M. Tukhachevsky

From the Archives of Marxism

The Red Army and the Militia

(January 1921)

From Fourth International (Amsterdam), No. 6, Spring 1959, pp. 61–67.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Prefatory Note

Tukhachevsky, one of the most eminent victims of Stalin’s 1936–38 purges, has been rehabilitated and has found his place again in the Soviet Encyclopaedia. We shall not here go once more into the nature of the present “rehabilitations” which fit into the frame of the bureaucracy’s self-defense policy and not into that of a restoration of Soviet democracy. The day will come when rehabilitations will be complete and genuine.

We consider it useful to reprint here an exposition by Tukhachevsky which was published at the time in the Communist International’s pamphlet series, Kleine Bibliothek der Russischen Korrespondenz. This exposition was made during a discussion that took place at the Scientific Military Society, attached to the Military Academy of the Red Army. The discussion was held under the chairmanship of Leon Trotsky, at that period People’s Commissar for the Red Army, who opened it with a few remarks explaining the aim of the discussion: on the morrow of the victorious civil war and in expectation of new aggressions that the Soviet Union would have to stand up to, to establish a certain number of fundamental rules of doctrine for the young army. At the end of the discussion, Trotsky in his final summary drew the lessons from this debate. On the subject of Tukhachevsky’s speech, he criticized some “overhasty generalizations”: he did not think that they had seen the end of positional war; and he did not at all think that the militia system was to be condemned absolutely. Better conditions will exist among the peasantry and the working class, he said, which will permit a transition toward the militia.

Our intention in republishing this pamphlet of Tukhachevsky is not to renew these old debates. We have wanted to show, rather, in what a spirit the Red Army was constituted in the time of Lenin and Trotsky. It is the former lieutenant in the Czar’s guards, won over by the vigor of the proletarian revolution and become the most eminent military specialist of the young Soviet Republic, who says it clearly: this is a Red army and not a Russian army, it is an instrument of the World Revolution. Even after the workers had taken power and had thus won themselves a fatherland, there was no question of “national” grandeur and the other chauvinist poisons with which today the Stalinists drench the worker militants. The Soviet state and its army subordinated themselves to the imperative needs of the international proletarian revolution. The Soviet workers, in winning back democracy, will not only render justice to all the revolutionaries who fell victims to Stalin; they will also restore the relationships of the international workers’ movement and of the Soviet state to what they were in the first years after the October Revolution.

Formerly it seemed thoroughly self-evident and appropriate for the socialist state to provide for its necessary capacity for defense by means of a militia army. Now this point of view is undergoing an ever more critical examination and even a rejection by judgment.

The past plays no small role in this question; belief in infallibilty of knowledge once acquired is very slowly lost. This belief has led many not to examine this problem on its own basis, but to consider it in the sense of this or that generalization of a meaningless system within the postulates of a socialist state.

But there are also those who not only consider it superfluous to examine this question afresh, but who – persisting in a once fundamentally understood idea – even demand the immediate establishment of the militia system in Soviet Russia.

This essay proposes to enquire into the question. For this it is necessary not only to examine the utility of the militia system for the dictatorship of the proletariat, but also the nature of the militia system and finally likewise of that system of the socialist army that responds to the requirements of a truly socialist armed force and its tasks.

Defense and Attack

In the epoch of the Second International the dominant idea in the heads of the Socialists was that of the “defense of the fatherland.” Armed attacks were – without seeking their motives, aims, and causes – indiscriminately rejected. Therein is shown the specific form of the Second International’s struggle against imperialism. That is precisely why this problem has been illustrated in a somewhat one-sided way. This struggle – or, better said, this passive half-struggle – with imperialism has driven out of the working class the idea of activity - the idea of an attack of the proletariat on the bourgeoisie, and has rendered it more difficult for it to have a clear vision of the possible consequences of such an attack.

The present military situation of Soviet Russia as the propagator of the Socialist Revolution throughout the world is above all not taken into consideration. But this situation can never occur among imperialist states in a military respect.

