Stalin and the Red Army
by N. Markin
Under the heading, Stalin and the Red Army, Pravda has printed a jubilee article by Voroshilov whose avowed aim is to “refresh the memories of the comrades” about the past. This article has been republished in pamphlet form, in an edition of 100,000. It is worthwhile to dwell in some detail upon this piece of creative writing. It sets a record in the quantity of fictions and discrepancies, even against the background of the articles written by all the Yaroslavkys. It may be said without exaggeration that this article does not contain a line of truth – not even a single line. We shall try as briefly as possible to re-establish the truth by citing actual facts and genuine documents, some of which have never been published. (We have utilized a section of comrade Trotsky’s archives.)
In his autobiography, comrade Trotsky has dealt in considerable detail with the history and the roots of the “Tsaritsin Opposition.”  This opposition had one of its roots in a peasant’s hatred – and not that of a proletarian – of “spetzes” [specialists], which hatred in no way hindered every Tsaritsinite from having close at hand his “own spetz, only of an inferior grade.” The telegrams of Stalin which are cited by Voroshilov illuminate to the utmost this “spetzophobia” of the Tsaritsinites and their “ideologist” Stalin. After the Eighth Party Congress (March 1919), the question of the “spetzes” was settled in principle. Ten years later we learn “officially”,with Voroshilov’s assistance, that Stalin was among those elements who were able to grasp the question of the military specialists only after a considerable time and with considerable difficulty. These elements held the supreme manifestation of revolutionism to be “the stupid taunting of military specialists” (Trotsky). Voroshilov, who remains today on the Tsaritsin level, instead of seeking to hide more securely Stalin’s mental lapses of 1919, obliges us with exemplars of this “stupid taunting”:
“Had not our military ’specialists’ (shoemakers) been sleeping and loafing, the line would not have been broken; and should the line be restored it will not be due to the military gentry but despite them.”
And more of the same, in the self-same spirit of wholesale taunting and cheap boasting. Therein is all their wisdom. These telegrams – today – in the light of the experience of the civil war, compromise their author to such an extent that we shall confine ourselves merely to confronting them with the remarks made by comrade Trotsky in another connection, but which directly apply in this instance:
“This is the worst type of commander. They remain ever ignorant, but they ever refuse to learn. For their failures – how could they possibly gain successes? – they always seek explanations in somebody else’s betrayal ... Tenaciously hanging on to their posts, they react with hatred to the very mention of military science. For them, the latter is synonymous with treason and betrayal.” (L. Trotsky, How the Revolution Armed Itself , Vol. I, pp.172f.)
Later on in his article, Voroshilov, with undisguised approbation, almost in ecstacy, quotes the following from the White Guard turncoat, Nossovich:
“What particularly characterized this breach was the attitude taken by Stalin to the telegrams with instruction from the center. When Trotsky, in alarm at the disruption of the regions he had with such great difficulty organized, sent a telegram pointing out the necessity of leaving the Staff and Commissariat as they were, and of giving them an opportunity to function, Stalin would make a categorical and very significant notation on the telegram: ’Disregard this.’
“So the telegram was disregarded, and the entire artillery staff, together with a part of the leading staff, would remain sitting on a barge in Tsaritsin.”
Voroshilov puts his signature to these words; he adopts them, as it were. Until now, we must confess, it would have never even entered our mind to give any credence to Nossovich. But we are compelled to take the word of both Voroshilov and Nossovich. “What particularly characterized” Stalin’s attitude toward telegrams with instructions from the center was: “disregard.” Stalin’s worst enemy could not have caused him greater injury than did Voroshilov by appending his seal of approval to the characterization of the White Guard, Nossovich.
It is not difficult to judge what sort of discipline prevailed in the Tenth Army under these conditions. The orders of the Military Revolutionary Council were being violated in a deliberately demonstrative manner. Stalin’s “resolution” was made common knowledge to Nossovich, to the army itself, while the center alone was kept in ignorance. Observe, gentlemen, here is an example for you of how to “cover up.”If the instructions of the center were incorrect from the standpoint of local conditions, there was always the opportunity of revoking or changing them through the normal channels. The Military Council maintained a practical discipline and not an officious one. Especially characteristic of Stalin is his manner of not fulfilling orders, without the knowledge of the Military Council, behind the latter’s back, and with a special display of “independence.”It must be stated candidly that had one-fifth or even one-tenth of the responsible leaders of the army displayed the above-mentioned “characteristic trait” of Stalin, the Red Army would have never gained its victories, and the revolution would have been massacred. And it was precisely owing to this “characteristic trait”,and for no other reason, that first Stalin and then Voroshilov were removed from Tsaritsin by the decision of the Political Bureau.
Stalin’s indiscipline and disloyalty were likewise clearly made evident in his direct relations with the Military Council itself. It was of course impossible in this case to reply “I disregard this”, but there were other methods of expressing the notorious “characteristic trait.” We shall give a few such examples, together with Lenin’s attitude to them.
