Erich Wollenberg’s

The Red Army


The Military Specialists

Chapter Two

Historical Parallels

Every great revolution has been forced, in the course of a civil war and a national war of independence, to create a new revolutionary army as it were out of the ground and on the debris of the old army—the army of the rulers and oppressors. If the revolutionary class or party failed in this military task, if it could not gain the breathing-space it needed in order to hold on through the painful army-less period of transition, it had failed in the problem set it by history and was doomed to sink back for a long period of further development (or, perhaps, for ever) into the void where history has nothing to record.

In the German Peasants’ War, which broke out in the spring of 1525 with the suddenness of a thunderstorm, the peasants, as soon as they were left in the lurch by the citizens of the towns, wasted their strength, and so suffered defeat by the armies of the nobility, although they had the ‘big battalions’ on their side. They did not know how to weld their scattered detachments of armed men into an army; they were unable to solve the problem of military leadership. The centuries of misery that followed in Germany, and the manifestations of Hitler’s barbarism, may be ultimately traced to the fact that the Peasants’ Revolt (the most important preliminary condition for a civic revolution) failed to give the ‘military arguments’ a satisfactory answer.

The great rise of the English bourgeoisie in the last few centuries is due to the fact that Cromwell was his own sword as well as his own ideologist. He organized the army of the Long Parliament and was able to lead it to victory.

Like the October Revolution, the French Revolution was exposed to furious onslaughts from internal foes and interventionist armies, during its ‘painful army-less period.’ It had to improvise its own revolutionary armies at the fropt. It soldiers were as ill-fed and illtrained as the men of the Red Army; their garments were as ragged, their equipment at the front as bad. They were the butt of politicians and military writers, who asked: “What sort of soldiers are these? A collection of tramps, beggars and bandits!” But these beggars, these barefooted sans-culotte warriors defeated the splendidly equipped armies the rulers of Europe sent against them. A contemporary Winston Churchill would have been able to speak of the “Fourteen and more kings” with the same self-satisfaction that his modern successor displayed in 1919 when he boasted of the “Fourteen States” fighting against the October Revolution.

The creation of a revolutionary army amid foreign and civil war is therefore no new problem imposed by history for the first time on a revolutionary class or party. Nevertheless, Lenin had right on his side when, in the course of his speech on March 18, 1919, at the 8th Party Day of the Boishevist Party, he emphasized the fact that “the problem of creating a Red Army was quite a new one. Hitherto it has never made even a theoretical appearance. As Comrade Trotsky has said, we had to experiment and make trials. We attempted to carry out our mission on a larger scale than anyone else in the world has ever attempted."

What is the novelty in this creation of a Red Army on a scale unprecedented in history? It is to be found in the special class basis of the proletariat, which was not merely exploited and oppressed politically by the ruling classes, but also disinherited by them.

The feudal lords yielded up to the bourgeoisie some considerable time before their political fall their monopoly of education—or at least the monopoly they possessed by reason of their close contact with the monasteries and secular clergy; but after seizing political power and ‘expropriating the expropriators’ in the economic sphere, the proletariat still remained in the state of disinheritance that had been imposed on it by the vanquished bourgeoisie in the intellectual sphere, in the spheres of ability and knowledge, in the sphere of culture.

This intellectual dependence was greatest in the period immediately following the seizure of power, that is, in the years when the bourgeoisie made their bitterest and fiercest efforts to regain their lost authority. A bankers’ monopoly can be broken in a few weeks or even hours, but an educational monopoly can be overcome only by the work of years or even decades, and then only by hard, unremitting toil. Meanwhile the proletariat can count on no other teachers save the specialists who have hitherto served the bourgeoisie. This rule holds good for all branches of knowledge, and most especially for military knowledge.

The first great but groping attempt of a proletariat to seize and maintain political power was the experiment of the Paris Commune. The military problem was not one of the least causes of its failure. In his historical work The Paris Commune, which appeared in 1880, Peter Lavrov depicted the inability of the Communards to put an efficient army into the field against the forces of the Versailles Assembly in the following words:

"Neither the socialists nor the democratic extremists, both of whom were drawn from the ranks of the peaceful working classes and clerks, could provide military specialists. The usual occupations and general trend of thought of these leaders of a people’s revolution made them strangers to military technique and unfitted them for the task of controlling the actions of military leaders. The government was incompetent to direct in affairs of war; consequently all military discipline was under mined, while the military leaders were deprived of the possibility of taking quick and energetic action at the very moment when the fate of the Commune depended on the speed and energy of their actions."

