Report to the extraordinary joint session of the 5th All-Russia Central Executive Committee, the Moscow Soviet of Workers’, Peasants’ and Red Army Men’s Deputies, the trade unions and the factory committees, July 29, 1918
Comrades capable of going into each unit and forming a close nucleus of five to ten members can be found only among the most conscious workers. And we have them both in Moscow and in Petrograd. Moscow has already furnished some two or three hundred agitators, commissars and organizers, a considerable number of whom have gone into Red Army units. But Moscow will, I am convinced, furnish twice as many as that. You, the organs of Soviet power, and you, the factory committees, look around you: everywhere, in the districts, in the trade unions, in the factory committees, you will find comrades who are now performing work of first-class importance but who are more urgently needed at the front, for, if we do not overcome the Czechoslovaks, that work they are doing, and all the forces of the factory committees, the trade unions and so on, will go for nothing. We must overcome the Czechoslovaks and White Guards, strangle the serpent on the Volga, so that all the rest of our work may possess meaning and historical significance. You are required to furnish some hundreds of agitators – first-class, militant Moscow workers who will go to the front, join the units and say: ‘We shall stay with this unit till the war is over: we shall go into it and carry on agitation both among the masses and with every individual, for the fate of the whole country and of the revolution is at stake, and, whether there be an offensive, a victory or a retreat, we shall be with the unit and shall temper its revolutionary spirit.’ You must and you will give us such people, comrades! I was talking yesterday on this very subject with the chairman of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, Comrade Zinoviev, and he told me that the Petrograd Soviet has already supplied a quarter of its membership, that is, about two hundred, sending them to the Czechoslovak front as agitators, instructors, organizers, commanders and fighters. In this lies the fundamental condition for the turn that we have to bring about. What the old armies provided through months of prolonged schooling, correction and drill, which mechanically forged a unit, we have to provide, as I have already said, spiritually and by ideological means, introducing into our army the best elements of the working class, and this will fully ensure our victory, despite our weakness where commanding personnel are concerned.
We have irreproachable, devoted commanders at the lowest level, but only at the lowest level, of the military hierarchy. Where higher commanding personnel are concerned, we have too few officers who are devoted to the Soviet power and who honestly carry out their obligations: worse still, as you know, some of them have actually gone over to the enemy’s camp. There have been several such cases lately. Makhno went over on the Ufa front, and Bogolovsky, a professor at the General Staff Academy, went over almost at once when he was appointed to the Yekaterinsburg front. He has disappeared, which obviously means that he has fled to the Czechoslovaks. In the North the former naval officer Veselago has sold himself to the British, and a former member of our White Sea commissariat has also gone over to the Anglo-French imperialists, and has been appointed by them to the command of armed forces. The officers seemingly do not take full account of the acuteness of the situation which is created for us not only by their past but also by their present. You all remember how harshly the soldiers and sailors of the old army dealt with their officers at the critical moments of the revolution.
http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1918/military/ch32.htmThe Military Writings of Leon Trotsky
Volume 1, 1918
How the Revolution Armed THE CIVIL WAR IN THE RSFSR IN 1918
Transcribed and HTML markup for the Trotsky Internet Archive by David Walters