Mikhail Frunze

We republish here Trotsky's speech on the occasion of Mikhail Frunze's death. It was published in lzvestlya on November 13, 1925. Trotsky was at the time the subject of a virulent witch hunt by the rising Stalinist bureaucracy. He had been forced to vacate his post as Commissar of War to Frunze, the choice of the Zinoviev-Kamenev-Stalin triumvirate. Frunze was politically close to Zinoviev, but Trotsky still pays tribute to the genuine Bolshevik qualities embodied by Frunze.

Despite bitter military and political differences in the past and his present humiliating circumstances, Trotsky in this speech provides a shining example of Marxist objectivity and proletarian fervour. He had this to say of Frunze in his autobiography:

"Frunze was a serious person. His authority in the party, due to his sentences of hard labour in Siberia in the past, was higher than of the more recent authority of Sklyansky."

"Furthermore he had revealed an indisputable talent for military leadership during the war. But as a military administrator he was far inferior to Sklyansky. He was too apt to be carried away by abstract schemes; he was a poor judge of character and he succumbed easily to the influence of experts, especially those of second order."


Over recent years blow after blow has opened one breach after another in the ranks of the front-line fighters of our Soviet land. The latest blow - and one of the most grievous - struck us on October 31. At about 3 p.m. I received a telegram from Comrade Stalin in Moscow which included the brief but ghastly line: 'Frunze today passed away following a stroke.' I knew, as did all, or at least many of you, that Comrade Frunze was ill - but who of the senior generation of revolutionaries is fit and well today? - and each of us thought that his illness would be transitory and that he would return to his important work. But there it is: the terrible telegram which a few hours later was to be received in a more extended form by the whole country and the whole of the Soviet Union.

And like many of you I held the scrap of paper carrying the news of his death in my hand and tried to read into it not what was written on it but something else less terrible and less hopeless. But its text did not lend itself to re-interpretation any more than the ghastly fact which was conveyed by it could - alas! - be either contested or annulled. Mikhail Vasilievich Frunze is no longer; and one of the bravest, best and most worthy has gone forever and tomorrow revolutionary proletarian Moscow will bury the deceased fighter, in Red Square. My first impulse, was to go there, to Moscow, where Mikhail Vasilievich's work was conducted in the latter period, and pay him my last tribute among his closest colleagues and friends. But on Saturday and Sunday there were no trains to Moscow and the one which left today would reach Moscow too late. But Moscow of course is not alone for the whole Soviet Union is today in mourning and with its head bowed and its flags lowered is expressing its respects and its sorrow in memory of the glorious fighter. Here in Kislovodsk we are joined together by a single bitter feeling and a single sorrowful thought which merges with the thoughts and feelings of the whole working class and its lead-der, the Communist Party which has lost one of its best sons.

Mikhail Vasilievich joined the cause of the working class as a young student. In the days of the first, 1905, revolution and the subsequent harsh and dark years of reaction it was in Ivanovo-Voznesensk that his activity centred. As early as then, a personal audacity had already marked out this far-from-average rising young revolutionary. He fired at the police inspector who was engaged in repressions against the lvanovo-Voznesensk workers and this act together with the rest of his work in 1907 brought Mikhail Vasilievich to the hard-labour camp where he was to spend a number of years under the harshest conditions, which undermined his health. Conditions in the labour camp broke his health but did not break his spirit. He came out of the camp gates the same as he had entered them, as a hard in-flexible revolutionary Bolshevik. The 1917 revolution found him back in Ivanovo-Voznesensk. Once again he was amongst the textile workers. He was an agitator, an organizer and a leader of fighting groups. In the glorious days of October 1917 the ranks closed around him. Mikhail Vasilievich has missed the eighth anniversary of our October victory by only seven days! After October Frunze devotet his exceptional talents principally to organizing the defence of the Soviet state. He worked as the leading military commissar in the Yaroslavl military district creating the first strong, tightly-knit, regular units made up of textile workers.

The Civil War gripped the country in a ring and Mikhail Vasilievich appeared in Moscow, knocked on the door of the Central Committee and demanded a posting to a fighting front of the Civil War. And so he was in the east and in the battles against Kolchak. He took command of an army, this former revolutionary student and convict labourer who had undergone no battle training and he found himself at the head of one of the revolutionary armies confronted with doubt on the part of some and mistrust on the part of others and the natural question from everyone: will he be able to manage? Yet manage he did, with both honour and glory. Soon he was to stand at the head of a group af four armies. I recall with what pride and love he presented, at Samara I think, a regiment of lvanovo-Voznesensk workers for inspection. 'These men, will not betray you'. And they did not betray us. The roads along which M. V. Frunze led his revolutionary regiments passed through the Urals, then across Turkestan and from there to Bukhara. lnside the army, the party and the Central Committee a clear opinion had by then taken shape: where things were tough, where the front was shaky and unusually outstanding courage, strong will-power and a quick eye were required Frunze had to be sent. And thus he was to lead the combat operations in the Ukraine against our last major armed enemy, Wrangel. It is sufficient to mention one place-name- Perekop! -in order to illuminate nate M. V. Frunze's name with a bright flame of glory. On the pages of the history of the Red Army's heroic struggle it burns with undimming heat - lightning flashes of heroism coupled with accurate and methodically undertaken preparatory work.