In transmitting to Trotsky one of Stalin’s telegrams (No.02588, May 29, 1920), Lenin, who was well aware of Stalin’s disloyalty, appended the following note in his own handwriting:
“Comrade Trotsky: If you have not received this telegram as well as all decoded telegrams to the Secretariat of the Vice-Chairman, then you should immediately send Stalin the following code telegram with my signature: ‘Forward all military dispatches also to Trotsky, otherwise dangerous delay. Lenin’.” (Lenin’s emphasis throughout. The Secretariat of the Vice-Chairman refers to Sklyansky, Trotsky’s alternate in the Military Council. – N.M.)
The gist of the matter is clear without any commentaries. Another instance. Transmitting (during one of the sessions) Stalin’s telegram – No.4620, June 4, 1920 – to Trotsky, Vladimir Ilyich added the following note:
“Comrade Trotsky: It is necessary to get in touch with the Chief Commander and to demand their conclusions. After receiving their opinion, send me your own conclusions to the session of the Council of Defense. We shall talk (if it is not too late) on the telephone.” (The note is in Lenin’s handwriting.)
“I do not understand this system: why does not Yegorov (in command of the Southern Front) report directly to the Chief Commander as he was ordered to do – this roundabout way disrupts all stability of communications.” (This notation is in Trotsky’s handwriting.)
“Some capriciousness here, no doubt ...,” replied Lenin on the same note.
In concluding his Tsaritsin recollections, Voroshilov writes: “Stalin worked with a colossal energy.” But Voroshilov passes over in silence the end to which this energy was in the main directed, and the conclusion of this Tsaritsin epic (which had its sequel in the Ukraine). The reason for his silence can be easily gathered from documents we print below.
“Moscow. To the Chairman of the CEC of the Soviets; copy, Moscow: To Lenin, Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars. From Tambov.
“I insist categorically on Stalin’s recall. Tsaritsin front in a bad way, despite the abundance of troops. Voroshilov qualified to command a regiment, but not an army of 50,000. Nevertheless I shall leave him in command of the Tenth Tsaritsin Army on condition of obedience to Sytin, the commander of the Southern Army. The Tsaritsinites have failed to date to transmit to Kozlov even reports of operations. I ordered them to transmit twice a day reports of operations and reconnoitering. If this is not done tomorrow, I will commit Voroshilov and Minin to trial, and announce this in an order to the Army. In so far as Stalin and Minin remain in Tsaritsin, they, in accordance with the constitution of the Military Council, possess only the rights of members of the Military Council of the Tenth Army. Very little time left for an offensive before the roads become impassable either by foot or by horse. Without cotirdinating activities with Tsaritsin, serious steps are impossible. No time left for dip lomatic negotiations. Tsaritsin must either submit or be removed. We possess a colossal superiority in forces but there is complete anarchy among the tops. This can be overcome within 24 hours provided your support is firm and decisive. In any case, this is the only way out that I see personally.
“October 4, 1918. No.552.
The next day Trotsky sent another telegram:
“Moscow. To the Chairman of the CEC [of the Soviets]. Copy to the Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars, Lenin
“I have received the following telegram: ‘Stalin’s military order number 118 must be cancelled. I have issued all neces sary orders to the commander of the Southern Front, Sytin. Stalin’s actions are destroying all my plans ... No.01258, Commander in Chief, Vatsetis. Member of the Military Council, Danishevsky.’ Trotsky. Kozlov, Oct. 5, 1918.”
Stalin was removed from Tsaritsin. It became easier to “manage” Voroshilov without Stalin. Trotsky also agreed to allow Voroshilov to remain, in an attempt to adjust the situation. However, Voroshilov, too, had shortly to be removed, for Stalin continued to direct him in the former spirit from Moscow. In the Ukraine, where Voroshilov was next appointed, he sought to continue the “Tsaritsin line”, which resulted in the following telegrams from Trotsky:
“Moscow. To the Chairman of the CEC, Sverdlov:
“Did not find the Ukrainians in Kursk. In consequence, carried on no negotiations. Must state categorically that the Tsaritsin line, which led to the complete disintegration of the Tsaritsin Army, cannot be tolerated in the Ukraine ... The Ukrainians are in chaos. There is a clique struggle due to the absence of responsible and authoritative leaders. Okulov is leaving for Moscow. Propose that you and comrade Lenin give utmost attention to his report on Voroshilov’s work. The line of Stalin, Voroshilov and Rukhimovich spells ruin for our entire cause. Chairman of the Military Council, Trotsky. Jan.10, 1919. Gryaz.”
