Friday, August 12, 2005

Trotsky's 'Stalin' - Chapt 10 Civil War Continued

Chapter 10
The Civil War (Continued)

In the spring of 1919 the Northwestern Volunteer Army under the command of General Yudenich unexpectedly assumed the offensive and threatened Petrograd. Presently the English Fleet steamed into the Bay of Finland. Colonel Bulak-Balakhovich, at the head of his unit, led the drive against Pskov, and at the same time the Estonian units came to life at the front. On the 14th of May the corpse of General Rodzyanko broke through the front of the Seventh Army, which had been considerably weakened by drafts against it for the more active fronts, occupied Yamburg and Pskov, and began a rapid simultaneous advance against Catchina, Petrograd and Luga. The Commander of the Seventh Army, stationed on the outskirts of Petrograd, entered into communication with Yudenich and organized a conspiracy among the garrisons surrounding the capital of the October Revolution –Kronstadt, Oranienbaum, Krasnaya Gor’ka, Syeraya Loshad’, Krasnoye Syelo. The conspirators, according to their complot with Yudenich, made ready to ocupy the capital simultaneously with the troops of his army. They hoped for the support of the disgruntled sailors and especially the active aid of the fleet. But the sailors of the Two Soviet dreadnaughts did not support the insurrection, which the English fleet [restricted itself for the time being to watchful waiting]. THe whole enterprise proved abortive. By the 12th of June, 1919, only Krasnaya Gor’ka [and Syeraya Loshad’ remained] in the hands of the conspirators, and for four days no attempt was made to capture them. Finally, after an exchange of shots with Kronstadt, Krasnaya Gor’ka was occupied on the 16th of June by a detachment of red sailors. [Syeraya Loshad’ feel just as easily.

[Zinoviev, the head of the Party and the government in the city and region of Petrograd, had become panicky in the face of the advancing enemy and the Politburo had sent Stalin to his rescue.]

With special powers from the Central Committee of the Party and the Soviet Government, Stalin arrived in Petrograd in the latter party of May 1919. [His ruthlessness and resolution made themselves felt immediately. A couple of weeks after his arrival he telegraphed Lenin]:

* After Krasnaya Gor’ka, Syeraya Loshad’ was liewise liquidated. The guns there are in complete order. Lighting mopping up and reinforcement of the forts and fortresses now in full swing. The naval specialists assure me that the capture of Krasnaya Gor’ka from the sea turns upside down all naval science. All I can do about it is to weep over so-called science. The rapid capture of Gor’ka is explained by the rudest intervention by me and by other civilians in operational matters, which reached the point of cancelling orders on land and sea and imposing out own orders. I deem it my duty to declare that in the future I shall continue to proceed similarly nowithstanding all my respect for science.

Lenin was annoyed by this tone of provocative braggadocio. From Petrograd it was possible at any moment to communicate with the Kremlin and its staff, to replace incompetent or unreliable commanders, to strengthen the staff, i.e., to do all that everyone of the responsible military workers of the Party did time and time again at one front after another without violating the elementary rules of good taste, good manners, or the maintenance of correct relations, and without undermining the authority of the Army command and of the General Staff. But Stalin could not act in that way. He could feel his superiority over others only by insulting them. He could not derive any satisfaction from his work without giving violent vent to his contempt for all who were subordinate to him. Having no other resources at his disposal, he converted coarseness into a resource and flaunted his special tenius for contumely against institutions and persons that enjoyed the respect of others. His telegram ended with the words:

Quickly send two million rounds of ammunition at my disposal for six divisions.

In this postscript, so typical of Stalin, is a whole system. The Army had of course its own Chief of supplies. There was always a lack of bullets, and they were distributed upon the direct instructions of the Commander-in-Chief, depending on available reserves and the relative importance of fronts and armies. But Stalin skipped over all the intervening steps and violated every semblance of order. Ignoring the Chief of Supplies, he demanded bullets through Lenin, not even to be placed at the disposal of the Army command, but at his personal disposal, so that he might present them as a gift to a particular division commander whom he wanted to impress with his own importance.

[Ten years later this brief trip of Stalin’s to Petrograd in the late spring of 1919 was used by Voroshilov as the germinating element for another falsification of history. By now this seed has grown into a full-blown myth called, “Stalin, the Saviour of Petrograd.” It is a cunning myth, implanted, strangely enough, in a deliberate shifting of the seasons. The fact is that] Yedenich tried to capture [Petrograd] twice in the course of 1919 –in May and again in October.

The first raid by Yudenich with negligible forces was a mere sally, and passed practically unnoticed by the Party, which was absorbed by interest in the Eastern and Southern fronts. The Petrograd situation was brought under control in very short order, and again the entire attention of the Party and the country was transferred to the East and the South. In the meantime, Yudenich, under the cover of Estonia and with the highly intensified assistance of England, formed in the course of the next four months a fresh army provided with officers and amply equipped. This second attempt was the real campaign. It began very successfully for Yudenich. Feeling that we would not be able to manage all the fronts similtaneously, Lenin proposed to surrender Petrograd. I opposed it. The majority of the Politburo, including Stalin, decided to support me. After I had already gone to Petrograd Lenin wrote me on the 17th of October, 1919:

Spent last night at the Council of Defense and sent you . . . the decree of the Council of Defense. As you see, your plan has been accepted. But the removal of the Petrograd workers to the South has not been repealed of course. (It is said that you developed it in conversation with Krassin and Rykov) . . . Attached is an appeal which the Council of Defense assigned to me. It came out badly. Better put my signature under yours. Greetings.

The struggle for apetrograd acquired an extremely dramatic character. The enemy was in full view of the the capital, which was prepared to fight in the streets and squares. When the defence of Petrograd was mentioned in the Soviet press without any further explanations, it was this second, the autumn campaign of Yedenich that was understood, not the spring campaign. But in the autumn of 1919 Stalin was at the Southern front and had nothing whatever to do with the real saving of Petrograd. The official documents pertaining to this basic operation against Yudenich were published years ago. Yet nowadays both Yudenich’s campaigns have been merged into one, and the famous defense of Petrograd is represented as Stalin’s handiwork.

[While still in Petrograd, Stalin took advantage of an opportunity to slander the Revolutionary Council of War of the Republic, and by implication its Chairman, as is evident from the following telegram he sent from Petrograd]:

* June 4, 1919.
To Comrade Lenin”
I am sending you a document taken from the Swiss. It is evident from the document that not only the Chief of Staff of the Seventh Army works for the Whites (remember the desertion of the 11th Division to the side of Krassnov in the autumn of last year near Borisoglebsk or the desertion of regiments at the Perm front), but also the entire staff of the Revolutionary Council of War of the Republic, headed by Kostyayev. (The reserves are allocated and moved by Kostyayev.)
It is now up to the Central Committee to draw the necessary inferences. Will it have the courage to do it?
The analysis of the evidence continues, and new “possibilities” are opening up. I would write in greater detail, but I have not a minute to spare. Let Peters tell you.
My profound conviction is:
1. Nadezhin is not a commander.He is incapable of commanding. He will end up by losing the Western Front.
2. Workers like Okulov, who incite the specialists against our commissars, who are sufficiently discouraged anyway, are harmful, because they debilitate the vitality of our army.

[Lenin received this telegram while in conference. Ignoring its obviously wild charges, he wrote the following not to the Vice-Chairman of the Revolutionary Council of War of the Republic, Sklyansky]:

* Stalin demands the recall of Okulov who allegedly is preoccupied with intrigues and disorganizing work.

The ironic “allegedly” speaks for itself. Sklyansky replied on the same piece of paper:
Okulov is the only decent worker there.

[Lenin’s reaction to that, recorded immediately, was]:

* In that case, compose a text of a telegram (exact exposition of what Okulov accuses the Seventh Army) and I shall send it by code to Stalin and Zinoviev, so that the conflict will not grow and will be adequately settled.

[The matter was then referred to the highest Party Executive, and its decision was immediately communicated to Trotsky at Kharkov by direct wire]:

* In view of the conflict, which at any rate is growing, between all the Petersburg central-committeemen and Okulov, and recognizing as absolutely necessary the maximum of solidarity in Petersburg military work and the necessity of an immediate victory on that front, the Politburo and the Orgburo of the Central Committee have resolved temporarily to recall Okulov and to place him at the disposal of Comrade Trotsky.
June 4, 1919. #2995
For the Politburo and the Orgburo of the Central Committee, Lenin, Kamenev, Serebryakov, Stassova.

