardness with pencil, pen, compasses, hammer and pincers in hand, you do not want, you do not dare to forget how to use the rifle and the machine-gun. In this period you have given thousands of YCLers to our Red Navy, and if it is now advancing and growing, a large share of the credit for this belongs to you. You took an active part in the education of those about to be called up. We are now going over gradually, step by step, to the militia system, which in its organisation and spirit corresponds better to the whole nature of the workers’ and peasants’ state.

But a territorial-militia army will only attain the necessary level, and only then will ensure the defence of the Soviet Union, if we raise to the necessary height the military preparation of our young people. We have got down to this task. We need an air fleet, and our Young Communist League, which in fire is not consumed and in water is not drowned, is rising also into the realms of air, so as to widen its horizon and to bar the aerial approaches to the strongholds of our workers’ and peasants’ republic. We need a powerful air fleet, and the Young Communist League will take an ever larger place in the building of this fleet.

Thus, step by step, the Red Army and the Red Navy have been and are being interwoven with the destiny of your League. The army is made up of young men, the navy, after the release of a series of age-groups, has become young too, and that you are young there is no need to say. It is enough to look around this hall. And this intimate closeness between the generation under arms and that which is as yet only preparing to take up arms, this fraternity between them, is indissoluble. While the YCL is flesh of the flesh of the working class, the Army and Navy are becoming merely the prolongation and development of the YCL. At this time when Europe is shuddering in convulsions, when danger is becoming more and more immediate, we call upon you, comrades, while not diverting your efforts from study, work and production, to give an ever greater share of your attention to the Red Army and the Red Navy.

On your fifth anniversary, the Revolutionary War Council of the USSR has resolved to entrust to your Central Committee a banner, as the outward expression of the bond which united the army with you in past battles, and which will grow still stronger as time passes, for we are entering a period of struggle, approaching new trials. What destiny awaits us nobody can say precisely. But we do know that struggle awaits us! In this struggle your League, under the banner of the Comintern, will fight on those lines to which history will assign us. May this banner be among your battle-flags. The Red Army and the Red Navy have no doubt that this banner will not be disgraced, that it will become for you a sign of honour, struggle and victory.

Pokolenie Oktyabrya


1. The building occupied by the Revolutionary War Council of the USSR is situated in Znamenka Street, Moscow.

2. On the fighting before Kazan, see Volume One, pages 307-352, and the notes to these pages.

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Last updated on: 31.12.2006