Central Committee, History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks), Short Course. October 1938
In 1935, Stalin determined the need for a single, authoritative version of Party history, and put together a commission of historians to compile it, with himself as de-facto editor-in-chief. Many commission members found themselves under arrest within a few years; and the final version, commonly referred to as The Short Course, emerged in 1938, casting Stalin himself in a leading role.
Source: Edited by a commission of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U.(b), History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks), Short Course (New York: International Publishers, 1939), pp. 225-247.
Chapter VIII. The Bolshevik Party in the Period of Foreign Military Intervention and Civil War (1918-1920)
1. Beginning of Foreign Military Intervention. First Period of the Civil War
The conclusion of the Peace of Brest-Litovsk and the consolidation of the Soviet power, as a result of a series of revolutionary economic measures adopted by it, at a time when the war in the West was still in full swing, created profound alarm among the Western imperialists, especially those of the Entente countries.
The Entente imperialists feared that the conclusion of peace between Germany and Russia might improve Germany’s position in the war and correspondingly worsen the position of their own armies. They feared, moreover, that peace between Russia and Germany might stimulate the craving for peace in all countries and on all fronts, and thus interfere with the prosecution of the war and damage the cause of the imperialists. Lastly, they feared that the existence of a Soviet government on the territory of a vast country, and the success it had achieved at home after the overthrow of the power of the bourgeoisie, might serve as an infectious example for the workers and soldiers of the West. Profoundly discontented with the protracted war, the workers and soldiers might follow in the footsteps of the Russians and turn their bayonets against their masters and oppressors. Consequently, the Entente governments decided to intervene in Russia by armed force with the object of overthrowing the Soviet Government and establishing a bourgeois government, which would restore the bourgeois system in the country, annul the peace treaty with the Germans and re-establish the military front against Germany and Austria.
The Entente imperialists launched upon this sinister enterprise all the more readily because they were convinced that the Soviet Government was unstable; they had no doubt that with some effort on the part of its enemies its early fall would be inevitable.
The achievements of the Soviet Government and its consolidation created even greater alarm among the deposed classes the landlords and capitalists; in the ranks of the vanquished parties — the Constitutional-Democrats, Mensheviks, Socialist-Revolutionaries, Anarchists and the bourgeois nationalists of all hues; and among the White Guard generals, Cossack officers, etc.
From the very first days of the victorious October Revolution, all these hostile elements began to shout from the housetops that there was no ground in Russia for a Soviet power, that it was doomed, that it was bound to fall within a week or two, or a month, or two or three months at most. But as the Soviet Government, despite the imprecations of its enemies, continued to exist and gain strength, its foes within Russia were forced to admit that it was much stronger than they had imagined, and that its overthrow would require great efforts and a fierce struggle on the part of all the forces of counter-revolution. They therefore decided to embark upon counter-revolutionary insurrectionary activities on a broad scale: to mobilize the forces of counter-revolution, to assemble military cadres and to organize revolts, especially in the Cossack and kulak districts.
Thus, already in the first half of 1918, two definite forces took shape that were prepared to embark upon the overthrow of the Soviet power, namely, the foreign imperialists of the Entente and the counter-revolutionaries at home.
Neither of these forces possessed all the requisites needed to undertake the overthrow of the Soviet Government singly. The counter-revolutionaries in Russia had certain military cadres and man-power, drawn principally from the upper classes of the Cossacks and from the kulaks, enough to start a rebellion against the Soviet Government. But they possessed neither money nor arms. The foreign imperialists, on the other hand, had the money and the arms, but could not “release” a sufficient number of troops for purposes of intervention; they could not do so, not only because these troops were required for the war with Germany and Austria, but because they might not prove altogether reliable in a war against the Soviet power.
The conditions of the struggle against the Soviet power dictated a union of the two anti-Soviet forces, foreign and domestic. And this union was effected in the first half of 1918.
This was how the foreign military intervention against the Soviet power supported by counter-revolutionary revolts of its foes at home originated.
This was the end of the respite in Russia and the beginning of the Civil War, which was a war of the workers and peasants of the nations of Russia against the foreign and domestic enemies of the Soviet power.
The imperialists of Great Britain, France, Japan and America started their military intervention without any declaration of war, although the intervention was a war, a war against Russia, and the worst kind of war at that. These “civilized” marauders secretly and stealthily made their way to Russian shores and landed their troops on Russia’s territory.
The British and French landed troops in the north, occupied Archangel and Murmansk, supported a local White Guard revolt, overthrew the Soviets and set up a White “Government of North Russia.”
The Japanese landed troops in Vladivostok, seized the Maritime Province, dispersed the Soviets and supported the White Guard rebels, who subsequently restored the bourgeois system.
In the North Caucasus, Generals Kornilov, Alekseev and Denikin, with the support of the British and French, formed a White Guard “Volunteer Army,” raised a revolt of the upper classes of the Cossacks and started hostilities against the Soviets.
On the Don, Generals Krasnov and Mamontov, with the secret support of the German imperialists (the Germans hesitated to support them openly owing to the peace treaty between Germany and Russia), raised a revolt of Don Cossacks, occupied the Don region and started hostilities against the Soviets.
In the Middle Volga region and in Siberia, the British and French instigated a revolt of the Czechoslovak Corps. This corps, which consisted of prisoners of war, had received permission from the Soviet Government to return home through Siberia and the Far East. But on the way it was used by the Socialist-Revolutionaries and by the British and French for a revolt against the Soviet Government. The revolt of the corps served as a signal for a revolt of the kulaks in the Volga region and in Siberia, and of the workers of the Votkinsk and Izhevsk Works, who were under the influence of the Socialist-Revolutionaries. A White Guard-Socialist-Revolutionary government was set up in the Volga region, in Samara, and a White Guard government of Siberia, in Omsk.
