The REDSTAR2000 Papers

Listen to the worm of doubt, for it speaks truth. - Leftist Discussion

Communist "Armies" December 16, 2004 by RedStar2000

How do we defend a new society should it be attacked by one or more imperialist powers?

This is one of the "keystones" of the Leninist paradigm: that the only way to do it is to organize a centralized and highly disciplined professional military that's "just like" the imperialist military. We should fight "like they do" and with the same strategy, tactics, and weaponry.

And this view even strongly influences's hard to overcome the established prejudices of military doctrines that really go all the way back to Napoleon if not even earlier.

Nevertheless, I argue here that we must overcome those prejudices and develop a completely different outlook on military matters...or else risk the tragedy of creating the revolution's grave-diggers in our midst.



A centralized military should be a constantly ready force, deployed widely to ensure security, and should be complemented by the militias.

I disagree.

In fact, I think a centralized military leads directly to another Tienamien Square.

1. A centralized military develops a consciousness of its own...that steadily diverges from the consciousness of civilian workers.

2. That consciousness becomes, over time, fascist.

3. Eventually, it produces leaders that are either willing to collaborate with civilian reactionaries or will choose to act on their own to re-establish a fascist variant of class society.

Just think of the "military virtues"...and ask what they have in common with communist values.

First posted at Che-Lives on December 12, 2004


If indeed the military is alienated from the people and those who control the military are not the people. If the means of production and the legislative forces are within the hands of the people I don't see how that can happen. Nor do I see how the military can become alienated from the people since they would work directly with worker militias.

It happens because "what you do" has a tremendous and ultimately dominating effect on "what you think".

If you are a "full-time soldier", you look at matters differently than people who are part-timers in a militia.

For example, you tend to see civilian politics as "messy", "undisciplined", "disorganized", and even "corrupt". You compare it with your own full-time military life -- organized with clear channels of command and responsibility, well disciplined, and "devoted to service" rather than vulgar self-advancement. (I should add that police also develop this "mind set".)

Naturally, over time, you develop a contempt for civilians...they "don't understand" how to "get things done".

The thought begins to occur to you that perhaps it's "necessary from time to time" for the military to "step in" and "save the nation".

Historically, class societies have been "bedeviled" with this problem; they need a professional military both for defense and to take advantage of opportunities for profitable aggression. Yet armies have a distinct tendency to "act for themselves" -- deposing emperors and presidents alike, killing large numbers of civilians, etc.

The response thus far has been the attempt to create a "cultural bias" in favor of civilian control of the military. But that's a far more fragile cultural artifact than most people believe...because it tries to pretend that material force is "not" as powerful as a cultural bias.

Material force, if applied in sufficient amounts, is always more powerful in the immediate circumstances. The pen may be "mightier" than the sword in the long run...but here and now, bet on the sword!

It's true that the working class is the one class with material force of its own -- it can simply refuse to work and the professional military is helpless, no matter what it does.

But the "indiscipline" of the masses makes that a difficult response to's happened, but very rarely.

I don't think there's any reason to believe that a professional military would act any different in a post-capitalist society than it has historically. The same factors would be operating; the same differences in outlook would exist; etc. Perhaps the more highly-developed and conscious working class of that era would "easily" call and implement a general strike against any military presumptions...and the army would have to "back down".

But why chance it? Why create a "special group" within post-capitalist society that will preserve and even increase precisely the kind of crap that you're trying to get rid of?

It's not that you're even likely to "gain" any real additional "protection" from a foreign aggressor...look at the miserable response of the Iraqi army compared to the real and sustained resistance of Iraqi civilians.

Wouldn't it be the same for us? The masses will fight indefinitely for what they think is worth fighting for; professional soldiers will fight for a little while and then, if things go poorly, surrender or run away.

Thus I assert: forget the centralized "full-time" army. You have nothing to gain and quite a bit to lose.
First posted at Che-Lives on December 13, 2004


When did I say it was centralized?

You said it here, on December 11th...


A centralized military should be a constantly ready force, deployed widely to ensure security, and should be complemented by the militias.

Obviously, a de-centralized professional military would be much less of a threat to the revolution. But note that professional police are not centralized...and yet they also develop, over time, the same kind of fascist mind-set.


So I suppose then that we're getting rid of all other jobs that require such discipline?

Well, it's hard for me to think what else involves the full-time preoccupation with the use of deadly force "on command".


Aside from this, the alienation of the military would seem to have little do with the discipline it commands, and a hell of a lot more to do with the position [the] traditional military is in. The traditional military, like the police, is an organization who is given power above the people, they are done so because it is argued that sometimes the people would need to be secured from themselves. I don't see how this even comes in to play when in the end it is the people who are commanding them.

