Erich Wollenberg’s

The Red Army

Appendix 1

The Scheme For A Socialist Army

(Decree issued by the Council of People’s Commissars on January 15, 1918)

The old army was a class instrument in the hands of the bourgeoisie for the oppression of the workers. The seizure of power by the workers and propertyless persons renders necessary the formation of a new army. The tasks of this new army will be the defence of the Soviet authority, the creation of a basis for the transformation of the standing army into a force deriving its strength from a nation in arms, and, furthermore, the creation of a basis for the support of the coming Socialist Revolution in Europe.


The Council of People’s Commissars has decided to organize the new army as a ’Red Army of Workers and Peasants’ on the following basis:

1. The Red Army of Workers and Peasants will be formed from the class-conscious and best elements of the working classes.

2. All citizens of the Russian Republic who have completed their eighteenth year are eligible for service. Service in the Red Army is open to anyone ready to give his life and strength for the defence of the achievements of the October Revolution, the Soviet Power and Socialism. Enlistment in the Red Army is conditional upon guarantees being given by a military or civil committee functioning within the territory of the Soviet Power or by Party or Trade Union committees or, in extreme cases, by two persons belonging to one of the above organizations. Should an entire unit desire to join the Red Army, its acceptance is conditional upon a collective guarantee and the affirmative vote of all its members.


1. The families of members of the Red Army of Workers and Peasants will be maintained by the State and receive, in addition, a monthly supplement of 50 roubles.

2. Members of soldiers’ families who are incapable of work and have hitherto been supported by the aforesaid soldiers will receive further support in accordance with the local cost of living, as determined by the local Soviets.


The Council of People’s Commissars is the supreme head of the Red Army of Workers and Peasants. The immediate command and administration of the Army is vested in the Commissariat for Military Affairs and in the Special All-Russian College therein contained.

The President of the Council of People’s Commissars:


The Commander-in-Chief:


The People’s Commissars for War and the Fleet:


The People’s Commissars:


For the Bureau of People’s Commissars:


Scheme For Compulsory Military Training

(Published in No. 83 of the Isvestia of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviets, April 26, 1918)

The liberation of mankind from the burden of militarism and the barbarity of war between nations, is one of the basic tasks of socialism. The aims of socialism are universal disarmament, perpetual peace and the fraternal co-operation of all races inhabiting the world.

These aims will be accomplished when power is transferred to the hands of the workers in all powerful capitalist countries, when all means of production have been taken out of the hands of the exploiters and made over to the workers for the common good, and when a communist order of society has created a firm basis of human solidarity.

At present Russia is the only country in which the State authority is vested in the workers. The imperialist bourgeoisie is still in power in all other countries. Its policy is directed towards the suppression of Communist Revolution and the enslavement of all weak races. The Russian Soviet Republic is surrounded by enemies on all sides and must therefore create a powerful army, under the protection of which the communistic transformation of the country’s social order may be accomplished.

The Republic’s Government of Workers and Peasants has set itself the immediate task of enrolling all citizens for compulsory labour and military service. In this work it has encountered obstinate resistance from the bourgeoisie, who refuse to renounce their economic privileges and are trying to recapture the reins of government by means of conspiracies, insurrections, and treasonable agreements with foreign imperialists.

To arm the bourgeoisie would be tantamount to provoking a continuous internal war within the ranks of the army and so crippling the army’s strength for war against external foes. The usurious, exploiting portion of society which is unwilling to assume the same rights and duties as the rest must not be allowed to obtain arms. The Government of Workers and Peasants will find means to impose on the bourgeoisie in some form or other a part of the burden of the defence of the Republic, which has been forced by the crimes of the possessing classes to endure these heavy trials and necessities. But in the immediate transition period military training and the bearing of arms must be restricted to workers and peasants who employ no outside labour.

Citizens between eighteen and forty years of age who have undergone the prescribed military training will be registered as liable to military service. They are required to answer the first summons of the Government of Workers and Peasants to fill up the cadres of the Red Army, which have been formed of devoted soldiers, ready to sacrifice themselves for the freedom and independence of the Russian Soviet Republic and the International Socialist Revolution.

Male citizens of the Russian Federated Soviet Republic are liable to undergo military training

(1) During school age, the lower limit of which will be determined by the People’s Commissariat for Education.

(2) During the preparatory age, from sixteen to eighteen years.

(3) During the age of obligatory military service, from eighteen to forty years.

Female citizens will be trained only with their own consent, in accordance with the general practice.

N.B.-Persons whose religious convictions forbid the use of arms will be liable only to forms of training that exclude the use of arms.

(1) The People’s Commissar for War is responsible for the training of men in the obligatory military and preparatory ages. The People’s Commissar for Education, working in close co-operation with the People’s Commissar for War, is responsible for the training of boys of school age.

(2) All workmen employed in factories and workshops, on farms and on the land, and all peasants who exploit no outside labour are liable to undergo training.

(3) The military commissariats (of the districts, governments, circuits and Volosts) will supervise the compulsory military training in their respective localities.

(4) Conscripts receive no compensation during their periods of training. The periods of training must be arranged in such a way as to cause the minimum interference with the conscripts’ regular occupations.

(5) The period of training is for six consecutive weeks, with a minimum of twelve hours per week. The period of training for special corps and the sequence of repetitive training will be determined by special enactments.

