“The best guarantee, the best security for freedom, is a bayonet in the hands of the workers.” These were the words of one of the creators of scientific Communism, Frederick Engels. Now we can actually see how true this saying is: it has been completely confirmed by the experience of the great Revolution of 1917.
Quite a short time ago even some of our more radical comrades raised the cry of “disarmament.” This is what they said: The bourgeoisie is everywhere building a monstrous, colossal fleet – submarine, marine and aerial; huge armies are growing. Fortresses are being built, colossal cannon and such organs of destruction as armoured cars and tanks. All this terrible system of violence must be destroyed. We must demand general disarmament.
But the Bolsheviks argued otherwise. We said: Our war cry is disarmament of the bourgeoisie and unconditional and universal arming of the working class. And indeed, it would be ridiculous to attempt to persuade the bourgeoisie to surrender its most powerful weapon – its armed forces (composed by the way, of deceived workmen and poor peasants). This violent death-dealing machine can only be destroyed by means of violence. Arms are surrendered only by the compulsion of the superior armed force of the other side; and in this fact lies the significance of the armed resistance against the bourgeoisie.
For the bourgeoisie the army is a weapon in the struggle for the division of the world on the one hand, and a weapon in the struggle against the working class on the other. The Tsar and Kerensky dreamed of conquering Constantinople as well as the Dardanelles, Galicia. and many another spicy bit by the aid of their army. At the same time both the Tsar and Kerensky (and that means the landowners and the capitalists) were oppressing the working class and the poorest peasantry as much as they could. In the hands of large property owners the army served as a weapon for the division of the world and for the subjection of the poor elements of the population. Thai- is what the army used to be in former times.
How was it possible for the bourgeoisie to make of the workers and peasants (of whom the army is largely composed) a weapon against these very workers and peasants? What enabled the Tsar and Kerensky to do so? Why is it still being done by Wilhelm and Hindenburg and by the German bourgeoisie, who are turning their workers into executioners of the Russian, Finnish, Ukrainian and German revolutionaries? Why were German sailors who revolted against their oppressors shot down by the hand of other German sailors? How is it that the English bourgeoisie is suppressing by means of English soldiiers (who are also mostly workers) the rebellion in Ireland, a country oppressed and trodden underfoot by cruel English bankers?
To this question the same answer should be given as to that of how the bourgeoisie manages to retain its power in general. We have seen that this is achieved by means of the perfect organisation of the bourgeoisie. In the army the, power of the bourgeoisie rests on two principles; firstly on the officer corps, consisting of nobles and bourgeois; and secondly on the special training and spiritual murder, i.e., on a bourgeois moulding of the minds of the soldiers. The officer corps on the whole is a purely class institution. An officer is ideally trained for the work of militarism, to inflict brutal corporal punishment on the soldiers and to cruelly mishandle them. Just glance at one of these brave officers of the Guards or at a Prussian dandy with the face of a prize bull-dog. You can see at a glance that like a circus trainer he has been long and persistently learning how to ill-treat and bully and keep the human herd in a state of mortal fear and blind obedience.
You can see that, since such gentlemen are picked and chosen from among the bourgeoisie and nobility and sons of landowners and capitalists, it is quite evident that they will lead the army in quite a definite direction.
And now, look at the soldiers: they enter the army as common men, with no common bond, from different provinces, unable to show any united resistance, with minds already tainted by the clergy and the school. They are instantly put up at barracks, and the training began. Intimidation and teaching of the most anti-democratic nations, a constant system of fear and punishment, corruption by rewards for crime (for instance, for the execution of strikers), all this makes idiots of the men, dummies who blindly obey their own mortal enemies.
It is evident that with the Revolution, the army entirely resting on the old Tzarist basis, the army driven to slaughter for the purpose of conquering Constantinople even by Kerensky, must inevitably have become disorganised. Do you ask why? Because the soldiers saw that they were being organised, trained and thrown into battle for the sake of the criminal cupidity of the bourgeoisie. They saw that for nearly three years they sat in the trenches, perished, hungered, suffered, and died and killed others all for the sake of somebody’s money-bags. It is natural enough that when the revolution had displaced the old discipline and a new one had not yet had time to be formed, the collapse, ruin and death of the old army took place.
