J. V. Stalin

Creation of Fighting Reserves of the Republic

August 25, 1920

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.


August 25, 1920

The behaviour of France and America in openly supporting the Poles and Wrangel, and the behaviour of Britain in tacitly sanctioning this support, on the one hand, and the successes of the Poles, the expected reinforcement of Wrangel's army with new forces, and the concentration of the Rumanian Eastern Army in the Do-rokhoi area, on the other, are creating a serious international and military situation for the Republic. Measures must be taken without delay to provide the Republic with fresh bayonets (about 100,000) and fresh sabres (about 30,000), and with the corresponding military supplies.

The latest successes of the Poles have disclosed a fundamental defect of our armies, namely, the lack of effective fighting reserves. We must therefore put as the primary point of our current programme for enhancing the military might of the Republic the creation of powerful reserves capable of being thrown on to the front at any moment.

Accordingly, I propose the adoption of the following programme for the creation of fighting reserves of the Republic:

1. While continuing the normal replenishment of the divisions in the firing line that are fit for action, immediate steps should be taken to withdraw to the rear depleted and semi-depleted divisions (infantry) which have become unfit for action.

2. On the assumption that about 12-15 infantry divisions will be found to be in need of withdrawal, they should be concentrated in areas (they must be grain areas) from which they could be thrown without particular delay on to the Wrangel, Polish or Rumanian fronts, depending on circumstances (one third of the divisions withdrawn might be concentrated, say, in the Olviopol area, another third in the Konotop-Bakhmach area, and the remaining third in the Ilovaiskaya-Volno-vakha area).

3. These divisions should be replenished and supplied with a view to raising their strength to 7,000 or 8,000 bayonets each, and to having them fully ready for action by January 1, 1921.

4. Immediate steps should be taken to replenish our cavalry units on active service, with a view to assigning in the next few months (by January) 10,000 sabres to the First Cavalry Army, 8,000 to the Second Cavalry Army, and 6,000 to Gai's corps.

5. Immediate steps should be taken to form five cavalry brigades of 1,500 sabres each (one brigade consisting of Terek Cossacks, another of Caucasian highlanders, a third of Ural Cossacks, a fourth of Orenburg Cossacks, and a fifth of Siberian Cossacks). Formation of the brigades to be completed within two months.

6. Everything should be done to organize and develop an automobile industry, special attention being paid to the repair and manufacture of Austin and Fiat vehicles.

7. Every effort should be made to develop the production of armour plate, chiefly with a view to the armouring of motor vehicles.

8. Every effort should be made to develop aircraft production.

9. The supply programme should be enlarged in conformity with the above points.

J. Stalin

August 25, 1920 Moscow, The Kremlin


August 30, 1920

Trotsky's reply on the subject of reserves is an evasion. His previous telegram, to which he refers in his reply, does not even hint at a plan for the creation of reserves, at the necessity for such a plan. When the divisions are to be withdrawn; to what areas; by what date they are to be brought up to strength; the training of replenishments and their cementing—all these points (which are by no means details!) are avoided.

An important (unfavourable) role in the summer campaign was played by the remoteness of the reserves from the fronts (Urals, Siberia, North Caucasus): the reserves arrived late, with great delay, and for the most part failed in their purpose. Therefore, the areas of concentration of reserves must be well considered in advance as a very important factor.

An equally important role (also unfavourable) was played by the lack of training of the replenishments: semi-raw and uncemented, and suitable only in the on-sweep of a general offensive, the replenishments usually failed to withstand serious enemy counteraction, abandoned practically all their materiel, and surrendered to the enemy by tens of thousands. Therefore, the period of training and bringing up to strength, as a very important factor, must also be well considered in advance.

An even more important role (also unfavourable) was played by the haphazard, impromptu character of our reserves: since we had no special reserve units, reserves were not infrequently patched together haphazardly and with extreme haste from all sorts of scrappy units, including even the VOKR, 1 which tended to undermine the staunchness of our armies.

In brief, systematic work must be begun (immediately!) to provide the Republic with effective reserves—otherwise we risk finding ourselves confronted with a new, "unexpected" ("like a bolt from the blue") military catastrophe.

Supply is not "the most important thing," as Trotsky mistakenly thinks. The history of the civil war shows that we coped with the problem of supply in spite of our poverty, yet half the "shirts" and "boots" issued to the soldiers found their way into the hands of the peasants. Why? Because the soldiers sold them (and will go on selling them!) to the peasants in exchange for milk, butter, meat, that is, in exchange for the things we are unable to give them. And in this (summer) campaign, too, we coped with the problem of supply, but suffered a reverse nevertheless (as far as I know, no one has yet ventured to accuse our supply men of being responsible for our reverses on the Polish Front. . . ). Evidently, there are factors more important than supply (regarding which, see above).

We must discard once and for all the harmful "doctrine" that the supply of the army must be entrusted to civilian departments, and all the rest to the Field Staff. The Central Committee must be acquainted with and control the entire work of the agencies of the war department, not excluding the preparation of fighting reserves and field operations, if it does not want to find itself confronting another catastrophe.

For this reason I insist:

1) That the war department should not evade the issue with talk about "soldiers' shirts," but should work out (proceed at once to work out) a concrete plan of the creation of fighting reserves of the Republic;

2) That this plan should be examined by the Central Committee (through the Council of Defence);

3) That the Central Committee should strengthen its control of the Field Staff by introducing the practice of periodical reports by the Commander-in-Chief or the Chief of Field Staff to the Council of Defence or to a special commission composed of members of the Council of Defence.

J. Stalin

August 30, 1920

Published for the first time


1.VOKR—Republican Forces of the Interior, which in 1919-20 guarded towns, industrial plants, railways, warehouses, etc., in the rear and in the front-line areas.