‘The Red Soldier’s Manual’ by Leon Trotsky from The Daily Worker. Vol. 2. Nos. 204, 210, 215, 222. November 15-December 6, 1924.

With graduating Red Army officers, 1924.

Thirty-seven paragraphs of a truncated manual for soldier’s of the Red Army written by Trotsky sometime in 1923 or 24. I am unaware of this being online, or indeed can I find any reference to it. Printed over four issues of the Daily Worker’s ‘Saturday Supplement’ with no introduction and ending on December 6 with “To be continued next Saturday.” The following week a decision of Party’s Central Executive Committee barring the publication of Trotsky’s ‘Lessons of October’ was published and the Red Soldier’s Manual was no more. With sections on Aims and Structure of the Red Army; Military Technique and Militant Morale; Military Drill and Schools; Commanders and Commissars; Solidarity and Mutual Aid; Revolutionary Discipline; Initiative; and Courage. Duty, Truthfulness. If comrades know more, please share.

‘The Red Soldier’s Manual’ by Leon Trotsky from The Daily Worker. Vol. 2. Nos. 204, 210, 215, 222. November 15-December 6, 1924.

Aims and Structure of the Red Army.

1. The Red Army is an armed force intended for the defense of the interests of the toilers against the assaults and violence on the part of the oppressors and exploiters. The Red Army will continue to exist as long as there remain in the world monarchies or bourgeois republics. Only the final victory of the toilers of Europe and then of the entire world will forever secure peace among the nations and will make unnecessary the existence of armies of any kind.

2. The Red Army is composed of workers and working peasants who do not exploit the labor of others. Bourgeois, nepmen, rich peasants as well as corrupted elements from among the workers are not admitted into the ranks of the Red Army. In order that the Red Army may preserve under all circumstances its unshakable devotion to the cause of the working class it must remain an unalloyed part of the working class.

3. The bourgeois elements of military age are called only into the noncombatant service and remain unarmed all the time. In a Soviet Republic the privilege of carrying arms belongs to the tollers only. The exploiters have no access to arms, so that they may not take possession of them and with the aid of foreign exploiters again subjugate the workers and peasants.

4. The principal aim of the Red Army is to secure the independence and freedom of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics, to safeguard them against all possible encroachments of the outside capitalist world, so that the workers and peasants may remain undisturbed in the pursuit of their peaceful occupations and in their work of building up a socialist society. The ideas of conquest and of enslavement of other nations are alien to the Soviet government. The Soviet government is striving to preserve peace by all possible means.

5. All the bourgeois classes and their governments, monarchist as well as republican are hostile to the first government of workers and peasants who have overthrown their oppressors and have taken away from them the means of oppression. During the first years of the revolution the bourgeois of the entire world has supported with money, munitions and arms the Russian White Guards, i.e. the armed bands of the Russian landlords and capitalists. Only the heroic struggle of the Red Army has presented the world bourgeoisie from stifling the Workers’ Republic. During a period of six years the leading capitalist governments persistently refused to recognize the Soviet Republic in the hope of overthrowing it. Only the stability and perseverance of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Republic and of its army, and also the support of the revolutionary workers of the entire world, have compelled the bourgeoisie of several countries to recognize our government and to enter into economic and diplomatic relations with us.

6. However, even after they recognized us the hostility of the exploiters to the Workers’ and Peasants’ Republic did not cease nor weaken, but assumed other, more subtle forms. At the first opportunity the bourgeoisie will again make attempts to attack us. The working class of the capitalist countries, being unarmed, may not be able with its own forces to prevent the bourgeoisie from attacking us. We must therefore be prepared with armed force to assist the workers of the entire world in their struggle against the rapacious, bloody intentions of the bourgeoisie. There is no higher task in the history of mankind than that which fate has assigned to the first workers’ and peasants’ army, the champion of the cause of the oppressed.

Military Technique and Militant Morale.

7. Capitalism is creating all the time new implements of destruction, more perfected, more cruel machines for killing. In order not to fall again into serfdom, in order not to become a colony, the Union of Soviets must continually improve its armaments. The growth of industry, especially of war industry, the development of transportation are the most important factors in the strength of the Red Army.