The following day, in reply to a (missing) telegram from Lenin, Trotsky transmitted by direct wire:
“To comrade Lenin:
“Compromise is of course necessary but not a rotten one. As a matter of fact, all the Tsaritsinites have now foregathered in Kharkov. What the Tsaritsinites are you can gather from the report of Okulov which contains solely factual material and reports of Commissars. I consider Stalin’s patronage of the Tsaritsin tendency a most dangerous ulcer worse than any treason or hetrayal by military specialists. If not for the prospects of the Anglo-French front in the Ukraine one might remain indifferent to the question of the commanding staff. But we shall have to carry on serious operations there. Rukhimovich is only an alias for Voroshilov. Within a month we shall have to swallow the Tsaritsin mess, having against us this time not the Cossacks but the Anglo-French. Rukhimovich is not alone. They firmly hang on to each other, raising ignorance into a principle. Voroshilov plus the Ukrainian partisan methods plus the low cultural level of the population, plus demagogy – this cannot be accepted under any conditions. Let them appoint Artem, but not Voroshilov or Rukhimovich.
“Am immediately leaving for Balashov, because of certain alarming developments there. If you are unable to arrange matters with the Ukrainians by correspondence, I shall summon them to Voronezh. Greetings.
“Once again I urge a careful reading of Okulov’s report on the Tsaritsin Army and how Voroshilov demoralized it with the assistance of Stalin. Trotsky. Jan.11, 1919 (Balashov).”
Lenin during that period was still inclined toward a compromise with the Tsaritsinites. But the situation became worse and worse. It is quite possible that under the influence of Lenin’s “lashing” Voroshilov “pulled himself together” a little in the beginning. That is how we are inclined to explain the fact that for a period of almost five months Trotsky did not raise the “question” of Voroshiloy. But in June, it all started up again. This time Lenin no longer counted on a compromise but made a sharp rebuff to Voroshilov and Co.
We reprint a telegram by Trotsky and two telegrams by Lenin in reply.
“From Kantemirovka. To Moscow. To Sklyansky. To Lenin.
“Insistent demands of certain Ukrainians to merge the Second, Thirteenth and Eighth Ukrainian Armies under Voroshilov are utterly indefensible. What we need is not an operative unity on the Donetz scale but a general unity against Denikin. The disgraceful condition of food supplies in the Donetz basin are a result in the first place of inadequate deliveries and secondly of the absence of a civil supplies apparatus. The idea of the military and food dictatorship by Voroshilov is the result of the Donetz ‘separatism’, directed against Kiev and the Southern Front. Melnichansky has failed completely to take this into consideration. I have no doubt that the realization of this plan would only aggravate the chaos, and completely kill military leadership. Please demand of the CC that Voroshilov and Mezhlauk carry out the wholly real task set them: the creation of a strong Second Ukrainian Army. Expect tomorrow or the next day to summon to Izyum, the central junction, the commanders of the Eighth, the Thirteenth, and the Second Armies, i.e., Voroshilov (together with Mezhlauk and Podvoisky) and the supply-men in order to effect a union of all that should be united, without in any way creating a Donetz Military Republic. June 1, 1919. No.79/c. Chairman of the Military Council, Trotsky.”
The same day, Lenin sent a reply to the “Ukrainians”:
“Kharkov. To Mezblauk. To Voroshilov. To Melnichan sky. To Artem. To Kaminsky.
“It is absolutely imperative that all agitation be stopped immediately, and that all work be placed on a military basis. You must appoint without fail individual who will be respon sible for carrying out strictly specified tasks. After all, we must have military discipline. The Commander of the Second Army and the Military Council of the Second Army must consult on all things with their direct superior command, i.e., Gittis. Drop all plans of separate groups and any similar attempts at restoring the Ukrainian front in a disguised manner. The equipment and the arms in the Ukraine and at the disposal of Gittis will su~ce. If chaos, agitation and bickerings as to priority are done away with, you will be able to obtain everything. Send detailed information as to the fulfillment of specific orders, such as the arrival of military detachments at the appointed place, the collection of arms, etc.
“June 1, 1919. No.350. Lenin.”
“Kharkov. To Mezlilauk. To Voroshilov. Copy to Melnichansky, Artem and Kaminsky.
“The Political Bureau of the CC met on June 1 and in complete agreement with Trotsky decisively rejected the plan of the Ukrainians to unite the Second, Eighth and Thirteenth Armies and to create a separate Donetz unit. We demand that Voroshilov and Mezhlauk carry out their immediate task of creating a strong Ukrainian Army. Tomorrow or the next day Trotsky will call you to Izyum and issue more detailed orders. Send more precise, adequate and strictly factual accounts of how much war material Voroshilov took from Grigoriev, and elsewhere. By the instruction of the Bureau of the CC. Lenin.”
We observe from these two telegrams that the Tsaritsin experiment did not pass without leaving a trace, and that Lenin was considerably worried by the situation. The second of Lenin’s two telegrams, sent a few hours after the first, is “bolstered” up with the words, “By the instruction of the Bureau of the CC.” That is how matters really stood with the “Tsaritsinites” and “Tsaritsinism”, with Stalin and Voroshilov!
