HOW ISRAEL MAY LEARN FROM THE LEON TROTSKY OF THE RUSSIAN CIVIL WAR

by Felix Quigley

November 21, 2008

Israel has built a serious army and air force and young Israelis are good soldiers.

 

However Israel can be defeated which was shown in the 2006 war against Hizbullah. Let us recall a few things and we will leave out the US factor for a moment, which was to the effect that Rice who spoke for the President was holding Israel back from the moment it started.

 

That is really par for the course and any sensible Israeli patriot would have that factored in.

 

No the real problem is that the Israeli political leaders did not want to fight the necessary battle. Yes I know elderly politicians are not going to fight, but they have to lead the fight.

 

So how can Israel fight and win. At this point I am going to turn to a somewhat similar situation and draw some lessons from it, then try to apply to the situation which Israel faces. The following may surprise some who have been preached at that the Left is their enemy. But I am going to turn to the most amazing left revolutionary that the world has to date seen and to the most serious and mammoth war struggle yet fought by any group of men.

 

I had to recheck this myself. I knew it was a lot but how many. I am talking about how many nations here. How many nations sent their armies in to Russia and onto the borders of Russia post 1917 in order to destroy Communism. In fact just like Israel today almost every capitalist nation on earth!

 

This was some war, this was some struggle, and it produced some leader.

 

Now ideologically you may be totally opposed to communism. But you still can be opposed and yet learn valuable lessons, that is if you are a true Jewish patriot and do not wish to follow the Barak way to destruction

 

Between Barak and Leon Trotsky there is a gulf. I suppose more correct to say there are two opposing philosophies. We have seen Barak, clearly does not want to fight, releases the enemy as a good will gesture. So let us have a little, and I mean little, look at Trotsky.

 

An inveterate enemy of revolution, an utter reactionary but luckily an incessant scribbler has done us all the good deed of assembling some of the serious facts about Trotsky and his approach to war, that is to the winning of that war I alluded to above. So I will use this character Peter Myers ironically. Myers thinks these quotations condemn Trotsky. In fact they do the opposite.

 

Myers has extracted some of the thoughts of Trotsky on how to fight a war for survival and all wars are for survival. As A result of fighting the mammoth struggle called the Russian Civil War Trotsky drew vital lessons. Trotsky was not a fan of war, he did not like war, he was clearly a man more at home with art and literature, but he was a dialectical materialist and he understood that war comes knocking at your door and then you gotta be ready. Myers first quote is from his book on war and the use of terror to convince the enemy to desist:

 

[Start quotes here]

 

{DoT p. 58, DvD p. 55} But terror can be very efficient against a reactionary class which does not want to leave the scene of operations. Intimidation is a powerful weapon of policy, both internationally and internally. War, like revolution, is founded upon intimidation. A victorious war, generally speaking, destroys only an insignificant part of the conquered army, intimidating the remainder and breaking their will. The revolution works in the same way: it kills individuals and intimidates thousands. In this sense, the Red Terror is not distinguishable from the armed insurrection of which it is the direct continuation.

{DoT p. 59, DvD p. 56} The terror of Tsardom was directed against the proletariat. The gendarmerie of Tsardom throttled the workers who were fighting for the Socialist order. Our Extraordinary Commissions shoot landlords, capitalists, and generals who are striving to restore the capitalist order. Do you grasp this … distinction? Yes? For us communists it is quite sufficient.

{DoT p. 59, DvD p. 56} During war all constitutions and organs of the State and of public opinion become, directly or indirectly, weapons of warfare. This is particularly true of the Press. No government carrying on a serious war will allow publications to exist on its territory which, openly or indirectly, support the enemy. Still more so in a civil war. The nature of the latter is such that each of its struggling sides has in the rear of its armies considerable circles of the population on the side of the enemy. In war, where both success and failure are repaid by death, hostile agents who penetrate into the rear are subject to execution.