8. Alongside with the development of the old branches of military technique and with the constant perfection of firearms, the foremost place in modern warfare is occupied by military aviation and war chemistry. Side by side with the development of high explosives, poisonous gases are gaining greater and greater importance. The Soviet government, with the friendly co-operation of the workers, is doing and will also in the future do its best to make the Red Army an effective means of defense by perfecting the technical equipment of the army, developing a strong air fleet and encouraging the invention of powerful war chemicals.

9. However, military technique alone is not the only deciding factor in War. War machines, just as machines in industry require men for their operation. The capitalist countries have a superior technique, because they are richer. However, after the experience of the late imperialist war which left the laboring masses of all countries destitute and disillusioned, the bourgeoisie of those countries can no longer be certain of the loyalty of the soldiers drafted from among the workers and peasants. The great advantage of the Red Army consists in the fact that its soldiers are defending their own government, their own mills and factories, their own land. Between the Soviet government, Soviet diplomacy, the, commanding stuff of the army and the mass of Red Soldiers there can be no conflict of interests. This fact assures the Red Army a high quality of military morale for the inevitable battles of the future.

10. The immediate aim of war is to overthrow the enemy by physical force, to crush him, to undermine his organization, to destroy his force, to break his spirit and render him unable to fight. The outcome of war is decided in battle. Armies exist not for military reviews, parades, exercises and military games, but for actual battle. Drills, reviews and maneuvers are important only inasmuch as they prepare the army for battle. All other conditions being equal the war will be shorter and more victorious, the more there is in the army determination, and the higher its aggressive spirit. There may be in war periods of suspense, periods of rest and retreat, but all such tactics are only preparatory measures caused by a particular situation. The final victory, however, belongs to the army which is able to take the offensive, to attack and to deal a decisive, smashing blow. The Red Army as well as the entire country of workers and peasants wishes to preserve peace, but should the Red Army be compelled to fight, it will fight like one single soul, devotedly and desperately. Even if our enemies were superior technically, the final victory will be ours.

Military Drill and Schools.

11. It should be made a point of honor of every Red Army soldier to strive to attain a thoro knowledge of the business of war. Each warrior must know his part. The enemies of the workers are many, they are rich and well armed. In order to resist them effectively and with the least possible sacrifice, each red soldier must wholeheartedly, conscientiously and untiringly study military science. And he must do it not from fear, but for conscience sake. Remember, that you will have to fight. Drill under fire is very costly. Do not lose time!

12. There are no interior barriers in the Red Army. Each Red Army soldier may become a commander and may rise to the most responsible, highest position. The military schools are open to all conscientious and capable soldiers. Red Soldier! Do not hang about leisurely, do not become stagnant, study, dare, march forward.

13. The chief disseminators of military science are the military schools. In some schools the future commanders are learning the first necessary principles and become tempered and skillful. In others the young commanders are replenishing their knowledge and are widening their horizon. And finally, the military academies are offering a higher, education preparing officers for the highest, most complicated military duties. The military schools, where the work of moulding and hammering out the commanding staff of the army is being done, are in the true sense of the word forges of victory. Fully conscious of their high mission, the military schools must serve as models and examples to the Red Army in every respect.

14. The authority of commanders and commissars is very wide, in accordance with the demands of the army, but still wider are their duties and consequently their responsibilities. Each military unit is what the commissar and commander make of it.

15. To encourage conscientious, zealous, distinguished soldiers, irrespective of the positions they occupy, and to impress the listless and negligent in the army, the workers’ and peasants’ government authorizes higher commanders and commissars and officers in general in some instances to use means of encouragement and in others to apply punitive measures. The commanders and commissars must take great care to accord praise only to those that really deserve It and to inflict punishment only upon those that are guilty beyond any shadow of doubt.

16. The law gives full right to the commander to demand unconditional obedience from his soldiers. On the other side the commissar secures such obedience by the weight of his authority and power.

17. But mere obedience is not sufficient. The commander must strive to win the complete confidence of his soldiers. He can attain that only by exhibiting in his daily action and deeds the real qualities of a military leader: insistence, impartiality, consistency, a firm knowledge of military affairs and an intimate acquaintance with the soldiers under his command. Demanding discipline from others, the commander himself must be the personification of discipline.