Lissagaray, who fought for the Commune, describes the state of the troops as follows:

"Most battalions had no leaders. The cadres of the National Guard were incomplete, while the generals who took the responsibility of leading 40,000 men had never taken even a single battalion into action. They neglected the most elementary arrangements; they failed to provide artillery, powder wagons and ambulances. One day they even forgot to issue any orders, and so left their men for hours without food in a cold, wet fog."

It was the experience of the Paris Commune that led Karl Kautsky to the opinion that “warfare is not the proletariat’s strong point.”

But meanwhile almost half a century had elapsed. The proletariat had learnt much since 1871, even in the military sphere. The Russian soldiers drawn from the classes of workers and peasants were able to make a practical study of warfare in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 and the imperialist World War.

But the bourgeoisie also had learnt much. Military technique and tactics had undergone extensive developments, while we must also take into consideration the fact that the pre-revolutionary Russian Army was far behind other modern armies in those respects as well as in the important matters of military organization and administration. So long as the Russian Red forces had to fight only Russian White forces organized and led by Russian officers, the backward condition of the old Tsarist Army was actually an asset to the Soviet Army, because its own ranks contained many former prisoners-of-war, including soldiers, N.C.O.s, and even a few officers of the German and Austro-Hungarian armies. Moreover, less time and trouble were needed to bring individual soldiers and officers—or even whole army corps—up to the backward Tsarist standard, than to the higher standard of a modern army. But the backwardness of the old army was in itself the cause of the magnitude of the danger which an intervention threatened.

The creation of a body of qualified officers was a matter of life and death for the Soviet Republic. The Boishevist Party had made no preparations to deal with such a problem. In March 1919, Lenin drew attention to the fact that “the former teachers of socialism who foresaw and prophesied so many events of the social revolution never discussed the question of utilizing the reserves of bourgeois knowledge and technique accumulated by the worst forms of militarism.”

Lenin, indeed, had given keen attention to military problems in pre-revolutionary days. Clausewitz’s profound work On War became his text-book of military knowledge, and he applied his instructor’s system of thought to the problems raised in the art of armed insurrection and revolutionary warfare. During his period of exile in Switzerland in the early years of the World War he translated the memoirs of the Commune General Cluseret and published them with a preface of his own. But neither Cluseret nor the military-technical works of Friedrich Engels nor those of Bebel and Jaurs on the militia dealt with the basic problem of the creation of a Red Army or the employment of military specialists to raise and lead the armed forces of the Revolution.

The Proletarian Officer Cadres

In the first months following the October Revolution, and especially in the period immediately preceding Brest-Litovsk, the Red Guard officers were drawn almost exclusively from the Bolshevist military cadres and the N.C.O.s of the old army. These men also provided the nucleus of the officers of the regular Red Army.

The N.C.O.s of the old army were frequently elected as representatives in the Soldiers’ Councils at the time of the February Revolution. They learnt to take command of large military formations and so provided the Soviet power with a core of leaders who remained loyal to it. But during the war years these N.C.O.s had been forced to limit their activities in the sphere of military organization and tactics to units ranging from a platoon to a company. The consequence was that they often had a good eye for tactical work, but their capacity for turning armed hordes into military formations and for leading those formations was somewhat akin to the capacity that might be expected from a backwoodsman. When promoted to command armies, they still retained the limited outlook of corporals.

The most important of the army commanders who have risen from the ranks of the old Tsarist N.C.O.s are the present Marshals BlŸcher, Voroshilov and Budyonny, to whom may be added the guerilla leader Chapayev, who fell in 1919. Budyonny erved in the ranks in the Russo-Japanese War, and became a sergeant-major in the World War.