This was a necessary concession to Stalin and Zinoviev. There was nothing to do but accept it. [As to Kostyayev, that very] able general did not inspire me with confidence either. He gave the impression of an alien among us. However, Vatzetis stood up for him, and Kostyayev complemented that irascible and capricious Commander-in-Chief rather well. It was not easy to replace Kostyayev. [Besides] there were no facts against him. There was patently no sense in “taking the document from the Swiss,” because it never again figured anywhere. At any rate, obviously crude and forced was the attempt to link Kostyayev with the treason of any of the regiments, which had been organized under the vigilant eye of the Party itself. As for Nadezhin, he had occasion to command the Seventh Army, the army that [actually did save] Petrograd [at its most crucial moment]. As fo Okulov’s guilt, that consisted solely in his earnest endeavou to avide most faithfully by all orders and regulations and in his outright refusal to take part in any of the intrigues against the Center. [As for] Stalin’s provocatively bold and insistent tone, that is explained by the fact that he felt he had at last mustered real support in the Council of War on the Eastern Front, where dissatisfaction with the Commander-in-Chief was turning into dissatisfaction with me.

The disagreement about the strategy on the Eastern Front was between the Commander-in-Chief Vatzetis and the commanding officer of the Eastern Front, S.S. Kamenev. Both of them had been General Staff colonels of the Tsarist Army. No doubt there was rivalry between them. And the commissars became involved in that conflict. The Communists of our General Staff supported Vatzetis, while the members of the Revolutionary Council of War of the Eastern Front, Smilga, Lashevich, Gussev –sided wholeheartedly with Kamenev. It is hard to say which one of the two colonels was the more gifted. Both undoubtedly were endowed with first-rate talents for strategy, both had wide experience in the World War and both had decidedly an optimistic turn of mind, without which it is impossible to command. Vatzetis was the more stubborn and cranky and undoubtedly prone to yield to the influence of elements hostile to the Revolution. Kamenev was easier to get along with and yielded more readily to the influence of the Communists working with him. But although an able officer and a man of imagination fully capable of taking risks, he was lacking in depth and firmness. Lenin subsequently became disappointed in him and more than once characterized his repots very sharply. [On one occasion Lenin’s comment was], “his answer is stupid and in places illiterate.”

The Eastern Front was, so to speak, the first-born of the Red Army. It was more amply provided with all that was needed, including Communists, then any other front. [In the Autumn of 1918] Kolchak was quite justy regarded as our chief enemy. He hasd advanced as far as Kazan’, threatening Nizhni-Novgorod, from which he had a clear road to Moscow. It was natural then that the revolutionary country had skimmed the cream of everything for the Eastern Front.

On the 7th of September unites of the Fifth Army began to attack the approaches to Kazan’. [It was] as stubborn battle. Great losses were sustained. The Czechs did not hold out and retreated. On the 10th of September the Fifth Army took Kazan’. [It was] the first great [Soviet] victory. This was the break which saved the young Republic from a complete rout. It occurred before my eyes at Kazan’. Iw as a serious and terrifying moment. After the loss of Simbirsk we had surrendered Kazan’ practically without battle. Nizhni was next. Had the Whites taken possession of Nizhni-Novgorod, they would have had a clear road to Moscow. That is why the fight for Kazan’ acquired decisive significance. The Fifth Army, created in the course of this battle, covered itself with glory. We tore Kazan’ out of the grasp of the White Guards and the Czechoslovaks. That day was the turning point in the course of the Revolution. The capture of Kazan’ started the liquidation of the counter-revolution in the East. The toilers of the entire country celebrated the capture of Kazan’ as a great victory. Even greater was the significance of this victory for the Army.

[But in] March, 1919, with 3000 bayonets and 60,000 swords at his disposal, Kolchak moved quickly toward the Volga. The situation again became precarious. On the eve of the Eighth Party Congress it was Lenin’s opinion that I should personally supervice the operations on the Eastern Front. This detail has to be recalled now and substantiated by documentary evidence in rebuttal of the current falsification.

1. *April 10, 1919
To Sklyansky for transmission to Trotsky at Nizhni-Novgorod.
In view of the extremely difficult situation on the Eastern Front, I think it would be the best for you to remain there, especially since there will be no serious questions on the 13th. The Orgburo of the Central Committee decided to send y ou the same telegram yesterday, but I am afraid it did not so do because of Stassova’s departure. We are considering hurriedly a series of the most extraordinary measures for aiding the Eastern Front, of which Sklyansky will inform you. Let us have your opinion.

2. * By direct wire from Nizhni-Novgorod to Moscow, to Lenin
Completely agree with the necessity of my remaining on the Eastern Front, I call the attention of the Central Committee to the Left-Communistic demagogic agitation in the Third Army, where afitation is carried on against military commanders and against an alleged order introducing saluting and the like. It is necessary to send strong Partymen, contralists. Extremely important that workers support Simbirsk, where the provincial committee is extremely weak, especially in the counties.
April 10, 1919. #1047 Trotsky

3. * Excerpt from the Protocol of the Session of the Politburo of the Central Committee, Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks), April 18th 1919.
Present: Comrades Lenin, Krestinsky, Stalin, Trotsky.

Considered: 2. Declaration by Comrade Trotsky that the Southern Group of the Eastern Front, consisting of four armies, is under the command of Comrade Frunze, who is insufficiently experienced to manage such a great undertaking and that it is necessary to reinforce the front.

Decided: To propose to Commander-in-Chief Vatzetis that he go to the Eastern Front, so that the present commander of the front, Comrade Kamenev, may devote himself entirely to the leadership of the armies of the Southern Group.

4. * Excert from the Protocol of the Politburo of the Central Committee, Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) of May 12, 1919.
Present: Comrades, Lenin, Stalin, Krestinsky.

Considered: 9. Telegram from Comrade Trotsky to Comrade Lenin about the need to devote special attention to Saratov, which due to the uprising of the [Ural] Cossacks is becoming an important strategic point.

Decided: a. Immediately recall from Saratov Comrades Antonov, Fedor Ivanov, Ritzberg and Plaksin.
b. Immediately send A.P. Smirnov to work in Saratov as Chairman o the Provincial Executive Committee and member of the fortress council . . .
The advance against Kolchak, after two periods of retreat, was now proceeding with complete success. Vatzetis considered that the chief danger was now in the South and proposes to keep the Army of the Eastern Front in the Urals during the winter, until the danger should subside sufficiently, in order to transfer a number of divisions to the Southern Front. My general position was expounded even earlier in the telegram of January 1st. I as in favor of assuring an uniterrupted offensive against Kolchak. However, the concrete question was determined by the relation of forces and the general strategic situation. If Kolchakhad serious reserves beyond the Urals, if our advance with uninterrupted battles had seriously exhausted the Red Army, then to engage in additional battles beyond the Urals would have constituted a danger, for it would have required new replacements of fresh Communists and Commanders, while all of that was at the present necessary for the Southern Front.

It must be added that I had, to a considerable extent, lost contact with the Eastern Front, now that it was quite safe, and that I lived with all my thoughts on the Southern Front. It was hard to judge at a distance to what extent the advancing armies of the Eastern Front had preserved their vitality, i.e. to what extent they were able to pursue a further offensive not only without the aid of the Center, but even with sacrifices to the advantage of the Southern Front, which needed the best divisions. To a certain extent, I permitted Vatzetis freedom of action, considering that if there should be resistance on the part of the Eastern Command and if it should develop that a further advance in the East was possible without harm to the Southern Front, there would then be time enough to correct the Commander-in-Chief with a decision of the government.

Under these conditions, a confict developed between Vatzetis and Kamenev. Objecting to a number of evasive replies by the Eastern Front, which tried to conduct its own policy, Vatzetis demanded the replacement of Kamenev by Samoilov, the former Commander of the Sixth Army. [This was done. But immediately it was protested by the Commissars friendly to Kamenev. Lenin appealed to Trotsky about this and about Stalin’s complaint against Kostyayev from Petrograd, and Trotsky replied by direct wire from Kiev]:

* I agree to the return of Kamenev to the Eastern Front in place of Somoilov, but I don’t know where Kamenev is at present. Neither am I opposed to the replacement of Kostyayev; have often raised that question myself, but the difficulty is to find someone to replace him who would not be worse. I don’t think that Lashevich is any firmer that Aralov. He simply has a different deviation of softness. Gussev is more suitable for the field staff. At any rate, in returing Kamenev, and moreover I replacing Kostyayev, it is necessary to discuss the matter beforehand with the Commander-in-Chief, so as not to disorganize the whole machinery. I suggest that a beginning should be made with the most urgent matters i.e. the return of Kamenev, and to accomplish that, first of all, to find him and call him immediately to Moscow. At the same time suggest possible substitutes for Kostyayev and Aralov, which is less urgent. Communicate the decision you make. Trotsky

P.S. I must say, however, that Kuzmin, Orekhov, Naumov, Vatoshin, have the same opinion of Samoilov as Lashevich, Gussesv, Smilga have of Kamenev, as Aralov has of Kostyayev. Theses loyalties at the front are our common misfortune.
May 21, 1919.

