Wed Jun 12, 2024
June 12, 2024

The Red Army of Workers and Peasants of the Soviet Republic

This article was published on the IWL’s theoretical magazine Marxism Alive n. 16 in 2007, as part of the 90th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.

In military terms, the construction of the Red Army is one of the most spectacular events of the history of mankind.

We might sum it up as “The guardian of the Soviet Power”, the army formed by workers and peasants to defend the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics during the Russian civil war, created by Leon Trotsky, formally on 12th January 1918.

It surfaced in absolutely adverse circumstances, from the debris and ruins of the old Tsarist army that the 1917 revolution had wrecked to become the instrument of defence of the national revolution and a tool for the construction of the world revolution.

From the passivity and submission of the working class to the tsarist officers, a step was taken to boldness and cult for techniques.

Young commanders emerged next to old military technicians. These young people had been defeated in many battles but in the end, they overcame because of discipline, because they mastered theory and had the audacity of revolutionaries.

During the civil war, the Red Army fought on various fronts within an internal perimeter of eight thousand kilometres. As practically no army could keep so active, their strategy was based on great mobility. They moved from one front to another, guaranteeing local superiority even if, circumstantially, with operations and resources controlled in a centralised way. Their features were mobility, bold attacks and flexibility of manoeuvres.

At first the army consisted of voluntary communist workers; then there was the compulsory military service and there got to be as many as five million soldiers, most of them peasants.

Soldiers took their oath and committed themselves to “fight for socialism, for fraternity of peoples, without saving on efforts or even our own lives”.

Deeply internationalist, even if they had to fight against troops of other countries, they vehemently rejected national patriotism. It was not the army of the Russian revolution; it was the Army of the World Revolution.

It was a standing joke among the soldiers to say that they were prepared “to die for a preserved cucumber and the World Revolution.”[1]

Civil War

On 3 March 1918, Bolsheviks had signed under duress the Brest-Litovsk peace. They needed a truce in order to be able to reconstruct the economy of the country. A few weeks later, however, revolution was once again fighting desperately to survive.

Three years of the soviet regime were those of civil war. It was the main activity of the government, because everything depended on that. Industry worked mainly for the war. Most of the members of the CC spent most of their time at the front either as members of Revolutionary War Committees or as Commanders of the Army.

On 3rd of April Japanese troops landed at Vladivostok and occupied the east of Siberia. The following day, the Turks, in Georgia, occupied Batun. By the end of the month, German occupied a part of Ukraine, the troops of General Von der Goltz built up their position in Lithuania, and in May Marshall Mannerhiem drove the red troops out of Finland.

On March of March, the awesome Czechoslovakian Legion, sponsored by France, attacked the Soviets. Their made alliance with the White Guards and began a campaign that culminated with the seizure of Kazan in August.

In that same month, French troops occupied the south of Ukraine and Crimea. The British occupied Archangel east of River Don and their Persian units occupied the oil centre of Baku and controlled Caucasus. The White Army was there, too, commanded by reactionary generals Nicoli Yudenich, Alexander Koltchak and Anton Denikin. They went as far as overriding the southern region, Siberia and part of the Russian inland. They were assisted by the “allies” they had defeated in the First World War (France, England and United States).

On his way for Siberia, Admiral Kolchat, “after murdering all the Siberian communists” reached the Urals and approached Moscow but was defeated by the V Red Army commanded by Mihail Frunze, Tuhachevsky and the People’s Commissar Ivan Smirnov (known as the Lenin of Siberia)) in August 1919. Kolchat tried to flee but was executed.

Denikin’s troops, sponsored by the English, managed to occupy Odessa and part of Ukraine and got 300 km from Moscow but were defeated in February 1920, when Tuhachevsky, with the V army, occupied Novosibirsk together with the red cavalry built by Trotsky and Budyony with the motto “proletarians on horsebacks”.

Yudenich crossed Estonia and got as far as 15 kilometres from Petrograd, but the Red Army and the Red Guardians, directly under Trotsky’s command, defeated him.

After that General Baron Wrangel put together the remains of Denekin army and with the aid of the French and Poles, attacked Ukraine, but was also defeated in Crimea in November.