Most of the Bolshevist military workers acquired the knowledge and capability of army leaders in an amazingly short time, despite the fact that they had done no previous military service. These ‘civilians’ had one great advantage over the N.C.O.s, in that their outlook was not restricted by the corporal’s point of view and they were well aware of their lack of military knowledge. The non-commissioned officer who had served at the front often imagined himself a master of all military wisdom because he had shown himself superior to his lieutenant or captain in the practical duties connected with his company.

The military workers generally won their way to high command by promotion from the ranks of the war commissars or revolutionary councils of war. The most successful army commanders from the ranks of the old Boishevist military workers are Antonov-Ovsenenko, Frunse, Trotsky’s successor in the War Commissariat, Yakir, the Commander-in-Chief of the Ukraine Military District, who was shot alongside Tuchachevsky in May 1937, Georgi Piatakov, who served on the revolutionary councils of war of various armies and was shot in January 1937, Smirnov, who served on the revolutionary councils of war for the eastern and south-eastern fronts, the western front in the Polish War and the Caucasus front and died in one of Stalin’s prisons, and Ivan Smilga, whom Lenin and Trotsky sent to preside over one revolutionary council of war after another, whenever the situation was critical at the front in question. His name is linked with many a great victory won by the Red Army, but he was shot in January 1937.

Naturally, the number of proletarian non-commissioned officers and old military workers was far too small to fill all the officers’ posts in an army of 5,000,000 men. Moreover, they were not in a position to succeed in organizing, training and leading armies without expert assistance. As far back as the spring of 1918 military schools were established for the purpose of supplying further cadres of proletarian commanders, but even these were very far from filling the gaps. Trotsky has given us the following description of them:

"In the first period the military schools showed signs of the general weakness of our military organization. The short courses, lasting but a few months, could turn out only middling soldiers for a Red Army, but no leaders. Since, however, large masses of men were being sent to the front at that time, most of whom did not handle a rifle until they were entrained, these Red Army men who had undergone a four months’ course were required not merely to take charge of squads; they had to command half-companies, and even companies.”

But the military schools could not achieve even these feeble results without employing a considerable number of officers belonging to the old army.

The Officers of the Old Army

The problem of the employment of military specialists in an army raised by the dictatorship of the proletariat is an old one. It is part of the problem arising from the relations of the revolutionary party to the middle classes in general and to bourgeois experts and scientists in particular.

The Russian officer class was never a well-knit, homogeneous body of men. Strong revolutionary traditions and tendencies had always existed in it side by side with the reactionary ones. In every great political and social struggle undertaken by the Russian people there were always officers in the revolutionary camp.

The leaders of the Decabrist Rebellion of 1827, which aimed at the overthrow of Tsarism and the establishment of a democratic republic, were officers. Officers also played leading parts in the great peasant insurrection in the second half of the previous century. In the ‘seventies the celebrated Narodnik Shelyabov, who was of serf descent, contrived to rally to his cause a number of St. Petersburg officers, including several of high rank, who sided with the people in the fight against serfdom and Tsarism and ended their lives on the gallows for the sake of the Revolution. The traditions of the Russian officer class also keep immortal the name of Lieutenant Schmidt, who led the sailors of the Black Sea Fleet in their mutiny in 1905, and was ultimately court-martialled and shot.

In the first days of the October Revolution numerous officers (especially from the junior ranks) offered their services to the Soviet party. The best type of these progressive officers was represented by a certain M. N. Tuchachevsky, who came from an old aristocratic family that traced its descent from the Counts of Flanders. One of Tuchachevsky’s ancestors was the son of a Count of Flanders who vanished after fighting in the Holy Land as a crusader. For a long time nothing was heard of him, until he made a sudden reappearance in the Odessa district, in company with a young Turkish wife. There he took service with a Russian prince, who gave him the tenure of the village of Tuchachev.

Young Tuchachevsky grew up steeped in the ideas of the French Revolution and of the Decabrists and Narodniki. Passing out of the Military School in 1914, he was sent to the front as a sub-lieutenant when the World War broke out. In 1915 he was taken prisoner by the Germans.

