Comrades! We all sense and are aware that the internal life of our country is entering some kind of new phase in its development, that tomorrow will not be like yesterday – or, at least, will be far from like it in every respect. We say, and our newspapers write, that we have passed from a war period to a period of economic construction. And this is true, by and large; that is, it is true in the sense that today we have no serious war-fronts. The country’s forces are being concentrated to an ever-increasing extent on economic work.
But does this mean that our army is doomed in the next few months, or, at least, in the next few years, to be gradually reduced to nothing? I don’t think so, and neither do you – because, unfortunately, the world situation does not yet provide grounds for such a forecast. There are still a lot of international, world-wide, social and class knots that will have to be cut by the sword. And in this world struggle between different social forces, which will go on for many years yet, the Red Army is destined – we are all sure of this – to play a part which will be very active and worthy of its steel. And we need, comrades, on the threshold of this coming epoch, to take a look at ourselves, at the situation around us, and, in particular, at the Red Army, and to formulate as clearly and distinctly as possible our current tasks and duties.
The international situation of the Soviet country – and it is on this that depends the role and significance of the army (the question with which we, the workers in the War Department, are most closely concerned) – is today incomparably better than it was three years, two years or one year ago. This is a fact which is not now open to doubt by anyone. And it is best and most sharply confirmed by a small but very striking development which has occurred, namely, the split among the Russian émigrés.
You know that history has proceeded in such a way as to form two Russias. There is the one that lives within the Soviet borders, fights, builds, suffers want, goes hungry, makes mistakes, and corrects them: and there is the one which has left our borders with hatred in its heart, and gnashing its teeth, the one which has, all through these years, been fighting without success against us, together with the forces of European and world imperialism.
And when, even a short time ago, you picked up European bourgeois newspapers, regardless of whether these were British, French or German, and read about Russia, you could make out only from the final conclusion of an article which Russia was meant: the Russia which is in Constantinople, in Paris, in Serbia, Yugoslavia, or the Russia which is in Russia.
The émigrés have a definite social composition. Their nucleus is constituted by landlords and bourgeois, but they have drawn in their wake a huge mass of educated Russian intellectuals who are connected by birth, kinship and the character of their education with the previous ruling classes. The White émigrés include an especially large number of officers of the old army. The civil war as a major conflict between two forces, between the working people and their former masters, is over, broadly speaking, if we disregard small isolated episodes. Today the émigrés, including the officer element among them, are sitting beside the broken trough of their former hopes, drawing conclusions, adding up the pluses and minuses, and trying to determine what tomorrow will bring: there are many Russian newspapers published abroad, and until recently they all wrote, in the openly monarchist language that is current in Europe, exactly the same sort of articles, in a tone of unrelenting hatred for Soviet, workers’ and peasants’ Russia. As was understandable, not a single voice was raised in the pages of these newspapers in defence of our creative efforts, of our attempts and endeavours to correct the mistakes we have committed. But now, during recent months, a clear and distinct split has appeared among the White-Guard émigrés, including their officer wing. A clearly-defined group of persons have emerged, bearing names of weight in the White-Guard world -scholars and politicians – who are beginning to recognise that the epoch when two Russias existed came to an end with the period of civil war, with the conclusive victory of this Russia, a victory due, to a considerable extent, to the Red Army, which is, flesh and blood, part of this workers’ and peasants’ Russia.
I have in my hand here a book which was published in Prague under the title Smena Vekh (A Change of Waymarks) – vekhi (waymarks) are placed along a route so as to define the direction it is to take. The authors of this book say that a period has arrived when it is necessary to change waymarks and to orient oneself on Soviet Russia. Here is the list of the authors – it speaks for itself. The former head of Kolchak’s Osvag (the department of information and agitation, which combined the functions of our political departments and special sections), a lecturer at Moscow University, Ustryalov ; the former head of Denikin’s Osvag, at Rostov, the lecturer Chakhotin; the former head of Kolchak’s ministry of foreign affairs, Professor Klyuchnikov ; the former barrister and writer for the White newspapers, and earlier for Suvorin’s Novoye Vremya, the Octobrist Bobrishchev-Pushkin; a teacher at the Russian lycée in Paris, Lukyanov; and Potekhin. That is the striking, very colourful list of the six authors who have brought out in Prague this book, Smena Vekh. This is an extremely significant symptom.
First of all, let me quote the description that they give of the émigrés and their attitude to Russia – and here I ask you to remember that the speakers are former Octobrists, supporters of Kolchak, Cadets at best. This is what Potekhin says: ‘It is hard to love the Russia of today, a Russia of famine, blood, filth and sickness. But it was too easy to love the Russia of yesterday, when it had the best white flour in the world, the sweetest and whitest sugar, the cleanest, strongest and headiest vodka – too easy for those who had as much as they wanted of all that. They were so used to living fatly, sweetly and tipsily in this stricken Russia, that, when the flour, sugar and vodka suddenly disappeared, it seemed to them that Russia itself had disappeared. It seems so still to many people.’ 
One cannot conceive a more merciless satire on the landlord, bourgeois and White-Guard officer and intellectual émigrés.
This same author describes further on the attitude of these émigrés to our Volga famine. This is what he writes: ‘On hospitable Slavonic countries, in the smart lobbies of the Hotel Majestic in Paris Russians savour the news of cholera and famine in Russia, voluptuously chew over the figures of millions of victims, and lovingly add to the horrible facts their own even more horrible inventions. One serious newspaper reports that, in Moscow, people are breaking into the cemeteries to steal corpses, and “it has be established” that these corpses are fed to the pigs, while a respected professor calculates that in 17 years’ time only a few hundred thousand people will be left alive in Russia ... It is frightening to think of these lost souls.’  There you have a social, class and political portrait of that section of the dmigrds who do not want to be reconciled with us.
Let me quote the estimation of Soviet power, the Red Army and our internal situation given by Bobrishchev-Pushkin, the former writer for Novoye Vremya, and Octobrist of yesterday. He fled from Soviet Russia to join Denikin. About that he writes here: ‘My first impression, when I crossed the front, and was ready to pray for the Volunteers and their tricolour flag, was of the tales told by the officers who boasted of the tortures they had inflicted on prisoners and the numbers they had hanged.’ 