It's argued under bourgeois "democracy" that "the people" command the military "in the end". That's not much help when they are actively "securing us from ourselves".

My point is that a "formal arrangement" or even a "cultural bias" is not some kind of "insurmountable obstacle" to the re-emergence of military ambition among those who've developed that mind-set.

Before Pinochet, the Chileans used to boast that they "were not like" the rest of Latin America -- their military was "really committed" to staying out of politics and had a "long tradition" of "serving the nation".

Even General Douglas MacArthur in the U.S. "toyed" with the idea of staging a military coup against newly-elected President Roosevelt.


Your job [as a full-time soldier] is to serve these people, PERIOD. You ARE these people.

No, you're not "these people" -- you are in a special "category" and you're always in that position because you're a full-time soldier. It's a different kind of life.

Not to mention the enormous ambiguity in the phrase "serve the people" -- it can pretty nearly mean anything you want.


This should be indoctrinated in such military forces from the day they come into existence.

It's done now and has been done for as long as professional militaries have existed. Indoctrination works "much" of the time and even "most of the time"...but not all of the time.

And there's the scorpion in your shoe.


The military works complement the militia, and thus they are in no position and would never have the resources to "save the nation" from any significant threat.

The "threat" does not have to be a real one. It's only required that significant elements of the professional military perceive a "threat" to "national security".

Neither Roosevelt, Allende, nor Chavez were/are any threat to capitalist society whatsoever.

And of course they have "the resources" -- they have weaponry, full-time training, and the habit of obedience to their officers. Even if the militias are equally well-armed, they're still not going to be able to muster much initial resistance to a carefully-planned military coup. (Note that one of the immediate objectives of such a coup would be to seize as many of the militia arms-depots as they could.)


I don't see this as a problem if it is on all levels equal to another job, is designed for defense against external threats and its power is constitutionally limited under the people.

As far as I know, none of the professional armies in Latin America have been "designed" for aggression against other Latin American least not since the early years of the 20th century. Nor have "constitutional limitations" served to inhibit their domestic ambitions.

A "constitutional limitation" is a "paper tiger" "looks powerful" but can be shredded easily by a determined minority.


I have several friends in the military who would argue that this is not attempted in the least.

I think the idea of "military subordination to civilian authority" in the U.S. is emphasized at the higher levels of the military...and not at the lower levels who may indeed be used against the civilian population.

The civilian president "is" the "commander-in-chief" and "must be obeyed unconditionally".


If the outlook of the people is otherwise, and the outlook of the government is otherwise, and the initial outlook of the military is otherwise... where does this traditional outlook spawn from?

From daily life in the military. You are taught to obey without question. You are taught that your own desires and even survival mean nothing. And, as noted, you will develop a disdain and ultimately a contempt for civilians.

It's simply idealist to think this won't happen.

That doesn't mean that a military coup is inevitable...professional military officers could choose to ally with civilian reactionaries (as in China).

But the results will be bad!


Well certainly it is left in the hands of the people in the end. Being that [they] control the legislative forces, at any time they could pass law to disband such a force.

Ah...but would the professional military disband just because they were "told to"?


Another point that should be made is that several cities in Iraq are in rubble because of this. Civilian opposition is strong and great and all, but in the end it requires the enemy to enter into civilian's living space.

Very true; if a post-capitalist country defended only by workers' militias is invaded by a major imperialist country, the destruction will be severe. Driving the invader out will probably involve enormous civilian casualties.

Would the existence of a professional army mitigate that destruction or reduce the number of civilian casualties? Frankly I doubt it...unless it were huge and equipped with high-tech weaponry that matched the invader's.

The USSR had a huge and well-equipped army and so did the Nazis -- and yet both countries were reduced to rubble and suffered enormous civilian casualties.


I don't know... are these people (Iraqis) really revolutionary? Are they an example of revolutionary people? I don't think so. If anything they seem far more reactionary to me.

Their nominal ideology is indeed reactionary (for the most part). But their demonstrated ability to resist the hegemony of U.S. imperialism makes them objectively revolutionary at the present time.

No one else is even playing in their league!


I also made note, if I recall correctly, that the military could exercise training of militia.

And return to their barracks making jokes about the "fuckups" and "clowns" in the militia.
First posted at Che-Lives on December 13, 2004


People are not stripped of their right[s] for security unless they decide to be...

I think this assumption underlies a lot of your thinking about this question...and I think it's wrong.

All that seems to be required is the creation of a "threat" to people's sense of "security" and a fair number of people are quite prepared to give up their "rights"...especially those who never bother to exercise them anyway.

