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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 4, No. 10. September 18, 1941

The Red Army's "Secret"

The Red Army's "Secret"

". . . Most phenomena . . . consist partly of physical and partly of moral causes and effects. One might say that the physical are like the wooden hilt, while the moral are the noble metal, the keen blade itself."


There is no Russian steamroller. In every battle the Red Army has been outnumbered. This is due to two reasons, in the first place the combined populations of the Axis (including that of Japan, as we must, because she immobilises at the least half a million Soviet troops) outnumber by about sixty millions the peoples of the U.S.S.R. Secondly, the Reichswehr attacked and has all the advantages of the attacker on a battle front of over two thousand miles in short, the Soviet Union is fighting the whole of Capitalistic Europe. It is facing far more than the old Tsarist Empire ever dreamed of. A combination, the very thought of which kept the Tsar's diplomats in a sweat of fear, the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria Hungary, and Italy, with Rumania thrown in, stands as a unified whole. In the 1914-18 war Rumania and Italy came in with the Entente. France did not drop out, and Britain did not stand by.

This is the brutal fact which the bourgeois press does not admit. It is a fact which the "Evening Post" and the "Dominion" dare not admit. If they gave it away that the extraordinary resistance of the Red Army was not due to the numerical superiority of the countless Slavic hordes they would be left with the embarrassing task of explaining that resistance with the only explanation that there is, and that they cannot face. It is, of course, due to the superiority of socialist military technique and of socialist moral.

It is unnecessary to reiterate what the strategy and tactics of the Red Army consists of. That is done daily from Berlin. It is enough to say with the "Evening Standard" that the most encouraging thing about the Red Army is that British generals don't think very highly of it.

The key to Soviet victory (I use the word because we know now that the halting of the blitzkrieg is victory) lies in those classical words of Clausewitz with which I have headed this article. They have been often repeated by Voroshilov. "Without men," he has said, "technique is dead," but "technique in the hands of men who understand it and have mastered it is a very great force." The Red Army men are "people of a special mould made of different stuff." This is because in the words of Voroshilov again, "The Red Army, like the entire Soviet people, lives [unclear: and] trained in the teachings of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin." The method of the Red Armies the Marxist-Leninist method, the method of dialectics. The characteristic of the dialectic method is this, that it regards all things in their inter-relationship and movement. The opposite of the dialectical consideration of things is their consideration in their isolation and fixity. As nothing is fixed and nothing is isolated this latter is a false and a dangerous attitude. Nevertheless it is the attitude of the British General Staff. Dialectical thinking is thinking in wholes. The Soviet strategy is a strategy of wholes. In short it is total war. When we have realised this we can understand on the one hand why Weygand caved in when Paris was threatened and on the other hand why Dneipestroy was blown up. The matter has nothing to do either with the Slav soul or the memory of 1812. For the French bourgeoisie, for the "men of property" who were the Third Republic, Paris was an end; for the Soviet peoples the destruction of Dneipestroi—in the building of which as a visitor has said they "seemed to be as personally interested as an Englishman is in the laying out of his garden"—was just a means, of no greater importance and no less than any other, for, in the words of the Red Army oath, "complete victory over the enemy."

Edgar Snow has recognised this in a recent article in the "New Republic." "The Reds," he says, "are the first people to come into contact with the Nazis who fully understand the political as well as the military terms of the war. Hence they have studied and plotted the relation of every individual to the task of national defence and have everywhere assigned the civilian population active combat duties." This is only possible for a country which can say—to quote once again Voroshilov—that "the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army is of the same fresh and blood as its people and shares the interests of the whole country.... Our Army has grown up with the people and has fought side by side with the people ... is a genuine revolutionary army of the people."

There is a lesson in all this. It is a lesson that was taught the world by a British Army that did not retreat and by a French Army that did not retreat—armies that were invincible just as the Red Army is invincible to-day. The lesson of Cromwell, and of Danton, and of Stalin is not old—it is evergreen, but the time is getting short. It must be learnt by New Zealand and New Zealand must learn it now. The penalty of failure is the penalty of Czechoslovakia, of Poland, of Norway, of Belgium, of Holland and of France. We know what that is.