One of the reasons for which the White were so badly beaten had a lot to do with the fact that territories by them occupied were ransacked by looters and the corruption of the chiefs of the army and, apart from that, when the feudal lords returned and wanted to recover their lands, a confrontation broke out with the peasant resistance.

On the international scope, solidarity of the proletariat expressed in mobilisations and strikes, was one of the determining factors contributing to the soviet victory.

Under the impact of revolutionary processes in the late 1918, the first ones crumble down were the German empire and the Austro-Hungarian one, and that forced their withdrawal from Russia, Ukraine and Letonia.

In France strikes came one after the other. There were strikes of railway workers, miners, workers of the dress making industry in Paris. On the other hand, Demonstrations for the First of May that used to gather 500 000 workers claimed for better wages but also such demands as “End of military mobilisation”, “condemn intervention in Russia”. Such actions forced the III Republic to give up military operations in the southern part of the soviet republics where the last act was the mutiny in the Odessa garrison, which refused to advance.

The mobilisation of the British soldiers, such as the 40 hour-strike in Glasgow, where 70 000 workers took part and the Red Friday that ended with 40 casualties at St George’s Square made the north offensive recede. The situation reached a point where Prime Minister Lloyd George asserted “if we initiated a military enterprise against the Bolsheviks, we would wind up by Bolshevising England and creating a Soviet of London.”[2]

It is believed that there were more than 100 mutinies[3] such as that of the seamen of HMS Killbride who hoisted the red flag, or the refusal of the crew of the battleship France to bomb Russian revolutionary lines.

The determining element, however, was the heroism of the soviet vanguard, their enthusiasm, self-sacrifice and self-denial. That is how, with the policy of action of the Bolshevik party, with Trotsky up battle front, it was possible to organise, discipline and raise the spirits of millions of soldiers who, only months before, desperate about the defeats, abandoned their weapons and ran for their lives at the sight of German advance.

They could lean on the achievements of the revolution and fundamentally on the fact that land was being given to the peasants who then chose what side to be at during the war. But they also nationalised industry totally and requisition of food from the rich peasants.

“Our regiments were running out any capacity of further resistance; in summer 1918, one city after another was falling into the hands of the Czechoslovaks and the counterrevolutionaries who had joined them. Their centre was Samara. The seized Simbrisk and Kazan (…) on the other bank of Volga, a raid on Moscow was being prepared. At that moment (August 1918) the Soviet Republic made an extraordinary effort to develop and reinforce the army. Above all a method of massive mobilisation of communists was adopted and, together with the troops, up the Volga Front, a centralised apparatus of political leadership and instruction.” [4]

To mount the Red Army, Trotsky first enlisted the enthusiasts of the Revolution for only they could act with absolute discipline and could be used to impose discipline on the others. In mid 1918, Trotsky resorted to compulsory recruiting. This was done experimentally beginning by workers centres of Petrograd and Moscow. Only when the proletarian nucleus of the army was formed, did he begin to recruit peasants, beginning by the poorest. In this way, several concentric rings were formed gradually amplifying loyalty and discipline and even so, in every regiment attempts were made to form a Bolshevik nucleus that controlled the proletarian elements and, as from them, the peasant masses.

The Bolsheviks in the provinces of Volga instituted draconian regime because of imminent danger. Deserters and social groups encouraging desertion: the kulaks, part of the clergy, and the old bureaucracy were persecuted and condemned. Revolutionary Popular Tribunals decreed some exemplifying sentences so as to be a warning for everybody that the soviet fatherland was in danger and that, consequently, obedience had to be absolute.[5]

After hard work, what was a hesitating mass, unstable and disperse became an army. The first victory achieved by the Red army, led directly by Trotsky together with Frunze and the V army, is the defeat of the Czechoslovakian and the recapture of Kazan. Immediately, Tuhachevsky with the First Army recaptured Simbirsk. As from that moment, the destiny of the Civil War changed.

The White capitulated in 1920; the war, however continued against he so-called “greens”, bands of Cossacks devastating some Russian districts and against the intervention of the Poles and the Japanese. The conflict with the Poles ended in 1921 and the Japanese withdrew in 1922.