This disease was inevitable. The Menshevik and Socialist revolutionary fools accuse the Bolsheviks of this disaster: “see what you have done! Corrupted the army of the Tzar.” The fail to see that the Revolution could not have been victorio if the army had remained loyal to the Tzar and to the generals in February and to the bourgeoisie in October. The soldiers’ rising against the Tzar was already the result of the disorganisation of the Tzarist army. Every revolution destroys what is old and rotten: a certain period (a very difficult one to live through) must pass until the new life is formed, until the building of a new beautiful edifice is begun upon the ruins of the old pig-sty.
Let us give you another example from a different sphere. As the older workers know, in bygone times, when the peasants were only beginning to turn to factory work, the first thing that happened when they came to town was to become desperate “hooligans,” “rowdies,” “roughs.” The word “factory hand” or “worker” were practically words of abuse; and indeed our workers were great hands at ruffianism, obscenity and swearing. Basing their arguments on this state of affairs, all reactionaries fearing any kind of innovation used to propagate a return to serfdom.
What they said was this: As town life depraves workers and as its tendency is to “roughen their characters,” what they want is the country, and especially the paternal rod of the landowners. Under these conditions virtue, will be sure to thrive. And they sneered ill-naturedly at those who looked upon the working class as the salt of the earth. They used to say to us Marxists, disciples of the great Communist, Karl Marx: “Do you see what your workers are? They are swine, not men. They are blackguards! And you say that they are the salt of the earth! A good whip and a stick – that is what they want; that will teach them to behave themselves.”
Many were “convinced” by such arguments. But the truth of the matter is this: when the peasants went to town and broke with the country, the old village ties and traditions were forgotten. In the country they lived according to old traditions, looking up to the old men as if they were oracles, obeying them although they had grown childish with age: they would stay peacefully within the limits of their cabbage patch, never setting foot outside their native town, and would, of course, be afraid of anything new. This is an example of rustic wisdom. Bad as it was, it served as a bridle, and helped to preserve village order. This simplicity vanished rapidly in the towns, where everything was new: new people, new outlooks, and a multitude of new temptations in store. No wonder that the old village morality vanished into thin air, and some time elapsed before a new was formed. It was this interval between two periods that came to be a period of depravity.
But during the course of events a new consciousness arose in the new sphere of life; the consciousness of the solidarity of the proletariat. The factory united the workers; the oppression of the capitalist taught them to struggle jointly: in the place of the weak, insipid grandfatherly wisdom there arose a new proletarian, outlook, infinitely higher than the old. It is this new outlook that is changing the proletariat into the most advanced, most revolutionary, most creative of all classes. We Communists, of course, and not the feudalist landowners, proved to be right.
At the present time the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries have taken up the attitude of the feudalists with regard to the army. They are loudly bewailing the disorganisation of the army, whilst laying the blame on the Bolsheviks. And just as the feudalists used to call the workers back into the country under the protective wing of the landowner and his whip, just so do the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries now appeal for a return to the old army discipline, to serve under a Constituent Assembly on a basis of a. return to capitalism and all its “attractions.” But we Communists look ahead. We know that the past is dead, having become rotten as was inevitable, and that, failing thus, the workers and poor peasants could never take the Government into their hands: we know that in the place of the old army a new, more enlightened one, the Red Army of Socialism, has arisen.
As long as the bourgeoisie stand at the head of Government, and our country is a fatherland of bankers, traders, speculators, police, kings and presidents, so long will the working class have no personal interests in guarding this filthy profit-producing apparatus. A proletarian’s duty is to rise against this institution. Only miserable lackies and hangers-on to money-bags can say that we must not strike and revolt against the plundering Imperialist Government at a time of war. Of course, such revolts stand in the way of the plundering war business. It is quite clear that agitation within the country, and more especially agitation in the army, aids disorganisation. But how is the domination of Wilhelm, for instance, to be broken without disorganising the Wilhelm discipline? Impossible. The German martyr sailors murdered by Wilhelm’s executioners, certainly aided the disorganisation of the army organised after the highway robbery system. But if the robbers’ army is inwardly strong, that would mean death to the revolution. If the revolution is strong, that means death to the robbers’ army. The followers of Scheidemann, the German social betrayers, are persecuting Liebknecht as a disorganiser of the army. They are persecuting all the German revolutionists, the German Bolsheviks, as people who are “dealing the valorous army a dastardly blow in the back,” in other words, a blow to the cause of plunder. Let the Scheidemanns fraternise with our Mensheviks and such like individuals – they are all of a kidney.