During the first months of 1919 the Red Army delivered a crushing blow to the Southern counter-revolution, which was composed chiefly of the Don Cossack Army under the command of General Krassnov covered by a curtain of cavalry. But behind Krassnov in the Kuban and the Northern Caucasus, the Volunteer Army of Denikin was being formed. In the middle of May our advancing and in large measure exhausted army clashed with the fresh troops of Denikin and began to roll back. We lost everything we had gained and over and above that all of the Ukraine, which had recently been liberated. Meantime, on the Eastern Front, where the former Colonel Kamenev was in command, with Smilga and Lashevich as members of the Revolutionary Council of War, the situation had improved to such an extent and matters were proceeding so well that I gave up going there altogether and almost forgot what Kamenev looked like. Intoxicated with success, Smilga, Lashevich and Gussev carried their commander on their shoulders, drank Bruderschaft with him and wrote the most enthusiastic reports about him to Moscow. When the Commander-in-Chief, I.e. Vatzetis, agreeing with me in principle, had suggested that the Eastsern Front remain for the winter in the Urals, in order to transfer several divisions to the South, where the situation was becoming threatening, Kamenev, supported by Smilga and Lashevich, had offered resolute resistance. [Kamenev contended that he could place several divisions under his command in the East at the disposal of the Southern Front, without stopping his offensive in the Urals. After that, his authority rose at the expense of Vatzetis’s, especially since the latter continued to be stubborn after his error had been completely exposed].

Stalin pounced upon the conflict between the Eastern front and the Commander-in-Chief. He treated Vatzetis, who had officially condemned his intervention in strategic matters, with hostility and lay in wait for an opportunity to wreak vengeance upon him. Now such an opportunity presented itself. Smilga, Lashevich and Gussev proposed, obviously with the co-operation of Stalin, to appoint Kamenev Commander-in-Chief. The success on the Eastern Front bribed Lenin and broke down my resistance.

Kamenev was appointed Commander-in-Chief, and at the morning session of July 3rd, 1919, the Central Committeed reconstituted the Revolutionary Council of War of the Republic. It was now to be made up of Trotsky, Sklyansky, Gussev, Smilga, Rykov, and Commander-in-Chief Kamenev.


Part Two: Conflict on the Southern Front

The first task of the new Commander-in-Chief was to work out a plan for grouping the forces on the Southern Front. Kamenev was distinguished by optimism and a quick strategic imagination. But his outlook was still comparatively narrow. The social factors of the Southern Front –the workers, the Ukrainian peasants, the Cossacks –were not clear to him. He approached the Southern Front from the point of view of the commander of the Eastern Front.The easiest thing to do was to concentrate the divisions removed from the East along the Volga and to strike against the Kuban’, the headquarters of Denikin. This had been the basis of his plan when he promised to supply the divisions in time without stopping his advance.

In matters of strategy I always yielded first word to the Commander-in-Chief. However, my familiarity with the Southern Front prompted me to believe that his plan was basically erroneous. Denikin had managed to transfer his base from the Kuban’ to the Ukraine. To advance against the Cossacks meant to drive them forcibly in the direction of Denikin. It was clear to me that, instead, the main blow should be delivered along the line of division between Denikin and the Cossacks, along the strip where the population was entirely against the Cossacks, against Denikin and for us. But my opposition to Kamenev’s plan was interpreted as a continuation of the conflict between the Revolutionary Council of War of the Republic and the Eastern Front. Smilga and Gussev, with the collaboration of Stalin, made it look as if I were against the plan because I did not trust the new Commander-in-Chief on general principles. Lenin apparently had the same misgivings. But these misgivings were fundamentally wrong. I did not overestimate Vatzetis. I greeted Kamenev in a friendly fashion and tried in every way to lighten his burdens. But the error of the plan we so clear beyond any doubt that when it was confirmed by the Politburo, with everybody, including Stalin, voting against me, I submitted my resignation. [On the 5th of July, 1919, the highest Party executive ruled as follows] with reference to my resignation:

The Organizational and Poliltical Bureaux of the Central Committee, having examined Comrade Trotsky’s declaration and having considered it in all its aspects, have come to the unanimous conclusion that they cannot accept Comrade Trotsky’s resignation and they are absolutely unable to grant his petition. The Organizational and Political Bureaux of the Central Committee will do everything they can to make Comrade Trotsky’s work at the Southern Front – the most difficult, the most dangerous and the most important at the present time, which Comrade Trotsky has himself chosen –as convenient as possible for him and as fruitful as possible for the Republic. As People’s Commissar of War and Chairman of the Revolutionary Council of War of the Republic, Comrade Trotsky is fully empowered to act also as a member of the Revolutionary Council of War of the Southern Front in concert with the very same Commander of the Front (Yegoryev), whom he himself has appointed and the Central Committee has confirmed.
The Organizational and Political Bureaux of the Central Committee offer Comrade Trotsky full opportunity to strive by any means for what he considers an improvement of the policy of the military question, and , if he so desires, will try to expedite the convocation of the Party Congress.
Firmly convinced that the retirement of Comrade Trotsky at the present moment is absolutely impossible and would be most detrimental to the interests of the Republic, the Organizational and Political Bureaux of the Central Committee insistently suggest to Comrade Trotsky not to raise that question again, and to carry out his functions in the future to the maximum, curtailing them in the event he so desires, while he concentrates his efforts upon the Southern Front.
In view of the aforesaid, the Organizational and Political Bureaux of the Central Committee likewise reject Comrade Trotsky’s resignation from the Politburo as well as from the post of Chairman of the Revolutionary Council of War of the Republic and People’s Commissar of War . . .

Lenin, Kamenev, Krestinsky, Kalinin, Serebryakov, Stalin, Stassova . . .

I withdrew my resignation and immediately went to the Southern Front.

Three days later, while at the front in Kozlov, I received a coded telegram from the Council of People’s Commissars, from the Kremlin, kto the effect that an officer, accused of treason, confessed and made depositions from which it was possible to infer that Vatzetis had knowledge of a military conspiracy:

R.S.F.S.R. Council of Peoples’ Commissars Strictly Secret
The Kremlin, Moscow July 8, 1919
To Trotsky at Kozlov:
Domozhirov, who had confessed and has been completely proved a traitor, has given factual testimony about a conspiracy in which an active part was played by Isayev, who was a long time attached on duty to the Commander-in-Chief and lived with him in the same apartment. Many other proofs, a whole lot of evidence, convict the Commander-in-Chief of knowing about the conspiracy. The Commander-in-Chief has to be arrested . . .

This telegram was signed by Dzerzhinsky [head of the Cheka]; Krestinsky [Secretary of the Central Committee of the Party]; Lenin; and my deputy Sklyansky. It was clear from the names mentioned in the telegram that the reference was to the recently removed Commander-in-Chief. Vatzetis was thus arrested almost immediately after his removal from his post on no less a charge then suspicion of treason. That invested the controversy over strategy with sinister implications. Relations inside the Politburo became more strained, the change of the Chief Command became considerably more complicated. To this very day the exact circumstances and implications of this episode are not altogether clear to me. Since Vatzetis was soon set free and even appointeda professor at the War College, it is safe to assume that his knowledge of any military conspiracy was less than infinitesimal. It is not unlikely that, dissatisfied with his removal from the post of Commander-in-Chief, he had engaged in reckless talk with officers close to him. [However, it is decidedly[ likely that Stalin played quite a role in his arrest. Stalin had a score of old slights to settle with Valzetis. Moreover, he derived a sense of impunity and safety from the friendly influence he exerted over the head of the Cheka and from the support of the leaders of the Eastern Front and the new Commander-in-Chief. He had the added satisfaction of striking an indirect blow at the Commissar of War. One was conscious of the obvious intrigue behind this episode and of the invisible presence of Stalin behind Dzerzhinsky.

