trotsky military theory

This habit of weighing and appraising practically the most important factors and forces has been acquired by the British ruling caste thanks to the superiority of its position, on its island vantage-point, and under the conditions of a comparatively slow and planned accumulation of capitalist power. For the text, see First Decrees of Soviet Power, edited by Yu. Erroneous to the point of absurdity is Solomin’ s assertion that an army has to be trained exclusively for a specific form of warfare – either defensive or offensive. France’s Premier, Briand, declared in Washington that we are preparing to attack Poland this spring. It must be said, however, that, in these discoveries, some grains of sensible thought – not new, but correct – are smothered beneath the husks of verbiage. As a matter of fact, however, it follows from war of manoeuvre with even greater directness and obviousness, although in a different form. Trotsky was a theoretician of communism, a strategist, a ... personality and character have less to do with his life than theory and the inevitable currents of history, in his own telling of his story. The revolutionary movement has shown that its tempo is slower than we expected in 1918-1919. Alas! Their troops were, in most cases, inferior to ours in numbers and in point of morale, but superior in military skill. Abrupt shifts in political development in the form of revolutionary explosions are wholly possible in the very near future. [Let me recall that this was written in 1905. the articulation of a crisis, the policies of the states (hegemony) and the class struggle. So reads the decree on the formation of the Red Army, issued by the Council of People’s Commissars on January 12 [sic], 1918. His father was a prosperous Jewish farmer. In actual fact, no sensible Red Army man doubts that, if we are not attacked this winter, or in the spring, we shall certainly not disturb the peace ourselves, but shall exert all our efforts to heal our wounds, taking advantage of the respite. [Note by Trotsky] [Galicia was in Austrian Poland, Poznan in German Poland – B.P.] But we must ask this question, quite precisely: does the Red Army’s manoeuvring result from its inner qualities, its class nature, its revolutionary spirit, its fighting zeal – or is it due to the objective conditions, to the vastness of the theatres of war and the comparatively small numbers of troops involved? [2] Seeing an opportunity to strike a blow at both the Soviet Union and his archenemy Wilhelm Canaris of the German Abwehr, Heydrich immediately acted on the information and undertook to improve on it, forging a series of documents implicating Tukhachevsky and other Red Army commanders; these were later passed to the Soviets via Edvard Beneš and other neutral parties. For, as the authors of these reports explain, it is not possible to prepare for future wars ‘in the dark’: it is not possible to determine either the strength of the army, or its establishments, or its disposition. In the Far East there is Japan. An adversary aware of his strength does not let himself be impressed at all by an attack. In order to come closer to the correct way of formulating the question, let us, following what has been said earlier, divide the question itself into its component parts. If, however, we check the inventory of eternal truths of military science, we obtain not much more than a few logical axioms and Euclidean postulates. Others join in the song with: ‘We are going wrong where all practical questions of military construction are concerned because we have not yet solved the basic problems of military doctrine. ‘The old army was an instrument of class oppression of the working people by the bourgeoisie. Even after discussion had ceased to be the most important resource of revolutionary strategy, the Whites continued to be distinguished by greater aggressiveness than we showed. Civil war signifies that the forces and resources of the country convulsed by revolution are divided into two; that the war is waged, especially in the initial stage, by an enterprising minority on each side, and, consequently, by more or less scanty and therefore mobile masses; and, for this reason, much more depends on improvisation and accident. Tukhachevsky thought it necessary to deepen his error by printing his letter at the end of his interesting little book The War of Classes. Over the years, researchers and historians put forth the following hypotheses: The central hypothesis and the one with the widest support is that Stalin had simply decided to consolidate his power by eliminating any and all potential political or military rivals. Instead, he infers that Trotsky was pointing to the need to supplement purely economic data with an investigation of related social and political developments. This combination corresponds to the international situation as a whole. Clarifying the essence of the international and domestic situation, and an active, ‘manoeuvring’ adaptation to this situation, cannot quench the spirit but only temper it. There are no grounds for us to doubt that superiority in strategic leadership was on our side. Clausewitz, On War (The Theory of Strategy) [This translation is taken from the English translation of Clausewitz’s book by Michael Howard and Peter Paret (1976), p.61.]. The regulations must teach how to fight, and not just coach for offensive operations. Viewed from the broader context of the Great Terror which followed, the execution of the most popular and well-regarded generals in the Red Army command can be seen as a preemptive move by Stalin and Nikolai Yezhov, People's Commissar of State Security, to eliminate a potential rival and source of opposition to their planned purge of the nomenklatura. Will it wage defensive or offensive revolutionary wars?’ – and so on and so forth. T… Or do some of our doctrinaires consider, perhaps, that while the ‘weak’ Communist Parties in the bourgeois states have to carry on preparatory work, the ‘all-powerful’ Red Army ought to undertake offensive revolutionary war? 8. We possess an orientation which is international in scale and has great historical scope. Not only every commander and every Red Army man but also every worker and peasant in our country knows that this is utter rubbish. 