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Lenin - on Standing ArmyLenin vs Trotsky , on Standing Army
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In politics nothing is coincidental but a reflection of an ideology in one way or another. No matter how much the core ideology is masked, the actions will inevitably show the indications and bring the mask down and expose the real ideology behind it. From the time of split as Bolsheviks and Mensheviks in 1903, the opposition to the insurrection, opposition to the party, treatment of Military Commissars and favoring Tsarists officers, the "August Bloc", "Trotsky-Zinoviev Bloc", collaborating with the fascists and imperialists in different capacities in China, Vietnam, Spain and other places was never a coincidence but an inevitable path of Trotsky's 'ideology.
As Stalin asks;
"Is it an accident that Trotsky who, after the Revolution made his way into the ranks of our Party, slipped up and adopted a counter-revolutionary Menshevik position and was thrown out beyond the borders of our state, beyond the borders of the Soviet Union?"
Vyshinsky actually responded to this question at the court;
"It is not an accident because prior to the October Revolution as well, Trotsky and his friends fought against Lenin and Lenin's Party as they fight now against Stalin and the Party of Lenin and Stalin.”
The fact is that Trotsky never believed in the possibility of Socialism, not only in one country, but socialism in general since there is no possibility of a world revolution at one leap, at one strike. Trotsky believed in Military dictatorship of an elite group, not as much different than that of Mussolini's or Hitler's with exporting “revolutions” in mind. For Trotsky working class is a means to the military dictatorship of elite not the dictatorship of working class.
Although years later he revised in words only, but not indeed, here what he says:
“In its real significance, a revolution is a fight for control of the State. That rests directly on the Army. This is why all revolutions in history sharply raised the question: on whose side is the army? And one way or another, in every case, this question had to be answered.” Leon Trotsky, The Young Turks, (P81)
Without twisting his words, two of these remarks are crucial as far as Marxist Leninists are concerned; 1) revolution” rests directly on the Army" and 2) “whose side is the army".
If we talk about an army, and mentioning the "side" it will take, we are, without any doubt, talking about an existing standing army and literally saying that the success of a revolution "rests directly on this Army".
Let’s start with what is an Army in view of Marxism Leninism
As far back as to 1899, Rosa Luxemburg was saying;“The most general standpoint upon which Schippel bases his defense of militarism is his belief in the necessity of this military system. Using all possible arguments of a technical, social and economic nature, he demonstrates the absolute necessity of a standing army. And from a certain point of view he is quite correct. A standing army and militarism are indeed indispensable – but for whom? For the present-day ruling classes and the contemporary governments. Now what can one conclude from this other than that, from the class standpoint of the present government and ruling classes, doing away with the standing army and introducing the militia, i.e. arming the people, must appear to be an impossibility, an absurdity?” Rosa Luxemburg, The Militia and Militarism (P18)
And same year James Connolly was saying;
“A standing army anywhere, in any country, is first of all unnecessary; secondly, a tool in the hands of oppressors of the people” James Connolly, ‘Soldiers of the Queen’, (1899)
To the question of What is an army? Lenin responds;
" A standing army and police are the chief instruments of state power..... The centralized state power that is peculiar to bourgeois society came into being in the period of the fall of absolutism. Two institutions are most characteristic of this state machine: the bureaucracy and the standing army. In their works, Marx and Engels repeatedly show that it is the bourgeoisie with whom these institutions are connected by thousands of threads." Lenin, The state and revolution“We cannot, unless we have become bourgeois pacifists or opportunists, forget that we are living in a class society from which there is no way out, nor can there be, save through the class struggle. In every class society, whether based on slavery, serfdom, or, as at present, wage-labor, the oppressor class is always armed. Not only the modern standing army, but even the modern militia—and even in the most democratic bourgeois republics, Switzerland, for instance—represent the bourgeoisie armed against the proletariat. That is such an elementary truth that it is hardly necessary to dwell upon it.” Lenin, The Military Programme of the Proletarian Revolution (P110)
Reading Trotsky's remarks, he is resting the success of a revolution on the "question of "whose side the army" will be, an army which Lenin describes as a "parasite" on the body of bourgeois society. "
What do Marxist Leninists do with Army?
“The capitalists now have directed all their efforts at making the Russian republic as much like a monarchy as possible so that it might be changed back into a monarchy with the least difficulty (this has happened time and again in many countries). For this purpose, “says Lenin, “the capitalists want to preserve the bureaucracy, which stands above the people, to preserve the police and the standing army, which is separated from the people and commanded by non-elective generals and other officers. And the generals and other officers, unless they are elected, will almost invariably be landowners and capitalists. That much we know from the experience of all the republics in the world.