[On the 27th of July], I was hastily called out to Kozlov by Sokolnikov “because of extraordinary circumstances.” There I discovered that the Commander of the Southern Front, Yegoryev, considered Kamenev’s plan of operations [for the South] incorrect and, although he was carrying it out, did not expect success. Such also was the attitude of the Chief of the Operational Department, Peremytov, and such also was the opinion held by Sokolnikov himself. At first I did no discuss the matter with anyone except Sokolnikov and did not ask Yegoryev to elaborate when he referred to the irrationality of the plan, [but immediately telegraphed to Lenin as Chairman of the Council of Defense]:

* Without going into an analysis of the controversy on its merits, I consider entirely inadmissible a situation under which a plan is carried out by a person who has no faith in its success. The only course is the immediate (before the beginning of operations) replacement of the Commander of the South by a person who recognizes the operative authority of the Commander-in-Chief and agrees with his plan. Perhaps Selivachev will agree with Kamenev. In that case he should be immediately appointed Assistand Commander of the South, so that a week later he may be appointed Commander of the South.
Awaiting instructions.
July 27, 1919 #277/s. L.D. Trotsky
[The reply to this telegram was made not by Lenin but in the name of the Politburo. It bore the sole signature of the Central Committee’s technical secretary, Helen Stassova –as if to underscore its impersonal nature]:

* To Comrade Trotsky in Penza: Secret
The Politburo of the Central Committee has considered your telegram No. 277/s and fully agrees with you concerning the danger of any sort of wavering in the firm execution of an accepted plan. The Politburo fully recognizes the operative authority of the Commander-in-Chief and requests that you jmake the necessary explanation to all responsible workers. The Politburo appoints as members of the Revolutionary Council of War of the Southern Front, in addition to the present members, Smilga, Serebryakov, Lashevich. By order of the Central Committee.
July 28, 1919 Stassova.

[The question of strategy on the Southern Front was crucial. Yet the controversy over it, aggravated by the Vatzetis episode, had reached such a pass that it was carried on by innuendo and along exaggeratedly official channels. The immediate acknowledgement of the above instructions was addressed to Trotsky’s deputy in Moscow for transmission to the Central Committee. It read]:
* To Comrade Sklyansky for transmission to the Central Committee:
Do not understand the sense of your telegram. In view of Yegoryev’s doubts, I suggested an assistant for him, who, if necessary could replace him. This is the least painful solution to the problem. While in Kozlov, I removed the Chief of Operations, Peremytov, who expressed disagreement with the plan of the Commander-in-Chief and replaced him with Berenda, whom I hastily summoned from the Military Inspection. Before I left, by agreement with Sokolnikov and in his presence, I bluntly confronted Yegoryev with the issue of unconditional execution of the Commander-in-Chief’s plan. He replied with the utmost categoralness and as far as I could judge without any mental reservations. Nevertheless, I consider the sending of Selivachev, as assistant, after the preliminary conversation the Commander-in-Chief had with him, extremely desirable. I have received no reply to this single proposal except the recommendation to instill (in whom?) the rule of discipline.
I think it is absurd to add to the Revolutionary Council of War, already overstaffed with six members (Yegoryev, Yegorov, Sokolnikov,Okulov, Vladimirov, Serebryakov) two new ones, and suggest that this decision be revoked, expecially since Lashevich has been appointed Commandant of Petrograd, while Smilga is a member of Shorin’s group.
Disastrous for the front is the absence of bullets and extreme lack of rifles. The Ninth Army has 20,000 fighters ready, but they are all without rifles, and only half of them expect to receive them. Bullets are issued in frightfully small quantities, which in the event of the slightest complication leads to disastrous consequences. On the basis of observing the situation in the four armies of the Southern Front and conversation with the Commander of the South, I warn you that the whole operation may fail because of lack of bullets.
July 19, 1919 Trotsky

[Preparations for the offensive on the Southern Front according to the plan of the new Commander-in-Chief continued under difficulties. By the end of the first week in August –that is, about a week before the offensive was actually launched –the Politburo was confronted with] several problems of grave importantce. [It was perfectly] clear that Denikin was more than likely to direct his main drive agaisnt the Ukraine rather than Eastward, in order to establish contact with Rumania and Poland and transfer his base from Ekaterinodar to Odessa and Sebastopol. Irrespective of the measures undertaken by the Commander-in-Chief to obviate this danger, which was the most serious for the moment, it was necessary to decide at once how to proceed with the impending struggle for the Ukraine. First of all it was necessary to unite the 12th Army with the 14th Army, which, owing to the absence of telegraphic connections, was cut off from the Southern Front. Not only were the rears of the two armies already merged by then but both were increasingly obliged to act against one and the same enemy, Denikin. I, therefore, proposed the removal of the 14th Army from the juridiction of the Southern Front, fusing the command of the two armies in the person of the commander of the 14th Army, Yegorov, and his staff, calling this new group the Southwestern Front, with headquarters at Konotop, and placing it directly under the jurisdiction of the Commander-in-Chief and the General Staff. To maintain the fighting ability of [this proposed Southwestern Front at the barest minimum, it was necessary] to exert extraordinary effot to put a stop to banditry, the destruction of railway tracks, and the like, with the aid of Communist units temporarily transferred from more secure sectors, regional workers from Moscow and even certain absolutely reliable units of the Czech army. All available Red officers throughout the country were immediately sent to the Ukraine by special trains, irrespective of any prior assignments. All political workers, previously assigned to various other armies, had to be sent to the Ukraine, along with boots, bullets, rifles. The 12th Army was without bullets. For lack of them, it fought against the mutinous colonists in Odessa with hand grenades. The Councils of War of both armies were weak. By agreement between the Ukrainian Council of Defense and the Revolutionary Councils of War of both armies, Voroshilov was appointed to suppress the rebellion in the rears of both armies. All persons and institutions engaged in the suppression of insurrections in the Ukraine were placed under his command.

[Analogous difficulties, as varied as the localities in which they were met yet essentially the same in nature, were confronted everywhere and on every hand. Lenin grew restive. At the very outset of the offensive he wrote to Sklyansky:

*I am sick. Had to lie down. Therefore answer by messenger. The delay of the offensive in the direction of Voronezh (from the 1st of August to the 10th!!) is monstrous. Denikin’s success is tremendous.
What’s the matter? Sokolnikov said that there our forces were four times as large as theirs.
What then is the matter? How could we have missed the opportunity so badly?
Tell the Commander-in-Chief that things cannot go on like that. He must pay serious attention.
Hadn’t we better send this sort of telegram to the Revolutionary Council of War of the Southern Front (copy to Smilga) in code:
Utterly inadmissible to delay attack because such delay gives all Ukraine to Denikin and destroys us. You are responsible for every extra day and even hour of delaying the offensive. Communicate immediately your explanations and when at last you will begin a resolute offensive.
Chairman of the Council of Defense, Lenin

[The offensive on the Southern Front, according to the plan of S.S. Kamenev, began in the middle of August. Within six weeks, by the end of September], I wrote to the Politburo, which had voted against my plan, “The offensive along the line of greatest resistance has proved entirely to the advantage of Denikin, as was predicted . . . Right now our situation on the Southern Front is worse than it was when the General Staff began to carry out it’s a priori plan. It would be childish to shut one’s eyes to this.” By then the fatal error of the plan had become clear to many of its former proponents, including Lashevich, who had been transferred from the Eastern to the Southern Front. Some three weeks earlier, on the 6th of September, I had telegraphed from the front in code to the Commander-in-Chief and to the Central Committee that “the center of difficulty of the struggle on the Southern Front has shifted in the direction of Kurst-Voronezh, where there are no reserves.” I called [their] attention also to the following problems:

The effort to liquidate Mamontov has so far yielded practically no results. The motorized machine-gun units were not formed in consequence of the non-receipt of the machine-guns or even a small number of automobiles. Mamontov is obviously proceeding to unite with his own troops through the Kursk front. Our weak and scattered infantry units hardly disturb him. Lahsevich’s command is paralyzed by the absence of means of communication. Mamontov’s unification may be regarded as assured. The danger of a break through the front at the Kursk-Voronezh sector is becoming apparent. Lashevich’s next task is to pursue the enemy in an effort to plug that hole. An attempt will be made to harass Mamontov with guerrilla raids . . . The destruction of railways interferes with transfers from the Tsaritsyn direction to the Kursk. Yet the situation insistently demands the transfer of reserves to the West.It may be possible to transfer the mounted corps of Budenny bgy forced marches. It is necessary to add that the situation is becoming increasingly worse because of the complete breakdown of the apparatus of the front. The practical tasks appear to us in the following form:

1. Immediately appoint Selivachev commander of the Southern Front.
2. Selivachev’s place should be taken by the assistant commander of the Southern Front, Yegorov.
3. Send the reserves, including the 21st Division, after Mamontov in the direction of Kursk.
4. Turn the 9th Army from the direction of Novorossiisk to Starobelsk.
5. Transfer the corps of Budenny as far as possible to right center.
6. Hasten marching reserves and supplies for the 8th and 13th armies.