Germany took no part in the intervention of this British-French-Japanese-American bloc; nor could she do so, since she was at war with this bloc if for no other reason. But in spite of this, and notwithstanding the existence of a peace treaty between Russia and Germany, no Bolshevik doubted that Kaiser Wilhelm’s government was just as rabid an enemy of Soviet Russia as the British-French-Japanese-American invaders. And, indeed, the German imperialists did their utmost to isolate, weaken and destroy Soviet Russia. They snatched from it the Ukraine — true, it was in accordance with a “treaty” with the White Guard Ukrainian Rada (Council) — brought in their troops at the request of the Rada and began mercilessly to rob and oppress the Ukrainian people, forbidding them to maintain any connections whatever with Soviet Russia. They severed Transcaucasia from Soviet Russia, sent German and Turkish troops there at the request of the Georgian and Azerbaijan nationalists and began to play the masters in Tiflis and in Baku. They supplied, not openly, it is true, abundant arms and provisions to General Krasnov, who had raised a revolt against the Soviet Government on the Don.
Soviet Russia was thus cut off from her principal sources of food, raw material and fuel.
Conditions were hard in Soviet Russia at that period. There was a shortage of bread and meat. The workers were starving. In Moscow and Petrograd a bread ration of one-eighth of a pound was issued to them every other day, and there were times when no bread was issued at all. The factories were at a standstill, or almost at a standstill, owing to a lack of raw materials and fuel. But the working class did not lose heart. Nor did the Bolshevik Party. The desperate struggle waged to overcome the incredible difficulties of that period showed how inexhaustible is the energy latent in the working class and how immense the prestige of the Bolshevik Party.
The Party proclaimed the country an armed camp and placed its economic, cultural and political life on a war footing. The Soviet Government announced that “the Socialist fatherland is in danger,” and called upon the people to rise in its defense. Lenin issued the slogan, “All for the front!” — and hundreds of thousands of workers and peasants volunteered for service in the Red Army and left for the front. About half the membership of the Party and of the Young Communist League went to the front. The Party roused the people for a war for the fatherland, a war against the foreign invaders and against the revolts of the exploiting classes whom the revolution had overthrown. The Council of Workers’ and Peasants’ Defense, organized by Lenin, directed the work of supplying the front with reinforcements, food, clothing and arms. The substitution of compulsory military service for the volunteer system brought hundreds of thousands of new recruits into the Red Army and very shortly raised its strength to over a million men.
Although the country was in a difficult position, and the young Red Army was not yet consolidated, the measures of defense adopted soon yielded their first fruits. General Krasnov was forced back from Tsaritsyn, whose capture he had regarded as certain, and driven beyond the River Don. General Denikin’s operations were localized within a small area in the North Caucasus, while General Kornilov was killed in action against the Red Army. The Czechoslovaks and the White Guard-Socialist-Revolutionary bands were ousted from Kazan, Simbirsk and Samara and driven to the Urals. A revolt in Yaroslavl headed by the White Guard Savinkov and organized by Lockhart, chief of the British Mission in Moscow, was suppressed, and Lockhart himself arrested. The Socialist-Revolutionaries, who had assassinated Comrades Uritskii and Volodarskii and had made a villainous attempt on the life of Lenin, were subjected to a Red terror in retaliation for their White terror against the Bolsheviks, and were completely routed in every important city in Central Russia.
The young Red Army matured and hardened in battle.
The work of the Communist Commissars was of decisive importance in the consolidation and political education of the Red Army and in raising its discipline and fighting efficiency.
But the Bolshevik Party knew that these were only the first, not the decisive successes of the Red Army. It was aware that new and far more serious battles were still to come, and that the country could re cover the lost food, raw material and fuel regions only by a prolonged and stubborn struggle with the enemy. The Bolsheviks therefore under took intense preparations for a protracted war and decided to place the whole country at the service of the front. The Soviet Government introduced War Communism. It took under its control the middle-sized and small industries, in addition to large-scale industry, so as to accumulate goods for the supply of the army and the agricultural population. It introduced a state monopoly of the grain trade, prohibited private trading in grain and established the surplus-appropriation system, under which all surplus produce in the hands of the peasants was to be registered and acquired by the state at fixed prices, so as to accumulate stores of grain for the provisioning of the army and the workers. Lastly, it introduced universal labor service for all classes. By making physical labor compulsory for the bourgeoisie and thus releasing workers for other duties of greater importance to the front, the Party was giving practical effect to the principle: “He who does not work, neither shall he eat.”
All these measures, which were necessitated by the exceptionally difficult conditions of national defense, and bore a temporary character, were in their entirety known as War Communism.
The country prepared itself for a long and exacting civil war, for a war against the foreign and internal enemies of the Soviet power. By the end of 1918 it had to increase the strength of the army threefold, and to accumulate supplies for this army.
Lenin said at that time:
“We had decided to have an army of one million men by the spring; now we need an army of three million. We can get it. And we will get it.”
2. Defeat of Germany in the War. Revolution in Germany. Founding of the Third International. Eighth Party Congress
While the Soviet country was preparing for new battles against the forces of foreign intervention, in the West decisive events were taking place in the belligerent countries, both on the war fronts and in their interior. Germany and Austria were suffocating in the grip of war and a food crisis. Whereas Great Britain, France and the United States were continually drawing upon new resources, Germany and Austria were consuming their last meager stocks. The situation was such that Germany and Austria, having reached the stage of extreme exhaustion, were on the brink of defeat.
