MARXIST INTERNET ARCHIVE | History of CP Bolshevik

H I S T O R Y O F  T H E C O M M U N I S T   P A R T Y

O F  T H E

S O V I E T  U N I O N

(B O L S H E V I K S)


C H A P T E R  E I G H T
THE BOLSHEVIK PARTY IN THE PERIOD OF FOREIGN MILITARY INTERVENTION AND CIVIL WAR (1918-1920)
1. BEGINNING OF FOREIGN MILITARY INTERVENTION. FIRST PERIOD OF THE CIVIL WAR
2. DEFEAT OF GERMANY IN THE WAR. REVOLUTION IN GERMANY. FOUNDING OF THE THIRD INTERNATIONAL. EIGHTH PARTY CONGRESS
3. EXTENSION OF INTERVENTION. BLOCKADE OF THE SOVIET COUNTRY. KOLCHAK'S CAMPAIGN AND DEFEAT. DENIKIN'S CAMPAIGN AND DEFEAT. A THREE-MONTHS' RESPITE. NINTH PARTY CONGRESS
4. POLISH GENTRY ATTACK SOVIET RUSSIA. GENERAL WRANGEL'S CAMPAIGN. FAILURE OF THE POLISH PLAN. ROUT OF WRANGEL. END OF THE INTERVENTION
5. HOW AND WHY THE SOVIET REPUBLIC DEFEATED THE COMBINED FORCES OF BRITISH-FRENCH-JAPANESE-POLISH INTERVENTION AND OF THE BOURGEOIS-LANDLORD-WHITEGUARD COUNTER-REVOLUTION IN RUSSIA
 

EXTENSION OF INTERVENTION. BLOCKADE OF THE SOVIET COUNTRY. KOLCHAK'S CAMPAIGN AND DEFEAT. DENIKIN'S CAMPAIGN AND DEFEAT. A THREE-MONTHS' RESPITE. NINTH PARTY CONGRESS

    Having vanquished Germany and Austria, the Entente states decided to hurl large military forces against the Soviet country. After Germany's defeat and the evacuation of her troops from the Ukraine and Transcaucasia, her place was taken by the British and French, who dispatched their fleets to the Black Sea and landed troops in Odessa and in Transcaucasia. Such was the brutality of the Entente forces of intervention that they did not hesitate to shoot whole batches of workers and peasants in the occupied regions. Their outrages reached such lengths in the end that after the occupation of Turkestan they carried off to the Transcaspian region twenty-six leading Baku Bolsheviks -- including Comrades Shaumyan, Fioletov, Djaparidze, Malygin, Azizbekov, Korganov -- and with the aid of the Socialist-Revolutionaries, had them brutally shot.

    The interventionists soon proclaimed a blockade of Russia. All sea routes and other lines of communication with the external world were cut.

    The Soviet country was surrounded on nearly every side.

    The Entente countries placed their chief hopes in Admiral Kolchak, their puppet in Omsk, Siberia. He was proclaimed "supreme ruler of Russia" and all the counter-revolutionary forces in the country placed themselves under his command.

    The Eastern Front thus became the main front.

    Kolchak assembled a huge army and in the spring of 1919 almost reached the Volga. The finest Bolshevik forces were hurled against him; Young Communist Leaguers and workers were mobilized. In April 1919, Kolchak's army met with severe defeat at the hands of the Red Army and very soon began to retreat along the whole front.

    At the height of the advance of the Red Army on the Eastern Front, Trotsky put forward a suspicious plan: he proposed that the advance should be halted before it reached the Urals, the pursuit of Kolchak's army discontinued, and troops transferred from the Eastern Front to the Southern Front. The Central Committee of the Party fully realized that the Urals and Siberia could not be left in Kolchak's hands, for there, with the aid of the Japanese and British, he might recuperate and retrieve his former position. It therefore rejected this plan and gave instructions to proceed with the advance. Trotsky disagreed with these instructions and tendered his resignation, which the Central Committee declined, at the same time ordering him to refrain at once from all participation in the direction of the operations on the Eastern Front. The Red Army pursued its offensive against Kolchak with greater vigour than ever; it inflicted a number of new defeats on him and freed of the Whites the Urals and Siberia, where the Red Army was supported by a powerful partisan movement in the Whites' rear.

    In the summer of 1919, the imperialists assigned to General Yudenich, who headed the counter-revolutionaries in the north-west (in the Baltic countries, in the vicinity of Petrograd), the task of diverting the attention of the Red Army from the Eastern Front by an attack on Petrograd. Influenced by the counter-revolutionary agitation of former officers, the garrisons of two forts in the vicinity of Petrograd mutinied against the Soviet Government. At the same time a counter-revolutionary plot was discovered at the Front Headquarters. The enemy threatened Petrograd. But thanks to the measures taken by the Soviet Government with the support of the workers and sailors, the mutinous forts were cleared of Whites, and Yudenich's troops were defeated and driven back into Esthonia.

    The defeat of Yudenich near Petrograd made it easier to cope with Kolchak, and by the end of 1919 his army was completely routed. Kolchak himself was taken prisoner and shot by sentence of the Revolutionary Committee in Irkutsk.

    That was the end of Kolchak.

    The Siberians had a popular song about Kolchak at that time:

 
 "Uniform British,
  Epaulettes from France,
  Japanese tobacco,
  Kolchak leads the dance.
    Uniform in tatters,
    Epaulettes all gone,
    So is the tobacco,
    Kolchak's day is done."