{DoT p. 61, DvD p. 58} We are fighting. We are fighting a life-and-death struggle. The Press is a weapon not of an abstract society, but of two irreconcilable, armed and contending sides. We are destroying the Press of the counter-revolution, just as we destroyed its fortified positions, its stores, its communications, and its intelligence system.

{DoT p. 61, DvD p. 58} But Kautsky goes further to develop his theme. He complains that we suppress the newspapers of the S.R.s {Socialist Revolutionaries} and the Mensheviks, and even – such things have been known – arrest their leaders. Are we not dealing here with “shades of opinion” in the proletariat or the Socialist movement? The scholastic pedant does not see facts beyond his accustomed words. The Mensheviks and S.R.s for him are simply tendencies in Socialism, whereas, in the course of the revolution, they have been transformed into an organization which works in active co-operation with the counter-revolution and carries on against us an open war.

{DoT p. 63, DvD p. 60} As for us, we were never concerned with the Kantian-priestly and vegetarian-Quaker prattle about the “sacredness of human life”. We were revolutionaries in opposition, and have remained revolutionaries in power. To make the individual sacred, we must destroy the social order which crucifies him. And that problem can only be solved by blood and iron.

{DoT p. 64, DvD p. 61} The man who recognizes the revolutionary historic importance of the very fact of the existence of the Soviet system must also sanction the Red Terror. {end quotes}

Dmitri Volkogonov, Trotsky: The Eternal Revolutionary, tr. & ed. Harold Shukman, HarperCollinsPublishers, London 1996.

{p. 175} Repression was in Trotsky’s view a component part of military structure, a method for educating both officers and men. A telegram he sent to the Revolutionary Military Committee of the Western Front in 1919 is characteristic: ‘One of the most important principles of educating our army is never to leave a single crime or misdemeanour unpunished … Repression must follow immediately upon a breach of discipline, for repression is not an end in itself, but is directed towards didactic, military aims … Breaches of discipline and disobedience … must be subjected to the harshest punishment.’ It was Trotsky’s belief that the threat of harsh punishment would compensate for the low level of awareness, conviction and training of the army rank and file. Curiously, like Lenin, Trotsky regarded consciousness as the foundation of discipline, yet he stressed that fear and arrest should be used to instil discipline.

He told his commanders to set an example in the field, but also to command with an iron fist and not to flinch from using their weapons to maintain order. When someone pointed out to him that not all commanders and commissars had revolvers, he at once cabled Lenin: ‘The absence of revolvers creates an impossible situation at the front. It is impossible to maintain discipline without a revolver. I suggest Comrades Mironov and Pozern requisition revolvers from everyone who is not on active duty.’ The threat of punishment gradually entered the structure and functioning of the army, and also entered people’s minds as a moral norm, ‘revolver law’, the revolutionary imperative, proletarian necessity.

{p. 178} Former tsarist offficers continued to go over to the Whites, nevertheless. In response, Trotsky instituted hostage-taking. On 2 December 1918 he cabled the Revolutionary Military Council at Serpukhov:

{quote} I ordered you to establish the family status of former officers among command personnel and to inform each of them by signed reccipt that treachery or treason will cause the arrest of their families and that, therefore, they are each taking upon themselves responsibility for their families. That order is still in force. Since then there have been a number of cases of treason by former officers, yet not in a single case, as far as I know, has the family of the traitor been arrested, as the registration of former officers has evidently not been carried out at all. Such a negligent approach to so important a matter is totally impermissible. {end quote}

Similar reports and orders were sent by Trotsky to other army chiefs. To Kazan he cabled:

{quote} 11th Division has revealed its utter uselessness. Units are still surrendering without a fight. The root of the evil is in the command staff. Obviously, the [Regional Military Commissar] has concentrated on the combat and technical side and forgotten about the political. I suggest a strict watch be kept on recruited personnel and that command responsibilities be given only to those former officers whose families reside within Soviet borders, and that they be informed by signed receipt that they are responsible for the lives of their families.’ {end quote}

