Written: An Address Leon Trotzky at the City Conference of the Russian Communist Party in Moscow, March 28th, 1918.
First Published:, The Class Struggle [United States], Vol.III No.4, November 1919.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Sally Ryan, July 2002.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2002. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.
Comrades: The conference has met in a moment of profound internal disruption in this period that is so full of upheavals, and not in one of those moments pervaded a spirit of exaltation, a fighting spirit. Certainly we are experiencing a period of internal congestion, of great difficulties, and of internal criticism which – let us hope – will lead to an inner purification and a new advance of the revolutionary movement.
We trace our descent as a power to the October Revolution, which many of those who stood in the nearest ranks or moved parallel with us are now apparently inclined to renounce. In fact, the October Revolution is now regarded by many wise ones as a sort of adventure or a mistake.
We Communists cannot look upon the question of the October Revolution from this subjective point of view. During the course of a number of years preceding the Revolution of 1917 we not only predicted the inevitability of the new revolution, but we asserted, we theoretically predicted that when this revolution had been brought to a victorious conclusion it would inevitably place the working class, supported by all the poorest classes of the population, into power. This was called a Utopia. Now our socialistic perspective, our Communist program is called a Utopia. But the dictatorship of the working class which we predicted has become an accomplished fact, and all those “sober” individuals who saw a Utopia in this prediction were, just as our own subjective wishes, swept away by the development of the class struggle in our Revolution.
The February Revolution revealed the basic relations of the various forces. First, there was the combination of all the wealthy and propertied classes, a combination that was headed by the Cadet party in which all the contradictions and differences among the wealthy classes were sunk – for the simple reason that the Revolution had forced the crucial issue of possession as such and thus put an end to the differences within the possessing classes.
The compromise groups represented the second great camp of the Revolution – politically a much larger one than its real social significance justified (for means which I shall mention presently), and the third camp was the camp of the working class, headed by our party, and of the toiling masses connected with the working class.
I said that the compromise camp, which imprinted its fateful seal upon the first epoch of the Revolution, appeared to itself and to others incomparably more powerful than the social character of that class from which it was recruited really warranted. I have in mind those bourgeois and petty-bourgeois intellectual circles from which these parties drew not only their leaders but also their fighting cadres.
How, then, shall we explain the fact that in the first epoch of the Revolution the parties of the Social-Revolutionists and “Mensheviki” played a leading role, thereby contributing force to the downfall and incidentally lending to the whole further process of development an extremely acute and pathological character. The explanation of this fact is that our Revolution grew out of the war, and the war had mobilized and organized the most backward, dull masses of the peasantry, giving them a military organization and thus forcing them in the first epoch of the Revolution to exercise a direct and immediate influence upon the course of political events, before these masses had had an even elementary political education under the direction of the proletariat.
Regiments, divisions, army corps elected their deputies to the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies in the same manner as the working class. But while the workers in electing their deputies started out from their natural places of work, the factories and shops, the peasants, on the contrary, did not elect peasant deputies but regimental, company, and similar deputies, since the state machine confined them in compulsory army units.
In this manner they were called upon to exert an immediate and for the most part active influence on the course of political events, before – I repeat – political schooling under the direction of the working class had given them the necessary inner stimulus and the essential minimum of political ideas. It was natural that this peasant mass should seek representatives and leaders not among their own numbers but outside of them and that they should choose them from the ranks of the petty-bourgeois intellectuals, choose volunteers, young, more or less revolutionary officers, in a word, the sons of the bourgeoise, who possessed certain formal advantages over the solder-peasant mass in their ability to express their thoughts more or less articulately, their knowledge of reading and writing, and the like. For this reason the cadres of the compromise parties increased in the first epoch of the Revolution. They depended upon the many millions of the peasant army. And the working class insofar as they strove not to cut itself loose from the strong peasant reserves evinced a certain inclination toward compromise, for an understanding was the bridge which connected it with the peasant and soldier masses. Here is the cause by virtue of which the Social-Revolutionists and the “Mensheviki” impressed the stamps of an all-determining influence upon the development of the Revolution during its first period. Their influence, however, found expression solely in the circumstance that they did not proceed to the fulfillment of a single demand, drew out and obstructed all measures, increased all difficulties, and imposed the character of a terrible historic burden upon the heritage which devolved upon us in October.