At the same time, the peoples of Germany and Austria were seething with indignation against the disastrous and interminable war, and against their imperialist governments who had reduced them to a state of exhaustion and starvation. The revolutionary influence of the October Revolution also had a tremendous effect, as did the fraternization of the Soviet soldiers with the Austrian and German soldiers at the front even before the Peace of Brest-Litovsk, the actual termination of the war with Soviet Russia and the conclusion of peace with her. The people of Russia had brought about the end of the detested war by over throwing their imperialist government, and this could not but serve as an object lesson to the Austrian and German workers. And the German soldiers who had been stationed on the Eastern front and who after the Peace of Brest-Litovsk were transferred to the Western front could not but undermine the morale of the German army on that front by their accounts of the fraternization with the Soviet soldiers and of the way the Soviet soldiers had got rid of the war. The disintegration of the Austrian army from the same causes had begun even earlier.
All this served to accentuate the craving for peace among the German soldiers; they lost their former fighting efficiency and began to retreat in face of the onslaught of the Entente armies. In November 1918 a revolution broke out in Germany, and Wilhelm and his government were overthrown.
Germany was obliged to acknowledge defeat and to sue for peace.
Thus at one stroke Germany was reduced from a first-rate power to a second-rate power.
As far as the position of the Soviet Government was concerned, this circumstance had certain disadvantages, inasmuch as it made the Entente countries, which had started armed intervention against the Soviet power, the dominant force in Europe and Asia, and enabled them to intervene more actively in the Soviet country and to blockade her, to draw the noose more tightly around the Soviet power. And this was what actually happened, as we shall see later. On the other hand, it had its advantages, which outweighed the disadvantages and fundamentally improved the position of Soviet Russia. In the first place, the Soviet Government was now able to annul the predatory Peace of Brest-Litovsk, to stop paying the indemnities, and to start an open struggle, military and political, for the liberation of Estonia, Latvia, Byelorussia, Lithuania, the Ukraine and Transcaucasia from the yoke of German imperialism. Secondly, and chiefly, the existence in the center of Europe, in Germany, of a republican regime and of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies was bound to revolutionize, and actually did revolutionize, the countries of Europe, and this could not but strengthen the position of the Soviet power in Russia. True, the revolution in Germany was not a Socialist but a bourgeois revolution, and the Soviets were an obedient tool of the bourgeois parliament, for they were dominated by the Social-Democrats, who were compromisers of the type of the Russian Mensheviks. This in fact explains the weakness of the German revolution. How weak it really was is shown, for example, by the fact that it allowed the German White Guards to assassinate such prominent revolutionaries as Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht with impunity. Nevertheless, it was a revolution: Wilhelm had been overthrown, and the workers had cast off their chains; and this in itself was bound to unloose the revolution in the West, was bound to call forth a rise in the revolution in the European countries.
The tide of revolution in Europe began to mount. A revolutionary movement started in Austria, and a Soviet Republic arose in Hungary. With the rising tide of the revolution Communist parties came to the surface.
A real basis now existed for a union of the Communist parties, for the formation of the Third, Communist International.
In March 1919, on the initiative of the Bolsheviks, headed by Lenin, the First Congress of the Communist Parties of various countries, held in Moscow, founded the Communist International. Although many of the delegates were prevented by the blockade and imperialist persecution from arriving in Moscow, the most important countries of Europe and America were represented at this First Congress. The work of the congress was guided by Lenin.
Lenin reported on the subject of bourgeois democracy and the dictatorship of the proletariat. He brought out the importance of the Soviet system, showing that it meant genuine democracy for the working people. The congress adopted a manifesto to the proletariat of all countries calling upon them to wage a determined struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat and for the triumph of Soviets all over the world.
The congress set up an Executive Committee of the Third, Communist International (ECCI).
Thus was founded an international revolutionary proletarian organization of a new type — the Communist International — the Marxist-Leninist International.
The Eighth Congress of our Party met in March 1919. It assembled in the midst of a conflict of contradictory factors — on the one hand, the reactionary bloc of the Entente countries against the Soviet Government had grown stronger, and, on the other, the rising tide of revolution in Europe, especially in the defeated countries, had considerably improved the position of the Soviet country.
The congress was attended by 301 delegates with vote, representing 313,766 members of the Party, and 102 delegates with voice but no vote.
In his inaugural speech, Lenin paid homage to the memory of Y. M. Sverdlov, one of the finest organizing talents in the Bolshevik Party, who had died on the eve of the congress.
The congress adopted a new Party Program. This program gives a description of capitalism and of its highest phase — imperialism. It compares two systems of state — the bourgeois-democratic system and the Soviet system. It details the specific tasks of the Party in the struggle for Socialism: completion of the expropriation of the bourgeoisie; administration of the economic life of the country in accordance with a single Socialist plan; participation of the trade unions in the organization of the national economy; Socialist labor discipline; utilization of bourgeois experts in the economic field under the control of Soviet bodies; gradual and systematic enlistment of the middle peasantry in the work of Socialist construction.
The congress adopted Lenin’s proposal to include in the program in addition to a definition of imperialism as the highest stage of capitalism, the description of industrial capitalism and simple commodity production contained in the old program adopted at the Second Party Congress. Lenin considered it essential that the program should take account of the complexity of our economic system and note the existence of diverse economic formations in the country, including small commodity production, as represented by the middle peasants. Therefore, during the debate on the program, Lenin vigorously condemned the anti-Bolshevik views of Bukharin, who proposed that the clauses dealing with capitalism, small commodity production, the economy of the middle peasant, be left out of the program. Bukharin’s views represented a Menshevik-Trotskyite denial of the role played by the middle peasant in the development of the Soviet state. Furthermore, Bukharin glossed over the fact that the small commodity production of the peasants bred and nourished kulak elements.
Lenin further refuted the anti-Bolshevik views of Bukharin and Piatakov on the national question. They spoke against the inclusion in the program of a clause on the right of nations to self-determination; they were against the equality of nations, claiming that it was a slogan that would hinder the, victory of the proletarian revolution and the union of the proletarians of different nationalities. Lenin overthrew these utterly pernicious, imperialist, chauvinist views of Bukharin and Piatakov.
