Editor’s Note. WP: In honor of the 101st anniversary of the formation of the proletarian Red Army, we offer our readers a curious article about the role of I.V. Stalin in the formation of the Red Army and the victory of the young Soviet republic over the White Guards and foreign interventionists in the civil war of 1918-1922. Its author is Klim Voroshilov, one of the outstanding commanders of the Red Army during the civil war, later – Commissar of Defense of the USSR, Bolshevik, member of the Central Committee of the CPSU (b), Stalin’s loyal ally who met Stalin during the heroic struggle of Soviet workers and peasants against the White Guards and invaders.
We do not doubt that what Voroshilov tells about in his memoirs will be a big surprise for the majority of our readers, including those who have graduated from schools and universities in the USSR. Unfortunately, the Soviet people had no idea of the facts reported by Voroshilov in the 60-80s, So it has been quite a while since counter-revolutionaries began to rewrite the history, it was not during Perestroika or after it, but long before that. Without this, perhaps the history of the USSR could have been completely different.
Voroshilov’s story about Stalin is taken from the book Memoirs about I. V. Stalin, which is being prepared for publication by the editorial and publishing department of the Work Path MLWM (planned for March-April of the current year)
Stalin and the Red Army
The peaceful construction period of our history is full of events of the greatest importance. In recent years, not rivers have flown, but oceans of water. There have been enormous changes around us; our prospects have changed in form, the generally accepted scales and volumes being completely turned upside down. The rich and versatile revolutionary activities of Comrade Stalin are inextricably linked with all these events. Over the past five to six years, Comrade Stalin has been at the center of the rousing and boiling struggle. It is only these circumstances that can explain that the significance of Comrade Stalin, as one of the most prominent organizers of the victories of the civil war, has been to some extent overshadowed and has not yet received a proper assessment..
Today, on the day of our friend’s fiftieth anniversary, I want to fill this gap at least partially. (This article was written by Comrade Voroshilov on the fiftieth anniversary of the birth of Comrade Stalin. — WP.)
Of course, in a newspaper article I least of all claim to give a complete description of the military work of Comrade Stalin. I just want to try to refresh a few facts from the recent past in my comrades’ memory, publish some little-known documents, in order to indicate with a simple evidence of the facts the truly exceptional role played by Comrade Stalin in tense moments of the civil war..
In the period of 1918-1920, Comrade Stalin was perhaps the only person whom the Central Committee threw from one military front to another, choosing the places most dangerous, most terrible for the revolution. Where it was relatively calm and safe, where we had success, there was no Stalin to be seen. But where, for a number of reasons, the Red armies cracked, where the counter-revolutionary forces, developing their successes, were threatening the very existence of Soviet power, where confusion and panic could turn into helplessness, a catastrophe at any moment, there appeared Comrade Stalin. He did not sleep nights, he organized, he took leadership in his firm hands, he broke, was merciless and – created a breakthrough, healing the situation. Comrade Stalin himself wrote about this in one of the letters to the Central Committee in 1919, saying that he was “turned into a specialist in cleaning the stables of the military department”.
Comrade Stalin began his military work from the Tsaritsyn front, and quite by accident. At the beginning of June 1918, Comrade Stalin, with a detachment of Red Army men and two armored auto cars, was sent to Tsaritsyn as the head of the entire subsistence support in southern Russia. In Tsaritsyn, he finds incredible chaos not only in Soviet, professional and party organizations, but even more confusion and mess in the organs of military command. Comrade Stalin at every step encounters obstacles of a general nature, which prevent him from carrying out his direct task. These obstacles were due, above all, to the rapidly growing Cossack counter-revolution, which at that time received ample support from the German invaders who had occupied the Ukraine. Cossack counterrevolutionary gangs soon seize a number of nearby points from Tsaritsyn and thus not only disrupt the possibility of systematic harvesting of bread for the starving Moscow and Leningrad, but also create an extreme danger for Tsaritsyn. (In May 1918, a number of areas of the southeast of the country, rich in bread and other foodstuffs (the North Caucasus, Middle and Lower Volga), were in the hands of Soviet power. According to its geographical position, the Tsaritsyn area was the key to the entire southeast of Russia, to which railway and waterways stretched from all directions.
Such a strategic position of the city had predetermined the plans of the counter-revolution to seize the city and the entire adjacent region, so that, firstly, it would not be possible to transport bread and other foodstuffs (fats, fish, cattle, etc.) to the starving gubernias and industrial centers of the RSFSR, and secondly, in order to unite in the region of the Lower Volga all the white armies of the south and east.
The decision of the Soviet government to take food for industrial provinces and large cities from the regions of the southeast suggested that Tsaritsyn and the entire area adjacent to it should be kept at all costs. To perform such a task a Stalin-scale Bolshevik was needed.
Since 06.06.1918, Stalin had been working in Tsaritsyn. Together with his comrades, he had created or recreated Soviet party, professional and economic organizations throughout the vast area. Tens of thousands of tons of food were moving to the starving industrial cities in the center of the country. At the same time, hard work was being done to strengthen the armed forces of the Red Army defending the Tsaritsyn strategic direction. At risk of preempting ourselves, we should say that the result of the Bolshevik defense of Tsaritsyn was that in 1918 the White Guard armies of Krasnov, Dutov, and then Denikin and Kolchak failed to create a solid front against the RSFSR along the Volga. — note by WP)
The situation was no better at that time in other places. A left-Social Revolutionary uprising was taking place in Moscow, the Muravyov treason in the east, the Czechoslovak counter-revolution was developing and gaining strength in the Urals, and the British were approaching Baku in the extreme south. Everything was burning in a ring of fire. The revolution was facing the greatest challenges. A telegram after a telegram flying over the wires to Comrade Stalin in Tsaritsyn from Lenin and back, Lenin warning about the dangers, encouraging, requiring decisive measures. The position of Tsaritsyn had acquired enormous significance. With the uprising on the Don and the loss of Tsaritsyn, we risked losing the entire productive, rich in grain North Caucasus. And Comrade Stalin clearly understood this. As an experienced revolutionary, he soon came to the conclusion that his work would have some meaning only if he could influence the military command, whose role in these conditions became decisive. (With regard to the military command Voroshilov is writing about, the following should be borne in mind. The struggle against counter-revolution in the southeast of Russia, in the Tsaritsyn area (as, incidentally, in all other parts of the country), took place with the strongest sabotage, wrecking and betrayal of the hidden enemies of the working people. The old tsarist generals and part of the senior officers, who had agreed to cooperate with the workers’ authorities and settled in the new organs of the Red Army, were mostly alien and hostile to the tasks of the revolutionary war of the working class and the poor peasantry. Only a very small percentage of the former Tsarist officers immediately and without a second thought passed over to the service of the Soviet power. Most of the generals and officers serving in the Red Army in 1918–1920 secretly belonged to counter-revolutionary conspiratorial organizations — the “national center”, the “tactical center”, various Menshevik-Social Revolutionary White Guard alliances, etc.
The Bolsheviks valued honest military experts and widely used their knowledge for practical combat work. But they were merciless to traitors and dealers, and were able to notice and prevent betrayal in time. – note by WP)
“The line to the south of Tsaritsyn is not yet restored”, he writes to Lenin in a note dated July 7, transmitted with a characteristic inscription: “Hurrying to the front, writing only on business”.
“Whipping away and scolding everyone I have to, hopefully, we will soon restore it. You can be sure we will not spare anyone – neither ourselves, nor others, but we will anyway provide the bread.
If our military “specialists” (slouches!) had not slept and were not idle, the line would not have been interrupted; and if the line is restored, it is not due to the military, but in spite of them.”
And further, in response to Lenin’s concern about the possible insurgency of the Left Social Revolutionaries in Tsaritsyn, he writes briefly, but firmly and clearly:
“As for the hysterical ones, rest assured, our hand will not tremble, we will act with enemies inimically”.
Looking more and more closely at the military apparatus, Comrade Stalin is getting convinced of their complete helplessness, and in some part, of the direct unwillingness to organize a rebuff to the impudent counterrevolution.
And as early as July 11, 1918, Comrade Stalin telegraphs Lenin:
“The matter is complicated by the fact that the headquarters of the North Caucasus District have proved to be completely unsuitable for the conditions of the struggle against counter-revolution. The point is not only that our “specialists” are psychologically incapable of decisive war with counterrevolution, but also that they, as “staff” workers, who can only “draw drawings” and give re-planning plans, are absolutely indifferent to operational actions … And generally feel like strangers, guests. The military commissars are unable to fill the gap … “
Comrade Stalin is not limited to this crushing characteristic; in the same note, he makes for himself an effective conclusion:
«To look at this indifferently, with Kalnin’s front (commander at the time in the North Caucasus – K.V.) is cut off from the supply point, and the north from the grain region, is something I do not consider myself entitled to. I will correct these and many other shortcomings on the ground, I am and will be taking a number of measures up to the dismissal of the destructive officials and commanders, despite the formal difficulties, I am going to break if necessary. At the same time, it is clear that I am taking upon myself all the responsibility to all higher institutions. ”.
(Here one should mind another detail. In the period of the first entrapment of Tsaritsyn, this is what Stalin and Voroshilov wrote, responding to the query by Podvoisky about whether they needed old military specialists in the troops:
“Thanks, by the way, to the arrest of military specialists we have made, the situation at the front has changed for the better. There is no need for the arrival of specialists, accept our personal regards. № 359. Stalin, Voroshilov “.
This telegram also responds well to our petty-bourgeois public, who re-writes perestroika counter-revolutionary lies and is still lamenting about the “color of the Russian army ruined by the Bolsheviks”, i.e. about the very Tsarist officers, without whom, allegedly, the Bolsheviks would never have learnt how to fight and win.
In this sense, the very same Voroshilov expressed himself in his report “15 years of the Red Army”. Regarding the old military experts, he, in particular, said:
“The merit of military specialists lies not so much in their work (there were, of course, hundreds of honest specialists who later became Bolsheviks who worked honestly and well from the beginning to the end), I’m talking about the whole mass of military specialists: their merit lies partly in that they taught our lot, or rather, our people themselves, on the move, studied military affairs in battles, demanding help from military experts, testing that help in practice in battles with the enemy. The main teacher and instructor of military affairs for our Bolshevik cadres was the civil war itself, in all its grave, often nightmarish, bloody diversity and complexity. ”. — note by WP)
The situation was getting more and more tense. Comrade Stalin developing colossal energy in a very short time went all the way from the Emergency Food Commissioner to the actual leader of all the red forces of the Tsaritsyn Front. This position is officially confirmed by Moscow, with the tasks assigned to Comrade Stalin being as follows:
“put things in order, join the detachments into regular units, establish proper command, expelling all the disobeying” (from the RMC telegram of the Republic with the inscription: “This telegram is sent in coordination with Lenin”).