He is far from agreeing with everything to do with Soviet power, and criticises it. He rejects the terror; but he recognises that terror, red terror, was to a considerable extent forced upon the Soviet power by the course of the struggle against the former ruling classes who refused to give up their material privileges. And so this Bobrishchev-Pushkin, the former Octobrist who went over to the Whites and prayed for the Volunteers and the tricolour, has arrived at recognition of Soviet Russia, of Soviet power, by the road of patriotism’. He gives detailed descriptions of the former ministers – there are a lot of them abroad – and he quotes stories to illustrate the contempt felt in Europe for these cadging ‘former people’ in Europe – when someone was given a beating (in Paris, unless I’m mistaken), it was said: ‘Sorry, the police thought that he was a Russian minister.’  He describes their humble, miserable situation, the perpetual hat-in-hand posture in which they beg for a new intervention, another onslaught on Soviet Russia. He says, further on: ‘Compare with this the attitude of the Soviet Government to Britain, how it has defended the honour and dignity of Russia, how it has made Britain adopt a proper tone towards Russia, but on a basis of equality.’ Furthermore, he is a patriot, and I must say a few words about that.
The patriotism of the property-owning classes is a superstructure erected over their material interests. The landlord wants to keep his estate, the manufacturer wants to keep his factory. These estates and factories are inside the country’s borders, and those borders are defended by the army, and so the landlord is for the army, for the government. He is a patriot so long as the army and the government protect his interests as a landlord. The kernel of patriotism is concern for property, and patriotism itself is the shell that protects the kernel of private property. As soon as that kernel ceases to belong to the capitalist or the landlord, he smashes the state ‘shell’,which has become, so far is he is concerned, an empty thing, of no use to him, and he summons aid from outside.
But a certain section of the intelligentsia, including the former officers, who by virtue of their past, their education, were connected with the bourgeois and landlord class, have learnt to distinguish between this kernel of property-ownership and its pseudo-patriotic shell, and have realised that the country’s true interests are being defended and upheld by the workers’ and peasants’ power alone. Moreover, Bobrishchev-Pushkin and the other authors declare, quite rightly, that never in history has the name of Russia been held in such esteem and wielded such influence among many millions of people, and even in royal and ministerial circles, as is now the case. I will read you Bobrischev-Pushkin’s actual words: ‘Russia, exhausted and starving enjoys now, in the consciousness of the mass of the people throughout the world, unprecedented standing. Previously a bogey for the peoples, the bastion of all reaction, the international gendarme, it is now looked to by all the masses as a liberator. This is an undoubted fact which cannot be denied by any conscientious observer of the moods of the masses in any European country.’  Then, later: ‘They all feel this way: if, in Russia, people just like us could overthrow the power of capitalism, then we too can do it. In what respect are we inferior to the Russians? It is said that they have made mistakes, committed crimes, brought things to ruin. That’s not to be wondered at: what they are doing is something new. But one must learn from the experience of others, then it will be possible to avoid making mistakes.’  That is the attitude of many millions of people, as noted by the former Octobrist. He even speaks about the Red Army, and I could quote passages from every article, but that would take up too much time, so I shall confine myself to the minimum.
The Red Army is the factor that more than any other impresses and influences the thinking of the best, most honourable section of the patriotically-inclined elements among the émigrés, especially the military men, who know that an army is not built by waving a wand, that an army reflects the feelings and the capacities of the broad masses of the people. They appreciate that the army which is being created and perfected here, the workers’ and peasants’ army of Russia is the highest proof of the deep roots possessed by the workers’ and peasants’ government. ‘The Soviet power,’ says Bobrishchev-Pushkin, ‘protects Russia, and to provide this protection it is creating an army of three million men. I am profoundly grateful,’ he writes, ‘to the military specialists of Obshcheye Dyelo’ (The Common Cause) – Obshcheye Dyelo is the newspaper that hates us most; it is published in Paris, by Burtsev – ‘who, by their informative articles have helped me to understand Russia’s position: they have brilliantly shown how foolhardy it would be to try to overthrow a government capable of managing military affairs like this, establishing such discipline and recruiting so many former specialists.’  Addressing the Whites with whom he fled from Russia, he says: ‘You cannot do what they are doing, for your army consisted of officers alone, with all the rest serving only because they were forced to.’  Further on, he speaks with irony of the ministries and governments of Europe: ‘Whether or not they recognise the Soviet Government, an army of three million men is something which no power in Europe possesses, and which has to be recognised.’  As you know, we are now reducing the size of the army, and we shall talk about that later. But we are doing and will do everything in our power to ensure that the reduction in its numbers is accompanied by an increase in its fighting capacity.
The question arises: Is a counter-revolution, a coup d’etat, possible in our country? Could the Soviet power be overthrown? To this question our author, Bobrishchev-Pushkin, replies that a counter-revolutionary coup would be a very great calamity (this is the general view held by Ustryalov and Klyuchnikov, too). It would mean chaos, breakdown, the transformation of the country, as an independent country, an independent people, into a corpse to be torn to pieces by the predators of world imperialism. But there is no force capable of effecting this counter-revolutionary coup. True, armed uprisings do occur (the book was written after the Kronstadt revolt and during the Tambov revolt, which is a particularly noteworthy fact – it came out in July of this year.)  But this is what the author says: ‘The people, while often sharply criticising the Soviet power and manifesting their discontent with it, nevertheless look upon it as their own, and they swept away all those who campaigned against it.’  He writes about the Soviet power as a man standing outside it, one who criticises and exposes, speaking of tyranny and oppression, but nevertheless he recognises that the people look upon this power as their power: a poor thing, but their own.  ‘The people distinguish between the actual institution of Soviet power and its bad representatives. They have a common language with it – a comradeship, if you like. The people’s discontent, local uprisings, all these disputes with the Soviet power, are all “within the family”. In a family, after all, people do sometimes throw furniture and crockery at each other. But the people will not allow any other power to take the place of the Soviet power in Russia.’.  That is the conclusion drawn by this former Octobrist, a conclusion which, I repeat, is not confined to him alone, but has been drawn by a large and ever growing group among the émigrés, the best, most idealistic section of them.
Here is another quotation, from the article by another of the authors, Potekhin: ‘The Russian revolution drew such a sharp line across the whole history of mankind that the chronology of a new era will come to be reckoned from its date, just as happened with the appearance of Christianity or the discovery of America. After the Russian revolution the peoples came forward into the arena of world history, for the first time. For the first time there emerged in a world-historical role the 100million-strong Russian people, so rich spiritually and infinitely powerful physically, this people who have only now, in the storm of revolution, been born as a nation.’. 