[In addition], I proposed a number of army regroupings which amounted to a liquidation of the plan that had failed. [That was hardly three weeks after the offensive was launched.] Serebryakov and Lashevich signed the telegram with me. But the new Commander-in-Chief was [as] stubborn [when in error as his predecessor], and the Politburo resolutely supported him. The very same day, on the 6th of September, I received this reply by direct wire at Oryol:

The Politburo of the Central Committee, having considered the telegram of Trotsky, Serebryakov and Lashevich, has confirmed the reply of the Commander-in-Chief and expressed its surprise with reference to efforts being made to reconsider the basic strategic plan decided upon.
September 6, 1919 By order of the Politburo of the Central Committee, Lenin

Within two months the course of military operations had nullified the original plan. Moreover, during these two months of continuous fruitless battles many of the roads were utterly wrecked and the concentration of reserves became incomparably more difficult than in June and July. The radical regrouping of forces was therefore all the more necessary. I suggested that Budenny’s mounted corps be sent by forced marches to the Northeast, and that several other units be transferred in that direction. [But the Politburo, including of course Stalin, throughout this period continued to reject these and other suggestions and persistently approved] the directives of the Commander-in-Chief, [who continued to reiterate that] “the basic plan for the advance along the Southern Front remains without alterations; in other words, the main attack is to be delivered by Shorin’s special group, its task being to destroy the enemy in the Don and the Kuban’.” [Yet] the offensive had utterly bogged down in the meantime. The situation in the Kuban’, where the best troops had been sent, became extremely grave, and Deniken was moving to the North.

“In order to evaluate the plan of operation,” I wrote at the end of September, “it would not be superfluous to consider its results. The Southern Front has received more forces than any other front has ever had; at the beginning of the offensive the Southern Front had no less than 180,000 bayonets and swords, a corresponding number of guns and machine guns. After a month and a half of battles, we are pathetically marking time in the Eastern half of the Southern Front, while in the Western half we have a difficult retreat, a loss of units, the destruction of organization . . . The cause of the failure must be sought entirely in the plan of operation . . . Unites of average resistance were directed . . . to localities populated entirely by Cossacks, who were not advancing, but were defending their villages and homes. The atmosphere of a national Don War is exerting a disintegrating influence upon our units. Under these conditions Denikin’s tanks, skillful maneuvering, and the like, give him a colossal superiority.”

[Soon] it was no longer a question of the plan but of its disastrous conequences, material and psychological. The Commander-in-Chief, in consonance with Napoleon’s maxim, had apparently hoped, by persisting in his error, to derive from it all possible advantages and in the end to secure victory. The Politburo, losing confidence, persisted in its own decision. On the 21st of September our troops abandoned Kursk. On the 13th of October Denikin took Oryol and opened for himself the road to Tula, where the most important munitions factories were concentrated and beyond which was Moscow. I confronted the Politburo with the alternatives: either to change our strategy or eveacuate Tula, destroying the war industries there, and resist the direct threat to Moscow. By that time the stubbornness of the Commander-in-Chief, who was himself already discarding part of the old plan, and the support of the Politburo were broken. In the middle of October the new grouping of troops for the counterattack was completed. One group was concentrated to the north-west of Oryol for action against the Kurstk-Oryol railway. Another group, east of Voronezh, was headed by Budenny’s mounted corps. This was tantamount to the plan upon which I had insisted. [In view of these facts it is instructive to consider the latter-day account of the period by Stalinist historiographers]:

* During September and the beginning of October Denikin achieved considerable success on the Southern Front. He captured Oryol on the 13th of October. In order to remedy the extremely difficult and dangerous situation which a rose in consequence of prolonged failures on the Southern Front, the Central Committee of the Party sent Comrade Stalin to the Revolutionary Council of War of the front. Comrade Stalin worked out the new strategic plan of the struggle against Denikin, which was confirmed by Lenin and by the Central Committee of the Party. The realization of this plan brought about the complete defeat and rout of Denikin.

[Stalin’s own versions vary from time to time as to who had proposed the right plan which had been rejected and who was to blame for the wrong plan that had proved so very costly. In 1923 Stalin told the story of the Southern Front in order, estensibly, to demonstrate certain political principles, but actually in order to settle certain political scores of his own]:

* . . . An analogy might easily be drawn between these principles of political strategy, and the principles of military strategy; for example . . . the struggle with Denikin. Everybody remembers the end of 1919, when Denikin was near Tula. At that time interesting arguments developed among the military on the question of from which direction the decisive blow against Denikin’s armies should be struck. Some of the military proposed . . . the line of Tsaritsyn-Novorossiisk . . . Others . . . the line Vornezh-Rostov . . . The first plan was . . . not advantageous because it presupposed our movement along regions . . . hostile to the Soviet Government and thus demanded heavy sacrifices; also it was dangerous, because it opened to Denikin’s armies the road to Moscow by way of Tula and Serpukhov. The second plan . . . was the only correct one, because it presupposed the movement of our basic groups along regions . . . that sympathized with the Soviet Government and therefore did not demand special sacrifices; and also, it disorganized the action of the main body of Denikin’s troops marching to Moscow. A majority of the miltary expressed themselves in favor of the second plan . . . Thus the fate of the entire war with Denikin was settled . . .

Stalin seemed to be using this story as a chance illustration of certain conceptions in the field of political tactics. As a matter of fact, the illustration was not accidental. 1923 was under way; Stalin was [on tenderhooks], expecting a terrible attack from Lenin, and therefore he systematically tried to undermine Lenin’s authority. In the leading circles of the Party it was very well known that behind the erroneous and costly plan had been not only certain members of the “military” (like Commander-in-Chief [S.S.Kamenev] but also the majority of the Politburo headed by Lenin. However, he preferred to speak abaout disagreements among the “military” without touching upon the struggle within the Politburo. He knew that the leading Party members remembered altogether too well that it was my plan, the plan I [had been advocating since early in July], which he came to suppot only at the end of October or the beginning of November, after the Commander-in-Chief himself in actual practice completely repudiated his own original project. But on November 19, 1924, tend months after Lenin’s death, Stalin [went further. He then] made the first attempt to create a deliberately fictitious version of the struggle on the Southern Front and to direct it against me:

* It happened in the autumn of 1919. The offensive against Denikin failed . . .Denikin takes Kursk. Denikin advances on Oryol. Comrade Trotsky is recalled from the Southern Front to a session of the Central Committee. The Central Committee recognizes the situation as alarming and decides to send new military workers to the Southern Front, recalling Comrade Trotsky. The new military workers demand “non-interference” by Comrade Trotsky in the affairs of the Southern Front. Comrade Trotsky retires from direct participation in the affairs of the Southern Front. Operations on the Southern Front all the way to the capture by us of Rostov-on-the-Don and Odessa take place without Comrade Trotsky. Let them try to deny these facts!

True, I left the Southern Front about the 10th of October and went to Petrograd. Our counter-attack on the Southern Front should have begun on the 10th of October. Everything was prepared; the concentration of units for the attack was almost completed, and my presence was much more necessary around Petrogad, which was in mortal danger of capture by Yudenich. Looking back over three years of Civil War and examining the journals and the correspondence of my trips along the various fronts, I see that I almost never had occasion to accompany a victorious army, to participate in an attack, directly to share its victories with others, My journeys did not have a holiday character. I went only to the sectors in distress after the enemy had broken through the front. My task was to turn fleeing regiments into an attacking force. I retreated with the troops, but never advanced with them. As soon as the routed divisions wsere restored to order and the command gave the signal to advance, I bade farewell to the Army and went to another unfavourable sector, or returned for several days to Moscow, in order to solve the accumulated problems of the Center. Thus, for three years I literally did not have the occasion even once to see the happy faces of soldiers after the victory or to enter with them into the captured cities. [That was why, as Stalin could not helop knowing], I did not visit the Southern Front even once throughout the entire period of our victorious [offensive there after the middle of October. Stalin’s falsification thus consists of investing an undeniable fact with an utterly false implication.

[But there is, as yet, no suggestion that Trotsky was the author of the plan responsible for the failure of the July-September offensive against Denikin. At this stage], everything comes down only to the hazy assertion concerning new military workers who demanded (from whom?) “non-interference” by Comrade Trotsky. As a matter of fact, the thirteen decrees issued by the Central Committee on the 15th of October were proposed by me in written form and unanimously approved by all, including Stalin, Lenin, I, Kamenev and Krestinsky, where on the Commission which, in accordance with my proposal, was charged with the task of sending new workers to the Southern Front to replace the old workers, who had grown altogether too tired in consequence of constant defeats. Stalin was not on it. Which of the new workers demanded my “non-interference,” and from whom, in particular, Stalin does not state. {In 1929. Voroshilov declared]:

* Stalin placed before the Central Committee three main conditions: 1) Trotsky must not interfere in the affairs of the Southern Front and must not cross beyond its line of demarcation; 2) a whole series of workers whom Stalin considered incapable of restoring the situation among the troops must be immediately recalled from the Southern Front; and 3) to the Southern Front must immediately be sent new workers selected by Stalin, who would be capable of carrying out this task. These conditions were accepted fully.