18. Lack of determination on the part of a commander, which is frequently caused by insufficient knowledge of his affairs, duties an tasks.

Commanders and Commissars.

19. The role of the commander is to lead his soldiers into battle. To this end he is constantly preparing himself and those under his command. His fundamental task is to train the red soldiers in military science, to weld them into a single fighting unit, skillful in the use of their arms and able to adapt themselves to place and environment. The commissar is the eye of the workers’ and peasants’ republic. His task is to educate the red soldier in the spirit of a conscious revolutionary fighter and to insure the unshakable loyalty of the Red Army to the Soviet government. It must, however, constantly be borne in mind that military drill is inseparable from education just as education is inseparable from drill. The commissar and commander, therefore, are working hand in hand, supplementing each other in the responsible tasks assigned to them.

20. Each commander must strive to rise to that moral and political height which would enable him also to carry out the duties of the commissar. Each commissar must acquaint himself with the various phases of military science and acquire the necessary theoretical and practical knowledge, thus improving his military education, which would enable him to take upon himself the duties of a commander. Thus as experience accumulates, with the growth of general military culture in the army, and with the strengthening of its fighting traditions, the two offices of commander and commissar will merge into one, the one occupying it serving as leader, instructor, and educator who thoroly trains his soldiers and leads them into battle. is most disastrous. A good commander not only teaches others, but untiringly studies himself. He keeps in touch with the military literature and thus establishes associations in his mind between the lessons derived from literature and those of his own experience as a commander. To be a commander means to work unceasingly over one’s own personality, to aim constantly at perfection, and to move upwards steadily, untiringly, step by step.

21. The caste spirit characteristic of the officers of bourgeois armies is alien and hostile to the Red Army of workers and peasants. Arrogance, boastfulness, extravagance, debauchery, dueling and other usual characteristics of officer’s life, will meet only with condemnation, and contempt in the public opinion of the Red Army and of the socialist country in general. The red commander must do his best, be worthy of the confidence of the workers who have conferred upon him such high honors.

Solidarity and Mutual Aid.

22. The high fighting qualities of the Red Army can be kept up only thru its intimate, close contact with the toiling masses of the union and of the entire world. The moral strength of the Red Army is founded upon the best qualities of the working class. Solidarity is the first among those qualities.

23. The essence of solidarity consists in an understanding of the community of interests of all workers and in willingness to fight in closed ranks against betrayers and oppressors and by practicing mutual aid and mutual support.

24. Since the army is a part of the proletariat, especially organized and armed for battle, it follows that in its ranks solidarity must be of the highest and purest quality. All Red Army soldiers represent one fighting community. Each soldier is a faithful member of his regiment, each military unit remains under all circumstances loyal to the Red Army, and finally, the Red Army as a whole, is to the last drop of blood, to the last breath devoted to the interests of the working masses and of the workers’ and peasants’ government.

25. Solidarity demands mutual relief in each individual case. Never leave your comrade in distress, especially on the battlefield. Remember that during the battle your life and safety depends upon the loyalty and support of your comrades. Remember that their lives depend upon your support. And above all, remember that success and victory can be won only thru mutual aid and support by all fighters. All for one, and one for all!

Revolutionary Discipline.

26. Without discipline there can be no organization, no industry, no government, no coordinated action, no victory. In military affairs discipline is even more important, more necessary than anywhere else. Discipline in the Red Army means submission to the laws of the workers’ and peasants’ government, observance of the rules of the army, exemplary fulfillment of military duties and of the orders of the commanders and commissars.

27. In capitalist armies discipline is based on class divisions; the privates have to submit to the aristocratic and bourgeois officers. In the Red Army the commanding staff is being recruited from among the peasants and workers. The discipline of the Red Army is based not on submission, but upon the necessity for an adequate division of labor, adequate leadership and responsibility.

28. Revolutionary discipline falls like a heavy burden only upon those who do not understand Its purpose and meaning. Therefore, try to penetrate into the meaning and spirit of the military rules and of the orders which are given to you, and your discipline will assume meaning and will cease to be a burden to you.


29. Military initiative means independence of thought and action and adaption to military situations. It is impossible to foresee everything in statute books, military codes and military orders. Time and place change. There may occur new situations, new environment, especially in war. The purpose of military training Is to prepare for war. Discipline therefore, must go hand in hand with the development of individual and collective Initiative. Without discipline there can be no unity of action and consequently, there can be no army. Without Initiative the army is a dead organism.