On the triumph of the February Revolution, he made one attempt after another to escape. He did not succeed in getting away until his fifth effort, when he broke out of the fortress of Ingolstadt, in Bavaria. On the eve of this escape he said to a French fellow-prisoner: “In a year I shall be either a general or a corpse.”

The young popular lieutenant of the Guards was elected company-leader by his men shortly after his arrival in Petrograd. Then he reported to Sklansky, who was Trotsky’s representative at the time. Trotsky, recognizing the great military talents and upright character of the young officer, appointed him to a post in the Military Section of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets. Later we find Tuchachevsky entrusted with the organization and supreme command of the First Red Army when the Czechoslovak Legion rose against the Soviets in May 1918.

Thousands of junior officers entered the Red Army along with Tuchachevsky; it was not long before some of them were commanding divisions, corps and armies. In addition to Tuchachevsky, we may mention the following who won distinction Uborevitch, who commanded the 14th, 11th and 13th Red Armies in the campaigns against Denikin and Wrangel in 1919 and 1920, and was in supreme command of the revolutionary armies of the Far East in

1921-2, when he completed the liberation of that area from the White Guards and Japanese by the occupation of Vladivostok. He was shot in May 1937.

Primakov, who after Budyonny, was the best cavalry commander of the Civil War, and led a Red cavalry division on almost every front. At the end of the Civil War he was put in charge of the Kremlin Commander School; later on he acted as deputy Commander-inChief of the Ukraine military district. He, too, was shot in May 1937.

Putna, a mighty hero of the Civil War, who commanded a division in the Polish campaign and was shot alongside his former chief, Tuchachevsky, in May 1937.

One of the first general staff officers to offer his services to the Red Army was the Tsarist officer, Colonel S. Kamenev, who came of an old military family. After serving with distinction in a number of high positions, he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of all the armed forces of the Republic on June 1, 1919. When the Civil War ended, he became.inspector of the staff of the Red Army, then chief of the staff, and in May 1927, vicepresident of the Revolutionary Council of War, which post he held until he was superseded by Tuchachevsky.

Among the other staff officers, most of whom were originally Polkovniki (colonels commanding regiments) we may mention Vazetis, who was the first Commanderin-Chief of the armed forces of the Republic, but became an instructor at the General Staff War Academy in 1919; Kork, a former student at the Tsarist War Academy, who commanded an army during the Civil War and afterwards became director of the War Academy, and was shot in May 1937; Yegerov, Tuchachevsky’s successor, who commanded an army on the southern front with distinction during the Civil War; Shaposhnikov, who did not enter the Red Army until some time later, and held no command in the Civil War, during which he was employed on staff work at the base. Since the execution of Tuchachevsky and other Red Army leaders, Shaposhnikov, Yegerov and Voroshilov have been the principal chiefs of the Red Army.

Patriotic feelings were the main motives which induced a number of officers of the old army to offer their services in good faith to the Soviet Government, to which they had been originally hostile. They came to realize that Russia’s national freedom was indissolubly linked with the Soviet Power, and saw that all ‘patriotic associations’ fighting against the Soviets were forced to become the agents of imperialist powers striving to lay hands on the cornfields and oil and mineral deposits in ‘Russian soil.’

In his work entitled Trotsky and the Red Army, published in 1923, Karl Radek describes his experiences with a military expert who accompanied the Russian delegation to the Brest-Litovsk conference. At first his attitude and that of his brother officers towards the delegates led by Trotsky was something more than frigid. They thought they had been dragged there as unwilling participants in a pre-arranged comedy, for they considered the Boishevists as agents of German imperialism. But, Radek tells us, “As soon as Trotsky began to oppose the demands of German imperialism on behalf of the principles of the Russian Revolution, the initial mistrust of the Russian military experts dwindled daily. I can still remember the night when Admiral Altvater came into my room and said in all sincerity: ‘I came here because I was forced to. I didn’t trust you. But now I shall help you and do my duty as never before, for I sincerely believe I shall be serving my country in so doing.’”

When Pilsudski marched his forces into Russian territory in 1920 without any declaration of war, and occupied a part of the Ukraine, a white-bearded cripple came to the gates of the Kremlin and insisted on seeing Kaliniti, Trotsky, or some other member of the government. At first he refused to give his name to the sentinel, merely stating that he was a former army officer who desired to offer his services to the Red Army.