But not only the details of this question betray the erroneousness of such a passive conception. The whole foundation of the idea of a military attack by the proletarian class on the bourgeoisie is unsuitably limited from a military point of view. The Second International inoculated everyone with the notion that such a war of attack was permissible only within the narrow limits of a state territory. Naturally life and the Socialist Revolution, in their rich multiplicity, do not allow themselves to be squeezed into limits. Uncheckably they spread over the entire world, and their extension will continue as long as there is a bourgeoisie in the world.

By what means shall it seek its goal? By means of an armed uprising in each state, or by means of the armed uprising of the socialist against the bourgeois states, or by means of both together? That cannot be said in advance; the course of the Revolution will show us. One thing is sure: if anywhere a Socialist Revolution reaches power, then it has the self-evident right to expand, it will strive with elementary force to spread by direct action to all neighboring countries to involve the whole world. Its most important instrument will naturally be its military power.

We see therefore that the Socialist Revolution requires of its army a readiness for active offensive operations Within its own frontiers and, if the turn of events compels it, outside them.

The Recruiting System

The structure of an army is determined on the one hand by the political goals that it has to attain, and on the other hand by the recruiting system in practice. These are the two decisive components of the system of building an army.

In the period before the French Revolution, when the political and sometimes active goals of the monarchs and their courts were determined without any participation by the people, and when the army was recruited from mercenary soldiery, the entire structure of the relatively small army had a rare regular character. The size of the army depended on the means available to the court, but it had to be regular, because a mercenary army requires long hard training and is not quickly recruited.

The great French Revolution brought a decisive turn in the nature of the army.

Political aims, still active because of their nature, lay close to the hearts of the popular masses. The most fundamental change concerned the system of recruiting. It was changed into a national and obligatory system. It provided the French Revolution with enormous, hitherto unseen, masses of troops, and also changed the whole of strategy by introducing methods that arose from the new form of army.

This system formed the basis for all European armies of the XIXth and XXth centuries.

The Germans were the first to grasp this new form theoretically and made this principle the basis of their “people in arms.”

This system developed uninterruptedly. The size of the peacetime standing army did not vary much, but the length of military service grew ever shorter, which had as a result that ever broader layers of the population were made liable to serve militarism. In case of war this trained mass of reserves was called to the colors and in this way an enormous, many-millioned section of the people could be immediately moved into the field.

The development of this system of the people’s army progressed in parallel with the development of industry, technics, transport, etc. The manipulation of this colossal army presupposed a big complete railway network and plans worked out to the smallest detail.

The real cadre-troops, however, were no longer so fit for war and so capable of resistance as formerly. With the shortening of military service the quality of the training of the army and its efficiency had also diminished. All that led to a quicker perfection of military-technical means whereby to strengthen – or, better said, to replace – the morale of the troops. In recent times war techniques have obtained unexpected successes.

This circumstance also forced – in order to use the technical means more and more for the purposes of mobilization – assigning only insignificant means to the cadre-troops. Indeed, if we think of the importance that automobiles, airplanes, etc. now have, then it becomes clear that these technical means, which are of the very greatest importance for the state, cannot be constantly withdrawn from the life [of the nation] and can be turned over to the military apparatus only at the beginning of mobilization.

In the same way it has become impossible, as time goes by, to occupy the necessary number of factories with the production of military equipment. Half of all industry would be needed for this. Hence for example it is only at the beginning of mobilization that industry is used to the proper degree for the production of individual firearms. And it is the same case with all the other fields of military equipment.

The nation invested its strength ever more in the economic life of the country. But at the moment of the mobilization call it engaged with its whole weight in the state of war. This system has very appropriately been termed the system of the “people in arms.”

In general the military apparatus developed with the growth in population figures, and the increase in technics and industry. The army, insignificant in peace time, swelled up in the few mobilization days to a gigantic size. And so strategy also had to adapt itself to this system. It became, through its strong dependence on the railways, much less free, and was bound up with size of the army and technics. The training of the army steadily fell behind, while that of the staff moved into the foreground; tactics depended almost entirely on the adequacy of numerical calculations and on the degree of precision with which the troops could be moved by means of the railways. The enormous and cumbersome mass armies rendered the active conduct of war ever more difficult, unless an excellent technique and an efficient and widely ramified railway network could be counted on.