By that time, the remnants of the Ukrainian revolutionary armies, retreating under the onslaught of German troops across the Don steppe, had approached Tsaritsyn. (By the beginning of July 1918, the 35 thousand army under the command of Voroshilov had broken through the Don region from the Ukraine to Tsaritsyn. The defense of Tsaritsyn was somewhat relieved. In addition, the army had brought with it more than 100 locomotives and about 3,000 wagons of weapons and defense equipment. From that moment on, the leadership of the armed struggle in Tsaritsyn was fully concentrated in the hands of a group of Bolsheviks under the leadership of Stalin and Voroshilov. The Military Council and the headquarters of all the red troops of the Tsaritsyn defense region begin actually working. This is what Voroshilov testifies. — note by WP)
Led by Comrade Stalin, the Revolutionary Military Council is being created, which proceeds to the organization of a regular army. Comrade Stalin’s vigorous nature, his energy and will made what seemed impossible yesterday. Within a very short time, divisions, brigades and regiments are created. The headquarters, supply agencies and the entire rear are radically cleared of counter-revolutionary and hostile elements. The Soviet and party apparatus is improving and tightening. A group of old Bolsheviks and revolutionary workers unites around Comrade Stalin, and instead of helpless headquarters, a red, Bolshevik fortress grows in the south, at the gates of the counter-revolutionary Don.
Tsaritsyn at that time was overflowing with counter-revolutionaries of all kinds, from right wing Socialist Revolutionaries and terrorists to rabid monarchists. All these gentlemen until Comrade Stalin appeared and the revolutionary troops arrived from the Ukraine felt almost free and lived waiting for the best days. To ensure the reorganization of the red forces at the front, it was necessary to clean the rear with an iron, merciless broom. The Revolutionary Military Council, headed by Comrade Stalin, creates a special Checka and imposes on it the duty to clear Tsaritsyn from counterrevolution.
Evidence of the enemy is sometimes valuable and interesting. This is how Colonel Nosovich (the former head of the army’s operational department) who changed us for Krasnov army describes this period and the role of Comrade Stalin in the White Guard magazine Donskaya Volna of February 3, 1919:
“Stalin’s main purpose was to supply food to the northern provinces, and for this task he had unlimited powers …
Line Gryazi – Tsaritsyn was now severed utterly. In the north, there was only one opportunity to get supplies and keep in touch: that was the Volga. In the south, after the occupation of Tikhoretskaya by volunteers, the situation was also very precarious. And for Stalin, drawing his reserves exclusively from the Stavropol province, this situation almost meant the end of his mission in the south. But obviously, it was not in the rules of such a person as Stalin, to give up the case he had once started. It is necessary to do him justice that any of the old administrators may envy his energies, and many should learn from his ability to make use of the situation and circumstances.
Gradually, as he remained idle, or rather along with the reduction of his direct task, Stalin began to enter all departments of the city administration, and mainly in the broad tasks of the defense of Tsaritsyn, in particular the entire Caucasian, so-called revolutionary front in general.”
And further, turning to the characterization of the situation in Tsaritsyn, Nosovich writes:
“By this time, in Tsaritsyn, the atmosphere in general had thickened … The Tsaritsyn death-squads were working at a full pace. No day passed without various conspiracies opening up in the most apparently conspicuous and secret places. All the prisons of the city were full …
The struggle at the front had reached extreme tension …
Since July 20, Stalin turned out to be the main engine and chief actor. A simple direct wire negotiation with the center about inconvenience and inconsistency for the cause of the present local management arrangement resulted in Moscow giving the direct wire the order by which Stalin was put at the head of all military … and civil administration …»
But Nosovich himself recognizes further how much these repressions were justified. Here is what he writes about the counter-revolutionary organizations of Tsaritsyn:
“By that time, the local counter-revolutionary organization, which was on the platform of the constituent assembly, had grown considerably and, having received money from Moscow, was preparing for an active warfare to help the Don Cossacks in the liberation of Tsaritsyn.
Unfortunately, engineer Alekseev, the head of this organization, who had arrived from Moscow and his two sons were not familiar with the current situation, and, due to an incorrectly drafted plan based on recruiting the Serbian battalion that was in the service of the Bolsheviks at the death-squads, the organization was disclosed…
Stalin’s resolution was short: “Shoot up!”. Engineer Alekseev, his two sons, and along with them a significant number of officers who were partly in the organization, and partly only on suspicion of complicity in it, were caught by the death squads and immediately, without any trial, shot”.
(The danger for the young Soviet republic was not only in the military offensive of the White Guard armies. White generals and their chiefs from the Entente relied not only on their own armed forces, but also on the strength of their exploitative “classmates” — the White Guards and in general all counter-revolutionaries in the rear of our troops, in Moscow and other key cities of the RSFSR. At that time, the embassies of the leading bourgeois states were still located in Petrograd and were most fully engaged in financing the White Guards and spying for Denikin, Yudenich and the Anglo-French-Finnish-Estonian imperialist bourgeoisie. Employees of the embassies of France, England, Switzerland, Greece, Italy, Romania, etc. were spending money with both hands, bribing all the counterrevolutionary bastards in the rear of the Red Army, who could be bribed and could harm the Soviet government.
The second serious danger factor was that part of the former Tsarist officers, who, although they had not yet acted explicitly, were ready to defect to the side of the enemies of worker-peasant Russia and take up arms. Finally, the “former people” offended by the proletariat, the bourgeois and the landowners, who had accumulated quite a lot of weapons and ammunition since 1914, were waiting for a good moment to strike the rear of the Red Army. Denikin, Yudenich, and later Kolchak counted exactly on all these forces.
Thus, the White Guard generals and their British and French masters relied heavily on the forces of the internal Russian counter-revolution, which in the first half of 1918 had united into a large White-Guard espionage organization called the National Center. This “center”, which spread its networks throughout the European part of the RSFSR and had a powerful organization in Tsaritsyn, was fully at the service of imperialist intelligence services, it was headed and funded by these intelligence services through foreign missions, consulates and embassies. Engineer Alekseev and his company were emissaries of the Moscow “branch” of that “National Center”.
Generally speaking, as early as the spring of 1918, all the counterrevolutionary forces defeated in open battle in October 1917 united and launched an offensive — capitalists and landowners, tsarist generals and officials, Black Hundred officers and clergy, Cadets, Mensheviks , right and left SRs. These remnants of the exploiting classes were absolutely sure of the fragility of the Soviet government and did not doubt the inevitability of its imminent fall – of course, with the joint and active actions of all the defenders of capitalism and private property.
For a concerted struggle with the Soviet authorities, they united in secret societies, groups and organizations that had different names, but a common class essence. On February 22, 1918, the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission (VChK) reported:
“The central headquarters of the counter-revolution are in Petrograd and in Moscow, and the rest are in almost all the cities of Russia. They bear the names: “Organization of Struggle against Bolsheviks and Sending Troops to Kaledin”, “Everything for Motherland”, “The White Cross”, “The Black Dot”, etc. Many of these headquarters of the armed uprising are crammed under the “roof” of various charitable organizations, such as: assistance to war-affected officers, etc.”(Pravda, February 22, 1918).
These counterrevolutionary organizations tended to disintegrate, then reunite, creating new “joint-stock” companies with other names, for example: “Military League”, “League of Personal Example”, “Society for Mutual Assistance and Self-Defense of Officers”, “Patriotic Union”, etc. most of the members of all these societies and unions were former officers of the tsarist army, but besides them there were criminals and gangsters covering with the flag of anarchism. In the framework of large officer unions, gangsters and criminals organized their own “secret societies”, such as “Immediate Socialists”, “Hurricane”, “Death”, etc.
Directly after the October Revolution, the bourgeoisie, the Black Hundreds, the Cadets, the Progressists and the Octobrists also consisted of scattered counter-revolutionary organizations, without a single unifying center, although foreign intelligence forces were stubbornly seeking coherence from all the organizations. As a result, in March 1918, the monarchical group “Council of Public Figures”, which had existed since October 1917, was headed by Milyukov and Rodzyanko, the Cadet Party (heads: Novgorodtsev, Astrov, Stepanov), “Trade and Industry Committee” (S. Morozov, Buryshkin, etc.) and the Union of Land Owners put forward an organizing committee to create an active and powerful counter-revolutionary center that would unite all the monarchist, landlord and bourgeois groups for the “planned” struggle against Soviet power. This organizing committee created the so-called “Right Center”, at the head of which the cadet Novgorodtsev and the former Tsarist Minister of Agriculture Krivoshein were put. The activists of this center were also such “heroes” of the counter-revolution as P. Struve, V. Gurko, and S. Leontyev.
At the same time, on assignment and with abundant funding from the Anglo-French government, Social Revolutionary B. Savinkov creates an officer’s counter-revolutionary organization, the Union for the Defense of Motherland and Freedom. This organization gained fame in connection with the anti-Soviet conspiracy of British intelligence (in the center of the conspiracy stood the spy Lockhart) and the Yaroslavl armed rebellion.
In May 1918, the fragments of the defeated bourgeois and petty-bourgeois parties — the Cadets, the Social Revolutionaries, the Mensheviks, the “people’s socialists”, etc. — united in a counter-revolutionary organization, The Union of Revival of Russia. They were secretly assisted by Trotsky and Bukharin, who, as established during the investigation into the case of the Right-Trotsky Bloc, actively defended the interests of imperialism even at that time and sought the collapse of Soviet power. In 1918, Trotsky and Bukharin, in fact, openly declared that they considered it possible to head for the overthrow of Soviet power, which, allegedly, had become “purely formal.” In June 1918 they even agreed with the Social Revolutionaries about a counter-revolutionary coup, about the arrest and murder of Lenin, Stalin and Sverdlov. In other words, Trotsky, Kamenev, Zinoviev, Bukharin and their henchmen conspired against the party and the Soviet state from the very first days of the revolution.
It is clear that all these counter-revolutionary organizations did not have wide support in the country’s working people. They were “professionally” paid services of the imperialist states, carried out their espionage and sabotage tasks for the collapse of state power, the economy and the army, sold their homeland wholesale and retail, called upon the armed forces of foreign states to restore capitalism in Russia. On the other hand, the whole bloody experience of the struggle of the Soviet people against this counterrevolution in 1918–1921 has shown and proved that when it comes to class domination and profits, the national bourgeoisie betrays their homeland and enters into bargains against their people with whatever external forces.
At the end of June 1918, the Right Center split. A significant part of its members, especially the Cadets, in the form of a “protest” against the German orientation, came out of this “center” and formed a new criminal group called the “National Center”. This was the origin of this large espionage organization, which, in fact, was a branch of the French (“Sûreté”) and British intelligences, primarily the English Intelligence Service.
The political program of the “National Center” basically boiled down to three points:
1) the violent overthrow of Soviet power and the destruction of Bolshevism; 2) the establishment of a sole dictatorship and the transition to a constitutional monarchy; 3) immediate restoration of private ownership of land, implements and means of production. At the insistence of the “sponsors” – “Sûreté” and “Intelligence Service” – from July 1918 the “National Center” began to work closely with the “Union of Revival of Russia”. At the same time, at the negotiations on joint work, the “nationals” made a “concession” to the “revivalists”, agreeing after the overthrow the Soviet power to go over not to a single military dictatorship, but to a three-part directory on the following principle: the first head is the head of the armed forces, a monarchist, he is also one of the generals of the White Guard Army; the second head is from the Cadet party, he is a big capitalist; finally, the third “director” is from “revolutionary social democracy”, i.e. prominent Socialist-Revolutionary or Menshevik.
There is an important point. It was not by chance that the Black-Hundred monarchists united with the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks. Having a common class root with the bourgeoisie and landowners, the Social Revolutionaries and Mensheviks had long since been on the maintenance of foreign finance capital and acted against our people on the orders of Western intelligence services. In all the counterrevolutionary conspiracies revealed by the Cheka in 1918–1922, the Social Revolutionaries and Mensheviks were the most active performers of criminal cases.
