Leon Trotsky



The same struggle is going on, from the very first days of the Revolution, in the matter of war and peace: between the democracy of the workers and peasants, which was taking shape from below, and the imperialist republic, which the propertied classes were trying to construct from above.

The illustrious generals hastened to “recognize” the republic – at least for the time being – firmly expecting that the republic would recognize and perhaps even extend their generalship, by eliminating the Archduke Faineants. [1] The “national” revolution meant, in their eyes, a court coup d’etat to depose Nicholas and his Alix, but to preserve in their entirety class discipline and the military hierarchy. A few days before, the telegraph had announced that the Greek “leader” Venizelos had declared Greece “a republic crowned by a king”! The Brussilovs, Guchkovs, Rodziankos, and Miliukovs, on the contrary, wished to continue Russia as amonarchy, minus the Czar. But evolution proceeded by other, deeper paths. The March uprising of the Petrograd regiments [2] was not the fruit of a conspiracy: it resulted from a universal spirit of mutiny in the whole army and the masses of the people in general. And the uprising of the workers and soldiers was directed not only against a decaying and incompetent Czarism, unable to conduct a war which it had itself conjured up, but against the war itself. The profound break, which the Revolution called forth in the mind and in the conduct of the soldiers threatened not only the directly imperialist aims of the war, but also the very instrument of those aims, the old army, which had been built upon the theory of orders from above, and unquestioning obedience in the ranks.

Now the generals, colonels, the politicians, the bourgeois scribblers rave and rage against Order No.1 [3] In their opinion, the order was not an outcome of an all-pervading ferment in the army, but, on the contrary, the ferment was produced by the order. As a matter of fact, it was only yesterday that the soldiers were still obeying orders and today they have ceased to: is it not clear that they have submitted to some new “order”, which is recorded in the books as “No.1”? This general-staff idiocy is at present substituted in the most extensive bourgeois circles for a real historical point of view.

The so-called disintegration of the army found its expression in the soldiers’ disobedience of superiors and a refusal to recognize this war as their war. It was just because of these circumstances that Kerensky hurled in the face of the awakening army his phrase: “mutinous slaves”. If the bourgeoisie believed that it was enough to substitute Guchkovs for Sukhomlinovs, in order to harness the army anew to the chariot of imperialism then Kerensky, in his philistine superficiality and self-complacency, thought it would be sufficient to remove Gutchkov in order to make the army once more the obedient tool of the government. In truth these were illusions!

The Revolution, from the standpoint of mass psychology, is an application of the standard of reason to inherited institutions and traditions. All the hardships, sufferings, and humiliations, which the war brought in its train to the people, and, more particularly, to the army, were crowned and sanctioned by the will of the Czar. If in Petrograd the Czar himself had been deposed, what was there to prevent the soldiers from shaking off the autocracy of those officers who had been the most zealous and debased of the advocates of the whole system of Czarism? Why should the soldiers not ask themselves the question as to the sense and the object of the war, when the very man on whom formerly had depended the question of peace had been deposed?

The Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Delegates appealed, in a manifesto early in April [4] to be peoples of Europe, summoning them to the struggle for a democratic peace. This was “Order No.1” as far as questions of world policy were concerned. At the time when the manifesto appeared as an answer to the burning, irresistible question: Shall we fight on, and if so, for what? – the imperialists were making believe that, had it not been for this manifesto, this question would never have occurred to the minds of the soldiers, who had been awakened by the thunder of the Revolution.

Miliukov anticipated that revolution would awaken criticism and independence in the army, and would consequently involve a threat to the imperialist aims of the war. In the Fourth Duma he had therefore come out openly against revolution. And when Miliukov now hisses venomously about the “Order”, about that Manifesto, and about the Zimmerwald Socialist Conference [5], saying that these things poisoned the army, it is at least in his case a deliberate lie. Miliukov knows very well that the chief “poison” is concealed not in any of the “orders” of the Soviet, which are at best moderate enough, but in the Revolution itself, which afforded to the sufferings of the masses an expression in the shape of protests, demands, and open contests of force.