Where? How? When? By whom? [The answers to these questions concern neither Stalin nor his satellite. Yet even while] crediting Stalini with the revision of the erroneous plan, Voroshilov did not, in 1929, dare to affirm that the erroneous plan was mine. By his very silence on that point he admitted that I was an opponent of this plan. However, this oversight was likewise filled in by the newest historiography/ [We have it now on the authority of Zinaida Ordzhonikadize that]:

* Stalin . . . categorically rejected the old plan to smash Denikin, worked out by the General Staff, headed by Trotsky . . . “This insane proposed march through a roadless, hostile country, threatens us with complete collapse,” wrote Stalin in a note to Lenin . . . Instead of the plan already rejected by life itself, Stalin worked out a plan for the advance of the Reds through proletarian Kharkov and the Donetz Basin on Rostov . . . The strategy of the Great Stalin secured victory for the Revolution.

[There is a touch of sardonic humor in this insistance that the plan which finally brought victory on the Southern Front was Stalin’s. However, the author of this cynical prevarication is Stalin himself and the documentary evidence on which it is based is Stalin’s note to Lenin, in which] Stalin repeats almost word for word those arguments against the July-September plan which I had developed, at first orally and then in writing, and which he had rejected together with the majority of the Politburo. Since all the members of the Politburo were perfectly familiar with the development of the question, it could not, at that time, have even entered Stalin’s head to place the responsibility for the old plan on me. On the contrary, he blamed the Commander-in-Chief and the ‘strategic cockerel” attached to him, the very same Gussev on which he had relied in July, when the command was changed. [In that note Stalin argued]:

* . . . What then impels the Commander-in-Chief to defend the old plan? Evidently, sheer stubbornness, or if you wish factionalism, most stupid and most dangerous to the Republic, fostered in the Commander-in-Chief by the strategic cockerel attached to him . . .

Stalin’s telegram [reinforcing the note] came at the very moment that the Commadner-in-Chief himself went against his own plan, makingt a direct frontal attack with a group of shock troops instead of concentrating them in Denikin’s Cossack rear. There was nothing the Politburo could do except to sanction after the event the substitution of the new plan for the old. Whether such a decision was brought out, or whether the Politburo simply accepted the accomplished fact, rejoicing inwardly, it is impossible to establish on the basis of the published documents, nor is it of much significance. [However, there is the following document which speaks for itself]:

* Except
From the Protocol of the Session of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik) of September 14, 1919.
Present: Comrades Lenin, Trotsky, Kamenev, Krestinsky.

5. Declaration by Comrades Stalin and Serebryakov concerning reinforcements for the Southern Front and concerning the transfer of certain persons, and Comrade Stalin’ telegram in support of this declaration as an ultimatum.

5. (a) To commission Comrade Lenin to send Comrade Smilga a coded telegram with inquiry concerning one possible transfer in the opinion of the Politburo.
(b) To commission Comrade Trotsky to transmit to Commander-in-Chief Kamenev in the name of the Government the political-economic directive about the necessity to capture Kursk and to move upon Kharkov and the Donetz Basin, and aboaut the distribution of reinforcements on the basis of this directive between the Southern and Southeastern fronts, these reinforcements to be removed from the Eastern and Kazakhstan fronts (the exact text of the directive is herewith attached). Also, to suggest to Vladimir Illyich personally to talk matters over with the Commander-in-Chief in accordance with the contents of the above directive.
(c) To inform Comrade Stalin that the Politburo considers absolutely inadmissable the reinforcement of one’s business suggestions with ultimatums about resignation.



[On December 4, 1919, Ivan Smirnov reported from the Eastern Front that] “Kolchak has lost his army . . . There will be no more battles . . . I hope to capture the entire mobilis staff before Station Taiga . . . The tempo of the pursuit is such that by the 20th December Barnaul and Novonikolyavsk will be in our hands.” [Yedenich had been completely routed in the Northwest. Denikin was on the run in the South. Defeated in his efforts to win peasant wupport through equivocal “agrarian reforms” and deprived of support among the military and the landed gentry through his disastrous defeat at the front by the Red Army, Denikin lost the confidence of the Whites. On the 26th of March, 1920, he formally relinquished the office of Commander-in-Chief in favour of Baron Wrangel, who had been successful in reforming the scattered ranks of the White Guards in the Crimea.

[The Whites were still trouncing the Red cavlary and infantry uunite on the Caucasian Front. In the battles of the 1st and 2nd of February, 1920, Manontov repulsed the offensive of the Red Army and assumed the offensive himself in the vicinity of Novocherkassk. The ranks of the Red Army on the Caucasian Front, which included Budenny’s mounted army, had been thinned not only by losses in battles but by the typhus epidemic. The expected reinforcements and provisions had not arrived because of confusion on the railways. Strong-arm methods were needed to move reinforcements and supplies to the Caucasian Front. Lenin and Trotsky turned to Stalin, who was at the time on the Revolutionary Council of War of the Southwestern Front]:

* The Central Committee deems it necessary, or order to save the situation, that you journey immediately to the right wing of the Caucasian Front by way of Debaltsevo, where Shorin is at present. At the same time you will have to undertake extraordinary measures for the transfer of considerable reinforcements and workers from the Southwestern Front. To stabilize that situation, you are inducted into the staff iof the Revolutionary Council of War of the Caucasian Front, remaining at the same time on the Revolutionary Council of War of the Southwestern Front.
February 3, 1920. Lenin. Trotsky.

[The text of Stalin’s reply is not available, but he apparently raised objections to the new assignment, probably on the grounds of pressing duties in his present position. This drew the following rejoinder]:

* The Central Committee does not insist upon your journey, on condition that in the course of the next few weeks you will concentrate all your attention and all your energy upon servicing the Caucausian Front in preference to the interests of the Southwestern Front. Arzhanov is being sent to Voronezh to expedite the necessary transfers. Please show him the necessary cooperation and inform us accurately about the course of the transfers.
February 4, 1920
Chairman of the Council of Defense, Lenin
Chairman of the Revolutionary Council of War of the Republic, Trotsky.

[Two weeks later Lenin telegraphed Stalin]:

* The Politburo cannot ask you to come in person, since it considers the mopping up of Denikin as the most important and pressing task, which is why you have to expedite reinforcements to the Caucasian Front to the best of your ability.
February 19, 1920 Lenin

[A day later Lenin elaborated further on the same theme]:

* The situation in the Caucasus is becoming increasingly serious in character. Judging by yesterday’s situation, the possibility of our losing Rostov and Novocherkassk is not excluded, as also the enemy’s attempt to develop his success further to the North with a threat against the Don Territory. Undertake extraordinary measures for expediting the transfer of the 42nd and the Latvian divisions and for reinforcing their fighting potential. I expect that, realizing the general situation, you will exert your energy to the utmost and will achieve impressive results.
#36/sh Lenin

[Stalin’s reply follows]:
Absolutely Secret In Code
Copy for the Central Committee of the Party
It is not clear to me why the concern abaout the Caucasian Front is imposed first of all upon me. In the order of things the responsibility for the strengthening of the Caucasian Front rests entirely with the Revolutionary Council of War of the Republic, whose members, according to my information, are in excellent health, and not with Stalin, who is overloaded with work anyway.
February 20, 1920. Stalin

[Whereupon Lenin spanked Stalin with the following telegram]:

* The concern for expediting the shipment of reinforcements from the Southwestern Front to the Caucasian Front has been imposed upon you. Generally one must try to help in every way possible and not quibble about departmental jurisdictions.
February 20, 1920. Lenin

Kursk, January 19, 1920.
To the Chairman of the Revolutionary Council of War of the Republic, Comrade Trotsky, Moscow.

I appeal to you with the urgent plea to free my from unemployment. For almost three weeks I have been for no good reason at the headquarters of the Soutwestern Front, and have done nothing for two months. I can find out neither the cause of delay nore can I secure a further appointment. If during the almost two years that I have commanded various armies I have demonstrated any merit at all, I beg you to give me the opportunity to apply my talents to actual work, and if none such can be found at the front, then please let me have something to do in transportation or in the Commissariat of War.
#2. Army Commander Tukhachevsky.

[Apparently, Stalin had found no application for the talents of Tukhachevsky on the Southwestern Front where he was practically the boss by virtue of his political authority as member of the Central Committee, the Orgburo and the Politburo. Tukhachevsky was still only in his middle twenties. Until the conquest of power by the Bolsheviks, he had been a lieutenant in the Tsarist Army. The October Revolution won him over heart and soul. He not only offered his services to the Red Army but became a Communist. He distinguished himself almost immediately at the front, and within a year had become a general of the Red Army. His brilliance as a strategist was acknowledged by admiring foes who were the victims of that very brilliance. Trotsky inscribed on his telegram: “Inform Comrades Lenin and Stalin.” What immediate steps were taken after that is not clear. But one thing is definitely recorded. Tukhachevsky was put in command of the Western Front and was placed in chargte of offensive operations against Warsaw.