Our Party, the party of class-conscious workers and poor peasants, is therefore working for a democratic republic of another kind. We want a republic where there is no police that browbeats the people; where all officials, from the bottom up, are elective and displaceable whenever the people demand it, and are paid salaries not higher than the wages of a competent worker; where all army officers are similarly elective and where the standing army separated from the people and subordinated to classes alien to the people is replaced by the universally armed people, by a people’s militia.” Lenin, An Open Letter to the Delegates to the All-Russia Congress of Peasants’ Deputies (P144)
Trotsky not only suggests the cooperation with the army but reconstructing and "partly" dismissing the army. Here what he says;
“To establish revolutionary cooperation with the army, the peasantry, and the plebeian lower strata of the urban bourgeoisie. To abolish absolutism. To destroy the material organization of absolutism by reconstructing and partly dismissing the army. Leon Trotsky, Our Revolution, The Soviet and the Revolution (P81)
Lenin, however, speaks of the "abolition" of the standing army and "arming the people." Here what Lenin says;
". . . The first decree of the Commune . . . was the suppression of the standing army, and the substitution for it of the armed people." This demand now figures in the program of every party claiming the name of Socialist."The Commune," Marx wrote, "made that catchword of bourgeois revolutions, cheap government, a reality, by destroying the two greatest sources of expenditure -- the standing army and State functionarism." Lenin, “The State and Revolution”, With what is the smashed state machine to be replaced?( P178)
The question of army is not separated from the question of state. State apparatus needs to be smashed, all other institutions need to be wrested from the capitalist control, for the use and benefit of the new. Trotsky looks at the question differently. His admiration for army goes so far as that the insurrection was against the commanding army staff not to Monarchy, and if the "bad apples" in the army are cleaned, the army, serving the society, could be revived.
“In the minds of the soldiers the insurrection against the monarchy was primarily an insurrection against the commanding staff.
An army is always a copy of the society it serves – with this difference, that it gives social relations a concentrated character, carrying both their positive and negative features to an extreme.
The ill-will and friction between the democratic and aristocratic officers, incapable of reviving the army, only introduced a further element of decomposition. Even many fighting officers, those who seriously cared about the fate of the army, insisted upon the necessity of a general clean-up of the commanding staff.” Leon Trotsky, The History of the Russian Revolution, Volume One: The Overthrow of Tzarism (P190)
Lenin however finds this approach of not replacing but a “general clean-up” as a deception and trick in the service of bourgeoisie.
“The minimum programme of the Social-Democrats calls for the replacement of the standing army by a universal arming of the people… it is most urgent and essential that there be a universal arming of the people. To assert that, while we have a revolutionary army, there is no need to arm the proletariat, or that there would “not be enough” arms to go around, is mere deception and trickery. The thing is to begin organising a universal militia straight away, so that everyone should learn the use of arms even if there is “not enough” to go around, for it is not at all necessary that the people have enough weapons to arm everybody. The people must learn, one and all, how to use arms, they must belong, one and all, to the militia which is to replace the police and the standing army…..
The workers do not want an army standing apart from the people; what they want is that the workers and soldiers should merge into a single militia consisting of all the people. Failing this, the apparatus of oppression will remain in force…, Replacement of the old organs of oppression, the police, the bureaucracy, the standing army, by a universal arming of the people, by a really universal militia, is the only way to guarantee the country a maximum of security against the restoration.
Public service through a police force standing above the people, through bureaucrats, who are the most faithful servants of the bourgeoisie, and through a standing army under the command of landowners and capitalists—that is the ideal of the bourgeois parliamentary republic, which is out to perpetuate the rule of Capital.
Public service through a really universal people’s militia, composed of men and women, a militia capable partly of replacing the bureaucrats—this, combined with the principle of elective office and displaceability of all public officers, with payment for their work according to proletarian, not “master-class”, bourgeois standards, is the ideal of the working class.” Lenin, A Proletarian Militia (P139)
Countering the bourgeois demand of keeping or “cleaning-up of the standing army under the command of landowners and capitalists, Lenin explaining the soldiers demands and intentions states;
“The soldiers do not want to keep out of politics. The soldiers do not agree with the Cadets. The soldiers are advancing a demand that obviously amounts to the abolition of the caste army, of the army that is isolated from the people, and its replacement by an army of free and equal citizens. Now this is exactly the same thing as the abolition of the standing army and the arming of the people.