The recent passivity of the American public with regard to the Patriot Act,, is an illustration.

In a post-capitalist society, people would be much more conscious of their rights and much more politically sophisticated (able to see through rhetoric about "threats") than they are now.

But that hardly means that everyone will be "immune" to rhetoric about "threats" or appeals based on fear.

Suppose, for example, that there were heated controversies among civilians over "what is to be done" about some urgent matter -- and, meanwhile, nothing is being done while the alternatives are being debated. An undemocratic initiative by the professional military might be welcomed by many...on the grounds that "something" (at last!) is "being done".

It won't occur to them that the professional military may not stop with this particular initiative...but go on to others.

And the problem is never even framed in terms of "rights vs. security" just "happens" because of the "urgency of the situation".


The problem that causes alienation is when the police/military forces stand above society.

But my point is that a professional military/police come to think of themselves in that position regardless of any "serve & protect" ideology. It's "in their job description".

And it's probably in their personality profiles as well.

Think about it: what kind of person is attracted to a "job" where you are always either told what to do or you are telling others what to do? Where violence or the threat of violence is "a way of life"?

Psychologically healthy people don't think like that, in my opinion. They may resort to violence in extremis but it's not a daily part of their existence.

I personally would see militia duty as a painful necessity...but hardly my idea of "fun", much less a way to live my life.

The very fact that only a relatively small proportion of humans in any society choose to be soldiers or cops (or violent criminals) suggests there is some kind of socio-pathology at work.


While it may not be deadly force, there are certainly positions where you have to do what you are told "or else." In fact, most jobs require a decent amount of discipline if you don't want to get fired. Others require a good amount of discipline if you don't want to get killed... construction sites come to mind.

Yes, there are dangerous jobs where care must be exercised...and there must indeed be a certain amount of discipline to accomplish any extended task.

But the habit of unquestioning obedience is, I think, of a different order of magnitude in military/police circumstances. On a construction site, for example, if you were ordered to do something dangerous to yourself or others, you could refuse...and the worst thing that could happen to you is that you would be fired -- unless your union backed you up and walked out.

Bosses may dream of "human robots" that will do what they're told and never talk back...but you know and I know that's not how it works even now. In post-capitalist society, things will likely be even more "undisciplined" in that sense -- people will insist that "orders" make some kind of sense or they simply won't carry them out.

But can you imagine a professional military based on such a premise?


What rights does my theoretical military have that the people do not? They have no right to detain people, no right to subdue them, no right to control them. What separates them from the people other than their job, which is defense of the nation?

It's not a matter of "rights" -- it's a matter of what they may decide to do based on their unique perception of social reality.

You keep repeating that being a soldier/cop is "just a job" auto-mechanic or bartender. I don't see how you can say that. And I don't see how saying it makes it so.


Say there is some rather large natural disaster. Why divert any doctors, engineers, etc... to this location and deprive other places of people they may need. The military would have many of these kinds of people in it -- they would not be just "trained to kill" as you like to believe, nor is the current US military.

There is no reason why civilian emergency teams could not be set up to respond to disasters.

And I quite agree that only about one out of every ten members of the military is trained in combat skills...all the rest are "support" personnel. (But note that the U.S. military is "privatizing" a good deal of such support in order to free up more personnel for combat duty.)

What's involved here is not simply being "trained to kill", it's being trained to obey without question.

If your friend is sent to Iraq and ordered to treat American wounded, he will do it. If he's ordered to oversee torture, he will do that too -- or face very severe consequences if he refuses.

It's the same with the police. If ordered to apprehend a serial killer, they'll do it. If ordered to open fire on a civilian "mob", they'll do that too.

It's "all in a day's work".

When you really consider it, being in a military or a police force is a tremendous escape from personal responsibility. It's not "up to you" to decide if some act is "right or wrong" or even "rational or irrational"...that's not your responsibility. You have only the duty to obey your orders to the best of your ability.

You know that none of the ordinary soldiers who participated in the massacre at My Lai were ever prosecuted...they were just carrying out their orders.


You give reactionary, and indeed counter-revolutionary characteristics to a military force just for the reason alone that it is a military force.

Yes, I do. Maybe not at first...but, in time, yes, I think it would evolve in that direction.


You assume there is some position to "take over" to begin with, and give little standing of what this position does or what it has control over. What exactly is this military taking over?

It seizes effective control of territory, resources, and population, of course. Or at least it tries to do that. It may make use of existing decision-making organs or it may establish new ones that are effectively under its control. It is certainly not "bound" by the institutions that existed previous to its coup.

