J. V. Stalin

Excerpt from a Speech on the
Mlitary Question Delivered at the
Eight Congress of the R.C.P.(B.) 1

March 21, 1919

Source : Works, Vol. 4, November, 1917 - 1920
Publisher : Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1953
Transcription/Markup : Salil Sen for MIA, 2009
Public Domain : Marxists Internet Archive (2009). 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.

All the questions touched upon here boil down to one: is Russia to have, or not to have, a strictly disciplined regular army?

Six months ago, after the collapse of the old, tsarist army, we had a new, a volunteer army, an army which was badly organized, which had a collective control, and which did not always obey orders. This was at a time when an Entente offensive was looming. The army was made up principally, if not exclusively, of workers. Because of the lack of discipline in this volunteer army, because it did not always obey orders, because of the disorganization in the control of the army, we sustained defeats and surrendered Kazan to the enemy, while Krasnov was successfully advancing from the South. . . . The facts show that a volunteer army cannot stand the test of criticism, that we shall not be able to defend our Republic unless we create another army, a regular army, one infused with the spirit of discipline, possessing a competent political department and able and ready to rise at the first command and march against the enemy.

I must say that those non-working-class elements— the peasants—who constitute the majority in our army will not voluntarily fight for socialism. A whole number of facts bear this out. The series of mutinies in the rear and at the fronts, the series of excesses at the fronts show that the non-proletarian elements comprising the majority of our army are not disposed to fight for communism voluntarily. Hence our task is to re-educate these elements, infusing them with a spirit of iron discipline, to get them to follow the lead of the proletariat at the front as well as in the rear, to compel them to fight for our common socialist cause, and, in the course of the war, to complete the building of a real regular army, which is alone capable of defending the country.

That is how the question stands.

. . . Either we create a real workers' and peasants' army, a strictly disciplined regular army, and defend the Republic, or we do not, and in that event our cause will be lost.

. . . Smirnov's project is unacceptable, because it can only undermine discipline in the army and make it impossible to build a regular army.

First published in: J. Stalin, On the Opposition. Articles and Speeches (1921-27), Moscow and Leningrad, 1928


1.The Eighth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.) met in Moscow on March 18-23, 1919. Its agenda included the following items: 1) Report of the Central Committee; 2) Programme of the R.C.P.(B.); 3) The Communist International; 4) Military situation and military policy; 5) Work in the countryside; 6) Organizational questions; 7) Election of the Central Committee. The report of the Central Committee and the reports on the Party Programme and on the work in the countryside were made by V. I. Lenin.

The military question was discussed at plenary meetings of the congress and in a military section. There was a so-called "Military Opposition" at the congress, comprising former "Left Communists" and some Party workers who had not formerly participated in any opposition grouping but who were dissatisfied with Trotsky's leadership of the army. They attacked Trotsky for his distortions of the Party's military policy and for his anti-Party practices, but at the same time they defended the survivals of guerilla mentality in the army and other incorrect views on questions concerning the building of the army. V. I. Lenin and J. V. Stalin spoke against the "Military Opposition." The congress, while rejecting a number of the proposals of the "Military Opposition" (Smirnov's project), condemned Trotsky's position as harmful. The Military Commission appointed by the congress, of which Stalin and Yaroslavsky were members, drafted a resolution on the military question which was adopted by the congress unanimously.

For the Eighth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.) and its decisions on military and other questions, see the History of the C.P.S.U.(B.), Short Course, Moscow 1952, pp. 358-63.