{p. 179} Former officers themselves were also held as hostages, and many would be shot when one of their fellow ex-officers went over to the Whites. Trotsky asked Dzerzhinsky to let him know whether there were ‘still any former officers who had been taken hostage in concentration camps and prisons. If so, where are they and how many?’ Any method was appropriate, in Trotsky’s view, if it prevented the disintegration of the Red Army. He formulated the hostage policy in an order of 2 November 1919: ‘Families of traitors must be arrested at once. Traitors themselves must be registered in the army’s black book, so that after the imminent and final triumph of the revolution, not a single traitor can escape punishment.’ In 1920 he ordered that ‘families found guilty of aiding Wrangel will be deported beyond the Baikal’.

When on 25 October 1918, however, Trotsky proposed at the Central Committee that all officers being held hostage be set free, it was decided that only those ‘who did not belong to the counter-revolution’ would be released. ‘They will be recruited into the Red Army, at which time they will submit the names of their family and be told that the family will be arrested, should they go over to the White Guards.’ According to Denikin, however, rumours about treason and treachery were exaggerated. In two years, he received reliable information from a former general of the Soviet headquarters staff that only one case of material significance had occurred for certain.   The most difficult category to make fight was the rank and file. Trotsky relied particularly on Communists and commissars, and on the whole his expectations were fulfilled, although not invariably. There were cases when entire units abandoned their positions and fled the field of battle. With Moscow’s approval, Trotsky took the major decision of placing blocking units behind unreliable detachments, with orders to shoot if they retreated without permission. Thus, when Stalin applied this policy in 1941-42, he was merely applying the experience of the civil war under new conditions.

Blocking units appeared for the first time in August 1918 on the eastern front in 1st Army under the command of Tukhachevsky, who was the first to issue orders to shoot. In December 1918 Trotsky ordered the formation of special detachments to serve as blocking units. On 18 December he cabled: ‘How do things stand with the blocking units? As far as I am aware they have not been included in our

{p. 180} establishment and it appears they have no personnel. it is absolutely essential that we have at least an embryonic network of blocking units and that we work out a procedure for bringing them up to strength and deploying them.’ {end quotes}

Frederick Engels:

A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is the act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other part by means of rifles, bayonets, and cannon – authoritarian means, if such there be at all; and if the victorious party does not want to have fought in vain, it must maintain this rule by means of the terror which its arms inspire in the reactionaries” (On Authority, in Lewis S. Feuer, ed., Marx & Engels: Basic Writings on Politics & Philosophy, 1959, p. 485).

Leon Trotsky: quotes from his autobiography.

The hardback edition is My Life: The Rise and Fall of a Dictator (Thornton Butterworth Limited, London 1930); the paperback edition is My Life (Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1975).

(You may note the falsification in the title by Thornton Butterworth!)

Here is Trotsky’s feeling about the soldiers he commanded, from his own autobiography:

{hbk p. 351, pbk p. 427} An army cannot be built without reprisals. Masses of men cannot be led to death unless the army-command has the death-penalty in its arsenal. So long as those malicious tailless apes that are so proud of their technical achievements – the animals that we call men – will build armies and wage wars, the command will always be obliged to place the soldiers between the possible death in the front and the inevitable one in the rear.

{Trotsky positioned special troops in the rear, behind his front-line troops, to shoot deserters and stop the front line retreating from battle; that’s how the Civil War was won. See Volkogonov, below, on “blocking units”.}

{hbk p. 405, pbk p. 494} ‘Revolution is revolution only because it reduces all contradictions to the alternative of life or death.

{hbk p. 416, pbk p. 508} The weaker the trio {the triumvirate which succeeded Lenin: Kamenev, Zinoviev and Stalin} felt in matters of principle, the more they feared me – because they wanted to get rid of me – and the tighter they had to bolt all the screws and nuts in the state and party system. Much later, in 1925, Bukharin said to me, in answer to my criticism of the party oppression: “We have no democracy because we are afraid of you”.