    Since Kolchak had not justified their hopes, the interventionists altered their plan of attack on the Soviet Republic. The troops landed in Odessa had to be withdrawn, for contact with the army of the Soviet Republic had infected them with the revolutionary spirit and they were beginning to rebel against their imperialist masters. For example, there was the revolt of French sailors in Odessa led by André Marty. Accordingly, now that Kolchak had been defeated, the Entente centred its attention on General Denikin, Kornilov's confederate and the organizer of the "Volunteer Army." Denikin at that time was operating against the Soviet Government in the south, in the Kuban region. The Entente supplied his army with large quantities of ammunition and equipment and sent it north against the Soviet Government.

    The Southern Front now became the chief front.

    Denikin began his main campaign against the Soviet Government in the summer of 1919. Trotsky had disrupted the Southern Front, and our troops suffered defeat after defeat. By the middle of October the Whites had seized the whole of the Ukraine, had captured Orel and were nearing Tula, which supplied our army with cartridges, rifles and machine-guns. The Whites were approaching Moscow. The situation of the Soviet Republic became grave in the extreme. The Party sounded the alarm and called upon the people to resist. Lenin issued the slogan, "All for the fight against Denikin!" Inspired by the Bolsheviks, the workers and peasants mustered all their forces to smash the enemy.

    The Central Committee sent Comrades Stalin, Voroshilov, Ordjonikidze and Budyonny to the Southern Front to prepare the rout of Denikin. Trotsky was removed from the direction of the operations of the Red Army in the south. Before Comrade Stalin's arrival, the Command of the Southern Front, in conjunction with Trotsky, had drawn up a plan to strike the main blow at Denikin from Tsaritsyn in the direction of Novorossisk, through the Don Steppe, where there were no roads and where the Red Army would have to pass through regions inhabited by Cossacks, who were at that time largely under the influence of the Whiteguards. Comrade Stalin severely criticized this plan and submitted to the Central Committee his own plan for the defeat of Denikin. According to this plan the main blow was to be delivered by way of Kharkov-Donetz Basin-Rostov. This plan would ensure the rapid advance of our troops against Denikin, for they would be moving through working class and peasant regions where they would have the open sympathy of the population. Furthermore, the dense network of railway lines in this region would ensure our armies the regular supply of all they required.

Lastly, this plan would make it possible to release the Donetz Coal Basin and thus supply our country with fuel.

    The Central Committee of the Party accepted Comrade Stalin's plan. In the second half of October 1919, after fierce resistance, Denikin was defeated by the Red Army in the decisive battles of Orel and Voronezh. He began a rapid retreat, and, pursued by our forces, fled to the south. At the beginning of 1920 the whole of the Ukraine and the North Caucasus had been cleared of Whites.

    During the decisive battles on the Southern Front, the imperialists again hurled Yudenich's corps against Petrograd in order to divert our forces from the south and thus improve the position of Denikin's army. The Whites approached the very gates of Petrograd. The heroic proletariat of the premier city of the revolution rose in a solid wall for its defence. The Communists, as always, were in the vanguard. After fierce fighting, the Whites were defeated and again flung beyond our borders back into Esthonia.

    And that was the end of Denikin.

    The defeat of Kolchak and Denikin was followed by a brief respite.

    When the imperialists saw that the Whiteguard armies had been smashed, that intervention had failed, and that the Soviet Government was consolidating its position all over the country, while in Western Europe the indignation of the workers against military intervention in the Soviet Republic was rising, they began to change their attitude towards the Soviet state. In January 1920, Great Britain, France, and Italy decided to call off the blockade of Soviet Russia.

    This was an important breach in the wall of intervention.

    It did not, of course, mean that the Soviet country was done with intervention and the Civil War. There was still the danger of attack by imperialist Poland. The forces of intervention had not yet been finally driven out of the Far East, Transcaucasia and the Crimea. But Soviet Russia had secured a temporary breathing space and was able to divert more forces to economic development. The Party could now devote its attention to economic problems.

    During the Civil War many skilled workers had left industry owing to the closing down of mills and factories. The Party now took measures to return them to industry to work at their trades. The railways were in a grave condition and several thousand Communists were assigned to the work of restoring them, for unless this was done the restoration of the major branches of industry could not be seriously undertaken. The organization of the food supply was extended and improved. The drafting of a plan for the electrification of Russia was begun. Nearly five million Red Army men were under arms and could not be demobilized owing to the danger of war. A part of the Red Army was therefore converted into labour armies and used in the economic field. The Council of Workers' and Peasants' Defence was transformed into the Council of Labour and Defence, and a State Planning Commission (Gosplan) set up to assist it. Such was the situation when the Ninth Party Congress opened.

    The congress met at the end of March 1920. It was attended by 554 delegates with vote, representing 611,978 Party members, and 162 delegates with voice but no vote.

    The congress defined the immediate tasks of the country in the sphere of transportation and industry. It particularly stressed the necessity of the trade unions taking part in the building up of the economic life.

    Special attention was devoted by the congress to a single economic plan for the restoration, in the first place, of the railways, the fuel industry and the iron and steel industry. The major item in this plan was a project for the electrification of the country, which Lenin advanced as "a great program for the next ten or twenty years." This formed the basis of the famous plan of the State Commission for the Electrification of Russia (GOELRO), the provisions of which have today been far exceeded.

    The congress rejected the views of an anti-Party group which called itself "The Group of Democratic-Centralism" and was opposed to one-man management and the undivided responsibility of industrial directors. It advocated unrestricted "group management" under which nobody would be personally responsible for the administration of industry. The chief figures in this anti-Party group were Sapronov, Ossinsky and Y. Smirnov. They were supported at the congress by Rykov and Tomsky.