[The Polish Republic was hostile to the Soviet Government from the moment of its inception. Having seized Wilno in defiance of its award to the Lithuanians by the League of Nations in 1919, the Poles invaded White-Russian territory and by the autumn occupied Minsk and considerable portions of Volhynia and Podolia. Then they froze into inactivity in the face of General Denikin’s success. They feared that the success of the White Armies, which were pledged to restore the territorial integrity of the Tsarist Empire, would prove inimical to Poland’s territorial ambitions not only in the Ukraine and White-Russia but in Poland proper as well. But as soon as the Red Armies began to deliver decisive blows against Denikin, the Polish Army sprang into activity again. Supported by the trooops of the recently-formed Latvian Republic, the Polish Armies occupied Dvinsk in January, 1920, forced the Red Army to surrent Latgalia, took Mozyr in March, and under the personal command of Poland’s Liberator, Josef Pilsudski, launched a vigorous offensive against the Ukraine in April in alliance with the forces of the defunct Petlura Government. Although the war had thus been imposed on the Red Army, the aim of the Soviet Government was not only to repulse the attack, but to carry the Bolshevik Revolution itself into Poland and thus force open a door for Communism in all Europe].

On the 30th of April, I wrote to the Central Committee of the Party: “Precisely because it is a struggle of life and death, it will have an extremely intensive and severe character.” Hence it was necessary “to evaluate the War with Poland not as merely the task of the Western Front but as the central task of all Worker-Peasant Russia.” On the 2nd of May, I issued a general warning through the press against overly-optimistic hopes for a revolution in Poland: “That the war will end with the workers’ revolution in Poland, there can be no doubt; but at the same time there is no basis for supposing that the war will begin with such a revolution . . .It would be extremely frivolous to think that the victory . . . will simply fall into our laps.” On the 5th of May, in a report to the Joint Session of All Soviet Institutions, I said: “It would be a grave error to suppose that history will begin by opening for our sakes the Polish workers’ revolution and therefore will free us frm the necessity to wage an armed struggle.” And I concluded: “Comrades, I should like you to carry away from this meeting as your chief conclusion the thought that tthestruggle still adhead of us will be a hard and intensive struggle.” All my military orders and public declarations of that time were permeated with this idea. “At the present time the Western Front is the most important front of the Republic,” states an order of the 9th of May, signed by me at Smolensk. “The organs of supply must be prepared for no easy and brief campaign but for a prolonged and stubborn struggle.” I was opposed to the march on Warsaw because, considering the weakness of our forces and resources, it could end successfully only on condition of an immediate insurrection in Poland itself, and there was absolutely no assurance of that. I have expounded the essence of the conflict in the most general terms in my autobiography.

The chief initiator of the campaign was Lenin. He was supported against me by Zinoviev, Stalin and even by the cautious L.B. Kamenev. Rykov was on of the Central Committee members who sided with me on the issue, but he was not yet a member of the Politburo. Radek was also opposed to the Polish adventure. All the secret documents of that time are at the disposal of the present ruling circles of the Kremlin, and if there were at least one line in these documents affirming the latter-day version of this venture, it would have been published long ago. It is precisely the unsupported character of the version, and moreover the radical contradiction of one assertion by another, which shows that there too we have to deal with the same Thermidorian mythology.

One of the reasons that the catastrophe near Warsaw assumed such extraordinary proportions was the behavior of the command of the Western group of the Southern Armies, directed agaisnt Lwow (Lemberg). The chief political figure in the Revolutionary Council of War of the group was Stalin. He wanted at any cost to enter Lwow at the same time that Smilga and Tukhachevsky were to enter Warsaw. The rapid advance of our armies toward the Vistula had compelled the Polish command to concentrate all efforts and, with the aid of the French Military Mission, considerable reserves in the regions of Warsaw and Lublin. At this decisive moment, the line of operations on the Southwestern Front diverged at right angles from the line of operations on the main Western Front: Stalin was waging his own war. When the danger to Tukhachevsky’s army became clearly evident and the Commander-in-Chief ordered the Southwestern Front to shift its direction sharply towards Zamostye-Tomashev, in order to strike at the flanks of the Polish troops near Warsaw, the command of the Southwestern Front, encouraged by Stalin, continued to move to the West: Was it not more important to take possession of Lwow itself that to help “others” to take Warsaw? For three or four days our General Staff could not secure the execution of this order. Only after repeated demands reinforced by threats did the Southwestern command change direction, but by then the delay of several days had already played its fatal role. On the 16th of August the Poles took the counter-offensive and forced our troops to role back.

During the secret debates on the Polish War at a closed session of the Tenth Congress of the Party, Stalin came ouit with the declaration, equally startling in its viciousness and untruthfulness, that Smilga, the leading member of the Revolutionary Council of War of the Western Front had “deceived the Central Committee” by “promising” to take Warsaw by a definite date and by failing to make good his “promise.” The actions of the Southwestern Front, i.e., Stalin himself, had presumably been determined by the “promise” of Smilga, on whom, therefore, lay the responsibility for the catastrophe. In silent hostility the Congress listened to the sullen orator with that yellow glint in his eye. With that speech of his Stalin hurt no one but himself. Not a single vote supported him. I protested on the spot against this startling insinuation: Smilga’s “promise” meant merely that he had hoped to take Warsaw; but that hope did not eliminate the element of the unexepected, which is peculiar to all wars, and under no circumstances did it give anybody the right to act on the basis of an a priori calculation instead of realistic development of operations. Lenin, terribly upset by the dissensions, joined in the discussion and expressed himself to the effect that we did not want to blame anybody personally. Why does Stalin not publish the stenographic record of this debate?

In 1929, A. Yegorov [Commander of the Southwestern Front during the Polish Campaign, made the first public attempt to justify his action in a special monograph entitled] “Lwow-Warsaw,” [in which he was constrained to admit]:

* . . . It is precisely in this respect that all our historians have criticized the campaign on the Southwestern Front. No one acquainted with this campaign on the basis of the writings now extant will consider it a secret that the explanation for the failure of the Western operations is directly connected with the actions on the Southwestern Front. Accusations made in this sense against the command of the front come down basically to this, that the Southwestern Front carried on a completely independent operational policy, without taking into consideration either the general situation on the entire Polish Front or the action of th4e neighboring Western Front; at the decisive moment did not rend to the latter the necessary co-operation . . . Such, in general outline, is the version reiterated in all works devoted more or less to the question of the mutual interaction of the front in 1920, without excluding excluding even those published in most recent times . . .We find, for example, in the serious and interesting work of M. Movchin, “The Subsequent Operations according to the Experience of the Marne and the Vistula” (published by the State Publishers in 1928) as direct reference to “the failure by the Southwestern Front to carry out the categorical directives of the Commander-in-Chief concerning the advance of the First Mounted Army upon the Zamostye-Tomashev” (page 74). The graduates of our War College have studied the history of the Polish Campaign on the basis of these and analogous statements, and continue to carry away with them into the ranks of our Army corresponding impressions. To put it more briefly, the legend about that disastrous role of the Southwestern Front in 1920 . . . apparently does not evoke at present any doubt and is recognized as a fact which the future generations of tacticians and strategists are supposed to study.

It is not at all surprising that Yegorov, who as Commander-in-Chief of the Southwestern Front, bore serious responsibility for the willful strategy of Stalin, proceeds then to minimize the gravity of his mistake by offering an interpretation of the military events of 1920 less unfavorable to himself. However, suspicion is at one evoked by the fact that Yegorov made his attempt at self-defense only nine years after the event, when “the legend about the disastrous role of the Southwestern Front” had already managed, according to his own words, to find definitive confirmation and even to become a part of military history. This tardiness is explained by the fact that the Army and the country, having suffered a great deal because of the failure of the Polish Campaign, would have indignantly resented any falsification, especially by those responsible for the failure. He had to wait and keep still.

As for me, guided by my concern for the prestige of the Government as a whole and the desire not to inject quarrels into the Army, which was sufficiently disturbed anyway, I did not remind them publicly about the sharp conflict preceding the campaign with so much as a single word. Yegorov had to wait for the establishment of the totalitarian regime before he could come out with a rebuttal. The cautious Yegorov, lacking in independence, was undoubtedly writing by direct assignment from Stalin, although that name, incredibly as it may seem, remains entirely unmentioned in the book. Let us remember that 1929 opens the first period of the systematic review of the past.