(6) Persons who have already undergone training in the regular army may be exempted from further training on passing a suitable test. They will then be required to fill in the discharge papers generally issued to all persons who have undergone their compulsory training.

(7) Training will be given by competent instructors in accordance with the programme drawn up by the People’s Commissar for War.

(8) Whosoever evades compulsory military training or is negligent in the performance of it will be liable to prosecution.

Regulations for War Commissars

A War Commissar is a direct political representative of the Soviet Government with the army. His post has a special significance. Commissars’ posts will be assigned only to irreproachable revolutionaries who have the ability to remain incarnations of revolutionary duty at critical moments and under the most difficult circumstances.

The War Commissar’s person is inviolate. An insult offered to a War Commissar engaged in the performance of his duty or any act of violence committed against a War Commissar will be deemed equivalent to the greatest of crimes against the Soviet Power of the Republic. It is the duty of a War Commissar to prevent the army from showing disrespect to the Soviet authority and to prevent army institutions from becoming nests of conspiracy or employing weapons against workmen and peasants. A War Commissar takes part in all the activities of the commanding officer to whom he is attached; these two persons must receive reports and sign orders jointly. Validity is ascribed only to those orders of a War Soviet which bear the signature of at least one Commissar in addition to that of the commanding officer.

(4) A Commissar gives validity to all the commanding officer’s orders by appending his signature to them and must see that no orders are issued without his signature.

(5) A Regimental Commissar organizes, directs and supervises the political work in his regiment. He has the assistance of a political leader, who organizes all the political work in the regiment.

(6) With the aid of his assistant the Regimental Commissar directs and supervises all departments of the regimental staff. He obtains, procures and manages all the supplies needed by the regiment.

(7) When on duty at the front, he is represented by his assistant.

(8) The Regimental Commissar’s assistant must always be with the regiment’s staff. All transport and all supplies are under his charge.

Scheme for the Transition to the Militia System

(1) The approaching end of the Civil War and the favourable change in the international situation of Soviet Russia make it necessary for us to remodel our military forces in accordance with the country’s urgent economic and cultural needs.

(2) On the other hand it is necessary to affirm that the Socialist Republic can by no means be regarded as out of danger so long as the imperialist bourgeoisie holds the reins of government in the most important countries in the world.

The imperialists are losing ground, and at any moment the course of events may impel them to undertake further warlike adventures against Soviet Russia. Hence the necessity for maintaining the defences of the Revolution at the required standard.

(3) The transition period, which may be long and wearisome, must effect a reorganization of the armed forces which will give the workers the necessary military training while withdrawing them from productive labour as little as possible. Only a Militia of Red Workers and Peasants, based on the territorial system, can conform to these requirements.

(4) The essence of the Soviet militia system must be the closest possible association of the army with the processes of production, so that the man-power of certain defined industrial areas will also form the man-power of certain defined military units.

(5) The militia formations (regiments, brigades, divisions) must be territorially adapted to the territorial distribution of industry in such a way as will permit the industrial centres and their surrounding agricultural belts to constitute the bases of the militia formations.

(6) The organization of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Militia must be based on cadres well equipped in all military, technical and political respects to serve the needs of the workers and peasants continually trained by them. These cadres must be able at any given moment to call up the workers and peasants from their militia district, incorporate them in the military machine, arm them and take them into action.

(7) The transition to the militia system must take place gradually, in conformity with the military and international-diplomatic situation of the Soviet Republic, and under conditions which will not allow the defence strength of the Soviet Republic to fall below the necessary standard for even a single moment.

(8) When the gradual demobilization of the Red Army takes place, the best cadres must be stationed in the localities where they will be of greatest use, i.e., where they can best be adapted to local production conditions and modes of life, in order to ensure complete functioning of the administrative machinery of the militia formations.

(9) Renewals of the personnel of the militia cadres must take place gradually and in such a way as to ensure the closest contact with the economic life of the district in question, so that the commanding officers of a division stationed in a territory which comprises, for example, a mining area surrounded by a belt of villages, may be drawn from the best elements of the local proletariat.

(10) For the purpose of the aforesaid cadre renewals the courses to be taken by such officers must take place in localities most convenient to the requirements of the economic militia districts. Such courses must be taken by the best representatives of the local workers and peasants.

(11) The military training based on the militia system which ensures the greatest fighting efficiency of a militia army consists of the following:

(a) Preliminary training before the age of liability to service. This involves the close co-operation of the military authorities with the People’s Commissariat for Education, Trade Unions, Party Organizations, Youth Associations, Sports Clubs, etc.

(b) Training of citizens who have reached the age of liability. The duration of the training periods should be continually shortened with everincreasing approximation of the barracks to a political-military school.

(c) Short periods of repetitive training, for the purpose of testing the fighting efficiency of the militia formations.

(12) The militia cadre organizations charged with the duty of national defence must be adapted in such measure as may be necessary to labour service, i.e., they must be capable of forming labour squads and providing them with the necessary instructors.

(13) Since the militia must develop in the direction of a nation of armed communists, its organizations must retain during the present period all the characteristics of the dictatorship of the working classes.

(Approved by the 9th Congress of the Communist Party of Russia, March 29-April 4, 1920.)