In addition to the alliance with the “revivalists,” the “National Center” sought to unite all anti-Soviet movements, lead the scattered counter-revolutionary groups, and impose spy and sabotage nests throughout the country. It largely succeeded in that. Thus, in mid-March 1919, agreements were reached on the question of unification with almost all the political forces that fought against Bolshevism and the dictatorship of the proletariat. In particular, the agreement took place between the “National Center” and the “Council of Public Figures”, and through it – with the organizations of monarchist constitutionalists. These agreements on the establishment of close cooperation were concluded independently of “programmatic” differences and political nuances, but only on the basis of “immediate tactical tasks” and with “uncompromising determination to liberate Russia from Bolshevik dominance and restore its state unity.” The main task was “the restoration of the sacred right of private property”. By the autumn of 1918, all the leading cadres of the National Center were concentrated in Moscow. The cadet Shipov was elected chairman of the “Central Committee” of the “nationals”, but in fact N. Shchepkin, the former deputy of the State Duma and the chairman of the Turkestan Committee of the provisional government, was in charge of all affairs. The Petrograd branch of the “center” was led by the great capitalist Steininger. Astrov, Stepanov and Fedorov were sent to the Don and the Kuban, Alekseev was an engineer in Tsaritsyn, Muravyov, Kartashov and Struve were sent to the Urals and Siberia.
The “National Center” operated until the autumn of 1919, when its main organs were opened and defeated by the Cheka. The methods and means of the “work” of this center were about the same as those of its class followers — Trotskyist right, Bukharinites, military conspirators, — espionage, subversions, wrecking, corner killing, sabotage, treason. — note by WP)
Turning then to the defeat and purification of the rear (the headquarters of the North Caucasus district and its institutions) from the White Guards, Nosovich writes:
“A characteristic feature of this dispersal was the attitude of Stalin to the leading telegrams from the center. When Trotsky, concerned about the destruction of the district administration that he had worked so hard at, sent a telegram about the need to leave the headquarters and the commissariat on the same conditions and give them the opportunity to work, then Stalin made a categorical and meaningful inscription on the telegram:
So this telegram was disregarded, and all the artillery support and part of the headquarters group are still sitting on the barge in Tsaritsyn ”.
(For complete clarity of the general situation in which Stalin and other Bolsheviks had to act then, we note the following. The situation by the middle of 1918 was extremely difficult. In May, the Czechoslovak insurgency broke out, which literally inspired the entire counter-revolution in the country and created a serious threat to Soviet power. The total length of the fronts in August – September reached 6000 km. In the north, only Petrozavodsk and Kotlas remained in the hands of the Soviet authorities. On the Eastern Front, the line of disposition of the troops passed through Perm to Elabuga, then to Kazan, Simbirsk, Alexandrov, Guriev, then – along the Ural River. In the west and in the south, the front line stretched from Petrograd to Pskov, Polotsk, Gomel, Belgorod, Valuyki, Voronezh, Kamyshin, Stavropol, Vladikavkaz, Petrovsk. In other words, the territory of Soviet Russia on the map was similar to a tree, the root of which was in Tsaritsyn. At that time, our country consisted of virtually several central provinces and was clamped on all sides in the grip of intervention and civil war — with all sorts of ententes, denikias, and kolchakias.
And in those tense days, when the red units under the leadership of Stalin and Voroshilov had defeated the first encirclement of Tsaritsyn and inflicted a series of strong blows on the troops of Ataman Krasnov, the internal counterrevolution with the help and support of imperialist intelligence agents and Trotskyists with Bukharinites organized the assassination of Uritsky and attempt on Lenin.
Having received a report on these crimes of counter-revolution, Stalin and Voroshilov tear off a cable addressed to Lenin:
“The Military Council of the North Caucasian Military District has found out about the villainous attempt of the bourgeoisie hirelings on the life of … Comrade Lenin. The military council responds to this mean attempt from behind by organizing open systematic mass terror against the bourgeoisie and its agents. ”
There was no other way of acting in that formidable situation. The slightest liberalism towards the bourgeoisie would have led to the defeat of the proletarian revolution. — note by WP)
The physiognomy of Tsaritsyn in a short time became completely unrecognizable. The city, in the gardens of which music had recently thundered, where the run-away bourgeoisie, along with the white officers openly, wandered in crowds through the streets, turns into a red military camp, where the strictest order and military discipline dominate everything. This strengthening of the rear immediately has a beneficial effect on the mood of our regiments fighting at the front. The commanding and political composition and the entire Red Army mass are beginning to feel that they are being ruled by a firm revolutionary hand that is fighting for the interests of the workers and peasants, mercilessly punishing everyone who occurs on the path of this struggle.
Photo 1. Order of I.V. Stalin, a member of the Military Council of the North Caucasian Military District, on the military mobilization of civil public officers
Photo 2. The order of the headquarters of the commander of the Tsaritsyn group of troops K. Voroshilov. The author of the order is People’s Commissar I. Stalin, a member of the military council of the North Caucasus Military District (pay attention to paragraph 3 of the order: it is clearly seen at what level the military performing discipline and command of the troops were before Stalin’s arrival and the arrival of the Voroshilov group in Tsaritsyn)
Comrade Stalin’s leadership is not limited to the office. When the necessary order is established, when the revolutionary organization is restored, he goes to the front, which by then has stretched for 600 km or more. And it had to be Stalin possessing the tremendous organizational skills so that, without having any military training (Comrade Stalin had never served in military service!), to understand so well special military issues in the then overly difficult situation.
Photo 3. Order of the Revolutionary Military Council of the 10th Army on the eviction of the Tsaritsyn bourgeoisie and other exploitative elements on the outskirts of the city to the workers’ barracks and on moving the workers and other poorest working people into the comfortable housing.
I remember as if it were today, the beginning of August 1918. The Krasnov Cossack units are attacking Tsaritsyn, trying to throw off the red regiments to the Volga with a concentric blow. For many days, the red troops, led by the communist division, entirely composed of the workers of Donbass, have been rebuffing the exceptionally strong onslaught of the perfectly organized Cossack units. These were the days of the greatest stress. One should have seen Comrade Stalin at this time. As always, calm, deep in his thoughts, he literally did not sleep for whole days and nights, distributing his intensive work between combat positions and army headquarters. The situation on the front was becoming almost disastrous. The Krasnov units, commanded by Fitzkhalaurov, Mamontov and others, were hampered by a well-thought-out maneuver by our exhausted troops, who were suffering huge losses. The front of the enemy, built in a horseshoe shape, resting its flanks on the Volga, was tightening more and more every day. We had no ways to retreat But Stalin did not care about that. He was imbued with one awareness, one single thought – to conquer, to smash the enemy, by all means. And that unshakable will of Stalin was passed on to all his closest associates, and, despite the almost hopeless situation, no one doubted victory.
And we did win. The defeated enemy was driven back far to the Don.
At the end of 1918, a catastrophic situation was created on the eastern front, and especially in the sector of the Third Army, which was forced to surrender Perm. Over the rim of the enemy, this army was completely demoralized by the end of November. As a result of the six-month-long unceasing battles, in the absence of any reliable reserves, with a lack of logistics system, disgusting food supply (the 29th Division was fighting off literally for 5 days without a piece of bread), with a 35-degree frost, complete off-road, a huge stretch of the front (more than 400 km), with a weak headquarters, the 3rd army was unable to resist the onslaught of the superior enemy forces.
For the completeness of the sad picture, one must add massive betrayal of the commanding staff of former officers, the surrender of entire regiments as a result of poor class selection of recruits and wretched leadership. In such a situation, the 3rd army finally collapsed, randomly retreating, having completed 300 km in 20 days and losing on the way 18 thousand soldiers, dozens of guns, hundreds of machine guns, etc., while the enemy quickly moved forward, creating a real threat to Vyatka and the entire eastern front. (Here it is necessary to say a few words about the military-political background of the Perm catastrophe. By April 1918, it became clear to the Soviet government that the Soviet power in the Far East and Siberia would not last long because the center could not provide real assistance to local councils and other revolutionary organizations because of the remoteness of these areas. As early as April, 7, 1918, Lenin warned of the imminent danger of interventionists invading deep into Siberia. He telegraphed to Vladivostok sovdep:
“We consider the situation to be very serious and are categorically warning our comrades. Do not make illusions: the Japanese will most probably attack. It’s unavoidable. They will probably get help from all allies without exception. Therefore, we must begin to prepare without the slightest delay, to prepare seriously, to prepare with all our might. Most of all attention should be paid to the correct withdrawal, retreat, removal of stocks, railroad materials. Do not set unworkable goals. Prepare explosions and detonation of rails, removal of cars and locomotives. Prepare minefields near Irkutsk or in Transbaikalia …”
Unfortunately, this Lenin’s directive was not fully implemented by the local Soviet authorities, although the forecast of events indicated in it was fully confirmed. Less than a month later, the Czechoslovakians, together with the Russian White Guards, the Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries, overthrew Soviet power in the whole territory from Vladivostok to Simbirsk. They organized the White Guard government in Omsk, and in Samara the Social Revolutionary government of the so-called “Committee of the members of the constituent assembly” (Komuch) was established. Soon after all that, the Entente Supreme Military Council (leaders of the council: British Prime Minister Lloyd George, French President Clemenceau and Marshal Foch of France) persuaded the American government, headed by President Wilson, to speed up preparations for the invasion and joint intervention in the Soviet Far East and Siberia. After some hesitation of the American oligarchy, connected with the interclass struggle between the groups of imperialists and isolationists, the USA agreed to take part in the intervention against the RSFSR. As a result, in July 1918, a joint allied landing force commanded by Japanese generals landed in Vladivostok. From this moment on, a full-scale intervention of the Entente is unfolding against our country, the military part of which is led by French General Janin and his English colleague Knox.
Directly, a feverish organization of all counterrevolutionary forces is set up to achieve the main goal – the seizure of the Soviet capital, Moscow. To solve this strategic task in November 1918, the leaders of the Entente nominated Admiral Kolchak for the post of “supreme ruler of Russia” and help him to form a fairly strong army (up to 150,000 bayonets and sabers, artillery, vehicles, airplanes, armored vehicles, armored trains and even tanks).
The strategic plan of the command of the Entente was to bring the entire Siberian-Far Eastern counter-revolution with the allied international troops in the European north of Russia, commanded by the British General Ironside (about 25,000 troops with equipment), and then develop a concentric attack on Moscow.
It was within the framework of the general strategic plot of the Entente that the plan for the strike of the Kolchak army against Perm and Vyatka appeared. The fulfillment of this plan threatened the young Soviet republic with innumerable disasters.
Meanwhile, the state of the Red forces of the Eastern Front, and especially the Third Army, which occupied the Perm region, did not provide any resistance to the strong and well-armed enemy. The protégés of Trotsky recruited from the former military experts, in whose hands was the leadership of the armies of the Eastern Front, brought the defense case almost to a complete collapse. As a result, when at the end of November the Kolchak Siberian Army under the command of General Gaida launched an offensive against Perm, a catastrophic situation was quickly created on the front of the Third Red Army.