He was Brussiov, formerly Commander-in-Chief of the Tsarist Army. While living in concealment in a private house in Moscow during the Civil War, he was severely wounded by shell-fire and lost a leg in consequence. This saved his life, for otherwise he would probably have been shot by the Red Guards, who held him responsible for the butcheries of the imperialist war.

For a long time he had lived in complete seclusion, but now his patriotism drove him into the arms of the Soviet Government. He brought with him a copy of a proclamation calling upon all former officers to join the Red Army and help to deliver their country from the foreign invaders.

Trotsky appointed Brussilov president of the Special Council of War attached to the Commander-in-Chief of the Red Army. Subsequently this veteran served as inspector of cavalry from 1922 to 1924 when he retired. In 1925 he died, and was given a State funeral, his body being borne to the cemetery on a gun-carriage. When the three volleys had been fired, the priests took charge of it and buried it in a monastery with the rites of the Orthodox Church.’

General Nikolayev, an officer of the old Tsarist Army, was taken prisoner in 1919 by General Yudenitch in the vicinity of Petrograd when leading troops of the Red Army. At first Yudenitch desired to take him into his service; he sent for him and offered him his hand. But Nikolayev refused to shake hands with ‘an executioner of the Russian people and an agent of the interventionists.’ Therefore Yudenitch condemned him to be hanged, and Nikolayev called out when the rope was round his neck: “Long live the Red Army! I declare that I have served the workmen and peasants to my last breath!”

The greater number of former officers were incorporated in the Red Army by means of a compulsory mobilization. In 1924 one of these men, who was then commanding a division in the Red Army, told me the story of his career.

He was already a colonel in the Russian Army when he served as a volunteer with the French in the Great War. In 1916 he commanded a Moroccan division at Verdun. He won the Cross of the Legion of Honour and numerous other distinctions which were awarded him for his valour. When hostilities ceased between Germany and Russia, he returned home and lived very quietly in Samara. He was arrested in the winter of 1918-9.

Every day men of the Red Army took prisoners out of the mass cells and shot them. One day his name was read out at the morning roll-call, and he was conveyed along with some twenty other former officers to a waiting lorry, which drove off out of the town. The prisoners were convinced they were going to be shot, but the lorry drew up at a building, where armed men escorted them into a room. Thence they were taken one by one into an adjoining room, from which they did not return.

At last my friend’s turn came. In the adjoining room he was received by a Red commissar, by whose side stood a workman, clad in a leather jacket, with a rifle slung over his shoulder and a revolver in his belt. The commissar handed him a document which proved to be a copy of Trotsky’s decree for the mobilization of former officers. The colonel signed a sworn declaration to the effect that he would serve the Soviet Union and the Red Army faithfully. He was then informed that his wife and family would be held responsible for any treachery he might commit.

Three minutes later the Tsarist colonel sat in a car as commander of a regiment of Red riflemen. Beside him sat the regimental commissar, who turned out to be the workman in the leather jacket. On their way to the front the latter described the state of affairs in his regiment; there was no proper leadership and no discipline; there were not sufficient rifles to go round. The Red soldiers were strongly suspicious of all former Tsarist officers, while the new commander might expect obstinate resistance from the former non-commissioned officers, who had hitherto occupied all posts of command in the regiment.

The colonel reached his regiment that same night. Two days later it went into action. The colonel, who so far had kept himself in the background, seized a rifle and stormed the enemy positions at the head of his men.

That was the end of the opposition to the Tsarist officer. After the battle the soldiers carried their ‘red commander’ on their shoulders to the market-place, where they held a meeting in his honour. This former Tsarist colonel was promoted for his valour to the command of a division, and later on commanded an army corps and received two ‘Orders of the Red Flag.’