The implications of this and other objections that you've raised to my thesis is that, in one way or another, the post-capitalist society would be "too strong" to be overthrown by a reactionary professional army -- in fact, the disparity in strength would be so great that it "would never happen".

Perhaps you are right about this; it wouldn't be the first time that I've been accused of "excessive pessimism".

Nevertheless, I think the avoidance of professional armies and police is a wise and prudent precaution. Deprived of an institutional/social base, reactionary proclivities are much less likely to ever cause any problems.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

When I wrote that the professional military teaches you that "your own desires and even survival mean nothing", you responded...


Sound[s] characteristic of a revolutionary person to me. Are we not to put our own desire to live aside for the cause of revolution? Are we not to risk our lives for revolution for the betterment of all man?


That's the "Aztec Theory" of revolutionary politics; you drape yourself over the altar of history and cut your own heart out as an offering to the revolution.

I think living for the revolution is a far superior approach...not only surviving but realizing one's desires in a revolutionary society makes much more sense to me than martyrdom.

Indeed, I find appeals to "self-sacrifice" to be suspicious in and of themselves. The people who make such appeals usually don't intend to sacrifice themselves -- they intend to sacrifice me...or you.


I'm a firm believer that there's a lot more to being revolutionary than taking part in revolution.

As a general statement, I would not disagree. But when people are actually fighting in a struggle and their victory would actually weaken reaction (U.S. imperialism) objectively, then at this time I'm perfectly willing to applaud their efforts.

My real priority is, of course, the emergence (at least in embryonic form) of a revolutionary movement in the U.S. -- and I think a victory by the Iraqi resistance is one of the "necessary pieces" that we need to "get off the ground" here.

As long as U.S. imperialism is "successful", we're screwed. But our ideas start to "make sense" to people when imperialism is defeated.
First posted at Che-Lives on December 14, 2004


Maybe you would just rather me call it something else then? Would that clear this whole thing up? Ok then, it's not a military, it's an Initial Defense Unit -- a portion of the workers militia who is designated to watch for incoming naval and air threats and respond to those threats by mobilizing the rest of the workers militia and combating those threats until that militia is mobilized.

Yes, that's better...perhaps every militia unit will do two weeks per year as "border patrol".

They'll be "full-timers" for a couple of weeks and then go back to their ordinary jobs.

And there'll be no professional officer corps at all...just people who've had more experience in the militia than younger members.

There'd be nothing you could point to and say "there's the army" and "there are the soldiers". There'd just be militia units in variable states of mobilization, depending on circumstances.

I could live with that.


Then I presume you don't think bloodshed is a necessary aspect of revolution.

Presumption is always risky.

I have no problem with killing as many of the forces of the class enemy as required to achieve victory. I do have a problem with people who are seeking or who think we should all be seeking "revolutionary martyrdom". They take unnecessary risks, engage in reckless "strategy", and may end up doing more harm than good.

Revolution should not be thought of as a "romantic adventure" followed by "glorious martyrdom".

To paraphrase General Patten, I don't want us to "die for the revolution", I want those other bastards to die for the capitalist reaction.
First posted at Che-Lives on December 14, 2004


This still seems like it would cause a certain abandonment of technology that requires a decent amount of training. Take pilots for example.

Yes, I think we will end up abandoning "high tech" military technology, for a whole number of reasons.

First, it's hugely expensive in America's own expenditures demonstrate.

Second, it's of dubious reliability, as America's experience has also shown.

Consider your example: pilots of presumably high-tech combat aircraft. Unless we are willing to devote approximately the same resources to developing and manufacturing such aircraft, our pilots are "dead men"...their inferior planes will be destroyed by the superior aircraft of the imperialists in hours.

On the other hand, it is relatively inexpensive to manufacture a ground-to-air missile that is very reliable, requires only a minimum of training ("point and shoot"), and can be stored in large numbers for an indefinite period of time.

In other words, I'm proposing a "military doctrine" that is very different from the "orthodox" doctrine of capitalist military experts. We will use "simple" weapons in very large numbers to repel an imperialist invasion -- because we are expecting to rely on most of the population for defense if necessary.

Instead of "set-piece" battles between large, disciplined armies, we will rely on hundreds and thousands of "small engagements" by units that act on their own initiative to attack at will, retreat, and attack again. Even kids and old women can pull the pin on a grenade and throw it at a passing military patrol by the imperialists.

Instead of "stomping" the enemy into submission, we will "nibble him to death" the Vietnamese did and as the Iraqis are doing now.

Not only does this "doctrine" effectively avoid the dangers of a large permanent military elite but it is known to work.

That makes sense to me.
First posted at Che-Lives on December 15, 2004
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