What is the essence of this situation? Kolchak’s troops, launching the offensive, delivered a series of heavy blows to the 3rd Army and occupied the city of Perm on December 24. The best Kolchak forces with considerable superiority in men and armaments were moved against the Soviet troops. At the same time, behind the back of the Soviet Eastern Front, the British and White Guards captured the town of Shenkursk and pushed the forces of the 6th Soviet Army to Kotlas.
Kolchak’s offensive caught the 3rd Army stretched along the front over 500 km long, while the left flank of the army was not protected from detour by the enemy. There were no reserves at the front, neither in the army, nor in individual divisions. These reserves were not created even in the process of retreat, although this could have been done at the expense of the 2nd, 5th and 1st armies. The well-developed railway network of the Northern Urals was absolutely not used for maneuvering the troops of the Red Army.
As a result, at the time of the loss of Perm, which Trotsky’s protégés had surrendered maliciously, without a fight, the entire 3rd Army was in a disastrous situation. It left the entire Northern Urals with its industry and infrastructure. A number of divisions retreated to the west in complete disarray. In the entire 3rd Army, which in November had numbered 35,520 bayonets and sabers, 111 guns and 650 machine guns, by the end of December, 12,732 completely exhausted and half-starved fighters remained. The army did not receive replenishment of people and weapons. Moreover, the Trotskyists, without the knowledge of the Soviet government and the Central Committee, had transferred 5660 bayonets and sabers and 40 machine guns to the Western Front from the northern wing of the Eastern Front. When Lenin was informed about this transfer of forces from the most dangerous section of the Eastern Front, he decisively intervened in that matter and categorically demanded not only the cessation of such “maneuvers”, but also the allocation of urgent assistance to the Eastern Front. On Lenin’s orders, Commander Vatsetis ordered the transfer of a rifle brigade to the 3rd Army, but sending it was criminally delayed by the hidden enemies of the revolution.
In the Third Army itself, the massive assignment of military experts to the command posts, which Trotsky imposed, was widely practiced. At the same time, political verification and control of their activities were not provided, which led to frequent betrayals, loss of secret documents, espionage, disruption of military operations, etc. In turn, Trotsky, who hated the commanders and commissars who had come out from among the working class and the poor peasantry, organized a provocation against the headquarters of the 3rd Army. In the autumn of 1918, taking advantage of the fact that the former officers were rushing to the whites, Trotsky and his henchmen tried to destroy the peasant and workers’ army commanding and political staff, by ordering all commanders and commissars of divisions, brigades and regiments to be shot. Lenin and the Party Central Committee, having learned of this order from the Military and Maritime Affairs Commissar Trotsky, immediately canceled it and, in order to strengthen the 3rd Army, instantly sent there a proven group of commissars and commanders.
On the other hand, in the disintegration of the Eastern Front in the Perm direction, Trotsky was strongly assisted by military experts entrenched in the All-Russian General Staff. They criminally violated the class principle of recruiting the commanders of the Red Army, which was established by Lenin’s decree of January 15, 1918, which led to the clogging of headquarters at all levels with elements that were alien and hostile to Soviet power. It was in this way that the Perm brigade command was formed, which at the time of the onset of Kolchak proved to be incapable. And the 3rd Brigade of the 7th Infantry Division, headed by counter-revolutionary elements, arrived at the front in the Perm area completely propagandized against the revolution. Those marching companies that were sent from this brigade to the front line, not only did not restore the combat capability of the army, but, on the contrary, strengthened the decomposition of those units where they arrived for reinforcement.
Few people know that with the loss of Perm in the 3rd Army, all party political work finally collapsed. Back in November 1918, the army had a fairly powerful party core of 2,000 communists, but there was no leadership from the party organizations from above, on the part of the army’s political department, since the political department as such existed only on paper. As it turned out, the army actually did not have a Revolutionary Military Council: it consisted of two members, of which one was the commander of the army, and the second had no definite duties at all. Political departments in the divisions, although they existed, worked poorly, the army press was falling apart. The commissar body was picked up at random and in many cases, it was inactive.
As for the rear services of the 3rd Army, they were also not so far apart from the political bodies. The management of the rear was heavily contaminated with enemies and people alien to Soviet power, and there was no political control over their activities. At a time when the working people, denying themselves everything, gave the army the minimum necessary armament and supplies, the rear bodies were squandering and abducting a significant part of the stockpiles, handing them out to numerous and dubious civil institutions. Meanwhile, the soldiers of the 3rd Army failed to receive warm uniforms and footwear for the winter campaign, and the ration was cut to the limit, although hundreds of tons of flour, fat, corned beef, etc. were festering in the army and divisional warehouses. For example, the 30th division was literally stripped and undressed in November, and the 29th division, during the decisive battles (November 29 – December 3, 1918), for five days was not receiving even crackers, to say nothing of hot food.
With the loss of the army base in Perm, the supply of troops deteriorated further. In winter, army units and formations still used the summer wheeled wagon train and had no skis at all, which hampered the maneuver and limited reconnaissance and infantry movement. At the same time, not a single cannon of the numerous artillery of the 3rd Army was mounted on skids. This prevented the artillery from maneuvering off-road, which in the conditions of war equals its death or senselessness.
Political work among the local population, dwelling in the army band, was abandoned. Taking advantage of this, the hostile elements that had infiltrated the local organs of the Soviet government were carrying out counter-revolutionary work with impunity. Of the 4,766 employees of the Soviet institutions in Vyatka, 4,567 under the tsars were officials of the provincial and district councils. These “Soviet” employees were secretly and clearly distorting the revolutionary decrees of the center, thereby trying to embitter the poor and middle peasants, as well as the most backward part of the working class, and incite them against Soviet power. Party organizations in cities and villages, local councils and committees of the poor also turned out to be littered with people alien to the party and worked poorly. In the villages of the Perm Territory, kulak riots broke out here and there, and the Red Army had to fight simultaneously both at the front and in the rear — against counter-revolutionary gangs of kulaks and their henchmen.
Trotsky, as chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council, and Commander-in-Chief Vatsetis tried in every way to hide from the Party and the government the fact of the collapse of the Eastern Front. But the disaster of the 3rd Army near Perm revealed this collapse. It became obvious that the loss of Perm and the great losses of the Red Army during the retreat were not private and not random, but were directly caused by the wrecking by the military counterrevolution and the patronage of these crimes by the top leadership of the Red Army, i.e. Trotsky and headquarters of Vatsetis. Meanwhile, the Eastern Front at that time was the main front of the Soviet Republic, and only decisive measures by the CPSU (b) and the Soviet government could save the situation in this sector of the struggle. And these measures were taken. — note by WP )
Those events set before the Central Committee the question of the need to find out the causes of the catastrophe and immediately put in order the units of the Third Army. Who should be sent to accomplish this most difficult task? And Lenin telegraphed the then chairman of the RMCR (Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic. — note by WP):
“There are a number of party reports from under Perm about the disastrous state of the army and excessive drinking. I was thinking of sending Stalin – I am afraid that Smilga will be gentle towards … who, they say, also drinks, and is not able to restore order. ”
The Central Committee takes the following decision:
“To appoint a party-investigative commission consisting of members of the Central Committee Dzerzhinsky and Stalin for a detailed investigation: of the reasons for the surrender of Perm, the last defeats on the Ural front, and the clarification of all the circumstances accompanying these phenomena. The Central Committee entitles the commission to take all necessary measures for the speedy restoration of both Party and Soviet work in the whole of the 3rd and 2nd armies” (telegram by Sverdlov number 00079).
This resolution seems to limit the functions of comrades Stalin and Dzerzhinsky by “investigating the reasons for the surrender of Perm and the recent defeats on the Ural front.” But Comrade Stalin transfers the center of gravity of his “party-investigation” work to taking effective measures to restore the situation, strengthen the front, etc. In the first telegram to Lenin of January 5, 1919, on the results of the commission’s work Stalin does not say a single word about “the causes of the catastrophe”, and from the spot he raises the question of what should be done to save the army. Here is this telegram:
“To the Chairman of the Defense Council, Comrade Lenin. The investigation has begun. We will report on the progress of the investigation incidentally. For now we consider it necessary to state to you one urgent need of the Third Army. The fact is that all tha has remained of the 3rdArmy (more than 30 thousand people) are only about 11 thousand tired, exhausted soldiers who can barely restrain the pressure of the enemy. Units sent by the Commander-in-Chief are unreliable; some even hostile to us and need serious filtering (Commander – I.I. Vatsetis. From July 1918 he was commander of the Eastern Front. From 09/01/1918 to 07/09/1919 – Commander-in-Chief of all Armed Forces of the RSFSR. He was arrested in July 1919 on suspicion of treason and subversive management in the Red Army. A little over a month later, he was released at the request of Trotsky, the Military and Navy Commissar. 11/30/1937 he was arrested as a spy and a major military wrecker and organizer of the defeat of the Soviet troops in the Northern Urals in 1918-1919. Condemned by the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the USSR on charges of espionage and active counter-revolutionary work and sentenced to capital punishment. Executed on July 29, 1938. Rehabilitated by Khrushchevites legally and on the party line in the spring of 1957 — note by WP) To save the remnants of the Third Army and prevent the enemy from rapidly advancing to Vyatka (according to all data received from the front and Third Army commanders, this danger is real), it is absolutely necessary to immediately transfer at least three completely reliable regiments from Russia to the commander. We urge you to put pressure on the relevant military institutions in this direction. We repeat: without such a measure, Vyatka is threatened with the fate of Perm, this is the general opinion of the comrades involved, to whom we join based on all the data we have.
Stalin, Dzerzhinsky. 5/I—19. Vyatka”.
And only on January 13, 1919, did Comrade Stalin send along with Comrade Dzerzhinsky his brief preliminary report on the “causes of the catastrophe”, which boiled down to the following: fatigue and exhaustion of the army by the time the enemy attacked, the lack of reserves for the army at the moment, the separation of the headquarters from the army, the mismanagement of the commander, the unacceptably criminal method of controlling the front on the part of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic, which paralyzed the front with its conflicting directives and took away from the front every opportunity the help of the Third Army, the unreliability of reinforcements sent from the rear, because of the old methods of recruitment, the absolute fragility of the rear, accounted for by complete helplessness and inability of Soviet and party organizations. (It is all about the many controversial and superficial directives of the Eastern Front, which in the fall – winter of 1918 came from the headquarters of the people’s commissar for military and naval affairs Trotsky. Without any consideration of the specific situation on the ground, the front was ordered from afar to attack where it was impossible or even criminal to attack at the moment and vice versa. Such a “remote” control of the front disorganized it, so in fact, it ceased to exist, as a whole.
In his memoirs, the former member of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic Gusev gave a rather accurate assessment of the military organizational “work” of Trotsky and the Trotskyists. Thus, in describing the inoperability and malicious bureaucracy of the central military apparatus, headed by Trotsky, Gusev recalled:
“There was no military center planning, centralizing, managing, under Trotsky. Trotsky was trying to single-handedly turn into such a center moving along fronts (Gusev here means the notorious “train of the chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council.” – note by WP) and continuing to work in the same partisan methods of 1918: block trains instead of planned supply of troops, excessive abundance of all kinds of pressure and repression, little organization, conflicting instructions, a lot of empty agitation. There was no Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic, although there were almost 15 members in it. It was never meeting. The military commissariat was without a board. The management of the affairs of the RMCR (Revolutionary Military Council. – note by WP) and the All-Russian main headquarters were cut off from the armies and fronts. The field headquarters was located in Serpukhov and was not engaged in any organizational affairs or procurement. ”.