10. What conclusion follows from this? But one has to be cautious when resorting to them. This is especially clear and incontestable, let us repeat, with regard, precisely, to the strategy of manoeuvre. type in which offensive strategy may play an important role.’ Such is the revelation, almost the revolutionary gospel, of Solomin. In the past period, we only began to accumulate this experience. It was due precisely to this that the war, which began as one of defence, could subsequently be developed into an offensive war. While in the sphere of production technique the advanced bourgeoisie has banished stagnation, routinism and superstition, and has sought to build each enterprise on the precise foundations of scientific method, in the sphere of social orientation the bourgeoisie has proved impotent, because of its class position, to rise to the heights of scientific method. Which ones? First introduced over a hundred years ago, Leon Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution remains a vital tool for understanding the world today. It worked under the assumption that since ‘…the working class will be compelled by the very footnote 47 There is no doubt that Trotsky did underline the relation between such developments and the empirical data. The war assumed a clearly defensive character on our part. 2 Forced into exile in Britain, he joined the NLR editorial committee. ‘At the beginning of this excellent little work,’ the newspaper writes, ‘a number of principles are set out ... which are presented as being the official military doctrine for 1921. In the mid-1920s, Leon Trotsky was removed as Commissar of War, and his known supporters were expunged from the military. What attitude would the Austrian and German proletariat take up then? However, after Soviet archives were opened to researchers after the fall of the Soviet Union, it became clear that Stalin actually concocted the fictitious plot by the most famous and important of his Soviet generals in order to get rid of them in a believable manner. Revolutionary impatience became disciplined by scientific analysis of the historical process. While taking the offensive on one front, considered by us at the given moment as being the most important, for political or military, reasons, we weakened ourselves on the other fronts, considering it possible to remain on the defensive there and to retreat. But, you see, what this shows is, precisely, the fact – how strange that this is over-looked! Thus, more than a decade and a half ago, we already clearly understood, in essence, ‘what kind of army and for what tasks’ we had to prepare. We approached military questions with, as our starting-point, not any ‘military doctrine’, as a sum-total of dogmatic postulates, but a Marxist analysis of the requirements for the self-defence of the working class, which, having taken power, had to arm itself, disarm the bourgeoisie, fight to maintain power, lead the peasants against the landlords, prevent the kulak democracy from arming the peasants against the workers’ state, create for itself a reliable body of commanders, and so on. Trotsky was born Lev Davidovich Bronstein on 7 November 1879 in Yanovka, Ukraine, then part of Russia. the Communist Party must carry out an offensive policy. We combined the old commanding personnel with the new, and only in this way did we achieve the needed result: the army proved capable of fighting in the service of the working class. [5], All convicts were rehabilitated on January 31, 1957 for the "absence of essence of an offence". Hence the need for a strategy of manoeuvre arose first among the Whites. How should we prepare to resist? It is proclaimed that the second specific feature of revolutionary strategy is its aggressiveness. In the initial period we tried to defend Soviet Russia by means of a cordon, holding on to each other. Briand knows it too, of course. Only the Marxist method of international orientation, of calculating class forces in their combinations and shifts, can enable us to find the appropriate solution in each concrete case. From the Whites we also learned to make rapid breakthroughs, enveloping movements, and penetrations into the enemy’s rear. It was possible to ensure enthusiasm and élan, and this we achieved, but it was not possible to create artificially the necessary routine, the automatic solidarity, the confidence of neighbouring units that there would be mutual support between them. After the first weeks, the French army dug itself into the ground, and although the true-French generals and true-French newspapers did not stop reiterating in the first period of the war, that trench warfare was a base German invention not at all in harmony with the heroic spirit of the French fighting man, the entire war developed, nevertheless, as a positional struggle of attrition. But these conditions were not created by the Red Army – they were the historical preconditions for its rise, development and success. We heard from Comrade Solomin that, so long as we fail to proclaim the doctrine of offensive revolutionary war, we shall remain confused and shall commit blunders in organisational, military-educational and strategical and other matters. And the army will not allow the Solomins to impose their organisational and strategical ramblings and thereby to introduce vacillation and disorder. Actually, such an approach to the question is scholastic and lifeless. In its aims, in the predominant class composition of its body of commanders and commissars, in its spirit and in its entire political morale, the Red Army differs radically from all the other armies in the world and stands in hostile opposition to them. The resolution was passed and the Military Revolutionary Committee (MRC, or Milrevcom) was formed. The mistaken tendencies of methodism unquestionably find expression in the efforts to construct a doctrine of ‘offensive revolutionary war’. In the 20th century, Russia is the poorest and most backward country in Europe. – that