An important place in the deliberations of the Eighth Congress was devoted to policy towards the middle peasants. The Decree on the Land had resulted in a steady growth in the number of middle peasants, who now comprised the majority of the peasant population. The attitude and conduct of the middle peasantry, which vacillated between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, was of momentous importance for the fate of the Civil War and Socialist construction. The outcome of the Civil War largely depended on which way the middle peasant would swing, which class would win his allegiance — the proletariat or the bourgeoisie. The Czechoslovaks, the White Guards, the kulaks, the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks were able to overthrow the Soviet power in the Volga region in the summer of 1918 because they were supported by a large section of the middle peasantry. The same was true during the revolts raised by the kulaks in Central Russia. But in the autumn of 1918 the mass of the middle peasants began to swing over to the Soviet power. The peasants saw that victories of the Whites were followed by the restoration of the power of the landlords, the seizure of peasants’ land, and the robbery, flogging and torture of peasants. The activities of the Committees of the Poor Peasants, which crushed the kulaks, also contributed to the change in the attitude of the peasantry. Accordingly, in November 1918, Lenin issued the slogan:
“Learn to come to an agreement with the middle peasant, while not for a moment renouncing the struggle against the kulak and at the same time firmly relying solely on the poor peasant.” (Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. VIII, p. 150.)
Of course, the middle peasants did not cease to vacillate entirely, but they drew closer to the Soviet Government and began to support it more solidly. This to a large extent was facilitated by the policy towards the middle peasants laid down by the Eighth Party Congress.
The Eighth Congress marked a turning point in the policy of the Party towards the middle peasants. Lenin’s report and the decisions of the congress laid down a new line of the Party on this question. The congress demanded that the Party organizations and all Communists should draw a strict distinction and division between the middle peasant and the kulak, and should strive to win the former over to the side of the working class by paying close attention to his needs. The backwardness of the middle peasants had to be overcome by persuasion and not by compulsion and coercion. The congress therefore gave instructions that no compulsion be used in the carrying out of Socialist measures in the countryside (formation of communes and agricultural artels). In all cases affecting the vital interests of the middle peasant, a practical agreement should be reached with him and concessions made with regard to the methods of realizing Socialist changes. The congress laid down the policy of a stable alliance with the middle peasant, the leading role in this alliance to be maintained by the proletariat.
The new policy towards the middle peasant proclaimed by Lenin at the Eighth Congress required that the proletariat should rely on the poor peasant, maintain a stable alliance with the middle peasant and fight the kulak. The policy of the Party before the Eighth Congress was in general one of neutralizing the middle peasant. This meant that the Party strove to prevent the middle peasant from siding with the kulak and with the bourgeoisie in general. But now this was not enough. The Eighth Congress passed from a policy of neutralization of the middle peasant to a policy of stable alliance with him for the purpose of the struggle against the White Guards and foreign intervention and for the successful building of Socialism.
The policy adopted by the congress towards the middle peasants, who formed the bulk of the peasantry, played a decisive part in ensuring success in the Civil War against foreign intervention and its White Guard henchmen. In the autumn of 1919, when the peasants had to choose between the Soviet power and Denikin, they supported the Soviets, and the proletarian dictatorship was able to vanquish its most dangerous enemy.
The problems connected with the building up of the Red Army held a special place in the deliberations of the congress, where the so-called “Military Opposition” appeared in the field. This “Military Opposition” comprised quite a number of former members of the now shattered group of “Left Communists”; but it also included some Party workers who had never participated in any opposition, but were dissatisfied with the way Trotsky was conducting the affairs of the army. The majority of the delegates from the army were distinctly hostile to Trotsky; they resented his veneration for the military experts of the old tsarist army, some of whom were betraying us outright in the Civil War, and his arrogant and hostile attitude towards the old Bolshevik cadres in the army. Instances of Trotsky’s “practices” were cited at the congress. For example, he had attempted to shoot a number of prominent army Communists serving at the front, just because they had incurred his displeasure. This was directly playing into the hands of the enemy. It was only the intervention of the Central Committee and the protests of military men that saved the lives of these comrades.
But while fighting Trotsky’s distortions of the military policy of the Party, the “Military Opposition” held incorrect views on a number of points concerning the building up of the army. Lenin and Stalin vigorously came out against the “Military Opposition,” because the latter defended the survivals of the guerrilla spirit and resisted the creation of a regular Red Army, the utilization of the military experts of the old army and the establishment of that iron discipline without which no army can be a real army. Comrade Stalin rebutted the “Military Opposition” and demanded the creation of a regular army inspired with the spirit of strictest discipline.
“Either we create a real worker and peasant — primarily a peasant — army, strictly disciplined army, and defend the Republic, or we perish.”
While rejecting a number of proposals made by the “Military Opposition,” the congress dealt a blow at Trotsky by demanding an improvement in the work of the central military institutions and the enhancement of the role of the Communists in the army.
A Military Commission was set up at the congress; thanks to its efforts the decision on the military question was adopted by the congress unanimously.
The effect of this decision was to strengthen the Red Army and to bring it still closer to the Party.
The congress further discussed Party and Soviet affairs and the guiding role of the Party in the Soviets. During the debate on the latter question the congress repudiated the view of the opportunist Sapronov-Osinskii group which held that the Party should not guide the work of the Soviets.
Lastly, in view of the huge influx of new members into the Party, the congress outlined measures to improve the social composition of the Party and decided to conduct a re-registration of its members.
This initiated the first purge of the Party ranks.