When the inner logic of the class struggle brought our party, which stands at the head of the proletariat, into power, the third camp, the camp of the working class, which from its very nature appears to be the only power capable of solving the basic problems of the Revolution, was put to the test.
Politically and from the point of view of actual fighting, the October Revolution proceeded with unexpected and incomparable success. In all history there has never yet been an example of such a powerful offensive on the part of an oppressed class, shaking off the domination of the possessing and ruling classes so systematically and swiftly in all parts of the country, as we have done in extending the dominion of the working class from Petrograd and Moscow to every nook and corner of Russia.
This triumph of the October revolt showed the political weakness of the bourgeois classes, a weakness which has its roots in the peculiar mode of development of Russian capitalism. For since Russian capitalism arose to triumph of a complete dissolution of small and moderate industry and the old capitalistic ideology in Western Europe, it appeared in the most concentrated form and undoubtably developed great economic power and incidentally the innate capacity for a transition to more perfect economic forms, that is, it prepared the ground for nationalization of industry. But simultaneously these conditions transformed Russia’s representatives of commercial and financial capital into a small privileged class, small numerically and unconnected with the large masses of the people, having no ideological roots deep in the soil of the common people, no political army.
Hence the scant political opposition which our bourgeoisie was able to direct against us in October, November, and the months following, when at different points throughout the country the uprisings of various Kaledins, Korniloffs, Dutovs took place, or the revolt of the Ukrainian Rada. If the Ukrainian Rada has triumphed, or is at the present moment overcoming the Soviet power in the Ukraine, it is accomplishing this only with the aid of the powerful machine of German militarism. (which in the meantime has collapsed just as miserably as the former Czarist army. – Ed). Just as in the progressive, so also in the backward, least industrial parts of the country, everywhere, far and wide, our possessing classes proved themselves powerless to resist unaided the military-revolutionary offensive of the proletariat in its fight for the control of the state. This indicates above all, Comrades, that if, by force and the will of fate we should be driven from power – which I doubt, and which you too will not believe – that this would be merely an episode, lasting a mere span of time for the development that has taken place up to the present moment would continue along the same fundamental lines. The deep social abyss between the upper strata of bourgeois society and the working classes and the welding together of all the disinherited masses with the proletariat indicates this and guarantees it.
Even should the proletariat for the time being be driven from power, it would still remain at the head of the vast majority of the laboring masses of the country, and the next wave would inevitably sweep it into power. From this assurance we must draw the deepest inner conviction to guide all our political work. The whole social structure of Russia and the international environment in which we live make us in the fullest sense of the word unconquerable, despite all difficulties and even in spite of our own shortcomings, faults and errors, of which I shall speak presently.
The military opposition of the bourgeoisie was broken in a very short time. So the bourgeoisie selected another mechanism of opposition in the form of sabotage by officials and technicians, all the specialized and semi-specialized intellectual elements who serve in bourgeois society as the natural mechanism of technical administration and incidentally of class rule and class government.
All these elements revolted after the conquest of power by the working class. From the point of view of Socialistic theory this revolt could not possibly come to any of us as a surprise. Marx wrote apropos of the Paris Commune that the working class when it comes into power cannot mechanically appropriate the old apparatus of state but must completely rebuild it. And this fact expressed itself in two different ways – in the distrust, on the part of the laboring masses and the Soviets, of the old officials, and in the hatred of the old officials towards their new master, the working class. Hence the sabotage, the desertion, the disorganizing of all government and of many public and private institutions by the directing technical and administrative personnel. This sabotage, in as far as it was not simply a product of the panic of the intellectual elements before the heavy hand of the working class which had taken the political power into their hands, and in so far as it pursued a political aim worked toward the future Constituent Assembly as its natural object, as a new bridge to those possessing the power.