He gives one really striking example, something to which we have accorded insufficient attention. ‘It is enough to point to the fact, little considered up to now, of the existence in 19181919 of the Soviet Republic of Turkestan. Completely cut off from Moscow, surrounded on all sides by the armies of Kolchak, Dutov and Denikin and the British occupation forces, deprived of transport, fuel and bread, the Bolsheviks of Turkestan were able to hold out, keeping power in their hands, for a period of eighteen months.’. 
These patriots are approaching the Soviet power through the gateway of patriotism. There are no Communists among them: they are, I repeat, idealistic patriots who have taken the trouble to think about what the morrow holds. It is a fact of extremely profound, symptomatic significance, for our Red Army, too, because in this army, to which one of the authors, Bobrishchev-Pushkin, draws attention, a big place is occupied by former officers of the old army. Some of these officers came to serve in our army at the very outset, from ideological conviction: others remained at its disposition automatically, without thinking; while a third group only failed by accident to get away, did not manage to escape, were caught up in the cogs of the Soviet army and so stayed with it.
But the moment has now come to sum things up and define one’s ideological attitude to the Soviet power and the Red Army. This book – we have, alas, not enough copies of it – should be read by every old regular officer, and, in general, by every officer of the old army. It would undoubtedly help a great deal in the matter of ideological self-determination, because, as I said at the beginning, we have entered a new epoch. This epoch will put heavier ideological demands upon each of us. Amid the turmoil of the civil war and the attempts at foreign occupation made by the exploiters, to which we had to reply, we did not have to define precisely our mutual relations within the army, and many put off till another day the question of their ideological attitude to the army, while some waited to see who would come out on top in the bitter struggle.
We are now advancing from this ideological bivouac, this way of living ‘somehow’, this state of improvisation, into more settled conditions, organisational, economic and ideological. We are now beginning to build and to establish ourselves. I know, comrades, that everything here is still too weak, too poor. In this new building-site of ours there are more chips and rubble than newly-raised walls. We have not yet reached the point when we can put a roof on this new house: but we shall reach it! Those who fought fiercely against us, but who have learned to reflect, recognise this, and we need to understand that there are now no longer two Russias, one in Russia and the other abroad. Today, as these authors bear witness, hopes for intervention, for military interference in our country, have been abandoned even by the majority of the émigrés, and today this new Russia, despite its poverty, hunger and cold, is a very big factor in world development. And in this new factor the Red Army occupies an exceptionally big place.
I must say that the authors of the book even exaggerate the gains and advantages of our international position. They speak, without qualification, of the absolute impossibility of any struggle being waged against Soviet Russia from outside. They point to the enthusiastic attitude of the worker masses towards us, which hinders the governments of Europe from advancing their armies against us. The attitude of the workers and peasants towards us, especially that of the worker masses of Europe and America, is certainly such as to hinder an attack on us, but it is impossible to assert that they will always be able to prevent it.
We were recently almost on the brink of war with White Poland.  The critical moment passed, but does this mean that we have an absolute guarantee that it will never return? Of course, with a Poland headed by the working class we could never find ourselves at war, just as there can be no war between us and Soviet Georgia or Soviet Azerbaidjan. But with a Poland headed by a military-chauvinist clique which wants war we may find ourselves at war through no fault of our own. In the first place, the very growth of the revolutionary movement may impel a falling ruling class along the road of brutal adventure – there have been examples of that more than once in history – and, of course, if they attack us, we shall fight. And then let us assume a second variant – that the working class takes power in Poland (and the revolutionary, Communist, Soviet movement has been advancing there recently in seven-league boots), and Romania and Hungary attack this Soviet Poland (an attempt at a counter-revolutionary monarchist coup is under way precisely in Hungary, as today’s newspapers tell us).  
What then, shall we maintain a calm, waiting attitude towards such a development? There can be no question of that: we have indissoluble duties towards the working class of all countries, who are now preventing their governments from attacking us. Consequently, we may be compelled to wage war when we are attacked, or when our friends and brothers are attacked, whom it is our duty to aid.
And how long will this situation be preserved? Many of us reckoned, three or two years ago, that revolution was rushing across Europe like a mighty, swift, triumphant tornado, which would sweep the old governments away within a few months or a year – but that did not happen. This does not mean that our estimate of the situation has changed radically: the development of the revolutionary movement has turned out to be slower than we wanted and expected. Now, too, we see, with absolute, methodical clarity, that the downfall of world capitalism and imperialism is inevitable. These authors speak of it – men who are not Communists or Socialists, but yesterday’s Cadets and Octobrists. Observing life in Europe, they speak of the inevitability of social revolution. I am not going to weary your attention with quotations, but only to express once more the desire that this book may find its way into the hands of as many commanders and commissars as possible.
The pace of development of the world revolution has proved to be very much slower. That means that the struggle between the bourgeoisie and the working class, in all countries, will be intense, prolonged and bitter. It may last not for just a year or two but, if we take the whole world arena, for entire decades, with fresh attempts to seize power, with intensification of civil war, with periods of lull, and with renewed upsurge of fierce struggle. This prospect is, of course, a very hard one, but, comrades, it is not for any of us to change the laws of human development and regulate history. We must know how to wait: to find our way among the objective causes of historical phenomena, and draw the corresponding conclusions.
What is the significance of this fact, that the struggle between the working class, the working people, and the exploiters throughout the world will still go on for years and decades? It means that our international situation will change: that, after a period of commercial relations and even, perhaps, after recognition of the Soviet power, there will be attempts by the convulsively raging bourgeoisie to crush us. On the other hand, there will be moments when we shall have to cast our sword into the scales for world revolution on our own initiative. The writers whom I quoted say, speaking from a standpoint which is not ours, not that of the Communists, but that of Russian patriotism, that for the development of Russia’s might, what is most beneficial is the development of the world revolution, whereas victory for the counter-revolution means the strangling, plundering and dismemberment of Russia. That is a fact; and never have the most elementary basic interests of a people, a country, a nation fused so completely with the interests of a revolution as today in our Soviet Russia. And since our international situation, and therefore our internal situation, is inseparably bound up with the development and course of the class struggle and war on a world scale: since this world-wide struggle and war will go on for many years more, passing from a covert state of affairs to a period of acute open war, this means that the Red Army is even more necessary to us, for our struggle. Tomorrow – I speak, of course, in the historical sense – that is, in the period immediately ahead, we shall have to fight, arms in hand, and not against hastily improvised Kolchakite or Denikinite forces, not against Polish noble-andbourgeois armies hastily created and armed by French imperialism. No, every day of delay that passes means that we shall have to fight with armies that are properly organised, trained and armed according to the last word of European technique. Our economic policy and our military policy are wholly based upon this estimate of the situation, this forecast.