The process of internal reconstruction of the army, and the political orientation of its soldier masses, burst forth in a fierce catastrophe at the front. The ultimate cause of this catastrophe is in the contradiction between the imperialist policy, which made use of the Provisional Government as its tool, and the longing of the masses for an immediate and “just” peace. A new discipline and a genuine enthusiasm in the army can be evolved only out of the Revolution itself, out of a courageous solution of its internal problems and its definite struggle with external obstacles. The people and the army, if they felt and were convinced that the Revolution was their revolution, that the government was their government, that the latter would stop at nothing in the defence of their interests against the exploiters, that it was pursuing no external aims of oppression or conquest, that it was not curtsying to the “Allied” financiers, that it was openly offering the nations an immediate peace on democratic foundations, the toiling masses and their army would, under these conditions, be found to be inspired with an indissoluble unity, and if the German revolution would come in time to aid us, the Russian army would fight against the Hohenzollern with the same enthusiasm that the Russian workers showed in defending the gains of the popular movement against the onslaughts of the counter-revolution.

The imperialists feared this path as they feared death, and they were right. The picayune policy of the petty bourgeoisie did not believe in this method any more than the little shop-keeper believes in the possibility of the expropriation of the banks. Renouncing all “Utopias”, that is, the policy of further development of the Revolution, the Social-Revolutionists and Mensheviks continued the very same ruinous dual policy that was to bring about the catastrophe.

To the soldier it was said, and truthfully said, that this was an imperialist war, on both sides, that the Russian Government was bound hand and foot by financial, diplomatic and military agreements, which were hostile to the interests of all the nations; and then they added: “But for the present go on fighting on the basis of the old treaties, hand in hand with the old allies". But the soldier, going under fire “for the present”, meets with death. To go forth to make this supreme sacrifice is possible only for the soldier who has been carried away by the fire of collective enthusiasm; but this state is only attainable only in a condition of complete faith in the righteousness of one’s cause. The Revolution did away with the mode of thought of the unreasoning “sacred cannon-fodder”. No Kornilov, no Kaledin can turn back the course of History and restore the hangman’s discipline, even temporarily, without frightful repressions, tantamount to a prolonged period of bloody chaos. The army can only be preserved in a condition of war-time efficiency by giving it new aims, new methods, a new organization. It was necessary to make all the deductions from the Revolution. The ambiguous, irresolute regime which the Provisional Government, aided by the Social-Revolutionists and Mensheviks, had prepared for the army, bore within it the germs of certain catastrophe. The army had been armed with certain standards and given an opportunity for open criticism. At that moment new goals were set for the army, which manifestly would not bear the stress of revolutionary criticism, and in the name of these goals it was demanded that the army, exhausted, hungry, and unshod as it was, should put forth superhuman efforts. Can there be any doubt of the result, when we remember, in addition, that certain generals of the staff were consciously working for a Russian defeat?

But the Provisional Government intoxicated itself with bombast and empty words. Messieurs les ministres regarded the soldier masses, who were in a state of profound ferment, as the raw material out of which could be made all that was needed in the interests of the imperialists who had crippled our unhappy, devastated country. Kerensky, besought them, he threatened, he went down on his knees, but he did not give the soldiers an answer to a single one of their serious problems. Having fooled himself with cheap oratory, he made sure in advance of the support of the Congress of Soviets, where there prevailed a supercilious petty bourgeois democracy, supercilious in spite of its “watchfulness”, and ordered an offensive. This was, in the literal sense of the word, “Order No.1” of the Russian counter-revolution.