But even this is not a full list of the “exploits” of Trotsky and Vatsetis. On May 25, 1919, the Central Committee issued a directive to the Eastern Front to conquer the Urals before winter. Against this directive, Trotsky and the whole elite of the military department immediately reared up. His “arguments” were as follows: since the attack of Denikin’s armies from the North Caucasus had begun in the Kharkov direction, in the east it was necessary to strengthen on the line of the Belaya River and transfer most of the Red divisions from the Eastern to the Southern Front. In fact, such a strategy of Trotsky meant that the Kolchak counter-revolution would have been given a good opportunity to recover, rest, gather strength, and again go on the offensive.
In the article “Trotskyism or Leninism” (I.V. Stalin, Works., Vol. 6, pp. 336–337 in a footnote.), Stalin writes about this “strategy” (bold type by the author.):
“About Kolchak. It happened in the summer of 1919. Our troops were attacking Kolchak and operating near Ufa. The meeting of the Central Committee. Trotsky proposed to delay the attack on the line of the Belaya River (near Ufa), leaving the Urals in the hands of Kolchak, withdraw part of the troops from the Eastern Front and transfer them to the Southern Front. There was a heated debate. The Central Committee did not agree with Trotsky, finding that it is impossible to leave the Ural with its factories, with its railway network in Kolchak’s hands, where he can easily recover, muster a fist and find himself again at the Volga. What was needed was to draw Kolchak first beyond the Urals, and only after that do the transfer of forces to the south. The Central Committee rejected Trotsky’s plan. The latter resigned. The Central Committee did not accept the resignation. Commander Vatsetis, a supporter of the Trotsky plan, resigned. His place was taken by the new commander in chief, Kamenev. From that moment on, Trotsky leaved the direct participation in the affairs of the Eastern Front. ” — note by WP)
At the same time, Comrade Stalin outlined and immediately implemented, with his usual readiness and firmness, a whole series of practical measures for raising the fighting capacity of the Third Army.
“By January 15,” we read in his report to the Defense Council, “1,200 reliable bayonets and sabers were sent to the front; in a day – two cavalry squadrons. On the 20th, the 62nd Regiment of the 3rd Brigade was sent (it had been filtered thoroughly). These units have made it possible to halt the enemy’s offensive, turning the tide of the Third Army and opening our attack on Perm, which has so far been successful. In the rear of the army there is a serious purge of Soviet and party institutions. Revolutionary committees have been organized in Vyatka and in county towns. The introduction of strong revolutionary organizations in the countryside has begun and is going on. All party and Soviet work is being rebuilt in a new way. The military control has been cleared and reorganized. The municipal extraordinary commission has been purged and replenished with new party workers. The unloading of the Vyatka junction has been organized …” and so on
As a result of all these measures, not only was the further advance of the enemy suspended, but in January 1919 the eastern front launched an offensive, and Uralsk was taken on our right flank.
That is how Comrade Stalin understood and accomplished his task “to investigate the causes of the catastrophe.” Investigating, finding out the reasons and right there on the spot, by his own efforts, eliminating them and organizing the necessary turning point.
In the spring of 1919, the White Guard army of General Yudenich, fulfilling the task set by Kolchak to “seize Petrograd” and pull the revolutionary troops from the eastern front, with the help of the White Estonians, White Finns and the English fleet, launched an unexpected attack and created a real threat to Petrograd. The seriousness of the situation was aggravated by the fact that counterrevolutionary conspiracies were discovered in Petrograd itself, the leaders of which were military specialists who had served in the headquarters of the western front, in the 7th Army and the Kronstadt naval base. In parallel with Yudenich’s offensive on Petrograd, Bulak-Balakhovich won out several times in the Pskov sector. On the front there began treason. Several of our regiments went over to the side of the enemy; the entire garrison of the Red Hill and the Gray Horse forts openly opposed Soviet power. The confusion took possession of the entire 7th army, the front faltered, the enemy was approaching Petrograd. It was necessary to immediately save the day.
The Central Committee again chose Comrade Stalin for that purpose. Within three weeks, Comrade Stalin managed to create a turning point. The laxity and confusion of the units was quickly eliminated, the headquarters were straightened out, the mobilization of the Petrograd workers and communists was made once and again, the enemies and traitors were ruthlessly killed up. Comrade Stalin interfered in the operational work of the military command. This is what he telegraphed to Comrade Lenin:
“Following the “Red Hill”, the “Gray Horse” was liquidated, the guns they have are in perfect order, there is a fast … (indiscernible) … of all the forts and fortresses. Marine experts claim that taking the “Red Hill” from the sea is an overturn of all marine science. I can only mourn the so-called science. The rapid capture of the “Hill” is explained by the crudest interference on the part of me and civilians on the whole in operational matters, up to the cancellation of orders on sea and land and the imposition of our own ones. I consider it my duty to declare that I will continue to act in this way, despite all my reverence for science. Stalin “.
Six days later, Comrade Stalin informs Lenin:
“The turning point in our units has begun. For the week, we did not have a single case of individual or group changing sides. Deserters are returning in thousands. The rush from the enemy to our side has become more frequent. Within a week, about 400 people have gone over to us, most of them with weapons. Yesterday afternoon our offensive began. Although the promised reinforcement has not yet come, it was impossible to keep standing on the line we had stopped at – too close to Peter. So far, the offensive is proceeding successfully, the whites are fleeing, and today we have occupied the Kernovo-Voronino-Slepino-Kaskovo line. We have taken prisoners, two or more guns, machine guns, ammunition. The enemy ships do not appear, apparently afraid of the “Red Hill”, which is now completely ours. Immediately send 2 million cartridges at my disposal for the 6th division …”
These two telegrams give a complete picture of the tremendous creative work that Comrade Stalin did, eliminating a highly dangerous situation around red Peter.
The fall of 1919 is memorable. The decisive, turning point of the entire civil war was advancing. Supplied by the “allies”, supported by their headquarters, the White Guard hordes of Denikin were approaching Orel. The entire huge southern front was rolling back slowly. The domestic position was no less difficult. Food difficulties had become extremely acute. The industry shad topped for a lack of fuel. Inside the country, and even in Moscow itself, counter-revolutionary elements began to stir. Danger was threatening Tula, danger was hanging over Moscow.
We had to save the situation. And the Central Committee sent Comrade Stalin to the southern front, as a member of the Revolutionary Military Council. Now it is no longer necessary to conceal that before his appointment Comrade Stalin placed three main conditions before the Central Committee: 1) Trotsky should not interfere in the affairs of the southern front and should not go beyond his dividing lines, 2) a number of officials which comrade Stalin considered unsuitable to restore the situation in the troops should be immediately withdrawn from the southern front , and 3) new officials at Stalin’s choice should be immediately sent to the southern front to carry out this task. These conditions were fully accepted. (At a time when the Eastern Front was leading a decisive offensive against Kolchak, the Entente switched its efforts to comprehensive assistance to Denikin — with instructors, weapons, equipment, and money. In May 1919, the Denikin armies under the general name “Armed Forces of the South of Russia” began their rapid offensive in the North Caucasus, in the Ukraine and in the Donbas. Even earlier, in March-April 1919, the White Guard agents and British intelligence had started a revolt against Soviet power in the rear of the Southern Front, near the Veshenskaya, Kazanskaya and Migulinskaya villages. The rebels were well armed and numerically strong (up to 30,000 people, 6 guns and 27 machine guns, in fact, two infantry divisions).
The Central Committee was extremely indignant at the inaction of the command of the Southern Front and of the party and Soviet organizations on the ground who allowed such an increase in the counter-revolutionary movement in their rear. May 6, 1919 Lenin telegraphs to Trotsky:
“… take the most energetic measures and root out sluggishness. Should we send additional forces of the security officers? Wire details. The delay in the uprising is intolerable “.
But Trotsky and his accomplices again did not lift a finger to carry out the directive of the Central Committee. Meanwhile, having received a luxurious “gift” from the Southern Front in the form of almost a month of calm, on May 24, Denikin launched a general offensive. On May 31, the whites occupied Millerovo, and on June 7 they united with the rebels in the Veshenskaya region. This unification of the counterrevolutionary forces was a great support for Denikin, which allowed his army to move quickly to the north. Much of the blame for such unification of the counter-revolutionary forces lay on Trotsky and the command of the Southern Front. — note by WP)
But in order to embrace this enormous colossus (from the Volga to the Polish-Ukrainian border), called the southern front, numbering several hundred thousand troops, a precise operational plan was needed, a clearly formulated task for the front was needed. Then this goal could be set for the troops and by regrouping and concentrating the best forces on the main axes they could strike the enemy.
Comrade Stalin found a very uncertain and difficult situation at the front. On the main line Kursk – Orel – Tula, we were attacked, the eastern flank was helplessly marking time. As for the operational directives, he was offered the old plan (of September) for delivering the main attack from the left flank, from Tsaritsyn to Novorossiysk, through the Don steppes.
After reviewing the situation, Comrade Stalin immediately makes a decision. He categorically rejects the old plan, puts forward new proposals and offers them to Lenin in the next note, which speaks for itself. It is so interesting, so vividly painting the strategic talent of Comrade Stalin, so characteristic for the very decisiveness of the questions raised, that we consider it useful to quote it fully:
“About two months ago, the Commander-in-Chief (S. S. Kamenev (1881–1936) – Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the RSFSR from July 1919 to April 1924. In 1927–1934, the Deputy Commissar for Military and Maritime Affairs and Deputy Chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council of the USSR, since 1934 the Head of the Red Army Air Defense Directorate. A Trotskyist, one of the leaders of the military right-Trotskyist conspiracy in the Red Army. A spy and saboteur. He was in charge of the collapse of the country’s air defense system, especially in the western military districts. He caused enormous damage to the defense of the USSR. Died in 1936, having avoided exposure and trial. — note by WP) “About two months ago, the Commander-in-Chief did not object in principle to a strike from west to east through the Donets Basin, as the main attack. He only refrained from such a strike, referring to the “legacy” he had obtained as a result of the retreat of the southern troops in the summer, i.e., to the spontaneously formed group of troops of the southeastern front, the restructuring of which (grouping) would have led to a big waste of time, to the benefit of Denikin … But now the situation and the group of forces associated with it have changed at the base: the 8th army (the main one on the former southern front) has moved around the southern front and is directly facing the Donets Basin; The Budenny Horse Corps (the other main force) has also moved in Southern Front area, with another new force adding – Latvian Division – which a month later, being refreshed, is going again to present a formidable force against Denikin … So what makes the Commander (General Headquarters) to defend the old plan? Obviously, only persistence, if you will, factionalism, the dumbest and most dangerous thing for the Republic, cultivated in the Commander-in-Chief by the “strategic” cockerel by his side … (The Strategic Cockerel is a military man P.P. Lebedev, a former major general of the tsar general staff. He died in 1933. — note by WP) The other day, the Commander-in-Chief gave Shorin a directive on an attack on Novorossiysk across the Don steppes along a line along which it may be convenient for our aviators to fly, but it will be absolutely impossible for our infantry and artillery to roam. There is no need to prove that this extravagant (supposed) campaign in an environment hostile to us, in conditions of absolute impassability, threatens us with complete collapse. It is easy to understand that this campaign on Cossack villages, as shown by recent practice, can only rally the Cossacks against us around Denikin to protect their villages, can only set Denikin as the savior of the Don, can only create an army of Cossacks for Denikin, i.e. can only strengthen Denikin. That is why it is necessary now, without losing time, to change the old plan already canceled by practice, replacing it with the main strike plan through Kharkov – Donets basin to Rostov: first, here we will have a non hostile environment, on the contrary, sympathetic to us, which will make easier ; second, we are getting the most important railway network (Donetsk) and the main artery that feeds Denikin’s army, the Voronezh-Rostov line … third, with this advancement, we are cutting Denikin’s army into two parts, of which we are leaving the volunteer part for Makhno to thrive on, and the Cossacks armies are under the threat of our entering their rear; four, we are getting the opportunity to embroil the Cossacks with Denikin, who (Denikin) will try to move the Cossack units to the west in the event of our successful advance, which most Cossacks will object to … Five, we are getting the coal, and Denikin remains without coal. We are in no position to hesitate with the adoption of this plan… In short: the old plan, already canceled by life should in no case be electroplated, it is dangerous for the Republic, it will certainly ease the position of Denikin. It must be replaced by another plan. Circumstances and conditions have not only matured for this, but are also imperatively dictating such a replacement … Without this, my work on the southern front becomes meaningless, criminal, unnecessary, which gives me the right or, rather, obliges me to go anywhere, even to hell, just not to stay on the south front.
