Military Opposition

Military Opposition


a group of delegates to the Eighth Congress of the RCP(Bolshevik) of 1919 who opposed the line of the Central Committee of the Party on military development. The Military Opposition included V. M. Smirnov, G. I. Safarov, G. L. Piatakov, A. S. Bubnov, Em. laroslavskii, V. G. Sorin, K. E. Voroshilov, F. I. Goloshchekin, A. F. Miasnikov, N. G. Tolmachev, R. S. Samoilova (Zemliachka), S. K. Minin, and others.

On the military question, the Central Committee of the RCP(B) confirmed the theses of the report delivered on March 20 at the Eighth Congress of the Party by G. la. Sokol’nikov, a member of the Central Committee of the RCP(B). The report substantiated principles and methods for building up the regular, centralized, and disciplined Red Army and analyzed the questions around which debates and disagreements were arising. These questions included the role of the military specialists, the principle of electing commanders, and the forms of organization of Communists and the rights of Communist cells in the army. The report of the Central Committee pointed out that the Military Opposition’s stand of opposing the use of old-regime officers in the Red Army was analogous to the demand of the “left Communists” against using engineers in factories and plants. The report explained that the election of military commanders was favored by the Party when it was arousing the soldiers against officers who served reactionary regimes, and it emphasized that at the present stage to refuse the proletarian dictatorship the right to appoint the officers of the Red Army was to express a lack of confidence in the Soviet regime (Vos’moi s”ezd RKP(b): Protokoly, 1959, p. 147). The Central Committee of the Party believed that the Communist cells should not interfere in questions of the administration of the army but must support the commissars, thus firmly carrying out Party policy.

Smirnov delivered the report from the Military Opposition. He asserted that bourgeois military specialists could not be trusted as commanders, that they could not be given the right of sole decision of operational questions, and that their functions should be only of a consultative character. He came out sharply against the demand of the Interior Service Regulations of the Red Army on saluting of military commanders by Red Army men, seeing in this 4ta vestige of the system of autocracy and serfdom.”

A total of 64 delegates registered to speak on the military question. The discussions were transferred to the military section of the congress, which had 85 members. There was no unity within the Military Opposition, and some of its members took the point of view of the Central Committee of the RCP(B) on some questions. In the discussion of the military question, some delegates sharply criticized shortcomings in the work of central military institutions and L. D. Trotsky’s activity as chairman of the Military Revolutionary Council of the Republic, because he tried to reduce to a minimum the role of Party organizations and of military commissars. Trotsky antagonized many Communists in the army. On March 21 the military question was discussed at a closed session of the congress. First the session heard a re-port on the military situation of the country by S. I. Aralov, a member of the Military Revolutionary Council of the Republic. He reported that the Red Army had about a 60 percent shortage of military specialists. Em. laroslavskii reported on the work of the military section. In the discussions, K. E. Voroshilov, G. I. Safarov, V. M. Smirnov, F. I. Goloshchekin, and others spoke for the Military Opposition, and V. I. Lenin, A. I. Okulov, J. V. Stalin, and G. la. Sokol’nikov spoke against the Military Opposition.

In his speech, Lenin refuted the assertion of the Military Opposition that the Central Committee of the RCP(B) allegedly believed that everything was satisfactory in the military field. He pointed out that a great danger was concealed in the theses of the Military Opposition, and he demonstrated that there were no grounds for the reproaches of the Military Opposition that the Central Committee of the Party did not direct the military department. Lenin devoted much attention to the question of using military specialists and spoke of the need of using their knowledge and experience. “The whole mistake of the opposition,” he said, “is that you, linked to this partisan spirit by your experience, linked to this partisan spirit by the traditions of heroism that will be forever remembered, you don’t want to understand that this is a different period. Now the first target ought to be a regular army; it is necessary to go over to a regular army with military specialists” (Vos’moi s”ezd RKP(b): Protokoly, 1959, p. xiv). Lenin attached tremendous importance to military regulations and to the introduction of a firm and conscious discipline. He showed that the struggle for the strengthening of military discipline was one of the chief tasks of the commissars, political workers, and Party organizations. He emphasized the importance of the proletarian nucleus of the Red Army, the commanders, the military commissars, and the Party and political apparatus for military training and political education of the troops.

In the voting for the resolution, the Central Committee of the RCP(B) received 174 votes, and the resolution of the Military Opposition received 95 votes. The results of the voting did not satisfy the congress, and on March 22 it elected a conciliation commission. On March 23, Em. laroslavskii reported to the congress that the commission had arrived at a unanimous decision, by introducing corrections and amendments to the theses that the congress had adopted as a basis. On a second vote, the resolution on a military question was adopted by the congress unanimously (with one abstention). The congress fully approved the Leninist policy on the military question, which had been substantiated in the theoretical part of the Program of the RCP(B) adopted by the congress and in the resolution “On the Military Question.” While condemning the erroneous propositions of the Military Opposition, the congress took into account everything useful that was contained in the speeches of its representatives.


Lenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 38, pp. 137-42, 165-69.
Leninskii sbornik XXXVII. Moscow, 1970.
Vos’moi s”ezd RKP(b): Protokoly. Moscow, 1959.
Danilevskii, A. F. V. I. Lenin i voprosy voennogo stroitel’stva na VIII s”ezde RKP(b). Moscow, 1964.
Istoriia KPSS, vol. 3, book 2. Moscow, 1968. Chapter 13.


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