The new army and debates on military issues

Just as it always happened with all the problems that soviet power had to cope with, the military issue caused great debates in the Bolshevik party. The debates occurred inside the Party, in the state apparatus and also in the Army. “The policy of the leaders was submitted to free and sometimes strong criticism”.[6] In all these debates, Trotsky had to face the “old Bolsheviks” and the new commanders.

He defended compulsory military service, centralisation of the command, maintaining of the tsarist officers in their posts and the political Commissariat. He re-established military discipline and severely repressed desertion and treason; he explained that armed forces could not be led by revolutionary committees elected y soldiers and put an end to the tactics of guerrilla warfare.

All his positions stemmed out of the analysis that it was an ambiguous situation, the result of a transitional epoch, where the working class had seized political power but had not yet fulfilled their entire mission. Rather, they had just begun to take up their fundamental tasks. And, at the same time, they had to reject by force the attack of imperialist countries.[7]

Even in the first months of the organisation of the Red Army, a Military Opposition was formed to challenge his positions…[8]The premises of the opposition were basically: defence of the principle of election of command, opposition to incorporation of military specialists, opposition to introduction of strict discipline and centralisation of the army.

The focal point was in the X Army at the Tsarisyn base, where military cadres grouped round Voroshilov, the centre of non professional officers’ opposition and of guerrillas to the centralisation of the military organisation. In these “circles” specialists, military academies and the supreme headquarters were spoken of with hatred.

At a time of scarcity they kept on requiring ammunitions from the headquarters and if they received none they would make a scandal of the specialists of Moscow. The Central Committee member who encouraged and supported this opposition was Stalin, who, as People’s Commissar and member of the Military Council of the South-East Front, spent several months in that region.

After many discussions, Trotsky decided to put some order in Tsaritsyn, so he proposed to destitute Stalin as well as Voroshilov. Sverdlov acted as mediator in the conflict. He travelled there and brought Stalin in a special train, which Trotsky boarded half way. A discussion issued in which Sverdlov acted as mediator. Trotsky demanded absolute discipline from Voroshilov or else be sent to Moscow and would have to answer to charges to a Revolutionary Tribunal.

Stalin assured there would be good behaviour on the latter’s behalf for he was “a good boy”. Trotsky answered, “These good boys are ruining the revolution and it cannot wait until they grow up. I only want one thing: to include Tsaritsyn in Soviet Russia.”

An agreement was reached and formal guarantee of subordination was given. Nobody was removed from his post. But insubordination continued so Trotsky demanded the Voroshilov should be transferred to Ukraine and a new commander should be installed in Tsaritsyn. This was accepted without any contention, by Lenin and Sverdlov even if they requested a new agreement between Trotsky and Stalin to which Trotsky responded, “An agreement is obviously necessary, but not a rotten agreement. (…) I believe the protection of Stalin and the trend of Tsaritsyn as a dangerous ulcer, worse than all the treasons and breached of trust of military specialists…”

After Lenin fell ill, Stalin managed to change the name of Tsaritsyn to Stalingrad, later Voroshilov became a member of the Political bureau of the Bolshevik Party and in 1925, after the death of Funze, he became the commander in Chief of the Red Army.

Militia versus permanent army

The debate on militias versus permanent army was one of the riches. Fundamentally so because the position of the Bolsheviks stemmed out of the fact that they had been educated – the same as all the members of the II International – in the need general armament of the proletariat (creation of militias) and the end of permanent armies.

This formulation, however, proved to be totally insufficient for the defence of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Trotsky defended the creation of a permanent army, making it clear that the Red Army had been created as a necessary average for the transitional epoch that the Soviet State and the World revolution were going through. That is why during that time more importance was to be paid to the existence of regular troops.

Militias corresponded more to the nature of a socialist society, consequently more in correspondence with an advance economy.

Lack of a good railway, highway and waterway network worked in detriment of transport of troops, the same as shortage of cars, deficient communication, military instruction and war techniques would force Soviet Union to pay an high price for its defence.

The aim of the Soviet state was to build strategically an army with no barracks, which is to say as near as possible to the working class and their workplaces. The units of this army should correspond territorially to workplaces, be they factories, mines, railways or neighbourhoods. Each one of these units with supplies and weaponry utilities would form a real regional cohesion with the schools, industries and sporting places. But in 1918, in the conditions of civil war, it would be a disaster to keep an irregular and decentralised army. That is why it was fundamental for victory to integrate peasants’ detachments into regiments, the regiments into divisions and divisions into the army.