For two features were equally characteristic of this captain. Above all that personal gallantry necessary to every warrior irrespective of whether the soldier is a private or one who leads regiments, brigades and armies into battle. Personal gallantry both as revolutionary and as a soldier distinguished Mikhail Vasilievich from head to foot. He did not know of that inner alarm in the face og the enemy and danger. He had been in the fire  - and in heavy fire too - more than once and an enemy shell on one occasion did not spare his horse underneath but spared him. But personal gallantry is but little for a military leader. He needs courage of decision. In the face of the enemy where so much depends on a decision, doubts are natural: Which route to strike along? What means to adopt? How to deploy your forces? Whether to take the offensive today or to wait on? Whether generally to advance or retreat?
There are of course scores of possible decisions and your thoughts burdened with responsibility will waver between these decisions. Frunze knew how to think over, listen to and weigh them up calmly and soberly! Having weighed them up then to make a clear choice. And having made the clear choice then to go through to the end. He had that courage of decision without which there can be neither military leader nor captain. And it was he who directly guaranteed our country its brilliant victory over Wrangel.

Frunze's name along with another name, Perekop, will remain for ever in human memory as a fine legend of the revolution at whose roots lies a living historical fact. Frunze then led an organization of military forces in the Ukraine which he cleared of banditry, combining political penetration with a military thrust. Then Mikhail Vasilievich was transferred by the party to Moscow where he was to be put at the head of the Red Army and Navy. And we were entitled to expect that here his extraordinary resources and talents would develop to the full. But cruel fate did not augur this. The same man who had survived the trial of hard labour, passed unscathed through the fire of the Civil War and more than once or twice placed his life squarely down upon the field of war where the revolution required fell under the blow of a feverish stoppage of a small muscle known as the human heart. This muscle is the motor of our organism. The same man who himself was a powerful engine of the revolution and the army fell, unexpectedly struck down, when his internal engine, his heart, became paralysed for ever. And so, comrades, tomorrow Red Moscow will bury M. V. Frunze. And we who are here gathered together along with many thousands, scores of thousands and millions throughout the Union join with Moscow in the commonly-felt bitterness of an irretrievable loss. At such times it is hard for us to seek words of consolation for there is not nor cannot be any personal consolation because a heroic human psonality which you cannot bring back, comrades - you just cannot bring back - has disappeared and gone for ever.

But we shall not merely grieve and lament our renowned comrade-in-arms. We as revolutionaries think not only of the present day but of tomorrow too. And though there is no personal consolation to be had at the loss of a heroic human personality there is the general, collective, political consolation to be found in the profound awareness of the fact that the cause which M. V. Frunze served day in and day out from his young days until the last palpitation of his sick heart, is triumphant and that the funeral shrouds whitch will tomorrow, drape over the grave of the deceased shall not fall from the firm hands of the victorious working class.  There is a consolation in the fact that the Red Army within whose ranks and then at whose head our late comrade worked, fought and served the proletarian cause, is growing and closing its ranks and is ready to rebuff as never before any possible blows from our enemies. Yes, there is a consolation in the fact that the cause which Mikhail Vasilievich Frunze served and from which death, that brutal ravisher severed him is an immortal one. It passes from peoples to peoples, it moves from age to age and everywhere where our remote descendants might recall the heroic struggle of the proletariat they will name with gratitude, respect and love the man whom Moscow tomorrow is to accompany on his last journey. Let us dip our banners and our grief-stricken hearts low in memory of the fighter and say: 'Farewell, heroic warrior of the October revolution; farewell, glorious chief of the Red army; farewell, Mikhail Vasilievich, unforgettable fighter and fearless revolutionary - farewell for ever!'

But we who remain shall do what revolutionaries have always to do in time of cruel losses; we shall close our ranks the more tightly in order to fill the breach the quicker. A man of great stature is gone. We shall put forward two, three or six more but we will fill the breach. For our struggle knows no pause. For the party which has lost one of its finest standard-bearers will lead the working class forward to new battles and new sacrifices and will carry forth to the peoples of the whole world the same banner under which there has lived and fought gloriously that heroic warrior of the revolution, Mikhail Vasilievich Frunze.

Izvestia no. 259
November 13, 1925