In the economic field – let me say a few words about this,
because it is closely connected with the tasks of army-building – in the economic field we have made a sharp turn away from the grain monopoly and requisitioning to the tax in kind and free trade surpluses.  We have opened the gates to small-scale trade and concession-holders, we have gone over to abandonment by the state of a considerable section not only of smallscale but also of medium industry. The state as proprietor, as industrialist, has concentrated its forces on a much narrower bridgehead. What does this mean? Our enemies, of course, have interpreted it as a failure, a surrender, a repudiation of our programme. It would, certainly, be unworthy of the workers’ and peasants’ government to depict it as a victory. It is a retreat. In itself, it is neither a defeat nor a victory. A retreat after a rout is, of course, only the outward expression of that rout. But a retreat can bear the character of a strategical step, included in the concept of a big, complex manoeuvre. And our economic retreat is a retreat of a strategical character. As military men, we can understand that better than anyone else.
It is undoubtedly true that we did not calculate our forces in the sphere of economic organisation, and we did not do so because we did not expect to have to face three-and-a-half years of uninterrupted civil war, and because we did count on a more rapid course of development of the world revolution in Europe, on receiving help from German technology – which is taking longer than we hoped it would to pass into the hands of the German working class. And so, reckoning on a more rapid progress of the world revolution, on being able to devote ninetenths of our forces, the forces of the workers’ and peasants’ state, to the economy, the workers’ and peasants’ government laid its hand on the whole of the country’s industry. It was unable to cope with it, it found it had conquered too large a piece of former enemy territory. This had to be occupied, organised, defended against external attack. And we are saying: no, we need to pull out, to abandon a considerable part of this territory, so as to preserve and concentrate our forces.
We are handing over part of industry to the bourgeoisie, namely, the small-scale and medium enterprises, and restricting our own tasks to the organisation of very large-scale industry. We have kept in our hands, however, that which is of major importance, both military and economic – the railways and transport. We have kept control over the economy as a whole, and we shall subsequently draw into the sphere of the state, that is, of socialist economy, those enterprises which are private or semi-private, in proportion as we consolidate our bridgehead in large-scale industry. That is the fundamental idea.
We are opening the door to concessionaires. With what aim in view? So that, through their experience, we may learn to organise that part of large-scale industry which has remained in our hands. Out of a group of large-scale enterprises we are keeping three, four or five out of six in the hands of the state. Into the rest we shall attract foreign capital, which will bring with it new technology, new methods and labour-practices, and so will enable us to learn to organise and improve our technology.
This is not a surrender, but it is not a victory, either. In a struggle there are always factors which it is important to take into account, pencil in hand, ahead of events. Military men know this. If such pre-calculations were possible there would be no wars. One side would merely present a claim to the other. But this does not happen, for such pre-calculation is impossible. In war a colossal part is played by changing factors in the relation of forces, the morale of the army, its élan, the mutual relations between commanders and soldiers, and so on. What can be said of the economy? The economy is a hundred times more complex than war. We are carrying on an uninterrupted duel with world capital, which, whether sword in hand or with trade, or with concessions, with offers of philanthropic aid to the famine-stricken, is always before us, clutching behind its back a lasso which it would not be averse to casting about our neck and drawing tight. In this struggle we have to send out reconnaissance parties, and these sometimes penetrate too far. The nationalisation of all industrial enterprises was a gigantic reconnaissance of that sort, based on the calculation that, if the world revolution developed quickly, we should take over and
organise the economy. It turned out that our vanguard had pressed too far ahead. Our heavy reserves, the peasants, proved to be ill-prepared. They needed to be raised to a higher cultural level, freed from illiteracy. And so the vanguard had to be pulled back. This is a retreat of a strategic character, which forms part of a large operational plan and which will be fulfilled over a period of years and decades – while we are building a socialist Russia.
It follows from this that, with such a prospect before us, we need to give practical consideration to the building of the Red Army. For good or ill, we have been allowed an historical breathing-spell. This is due, above all, to the victories won by the arms of the Red Army – your victories, comrades. How long will the breathing-spell last? We do not know. We have been carrying out for nearly a year now a systematic reduction of the size of the army. It is now, or will be in the near future, only one-third as large as it was a little over a year ago. This reduction is due to our economic situation as a whole. There can be no question of our being able to maintain an army of three million men in peacetime. Consequently, a reduction is inevitable.
What also follows from this is the need to improve the Red Army’s qualitative composition. In the Red Army, as in the army of any country, all the weak and strong aspects of our people and our state intersect and are refracted. In the question of the commanding personnel, in that of the equipment and education of the Red Army man, in that of the maintenance of our army’s horses, in the smallest of questions, our negative and positive aspects are reflected as in a drop of water.
What is our fundamental misfortune? It must be said, frankly, that it is the inadequate level of culture among the broad masses of the people. The whole of our past history has meant that over an undifferentiated mass of peasants, crushed to the earth, hung the heavy black cloud of the autocracy. This did not fall from heaven but grew up historically. It was the inevitable form of self-defence by a backward people, scattered over an immense plain and surrounded by enemies. Later, history brought forward new demands. The old state forms came into contradiction with the people’s development. But the lack of differentiation, the absence of individual, personal will, constituted the chief and basic misfortune of the Russian peasant.
This will was first manifested by the urban workers in their struggle against Tsardom. They raised up the peasants in their wake. Of course, when the peasants burned down landlords’ property, destroyed farm implements and cattle, ‘set the red cock’  on the more cultured farmsteads, that was very brutal, destructive and anti-cultural activity. But, at the same time, it signified, despite the barbarous forms which it assumed, the awakening of the individual will, the personal initiative and consciousness of the masses. At that moment the people ceased to be just so much black earth, so much manure, and came to birth as an independent factor in affairs of state. The authors of Smena Vekh are right when they say that the great Russian revolution brought the Russian people to birth as a nation. Previously it was the privileged classes, the nobles, the landlords, the higher bureaucrats who spoke in the name of the nation, while the people were just historical manure, from which the working class gradually emerged. The revolution dealt a heavy blow at the country’s economic development, but this was only the birthpangs of a new society. Out of the revolution came a new people, with an awakened personality. Upon this personality we can build everything, including the new army.