3. Extension of Intervention. Blockade of the Soviet Country. Kolchak’s Campaign and Defeat. Denikin’s Campaign and Defeat. A Three-months’ Respite. Ninth Party Congress
Having vanquished Germany and Austria, the Entente states decided to hurl large military forces against the Soviet country. After Germany’s defeat and the evacuation of her troops from the Ukraine and Transcaucasia, her place was taken by the British and French, who dispatched their fleets to the Black Sea and landed troops in Odessa and in Transcaucasia. Such was the brutality of the Entente forces of intervention that they did not hesitate to shoot whole batches of workers and peasants in the occupied regions. Their outrages reached such lengths in the end that after the occupation of Turkestan they carried off to the Transcaspian region twenty-six leading Baku Bolsheviks — including Comrades Shaumyan, Fioletov, Dzhaparidze, Malygin, Azizbekov, Korganov — and with the aid of the Socialist-Revolutionaries, had them brutally shot.
The interventionists soon proclaimed a blockade of Russia. All sea routes and other lines of communication with the external world were cut.
The Soviet country was surrounded on nearly every side.
The Entente countries placed their chief hopes in Admiral Kolchak, their puppet in Omsk, Siberia. He was proclaimed “supreme ruler of Russia” and all the counter-revolutionary forces in the country placed themselves under his command.
The Eastern Front thus became the main front.
Kolchak assembled a huge army and in the spring of 1919 almost reached the Volga. The finest Bolshevik forces were hurled against him; Young Communist Leaguers and workers were mobilized. In April 1919, Kolchak’s army met with severe defeat at the hands of the Red Army and very soon began to retreat along the whole front.
At the height of the advance of the Red Army on the Eastern Front, Trotsky put forward a suspicious plan: he proposed that the advance should be halted before it reached the Urals, the pursuit of Kolchak’s army discontinued, and troops transferred from the Eastern Front to the Southern Front. The Central Committee of the Party fully realized that the Urals and Siberia could not be left in Kolchak’s hands, for there, with the aid of the Japanese and British, he might recuperate and retrieve his former position. It therefore rejected this plan and gave instructions to proceed with the advance. Trotsky disagreed with these instructions and tendered his resignation, which the Central Committee declined, at the same time ordering him to refrain at once from all participation in the direction of the operations on the Eastern Front. The Red Army pursued its offensive against Kolchak with greater vigor than ever; it inflicted a number of new defeats on him and freed of the Whites the Urals and Siberia, where the Red Army was supported by a powerful partisan movement in the Whites’ rear.
In the summer of 1919, the imperialists assigned to General Iudenich, who headed the counter-revolutionaries in the north-west (in the Baltic countries, in the vicinity of Petrograd), the task of diverting the attention of the Red Army from the Eastern Front by an attack on Petrograd. Influenced by the counter-revolutionary agitation of former officers, the garrisons of two forts in the vicinity of Petrograd mutinied against the Soviet Government. At the same time a counter-revolutionary plot was discovered at the Front Headquarters. The enemy threatened Petrograd. But thanks to the measures taken by the Soviet Government with the support of the workers and sailors, the mutinous forts were cleared of Whites, and Iudenich’s troops were defeated and driven back into Estonia.
The defeat of Iudenich near Petrograd made it easier to cope with Kolchak, and by the end of 1919 his army was completely routed. Kolchak himself was taken prisoner and shot by sentence of the Revolutionary Committee in Irkutsk.
That was the end of Kolchak.
The Siberians had a popular song about Kolchak at that time:
“Uniform British, Epaulettes from France, Japanese tobacco, Kolchak leads the dance. Uniform in tatters, Epaulettes all gone, So is the tobacco, Kolchak’s day is done.”
Since Kolchak had not justified their hopes, the interventionists altered their plan of attack on the Soviet Republic. The troops landed in Odessa had to be withdrawn, for contact with the army of the Soviet Republic had infected them with the revolutionary spirit and they were beginning to rebel against their imperialist masters. For example, there was the revolt of French sailors in Odessa led by Andr� Marty. Accordingly, now that Kolchak had been defeated, the Entente centered its attention on General Denikin, Kornilov’s confederate and the organizer of the “Volunteer Army.” Denikin at that time was operating against the Soviet Government in the south, in the Kuban region. The Entente supplied his army with large quantities of ammunition and equipment and sent it north against the Soviet Government.
The Southern Front now became the chief front.
Denikin began his main campaign against the Soviet Government in the summer of 1919. Trotsky had disrupted the Southern Front, and our troops suffered defeat after defeat. By the middle of October the Whites had seized the whole of the Ukraine, had captured Orel and were nearing Tula, which supplied our army with cartridges, rifles and machine-guns. The Whites were approaching Moscow. The situation of the Soviet Republic became grave in the extreme. The Party sounded the alarm and called upon the people to resist. Lenin issued the slogan, “All for the fight against Denikin!” Inspired by the Bolsheviks, the workers and peasants mustered all their forces to smash the enemy.
The Central Committee sent Comrades Stalin, Voroshilov, Ordzhonikidze and Budennyi to the Southern Front to prepare the rout of Denikin. Trotsky was removed from the direction of the operations of the Red Army in the south. Before Comrade Stalin’s arrival, the Command of the Southern Front, in conjunction with Trotsky, had drawn up a plan to strike the main blow at Denikin from Tsaritsyn in the direction of Novorossiisk, through the Don Steppe, where there were no roads and where the Red Army would have to pass through regions inhabited by Cossacks, who were at that time largely under the influence of the White Guards. Comrade Stalin severely criticized this plan and submitted to the Central Committee his own plan for the defeat of Denikin. According to this plan the main blow was to be delivered by way of Kharkov-Donets Basin-Rostov. This plan would ensure the rapid advance of our troops against Denikin, for they would be moving through working class and peasant regions where they would have the open sympathy of the population. Furthermore, the dense network of railroad lines in this region would ensure our armies the regular supply of all they required.
Lastly, this plan would make it possible to release the Donets Coal Basin and thus supply our country with fuel.
The Central Committee of the Party accepted Comrade Stalin’s plan. In the second half of October 1919, after fierce resistance, Denikin was defeated by the Red Army in the decisive battles of Orel and Voronezh. He began a rapid retreat, and, pursued by our forces, fled to the south. At the beginning of 1920 the whole of the Ukraine and the North Caucasus had been cleared of Whites.