Trotsky dissolved the Red Guards and the guerrilla detachments.

His opponents went as far as asserting that centralisation was characteristic of an army of an Imperialist State. In their opinion revolution had to put a cross against such concepts as war of positions and centralised army. Military operation had to be with mobility to attack with a greater capacity for manoeuvres. Combat forces should be small autonomous detachments with all kinds of armaments, not connected to bases, with the support from the sympathising population that would arise freely at the enemy’s rearguard.

Experience of the Civil War proved these prejudices wrong and proved Trotsky right. Superior organisation and centralised strategy proved much more efficient, fast and effective.

Former tsar officers

One of the toughest debates hinged round the presence of officers who used to belong to the old tsarist imperial army who had decided to remain in their posts after the revolution, covering for the lack of experienced officers.

The first contradiction was that many of the tsarist officers had been expelled from the old army and even, in many places, workers settled accounts with them ruthlessly.

And yet, Bolsheviks needed these officers to educate the new army.

That is why thousands – and later on, dozens of thousands former officers could be found in the service of the Red Army. It was not easy to incorporate them to the new army. Most of them would stick to their rigid habits of regular soldiers: affection to routine, narrowness of thought, ignorance of theory and lack of adaptation to the revolutionary process.

The first ones to protest were the Menshevik. “This is how the Napoleons emerge”, Dan and Martov said. [9] Then came the left communists: Buharin, Piatakov and Bubnov, in the name of the libertarian spirit of the army, refused to receive orders from former tsarist generals. And in general, among the Bolsheviks and the workers there was resistance to the idea that the old “counterrevolutionaries” could enjoy liberties and privileges without having fought for the revolution. “They were shocked to hear that the Revolution would restore respectability to the “lackeys” of the tsar and the “philistine” bourgeois.[10] It took a long time for Lenin to be convinced of this policy.

Trotsky contended that no civilised society could do without technicians with the know-how, training and merit and that would be absurd to think that somebody who had been a tsarist officer could never change and would have to remain for ever a counterrevolutionary.

Protests accrued as cases of treason surfaced as was the case of Muriaviov. There were those who, in the middle of a combat, would join the Whites, gave away secrets and localised troops so that they could be found and defeated.

Mistrust was total and Trotsky had to take several steps of security in relation to these officers. Even considering that, among specialised military men there were valuable elements who were really won over for the cause of the revolution, he set up severe penalties for traitors. Death penalty was the most common, but even that was not enough so he ordered the families of these officers to be registered so that the potential traitor should know that his wife and children we hostages. Together with the policy of assimilation of the former tsarist officers, Trotsky developed an ample policy for development of officers who were not professional and came from the working class and asserted that this would be the “unshakeable corps of the officers of the Republic”. [11] These commanders, by the end of the Civil War constituted two thirds of the General Commands. Among them there were Vassili K. Blucher, metallurgic workers, non-commissioned officer during the I World War, chief of the Red Guards became commander of the army in the Far East; Simon Budiony, the same as Egorov, son of peasants, was a non commissioned officer of the tsarist forces and became the Commandant of the I Army of Cavalry; Voroshilov, who was the son of a railway worker and worked in the mines and in metallurgic factories, during the Civil War was Commander of the Army and became Marshall.

Apart from that, Trotsky created the post of People’s Commissar that presented the soviet power and was next to each former tsarist officer; it was his duty to watch over him and control all his orders.

The people’s commissar

One of the great creations of the Red Army was the People’s Commissars, which synthesised the transition the Revolutionary Soviet State was going through. He combined the proletariat’s lack of mastery in military techniques for the war and the power over the state.