On the 17th of June, we internationalists openly declared ourselves in the Congress of Soviets [6], on the subject of the offensive which was being gotten under way, and, together with a fundamental criticism, we pointed out that in the present state of the army an offensive was a military adventure, which threatened the very existence of the army itself. It transpired that we had seen only too clearly. The government had discounted nothing and foreseen nothing. The government party of Social-Revolutionists and Mensheviks had been hurling denunciations at us instead of availing themselves of our suggestions.

Naturally, as the Bolsheviks had foretold this disaster, blame was put upon – the Bolsheviks. Behind the tragedy which was brought forth by ignorance and irresponsibility there loomed cowardice in all its wretchedness. All the molders of our destinies felt no more urgent duty than to find a scape-goat on whom to put the blame. The semi-official speeches and articles of these days will stand forever as monuments to human baseness.

The hounding of the Bolsheviks may, to be sure, still confuse the issue for a time in the minds of the people. But it cannot eliminate nor in any way weaken the significance of the question of the responsibility of the government. Whether the Bolsheviks are guilty or not, how is it that the government foresaw nothing? It appears to have had no understanding of the very army it had sent into battle. Without for a moment considering whether the army was capable of understanding an offensive, they ordered the army to move forward. And those at the head of the government were not Bolsheviks. Whatever may have been the facts with regard to the latter, the lull weight of the responsibility for the tragic adventure of the offensive is upon the shoulders of the Government of Kerensky, Tseretelli and Chernov. This responsibility is increased by they fact that the warning voices do not at all appear to have come from the camp of the internationalists. The imperialist Novoye Vremya, which has close relations with the reactionary generalstaff, had the following to say, on August 5th, concerning the preparations for the offensive:

The cautious Alexeyev, because he did not wish to hurl unprepared forces into slaughter, because he did not wish to jeopardize for questionable results, the gains already made – was retired. The illusion of success, the longing for an early peace, which Germany should be forced to accept from the Petrograd ringleaders, brought Brussilov to the top of the wave, and promptly submerged him when the billows broke.”

These eloquent lines explain and confirm the confused remarks of Rech, at the time of Alexeyev’s resignation [7], concerning the departure of this “vigilant strategist”, in whose place there is put the “cavalryman” who knows no such thing as reflection. By forcing an offensive, the Cadets saved themselves in time from an imputation of cavalry policy or strategy, and prepared for their ostentatious departure from the July 15th Ministry. And the “Socialist” ministers explained in confidential whispers addressed to the ear of the “revolutionary democracy”, that the change in military leaders which actually resulted from the gamble of the offensive, meant a substitution of the “true democrat” Brussilov for the “monarchist” Alexeyev. Thus is History made.

After having “hurled unprepared forces into slaughter” – to use the language of Novice Vremya – and having come into collision with the frightful consequences, there was nothing left for it but to entrust to Dan, Lieber, and the other patriotic gentlemen, the task of inaugurating a systematic pogrom against the Bolsheviks. This is a portion of the same “creative labour” for national defence which is so well adapted to the shoulders of the aforementioned “leaders”. In their effort to outdo all the bourgeois rowdies, the Dans and Liebers fumed against the “demagogues” who scatter among the “ignorant masses of the soldiers” such slogans as the publication of the secret treaties, a complete break with the imperialists, etc. “That’s right,” the bourgeois rowdies contemptuously corroborate them, “but that applies just as well to Order No.1 and to the manifesto of April, which were demagogically circulated by you among the ignorant masses of the soldiers.” And when the Dans and Liebers, wiping the cold sweat from their brows, strain every effort to recall the most elementary principles of revolutionary thought in defence of the sins of their youth, they discover to their terror that they need only to repeat our words. And that is a fatal point: for our slogans contain nothing but the necessary influences from the development of the Revolution, in the course of which Order No.l and the manifesto of the Soviet are the first milestone.

But the most remarkable thing about the whole business is, at first glance, that in spite of the frightful results of the offensive the “Socialist” ministers continue to set it down to the credit side of their account, and, in their conferences with the bourgeoisie, to refer to the offensive as their great patriotic contribution.