While the Russian bourgeoisie, the Russian possessing classes in general, found their political ideal, in accordance with their nature and their political interests, in a limited monarchy based upon property qualifications for suffrage, the intellectual elements, led by the compromise parties, find it, in accordance with their interests and their conceptions, most of all in the Constituent Assembly, which assigns to the petty-bourgeois intellectuals an unproportionately large part, since they, thanks to their boldly wagging tongues stand up in a parliament in the name of all the dullest and most backward masses which still lack the power of speech, and because they, standing midway between the possessing classes and the laboring masses, would play their role of the unifying element, the middle-man and the go-between. And the Constituent Assembly would be, to their way of thinking, a great unification chamber, a great institution of agreements of the Russian Revolution.
The Soviets, that is, the working class, organized in Soviets, have rejected the Constituent Assembly, declaring that in an epoch of the direct and immediate clash of class forces only the one class or the other can openly and firmly rule, that in this moment there can be only one of two things, either the dictatorship of capital and the landowners or the dictatorship of the working class.
In dissolving the Constituent Assembly, the Soviets broke the back of the sabotage of the intellectuals. The resistance of all these technical, administrative, and official elements was overcome. Meanwhile the immediate open civil war, as well as the fight against sabotage, to a certain extent diverted our attention from the fundamental organic, economic, and administrative tasks. On the other hand it was natural that the conviction should grow within us that now, having disposed of the Kaledins and Korniloffs, taken the power definitely into our hands, and broken the sabotage, we shall at last proceed to real, genuine creative work.
Once the military resistance of the bourgeoisie, of the Korniloffs and Kaledins, was quashed (thanks not to our military technique, which stood at the very lowest level, but to the fact that the bourgeoisie had no dependable cadres) and once the sabotage on the part of the administration – technical personnel was overcome, at least as far as principles were concerned, and it became possible to harness these mental forces to work – after all this was accomplished, we stood face to face for the first time with all the enormous tasks, difficulties, and obstacles that we had received as an inheritance of the past.
It was natural that the civil war and the methods by which we overcame the sabotage of officials in all institutions, should in themselves directly intensify the disorder which we had inherited from the War and the first period of the Revolution. We saw this ourselves and looked the facts plainly in the face. But this did not stop us, for we knew, we were deeply convinced – and this conviction we drew from our whole analysis of the historical events in Russia – we knew that here is for us only one outlet to the great stream of historical development, and that outlet leads only through the dictatorship of the working class. We knew that in the path of this dictatorship there should be obstacles, they must be swept away. And if this sweeping away of obstacles should for the time being intensify the disorder, all this must he made up for a hundredfold through the policy of economic creation which the working class, after it had seized the reins of power, must develop.
Now, Comrades, having overcome the political obstacles, we are directly facing all these difficulties of organization. History places before you, before the working class, before its representatives, first of all the questions: Can you wrestle successfully with all the difficulties which the past decades and centuries have gathered for you, now tying them into Gordian knots, now presenting them to you in the way of entirely shapeless all-Russian disorder? Can you, can we manage these problems? In other words, will the working class, directed by the Communist Party, in the hours of the greatest trial ever imposed upon the working class in all of history, rise equal to its historical task?
The difficulties that face us can be divided into two great categories, difficulties of an objective nature and difficulties of a subjective nature.
The difficulties of an objective nature lie in external circumstances. They consist in the fact of general disorder itself, in the fact that the avenues of traffic are in confusion, that our railroad cars are used up and getting out of joint, that we have a tremendous percentage of invalid locomotives and that the healthy ones don’t move along the rails the way they should (the war has gotten everything off the track), in the fact that our factories and shops are disorganized – first as a result of mobilization, then as a result of the partial and extremely imperfect demobilization, in the fact that we are having the greatest food difficulties – partly because of our general impoverishment, partly because of the confusion in all our ways and means of bookkeeping and control and in all our means and avenues of transportation.