But this does not mean that the old characteristics and habits are doomed to die out, that we have completely freed ourselves from them. No. You all remember how, from the revolutionary struggle against the numbing discipline of the Tsar, the nobility and the old officers there grew guerrilla-ism, Makhnovism. That was the offspring of independent individuality, which assumed, in the initial period, a form destructive of all discipline and of any form of society. But, soon, the people’s instinct told them that things could not go on like that, and from this grew the joint struggle which we waged against guerrilla-ism, against ‘home-made’ methods in all spheres, and above all in the military sphere. This struggle succeeded precisely because the instinct of the working people supported us – and upon the basis of that instinct we can build the army. It has already been built, but only in rough. We have a sound foundation, but the framework has been erected only ‘anyhow’ upon that foundation. And now this new epoch of economic, organisational and ideological construction demands that we go over to more accurate methods, and to improving what we have built.
The grave consequences of our lack of culture weigh upon us in every sphere. I will quote here one feature which seems to me to be characteristic. Our commanders are always complaining that our people are unable to exploit a partial success, no matter who has achieved this – a regiment, a division or a whole army. The exploitation of a success which has been achieved is the skill that we need more than any other, and which it is most difficult to acquire. This is due, of course, to a number of reasons. Inadequacies in tactical training and operational inadequacies both play a part here. But what lies behind everything is a certain psychological feature. Undoubtedly, our new commanders, who have come and will continue to come from the ranks of the peasants and workers, have not yet developed that intense will-power which does not tire in pursuit of its goal. If we take, let us say, commanders of the German type, those of the old Germany, who no longer exist and will never reappear (Hindenburg is a finished example of the type, but over there they have Hindenburgs also at junior levels, right down to platoon-commanders), we see that they are all imbued with singleness of spirit, persistence in pursuit of their goal: they carry success through to a conclusion, to the complete destruction and rout of the enemy. This will to victory does not fall from heaven. It is said that it is to be explained by national character; but, if that is so, why is it only the German officers, the Junkers, who have this character, and not the workers and peasants? That means that it is a class characteristic, not a national one. In our country it showed itself to a much smaller degree. Our nobles were weaker and more despicable. But, nevertheless, in Russia too, among the old officers, the majority of whom were of noble origin, a certain group emerged who possessed that quality, which is absolutely indispensable in war.
But when the working man achieves some small success (and this is our misfortune), it seems to him that he has already achieved everything. The working class has not been able to create a body of commanders who realise that in a struggle there can be no halts, that every success has to be carried through to a conclusion, to complete destruction of the enemy – not his physical destruction, but destruction of him as an active enemy. In civil war the working class triumphs over the enemy, who makes a temporary surrender, the people celebrate their victory, slacken their energy – and the enemy meanwhile assembles his forces, studies the weak points of his adversary, organises, and strikes hard blows at the people, causing amazement among those who had been victorious the day before. The people retreat, and their leaders are again driven underground.
This is the outward pattern of every revolution. It is due, I repeat, to the fact that, though the oppressed working masses possess the spirit of rebellion, they lack the instinct and the steeled will to power, to destruction of the enemy, and are disposed to be satisfied too easily with results achieved. The working man is ‘good-natured’ in a struggle, that is his misfortune. Good-natured-ness in a struggle is the greatest of crimes, bringing, as it does, unnecessary sacrifices, because a struggle that has not been carried to completion necessitates the waging of a fresh struggle. Just as a forest that has not been thoroughly cut down will grow again, so an enemy who has not been finished off will revive and have to be fought once more. Ruthlessness and inexorability in struggle is the highest degree of humanity, if it can be put like that, because it means that the struggle is thereby made as short as possible.
And so I say that our commanders’ inability to exploit every partial and fragmentary success to the utmost limit is due precisely to this quality of being too easily satisfied with their successes. The commanders have a very great task, that of training and educating our Red Army. It is said that our heritage of lack of culture very often restricts us in cruel ways, and we see with particular clarity that this is so at this moment of change, when we are going over from a war to a peace situation. I have spoken more than once recently about the extent to which our past has left us ill-prepared for detailed constructive work. Previously it was the upper classes who built the state, while the lower classes worked under the lash. The lower classes have now risen up and cast off the upper classes. This upsurge, this revolt of the lower classes, had, of course, no detailed finish about it, but was work carried out in sweeping fashion; the most delicate instrument used was the cudgel with which the peasant hunted down and killed the landlord. That was the necessary premise for the new epoch. The entire past compelled the peasant to burn out the landlord, exterminate him and wage civil war. When you chop wood, chips fly. All this could not provide the sort of education which is needed for systematic construction, and we now have to make a sharp, abrupt turn.
And here, comrades, we face no broad, general task such as can be accomplished by a single sweep or upsurge. When the enemy struck us, we issued the slogan: ‘Proletarians, to horse!’ And we created a force of cavalry which, though it has many shortcomings, won victory and smashed the enemy. That work was carried out under the terrible pressure of iron necessity. But we are now passing from tasks such as that to tasks of a more prosaic nature.
It is here that we come up against the greatest difficulties, for all our past has led to this result, that the working-man hero – and this is true not only of the rank-and-file soldier but very often the commander, too – will much sooner and more readily die on horseback for the Soviet Republic than he will take care to see that his horse is groomed as and when he should be. This, comrades, is an indubitable fact, in which that same lack of individual, personal education finds expression: we have not learnt to carry out petty, everyday, detailed tasks and chores. Yet everything is built from these.
We might have smashed the Whites before Warsaw when we raided that far, but, instead, we were obliged to retreat. It is very easy to go too far when the basis is ill-prepared. Improvisation is inevitable in war – but in what sense? In the sense that one needs to study the given situation, to consider quickly the relationship of forces, and to modify one’s plan when this proves necessary. But there must be no improvisation in the sphere of everyday matters of supply within each unit, in the sphere of training for elementary duties, for taking the measures laid down in our regulations regarding communications, security, reconnaissance and so on. These school matters, school tasks, which are nothing but a condensation of all previous military experience, must enter into the flesh and blood of every single soldier and commander. This is not the case at present, comrades; no, it is not yet the case to the extent it needs to be.