The commandant was in charge of the operations and the military training, but it was the Commissar who watched over fidelity and ensured morals and political education of the troops. He was the direct representative of the soviet power. He could not hamper the commander’s work or belittle his authority but had to make sure that this authority would not turn against the interests of the Revolution. He could advise or express opinions on operative problems, but it was the commander’s decision. His task was to watch, to raise the level of awareness and eradicate counterrevolutionary elements.[12]

Most of them were communist revolutionary workers. Any offence against them would be considered a felony but, at the same time, if they tolerated disobedience to orders they had to be immediately removed and sent to tribunals. For example, not making a list of the relatives of the ex-officers or not arresting them in case of desertion would be considered extremely serious crime and could cause death penalty. That is why Trotsky demanded that “commissars had to be nominated from among irreproachable revolutionaries, capable of being the incarnation of revolutionary duty even in the most difficult circumstances”.[13] Obviously, there were rivalries and disagreements the former officer would be resented about the control and the Commissar about military submission.

Trotsky wrote that the working class sacrificed its best son at this task for hundred and thousand died in their posts of commissars.

Who chose the commanders?

Curses against the old discipline were still ringing

when we had to introduce the new one.


In the same way as in the case of the militias, Bolsheviks were educated exposing militarism and stimulating soldiers to mutiny against their commanders, against discipline and in defence of eligibility of commanders by soldiers. They considered any army to be an instrument of the counterrevolution. However, also in this aspect, they arrived at the conclusion that this could only be reached after a long historic process.

“The revolutionary army as an instrument of action in the propaganda scope was incompatible with the regime of elected committees, which in practice would mean leaving each unit the freedom to choose if they were or were not for the offensive or for the defensive, which meant that the central power could only stand and watch.” [14] Trotsky contended that “Commanding personnel must be elected and controlled by the organs of soviet power and the communist party.” [15] According to Trotsky, since the State and the Army were of the same class, the issue of electing was absolutely tactical. “Soviets are elected by workers and peasants, and that presupposes within the class relation that it is the Soviets who nominate for posts of great responsibility the commissars, judges, commandants, chiefs, etc.[16]

An army without generals

The Red Army abolished the traditional military hierarchy. It was not formed by graduate officers; these became extinguished. They had no captains, majors, colonels or generals. It was formed by commanders: Combrigs, commanders of brigade, Comdiv, commanders of division and Compoldiv, commanders of Political Section.

This was so for it was supposed that the command was to be built on trust, in the battles, in the construction of military strategies. What mattered was the command and not the post. The right to this post was warrant by study, dedication, character and experience in accordance with continuous and individual assessment. It was believed that a rigorous discipline could be combined with ample democracy and even be supported by it, built up by such principles as solidarity and self-criticising attitudes and of criticism to commandants

But in September 1935, Stalinist bureaucracy returned to the old hierarchy, beginning with lieutenants and going up to marshal. They reintroduce the body officers based on political objective of giving them a new social weight and assert them as part of the state bureaucracy, creating a series of material privileges

Heading for world revolution

After the Civil War, there was also a debate on the character of the Red Army. Some officers, such as Tuchashevski, contended that “Head Quarters of the Communist International” had to be built.[17]

Trotsky rejected the proposal arguing that the non-soviet members of such Head Quarter could only play the role of extras until the day the proletariat of their countries seized power and created their own Red Armed Forces. And if the armed forces were called to play any role in foreign revolutions, that would be totally secondary and not protagonist of the revolutionary process, for it would have to remain in charge of the proletariat of each country.

With the defeat of the Red Army in Poland, after having been driven them out of Byelorussia and Ukraine, history proved Trotsky to be right. But Tuhachevsky never agreed with the motives of the defeat and put the fault on the fact that he was not supported by Egorov and Budiony, because Stalin (chief of the sector) wanted to conquer Lvov before Warsaw. It is also true that the Poles had a good army, highly mechanised with military consultants such as general Weygand and Captain Charles de Gaulle. The main question, however, was the strikes in the coal mines in Dambrowa, for Polish working class was against what they regarded as invasion of their country. Finally, Lenin, who supported the attack admitted, “our step was longer than our legs”.


The commandants of the revolutionary army

Stalin’s purges washed out of the Red Army many of the most competent commanders precisely on the eve of the II World War. Over 30,000 officers were discharged, jailed, sent to gulags and shot. The cost of such process was of 13 million soviet citizens dead during the II War.

Trotsky, chief of the Red Army

Nothing can be done without errors and let alone if it is a revolution.