These are the difficulties, colossal in their significance, that confront us, which are waiting to be met, and which we must overcome. If we do not cope with them successfully, the ruin of the country in the next epoch is certain, for no one can replace us.
If (according to the words of Marx) we, as the working class, cannot simply appropriate the old apparatus of state power mechanically, this by no means signifies that we can get along without all the elements that comprised the old apparatus of state. The misfortune of the working class lies in the fact, that it has always been in the position of an oppressed class. This fact has reflected itself everywhere – not only, in its educational level but also in the fact that it has not the experience and usage in administration that the ruling class possesses and transmits through its schools, universities, and the like. Nothing of all this does the working class possess, all this it must attain. Once it has come into power, it must look upon the old apparatus of state as an apparatus of class oppression. But at the same time it must draw out of this apparatus all the valuable specialized elements which it needs for technical work, put them into the proper places, and use these elements to heighten its proletarian class-power. This, Comrades, is the task that confronts us in all its vastness.
The first stage of the struggle against sabotage consisted in mercilessly suppressing the organizations of the saboteurs. This was necessary and therefore correct. Now that the power of the Soviets is assured, the fight against sabotage must express itself in the conversion of the late saboteurs into servants, into executives and technical directors, wherever the new regime requires it. If we cannot manage it, if we do not avail ourselves of all the forces we need and place them in the service of the Soviets, then our late struggle against sabotage, the military-revolutionary struggle, would be condemned as entirely useless and fruitless. Just as in the lifeless machines, so also in these technicians, engineers, physicians, teachers, former officers, in all of them a certain capital of our national public wealth is invested that we are obliged to exploit, to make use of, if we are at all desirous of solving the fundamental questions which confront us.
Democratization does not consist (this is the A, B, C for every Marxist) in abolishing the significance of the specialists, the significance of persons possessing professional training, but in replacing them everywhere and continuously by elected staffs. The elected staffs, consisting of the best representatives of the working class but not possessing the necessary technical knowledge cannot replace a single technician who has gone through a professional school and who knows just how a given specialized task is to be done. The overflowing of comradeship which may be observed among us in all fields appears as the entirely natural reaction of a young, revolutionary, but lately oppressed class which does away with the individual initiative of yesterday’s lords, masters, and commanders and puts in everywhere its own elected representatives. This is, I say, an entirely natural and in its sources an entirely healthy revolutionary reaction. But this is not the last word in the economic political building up of the proletarian class. The next step must consist in the self-restriction of comradely initiative, in the healthy and redeeming self-restraint of the working class which knows when the elected representative of the workers can speak with decision and when it is necessary to give place to the technician, the specialist, who is equipped with definite knowledge, who must be given greater responsibility, and who must be kept under watchful political control. But it is necessary to allow the specialist free activity, the possibility of free creative work, for not a single specialist who is at all talented and capable can work in his field if in his special work he is subordinated to a staff of people who do not know this field. A political Soviet control through an elected board or staff should exist under all circumstances, but for executive duties it is necessary to appoint specialists and technicians, place them in responsible positions, and simply let them bear the responsibility.
Those who are afraid of this procedure unconsciously reveal a deep inner distrust of the Soviet rule. Those who believe that to call the former saboteurs to the administration of specialized technical positions threatens the proper foundations of the Soviet regime, fail to realize that the Soviet regime cannot trip up on any engineer or on any former general – from a political, revolutionary, military point of view the Soviet regime is beyond all danger of being overcome – but that it may trip up on its own inability to cope with the problems of creative organization.
To avail itself of all that was vital and valuable in the old institutions and use it to do the new work, is essential for the Soviet regime. If we do not do this, Comrades, we will not accomplish our fundamental tasks for to produce all the necessary specialists from our own midst after casting aside all that the past had stored up, would be simply impossible.