First of all, we shall demonstrate Voroshilov’s manner of quoting documents (unfortunately we have not at our disposal all the documents and therefore we are unable to expose textually all the “refreshing”). Here is what Voroshilov writes:
“Lenin telegraphed to the then Chairman of the Military Council: Received a number of party reports from Perm concerning the catastrophic condition of the army, and of drunkenness. I thought to send Stalin – I fear Smilga will be soft with ... who according to rumors drinks himself and is not in a position to restore order.”
We shall now quote from the actual text of the telegram, which reveals what Voroshilov did to Lenin’s text:
“To Kozlov. Forward to the Chairman of the Military Council, Trotsky. Moscow, December 31, 1918. No.6684.
“Received a number of party reports from beneath Perm concerning the catastrophic condition of the army, and of drunkenness. Sending them to you. They request that you go there. I thought to send Stalin, I fear Smilga will be soft with ... who, according to rumors, drinks himself and is not in a position to restore order. Wire your opinion. Lenin.”
The italicized words were swallowed by Voroshilov who did this without choking, without so much as placing the all saving dots. The psychology and the reasons behind that are clear.
Trotsky replied to Vladimir Ilyich from Voronezh on January 1,1919:
“From the reports of the operations of the Third Army I concluded that complete confusion existed among the tops there, and proposed a change of command. The decision was delayed. Consider now that change unpostponable. Completely share your fears about the extreme softness of the comrade assigned there. Agree to Stalin’s going with plenipotentiary powers from the party and the Military Council.
“Chairman of the Military Council, Trotsky.”
Voroshilov of course does not mention this at all for these two telegrams as well as any scores of others reveal only too vividly the nature of the collaboration between Lenin and Trotsky.
Now as to the trip itself. The assignment of Stalin and Dzerzhinsky to Vyatka was purely for the purpose of inspection. This is quite evident from the decision of the CC itself (“To appoint a party investigating committee com posed of the following members of the CC: Stalin and Dzerzhinsky, in order to make a detailed investigation into the reasons for the surrender of Perm, and the latest defeats on the Ural front; and also to elucidate all the circumstances surrounding the above facts, etc.”). In the telegrams of Dzerzhinsky and Stalin from Vyatka, quoted by Voroshilov, they constantly demand re-enforcements, failing which, in their opinion, “Vyatka is doomed.”Voroshilov then proceeds to do some “refreshing” on his own account, and does it in a deliberately equivocal manner so as to create the impression that he is only re-stating official documents. It appears that one of the reasons for the surrender of Perm was “the criminal methods of managing the Front by the Military Council of the Republic.” Let us for a moment allow that Voroshilov is right. The question arises: Why did the party tolerate Trotsky and the entire Military Council of that time? Why was not Trotsky removed during the years of the civil war? Furthermore: Why were victories gained on all fronts under the leadership of the “then” Military Council? After all, Military Councils are intended for war and not peace! Why were neither Stalin nor Voroshilov called upon to lead the army, but, on the contrary, removed time and again from difficult sectors? By their declarations the Stalinists compromise only the party, the Central Committee and Lenin. If the myths the Stalinists record were true, it would mean that the CC was guilty of the gravest crimes towards the revolution. For it must be borne in mind that all these things took place in the period of cruel civil war and not in peacetime when all the Voroshilovs are freely able to “refresh.”
But that is not all. Summarizing the “historic” trip of Stalin to Vyatka, Voroshilov writes: “In consequence of all these [?] measures [of Stalin-Dzerzhinsky] not only was the further offensive of the enemy halted, but in January ... Uralsk was captured.” Here is a zeal truly excessive! “In consequence” of Stalin’s having safely visited Vyatka in January 1919, a thousand kilometers away – one thousand! – from Vyatka, Uralsk was captured ... In the month of January, i.e., at the very moment when Stalin Dzerzhinsky arrived in Vyatka there could not have been any results even in Vyatka itself. (“Results” – that is easier written than done.) Or is it perhaps precisely for that reason that Voroshilov had to go to Uralsk to excavate them?
We shall not dwell in detail on Voroshilov’s next chapter entitled Petrograd, we confine ourselves merely to three points.
- We shall not undertake to judge the extent to which Stalin was instrumental in recapturing Krasnaya Gorka (it had been evacuated without any cause, and was “retaken” four days later without any difficulty). Voroshilov confines himself to vague generalities. But this particular episode is entirely insignificant.
- The Krasnaya Gorka episode pertains to June 1919. At that time, Stalin, according to his apologist, “liquidated a most dangerous situation beneath Petrograd.” Yet the advance of Yudenich and the collapse of the Seventh Army (in which Stalin functioned) began precisely after the above mentioned “liquidation”, attaining its most critical stage in October 1919. From June to October the situation of the Red Army beneath Petrograd became worse and worse. Under these circumstances, to say that Stalin had “liquidated” the danger is, to put it mildly ... risky. Stalin did very little beneath Petrograd, and indeed there was probably not much that he could have done: this front was at that time temporarily neglected. But in that case why is Stalin depicted with the halo of a “savior”?