These conditions set the limits for the increase in the size of the army, which in addition had to keep pace with the country’s industrial development. With the increase of industry the numerical strength of the armed forces could also increase. By the utmost development of technics and industry the army also could be brought to its maximum size; if the most perfect technique of war was taken for granted, the quality of an army could be almost entirely replaced by its quantity. Through an ideal and efficient railway network, such an enormous army, even if it did not know how to manoeuvre, could, with the help of a well-trained army leadership, carry out the most complicated movements. Such an army, which in case of war approximates almost the whole male population of the country, would not in peacetime divert these masses from productive labor, If such an organization must also lead to an inferior training of the troops, it could nevertheless by means of technical perfection successfully solve its active tasks and overwhelm its adversary by its numbers and technics.

What limit is therefore set to the development of the idea of a bourgeois army based on general national military service?

This limit was unconsciously known; it was called: the “militia system.”

But a misunderstanding appeared. The idea of a militia army did not proceed as a logical result of previous military thinking, but emerged quite accidentally and unexpectedly in the socialist camp, and here made itself at home – in the same camp that was fighting against the proponents of the “people in arms.”

The demand for the militia was already set forth in the democratic programmes of 1848. Democratic ideology knows no classes; for it there is only a single indivisible “people” whose rights have been usurped by “tyrants,” “the state,” or whatever else. The defense of the “people’s freedoms” requires a “people’s army.”

The idea of the “people in arms” and the idea of the militia – the latter being only the logical development of the former, but not recognized as such by either of the two enemy adversaries – these ideas were long considered to be opposed extremes.

Why was the militia system fought against with such determination and obstinacy by the leaderships of the regular armies? This was not at all for the reason that such a gigantic army with its inferior discipline caused anxiety to military experts. Such a conception can only be attributed to frivolity. Their fear was much more that the militia army cannot carry out large-scale movements on foot; but the technical levels did not up till then allow in a single country the use of such a giant military army as a movable force, ready for action, for railway, automotive, and other means of transport were not yet sufficiently developed. The officers’ corps, however, which had everywhere grown up with imperialist conceptions, could not accept the militia army which in its nature is passive and serves only the purposes of defense. The commanders could not use such an army. They dreamed of conquests and victorious campaigns.

The Second International therefore, in its struggle with imperialism, understandably defended the militia system. This system became the tradition of the Socialists. Gradually the real purpose of an army was forgotten; an active socialist war was not thought of, and the fundamental task of an army was considered to be what would disturb as little as possible the economic life of the country.

In this way there was established a lasting misunderstanding about these important questions. One side did not understand that the militia system is the most consistent and powerful military system of the bourgeois state at the highest point of its capitalist development, while the other side, in its struggle against capitalist designs, strove to validate the militia system, which had to be used, on account of the relatively inferior development levels of industry, only for defense. In this struggle the understanding of the real purpose of any army was forgotten, and thinking descended to the fanatical belief in the absolute suitability of the militia army to the socialist order of society.

Now, in the period of the building of socialism, there are still many advocates of this old idea, or, better said, of this old superstition. These admirers of the militia never once make the effort to analyze the significance of this problem for the country and the class. Obstinately and unreflectingly they require the immediate introduction of the militia system in Soviet Russia. They cannot grasp that any new social order – especially when it follows after powerful revolutionary convulsions – makes a new army system necessary.

Let us try to examine more closely the problem of the armed forces of a state founded on the dictatorship of the proletariat.

It is self-evident that the proletariat, emerging victorious from the class struggle, cannot undertake the recruiting of its army by means of general national conscription. Recruitment can be based only on the obligatory conscription of the working class. Such a system would be distinguished from the bourgeois national one in another way as well. From the fact that the recruiting system of an army is based essentially on the working class, this system itself becomes international. The admission of poor peasantry into the Red Army does not alter this principle.

We see now that the socialist revolution has set up a new recruiting system – the international class army – in opposition to the bourgeois system which has hitherto produced the national and democratic army.

We know that the system of recruiting influences the composition of the armed forces of a state, and also its military science. And our revolution has in fact also overturned the whole of the military art.