Many Tsarist officers, including some who volunteered for service with the Red Army, were guilty of treachery. At an assembly of 3,000 military specialists in Petrograd in October 1919, Zinoviev described a typical case:

"I made Neklyudov’s acquaintance when he was the Red officer in command of Krasnaya Gorka. He was then a young man of a good old family which had produced many liberals in the reigns of Alexander II and Alexander III. He helped to build this fortress, and I should have imagined every stone of Krasnaya Gorka was dear to him. In Tsarist days he was a fifth wheel to the wagon, because the old bureaucrats were not minded to let the descendant of liberal ancestors receive advancement. Under the Soviet Government he was put in charge of Krasnaya Gorka. There he had a chance to apply his talents; he received every possible aid he needed to develop them. How then could we anticipate treachery from such a man? But do you know what he did? He handed over Krasnaya Gorka to the Finnish White Guards.”

Colonel M. A. Muraviov was another traitor. From him, too, anything but treachery was anticipated. During the October Revolution he was in command of the Red forces which the Revolutionary War Committee sent against General Krasnov, who was advancing on Petrograd. Afterwards he had a command on the Rumanian front, while later he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Red troops in the Ukraine. In the summer of 1918 the Soviet Government appointed him Commander-in-Chief of the forces in the Volga and Ural districts.

This was at the time of the Czechoslovak revolt against the Soviet authorities. The most important basis of operations for the Red forces was Lenin’s native town, Simbirsk. Muraviov entered this town with a detachment of troops, who were devoted to him personally and officered by Left Social Revolutionaries; there he invited the leading Bolshevists to meet him, arrested them, and made arrangements to seize the person of Tuchachevsky, who was then in command of the 1st Red Army. But the latter, who was protected by his own men, organized the resistance to this treachery.

Muraviov issued a proclamation: “Peace with the Czechs, who are our Slav brothers! War with Germany! It was not long before he was arrested and shot, but for a time his treachery caused such disorganization in the army that Simbirsk fell into the hands of the Czechs and Whites.

Many officers committed acts of treachery because their bourgeois class-consciousness was stronger than their patriotic feelings. They often deserted to the imperialist forces, but the Bolshevists assessed such treachery as one of the inevitable “unproductive expenses” incurred by the proletariat in its work of building up its class army.

The Political Commissars

The Soviet authorities endeavoured to reduce these ‘unproductive expenses’ to a minimum by means of the political commissars who were attached to the old officers. First and foremost they endeavoured to dissipate the natural mistrust felt by the Red soldiers towards the employment of military specialists by enacting that every Tsarist officer should be accompanied by a commissar, who had to countersign every order given by the commanding officer before it became effective. The commissar was, in fact, the Soviet Government’s direct representative with the army.

The command of fronts and armies was entrusted to “Revolutionary Councils of War,” consisting of one commanding officer and one or two commissars. There were commissars for every corps and division, while others were attached to the smaller units down to battalions and sometimes even to companies.

The functions of the Revolutionary Councils of War and the commissars were essentially the same, though within differing frameworks. The commissars were not allowed to interfere with the work of leadership or with tactical measures, and in all matters of actual operations they were compelled to countersign even those orders of which they did not approve; in such cases, however, they had a right of protest to a higher authority. In all other spheres of activity the commissar had a voice equal to that of the commanding officer.

Naturally there was often friction between the two since it was impossible to draw a definite line between their powers. Only too frequently this kind of friction crippled for a time the activities of large bodies of troops. The army order issued by Trotsky on August 5, 1918, at a period when the commissar’s office was just beginning to become a regular piece of army mechanism, is characteristic of the way in which he dealt with such difficulties. It runs as follows:

"Re the participation of officers in White Guard revolts, I note that quarrels between commissars and military leaders have lately been increasing. From the evidence at my disposal it is apparent that commissars often take a directly wrong line of action, either by usurping operative and leadership functions, or by poisoning the relations between officer and commissar by a policy of petty quibbling carried out in a spirit of undignified rivalry. At the same time it not infrequently happens that the presence of the commissar does not prevent the military commander from deserting to the enemy.

"In view of these circumstances I must bring the following facts to the notice of all commissars:

"(1) A commissar is not there to give orders, but to watch. He must watch carefully and sharply.

"(2) A commissar must behave respectfully to military experts who fulfil their duties conscientiously, and must protect their rights and human dignities by all the means of the Soviet authority.