- The point, however, is that Voroshilov is here resorting to juggling with words. The entire and most transparent trick lies in the use of the word “Petrograd.” In the history of the civil war there is only one decisive “liquidation of the most dangerous situation beneath Red Petrograd” and that is the victory over Yudenich in October 1919, which took place four months after Stalin’s excursion to Petrograd. This is not a matter of common knowledge, but, on the other hand, everybody is acquainted with the fact that Yudenich was liquidated. That is precisely the foundation upon which Voroshilov’s trick is built: “To assign” to Stalin the actual liquidation of the danger, i.e., that danger with which Stalin had absolutely no connection.
Incidentally, Stalin himself in his own time appraised his journeys with much less assurance – and that is hardly to be wondered at, since it was ten years ago! Here, for example, is what he wired in reply to a proposal of the CC that he go to the Southwestern Front:
“February 4th, 1919. To the CC of the Party. To comrades Lenin and Trotsky. My own profound conviction is: No change in the situation can possibly be effected by my trip ...”
Or, are we perhaps to seek the causes for that in another “characteristic” trait of Stalin – his “capriciousness” (Lenin)? In any case, these are the facts. And facts are stubborn things.
THE SOUTHERN FRONT
Following in the footsteps of Voroshilov, we now pass to the central and most important question, that of the Southern Front. Here, in addition to an immense pile of all sorts of petty insinuations, we find two “general” falsifications (although, perhaps, falsification is much too mild an expression).
The first “general” falsification. This is how Voroshilov describes the autumn of 1919, i.e., the most crucial period of the civil war (Denikin threatens Tula; Yudenich threatens Petrograd). “The situation had to be saved, so the CC sent comrade Stalin to the Southern Front in his capacity as a member of the Military Council. It is now [!] no longer necessary to hide [!] that prior to his appointment comrade Stalin put three main conditions to the CC: 1) Trotsky must not interfere in the affairs of the Southern Front and must not trespass the lines of demarcation set ... These conditions were completely accepted.” [According to Voroshilov, the second and third conditions consisted of a change in a number of responsible workers and the appointment of new ones (he gives no names – is it perhaps the Tsaritsinites who are hidden under the pseudonym ’new ones”?) ” N.M.] This is a lie from beginning to end. It does not even contain that grain of truth which is occasionally contained even in a lie. Why has the time for this latest disclosure arrived only “now”? After all, since the year 1924 everything has been “disclosed” that could have been “disclosed.” Why was it necessary to wait before making the latest disclosure which is by far less sensational than scores of others made in 1929? It is not for nothing that Voroshilov once again resorts to a free rendition “in his own words.” If such a decision of the CC really existed, why wasn’t it quoted? And why refrain in general from precise reference to facts and documents? The reason is quite apparent. Every fact, every document is in flagrant contradiction with this invention. It ought, by the way, to be remarked here that it is not Voroshilov himself who invented this history. He recounts only that which Stalin in sheer affectation announced during one of the sessions of the Political Bureau back in 1927. Rumors of it penetrated into the party even at that time, arousing indignation among some comrades (those who were well informed), and among others, complete bewilderment. We must also add that during the session of the Political Bureau at which Stalin spoke, minutes were taken which were meant for publication, as is always the case in such procedure. At this session N.I. Muralov, present in the capacity of a member of the Central Control Commission, gave an annihilating answer in rebuttal to Stalin. The recorded minutes were then placed under lock and key and never made public to the party, despite the insist ence of the Opposition. Comrade Trotsky at that time (in his Letter to the Istpart and since then in his autobiography) refuted this absurd fiction with documents in hand. Neither Stalin nor anybody else either at that time or since then brought any semblance of excerpts or proofs. Neither Stalin nor anybody else, either at that time or since then, has had a single word to say in reply to the irrefutable documents cited by Trotsky. Moreover, they were compelled to keep silent. Today, three years later, Voroshilov once again raises this ridiculous piece of gossip. But let us give the floor to the documents:
“Moscow, July 5, 1919.
“The Communist Party of Russia (B.)
“Central Committee “Kremlin.
“The Organization Bureau and the Political Bureau of the Central Committee, after considering the statement of comrade Trotsky and discussing it in full, have come to the unanimous conclusion that his resignation cannot be accepted, being entirely out of question.