We see that the two classes do not fight under the same conditions. The sources of recruitment of the proletariat and the classes close to it are almost inexhaustible, while the sources of the bourgeoisie are extremely limited. Both one side and other can, during an offensive advance, count only on those classes close to themselves in the occupied territories. That is why the chances of the Red Army for an accession of new forces are very favorable, while those of the bourgeois army are generally not. True, the bourgeoisie also mobilizes the laboring strata of the population, but this increase only diminishes the quality of its army.

This extremely characteristic component of our socialist wars alters the whole nature of the conduct of war; and it is above all this component that gives a socialist army and its recruiting system its international character. It gives the Red Army the possibility of almost unlimited recruitment and allows proletarian strategy to accomplish tasks and aims which are out of the reach of any other strategy.

The Organization of the Armed Forces

Before we can solve the problem of the structure of a socialist army, we must cast a closer light on some constituents of the armed forces in general and the conditions of war in different circumstances.

Let us first consider the conditions for the use of the militia system. The militia system, like the system of the regular standing army, requires complicated and extremely precise preparatory work if it is to be able in case of war immediately to put the required military forces on a war footing. That presupposes an ideally constituted military administrative apparatus. A mobilization plan, worked out down to its last details, is unconditionally necessary, training must be perfect, and many other things. The militia army, just like the modern standing army, must be organized according to territorial principles. The different districts must form firm and autonomous units. The technical administrative apparatus must work with absolute precision. This whole preparatory work requires a long time, that lasts not months but years. And finally it must be said that a militia army, just like the standing army, presupposes a homogeneous population – in any case the population must not be split up by the class struggle.

All these conditions having been assumed, the apparatus of a militia army, after systematic preparatory work over many years, can, upon the call to mobilization, immediately set on foot an enormous mass army ready to march.

Now let us see how a revolutionary socialist army is constituted.

Above all it is to be noted that the whole way in which it is set up is diametrically opposed to that of the militia army. The latter is formed at the end of long preparatory work of the military administrative apparatus, whereas the socialist army begins to be formed immediately after the revolution in a wholly elementary way; administrative authorities neither are on hand nor are organized. Little by little the organization automatically develops itself. The army grows and becomes strong. Suffused by a strong class consciousness and by a revolutionary will to victory, it rapidly becomes a regular army ready for war. The military administrative organs are far from developing with the same success. Since they are predominantly composed of specialists, who belong to the class that has been overthrown, they remain for a long time unviable and attached by an umbilical cord to the active army.

It has already been said that the organization of the Red Army is built on the principle of the class struggle. The application of this system produces great difficulties.

At the first stages the Red Army recruits volunteers who come from the laboring classes. These become the Red Army’s iron nucleus of troops, consciously defending their class interests, who later can also admit unenlightened elements, educate them, and raise them to the necessary political consciousness.

But even on the supposition that strong class-conscious proletarian cadre troops are available, recruiting runs into many difficulties in many regions with a predominantly bourgeois rural population, and is not without its dangers. Everyone knows what enormous significance the work of political clarification has among our troops, and how hard the newly arrived, indifferent peasant masses are to assimilate. It is only when strong and politically well educated cadre troops are available, with many communists well distributed among them, that the unenlightened peasant masses can be easily and rapidly worked upon.

It is completely incomprehensible how a militia army, which would be composed, in its overwhelming majority, of peasants, might become, immediately after its mobilization, highly qualified politically, and prepared to take the field with communist banners, ready for victory. It is quite clear that such a supposition is completely senseless.

It suffices to observe the Ukrainian partisan leader Makhno – who lived only at the cost of the rich Ukrainian peasantry, which provided him with the requisite human material, and furnished him with horses, food supplies, etc. – to understand fully that the introduction of the militia system in this area would be only cutting into one’s own flesh.

In the same way the peasant revolts occurring in many districts provide a good example. It would be not uninteresting to learn how the proponents of the militia system conceive of the struggle with the elements in revolt in these districts by means of a militia army and how they imagine carrying out mobilization in these regions.

Tasks and Duration of a War

The tasks of a socialist army can be very varied.