During the decisive battles on the Southern Front, the imperialists again hurled Iudenich’s corps against Petrograd in order to divert our forces from the south and thus improve the position of Denikin’s army. The Whites approached the very gates of Petrograd. The heroic proletariat of the premier city of the revolution rose in a solid wall for its defense. The Communists, as always, were in the vanguard. After fierce fighting, the Whites were defeated and again flung beyond our borders back into Estonia.
And that was the end of Denikin.
The defeat of Kolchak and Denikin was followed by a brief respite.
When the imperialists saw that the White Guard armies had been smashed, that intervention had failed, and that the Soviet Government was consolidating its position all over the country, while in Western Europe the indignation of the workers against military intervention in the Soviet Republic was rising, they began to change their attitude towards the Soviet state. In January 1920, Great Britain, France, and Italy decided to call off the blockade of Soviet Russia.
This was an important breach in the wall of intervention.
It did not, of course, mean that the Soviet country was done with intervention and the Civil War. There was still the danger of attack by imperialist Poland. The forces of intervention had not yet been finally driven out of the Far East, Transcaucasia and the Crimea. But Soviet Russia had secured a temporary breathing space and was able to divert more forces to economic development. The Party could now devote its attention to economic problems.
During the Civil War many skilled workers had left industry owing to the closing down of mills and factories. The Party now took measures to return them to industry to work at their trades. The railroads were in a grave condition and several thousand Communists were assigned to the work of restoring them, for unless this was done the restoration of the major branches of industry could not be seriously undertaken. The organization of the food supply was extended and improved. The drafting of a plan for the electrification of Russia was begun. Nearly five million Red Army men were under arms and could not be demobilized owing to the danger of war. A part of the Red Army was therefore converted into labor armies and used in the economic field. The Council of Workers’ and Peasants’ Defense was transformed into the Council of Labor and Defense, and a State Planning Commission (Gosplan) set up to assist it. Such was the situation when the Ninth Party Congress opened.
The congress met at the end of March 1920. It was attended by 554 delegates with vote, representing 611,978 Party members, and 162 delegates with voice but no vote.
The congress defined the immediate tasks of the country in the sphere of transportation and industry. It particularly stressed the necessity of the trade unions taking part in the building up of the economic life.
Special attention was devoted by the congress to a single economic plan for the restoration, in the first place, of the railroads, the fuel industry and the iron and steel industry. The major item in this plan was a project for the electrification of the country, which Lenin advanced as “a great program for the next ten or twenty years.” This formed the basis of the famous plan of the State Commission for the Electrification of Russia (GOELRO), the provisions of which have today been far exceeded.
The congress rejected the views of an anti-Party group which called itself “The Group of Democratic-Centralism” and was opposed to one-man management and the undivided responsibility of industrial directors. It advocated unrestricted “group management” under which nobody would be personally responsible for the administration of industry. The chief figures in this anti-Party group were Sapronov, Osinskii and Y. Smirnov. They were supported at the congress by Rykov and Tomskii.
4. Polish Gentry Attack Soviet Russia. General Vrangel’s Campaign. Failure of the Polish Plan. Rout of Vrangel. End of the Intervention.
Notwithstanding the defeat of Kolchak and Denikin, notwithstanding the fact that the Soviet Republic was steadily regaining its territory by clearing the Whites and the forces of intervention out of the Northern Territory, Turkestan, Siberia, the Don region, the Ukraine, etc., notwithstanding the fact that the Entente states were obliged to call off the blockade of Russia, they still refused to reconcile themselves to the idea that the Soviet power had proved impregnable and had come out victorious. They therefore resolved to make one more attempt at intervention in Soviet Russia. This time they decided to utilize both Pilsudski, a bourgeois counter-revolutionary nationalist, the virtual head of the Polish state, and General Vrangel, who had rallied the remnants of Denikin’s army in the Crimea and from there was threatening the Donets Basin and the Ukraine.
The Polish gentry and Vrangel, as Lenin put it, were the two hands with which international imperialism attempted to strangle Soviet Russia.
The plan of the Poles was to seize the Soviet Ukraine west of the Dnepr, to occupy Soviet Byelorussia, to restore the power of the Polish magnates in these regions, to extend the frontiers of the Polish state so that they stretched “from sea to sea,” from Danzig to Odessa, and, in return for his aid, to help Vrangel smash the Red Army and restore the power of the landlords and capitalists in Soviet Russia.
This plan was approved by the Entente states.
The Soviet Government made vain attempts to enter into negotiations with Poland with the object of preserving peace and averting war. Pilsudski refused to discuss peace. He wanted war. He calculated that the Red Army, fatigued by its battles with Kolchak and Denikin, would not be able to withstand the attack of the Polish forces.
The short breathing space had come to an end.
In April 1920 the Poles invaded the Soviet Ukraine and seized Kiev. At the same time, Vrangel took the offensive and threatened the Donets Basin.
In reply, the Red Army started a counter-offensive against the Poles along the whole front. Kiev was recaptured and the Polish war lords driven out of the Ukraine and Byelorussia. The impetuous advance of the Red troops on the Southern Front brought them to the very gates of L’vov in Galicia, while the troops on the Western Front were nearing Warsaw. The Polish armies were on the verge of utter defeat.