“The Organization Bureau and the Political Bureau of the Central Conmittee will do all that they can to make more convenient for comrade Trotsky, and more fruitful for the Republic, that work on the Southern Front which comrade Trotsky himself has chosen and which is the most difficult, the most dangerous and the most important at the present noment. In his position as People’s Commissar for War and Chairman of the Military Council, comrade Trotsky is also fully empowered to act as a member of the Military Revolutionary Council of the Southern Front with the Commissar of the Southern Front (Yegorov) whom he himself proposed and whom the Central Committee has confirmed.
“The Organization Bureau and the Political Bureau of the Central Committee give comrade Trotsky full authority by every means whatsoever to achieve what he considers a necessary correction of policy on the military question and, if he so desires, to expedite the Congress of the party.
“Firmly convinced that the withdrawal of comrade Trotsky at the present moment is absolutely impossible, and that it would cause the greatest injury to the Republic, the Organization Bureau and the Political Bureau of the Central Committee emphatically suggest to comrade Trotsky not to raise this question again and to fulfill his functions in the future, if he so desires, concentrating them in the maximum on his work at the Southern Front.
“In view of this the Organization Bureau and the Political Bureau of the Central Committee reject both the resignation of comrade Trotsky from the Political Bureau and his withdrawal from the post of the Chairman of the Military Council of the Republic (People’s Commissar for War).
“Checked by Secretary of the Central Committee,
This document neither requires any commentaries nor does it allow of any false interpretations. Comrade Trotsky has dealt in his autobiography with the reasons which impelled him to take this serious step (My Life, pp.453f.). We shall in passing take the opportunity to indicate how the Central Committee reacted when Stalin sought to “threaten” resignation. We cite an excerpt from the session of the Political Bureau, November 14th, 1919:
“(Present: Lenin, Trotsky, Kamenev, Krestinsky.)
To inform comrade Stalin that the Political Bureau regards as absolutely impermissible any attempt to re-enforce practical demands with ultimatums and declarations of resignation.”
Thus, the entire Central Committee sustained comrade Trotsky’s decision that he concentrate his work on the Southern Front, as the decisive front. This document alone crumbles to dust the Voroshilov construction. But one could adduce scores of other proofs that Trotsky spent most of his time at the Southern Front. For example, one need only examine the orders of Trotsky to the Red Army for the year 1919 in order to become convinced that the overwhelming majority of them not only apply to the Southern Front but were issued at the very front itself (in connection with another question we shall later deal more fully with this). In particular, the entire decisive preparatory stage which preceded the advance against Denikin was spent by Trotsky at the Southern Front, with the exception of October and the beginning of November when he directed the defense of Petrograd.
It seems to us that we have dealt amply with this question above. But what sloppiness and what disrespect for the party are needed in order to put in circulation the Voroshilov twaddle!
The second “general” falsification. This time we have apparently an independent (and, indeed, for the first time expressed) invention of the “refresher” himself. We have in mind the question of the two strategic plans for the Southern Front. In accordance with the plan of the Chief Command the decisive blow was to have been dealt to Denikin from the Balashov-Kamishin Front at Nizhni Don. This plan was based on the idea of annihilating Denikin’s Cossack base, even at the cost of our own retreat in the direction of Moscow. Trotsky from the very beginning (July 1919) considered this plan erroneous and fought against its confirmation by the Central Committee. He considered that this plan would only assist in uniting two absolutely heterogeneous social formations, i.e., the Cossacks with the volunteer army. On the contrary, by dealing a blow along the line Voronezh-Kharkov-Donbass, the Red Army would move in a socially friendly milieu (the Kharkov and Donetz proletariat and peasantry), the Cossacks would be cut off from Denikin, on whom would fall the entire force of the blow. Nevertheless, the plan of the Chief Command was accepted, with the direct assistance of Stalin and against the sharp opposition of Trotsky. (The episode of Trotsky’s handing in his resignation is intimately linked up with the question of the Southern strategic plan.) There followed serious failures at the front (all this can be easily checked up chronologically). Trotsky characterized the situation in September 1919 (and not ten years later as Voroshilov is doing) in his letter to the Central Committee of the party as follows:
“The plan of operations on the Southern Front which was worked out a priori has proved false to the core. The failures at the Southern Front are to be explained first and foremost by the falseness of the basic plan ... Therefore the reasons for the failures must be sought entirely in the plan of operations.”
And Trotsky goes on to explain how and why this erroneous plan came to originate:
“The erroneousness of this plan is now so self-evident, that the question arises: How could it have originated at all? Its origin is to be explained historically. When Kolchak threatened the Volga the chief threat was in the junction between Denikin and Kolchak. In a letter to Kolchak, Denikin set Saratov as the meeting place. Hence the task as proposed even by the old command was the creation of a powerful wedge in the Tsaritsin-Saratov area ...” (How the Revolution Armed Itself, Vol.2, Bk.1, pp.300f. This document was published more than six years ago. Voroshilov, it is obvious, counts – not without some justification – on the fact that all of Trotsky’s books had been removed from circulation.)