Russia has passed through this period. The revolution of the workers is victorious. The period of decay has passed into the realm of memory. The period of construction of a new order of things is upon us. A Red Army is being built now not for plunder, but for the defence of Socialism: not to guard the fatherland of profit, where everything was in the hands of capital and the landowners, but to protect the Socialist fatherland, whore everything has been transferred to the hands of workers; not for the sake of mutilating and ravaging foreign countries, but for the purpose of aiding the international Communist Revolution.
It is needless to say that this army must be built on different principles to the old one. The Red Army, we have said, must represent an armed people alongside a disarmed bourgeoisie. It must be a class army of the proletariat and the poorest peasantry. It is essentially directed against the bourgeoisie of the whole world, including its own. This is the reason why it cannot include armed representatives of the bourgeoisie. To admit the bourgeoisie, into the army would be equal to arming it: it would mean creating a White Guard within the Red Army which might easily disorganise the whole concern, becoming a centre of treason and revolt, and go over into the camp of the imperialist troops of the enemy. Our object is not to arm the bourgeoisie, but to disarm it, depriving it of its last browning.
Our second, and not less important task, is to prepare a proletarian officer corps. The working class has to defend itself against enemies who are attacking it from all sides. War has been imposed upon it by the imperialist rascals: and modern warfare requires well-trained specialists. The Tzar and Kerensky had such men at their disposal, but the working class and the peasantry have not. Specialists have to be trained. For this purpose we must utilise the knowledge of the old ones; they must be compelled to instruct the proletariat. Then the Socialist Soviet Fatherland will have its own officers and its own officer corps. And just as in the devolution, the more experienced and active working class leads after it the poor peasantry, so in the war against the imperialist robbers, the worker-officers will lead the whole mass of the Red Peasant Army.
The Red Army must be created on the basis of universal training of the workers and the poorest elements of the peasantry.
This is most urgent and important. Not a minute, not a second should be lost.
Every workman and every peasant must be trained and must be taught how to use arms. Only fools can argue that: “They are a long way off yet; until they come we shall have time to get, ready.” Russian sluggards often reason like that. All the world knows that the favourite Russian saying is (“avos”) “perhaps” or “maybe”; “avos we shall manage.” But before you have time to wink, the class foe called land-owners and capitalists, arrives on the spot and takes the workman by the collar; and, maybe, when some brave Prussian subaltern (or an English one, who knows?) places our workman against the wall to be shot, the good-natured fellow will scratch his head saying, “What a fool I have been!”
We must look sharp. Don’t let Peter wait for Bill, or Bill for Peter. Let no one be idle, but all set earnestly to work. Universal military training is the most urgent and most important problem of the day.
The old army was based on the retreat of the soldiers. This happened because of capitalists and landowners commanding over millions of soldier-peasants and workmen, whose interests were contrary to their own. The capitalist Government was thus obliged to turn the soldier into a brainless tool, acting against his own interests. But the Red Army of the workers and peasants, on the contrary, is defending its own cause. It must therefore be based only on the enlightenment and conscientiousness of all comrades who enter its ranks. Hence the need for special courses, reading-rooms, lectures, meetings and conferences. In their leisure hours the soldiers of the Red Army must take an active part together with the workmen in the political life of the country, attending meetings and sharing the life of the working class.
This is one of the most important conditions for creating a firm revolutionary discipline: not the former discipline of the rod, but the new discipline of the class-conscious revolutionary. If the bond between the army and the working class is broken, then the army rapidly degenerates and can easily turn into a band willing to serve the master who pays most. Then it begins to fall asunder, and nothing can save it. And, on the contrary, if the soldiers of the Red Army keeps close contact with and takes an interest in the lives, then they will be exactly what they are meant to be – the armed organ of the revolutionary masses.
One of the best ways of keeping in contact with the masses besides the above-mentioned lectures, political meetings, is the utilisation of the soldiers for continuously training the workers in shooting, handling rifles, machine guns, etc. Instead of idling, card playing, and other “recreations,” instead of senselessly sauntering about the barracks, they can turn to creative work, which is in uniting the proletariat into one friendly family. In tins way an armed people is created, as well a armed peasantry, to keep watch over the great revolution of the workers.
Last updated on 7.8.2008