But success was frustrated by the suspicious actions of Trotsky and his followers at the General Headquarters of the Red Army. Through the fault of Trotsky and Tukhachevskii, the advance of the Red troops on the Western Front, towards Warsaw, proceeded in an absolutely unorganized manner: the troops were allowed no opportunity to consolidate the positions that they won, the advance detachments were led too far ahead, while reserves and ammunition were left too far in the rear. As a result, the advance detachments were left without ammunition and reserves and the front was stretched out endlessly. This made it easy to force a breach in the front. The result was that when a small force of Poles broke through our Western Front at one point, our troops, left without ammunition, were obliged to retreat. As regards the troops on the Southern Front, who had reached the gates of L’vov and were pressing the Poles hard, they were forbidden by Trotsky, that ill-famed “chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council,” to capture L’vov. He ordered the transfer of the Mounted Army, the main force on the Southern Front, far to the north-east. This was done on the pretext of helping the Western Front, although it was not difficult to see that the best, and in fact only possible, way of helping the Western Front was to capture L’vov. But the withdrawal of the Mounted Army from the Southern Front, its departure from L’vov, virtually meant the retreat of our forces on the Southern Front as well. This wrecker’s order issued by Trotsky thus forced upon our troops on the Southern Front an incomprehensible and absolutely unjustified retreat — to the joy of the Polish gentry.
This was giving direct assistance, indeed — not to our Western Front, however, but to the Polish gentry and the Entente.
Within a few days the advance of the Poles was checked and our troops began preparations for a new counter-offensive. But, unable to continue the war, and alarmed by the prospect of a Red counter-offensive, Poland was obliged to renounce her claims to the Ukrainian territory west of the Dnepr and to Byelorussia and preferred to conclude peace. On October 20, 1920, the Peace of Riga was signed. In accordance with this treaty Poland retained Galicia and part of Byelorussia.
Having concluded peace with Poland, the Soviet Republic decided to put an end to Vrangel. The British and French had supplied him with guns, rifles, armored cars, tanks, airplanes and ammunition of the latest type. He had White Guard shock regiments, mainly consisting of officers. But Vrangel failed to rally any considerable number of peasants and Cossacks in support of the troops he had landed in the Kuban and the Don regions. Nevertheless, he advanced to the very gates of the Donets Basin, creating a menace to our coal region. The position of the Soviet Government at that time was further complicated by the fact that the Red Army was suffering greatly from fatigue. The troops were obliged to advance under extremely difficult conditions: while conducting an offensive against Vrangel, they had at the same time to smash Makhno’s anarchist bands who were assisting Vrangel. But although Vrangel had the superiority in technical equipment, although the Red Army had no tanks, it drove Vrangel into the Crimean Peninsula and there bottled him up. In November 1920 the Red forces captured the fortified position of Perekop, swept into the Crimea, smashed Vrangel’s forces and cleared the Peninsula of the White Guards and the forces of intervention. The Crimea became Soviet territory.
The failure of Poland’s imperialist plans and the defeat of Vrangel ended the period of intervention.
At the end of 1920 there began the liberation of Transcaucasia: Azerbaijan was freed from the yoke of the bourgeois nationalist Mussavatists, Georgia from the Menshevik nationalists, and Armenia from the Dashnaks. The Soviet power triumphed in Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia.
This did not yet mean the end of all intervention. That of the Japanese in the Far East lasted until 1922. Moreover, new attempts at intervention were made (Ataman Semenov and Baron Ungern in the East, the Finnish Whites in Karelia in 1921). But the principal enemies of the Soviet country, the principal forces of intervention, were shattered by the end of 1920.
The war of the foreign interventionists and the Russian White Guards against the Soviets ended in a victory for the Soviets.
The Soviet Republic preserved its independence and freedom.
This was the end of foreign military intervention and Civil War.
This was a historic victory for the Soviet power.
5. How and Why the Soviet Republic Defeated the Combined Forces of British-French-Japanese-Polish Intervention and of the Bourgeois-Landlord-White Guard Counter-revolution in Russia
If we study the leading European and American newspapers and periodicals of the period of intervention, we shall easily find that there was not a single prominent writer, military or civilian, not a single military expert who believed that the Soviet Government could win. On the contrary, all prominent writers, military experts and historians of revolution of all countries and nations, all the so-called savants, were unanimous in declaring that the days of the Soviets were numbered, that their defeat was inevitable.
They based their certainty of the victory of the forces of intervention on the fact that whereas Soviet Russia had no organized army and had to create its Red Army under fire, so to speak, the interventionists and White Guards did have an army more or less ready to hand.
Further, they based their certainty on the fact that the Red Army had no experienced military men, the majority of them having gone over to the counter-revolution, whereas the interventionists and White Guards did have such men.
Furthermore, they based their certainty on the fact that, owing to the backwardness of Russia’s war industry, the Red Army was suffering from a shortage of arms and ammunition; that what it did have was of poor quality, while it could not obtain supplies from abroad because Russia was hermetically sealed on all sides by the blockade. The army of the interventionists and White Guards, on the other hand, was abundantly supplied, and would continue to be supplied, with first-class arms, ammunition and equipment.
Lastly, they based their certainty on the fact that the army of the interventionists and White Guards occupied the richest food-producing regions of Russia, whereas the Red Army had no such regions and was suffering from a shortage of provisions.
And it was a fact that the Red Army did suffer from all these handicaps and deficiencies.
In this respect — but only in this respect — the gentlemen of the intervention were absolutely right.
How then is it to be explained that the Red Army, although suffering from such grave shortcomings, was able to defeat the army of the interventionists and White Guards which did not suffer from such shortcomings?
1. The Red Army was victorious because the Soviet Government’s policy for which the Red Army was fighting was a right policy, one that corresponded to the interests of the people, and because the people under stood and realized that it was the right policy, their own policy, and supported it unreservedly.
The Bolsheviks knew that an army that fights for a wrong policy, for a policy that is not supported by the people, cannot win. The army of the interventionists and White Guards was such an army. It had everything: experienced commanders and first-class arms, ammunition, equipment and provisions. It lacked only one thing — the support and sympathy of the peoples of Russia; for the peoples of Russia could not and would not support the policy of the interventionists and White Guard “rulers” because it was a policy hostile to the people. And so the interventionist and White Guard army was defeated.