It is precisely our past – we had to improvise an army, to knock it together in haste – that has led to methods in which we count mostly upon enthusiasm, upon morale. I say this, of course, not meaning that we have no need of high morale – that is always necessary, armies do not win victories without the moral factor playing its part – but beneath that morale there must be a sound, serious basis of detailed, petty work, of detailed, attentive demandingness towards others so that the task may be accomplished. In military matters there are no trifles: in military matters, as indeed in all serious matters, every trifle plays a very big role. After all, an entire machine is made up of little screws. The biggest, most colossal house is built with little bricks, and if the bricks have not been properly fired, if the beams are not sound, the entire structure is good for nothing. If the building collapses, it may bury a great number of persons, and if an army collapses, it will bury its people. What follows from that is that attention to details is a sacred duty.
This was seen with particular clarity after the manoeuvres.
All our materiel was excellent, the army’s plan was correct, morale was better than ever, the commanders were in fighting mood, at the highest pitch – they were only waiting impatiently to throw the enemy into the Dniester.  We did not and do not want war. But when an army is ready to fight, that is fine, for an army that does not want to fight is no army at all. And it is no secret that there were good reasons for us to fight somebody. All the necessary elements were present, but along with them a huge number of petty defects, such as may bring fatal, ruinous consequences. The very best operational plan, a Napoleonic concept, is worthless if it does not reach the right subordinate commander in the form of an order. For it to reach him, measures have to be taken – it has to be despatched in time, and not in the way that happened with one order, which was sent off by motor-cycle, but the motor-cycle got bogged down two or three versts from its destination; and this order had not been sent by any other means of conveyance. Does the commander, having written an order, then have to bother about some motor-cycle or other? His job is writing orders and interpreting them, and then they ‘somehow’ get sent off. They get sent off ‘somehow’ – and then he discovers that they did not arrive. The whole operation is brought to naught. Or else this happens. An excellent order is composed, by which the artillery are to arrive at a certain point at 2 o’clock; but the clerk copies it badly and instead of 2 o’clock puts 12 o’clock. This is a mere trifle, left unchecked and uncorrected, but the operation suffers grievous damage from it. Or else the clerk garbles a placename and it is not checked. The order reaches its destination – and there they scratch their heads. The place and the time mentioned do not make sense, and so, at the subordinate headquarters, they start to try to think out what this order is supposed to mean, and from the bits and pieces they construct their own plan. That is what happens because of a typing error, or of a faulty motor-cycle which is not supplemented by other means of conveyance. A well-thought-out plan fails. The order should have been checked after transcription, sealed, and despatched by two or three different means, taking into account the conditions, so as fully to ensure that it could be checked whether the order had reached its addressee. In our country, owing to the manoeuvring character of the war, which was determined not only by our aims but by the fact that we were fighting over huge expanses of territory, and owing to the fact that the thinking of our commanders is distinguished by great boldness and impetuosity, the urge to carry out raids has become to some extent epidemic. Between the plan and its actual execution dozens of intermediate links are sometimes missing: these have to be created, to be established, the wire has to be stretched out and fastened with a proper, firm knot – otherwise, everything will fall to pieces. There is among us, comrades, a little of that old attitude which is expressed in the saying: ‘Why, worry, it’s in the bag.’ Nowadays, people say: ‘it’s in our red revolutionary bag’. But it’s just the same, comrades, only the colour is different, essentially there is no change. This is the outcome of lack of accuracy, self-satisfaction, lack of the habit of closely studying the actual situation, drawing conclusions and implementing them conclusively.
Our commanders, especially the young ones, as a result of the civil war, have cultivated a contemptuous attitude towards the regulations. When we set about composing our regulations, we did not, you know, make them up out of our heads. War had taught us something. In the previous regulations there was a lot of junk: but let us not brag, our work in compiling our new regulations consisted mainly in a mere re-working of the old ones.
It may be that there is something unnecessary in the regulations: they should be revised on the basis of fresh experience. But nobody in his senses will say that regulations are not needed. It is necessary in our work to take account of everything that experience has already established and after every set-back to look at the relevant chapter of the field service
regulations and ponder on ‘what happened to me, and what is said about it here’, so that the regulations do not remain just dead paragraphs, and so that one’s own experience finds reflection in them, as in a mirror. This must be done, come what may.
In my reports and speeches on these matters it has been my practice to begin with a subject which is elementary for every soldier: boots. When visiting a unit I have asked, dozens and hundreds of times: ‘When were your boots greased?’ And nowhere have I received a single satisfactory reply. If our intelligence service were to report that in the Romanian army they never grease their boots, I should say that such an army would never reach Kiev or Kharkov: all their boot-soles would fall off. Only that army can easily reach its goal which greases its boots when it should. If a future historian undertakes to study the defeat suffered by our army before Warsaw, he will discover many circumstances which brought this about, but I do not doubt that one of the causes he will point to will be failure to grease boots, which, owing to the rapidity of the advance, fell to pieces at a distance of 300 versts from Warsaw. All this cannot but have an effect on the soldier’s morale. This petty task, learning to grease one’s boots, has now become a matter of exceptional importance. I must say that I have strongly emphasised this aspect, and when the order was issued stating that failure to grease boots would be punished, I asked in a certain unit: ‘How often do they grease their boots here?’ ‘As often as you like: every day, even.’ ‘And have you plenty of grease?’ ‘Oh, as much as you could wish.’ From excess of zeal he will squander that grease in a short time, and then he will march in ungreased boots. It is not, of course, a matter of carrying out this task just once in a while – whether it be sewing on buttons, cleaning rifles, tidying up barracks or greasing boots. The art of education consists precisely in ensuring that, without any strain, in all circumstances, people feel concern about these trifles and that such concern becomes a habit. And in order that it may become a habit, we have to have orders, threats, propaganda – whatever is needed. This will be felt at first as something imposed by an external will, but subsequently it will come to be performed automatically, and in this way a cultured habit will be consolidated.
Let me offer another little example. You arrive at a divisional headquarters. The treads of the stairway are covered with spittle and befouled with cigarette ends, and the scene is the same in the divisional commander’s office. But on the wall hangs a splendid chart showing the disposition of the troops; you couldn’t ask for anything better – they probably borrowed a draughtsman from somewhere. In such cases I am inclined to judge the state of the unit not by the splendid chart but by the spittle-covered, filthy stairway: for, of course, even though this is a trifle, everything, you know, is made up of trifles.