The Red Army can fight against domestic counter-revolutionary troop formations with the purpose of completely destroying them; it can fight against the bourgeoisie of neighboring countries if their governments want to strangle the socialist state – in this case also the struggle can hardly end until one or the other adversary is crushed. In general, war, even with interruptions, will last until either the socialist state is completely destroyed and ceases to exist as such, or the revolution has taken over the entire globe.

What is impossible and untenable is the supposition that this world, shaken to its foundations by the great war, might quite peacefully divide itself into two halves, one socialist and the other capitalist, which could now live together in peace and good neighborliness. It is clear as day that such a situation can never occur, and that the socialist war will last until the final victory of one side or the other.

We see therefore that until the final decision in this struggle the moment will never occur in which the proletarian state could dissolve the Red Army it has had to date, to undertake the years of work needed to organize a militia army.

It is true that, after the final victory of the proletarian revolution – that is, if a single communist social order is introduced in the entire world – the militia system could then be introduced. But who would then need it? In any event, the state organism, withering away, would render it quite impossible for this system to produce an army – despite all the imprecatory formulae from the advocates of the militia army.

We have therefore found that the militia system has nothing to do with the socialist revolution, from the first moment of its birth up till its greatest extension, embracing the entire world.

Strategic Peculiarities of Armies and Auxiliary Resources of the Nation

The characteristic traits of a militia army are its enormous size, its relatively limited readiness for combat, and outstanding equipment with the most modern materiel of military technics. All these detailed characteristics are in close relationship one to another.

The big mass armies which are called up by mobilization, which have no cadre-troops and therefore have not been able during peace time to receive any fundamental training in regular troop formations, will obviously have only limited discipline and combat-readiness. Their weakness will be shown with quite particular clarity in the areas of field manoeuvres and tactics.

These lacks absolutely must be compensated for in one way or another by some means, and the technique of war is precisely the suitable means. It will be sought to deploy them in their full strength, to demoralize the adversary and to protect one’s own troops. Thanks to these circumstances, a militia army is better suited to defense than to attack.

Nevertheless this characteristic of the militia – its enormous numerical strength – can render very good service in the theatre of operations. For this purpose, there is needed only a exceptionally well-built transport network for transportation by railways and trucks, as also by waterways. Under these conditions, even cumbersome troops of limited combat-readiness can by their well-concentrated mass crush the adversary. But this advantage of the militia operates only if there are excellent means of transport and ideal technical equipment. If we furthermore call to mind what inevitable quantities of defense equipment, food supplies, equine material, etc this involves, then we shall recognize that such a militia army can fulfil its task only in a country with a most highly developed industry. It would be senseless to think that a militia army requires only limited economic expenditures in peace time. It must not be forgotten that guns, cannons, and in general all materiel must be on hand before the war and kept in the best condition.

And so the militia system would be an enormous force, but only if the state is extremely cultivated and has at its disposal a highly developed industry and great wealth. These great means are especially necessary during the war. It is necessary to think only of the millions of guns, the hundreds of thousands of machine-guns, the tens of thousand of cannons, the hundreds of millions of shells, the many thousands of millions of bullets, and so on and so forth, quite apart from the losses in men’s lives. Let us only remember the dimensions of the last war of the “peoples in arms,” which is to be considered as merely a foretaste of the dimensions of a fight between militia armies. Can any socialist state in its transitional period face up to such expenditures? Without these enormous human masses and without this military technique pushed to its peak, a militia army isn’t worth a whistle.

If we now examine more closely whither the militia system would lead our republic, then we shall see the following: above all, we should not be able to organize the military administrative apparatus in time before the beginning of the next war. Second, in a whole series of regions of our country, we should only be arming our own counter-revolutionary adversaries. Third, we should be able neither to clothe nor equip the mobilized millions. Fourth, we should not be able within the necessary time to bring this enormous military mass to the threatened frontier, and the Poles would for example already have occupied Moscow before our militia army had time to concentrate itself in the Volga region. Fifth, our means of transport would not suffice to move the militia army at will to the theatre of war, and an adversary who was considerably weaker but on the other hand well equipped with technical means, could easily beat isolated troop formations. Lastly, we should ourselves be condemning our immense army to death, for we could not provide it with food supplies or with any other equipment.