But if Yegorov tried indirectly to miminize Stalin’s guilt along with his own, he did not yet try to place the blame on the other side. Nor was this done by Voroshilov in the thoroughly apologetic article signed by him, “Stalin and the Red Army,” published the same year, 1929. “Only the failure of our troops near Warsaw,” Voroshilov states vaguely, “interrupted the advance of the Mounted Army which had made ready to attack Lwow and was at the time ten kilometers from it.” However, the matter could not rest with mere self-justification. In such questions Stalin never stops half-way. The moment finally arrived when the responsibility for the failure of the front could be placed on those who had interfered with the march on Lwow. [In 1935 the Red professor] S. Rabinovich [in his] “History of the Civil War” [wrote};

* The First Army, which became involved in the battle for Lwow, could not directly help the Western Front without taking Lwow. It could not have given greater aid to the Western Front because that would have entailed the transfer of large forces near Lwow. Notwithstanding that, Trotsky categorically demanded the retirement of the First Mounte Army from Lwow and its concentration near Lublin for a blow along the rear of the Polish armies advancing on the flank of the troops of the Western Front . . . In consequence of the profoundly erroneous directive of Trotsky, the First Mounted had to abandon the capture of Lwow without being able to at the same time to offer help to the armies of the Western Front.

[Or course], thast possibility was lost only because the Budenny-Voroshilov Cavalry, in agreement with the directives of Yegorov-Stalin and contrary to the orders of the Commander-in-Chief, turned toward Lublin several days late. [But the following year, the military journal] Krasnaya Konnitsa (Red Cavalry) [went even further in the article], “The Fighting Road of the First Mounted Army.” In this the author declared that the Mounted Army . . . “not only could not prevent the Polish Army from retreating behind the River Bug, but did not even break up the counter-attack of the Poles against the flanks of the Red troops marching on Warsaw.” Stalin and Voroshilov, concerned with the new occupation of Galicia, an objective of only secondary importance, sinmply did not want to help Tukhachevshy in the main task, the advance upon Warsaw. Now Voroshilov argued that only the capture of Lwow would have enabled him “to deliver a crushing blow in the rear of the White Guard Poles and their shock troops.”

It is quite impossible to understand how it would have been possible by the capture of Lwow, which was 300 kilometers distant from the main theater of war, to strike at the “rear” of the Polish shock formations, which in the meantime had already pursued the Red Army to within 100 kilometers east of Warsaw. In order to attempt to strike a blow at the Poles in the “rear” it would have been necessary to pursue them in the first place and therefore first of all to abandon Lwow. Why ini that case was it necessary to occupy it? The capture of Lwow, which in itself was not devoid of military significance, could have been invested with revolutionary significance only by raising an insurrection of the Galacians against Polish rule. But that required time. The tempos of the military and the revolutionary tasks did not coincide in the least. From the moment that the danger of a decisive counter-attack near Warsaw became apparent, the continuation of the advance upon Lwow became not only purposeless but downright criminal. However, at this point the jealously between the two fronts intervened. Stalin, according to Voroshilov’s [own admission], did not hesitate to violate rules and orders.

“Our situation seemed to me utterly hopeless,” wrote Pilsudsky. “I saw the only bright spot on the dark horizon in Budenny’s failure to launch his attack on my rear . . . the weakness which was exhibited by the Twelfth Army,” i.e. the army which upon the order of Commissar Stalin had failed to support Tukhachevsky’s army and had broken away from it. [Years later, justifying Stalin’s action, the “Red Star” excalimed indignantly]: “Covering up his disgusting defeatist maneuvers, the traitor Trotsky deliberately and consciously achieved the transfer of the Mounte Army to the north, presumably to aid the Western Front.” Unfortunately, I might add, I secured this transfer too late. If Stalin and Voroshilov and the illiterate Budenny had not “had their own war” in Galacia and the Red Cavalry had been at Lublin in time, the Red Army would not have suffered the disaster which forced upon the country the Peace of Riga, which by cutting us off from Germany exerted a tremendous influence on the future developments of both countries. After the hopes awakened by the determined drive on Warsaw, the defeat reverberated as an earthquake throughout the Party, upsetting its equilibrium and finding partial expression in the so-called Trade Union Discusion.

[Writing in Pravda of February 23, 1930, the Party historian N. Popov, acknowledging that the advance on Warsaw was a mistake of the Politburo, declared that] “Trotsky . . . was opposed to this advance as a petty bourgeois revolutionist who felt that it was inadmissable to carry the revolution into Poland from the outside. For the same reasons, Trotsky was opposed to the Red Army’s aiding the rebels in Georgia in February, 1921. Trotsky’s anti-Bolshevik, Kautskyist reasoning was emphatically rejected by the Central Committee, both in July, 1920, in the case of Poland, and in February, 1921, in the case of the Menshevik government of Georgia.” [Five years later Rabinovich in his “History of the Civil War” acribed Trotsky’s] “errors in the Polish War” [to] “the fundamental political” [position that] “on our part the war was to stimulate and hasten the revolution in Poland, bring the revolution to Europe on the bayonets of the Red Army . . . Otherwise, the victory of Socialism in Russia is impossible. That was why Trotsky in opposition to arguments of Lenin and Stalin, declared that ‘the Polish front is the front of life and death for the Soviet Republic.’” The old accusation thus reversed itself. As late as 1930 it was recognized that I was an opponent of the March on Warsaw, and the crime charged against me was disinclination to introduce Socialism on bayonets. But in 1935, it was proclaimed that I advocated the March on Warsaw, guied by my determination to bring Socialism into Poland on bayonets.

Thus, by degrees, Stalin solved the problem in his own peculiar way. He placed the responsibility for the Warsaw campaign on me. But I, as a matter of fact, was an opponent of the campaign. The responsibility for the disaster to the Red Army, predetermined by the absence of an uprising in the country and made worse by his own independent strategy, he again placed upon me, although I had warned them of the possibility of catastrophe and called for restraint of enthusiasm over ephemeral successes like the capture of Lwow.

To shift the blame bit by bit to his opponent is a fundamental method of political struggle with Stalin and reaches its highest development in the Moscow trials. Let us also note in passing that Stalin contributed no constructive effort to the Polish War that is worthy of any notice. The mail and telegrams of the time show with whom I had occasion to correspond from day to day in determining the daily policy in connection with the Polish War: Lenin, Chicherin, Karakhan, Krestinsky, Kamenev, Radek. Of these six persons, only Lenin managed to die betimes. Chicherin died in disgrace, in complete isolation; Radek is living out the end of his days under arrest; Karakhan, Krestinsky and Kamenev have been executed.

The end of the Polish Campaign enabled us to concentrate our forces against Wrangel, who in the spring emerged from the Crimean Penisular and, by threatening to take the Donetz Basin, placed the coal supply of the Republic in jeopardy. Several overwhelming attacks at Nikopol and Starkhovka disloged Wrangel’s unites from their positions, and the Red Army marched ahead, demolishing at the climax of the campaign the fortifications of Perekop and the Sivash Isthmus. The Crimea again became Soviet. [As might be expected, “the basic strategic idea in the impending operation was personally determined by Comrade Stalin.” Yegorov wrote in Pravda, of November 14, 1935, on the occasion of the fifteenth anniversary of Wrangel’s defeat]:

* Trotsky maintained the most harmful view that the Wrangel front was nothing else than a separate sector of third-rate significance. Against this most dangerous view Comrade Stalin was forced to come out most resolutely. The Central Committee headed by Lenin entirely supported Stalin.

Suffice it to say that S. Gussev, who was a genuine agent of Stalin’s in the Red Army, as Mekhlis is now, in his article, “The Rout of Wrangel” [published] in 1925, did not deem it necessary even once to mention the name of Stalin.

Throughout the period of the Civil War, Stalin remained a third-rate figure, not only in the Army but in the field of politics as well. He presided at the congresses of the Collegium of the Commissariat of Nationalities and at the congresses of certain nationalities. He carried on negotiations with Finland, with the Ukraine, with the Bashkirs, i.e. executing essential but nevertheless secondary commissions of the government. He had nothing to do with the matters of major policy presented at the congresses of the Party, of the Sovert or of the Third International. At the Eleventh Conference of the Russian Communist Party, held in December, 1921, Yaroslavsky, in the name of the Organizational Committee, proposed the following list of names for the Praesidium: Lenin, Zinoviev, Trotsky, Kamenev, Petrovsky, Ordzhonikidze, Voroshilov, Yaroslavsky, Sulimov, Komarov, Rudzutak,I.N. Smirnov and Rukhimovich. The list is interesting both because of the composition and order of names. The authors of the list, Old Bolsheviks on the order of Yaroslavsky, placed Zinoviev in second place, so as to remind them that he was an Old Bolshevik, Outside of the first four figures, the remaining members, likewise Old Bolsheviks, were all regional leaders. There was no room for Stalin in the list, yet the calendar indicates the end of the year 1921. The Civil War was completely in the past. It had not made Stalin a leader.

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