It is convenient, however, to reduce them to a bare minimum.


Trotsky always insisted on highlighting Lenin’s irreplaceable role in the decisive moments in October. Lenin said the same thing about Trotsky’s role during the civil war. “Just mention a man capable of raising within one year an army that is practically a model and who, apart from that, manages to conquer the respect of military specialists. We have that man. And with this we can work wonders”[18] Clausewitz asserted that war was a political instrument and that its leadership was equally political for only the pen was replaced by a sword. Deutscher asserted that in the construction of the Red Army, Trotsky used the pen and the sword.

In March 1918, Leon Davidovitch Trotsky was appointed War Commissar and President of the Supreme War Council. He personally travelled through the entire country in an armoured train that went to all the battle fronts during two years and a half.

Apart from theoretic and political debates on military issues, Trotsky took part combats on battle fields. Two days after the Red Army fled from Kazan, Trotsky went there. He decreed compulsory recruiting, punished communist social climbers, who sought privileges in the Red Army, and bureaucratic and inefficient officials. He mounted a Revolutionary Military Tribunal and established state of siege for the entire region.

He led soldiers in panic, pouring optimism and revolutionary willingness on them. Local commissars begged him to withdraw to a safer place but, fearing a negative effect on the soldiers, he stayed in his place.

He accompanied the seamen of Kronstadt with a small fleet they took up Volga and was responsible for silencing the white batteries on the other bank. There he met Vatzetis, Tuhachevsky and Ivan Smirnov as well as Raskolnkikov and Mezhlauk and fought at their side. These men were the commandants of the V Army.

After the battle, he had a Commandant and a Commissar of a regiment court marshalled and shot for withdrawing their men from front line. “Cowards, swine and traitors will not escape the bullet”.[19]

Such attitudes were used by Stalinism to accuse him of having shot communists at the front line when they tried to show him as an enemy of communist militants. In the same way they encouraged rumours that he was on friendly terms with tsarist officers; this accusation was never proved.

Trotsky also defended magnanimous attitudes for the enemy who admitted his crimes and was ready to depose his weapons and honestly serve the Workers’ State. “Death to traitors! But mercy for the enemy who was converted and begs clemency!”[20]

The Volga victories boosted the Red Army and changed the course of the Civil War. Trotsky then began to inspect all the fronts and leaves E M Sklianski, the Canot of the Russian Revolution, doing the everyday tasks in the Council. Ten he went to Ukraine, trying to set up an army in very bad conditions.

In October 1919, Petrograd was seriously threatened by the forces of Yudenich. So much so that Lenin proposed withdrawal to Moscow, leaving the option of recoiling to the Urals open. Trotsky protested vigorously. He presented an emergency plan and proposed that he should be sent to Petrograd. This is the way things were done and Stalin was sent to the southern front.

Resistance was carried out by regular troops, Red Guards and detachments of women who, to quote Yudenich himself, fought “with heroic madness”. It took Trotsky fifteen days to defeat the whites.

After that, the Red army advanced on Kiev and Kolchak was definitely defeated in Siberia.

Trotsky was acclaimed “Father of the Victory”

Frunze, the “warrior of the revolution”

Mihail Frunze died in October 1925. According to Trotsky he was “one of the most valiant, one of the best, one of the most worthy fighters”.

Frunze was a typical Bolshevik. He was a university student who joined the party in 1904. In the early 1905 he was sent to the industrial region of Ivanovo-Voznecenks to carry out revolutionary work among workers of textile industry. In 1907 we was arrested and condemned to capital punishment (which later on was commuted to six years of forced labour) for his participation in an armed confrontation against tsarist police. He had shot at a police officer. He served his sentence in Siberia.

As from 1914, he organised military work among circled of exiles, which he called Military Academy.

In 1916 he was sent to do revolutionary work among tsarist military forces on the Western Front of the Union of the Districts of All Russia.

During the 1917 Revolution, he was at Ivanovo-Voznecennsk spreading propaganda among workers of the textile industry, organising and leading battles.

In July 1918, after October he took part in defeating the insurrection of Left Revolutionary Socialists (SRO) in Moscow.