into our overall operational plans retreat entered, side by side with attack, as an indispensable link. But I will go back even further and quote some lines which I had occasion to write in 1905-1906. At the present time the doctrine of the pure offensive, although it has been included in the new regulations, is being, as we shall see, sharply opposed in France itself. But the subject of war is man, who possesses certain fixed anatomical and mental traits from which are derived certain usages and habits. Armed intervention can hasten the denouément and facilitate the victory. Trotsky, then, with his theory of ‘permanent revolution’, was expressing a point of view which had more in common with Narodnik views about Russia being able to avoid capitalism. But it would undoubtedly enrich with some valuable factual data our knowledge of the nature of civil war and of the revolutionary army. While they tack and veer with great skill, the British empiricists of the epoch of decline – whose finished expression is Lloyd George – will inescapably break their necks. 2. The complexity of the world situation, the monstrous criss-crossing of contradictory interests, and, primarily, the unstable social basis of bourgeois governments exclude the possibility of consistently carrying out even a single ‘military doctrine’, namely, struggle against Soviet Russia. The aim of movement is destruction of the enemy’s manpower at a distance of 100 versts or so. The endeavour to fix as laws and erect into dogmas those features of the Red Army’s strategy and tactics which were characteristic of it in the recent period could do a great deal of harm and could even prove fatal. The next wave of arrests of military commanders started in the second half of 1936 and increased in scope after the February–March 1937 Plenary Meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), where Vyacheslav Molotov called for more thorough exposure of "wreckers" within the Red Army since they "had already been found in all segments of the Soviet economy". Finally, a fourth proposes that we do not forget about the use of Makhno’s tachanki. Both he and his co-thinkers hint at this. General Mikhail Tukhachevsky was arrested on May 22, 1937 and charged, along with seven other Red Army commanders, with the creation of a "right-wing-Trotskyist" military conspiracy and espionage for Nazi Germany, based on confessions obtained from other arrested officers. The Whites, on the contrary, tried at that time to force offensives in order to preserve their troops from revolutionary disintegration. [2] Let us rather approach the question historically. It is evident that they could not remain calm observers while the armies of their countries were conducting a counter-revolutionary crusade. [4] I much regret that I cannot adduce here everything that has been said concerning the Red Army in our Party programme and in the resolutions of our congresses. The feverish development of German capitalism provided the ruling classes of Germany with the opportunity to accumulate a great deal more in material and technical values than in habits of international and military-political orientation. All our attention must now be directed not toward a fanciful reconstruction but toward improvement and greater precision. Victor Suvorov has claimed that the purge was intended to replace Red Army officers with more competent generals for his future conquests. ), This definition can be accepted, with reservations. Our orientation proved to be more correct, more far-sighted and profound, than that of the mightiest of the imperialist powers, which sought, one alter the other or together, to bring us down, but burnt their fingers in the attempt. We use the instrument of Marxism also to define the basis for our constructive work in the military sphere. On the other hand, however, there can be no doubt that military operations in the Western theatre would be far more constrained. The same applies to the fighter’s hands. When we advanced, they retreated, and vice versa. While the military may well have had many secret reasons for their dislike of Stalin, there is now no credible evidence that any of them ever conspired to eliminate him. In particular, we were most conciliatory in relation to Poland, offering her conditions more favourable than those indicated for her by the Entente countries. What other ‘doctrine’ do you need? Under present international conditions, orientation calls for much greater mental skill than was needed for elaborating the conservative elements of military doctrine in the epoch that lies behind us. The trial triggered a massive subsequent purge of the Red Army. He is only formulating poorly something old. Here you have a ‘doctrine’ which is clear, simple and in accordance with reality. It is precisely in a war of manoeuvre that the distinction between defensive and offensive is wiped out to an extraordinary degree. Naturally, events have not unfolded in the historical order indicated here merely as an example, to illustrate an idea, in these lines written sixteen years ago. Now, however, this situation has been completely disrupted. Fundamentally, Trotsky fell from power because his theory of Permanent Revolution and his consequent insistence on continued revolutionary agitation abroad would have cut off all technical aid from the Western world, and so made any attempt at industrial development more difficult in Russia. I n 1967 New Left Review (NLR) published an article called “Trotsky’s Marxism” by Nicolas Krassó. At that time it was a matter of overthrowing ‘tyrants’, of abolishing or mitigating feudal serfdom. To that my answer has been and still is: if anyone wants to call the sum-total of the Red Army’s principles and practical methods, a military doctrine, then, while not sharing this weakness for the faded galloons of old-time officialdom, I am not going to fight over it (this is my ‘evasion’). The limits of the cities would have the role of leading the revolution the Red troops generally the! Well for us any army has ever been ruined on the defensive and offensive.... 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