They are demanding freedom of assembly and of association for soldiers “without the consent or presence of officers”. Lenin, The Army & the People (P63)
In connection with that, defends arming of people;
“the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party advances as its immediate political task the over throw of the tsarist autocracy and its replacement by a republic based on a democratic constitution that would ensure: general arming of the people instead of maintaining a standing army;” Lenin, Material for the Preparation of the Programme of the R.S.D.L.P. January-April 1902, Collected Works, Volume 6, pages 17-78."The Soviets are a new state apparatus which, in the first place, provides an armed force of workers and peasants; and this force is not divorced from the people.. From the military point of view this force is incomparably more powerful than previous forces; from the revolutionary point of view, it cannot be replaced by anything else." Lenin Can the Bolsheviks retain the Power? (P184)Trotsky says;
“Territorial-economic districts must form the basis both of the Soviet territorial-administrative system (region, province, uyezd, volost) and of the local military organs (commissariats), in the course of the gradual transition from the standing army to the militia.” Trotsky, The Transition to Universal Labour Service
“Everywhere, in all countries, the standing army is used not so much against the external enemy as against the internal enemy. Everywhere the standing army has become the weapon of reaction, the servant of capital in its struggle against labour, the executioner of the people’s liberty. Let us not, therefore, stop short at mere partial demands in our great liberating revolution. Let us tear the evil up by the roots. Let us do away with the standing army altogether…. The experience of Western Europe has shown how utterly reactionary the standing army is.” Lenin, The Armed Forces and the Revolution (P29)
“We are in favour of a people's republic, without a standing army, bureaucracy, or police force. In place of a standing army we demand a national guard with elected commanders.” Stalin, The Constituent Assembly elections, July 27, 1917
Another staunch Trotskyite, General Tuchachevky spells out the Trotskyite, anti-Marxist view of “exporting of revolution by force, by means of war”. During the heated discussions between the supporters of the militia system and the advocates of a standing army, the chief spokesman for the standing army was Tuchachevsky. He published a polemic entitled “The Red Army and the Militia” in January 1921, in which he states;
“The adherents of the militia system take absolutely no account of Soviet Russia’s present military mission of disseminating socialist revolution throughout the world. The rich varieties of socialist life and the socialist revolution cannot be forced into any particular framework. They will spread irresistibly over the whole world, and their expanding force will endure so long as there is a bourgeoisie left anywhere.
“What is the way in which they will best achieve their aims? It is the way of armed insurrection within every state, or the way of armed socialist attacks on bourgeois states, or a combination of both ways. No one can make definite prophecies, for the course of the Revolution will show us the right way. One thing, however, is certain: if a socialist revolution succeeds in gaining power in any country, it will have a self-evident right to expand, and will strive to cover the whole world by making its immediate influence felt in all neighboring countries. Its most powerful instrument will naturally be its military forces.
“The structure of an army is determined on the one hand by the political aims it pursues and on the other by the recruiting system it employs.” Tuchachevsky, The Red Army and the Militia
For Marxist Leninists, the question of exporting revolution by force or otherwise is fundamentally anti-Marxist not even worth to debate.
Going back to March 1848, at a meeting of German Workers’ Club in Paris, Marx opposes the adventurist “export of revolution” planned by the petty-bourgeois leaders of the German migrants in Paris. These quotes below should suffice to comprehend the Marxist Leninist attitude.
Engels;“One thing alone is certain: the victorious proletariat can force no blessings of any kind upon any foreign nation without undermining its own victory by so doing. Which of course by no means excludes defensive wars of various kinds.” Engels to Karl Kautsky In Vienna, 12 September 1882Lenin;“There is one, and only one, kind of real internationalism, and that is—working whole-heartedly for the development of the revolutionary movement and the revolutionary struggle in one’s own country, and supporting (by propaganda, sympathy, and material aid) this struggle, this, and only this, line, in every country without exception. Everything else is deception and Manilovism.” Lenin, The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our RevolutionStalin;“The export of revolution is nonsense. Every country will make its own revolution if it wants to, and if it does not want to, there will be no revolution.” Interview Between J. Stalin and Roy Howard
Marxist Leninists do not expect and rely on the Army switching sides for the revolution. The success of the revolution depends largely on the revolutionary activity and the ability of the vanguard Party and the proletariat to organize and ally themselves with great masses of the other exploited and oppressed groups and classes of the population. Revolutionary activity does not exclude working among the soldiers, since most of them belong either to the poor peasants or the middle strata. As Stalin puts it;
” The question of the middle strata is undoubtedly one of the basic questions of the workers' revolution… these are the strata whose economic status puts them midway between the proletariat and the capitalist class… they constitute the important reserves from which the capitalist class recruits its army against the proletariat. The proletariat cannot retain power unless it enjoys the sympathy and support of the middle strata, primarily of the peasantry.. The proletariat cannot even seriously contemplate seizing power if these strata have not been at least neutralized, if they have not yet managed to break away from the capitalist class, and if the bulk of them still serve as the army of capital.” Stalin, The October Revolution and the Question of the Middle Strata
Marxists, in addition to Party’s military cadres, arm the people and do not call on Army but soldiers, troopers. December 1905 Bolshevik Leaflet states; “Strictly differentiate between your conscious enemies and your unconscious and accidental enemies. Destroy the former and have mercy on the latter. If, possible do not bother the infantry. Soldiers are the children of the people and do not go against the people by their own will. The officers and the higher leadership set them on the people. Direct your energies against these officers and authorities. Every officer leading soldiers to beat workers proclaims himself an enemy of the people and puts himself outside the law. Kill him unconditionally.” Combat Organization of the Moscow Committee of the RSDLP (P 34)
As does Trotsky not in so many words but indeed, the bourgeoisie likes to describe any revolutionary uprising as something artificial, a military “putsch”, and try to minimize the power of working masses. In reference to 1905 uprising, countering such arguments, Lenin says; “In reality, the inexorable trend of the Russian revolution was towards an armed, decisive battle between the tsarist government and the vanguard of the class-conscious proletariat.” Lenin, Lecture on the 1905 revolution, January 9,1917
Neither Trotsky’s relying on the switching of standing army for the success of revolution, nor Tuchachevsky’s statement of “exporting of revolution” is accidental. As history has proven that it was an inevitable path derives from the ideology. It is not an accident but the reflection of ideology in practice, regardless of how skillfully disguised with Marxist Leninist phrases.