Fundamentally, it would be the same thing if we should decide to throw away all the machines which up to now have served for the exploitation of the workers. That would be insanity. To make use of the trained specialists is just as important for us as to take all the means of production and distribution under our control, all the values in general that the country contains. We must – and at once – line up all the technical experts we have and actually introduce the obligation to work, for them, at the same time, of course, allowing them a wide field of activity. Incidentally, however, we shall have to place them under effectual political control.
In this direction, Comrades, there are difficulties which lie in the working class itself. Here, too, the past centuries of Russian history are in evidence, the times when the masses of the people were oppressed, despoiled materially and spiritually, and devoid of all essential experience in administration.
And we knew all along that we lacked the necessary organisation, the necessary discipline, and the necessary historical experience; all this we knew, and it did not in any way prevent us from proceeding with open eyes to the conquest of power. We were certain that we would learn and manage it all. Now that we have taken the power into our hands, we, the representatives of the working class, must be perfectly clear and absolutely honest with ourselves on the internal sins and failings which represent the greatest menace to the cause of Socialistic construction.
These shortcomings, as I have said, have their historical roots in the old, purely agrarian form of life, when there as yet existed no awakened, free and independent human individuality, but only a compact mass which vegetated, wore itself down, died, as a compact mass of locusts lives and dies. The Revolution, which awakened the human personality even in the most oppressed individual, naturally gave him in the earliest days of this awakening an outwardly – if you will, anarchical – character. This awakening of the most elementary instincts of the individual not infrequently has a coarse egoistic or, to use a philosophical expression, “ego-centric” character. But yesterday he was nothing, a slave of the Czar, of the nobility, of the bureaucracy, the accessory of a manufacturer’s machine. In agrarian life, he was a serf, a tithe-payer. Today, freed of all these restrictions he for the first time feels his own personality and begins to imagine that he is – all; that he is the center of the universe. He strives to get all he can for himself, thinks only of himself, and is not inclined to reckon with the general class point of view. Hence the flood of the sort of disintegrating sentiments and individualistic, anarchistic, and grasping tendencies which we may observe particularly in the extensive ranks of the lowest elements of the land, who never belonged to any class, among the members of the former army, and also within certain elements of the working class.
This is nothing but a disease of growth. We should be blind and cowardly, Comrades, if we were to see in this any mortal danger, any pernicious symptom. No, it is no such fatal thing, but like measles in a child or the pain which the teeth come through, it is the organic disease of growth of our class, the pangs of the awakening of its class powers, its creative urge. Nevertheless, it is a disease, and we must strive to overcome it in the shortest time possible. These negative phenomena are evident everywhere – in the large works, in factories and shops, in the industrial unions, in the railroad system, in the state departments among the new employes – under all conditions and on every side.
We have smashed the old sabotage and swept out the majority of the old officials and employes with a broom. In all the branches of administration the successors of the old officials frequently proved to be far from first-class material. On the one hand the vacated positions were taken by our party comrades, who had done the underground work, who had revolutionary training behind them, the best elements, the fighters, the most honest, the most unselfish. On the other hand there came place-hunters, intriguers, former failures and derelicts, who under the old regime of yesterday were without employment. When suddenly necessity arose for the employment of tens of thousands of new specialized workers, it is no wonder that many parasites succeeded in getting into the pores of the new regime.
It must be added that many of the comrades working in various offices and institutions have shown themselves to be still far from capable of organic, creative, intensive work. At very step we observe such comrades, particularly from the ranks of the October-Bolsheviki, in the government bureaus working four to five hours – and not very intensively at that – at a time when our whole situation at present demands of us the hardest work that is in us, not out of fear but out of conscientiousness.
