J. V. Stalin

Letter to TO V. I. Lenin
from the Southern Front 1

October 15, 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.

Comrade Lenin,

About two months ago General Headquarters did not object in principle to the main blow being delivered from west to east, through the Donets Basin. And if it rejected it nevertheless, it was on the plea of the "legacy" left by the retreat of the southern troops in the summer, that is, the haphazard grouping of troops in the area of the present South-Eastern Front, the reforming of which (the grouping) would entail considerable loss of time, to Denikin's advantage. It was only for this reason that I did not object to the officially adopted direction of the blow. But now the situation has radically changed, and with it the grouping of forces: the Eighth Army (the major army on the former Southern Front) has moved into the area of the Southern Front and is directly facing the Donets Basin; Budyonny's Cavalry Corps (another major force) has likewise moved into the Southern Front area; and a new force has been added—the Latvian Division, which within a month will have been replenished and will again represent a formidable force to Denikin.

You see that the old grouping (the "legacy") no longer exists. What then induces General Headquarters to insist on the old plan? Nothing, apparently, but obstinacy — if you like, factionalism, factionalism of the most obtuse kind and most dangerous to the Republic, which is cultivated in General Headquarters by that "strategic" bantam cock Gusev. The other day General Headquarters issued instructions to Shorin to advance from the Tsaritsyn area on Novorossiisk through the Don steppe by a line along which it may be convenient for our aviators to fly, but along which our infantry and our artillery will find it quite impossible to plod. It does not need to be proved that this insane (projected) campaign through a hostile environment and where there are absolutely no roads threatens us with utter disaster. It should not be difficult to understand that such a campaign against Cossack villages, as recent experience has shown, can only rally the Cossacks around Denikin and against us in defence of their villages, can only serve to set up Denikin as the saviour of the Don, can only create a Cossack army for Denikin, that is, can only strengthen Denikin.

Precisely for this reason it is essential at once, without loss of time, to change the old plan, which has already been abolished in practice, and replace it by a plan under which the main blow will be directed from the Voronezh area, through Kharkov and the Donets Basin, on Rostov. Firstly, here we shall have an environment that is not hostile, but on the contrary, sympathetic to us, which will facilitate our advance. Secondly, we shall secure a most important railway network (Donets) and the major supply artery of Denikin's army—the Voronezh-Rostov line (the loss of which will leave the Cossack army without supplies in the winter, because the Don River, by which the Don Army is supplied, will have frozen over, and the East Donets Railway, Likhaya-Tsaritsyn, will be cut). Thirdly, by this advance we shall be cutting Denikin's army in two, one part of which, the Volunteer Army, we shall leave to Makhno to devour, while the Cossack armies we shall threaten with the danger of being outflanked. Fourthly, we shall be in a position to set the Cossacks at loggerheads with Denikin, who, if our advance is successful, will endeavour to move the Cossack units westward, to which the majority of the Cossacks will not agree, if, of course, by that time we put before them the issue of peace, of negotiations for peace, and so on. Fifthly, we shall secure coal, and Denikin will be left without coal.

This plan must be adopted without delay, since General Headquarters' plan of transfer and distribution of regiments threatens to nullify our recent successes on the Southern Front. I say nothing of the fact that General Headquarters is ignoring, and; has virtually rescinded, the recent decision of the Central Committee and the Government—"Everything for the Southern Front."

In short, the old plan, which has already been abolished in reality, must under no circumstances be galvanized into life. That would be dangerous to the Republic; it would most certainly improve Denikin's position. It must be replaced by another plan. Conditions and circumstances are not only ripe for such a change, they imperatively dictate it. In that event the distribution of regiments will also proceed on different lines.

Without this, my work on the Southern Front will become meaningless, criminal and futile, which will give me the right, or rather will force me, to go anywhere, even to the devil himself, only not to remain on the Southern Front.



Serpukhov, October 15, 1919

First published in Pravda, No. 301, December 21, 1929


1.By decision of the C.C., R.C.P.(B.) of September 26, 1919, J. V. Stalin was sent to the Southern Front to organize the defeat of Denikin. He arrived at front headquarters on October 3. The plan he proposed for routing Denikin was approved by the Central Committee of the Party.