Shortly prior to the writing of this document, comrade Trotsky had succeeded at the front in convincing Lashevich and Serebriakov of the correctness of his plan. The result of this agreement was their joint code telegram which we quote in full:
“Moscow. To the Chief Command; copy to the CC
“Consider it necessary to draw your attention to the following questions:
“The efforts to liquidate Mamontov have thus far brought almost no results. Motorized machine gun detachments have not been created because of non-receipt of machine guns for even the small number of available automobiles. Mamontov is clearly headed through the Kursk front to effect a junction with his allies. Our weak and dispersed infantry detachments hardly harass him. Lashevich’s command is being paralyzed by lack of a contact apparatus. Mamontov’s successfully effecting unification may be considered almost assured. The danger of the front being broken in the Kursk-Voronezh area becomes seLf-evident. Lashevich’s most pressing task comes down to following the enemy in order to attempt to fill up the breach that the latter will make. The attempt to harass Mamontov with partisan activities will be made. The center of gravity of the struggle on the Southern Front has shifted entirely in the directIon of Kursk-Voronezh where we have no reserves. The destruction of the road prevents the transfer of troops from the Tsaritsin sector to Kursk. Yet the situation imperiously demands the transfer of reserves to the West. Possibly the cavalry corps of Budenny may be able to march there. It is also necessary to add that the situation is being aggravated in the extreme by the complete breakdown of the front line apparatus. The practical tasks seem to us to be the following:
’1) The immediate appointment of Selivachev as the Commander of the Southern Front.
“2) Selivachev’s post must be assumed by Yegorov, the assistant Commander of the Southern Front.
“3) Rush reserves including the 21st Division towards Kursk, in the footsteps of Mamontov.
“4) Deploy the Ninth Army from the Novorossisk sector towards Starobelsk.
“5) If possible, to transfer Budenny’s corps to the right center.
“6) Rush effective replacements and supplies for the Eighth and Thirteenth Armies.
“Number 364. September 6, 1919.
“Trotsky, Serebriako’v, Lashevich.”
In other words, Trotsky made the effort to obtain the acceptance of his plan, no longer a priori but on the basis of the experience of two to three months of fighting.
Here is the reply of the Political Bureau, undersigned by Lenin:
“Orel. To Trotsky, Serebriakov, Lashevich.
“The Political Bureau having considered the telegram of Trotsky, Serebriakov and Lashevich has confirmed the reply of the Chief Command and expresses its surprise at the attempts to reconsider the adopted basic strategic plan. September 6, 1919. By the instructions of the Political Bureau, Lenin.”
As we see, the CC – and where was Stalin at the time? – even in that period still supported the operating plan of the Staff. It was only the subsequent failures (the surrender of Orel, and the threat to Tula) that forced a review of the plan, in the sense of transferring the main blows in the Donetz direction. In this period, i.e., when experience had already denninstrated the erroneousness of the old plan which was renounced even by the Staff itself, Stalin, too, grasped the mistake that had been committed.
Voroshilov quotes Stalin’s letter but omits the date it was sent. That was, of course, done deliberately. Had he given the date, Voroshilov would have been unable to ascribe the plan to Stalin. As we shall shortly prove, Stalin’s letter was sent several months after the question of the two plans had first arisen. Voroshilov writes: “As regards operating directives, he [Stalin] was offered the old plan (that of September) of dealing the main blow, etc. ...” With this statement Voroshilov exposes himself completely. In the first place, if during the period of Stalin’s creative work on “planning” at the Southern Front, the “September” (?) plan was already an “old” plan, then it is quite self-evident that all of the above took place after September, i.e., already after Trotsky had raised the question of reconsidering the plan for the second time (see document on p.223). In the second place, the erroneous plan was adopted not in September but two months earlier, so that there had never existed such a thing as the “September” plan. In September there was only a reaffirmation of the previously adopted plan of the Chief Command (see Lenin’s reply to the telegram of Trotsky, Lashevich and Serebriakov). As we have already stated, Trotsky fought against the adoption of the plan of the Chief Command as early as July and August, at a time when Stalin was with the majority of the Political Bureau. Furthermore, at the beginning of September, Trotsky tried again – this time on the basis of a number of conclusions drawn from experience itself – to obtain reconsideration of the plan. Stalin remained as hitherto in favor of the erroneous plan. And it was only later that Stalin proceeded to the “revaluation of values.” There is an indirect proof that the date of Stalin’s letter must be assigned to October or November 1919, namely, Stalin concludes his well-publicized letter with “threats” of resignation. We have already cited above the reply of the CC on this score (“absolutely impermissible”, etc.). This reply is dated November 14; therefore the deduction is that Stalin must have written his letter of criticism, sometime early in November, and hardly prior to that time, i.e., after a delay of some three or four months. Voroshilov, on the other hand, after a delay of ten years, asserts on the basis of this letter that “Stalin’s [??] plan was accepted by the Central Committee.” That is how history is being “refreshed”!