During the Civil War he demanded from the Central Committee to be sent to the battle front and there his history as commandant began. He was appointed Commandant of the V Army of the Eastern Front, responsible for the organisation of the offensive that destroyed the main Koltchak regiments. Then he went to Turkistan and annihilated the White Army commanded by General Belov and immediately after the White Army of the Urals.

In November 1920, he joined the command of the Southern Front and destroyed the forces of intervention under General baron Peter Wrangler and liberated Crimea. The he was commander of the Ukrainian and Crimean Armed Forces and dissolved anarchist Ukrainian insurrectional bands commanded by Nestor Makhno.

It was the opinion of the Central Committee that wherever there were difficulties, wherever hesitations cropped up at front, wherever uncommon courage, strong will, a quick assessment at a glace Frunze was to be sent for.

In 1925 he was appointed President of the Revolutionary Military Council of the USSR and People’s Commissar for the Army and Navy (War Commissar) replacing Trotsky.

He was a close collaborator of Zinoviev and Kamenev and gradually clashed against the positions defended by Stalin.

Trotsky doubted as to his death being natural, for it was in Stalin’s interest so that he could appoint Voroshilov as commander of the Army.

Tuhachevsky, the “Red Bonaparte”

Mihail Tuhachevsky came from a noble family. As lieutenant of the tsarist Armed forces he actively took part in the combats of the I World War.

After the victory of the Socialist Revolution in October 1917, Tuhachevsky joined bolshevism with all his soul and became officer of the Red Armed Forces. In 1918, he became in charge of military defence of Moscow.

In 1920, Trotsky placed him in Command of the V Red Army. In this position Tuhachevsky organised the capture of Siberia and the defeat of the white general Anton Denikin, in the region of Crimea.

He fought in the campaign of Poland and was one of the main leaders appointed to crush the armed insurrection of Kronstadt together with Pavel Dybenko. Later on he was sent to the south of Moscow with the Seventh Army to put an end to the right SR revolt under the leadership of Antonov.

But in 1925, when Voroshilov replaced Frunze, his first act was to remove Tuhachevsky from all his positions. Politically, he sympathised with the Buharin and Rykov.

In 1935 he became Marshal of the Red Armed Forces. But in June 1937, he and other seven top commanders were jailed, among them Vasili K. Blucher, Commandant of the District of Byelorussia, Gamarnik, vice-commissar of Defence and Iona Yakir, of the military command of Kiev, accused of acting as conspirators. Tuhachevsky, especially, was accused of “diabolic conspiracy” with the Nazi SS general Richard Heidrich and General Werner von Fritsch of trying to oust Hitler and Stalin. Denounced by Radek, he was tried, blamed and executed.

* Member of the National Leadership of the PSTU Brazil


[1]Isaac Babel, The Army of Cavalry

[2]Pierre Broue, The Bolshevik Party, Volume 1, The Civil War and War Communism, page 164, Editora Jose Luis e Rosa Sundermann.

[3]Cf Pierre Broue in History of the Communist International, Editora Jose Luis e Rosa Sundermann

[4]Trotsky, “The way of the Red Army”, Military writings

[5]The same

[6]Trotsky, Revolution Betrayed, page 197

[7]CF, The Red Army, Military Writings, page 47, Juan Pablo Editor

[8]Cf. Voennaia Oppozitsia (Military Opposition) (1930) Complete Works: as above, Volume II chapter XXXVI

[9]Deutscher. Trotsky, The Armed Prophet, page 437

[10]The same page 438

[11]Cf Deutdcher, Trotsky The Armed Prophet

[12]Cf Trotsky, the Organisation of the Red Army, Military writings, page 65, Juan Pablos Editor

[13]The same

[14]Trotsky, Introduction to “The Way of the Red Army”, Military Writings, Juan Pablos Editor.

[15]The same

[16]Trotsky, The Red Army, Military Writings, page 41.

[17]Cf. Class War

[18]Quoted by Luis Carreras, translator, in the Prologue of the Military Writings by Leon Trotsky, Publisher in Mexico in 1975.

[19]Deutscher, Trotsky, the Armed Prophet, page 448, quoting Kak Vooruzhals, Trotsky, Volume I

[20]Trotsky, About the Officers deceived by Carson, Military Writings, page 70, Juan Pablos Editor.

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