I have on occasion heard from fanatical admirers of the militia system statements from which it follows that they consider themselves the consistent representatives of the idea of a militarily powerful Soviet Republic. Personally I should have nothing to say against the militia system if it really led to that goal. But unfortunately this system would result only in communist defeats. With us the introduction of the militia system would mean a crucifixion of the Soviet Republic.

There are also many all-too-zealous generals who understandably see their last hope in the introduction of the militia system in Soviet Russia and for that reason become enthusiastic about this system.

In recent times, when there are many party comrades who sharply reject the militia system, the supporters of it are heard to say that they are thinking about another kind of militia than that of the Second International, that the militia should be organized in a quite new way, and so on.

Such arguments mean only that these comrades have not reflected at all seriously about the problem. Without examining more closely the question of the armed forces of a proletarian state, they have grasped at this thing that has long been known – the militia system. But when they saw that such a system is not practicable, they imagined new forms which they obstinately call by the old name. The notion of the “militia system” is something wholly defined – it cannot be transformed at will into another system.

Now let us get on to the question of what conditions the resources of our republic as well as any other republic of councils afford to the armies that are necessary in the transitional period.

There is not much to be said about this. Anyone will understand without more ado that an impoverished country needs above all a small army, whose insufficient quantity must necessarily be compensated for by its quality, for its first task is effectively to guarantee the existence of the Soviet Republic.

The System of the Socialist Army

The quality of an army lies above all in its combat-readiness developed to the highest degree and in its precise and easy mobility. It is not easy to fulfill these requirements, and that is why they involve a long hard period of preparation. Only a regular army can receive such training. We thus observe that a Red Army can be only a regular army.

We should now like to see how the socialist system of recruiting affects the army and the whole military apparatus. We reached the conclusion above that this system is based on the class principle and is an international system. That shows that for the mobilization of the state the registration of the population must be undertaken according to what class they belong to. The whole military training of the youth before they are called up must also take this principle into account. It is self-evident that this principle extends to all areas of military reality, including the training of leaders.

The structure of the army itself fundamentally involves nothing essentially new. All troop units must constantly show their mobile strength, deviations from this rule being permissible only within the country.

But the deeper hinterland, that requires the most human material, in quiet times permits a reduction to a minimum in troop strength. The active troop units can generally be revictualed by the civil authorities.

Such an army can, without depending on the complex process of mobilization, be immediately thrown on to the chosen front; meanwhile the mobilization is completed, the necessary staging areas are organized, and the reserves for the army filled out.

In addition, in case of danger from abroad, reserve formations can be built up. That depends on the available stocks of weapons, equipment, etc.

The fact that the Red Army built upon this system is far from requiring the whole human material of the state shows that in the most important industrial areas military mobilizations can become entirely unnecessary. On the other hand, a militarizing of labor will be very useful for increasing its results.

The advocates of the militia will furiously attack such a system; they will claim that it is economically untenable, that it renders impossible the construction of a socialist economy, and so on and so forth.

But these objections are unfounded. First, it has never been claimed that a military system, of whatever nature it may be – hence also the militia system – can be useful to the economic life of a state. Whether it be agreeable or not, the state must for its own defense maintain an armed force, and such a one as corresponds to its military situation.

The guarantee of the existence of the soviet state is the main task; everything else – even economic requirements – must give way to it. Second, though the militia army in peace time requires less upkeep costs, it yet requires far greater quantities of clothing and equipment than the standing army – not to mention the enormous stocks of armaments, that must be held ready for the militia. It would be necessary to make a colossal war industry specially for the militia. Third, it must not be forgotten that it is not the peace-time but the war-time army that ruins the country. During war all the economic advantages are on the side of the standing army, for a few thousand guns that one could otherwise do without already cost enormous sums. These costs increase proportionately to the increase in the army’s size.

We have a striking example of this in the great impoverishment that the war of the “peoples in arms” brought to the entire world. We have examples in history for this, that even the poorer peoples with small but well-trained armies can carry on long wars with comparatively more powerful adversaries with numerically far greater armies. It is clear that Soviet Russia, in its arming for new wars that will undoubtedly be forced upon it, dare not introduce an army system that in case of war would wholly ruin the country.