Comment on this document is needless. It is worth to pay attention to the measure by which Comrade Stalin measures the shortest operational direction. In civil war, simple arithmetic is insufficient and often erroneous. The path from Tsaritsyn to Novorossiysk may be much longer because it passes through a hostile class environment. And on the contrary, the path from Tula to Novorossiysk may turn out to be much shorter, because it goes through the working Kharkov, through the mining Donbass. The evaluation of the directios shows the main qualities of Comrade Stalin as a proletarian revolutionary, as a real strategist of the civil war.
Comrade Stalin’s plan was adopted by the Central Committee. Lenin himself wrote with his own hand an order to the field staff about the immediate change of the directive that had outlived itself. (This need was also due to the fact that on those crucial days, when the Denikin armies were still operating in the Kursk and Voronezh gubernias, the criminality of the working methods of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic and its head Trotsky was finally found out. September 16, i.e. five days before the capture of Kursk by the whites and three days before the unhindered return through the red front of General Mamontov’s cavalry, Lenin writes a note to a member of the Revolutionary Military Council Gusev:
“Comrade Gusev. Delving into Sklyansky’s letter (on the state of affairs of 15.09.) And the summaries of the reports, I am convinced that our RVSR works poorly. To calm and calm down is a bad tactic. It turns out we are “playing calmness”, but in fact we have stagnation – almost collapse …
Stagnation with Mamontov , being late again and again. The troops marching from the north to Voronezh were late. We were late with the transfer of the 21st division to the south. Late with auto-machine guns. Late with the connection. Whether the commander in chief went to Orel alone or with you, nothing was really done. Relations with Selivachev (commander of a group of 13th and 18th armies. – note by WP) were not established – contrary to the long-standing and direct requirement of the Central Committee.
As a result, both with Mamontov, and Selivachev there is stagnation (instead of the “victories” any day promised by the childish drawings – remember the drawings you had shown me? And I said: you forget about the enemy!) (Here, Lenin apparently means the operational maps showing the “ideological” content of the commander’s action plan with colored pencils. It was easy to defeat Denikin on paper. — note by WP).
If Selivachev escapes or his superiors change, it is the RVSR that will be guilty, for they have been sleeping and calming, but doing nothing. It is necessary to send the best, most energetic commissioners to the south, not thralls of sleep.
We are being late with the formation too. We are skipping the autumn, and Denikin will triple the strength, get tanks and so on and so forth. You can not do it this way. It is necessary to turn the sleepy pace of work into a living one.
Please answer me (via L. Fotieva). Lenin, 09/16/1919.
P.S. Apparently, our RVSR “commands”, without being interested or unwilling to follow the execution. If this is our common sin, then in military matters it is a direct death. ”
Lenin writes these lines on the most critical days on the Southern Front. It was impossible to endure the entire military-political situation in this direction any longer: all the promises and color “plans” of the main and front command remained unfulfilled, the deadlines for the operations were missed. It was necessary to change the whole organization of work on the southern front, and, above all, it was urgent to eliminate from the Southern Front Trotsky and his accomplices , who were deliberately bringing the army and staff work to complete collapse. — note by WP)
The main blow was struck by the southern front in the direction of Kharkov – Donbass – Rostov. The results are well known: the turning point in the civil war was reached. Denikin hordes were overturned in the Black Sea. The Ukraine and the North Caucasus were exempt from the White Guards. Comrade Stalin had a great merit in all that.
It is necessary to dwell on one of the most important historical moments associated with the name of Comrade Stalin on the southern front. I mean the formation of the Cavalry Army. This was the first experience of bringing cavalry divisions into a large unit such as the army. Comrade Stalin saw the power of the cavalry in civil war. He exactly understood their enormous significance for a crushing maneuver. But in the past, no one had such a peculiar experience as the action of cavalry armies. Nothing was written about that in the works of scholars, and therefore such an event caused either bewilderment or direct resistance. But Comrade Stalin is not like that: once he was sure of the usefulness and correctness of his plans, he always went ahead in their implementation. So on November 11, the RMS of the Republic received the following report from the RMS of the southern front:
“To the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic.
Revolutionary Military Council of the southern front in its meeting on November 11 this year, based on the conditions of the present situation, decided to form the Cavalry Army consisting of the 1st and 2nd cavalry corps and one rifle brigade (another brigade is to be added later).
The staff of the Cavalry Army Revolutionary Military Council: commander com. Budyonny and members: coms. Voroshilov and Shchadenko.
Reference: Resolution of the Revolutionary Military Council of the South Front of November 11, 1919 No. 505 / a. Please approve the above”.
The cavalry army was created despite and even against the will of the center. The initiative of its creation belongs to Comrade Stalin, who quite clearly imagined the whole need for such an organization. The historical implications of this step are well known to all.
And one more characteristic feature of Comrade Stalin came to light on the southern front quite clearly: acting by strike forces; choosing the main directions, focusing on them the best parts to beat the enemy. In this respect, as well as in choosing a direction, he achieved great art.
After Denikin’s defeat, the authority of Comrade Stalin as a first-class organizer and military leader becomes indisputable. (There are many examples in the history of military art when brilliantly developed plans of operations could not be carried out in practice. Stalin’s great merit in defeating Denikin lay precisely in the fact that he not only developed and achieved the approval of his operational plan, but that, despite numerous interferences on the part of Trotsky and the entire bourgeois fifth column in the Red Army, despite the enormous difficulties of preparing and conducting the offensive, he brought his plan to a victorious conclusion.
It is clear that this task was not an easy one. In the situation of Denikin’s offensive and the almost catastrophic retreat of our troops, with the Trotskyists, traitors and wreckers persistently implanting the idea among Red Army men that “the cause of the Soviet government is lost anyway,” it was necessary to establish control, to carry out a radical purge of all the army executive offices at the South direction from unsuitable, unreliable officers and, finally, to transfer to the front forces confidence in the ability not only to stop the attack of the white troops on Moscow, but also to defeat them.
Along with the analysis and resolution of operational-strategic and military-technical issues, Stalin takes a number of measures to strengthen the rear of the Southern Front. He organizes and carries out his activities, based on such a principal position:
“No army in the world can win (speaking, certainly, of a long and lasting victory) without a stable rear. The rear for the front is the first thing, for that, and only that feeds the front not only with all kinds of contentment, but also with people – fighters, moods and ideas. Unstable, and even worse, hostile rear necessarily turns the best, most cohesive army into an unstable and loose mass”(J. Stalin. Articles and speeches on the Ukraine, collection. M .: Rabochy, 1928, p. 93.)
All these tasks and questions were solved by the Bolsheviks in the shortest possible time. The Party Central Committee took all measures for the successful implementation of Stalin’s plan. The entire country actually mobilized to help the Southern Front. In the midst of the offensive of Denikin against Moscow and Yudenich against Petrograd, the Central Committee is conducting a series of party and Komsomol mobilizations. Communists and Komsomol members joining the army cemented its weakened ranks, increased the combat capability of our troops. And if by inertia the whole front was still rolling back to the north, then within the units and formations of the Red Army and in the moods of the fighters there were already all the signs of the coming turning point. Alongside with the improvement of the moral state by solid revolutionary methods, indiscipline and laxity were eliminated, and combat training was increased. Deserters and traitors were indulged in the trial of a military tribunal and shot up in front of the line. The activities of the Stalin group on the decisive expulsion of unsuitable and hostile elements from parts, headquarters and directorates immediately affected the improvement of the work of all these military bodies. The leadership of the troops of the Southern Front gradually passed into the hands of loyal, dedicated to revolution commanders, commissars and staff workers. At the same time, Stalin’s authority, both as a political and a high-class military leader, grew very quickly: the appearance of Stalin in various parts of the Southern Front among the troops was considered a guarantee of a successful offensive and victory.
As a result, fulfilling the Stalin plan to defeat Denikin, the Red armies marched over 700 km, pursuing the Whites. According to incomplete data in the strategic operation of the Southern Front, the enemy lost 35,000 people killed, while more than 40,000 were captured. The Red Army captured 750 guns, 1,130 machine guns, 23 armored trains, 11 tanks, 400 steam locomotives, 12,200 carriages, and huge stocks of various military equipment supplied to Denikin by the Entente. By the spring of 1920, Denikin’s army had almost ceased to exist. Only the remnants of the Denikin Volunteer Army in mid-March 1920 was hastily evacuated through Novorossiysk and the Crimea, and, combined with the white units there, formed the core of the future Wrangel army. — note by WP)
When in January 1920, near Rostov, our offensive was delayed due to gross mistakes of the frontline command, when the threat to negate the fruits of our victory reappeared, the Central Committee sent the following telegram to Comrade Stalin:
“In view of the need to establish genuine unity of command on the Caucassian front, maintain the authority of the front and army command, use local forces and means on a large scale, the Political Bureau of the Central Committee has acknowledged it absolutely key to immediately join you in the Revolutionary Military Council of the Front … Please tell me when you are leaving for Rostov”.
Comrade Stalin submits, although he believes that for health reasons he should not be moved. Then he is very worried that these constant transfers will be misunderstood by local party organizations, which tend to “accuse me of frivolous jumping from one area of government to another because of their lack of information about the decisions of the Central Committee” (telegram from Comrade Stalin dated February 7, 1920). The Central Committee agrees with Comrade Stalin, and on February 10 Lenin telegraphs to him: “I do not lose hope that … the whole thing will be settled without you moving.”
When Wrangel gets out of the Crimea under the guise of the White Poles’ campaign and creates a new terrible threat to the liberated Donbass and the whole south, the Central Committee passes the following decision (August 3, 1920):
“In view of the success of Wrangel and the alarm in the Kuban region, it is necessary to recognize the Wrangel front as having a huge, completely independent meaning, highlighting it as an independent front. To entrust Comrade Stalin to form the Revolutionary Military Council, to fully concentrate their forces on the Wrangel front … ”
The same day Lenin writes to Comrade Stalin:
“Just held a Politburo meeting on division of fronts for you to exclusively deal with Wrangel …”
Comrade Stalin organizes the new front, and only the disease frees him from this work.