Army’s switching side as the determining factor where the success of “revolution” rests directly on it, in fact corresponds to the concept of military “putsch”. “The term “putsch”, in its scientific sense, “says Lenin, “may be employed only when the attempt at insurrection has revealed nothing but a circle of conspirators or stupid maniacs and has aroused no sympathy among the masses.” Giving example of Irish rebellion Lenin notes;
“So, one army lines up in one place and says, “We are for socialism”, and another, somewhere else and says, “We are for imperialism”, and that will be a social revolution! Only those who hold such a ridiculously pedantic view could vilify the Irish rebellion by calling it a “putsch”. Lenin: The Discussion on Self-Determination Summed Up
An army in any given country is the chief instruments of state power. From top down all the officers controlling the army either a part of the ruling class or well-paid and receiving their lion share from the exploitation of natural resources and of laboring masses. To rest the success of revolution on the “switching side “of army, and to speak about cooperation with army, and after the revolution “cleaning up “the bad apples and keeping the army cannot be proposed by a Marxist Leninist, but by a bourgeois. Marxist Leninists abolish the standing army and arm the people, set up revolutionary army in the process.
E.A 2019Updated 2020
ContentsIntroduction - P4Rosa Luxemburg, The Militia and Militarism, (1899) - P18Lenin, To the Rural Poor 1903 – P24Lenin, The Armed Forces and the Revolution 1905 – P29Bolshevik Leaflet - Instructions on Guerrilla warfare – P 34Lenin, Report on the Unity Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. 1906 -P 38Lenin, The Army and the People, 1906 – P63Lenin, The Proletariat & its Ally in the Russian Revolution 1906 – P67Trotsky, Our Revolution 1907 – P81Lenin, The Agrarian Programme of Social-Democracy in the First Russian Revolution, 1905-1907, December 1907 – P88Lenin, The Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. 1908 – P 97Trotsky, The Young Turks – P98Lenin, The Bourgeoisie and Peace 1913 – P108Lenin, The Military Programme of the Proletarian Revolution, 1916 - P110Lenin, Speech Delivered at a Meeting of Soldiers of the Izmailovsky Regiment April 10, 1917 – P 114Lenin, The Petrograd City Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. (Bolsheviks), April 14–22, 1917 – P117Lenin, Congress of Peasants’ Deputies, April 16, 1917 – P119Lenin, The Seventh (April) All-Russia Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. (B) April 24–29, 1917 – P124Lenin, Our Views, May 1, 1917 -P133Lenin, A Proletarian Militia May 3, 1917 – P139Lenin, An Open Letter to the Delegates to the All-Russia Congress of Peasants’ Deputies, May 17, 1917 - P144Lenin, They Have Forgotten the Main Thing, May 18, 1917 – P150Lenin, A Regrettable Deviation from the Principles of Democracy, May 25, 1917 – P155Lenin, From Political Parties in Russia and the Tasks of the Proletariat, July 1917 – P158Lenin, The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution, (Draft Platform for the Proletarian Party), September 1917 – P160Lenin, The State & Revolution, The Revolution Summed Up – P165Lenin, The State and Revolution - Special Bodies of Armed Men, Prisons, etc. – P 173Lenin, The State and Revolution, with what is the smashed state machine to be replaced? – P178Lenin, Can the Bolsheviks Retain State Power? October 1917 – P184Trotsky, The History of the Russian Revolution – P190