Thus we have sought what type of army corresponds to a state, like Soviet Russia, based on the dictatorship of the proletariat. It remains for us only to study this system in its utilization in connection with any international policy that the socialist revolution must carry out.

We have demonstrated above that this revolution has produced a complete overturn in strategy. And indeed our Red Army has never fought alone against its adversaries. It immediately finds the expected support from the working class of that land against whose bourgeoisie it is waging war. This support is not limited to revolutionary outbreaks in the bourgeoisie’s rear; it consists above all in the fact that the Red Army can fill out its troops from the working class of the occupied territories. This influx is produced not only at the cost of the local population, but also at the cost of the capitalist armies which the workers and peasants gladly desert so as to enter the Red Army.

This accession of international fighting forces is just the characteristic mark of the war leadership of the Red Army.

On all fronts of the different nationalities we observe this same phenomenon. It is particularly the case when the bourgeois army has suffered a defeat. At the time of our penetration into Polish areas Polish soldiers began immediately to come over to us, despite the fact that the army of the capitalist Poles still had its full fighting capacity. This was particularly the case at Bialostok, where the workers greeted our army with enthusiasm and wanted to enter its ranks. Only our rapid retreat prevented the fulfillment of their intentions.

Thus our Red Armies may be considered outside the frontiers of the Soviet Republic to be an international cadre formation.

This system of a World Red Army must be clearly brought to our consciousness.

Can we then view our military tasks only within the frontiers of the republic? Naturally not, for in the republic itself serious military tasks do not lie before us, whereas foreign tasks depend not so much on us as on the outer world, i e, first of all on the development of the international revolution.

In view of this, every task of our republic must be most closely bound up with the tasks of the world revolution. This is, naturally, particularly valid for the question of the organization of our Red Army, the first cadre-troops of the World Red Army.

If we are conscious of this task, then the question of the system for the Red Army seems even more serious. This army must be a valid model in every regard, including in the political sense. This army must have forgotten of what nationality it was in its majority composed. It must be aware that it is the army of the world proletariat, and nothing else. Wherever this army may arrive, the people must be able immediately to feel that it is a Red army and not a Russian army. Only such an army, composed of class-conscious revolutionaries, can be the instrument for the propagation of the world revolution and for the destruction of capitalism.


Now that we have cast light from all sides on the question of the use of the militia system for a state with the dictatorship of the proletariat, we must recognize that it is completely unusable.

We have seen that the militia system can be a dangerous weapon in the hands of an extremely highly developed capitalist state. We have seen that a communist social order that extends over the entire world could introduce this system. We have however also learned that this system in the transitional period might be a deadly pit for the socialist state, for it is not even utilizable for defensive purposes. We have seen that the Red Army is set up in a diametrically opposite way to the militia army. But since the socialist state must reckon on an uninterrupted struggle against

the capitalist world, the technical possibility of the organization of a militia army is automatically forever ruled out. We have seen that the militia system, in a whole series of areas, cannot be introduced on grounds of their unsuitable class composition. Such are the grounds for which the introduction of the militia system in the Soviet State is in principle excluded.

On the other hand we have also seen the basic characteristics that the Red Army of a Soviet State must have. We have learned that this army must be a standing army, and that it must be based on the principle of the class struggle and international recruiting.

We saw that this army is destined to take part in the World Revolution, and that our Red Army has the role of being the cadre-troops of the World Red Army.

What its actions must be does not fall within the limits of our considerations here.

It seems to me that the introduction of the militia among us would be very much in contradiction to the givens of the situation and that it is rejected by so many communists that it were really not worth the trouble of discussing this problem, which could have been solved in no other way. This is correct, but it was desirable once more to examine the question more closely, since it is again brought on to the agenda.

The sterility of the Second International was shown in its fetichism about the militia army just as about the idea of the national assembly. And, like the latter, the militia army also will soon vanish from our horizon.

The Communist International – the leader of the socialist World Revolution – cannot base itself on this militia. The Red Army will, under the leadership of the Communist International, take on a new form – the form of the international armed forces of the world proletariat.

11 January 1921


Last updated on 30 January 2016