During the White Pole campaign Comrade Stalin is a member of the southwestern front RMS. The defeat of the Polish armies, the liberation of Kiev and the Right-Bank Ukraine, deep penetration into Galicia, the organization of the famous raid of the First Cavalry Army — the brainchild of Comrade Stalin — all these are to a large extent the results of his skillful and artful leadership.
The defeat of the entire Polish front in the Ukraine and the almost complete destruction of the Third Polish Army near Kiev, the crushing blows to Berdichev and Zhytomyr and the movement of the 1st Cavalry Army in the direction of Rovno created the situation that allowed our western front to go on a general offensive. Subsequent actions of the south-western front lead the Red troops up to Lvov. And only the failure of our troops near Warsaw disrupted the Cavalry Army, which had been prepared for the attack of Lvov and located 10 km from it. However, this period is so eventful and its coverage needs such extensive documentation and careful analysis that it goes far beyond our article.
(This moment also requires a brief historical explanation. By April 1920, the negotiations of the Soviet Republic with Estonia and Finland had ended with the signing of peace. But on the border with Poland from Dvinsk to Khotin (about 750 km), the situation remained tense. Although large-scale operations were not conducted here, yet individual fighting with the Poles did not stop.
After the defeat of Denikin and the interventionists, the Soviet government decided to use the now free forces of the Red Army at the labor front. At the same time, in its address to Poland dated December 22, 1919, Council of People’s Commissars reaffirmed that the RSFSR fully recognized the independence of Poland and invited its government to begin broad peace negotiations. In April 1920, the Soviet government offered Poland an exceptionally advantageous border for it – the line of the existing front, from about Polotsk along the Berezina River, the whole of Belarussia, Podolia and Volyn. However, all these proposals and sincere aspirations to establish peace were rejected by the bourgeois government of Pilsudski . White Poland, in fact completely dependent on the Entente powers, on the instructions of the European imperialists, was stubbornly preparing for an aggressive war against the RSFSR. The center of gravity of this campaign was in Poland, and an auxiliary attack on the Republic of Soviets was to be inflicted by the army of Baron Wrangel from the Crimea.
An analysis of the situation in the western direction showed that the war with Poland could hardly be avoided. Therefore, even 2 months before the start of that war, Lenin and Stalin pointed out to the military department that they needed to prepare for new battles. But Trotsky, Kamenev, Sklyansky and others denied the possibility of an attack on the RSFSR from the west. So, in his note to the Central Committee, Trotsky declared that “… an attack on us on the part of Poland is unlikely.” He and his henchmen thereby criminalized the vigilance of the army and did not prepare the military command ahead of time to take measures to strengthen the armies that were on the Western (Polish) front. Although Lenin 02/27/1920 on this occasion pointed out:
“All the signs are showing that Poland will come up to us with absolutely impossible, even brazen conditions. All attention should be directed to preparing the strengthening of the Western Front. I would consider emergency measures necessary for the quick supply of everything possible, from Siberia and from the Urals to the Western Front; I am afraid that we have been a little early with the labor army if we are not using them entirely to speed up the delivery to the Western front. We must set forth the slogan to prepare for the war with Poland “.
A few days later, on March 11, 1920, Lenin telegraphs the Revolutionary Military Council of the Caucasian Front about the project of transferring the Red Army to the labor front:
“… The Poles, apparently, will make war inevitable; therefore, the main task now is not to take care of the Caucassian Labour Army, but to prepare the fastest transfer of troops to the Western Front; please focus on this task.”
Taking into account the threat of a blow from Wrangel, Lenin also categorically demanded the speedy elimination of the Crimean front, which was still being replenished by Denikin soldiers, leaving the North Caucasus. 03/15/1920, he points out to the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic (Trotsky and S. Kamenev):
“We need a resolution of the RMC: to pay special attention to the error with the Crimea we have obviously made; apply all efforts to correct the error, in particular, prepare naval means and a possible offensive from Taman on the Crimea … “.
By not fulfilling these Lenin’s directives and passing Denikinians to the Crimea, the main command, headed by Trotsky, stuck to the view that there would hardly ever be a war with Poland, at least in the foreseeable future. Thus, in a telephone conversation with the commander-in-chief Kamenev of February 25, 1920, a member of the RMC of the South-Western Front, Stalin pointed out that “we will certainly have to fight with the Poles.” But Kamenev stubbornly disagreed with this. Moreover, the commander gave a completely incorrect assessment of the forces of the enemy, stating that he was “… deeply convinced that the easiest front, if it is destined to be active, will be Polish, with the enemy having enough signs of their internal weakness and depravity “. Kamenev did not present any sensible arguments in favor of these “signs of weakness”.
Meanwhile, Trotsky and Kamenev knew that by February 1920 the White Poles had put out 121,000 bayonets and sabers against the Red Army, 600 guns, 2,910 machine guns and 95 aircraft. In February and March, their forces continued to grow. At the same time, the mobilization and transfer of units and formations of the Red Army to the Western Front were hampered with might and main: the criminal assessment of the political and strategic situation by Trotsky, Kamenev and other leaders of the Military and Navy Commissariat and the RMC had a highly negative effect on the preparation of the formations, their concentration and deployment in combat.
In preparation for the inevitable war, the Revolutionary Military Council of the South-Western Front, led by Stalin in mid-February 1920, proposed establishing a firm strategic interaction between the two “Polish” fronts, the Western and South-Western ones, which were divided by the local conditions of the forest-swampy region of Polesye. On February 26, Stalin calls Commander-in-Chief Kamenev and suggests, in the event of a Polish offensive, a double blow on the Poles:
“We believe that in future actions against the Poles we cannot confine ourselves to the main blow on the sector of the Western Front, but it must be supported by the South-Western Front in the direction of Rovno-Brest”.
The main command did not pay attention to this correct strategic proposal of Stalin, claiming that “… even before active operations the Polish front would collapse by itself”.
As a result of the operational planning of the main command of the Red Army, by the beginning of the Pilsudski army offensive against Kiev, the red troops were deployed on a huge front in the form of cordons or thin strings and not at all in the quantity that could be concentrated for defense with more thorough and conscientious preparing for war.
In those days, Lenin constantly demanded an increase in the concentration of forces on the Polish front. But several direct instructions of the Central Committee on this matter were ignored by the top military leadership: as early as in the strategic Red Army deployment phase in the west, a number of gross errors and miscalculations were made bordering on or even being treason.
The first “oddity” of combat deployment was in the discrepancy between the general available forces of the Red Army and those forces that the high command had put up against Poland. Thus, having a personnel of 5 million 500 thousand, by April 25, only 85,000 bayonets, 6450 sabers, 3,705 machine guns and 549 guns were deployed on the huge western area. The results of this crime of Trotsky, Kamenev and the company were manifested in 3.5 months after the start of the war with Poland, when on the Vistula our troops fought, being extremely tired, battered and stretched out over a huge space in a thin thread.
The second blunder and crime of the high command of the Red Army was completely insufficient attention to the transfer of troops, transportation and supply of army units with everything necessary for war. It needed an advance and tremendous work by headquarters and directorates on regrouping people and military equipment from one direction to another, because by the beginning of the Polish-Soviet war, the RSFSR had not six, but only two active fronts — the Polish and the Crimean ones.
However, the headquarters of the commander in chief and the RMC, had not only failed to resolve those issues, but even to bring them up properly. As a result, the military department itself and the command of the fronts and armies were forced to eliminate and correct all the errors and gaps in the preparation of operations already during the war. From March to early June 1920, the Polish front was reinforced only by 6 divisions – instead of 20. In June, though, when the struggle was becoming increasingly fierce, the front was reinforced by other 13 rifle and 6 cavalry divisions, but it was like mustard after dinner: these divisions had been needed in April. Delaying the supply of free reserves to the Polish front was a direct result of the treacherous underestimation of the enemy by the main military command headed by Trotsky.
As a result of the miscalculations and the Trotskyist betrayal, at the start of his Kiev campaign, Pilsudski was able to concentrate forces on his northeastern flank almost equal to the forces of the red Western Front: the White Poles had 65,000 bayonets and sabers there, the Red Army had 70,000. As for the Ukrainian flank, i.e. against our South-Western Front, the Poles gained a more than triple superiority (they had 52,000 bayonets and sabers, the Red Army 15,500). This circumstance clearly indicated that Polish imperialism intended to deliver its main attack on the Ukraine.
On April 25, 1920, the White Poles launched an offensive. Under the pressure of the three Polish armies (2nd, 3rd and 6th), the relatively weak units of our 12th and 14th armies of the Southwestern Front were forced to retreat eastward. Therefore, in the first days of May, the Poles seized the Kiev region almost unhindered. Having made by the 10th of May without stopping 200 km, the Polish armies of the Ukrainian direction exhausted and stopped. Subsequently, until June 5, their front stood frozen down on the line Kiev – Belaya Tserkov – Lipovets – Gaysin – Yampol on the Dniester.
But the overall political and strategic situation at this point did not please Pilsudski or pilsudians. Concluding a political alliance with Petlyura’s petty-bourgeois national chauvinistic government on April 22, Pilsudski and his Anglo-French bosses were confident that the Ukraine would meet the Polish occupiers with revolts against Soviet power. But during the movement to Kiev, the Poles did not find any uprisings or enthusiastic meetings, but they faced stubborn resistance on the part of the Ukrainian working class and the poor peasantry. The stake on a quick victory in the war by the defeat of the two red armies, on the anti-Soviet insurgency and the mastery of the entire right-bank Ukraine was beaten.
Yes, the dreams of Polish imperialism of the borders of 1772, i.e. of the colonial possessions of half the size of the Ukraine, were gradually crushing to ashes, but at the same time, it was impossible to underestimate the meaning and damage from the temporary loss of the right-bank Ukraine. For this reason, during the Polish offensive on Kiev at the headquarters of the South-Western Front, Stalin and his comrades started developing the future offensive operations to completely liberate Soviet land from the occupiers.
To this end, Stalin repeatedly demands from the main command (from Trotsky and Kamenev) to reinforce the South-Western Front with reserves. At the suggestion of Stalin and with the consent of Lenin, the 1st Cavalry Army is being transferred to the Ukraine. However, the 2 or 3 full-blooded infantry divisions requested by Stalin were never set forth and sent by the commander in chief’s staff. And it resulted in the front units being forced to launch a counteroffensive with de facto equality of forces with the enemy, although the theory and practice of war required in such cases a minimum of threefold superiority in the attacking forces.
On June 5, the 1st Cavalry Army broke through the Polish front and turned the enemy to flight. This operational success, during which the 3rd Polish Army of General Rydz-Smigla was defeated, could have turned into strategic success if the South-Western Front had had those reserves that Stalin had requested to be introduced into the breakthrough. Nevertheless, the initiative in the Ukrainian sector of the front from that moment passed to the Red Army.
In 1930, in the article “Answer to the comrades collective farmers”, Stalin gave the following assessment the reasons for the defeat of the 3rd Polish Army:
“The mistake of the Polish troops in 1920, considering only the military side of the matter, was that they neglected the rule (i.e., fixing the captured areas by the regrouping of forces, pulling up the rear, etc. – WP). This, by the way, explains that, having gone down to Kyiv, they were forced to roll back to Warsaw with the same sweep. ”
So, having lost Kiev, the White Poles began to retreat to the west, to Rovno and Lvov, the armies of the South-Western Front, in turn, went on to prosecute, and in July there began the offensive of the Western Soviet front to the Bug and the Vistula.