Many even honest persons with weak wills easily give themselves up to the suggestion that now in the weakened condition of the country, when everything is rather loose and out of joint, it doesn’t pay to develop a whole lot of energy, since in the general economy of national life it won’t count anyway – so why, says each one to himself, shall I alone slave away in all this chaos? And right here, Comrades, there arises for the representatives of our party which has convened its city conference in this hall, for you, these representatives, an entirely new task. If we were first in the revolutionary battles, just as before we had been first in underground activity, and afterwards in the open struggle stormed the position of the class that was our enemy, we must now in all the places which we are holding – do not forget that we are now the ruling class – we must develop a maximum of conscientiousness, devotion to duty, creative joy, in a word all those qualities which characterize the class of real builders. And it is necessary for us within our party to establish a new ethics, or more correctly, such an ethics as will appear to be the development of our ethics of yesterday. If yesterday he was regarded with the greatest esteem who had self-sacrificingly committed himself to living in unlawful habitations, cutting himself off from every personal interest and feeling, who at any moment was ready to lay down his life, today, too, the same fundamental characteristics of the Russian revolutionary of which we have been proud must find a new application in all positions, no matter how prosaic they may outwardly appear. Everywhere the leading executors of all the functions, all the tasks and all the needs of the Socialistic Soviet Republic should rise up and put into the execution of these duties all their self-sacrifice, all their enthusiasm.
Through the agency of our Communist Party we must form in every factory a model cell, as it were, which should be the working conscience of the factory. It is necessary that this call maintaining the standpoint of the general interest of the people follow and observe the life of that factory and convince the workers of the necessity of fulfilling at all times and in all stations the most elementary duties toward our Soviet land. The responsibility for its fate after all rests with all its weight upon us, we must stand up for it, and we alone, as the ruling class, the ruling party – particularly now, since the Left Social-Revolutionary group has left us and since with the Communist Party lies the direct and full responsibility for everything that happens in the state life, and through the state life in the economic life of the land.
It is necessary that this new sentiment should be cultivated, through the Party and through our industrial federations, in every large shop and factory that this new consciousness of working duty and working honor should be adopted and fostered, that, with this consciousness to depend upon, working-courts should be established, so that the worker who is indifferent to his duties or appropriates wilfully or wastes material, or the worker who does not devote all his working-time to work – so that such a worker may be brought to trial, so that the names of all such offenders against socialistic solidarity may be printed in the Soviet publications as the names of renegades. This communistic ethics, Comrades, it is our duty to preach at once, to support, to develop, and to establish. That is the noblest task of our Party in all the fields of its activity.
Look at the railroads. Hitherto in regard to the railroad system we have accused one another, we have attacked the former government, the old administrations, the Central Committee of the Railroad Union. And we were in the right. And we became the conquerors, and the power and the administration came our way. The railroads are in our hands, but this, Comrades, is not the whole thing, not even half, perhaps not more than a tenth. Now it remains to transform the apparatus of the railroads into the mechanism of a clock – and this at the present time is one of the most important political tasks of our Party. You see, this is the essential thing and the keynote to the situation. If in former times the political task consisted in agitation, in propaganda, in open street fighting behind the barricades, in the conquest of power, in elections, now it is the organization of the railroad system, the creation of workers’ discipline in it, of the fullest responsibility of each individual for his position – all this constitutes the political task of our party. Why? Because if we do not go through with it, it will mean that we are beaten, and this fact would be entered in the books of history of the proletariat on the debit side. We understand as a matter of course that eventually the proletariat will conquer, but it will not be passed by – no, it will count heavily against us – that at the given moment our Party and our class did not stand the test. Do you see, it is for this reason that all these creative national tasks or organization are transformed directly and immediately into political obligations for our Party.