"(3) A commissar must not seek quarrels, but if he finds it necessary to intervene, his intervention must be effective.

"(4) Offences against this order will be subject to severe penalties.

"(5) A commissar who fails to prevent the desertion of a commanding officer will have to answer for his negligence with his own life.”

On the whole the commissars justified themselves as necessary accessories to the employment of former Tsarist officers in the organization and command of the Red Army. “Only the happy combination of a communist and a general staff officer will ensure 100 per cent efficiency in the leadership,” wrote the former Tsarist general staff officer and Red Army commander, S. Kamenev in an army order he issued in 1920.

The office of commissar was conceived as a temporary measure which the creation of a reliable corps of Soviet officers would gradually render unnecessary.


We can estimate the magnitude of the problem presented by the employment of Tsarist officers in the Red Army and successfully solved by Lenin and Trotsky only by studying the statistics concerning the officers who served in this army during the Civil War.

When the old Tsarist Army collapsed, it left a legacy of about 500,000 officers of all ranks. At first sight these figures may appear too large, especially if compared with the present figures in time of peace, and if we forget to take into account the vast dimensions to which the Tsarist Army swelled in the World War.

In 1917 the number of men serving in the Tsarist forces reached a total of 12,000,000-for we must deduct 7,000,000 casualties from the 19,000,000 mobilized. Including all the officers in the general staff and military administration, we thus arrive at a proportion of one officer to every twenty-four men in the old Tsarist Army.

According to the material supplied by Captain Peter Wright in his work, At the Supreme War Council, the total British Army in March 1918, including coloured troops but excluding the labour battalions, consisted of 220,770 officers and 4,761,484 men, so that we find one officer to only twenty-one men.

According to the statistics of the Russian General Staff, about 200,000 of the 500,000 officers of the

Tsarist Army served on the side of the Whites or in the interventionist armies during the Civil War. We may estimate the number serving in the Red Army as about 100,000, including the Praportshiki (ensigns). The number of officers serving in the fighting and administrative branches of the Red Army on January 1, 1919, totalled 165,113 persons of all ranks who had served in the old army, according to the statistics of the general staff.

On August 15, 1920, the Red Army contained

214,717 Praportshiki and N.C.O.s.

48,409 Officers of the rank of lieutenant and upwards

10,339 Military Officials 13,949 Doctors and Veterinary Surgeons 26,766 Other Ambulance Personnel

Total 314,180 military specialists of the old army

By the end of December 1920, the Red military schools had provided 39,914 junior officers for the army, which then possessed a total of 130,000 officers and 315,747 N.C.O.s and military officials.

In view of this mass employment of former Tsarist officers in the Red Army, the question naturally arises why it was necessary to demolish the edifice of the old army completely, leaving not one stone upon another, so to speak, and then to use these same stones for the laborious erection of a new building. Why was it necessary to apply the Bolshevist recipe for the dis integration of the army instead of reforming it by means of a democratic permeation?

The answer is that the acquisition of a quarter of the total Tsarist officer effectives for an army of a socialist type was a political and not a mathematical task. It was necessary for the Revolution to possess sufficient power to carry some of these officers over to its side and extract compulsory service from others before it could draft them all into a revolutionary army and make sure that in it they would serve the cause of the proletariat instead of putting the proletariat into uniform to serve the interests of the exploiting classes.

When Mechonoshin, a member of the first College of War Commissars, paid a visit to the Ministry of War shortly after the October Revolution, he was received by General Babikov in military style. All his questions and objections were met with a laconic military “Yes.” Mechonoshin left the War Office with the certain conviction that “this machine cannot be remodelled. It is more likely to change us than be changed by us. It is the system that we shall have to demolish. We must carefully preserve and lay aside all that is valuable in it, so that we can use it when building up the new machine and our new military organization.”

The generalization and amplification given by Lenin to this empirical judgement passed by a Boishevist working man of Mechonoshin’s type must serve as a guide to the line of action to be taken by the socialist proletariat: “We can only maintain ourselves in power by appropriating all the cultural and technical experience acquired by progressive capitalism and enlisting all its representatives in our service. Our Red Army won victories of a military nature only because we contrived to solve this problem.”