Having disposed of the two “general” falsifications, we pass on to the petty falsifications of Voroshilov.
Citing the telegram of the Military Council of the Southern Front for November 11, 1919, to the Supreme Military Council of the Republic with the request to affirm the organization of the First Cavalry Army, Voroshilov adds the following comment: “The Cavalry Army was created despite and even against the center.” In the first place, what “center” is this?
Always equivocations! Is it the Political Bureau? or the Chief Command? or Lenin? or Trotsky? In the second place, if the “center” was against the organization of the First Cavalry, why did it have to affirm the decision of the Military Council of the Southern Front? So far as Trotsky is personally concerned, if we take the question in its broadest aspects, i.e., the timely realization of the role of cavalry in the manouvre-operations of a civil war, then it is sufficient to refer to a slogan, popular in its time, which was raised by comrade Trotsky (incidentally, long before the telegram adduced by Voroshilov): “Proletarians, to horse!” Under this same title, comrade Trotsky published an article which likewise posed the question of large scale bodies of cavalry. One of the main tasks of the “armored train” (of the Chairman of the Military Council) in that period was the creation of the cavalry. It would not be inappropriate to recall that the closest collaborator of Trotsky’s secretariat, I.M. Poznansky, formed fighting mounted detachments during that period. But Poznansky himself cannot say anything, because he is kept under lock and key by Stalin-Voroshilov.
Further on, as one of the instances of Stalin’s “rescue” expeditions to the “most dangerous places”, Voroshilov informs us of Stalin’s journey to the Caucasian front which ever took place. Ludicrous as it may seem, this is a fact! Stalin, you see, did not take the trip only because of “illness.” Illness is a weighty reason, but we are rather inclined to think that “capriciousness” had something to do with this incident, and for the following reason: A week after Stalin’s trip, which “rescued” even though it never took place, Stalin sent the following telegram in reply to Lenin’s demand that he take emergency measures in order to speed up the transfer of two divisions to the Caucasian Front:
“Moscow. Kremlin. To Lenin; copy to the CC of the Party.
“I am not quite clear as to why the chief concern about the Caucasian Front falls primarily upon me. The strengthening of the Caucasian Front properly and entirely falls upon the Military Council of the Republic, the members of which, according to my information, are in good health; it is their concern and not that of Stalin who is overburdened with work as it is. Number 970. February 20, 1920. Stalin.”
Here is what Lenin replied to him:
“The concern of speeding up the arrival of re-enforcements from the Southwestern Front to the Caucasian Front has been placed on you. It is generally necessary to give all possible assistance and not to bicker about departmental jurisdiction. No.87/3. Lenin.”
How characteristic of Stalin is this tone of petty intrigue and personal grievance! How characteristic of Lenin is his tone of restrained indignation! The decuments speak for themselves. And we observe how eloquent is their language.
It goes without saying that the man whom the party always really did send to the most difficult sectors (as a matter of fact that was really his “job”) was not at all Stalin. Here are a few brief excerpts from Lenin’s telegrams:
“August 22, 1918. Sviazhsk. To Trotsky. Treason on the Saratov Front, though discovered in time, has nevertheless produced extremely dangerous vacillations. We consider your going there at once absolutely indispensable, for your appearance at the front has an effect on soldiers and the entire army ... Lenin, Sverdlov.”
“April 10, 1919. To Trotsky. Nizhni Novgorod.
“In view of the extremely grave situation on the Eastern Front I think it is most expedient for you to remain there. Lenin.”
“May 7, 1919. Shikhrana. To Trotsky. I have just consulted the Political Bureau of the CC, and in agreement with the Bureau I am in favor of your immediate and speediest departure to Kharkov, where it is urgent to put an end to disorganization and to give immediate aid to the Donetz Basin. Lenin.”
“May 15, 1919. Kupyansk. To Trotsky.
“Extremely pleased by the energetic measures by which the uprising was crushed ... Lenin.”
“Maybe I would insist personally on your going to Bogachur once again, in order to complete the crushing of the uprising, otherwise there is no hope for victory. Lenin.”
(24 hours later) “May 22, 1919. ... I insist again on your going without fail a second time to Bogachur and putting an end to the matter, because it is obvious that Sokolnikov can not handle the situation. Lenin.”
And here is Trotsky’s reply:
“Kharkov-Lugansk (en route). To Moscow. To Sklyansky for Lenin. Leaving for Bogachur, and will try to bring the matter to an end there. Trotsky. May 22, 1919.”
Such are the facts. Similar facts can be adduced to any number! That Voroshilov today has to “refresh” inventions only proves that despite everything these facts are still too fresh in the memory of the party.
61. See The Military Opposition, chap.XXXVI of My Life; by Leon Trotsky, pp.486-450, for an analysis of the “Tsaritsin” group led by Stalin, Voroshilov, Dybenko and others.