Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History, Vol. 8 No. 2
AS the great Marxists reminded us, the state essentially consists of armed men standing in defence of property. And one of the most unfortunate by-products of modern technological development has been the increased power given to the state over its subjects, in terms of fire-power, surveillance, social control, speed of response and organisation. The expenditure involved in much of this technology is on such a scale as to accord the state a virtual monopoly in the use of it.
Obviously, the essential causes of any revolution lay in the development of society at the deepest levels of its class relations. But at the same time, it is no exaggeration to say that until a modern state has been defeated in a war with another like it, and its basic structure has been greatly disorganised, the chances of a successful uprising by its own people remain slim. If Charles I had not been defeated in the Bishop’s War, there would have been no Long Parliament and no English Civil War; the French Revolution of 1789 was preceded by the loss of France’s American and Indian colonies in the Seven Years War; without defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, there would have been no Paris Commune; the old order in Russia fell in 1917 because it could neither successfully fight its war, nor disengage from it; and moving to our own times, Caetano’s dictatorship in Portugal would not have been forced off the stage without the war it was losing to keep control of Angola and Mozambique.
It is therefore of vital interest to revolutionaries to make themselves aware of the social and political mechanisms that give rise to left-wing mutinies and revolts within the armed forces, even if the modern professional army is a far cry from the mass armies conscripted from the civilian population that are the subject of this issue of our magazine.
To be able to draw general lessons from these experiences, we have made our selection from as many different countries, periods and situations as it was possible to bring together under one cover. We hope that our readers will join with us in thanking our many contributors, as well as using our letters page to give us their own ideas, particularly as to what they think these general lessons are for the future struggle of the working class.
Since we planned this issue, the question of war has become more immediate than we could have foreseen. Without claiming that direct parallels can be made across space and time in these conflicts, we feel that it is all the more necessary that socialists should pay increased attention to the problems raised by the material presented here.
Updated by ETOL: 16.10.2011