 

Now is not all of that mighty interesting. The intelligent reader, and all readers mas o menos are largely intelligent, will understand that I am not insisting on the Israeli army and leaders in the fight today against their enemies copying each and every detail in the above and applying it slavishly. Such an approach would be entirely foreign anyway to the method of Trotsky. Remember that Trotsky was not handed a blueprint in 1918. There was no Marxist blueprint for any single event after October of 1917.

 

No it is the spirit of the thing that I want to get across.

 

So let us be a little creative ourselves and by ourselves here I mean the Jewish people and those who stand with the Jews.

For reasons I have gone into elsewhere I believe that real Trotskyists, real progressive social revolutionaries will stand with the Jews now and forever. That is a given OK.

 

In the last article I have shown that the enemies of Israel have clearly declared war. They say they are at war. They state their aims to destroy Israel.

 

Moreover Israel is being treated as the hated Jew of history. Israel does not have any friends in the world with one possible exception, that of the Serb people. You can count in also the ordinary people of almost every country in the world, but that is totally dependent on leadership so it has to be place din the context of potential, not actual.

 

Right then. Transfer the situation to the Civil War 1918 to 1922 what would Leon Trotsky and his cadre have done on behalf of Israel.

 

  1. That the ordinary Arab and Muslim people break from their horrific anti-Semitism. Our fight is not with the ordinary people in any way but we are fighting for survival, remember that.
  2. We are a very small nation, of 5 or 6 millions surrounded by half a billion in the Arab nations, more if you include Islamic nations. We cannot afford loss of life. You can afford loss of many lives. That is the equation. Thus it is our aim to have as few of our fighter die and to have as many of your fighters to die.
  3. We will use every advantage. If we have a technological advantage then we will use it. The only condition is as I said above to have as few of our people die as is possible.
  4. We vacated every Jew out of Gaza. Were you grateful? The opposite. You made war on us. Now we will make war on you and we will drive every Arab out of Gaza and into Egypt or whatever Arab country they wish to go to.
  5. To the “international community”. Name your poison! Bring it on! We are totally impervious to any and every statement from the likes of Amnesty International or even the Spanish Government who keep troops in Lebanon but allow Hizbullah to build their forces on their watch. Etc. Etc.
  6. Of course we communicate to the US Government. But we communicate above all and from the beginning to the end to the ordinary American people. We mobilize the wonderful Jewish people in America to communicate with the real America.
  7. In reference to the US Government and the CIA who are training Fatah in order to erect a state in our land, that is the second state in our lands, we call for the arrest of Abbas, for his summary trial and likely execution because he calls for a return to the shahid philosophy of Arafatian suicide bombing of Jews. To Malley, to Obama, to McCain, to Lieberman, we stick to this simple point and we give it maximum publicity in front of the great American people. Not too much to ask for and is doable. Nothing else matters but the arrest of Abbas his trial and execution. That will clear the air. To call for the murder of Jews in 2008 calls for exceptional retribution. Otherwise the Eichmann experience means little.
  8. Read Trotsky above again and learn. Israel is now at war. Israel cannot afford to have a traitor in the ranks. All Jewish traitors in Israel must be arrested and placed under lock and key while this lasts. That means until the enemy is defeated. This means the arrest of those in places like Ben Gurion University who spout hatred of Israel and support for the enemy which is trying to destroy Israel. This applies to all sections of the Israeli state, the police, the judiciary, the press. Read especially what Trotsky writes about taking the Press under control of the state, the state which is organizing the people to defeat the enemy.
  9. None of this is any good if Israel allows Iran to have a nuclear bomb. This has to be incorporated.
  10. I support the Israeli people electing Netanyahu. But to fight this war requires revolutionaries who will not flinch, whether they come from the religious or secular Trotskyist conviction. But it requires cadre leaders who will put only the interests of this tiny state and people first. Act! Let the nations of the world decide for themselves how they react! Believe in your destiny! Banish fear!

 

Do not be too proud or prejudiced to learn the lessons of  the past from wherever. Nobody wants war. But if it is pushed at you by the bitterest of enemies then fight it to win.

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