All this on the whole relates also to the field with which I am now most closely connected, the military branch of our regime. I will not at this time speak of the international situation of the country, of the international perspectives and dangers. My report will be sufficient if I say that in so far as the fate of the Russian Revolution depends on the world situation, this fate is bound up with the fate of the European Revolution. If the Revolution should not come in Europe, if the European working class should prove incapable of rising up against Capital at the conclusion of the war, if this monstrous premise should turn true, it would mean that European culture is doomed. It would mean that at the culmination of the powerful evolution of capitalism, at the conclusion of the world slaughter into which world capitalism hurled the peoples of the world, the European working class had shown itself incapable of appropriating the power and delivering Europe from the strangle hold of capitalism and the hell of imperialism. It would mean that Europe is doomed to disintegration, to degeneracy, to retrogression. Why, of course, if Europe should fall back into barbarism, and if civilization should then develop somewhere in the east, in Asia, in America, if Europe should be transformed into a backward peninsula of Asia, like the Balkan peninsula, which was once the seat of the development of civilization, then fell back, died, and was converted into that most backward southeastern corner of Europe – if all this should happen, then of course we, too, could not resist the current. But in so far as we have decidedly no grounds at all for such a monstrous hypothesis, in so far as we are convinced that the European proletariat at the conclusion of this war, and probably even in the course of it, will rise – it is being driven to this course by the new offensive on the western front, which is once more revealing to the laboring masses the whole desperateness of their situation – in so far are we able to say that the fate of our Revolution in its international aspect is inseparably bound up with the fate of the European Revolution, and hence with the fate of Europe. And therefore we, as a factor of this European Revolution, as a component part of it, must see to it that we should be strong, that is, taken individually, that we should be equipped with an army that shall be representative of the character and spirit of our Soviet regime.
You have read the general decrees of the Commissariat for Military Affairs which we are presenting to you. We assume that since the further development of the international situation may in the very near future hold new and cruel trials in store for us, we must at once proceed to create efficient and dependable cadres of any officers, which for this very reason cannot be formed on the basis of general compulsory recruiting, for it is obvious that such a conscription could not be accomplished within the next two months. You see, therefore, we must for the time being depend on the method of volunteering, which, of course, will have to be safeguarded by a vigorous personal and political examination of all these volunteers.
The duty of the Party organizations, the Party cells will consist in making sure that the elements entering the army are in a political and moral sense of good quality, and that after becoming members of the army they do not lose their connection with the working class, which shall subject them to its systematic influence. Anticipating a little, I will say that there are many in our own party ranks who fear that the army may be come a tool or a breeding place of counter-revolutionary attacks. This fear, in so far as it has a certain justification, must compel us to concentrate our attention entirely upon the lower strata, the ranks of the soldiers of the Red Army. Here we must create such a foundation, that every attempt to use the Red Army as a tool for counter-revolutionary attacks will be fruitless. The noblest task in this direction seems to me the perfection of the backbone, the officers’ staffs, through general training in the shops and factories, and among the poor peasantry. Thus far, Comrades, many decrees, many provisions have existed only on paper. The task of first importance for the Party should be to see to it that the decree concerning compulsory military training in the industrial plants, factories, work shops, schools, etc., which we shall publish in the course of the next few days, are actually carried out in practice. Only the extensive military training of the masses of workers and peasants wherever it can be immediately put into practice will make it possible to convert the voluntary cadres into that skeleton which at the instant of danger can be surrounded with flesh and blood, that is with really extensive armed masses.
And here I come to a ticklish point, which to a certain extent represents the weak spot in our party life. It is the question of the employment of military specialists, or to speak plainly, the former officers and commanders for the creation of the army and the administration of the army. At present all the fundamental administrative devices of our army are constructed on the principle that the type should be a combination of one military specialist and two political commissaries.
Already I have on more than one occasion had to speak in public meetings about the fact that in the matter of officering the army, of operations and battles, we intend to place full responsibility upon the shoulders of the military specialists, and hence to give them also all the necessary rights. Of this, many of us are afraid, and these fears find expression in the resolutions of various Party organizations. I have such a resolution in my pocket – received it yesterday from the northwestern country. It contains a splendid characterization of the difficulties which confront us. How much violence of every kind (this resolution points out) may be observed on the part of several Soviet representatives, how much negligence, unscrupulousness, and dishonesty – yes, even dishonesty! – on the part of representatives of the Soviet power, of those elected by the workers’ organizations. Yes, there is much, there is very much of this now! And there again it is the duty of the Party to take a merciless attitude toward such phenomena in our own midst, for they will ruin the land, they will ruin our party. Not only those must be prosecuted who are themselves directly or indirectly guilty of embezzlement of the public moneys, but those also who shall be indulgent toward any manner of indecency and vice. Comrades, we must carry out our sifting process with iron-like inexorability, for there are in all this many dangerous and disturbing symptoms. It is just this that our comrades in the Northwest demand. In the resolution I have mentioned which describes this situation splendidly, they demand that the Party adopt drastic measures, measures that will cauterize these moral wounds with glowing irons.