Somebody said at a meeting that we need to act towards the backward peasant masses as Peter acted towards the noble service-class. Having returned from abroad and taken up residence in the Foreign Quarter, he ordered that beards be shaved off. The boyars were greatly offended, and the clergy wrote that he was committing a ‘cur-like outrage’. But he wanted cleanliness and order.  Our task is a colossal one – to bring cultural education to masses who have been used to living in the most frightful conditions, in an utterly down-trodden state, and who, though they have already straightened their backs, have not yet learned to build.
In this work the commanders and commissars must and will play a very big part. This presumes, of course, self-education by the commanders, tireless self-education, checking on themselves in new conditions, on the basis of new experience, tireless day-by-day work on themselves, and the development of a military press and of military agitation and propaganda. The task is to arouse interest in military matters not only in the upper ranks but also at the lowest levels of the army. These questions must be debated, meetings must be held, articles, pamphlets and books written.
We are assuming, of course, that there will be a general material advance where the army is concerned – in particular, and above all, an improvement in its material situation. This is one of the most difficult, painful and acute questions. It is closely bound up with the overall economic situation of the country. Anyone with eyes to see will agree that, despite the famine, we have made a turn for the better: the year 1922 will be more prosperous than the year 1921. The creation of elementary conditions of material security for man must, of course, lead to improvement in his way of life in all respects, for socialism or communism does not mean community of poverty, but only community of prosperity, all-round security. We are still a long way from communism; years must pass before we attain communism, which presupposes a high level of economic development. But I think we are not a long way from attaining elementary well-being.
We must now create conditions for the commanders in which they can live and work to improve themselves. When this question is raised, we sometimes come up against the objection that, by doing this, we shall separate the commanders from the Red Army men. That is not true; it is not a question of privileges. The point is that the rank-and-file Red Army man is in the army only for a time, performing his military service – for a year or two, let’s say. (You know, comrades, that a decree is now being issued on the period of service, and we shall have to lay down a two-year period of service for the immediate future.) But, as for the commander, military service is his speciality, his profession: in many cases his vocation, even, but, in any case, his profession. A skilled worker spends only a small part of his life as a Red Army man. But the commander lives all his life long under the conditions of existence of a commander: therefore, he must be seen as a skilled force which is of great value to the state. I am sometimes told that the Red Army men are hostile to this idea. That is not true, my experience does not confirm it, although it is fully possible to engage in demagogy on this matter. The sound sense of the Red Army says that, until conditions are created for satisfying everyone, it is to the interest of the rank-and-file Red Army man to see that the commander who is called upon to lead him into battle is placed in conditions such that his mind is freed to concentrate on the work for which he is responsible.
There is one other important task which, given the active co-operation of the local authorities, can produce an improvement in the situation of the commanders. The idea has been put to the Revolutionary War Council of the Republic that every unit should have its patron, in the shape of the local soviet: for example, the 51st and 56th Divisions have been attached to the Moscow Soviet. The Soviet is obliged to look after the commanders and the rank-and-file of its units. Experience shows that such attachments produce small but material, real results in the matter of accommodation and of the supply of food, clothing and so on. But we shall not get out of our difficult material situation without reducing what we spend on the army. And that presupposes, on the one hand, a reduction in the army’s size, and, on the other, a reduction in its expenditure. Some improvement in this respect can be attained by thrift and economy. Our army is, you know, one of the most extravagant armies in the world. In that sense, we need to learn to act with greater efficiency, thrift and economy.
We are now in a period of change in the structure and development of our army. A rejuvenation of the army is now taking place. This is a critical moment. On the one hand we are doing away with the motley intermingling of age-groups, but, on the other, youthful elements with little experience are being poured into the army, which means that the military experience of the army as a whole will be lowered. But we are retaining the old cadres, who concentrate in themselves the experience of the past. We have to improve the situation of the commanders and we have to make use of the present period of change to bring in the best volunteer elements. But what is most important is the educational and organisational work of the commanders and commissars – and especially their independent work. This work cannot possess the heroic character of the work done on the fighting fronts during the epoch of the civil war. It is exhausting and burdensome work. It is much easier to perform an heroic deed in battle than to inspect, day after day, a spittlecovered stairway, to require that it be constantly cleaned, to require that the Red Army man should clean his boots, to write out an order properly and to see that it is copied carefully, is despatched as it should be, arrives where it is intended to arrive, and is carried out fully and as meant. We have to achieve a situation in which everyone behaves when he is not under observation exactly as when he is. This can be brought about through developing the sense of responsibility, which calls for a lot of work. The elevation and education of the commanders themselves signifies at the same time the education of a new type of man. We have been put in a position where the army has to act as educator for all Russia. The most backward masses will pass through the army, and be subjected to education and training. I know and am very clearly aware how hard, how difficult this work is, under the conditions of our unrepaired barracks, with inadequate rations and badly-organised domestic economy. It is very hard. Therefore, maintaining in oneself, day after day, this unyielding will to victory in relation to trifles and details is the highest form of heroism – higher than that which is shown in battle. And this heroism will come.
If we did not hope that the year ahead of us would be, from the economic standpoint, better than this one, it would, of course, be senseless and hopeless to call upon you to demand of yourselves and of others this systematic intensification of your will to educate the Red Army. But gleams of better things can be observed. The reduction in the size of the army and the transfer of a number of workers to economic activity will give an even greater impulse to the country’s economic development. The discipline of our army is also reflected in the discipline of our economy. After our tragic four-year experience, none of us is going to expect miracles. But I think that every one of us will say to himself that tomorrow will be better, will be easier, than that dark, heavy and dreadful yesterday. This does not mean that we are not going to face hard trials. We are now playing a great game, the scale of which will increase continually. Not long ago, the struggle was being waged before Tula and at Kazan, and more than once we were reduced to the dimensions of the Tsardom of Muscovy, and on foreign maps this Soviet Republic of Muscovy was depicted in the shape of a skull; it seemed that it would be narrowed still further, and that Moscow, the heart of Russia, would be crushed by the WhiteGuard’s grip. We have spread ourselves and are beginning to build. But the struggle is not over, and the radius of this struggle will get longer and longer. Our march on Warsaw was in the nature of a reconnaissance. Europe and the world will not leave us in peace, and neither shall weleave our adversaries in peace, in Europe or throughout the world.
