Some Military and Political Aspects of the ‘Militia Army’ Controversy, 1919–1920

  • John Erickson


For many months in 1917 the Bolsheviks worked assiduously to cripple an army rather than labouring to create one. The party’s specialists in ‘military affairs’, the propagandists and agitators of the ‘Military Organisation’, were bent on paralysing the Imperial Army which otherwise might have been used against them, but once in power these same Bolsheviks, practised as they were in demolition and demoralisation, faced a fight for survival which demanded nothing less than the raising of a military force — an army — which would be capable of defending their new-found regime It was a task for which, as Lenin himself subsequently admitted, neither ideological nor political preparation of any kind had been made.1 Though rejecting the idea of using the prevailing military machine in the service of a revolutionary regime and propounding in turn the idea of a class-based revolutionary force, Marx and Engels had perforce little, if anything, to say about the form and function of the armed forces in post-revolutionary society; emotionalism filled the gap left by defective theorising and expressed itself in the radicals’ loathing of the standing army, the idealisation of the levée en masse and the yearning to establish a wholly ‘new’ type of army.


Field Staff Soviet Republic Military Organisation General Staff Military Affair 


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  1. 2.
    See the original and indispensable work by S. M. Klyatskin, Na zashchite oktyabrya. Organizatsiya regularnoi armii i militsionnoe stroiteltstvo v Sovetskoi respubliki (Moscow: Nauka, 1965) chap. 1, pts. 1–2.Google Scholar
  2. 8.
    N. Bukharin and E. Preobrazhensky, The A.B.C. of Communism, Introduction by E. H. Carr (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1969) p. 264.Google Scholar
  3. 9.
    See P. I. Yakir, ‘Iz istorii perekhoda Krasnoi Armii na mirnoe polozhenîe’, in Oktyabr’ i grazhdanskaya voina v SSSR (Moscow: Nauka, 1966) p. 446. This is an important essay, based on many original sources.Google Scholar
  4. 26.
    Cf. discussion in D. Fedotoff White, The Growth of the Red Army (Princeton U.P., 1944) chap. vii, pp. 188–93.Google Scholar
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    Cf. E. H. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution, 1917–1923, vol. II(London: Macmillan, 1952) on War Communism’, pp. 214–15, also n. 4.Google Scholar
  6. 30.
    See A. A. Geronimus, Partiya i Krasnaya Armiya (Moscow, 1928) p. 115; see also chap. v, ‘Novaya peredyshka’, pp. 89–98, for background.Google Scholar
  7. 31.
    Cf. Leonard Schapiro, The Origin of the Communist Autocracy ( New York: Praeger, 1965 ) pp. 258–9.Google Scholar
  8. 32.
    See M. V. Frunze, ‘Edinaya voennaya doktrina i Krasnaya Armiya’, in Izbrannye proizvedeniya, II (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1957) 4–22; also Fedotoff White, The Growth of the Red Army chap. vi, ‘The Birth of a Doctrine’, pp. 160–3.Google Scholar
  9. 35.
    Text in M. N. Tukhachevsky, Voina klassov. Stat’; 1919–1920 g. ( Moscow: Gosizdat, 1921 ) pp. 138–40.Google Scholar
  10. 41.
    Trotsky, ‘Stroitel’stvo Krasnoi Vooruzhennoi sily’ (28 Nov 1920), in K.V.R. ni i 122–32.Google Scholar
  11. 44.
    See S. Klyatskin, ‘Problemy voennogo stroiteltstva na zavershayushchem etape grazhdanskoi voiny’, in Voenno-istoricheskii Zhurnal, no. 6 (1964) p. 15.Google Scholar

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© John Erickson 1974

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  • John Erickson

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