And this resolution points with the same disquietude to another danger, namely, the employment of generals who (as it expresses the thing) will lead the country into a new Korniloff adventure. True, the danger of a Korniloff adventure is not out of the question. However, this danger is nourished not by the employment of one or two dozen former generals but through roots that go deeper.
How do violence, carelessness, and even unscrupulousness develop? They come exclusively from the fact that persons are holding positions which they cannot master. Examine at close range what is now happening in the Ukraine. Those who fought splendidly and heroically against the Kaledins, Dutoffs, and Korniloffs, who conquered these enemies that stood on the same technical level with them, failed us when they were confronted by the German military machine and felt the sense of their utter helplessness. Hence their dissatisfaction with themselves. They, these commanders of guerilla bands fight against one another, accuse each other, not infrequently fight less against the Germans than against the native population. The example of what is happening in the Ukraine shows us that if we are to speak seriously about the defense of the Soviet Revolution by force of arms, by means of war, we must reject all the empty talk of the Left Social Revolutionaries about partisan or guerilla warfare, and all measures that make use of small bands, and proceed to the task of creating a regular army. Only if this regular army exists can these partisan bands play a positive part on its flanks. But in order to create such an trained specialists, including the former generals. As I have said before, the difficulty of the Soviet government at the present time consists not in combating sabotage, the back of which is already broken, but in enlisting the activity of the former saboteurs.
The second question concerns the so-called principle of election of the army. The whole purpose of this principle lies in its use to fight the old make-up of the officers’ machine, to control the commanding personnel. As long as the power was vested in the class that is our enemy and the commanding personnel appeared a tool in the hands of this power, it was our duty to strive, through the election principle, to break the class opposition of the commanding personnel. But at the present time the political power lies in the hands of the same working-class from whose ranks the army is recruited. Under the present regime in the army – I tell you this with absolute frankness – the election principle appears politically unnecessary and from the technical point of view impractical, and in the decree it is to all intents abolished.
Let me ask you: Is the election principle applied throughout in your industrial unions and co-operatives? No. Do you elect the officials, bookkeepers, clerks, cashiers, the employees of definite professions? No. You elect from among the workers of the Union in whom you have the most confidence your supervisory council and leave to this body the appointment of all the necessary employees and experts. The same thing must be done in the army. Since we have once established the Soviet Government, that is, such an apparatus in which the head executives are persons directly elected by the Soviets of Workers’ Peasants’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, there can be no contradiction between the executive power and the masses of the workers, just as there exists no antagonism between the supervisory council of a union and the general assembly of its members. And hence there can be no grounds to fear the appointment of persons of the commanding personnel by the executive organs of the Soviet power. The true solution of the problem of the commanding personnel consists in establishing courses of instruction for the advanced soldiers and workers and in this way gradually training a new commanding personnel in keeping with the spirit of the Soviet regime. This task we have undertaken.
The question of the creation of an army has become for us a question of life and death. You understand this as well as I do. But we cannot create an army, not by means of our present administrative apparatus, which is really very bad. If we have a powerful apparatus, it is an ideal apparatus, and this apparatus is our Party. You will create the army, Comrades and you will do everything in your power to weed out the prejudices of which I have spoken, you will help us to fill out the skeleton of the Revolutionary Army with willing and devoted workers and peasants. You will use your power to put through obligatory military training in the industrial plants and factories and among the peasants, and in this way you will create a fighting machine for the defense of the Soviet Republic.
Last updated on: 17.12.2006