“I ask of you”, shouted Tseretelli at the Moscow Conference, “who could more easily have moved forward the forces of revolutionary Russia – Minister of War Guchkov, or Minister of War Kerensky?” (Shouts of “Bravo!” and applause)

Tseretelli is thus openly boasting of the fact that Kerensky is carrying out the very work that Guchkov would have carried out, but which, as the latter did not have the credit of “revolutionary” democracy to draw on, turned out to be too much for him. And the bourgeoisie in spite of the catastrophe that was called forth by the offensive, gladly recognizes the services of Kerensky.

“We know and shall remember,” declared the Cadet Nabokov, at the Moscow Conference, “that the great burst of enthusiasm in the Russian army two months ago, which in those horrible days added a new glorious page to our history, was inspired by the man who now stands at the head of the Provisional Government. History will never forget his service at this moment.”

It is consequently quite clear that the “glorious page” of the offensive of the 1st of July has no relation whatever to national defence, for the military efficiency of Russia, as the consequence of the offensive, had simply been made worse. If the bourgeoisie nevertheless speaks of the offensive in terms of appreciation, it is for the simple reason that the cruel blow inflicted upon our army as a result of Kerensky’s policy created favourable conditions for the spread of panic and for counter-revolutionary schemes. All the power of the Social-Revolutionary and Menshevik democracy had been exerted in the direction of forcing an offensive, and the latter completely wiped out that regime of contradictions and insolvency, to the support of which the philistine leaders had applied all their narrow-minded ingenuity.

Both the offensive and the question of peace are now being considered by the bourgeoisie and its generals from the angle of internal politics, that is, for the advancement of the counter-revolution. This was most clearly expressed at the Moscow Conference by General Kornilov. “Peace cannot at present be attained,” he said, “if only for the reason that we are not in a position to carry out demobilization. We must first elevate the prestige of the officers.” Inthe army there had been concentrated too many persons armed by the government, who were directing demands to the government, that were all too radical. Only a continuation of the war, regardless of the chances of success, would provide a possibility for “elevating the prestige of the officers,” for regaining control of the military masses, and for assuring a demobilization of such nature as would not enable the soldiers to threaten the pillars of property and imperialist government. And if’ in the pursuit of this object, separate peace should be required, the bourgeoisie would conclude such a peace, without batting an eyelid.

From the 1st of July on, the counter-revolution takes great forward strides, with absolute self-confidence. And it will not stop until a heavy blow is landed on its solar-plexus.

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1. Faineants: (French) Idlers, loafers.

2. March Uprising of Petrograd Regiments: From March 8th onwards, the Petrograd Regiment turned against their officers and sided with the revolutionary people. Even the Czar’s hand-picked palace guard deserted him.

3. Order No.1: Dated 14th March 1917, was issued by the Petrograd Soviet, placed all Petrograd regiments under the control of the Soviets. Committees and Soviet representatives were to be elected, saluting off duty was abolished, and orders of the Provisional Committee of the Duma were to be obeyed only if they did not conflict with the orders of the Soviet.

4. April Manifesto of the Soviets: On March 27, 1917, the Petrograd Soviet adopted a Manifesto To the Peoples of the World calling for an end to the War, without characterizing it, however, as an imperialist conflict.

5. Zimmerwald: A conference of European Socialists opposed to the War was held September 5-8th, 1915 in Zimmerwald Switzerland. The Conference issued a manifesto and elected an International Socialist Committee.

6. Congress of Soviets: The First All Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies met in Petrograd, June 16th to July 17th. The Bolsheviks were in a minority and could not move the Congress to oppose the Provisional Government and to transfer state power to the Soviets.

7. Alexeyev’s resignation: Commander-in-Chief Alexeyev was replaced by Brussilov on June 4th 1917.

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Last updated on: 9.12.2006