2. The Red Army was victorious because it was absolutely loyal and faithful to its people, for which reason the people loved and supported it and looked upon it as their own army. The Red Army is the offspring of the people, and if it is faithful to its people, as a true son is to his mother, it will have the support of the people and is bound to win. An army, however, that goes against its people must suffer defeat.
3. The Red Army was victorious because the Soviet Government was able to muster the whole rear, the whole country, to serve the needs of the front. An army without a strong rear to support the front in every way is doomed to defeat. The Bolsheviks knew this and that is why they converted the country into an armed camp to supply the front with arms, ammunition, equipment, food and reinforcements.
4. The Red Army was victorious because: a) the Red Army men understood the aims and purposes of the war and recognized their justice; b) the recognition of the justice of the aims and purposes of the war strengthened their discipline and fighting efficiency; and c) as a result, the Red Army throughout displayed unparalleled self-sacrifice and unexampled mass heroism in battle against the enemy.
5. The Red Army was victorious because its leading core, both at the front and in the rear, was the Bolshevik Party, united in its solidarity and discipline, strong in its revolutionary spirit and readiness for any sacrifice in the common cause, and unsurpassed in its ability to organize millions and to lead them properly in complex situations.
“It is only because of the Party’s vigilance and its strict discipline,” said Lenin, “because the authority of the Party united all government departments and institutions, because the slogans issued by the Central Committee were followed by tens, hundreds, thousands and finally millions of people as one man, because incredible sacrifices were made, that the miracle took place and we were able to win, in spite of repeated campaigns of the imperialists of the Entente and of the whole world.”
6. The Red Army was victorious because: a) it was able to produce from its own ranks military commanders of a new type, men like Frunze, Voroshilov, Budennyi, and others; b) in its ranks fought such talented heroes who came from the people as Kotovskii, Chapaev, Lazo, Shchors, Parkhomenko, and many others; c) the political education of the Red Army was in the hands of men like Lenin, Stalin, Molotov, Kalinin, Sverdlov, Kaganovich, Ordzhonikidze, Kirov, Kuibyshev, Mikoian, Zhdanov, Andreev, Petrovskii, Iaroslavskii, Ezhov, Dzerzhinskii, Shchadenko, Mekhlis, Khrushchev, Shvernik and others; d) the Red Army possessed such outstanding organizers and agitators as the military commissars, who by their work cemented the ranks of the Red Army men, fostered in them the spirit of discipline and military daring, and energetically — swiftly and relentlessly — cut short the treacherous activities of certain of the commanders, while on the other hand, they boldly and resolutely supported the prestige and renown of commanders, Party and non-Party, who had proved their loyalty to the Soviet power and who were capable of leading the Red Army units with a firm hand.
“Without the military commissars we would not have had a Red Army,” Lenin said.
7. The Red Army was victorious because in the rear of the White armies, in the rear of Kolchak, Denikin, Krasnov and Vrangel, there secretly operated splendid Bolsheviks, Party and non-Party, who raised the workers and peasants in revolt against the invaders, against the White Guards, undermined the rear of the foes of the Soviet Government, and thereby facilitated the advance of the Red Army. Everybody knows that the partisans of the Ukraine, Siberia, the Far East, the Urals, Byelorussia and the Volga region, by undermining the rear of the White Guards and the invaders, rendered invaluable service to the Red Army.
8. The Red Army was victorious because the Soviet Republic was not alone in its struggle against White Guard counter-revolution and foreign intervention, because the struggle of the Soviet Government and its successes enlisted the sympathy and support of the proletarians of the whole world. While the imperialists were trying to stifle the Soviet Republic by intervention and blockade, the workers of the imperialist countries sided with the Soviets and helped them. Their struggle against the capitalists of the countries hostile to the Soviet Republic helped in the end to force the imperialists to call off the intervention. The workers of Great Britain, France and the other intervening powers called strikes, refused to load munitions consigned to the invaders and the White Guard generals, and set up Councils of Action whose work was guided by the slogan — “Hands off Russia!”
“The international bourgeoisie has only to raise its hand against us to have it seized by its own workers,” Lenin said.
Vanquished by the October Revolution, the landlords and capitalists, in conjunction with the White Guard generals, conspired with the governments of the Entente countries against the interests of their own country for a joint armed attack on the Soviet land and for the overthrow of the Soviet Government. This formed the basis of the military intervention of the Entente and of the White Guard revolts in the border regions of Russia, as a result of which Russia was cut off from her sources of food and raw material.
The military defeat of Germany and the termination of the war between the two imperialist coalitions in Europe served to strengthen the Entente and to intensify the intervention, and created new difficulties for Soviet Russia.
On the other hand, the revolution in Germany and the incipient revolutionary movement in the European countries created favorable international conditions for the Soviet power and relieved the position of the Soviet Republic.
The Bolshevik Party roused the workers and peasants for a war for the fatherland, a war against the foreign invaders and the bourgeois and landlord White Guards. The Soviet Republic and its Red Army defeated one after another the puppets of the Entente — Kolchak, Iudenich, Denikin, Krasnov and Vrangel, drove out of the Ukraine and Byelorussia another puppet of the Entente, Pilsudski, and thus beat off the forces of foreign intervention and drove them out of the Soviet country.
Thus the first armed attack of international capital on the land of Socialism ended in a complete fiasco.
In the period of intervention, the parties which had been smashed by the revolution, the Socialist-Revolutionaries, Mensheviks, Anarchists and nationalists, supported the White Guard generals and the invaders, hatched counter-revolutionary plots against the Soviet Republic and resorted to terrorism against Soviet leaders. These parties, which had enjoyed a certain amount of influence among the working class before the October Revolution, completely exposed themselves before the masses as counter-revolutionary parties during the Civil War.
The period of Civil War and intervention witnessed the political collapse of these parties and the final triumph of the Communist Party in Soviet Russia.