30. The commander and commissar best fitted for his high position is the one who is able to combine in his own work as well as in the work of his subordinates, strict discipline with individual initiative, individual activity, who is able to stimulate the creative abilities of his soldiers and to develop their confidence in themselves and in their power. It is not advisable to look after the subordinate too much, to watch over his soul, to annoy him with unimportant matters. Those in the higher ranks must show confidence in those under them, allow them freedom of action, helping and advising them in difficult situations. Let there be less of the official spirit, less of blind formality and red tape. First of all there must be a live interest in the living soldier, his achievements in and deficiencies!

Courage. Duty, Truthfulness.

31. War is always a dangerous enterprise. The antidote of fear is courage, which means a readiness to meet in a manly way any danger whenever necessary. Only he is a true warrior who possesses fearlessness, courage, audacity, who does not hesitate to fight even a numerically superior enemy and who is ready to die for the common cause.

32. People are brave not only by birth. They can also learn to be brave. Courage can be developed thru education, thru examples of older, tried warriors and thru a clear understanding of the great tasks of the Red Army.

33. There should be developed in each military unit a sympathetic attitude towards the young, as yet undeveloped soldier, so as to give him encouragement, strengthen him and educate him. At the same time public opinion must treat with contempt, the deliberate coward, egotist and rascal. The coward deserves double contempt. Blinded by fear, the coward is unable to take wise measures of precaution during battle and perishes sooner than the brave soldier; at the same time he brings disorganization into the ranks and weakens them. The coward causes harm to the common cause, as well as to himself. His sufferings are valueless and his death is honorless.

34. Individual courage must always combine with the feeling of duty. Upon your personal conduct may depend the fate of your company, and upon the fate of your company may depend the fate of your regiment. Let your courage be in harmony with the courage of your comrades. The common success should be the highest motive!

35. A slave works out of fear, but the free, enlightened soldier acts from a feeling of duty. The honest Red soldier will carry out the orders of the commanders and commissars without their watching him just as consciously and accurately, as if he were in sight of them.

36. Truthfulness la inseparable from courage, and the two virtues together are the distinctive characteristics of the conscientious soldier. Do not invent stories, do not exaggerate, do not lie. Tell exactly what happened. The high commander judges the military situation from the reports from below and gives his military orders accordingly. If the reports are false, the orders are wrong, and a wrong order will bring defeat. You are encouraged and even urged to deceive only the enemy. But who ever deceives his own comrades, thereby helps the enemy. Traitors must be weeded out! The truthfulness of the soldier will insure success to the army.

37. An invaluable means of educating the soldiers is a study of the past struggles of the Red Army and Red Navy, of their difficulties and dangers, of their heroism, defeats, and victories. The commanders and commissars must know thoroly the history of their regiments and make use of that living historic material for the education at the young Red Army soldiers.

(To be continued next Saturday).

The Daily Worker Saturday Supplement, later changed to a Sunday Supplement, of the Daily Worker was a place for longer articles with debate, international focus, literature, and documents presented. The Daily Worker began in 1924 and was published in New York City by the Communist Party US and its predecessor organizations. Among the most long-lasting and important left publications in US history, it had a circulation of 35,000 at its peak. The Daily Worker came from The Ohio Socialist, published by the Left Wing-dominated Socialist Party of Ohio in Cleveland from 1917 to November 1919, when it became became The Toiler, paper of the Communist Labor Party. In December 1921 the above-ground Workers Party of America merged the Toiler with the paper Workers Council to found The Worker, which became The Daily Worker beginning January 13, 1924.

PDF of full issue November 15: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/dailyworker/dw-hr-1924/v2n204-nov-15-1924-TDW.pdf

PDF of full issue November 22: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/dailyworker/dw-hr-1924/v2n210-nov-22-1924-TDW.pdf

PDF of full issue November 29: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/dailyworker/dw-hr-1924/v2n215-nov-29-1924-TDW.pdf

PDF of full issue December 6: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/dailyworker/dw-hr-1924/v2n221-dec-06-1924-TDW.pdf

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s