J. V. Stalin

The Truth About Our Defeat at the Front

August 18, 1917

Source : Works, Vol. 3, March - October, 1917
Publisher : Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954
Transcription/Markup : Salil Sen for MIA, 2008
Public Domain : Marxists Internet Archive (2008). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit "Marxists Internet Archive" as your source.

We print below excerpts from two articles of a documentary nature on the causes of the July defeat of our armies at the front.

Both articles, the one by Arseny Merich (in Delo Naroda) and the other by V. Borisov (in Novoye Vremya 1), attempt an impartial study of the July defeat, discounting the cheap accusations levelled by despicable people against the Bolsheviks.

The more valuable, therefore, are their admissions and statements.

A. Merich deals mainly with those responsible for the defeat. The culprits, it appears, are "former policemen and gendarmes," and, above all, "certain automobiles," of unspecified ownership, which toured the army defending Tarnopol and Czernowitz and ordered the soldiers to retreat. What these automobiles were, and how the commanders could have permitted this manifest hoax, the author, unfortunately, does not say. But he does say distinctly and definitely that it was a "provoked retreat," that it was "treachery perpetrated in accordance with a deliberate and premeditated plan," and that an inquiry is on foot and soon the "secret will come to light."

But what about the Bolsheviks? What about the "Bolshevik treachery"?

Of this there is not a line, not a word in A. Merich's article!

Even more interesting is V. Borisov's article in Novoye Vremya. He deals not so much with the culprits as with the causes of the defeat.

He bluntly declares that he "acquits Bolshevism of the baseless charge of being responsible for our defeat," that it was due not to Bolshevism, but to "profounder causes," which need to be elucidated and eliminated. And what are these causes? First, the fact that offensive tactics are unsuitable for us because of the "rawness of our generals," the poor "equipment" of our armies, the unorganized state of the troops. Then, the interference of "dilettante" (inexperienced) elements, who insisted on an offensive and succeeded in June in getting their way. Finally, the overreadiness of the government to accept the advice of the Allies on the necessity of an offensive, without taking the actual situation at the front into consideration.

In short, "our" general unpreparedness for the offensive, which made it a costly gamble.

In fact, all that the Bolsheviks and Pravda repeatedly warned against, and for which they were slandered by everyone who cared to, is corroborated.

That is what is being said now by people who only yesterday were accusing us of being responsible for the defeat at the front.

We are by no means inclined to rest content with the strategic and other revelations and arguments of Novoye Vremya, which now considers it necessary to "acquit the Bolsheviks of the baseless charge of being responsible for our defeat."

And we are just as little inclined to regard A. Merich's communications as exhaustive.

But we cannot refrain from remarking that if the Ministerial Delo Naroda no longer finds it possible to keep silent about those who are really responsible for the defeat, if even (even!) Suvorin's Novoye Vremya, which only yesterday was accusing the Bolsheviks of being responsible for the defeat, now considers it necessary to "acquit the Bolsheviks" of this charge, this only shows that murder will out, that the truth about the defeat is too glaring to be hushed up, that the truth about who is responsible for the defeat, now being dragged into the light by the soldiers themselves, is about to lash the faces of the accusers themselves, and that to keep silent any longer would be courting trouble. . . .

Obviously, the accusation of being responsible for the defeat, concocted against the Bolsheviks by enemies of the revolution like the Novoye Vremya gentry and supported by "friends" of the revolution like the Delo Naroda gentry, has been utterly discredited.

That, and that alone, is the reason why these gentlemen have now decided to speak up and say who really is responsible for the defeat.

Very much like the wise rats who are the first to leave a sinking ship, are they not?

What conclusions are to be drawn from this?

We are told that an inquiry is being made into the causes of the defeat at the front and we are assured that soon "the secret will come to light." But what guarantee have we that the results of the inquiry will not be pigeonholed, that it will be conducted objectively, that the culprits will be punished as they deserve?

Our first proposal therefore is : secure the appointment of representatives of the soldiers themselves to the commission of inquiry.

This alone can really ensure the exposure of those responsible for the "provoked retreat"!

That is the first conclusion.

We are told about the causes of the defeat and are recommended not to repeat the old "mistakes." But what guarantee have we that the "mistakes" were really mistakes and not a "premeditated plan"? Who can vouch that, after the "provoked" surrender of Tarnopol, the surrender of Riga and Petrograd will not be "provoked" also, with the purpose of undermining the prestige of the revolution and re-erecting the old detested order on its ruins?

Our second proposal therefore is : establish the control of representatives of the soldiers themselves over the actions of their officers and immediately dismiss all suspects.

Only such control can ensure the revolution against criminal provocation on a large scale. That is the second conclusion.


Proletary, No. 5, August 18, 1917


1. Novoye Vremya (New Times)—an organ of the reactionary aristocratic and government bureaucratic circles, founded in St. Petersburg in 1868. In 1905 it became one of the organs of the Black Hundreds. It was suppressed in the latter part of October 1917.