The Red Army is confronted by tasks such as have never confronted any other army in the whole of man’s history. The Great French Revolution, which was a revolution of a people numbering 25 millions, created an army that marched all across Europe, and, though it later returned within its own frontiers, changed the face of Europe.  The bourgeoisie of today reckons its chronology from the Great French Revolution. Our revolution is on an incomparably larger scale in its scope, in the expanse of territory covered and the number of people in revolt. Its friends are incomparably more numerous and the soil for the exercise of its influence in Europe is better prepared. Our movement will meet with more support the further it advances, and backward Asia, which is fighting for its national independence against imperialism, is now nine-tenths for us.
I am sure that, after the experience of the great imperialist slaughter, none of us, including the old commanders, has any thought of conquest, of imperialist aggression. The Red Army’s role is not to enslave other peoples but to liberate them, and to conquer them spiritually. And when I talk with visiting Turkish officers who have come here as our guests, and with revolutionary officers from other Asian countries , and I observe from their speeches and conversation the love that they have for revolutionary Russia and the Red Army, in which they see their liberator, I always feel, once more, that this army is a great historical miracle, created by the working masses. And it is necessary for us now, precisely because our army is being looked at from the West and from the East, to display that supreme heroism of which I spoke: we need heroically intense attention to trifles and details – to those little bricks from which a house is built, so that at the moment when circumstances demand, and an appeal from our friends compels, we may say to our brothers in the West and in the East -’the Red Army has been built, educated, organised and trained, and, if you need our help, it is here, it is ready to fight for the cause of world liberation’.
1. N.V. Ustryalov worked as professor at Harbin University, in Manchuria, from 1920 to 1934, then returned to Russia. In 1937 he was arrested, and died in prison the following year.
2. Yu. V. Klyuchnikov acted in 1922 as adviser on questions of international law to the Soviet delegation at the Genoa Conference. He returned to Russia in 1923, was arrested in 1937, and died in prison the following year.
3. Quoted from Smena Vekh, p.167
4. Quoted from Smena Vekh, pp. 169-170
5. Quoted from Smena Vekh, p.119.
6. Smena Vekh, p.133. Bobrishchev-Pushkin wrote that ‘recently, in a certain friendly country, the police apologised to some tourists who had been beaten up, saying that they had beaten them because they thought they were Russians’.
7. Quoted from Smena Vekh, p.134
8. Quoted from Smena Vekh, p.232.
9. Quoted from Smena Vekh, p.141
10. Bobrishchev-Pushkin wrote (Smena Vekh, p.141): ‘The White Armies, which the officers but not the peasants joined willingly, and in which always, despite the bloody conscriptions carried out, there were too few soldiers ...’
11. Quoted from Smena Vekh, p.144.
12. Bobrishchev-Pushkin wrote in Smena Vekh (p.97) that no hope was to be placed in ‘Kronstadt’, because those rebels were not to the Right but to the Left of the Bolsheviks: ‘Whoever finds Bolshevism hateful ought to find anarchy still more hateful’.
13. Quoted from Smena Vekh, p.128.
14. ‘An ill-favoured thing, sir, but mine own’ (Touchstone, on his mistress Audrey, in Shakespeare’s As You Like It)
15. Quoted from Smena Vekh, p.128.
16. Quoted from Smena Vekh, p.173.
17. Quoted from Smena Vekh, p.175. Potekhin goes on to say that this refutes the idea that it would suffice to capture Moscow, because Bolshevism would then be finished.
18. On September 18, 1921 Poland presented the RSFSR with an ultimatum which contained a number of demands concerning fulfilment of the Treaty of Riga – return of prisoners-of-war, release of hostages, payment of contributions, and so on – with the threat that, if these demands were not met by October 1, 1921, the Polish representative would be recalled from Moscow.
19. On October 22 the former Emperor of Austria-Hungary, Charles, arrived in Hungary and advanced on Budapest with his supporters, with the aim of carrying out a monarchist coup d’etat. His attempt proved unsuccessful. After a few days’ fighting with the Hungarian Government’s troops outside Budapest, Charles’s followers were defeated and he was taken prisoner.
20. Alter the overthrow of Bela Kun’s Government, the monarchy was formally restored in Hungary. However, the Allied Powers would not allow any member of the Habsburg family to occupy the throne, and so the leader of the counter-revolution, Admiral Horthy, was proclaimed Regent. When Charles, who had succeeded Franz-Joseph as Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary in 1916, tried in 1921 to assert by force his claim to occupy the Hungarian throne, he was rebuffed by Horthy and deported by the Allies.
21. The New Economic Policy was agreed on in principle at the Tenth Congress of the Russian Communist Party, at which, following a report by Comrade Lenin, the decision was taken, on March 15, 1921, to replace the system of compulsory deliveries by a tax in kind. [See also the Glossary entry for New Economic Polcy]
22. To ‘set the red cock’ on a building means to set fire to it.
23. The ‘enemy’ in question being the Romanians, who had taken advantage of the Russian civil war to occupy Bessarabia, establishing a de facto frontier on the river Dniester.
24. In pre-Petrine Russia the lay people were divided into the ‘service class’, which meant the nobles, and the ‘tax-paying class’, which meant everybody else. When Peter returned from his travels in Western Europe he took up residence in the Foreign Quarter of Moscow (literally, ‘the German Liberty’), which he preferred to the Kremlin, with its mediaeval associations. The Patriach Filaret had described an attempt by an earlier Tsar to make the nobles shave off their beards, so as to look more ‘European’, as ‘cur-like foolishness’. Peter had his way, and until the accession of Alexander III all public officials were obliged to be beardless. Only after 1875 were officers and soldiers in the army (except the Imperial Guard) allowed to grow beards.
25. The French Revolution of 1789 caused the states adjacent to France, which feared the spread of revolution in Europe, to come together for military action against revolutionary France. On April 20, 1792 war began between France and Austria which was joined by Prussia and later by other German states, Spain, Sardinia and Naples. As a result of these wars, from which France emerged victorious, by 1789 France had formed a number of republics which, though independent, were under her influence – the Batavian (Holland), the Cisalpine (Lombardy), the Roman, the Parthenopean (Naples), the Ligurian (Genoa) and the Helvetian (Switzerland).
26. Soviet Russia and the Soviet Ukraine were at this time helping the Turkish nationalists led by Kemal in their ‘war of independence’ against Greece.
Last updated on: 30.12.2006