Trying to gain time and escape from total defeat, the Polish government urgently offered peace to the Soviet side. It was clear to the Bolsheviks that this proposal was fraudulent, that it was a venture to gain time and gather strength. This was supported by intelligence data about the continuous flows of ships and trains with weapons, ammunition, mercenaries and instructors coming from England and France to Poland. Pilsudski himself in his book “1920” frankly admitted that
“As commander-in-chief and head of state” (we’ll add – at the direction of the French and English governments. – WP) he sought only one thing: to gain time, regroup the troops, provide them with armament and equipment, mobilize new tens of thousands of soldiers with the help of PPS (the fascist “Polish Socialist Party” – WP) to secure themselves from possible revolutionary demonstrations in the rear, and then go on to a new offensive.”
Nevertheless, the Soviet government willingly agreed to peace negotiations with Poland, since in general a peace or truce at that moment corresponded to the interests of the RSFSR. As expected, the negotiations by the Polish side were conducted in an atmosphere of all sorts of delays and red tape. This continued until August 12, i.e. until the moment when preparation for the defense on the Vistula and at Warsaw area was completed (with the help of the French), and the attack force of Pilsudski was assembled near Lublin and behind the Wieprz.
Meanwhile, the advance of the Red Army continued, and the troops of the Western Front, crossing the Bug, were moving toward Warsaw. As it was stated above, long before the outbreak of the war, the headquarters of the South-Western Front had proposed to deliver blows to the Poles with the forces of the two fronts at once. This proposal was developed and supplemented in Stalin’s telegrams to the high command of the Red Army on July 2 and July 11, but neither Kamenev nor Trotsky responded to these proposals.
On July 22, the command of the South-Western Front, proceeding from the actual situation evolving to the south of Polesye, proposed to move the 1st Cavalry Army not to Brest, as suggested earlier, but to Lvov. On July 23, the commander-in-chief, headed by Trotsky, approves this version of the operation and orders the South-Western Front to move as quickly as possible towards Lvov and the San River.
But already on August 2, Commander-in-Chief Kamenev again postponed the offensive and the entire practical organization of the interaction of the two fronts until August 14, i.e. just until the moment when the Pilsudski group struck north from the Lublin area.
In their numerous and confusing directives issued in late July and August, the main command of the Red Army only raised questions about the interaction of the fronts, but did not solve them. It did not give any specific operational plans or exact timing of the offensive, and only on August 13 ordered to transfer the 1st Cavalry and 12th armies from the South-Western Front to the Western. But it was already too late: neither the 1st Cavalry, nor the more so the 12th Army could arrive at their destination in time and deploy for defense against the advancing Polish forces.
The reluctance of Trotsky and Kamenev to organize in advance the interaction of the fronts, the sabotage delay and entanglement of directives was one of the main reasons for the failure of the offensive on Warsaw of the Western Front, which was headed by Tukhachevsky. As a result of the counterattack of the Polish armies and the retreat of the Western Front, a significant part of the territory liberated from the Poles in June and July was lost. Starting from August 16, parts of the Western Front were forced to retreat quickly to the northeast under the threat of being pressed against the border of East Prussia, which meant encirclement and destruction of troops. But in this difficult moment, the main command was in a state of ignorance and did not understand (or did not wish to understand!) The whole difficulty of the situation in the Warsaw area. The proof of this is the conversation between Tukhachevsky and Kamenev. Commander-in -chief Kamenev points out the commander:
“I really ask you to pay maximum attention to the Lublin direction. With Warsaw, please liquidate in 4 or 5 days, in my opinion, you must succeed in this . ”
Just like this: the left flank of the front of Tukhachevsky has already been crushed and is retreating with might and main, and Kamenev, like a gypsy fortune-teller, advises him to see whether the Pilsudski attack group has started moving, and at the same time demands to take Warsaw in a couple of days.
It is clear that in those days the government did not know the true state of affairs on the Western Front either, since the General Command responded to all inquiries that “Tukhachevsky is on the outskirts of Warsaw”. On August 18–19, the Central Committee finally learns about the rout of the left flank of Tukhachevsky. Lenin immediately in a directive requires the Revolutionary Military Council of the Western Front not to roll back without resistance, but to organize protracted battles during the retreat in order to bleed and detain the enemy.
Considering this Lenin’s directive, the struggle waged in those days by the 1st Cavalry Army in the Lvov region became important. Taking Lvov would have been a factor of great political and military significance. In particular, the success of the Red Army in the Lvov direction would have attracted part of the Polish forces from the Western Front, thus facilitating the position of the latter.
This was going to be the case. On August 18 and 19, the 1st Cavalry Army, with stubborn battles, had approached a position 10 km from Lvov, enveloped the city on three sides and prepared for its assault. The situation was favorable, and it could turn out that the Western Ukraine and its capital would have become Soviet 19 years earlier. But at that moment, the command of the 1st Cavalry receives Trotsky’s criminal, treacherous order — to depart from Lvov to Vladimir-Volynsky in order to allegedly go to the aid of the left flank of the Western Front.
On August 19, the 1st Cavalry Army began to perform this new task, sparing the Poles from the need to defend Lvov and disperse their forces. But Trotsky was well aware that in order to influence the enemy, who was pressing the left flank of the Western Front, the Cavalry Army had to quickly cover more than 250 km. And that meant that, failing to take Lvov, the army would be hopelessly late in the area of Lublin, too.
So it happened. Even to approach Vladimir-Volynsky the army was only able on August 25, i.e. when the Warsaw operation was already largely completed – but not in favor of the Red Army. Thus, Trotsky’s wrecking order forced upon the troops the incomprehensible and unsubstantiated retreat and the refusal to perform the real task of taking Lvov. That was, in fact, the direct assistance of Trotsky and his circle to the Polish imperialists and their masters from the Entente.
But the failure of the Red Army organized by the Trotskyists near Lvov and Warsaw did not mean that the Soviet Republic had lost the war as a whole (and that is what the Trotskyists are still claiming to be the fact). As a result of the war, the ariatocratic Poland received an unprofitable state border with the USSR, and the conditions of peace turned out to be much worse for her than those that the Soviet government had offered before the war. — note by WP)
This brief description of Comrade Stalin’s military work does not exhaust even the characterization of his main qualities as a military leader and a proletarian revolutionary. What strikes the most is the ability of Comrade Stalin to quickly grab a specific situation and act accordingly. Being the cruelest enemy of laxity, indiscipline and partisanism, Comrade Stalin, where the interests of the revolution demanded it, never stopped to think taking the responsibility for extreme measures, for a radical break; where the revolutionary situation demanded it, Comrade Stalin was ready to go in defiance of any statutes, any subordination.
Comrade Stalin has always been a supporter of the toughest military discipline and centralization, with the indispensable, however, condition of thoughtful and sustained control by the highest military bodies. In the above report to the Defense Council of January 31, 1919, Comrade Stalin writes together with Dzerzhinsky:
“An army cannot act as a self-sufficient, fully autonomous unit; in its actions it depends entirely on the armies adjacent to it and, above all, on the directives of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic: the most efficient army, with other things being equal, can fail if the directives of the center are wrong and there is no effective contact with adjacent armies. It is necessary to establish on the fronts, primarily on the eastern front, a regime of strict centralization of the actions of individual armies around the implementation of a well-determined, seriously thought-out strategic directive. Arbitrariness or thoughtlessness in working out directives, without considering all the data seriously, and the resulting rapid change of directives, as well as the uncertainty of the directives themselves, as is the case with the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic, eliminates the possibility of managing the armies, leads to waste of time and effort, disorganizes the front. ”
Comrade Stalin has always insisted on personal responsibility for the work entrusted and has physically disgusted the “departmental strip holding”.
Comrade Stalin paid Great attention to the organization of the supply of troops. He knew and understood what good food and warm clothes meant for a fighter. Both in Tsaritsyn and in Perm, as well as on the southern front, nothing could stop him from provisioning the troops and thereby making them stronger and more resistant.
In Comrade Stalin, we see the most typical features of an organizer of the proletarian class front. He pays special attention to the class recruitment of the army, so that it would really consist of workers and peasants who “do not exploit the labor of others”. He attributed the enormous importance to the deployment of political work in the army and repeatedly initiated the mobilization of communists, considering it necessary that a significant percentage of them be sent as ordinary soldiers. Comrade Stalin was very picky about the selection of military commissars. He sharply criticized the then All-Russian Bureau of Military Commissars for sending “mere boys”. (The All-Russian Bureau of Military Commissars is a prototype of the Main Political Directorate of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army (WPRA); during the civil war – the department of the Central Committee of the CPSU (b) for political work in the Red Army. — note by WP) He said:
“Military Commissars should be the soul of warfare, showing the way to specialists” (a telegram from Tsaritsyn, 1918).
Comrade Stalin attached great importance to the political condition of the army rear. In the report on the Third Army, he writes:
“The sore spot of our armies is the fragility of the rear, which is mainly due to the abandonment of party work, the inability of the Councils of Deputies to implement the directives of the center, the exceptional, almost isolated position of local death-squads.”
Comrade Stalin was extremely strict in the selection of people. Regardless of the position, really “without fear or favour”, he in the most severe way dismissed ineficient specialists, commissars, party and Soviet workers. But at the same time, more than anyone, Comrade Stalin always supported and defended those who, in his opinion, justified the trust placed in them by the revolution. So did Comrade Stalin in relation to deserved red commanders personally known to him. When Comrade Parkhomenko, one of the real proletarian heroes of the civil war, later the commander of the 14th Cavalry Division killed in the fight against the Makhno gangs, was by mistake sentenced to the death penalty, Comrade Stalin, upon learning of this, demanded an immediate and unconditional release. Such and similar facts could be cited in a large number. Comrade Stalin, like no other of the big people, was able to deeply appreciate the workers who gave their lives to the proletarian revolution, and it was a common knowledge for the commanders, for all those who fought for our cause under his leadership. Such is Comrade Stalin in the civil war. Suh is he, as well, during the subsequent years of the struggle for socialism.
The civil war demanded from Comrade Stalin a tremendous strain of power, energy, will and intelligence. He devoted himself to it entirely and completely. But at the same time, he learned from it a great experience for his subsequent work.
In the civil war, Comrade Stalin, in various and most complex conditions, possessing an enormous talent of a revolutionary strategist, always correctly determined the principal directions of the main attack and, skillfully applying tactical techniques appropriate to the situation, achieved the desired results. This quality of the proletarian strategist and tactician remained with him after the civil war. This quality of him is well known to all the party. Trotskies and others of that ilk could have told the best about this, having payed with their flesh for trying to replace the great teachings of Marx-Lenin with their petty-bourgeois ideology. No less well aware of this are the right-wing opportunists, who have only recently suffered a complete rout. Comrade Stalin, even in a peaceful situation, no less successfully than in a civil war, together with the Leninist Central Committee, is incessantly waging a merciless fight with all voluntary and involuntary enemies of the party and the building of socialism in our country.
But at the same time, having long ago ceased to be formally military for, Comrade Stalin has never ceased to be deeply involved in the defense of the proletarian state. Even now, as in past years, he knows the Red Army and is its closest and dearest friend.