Strategy for Revolution in 21st Century
Socialist Culture of War Its Relation to a Culture of Peace for the 21st Century

Sources

Marx and Engels:
Communist Manifesto

Marx:
Civil War in France

Marx:
Alienation

Marx:
Theory of History

Marx and Engels:
On Human Nature

Engels:
Anti-Dühring

Engels:
Violence and the Origin of the State

Engels:
Socialism: Utopian and Scientific

Marx, Engels, Lenin:
On Dialectics

Lenin:
What is to be done?

Lenin:
Imperialism

Lenin:
The State and Revolution

Lenin: War Communism

Lenin:
The Cultural Revolution

Lenin:
Left-Wing Communism

Lenin:
The American Revolutions

Lenin:
The French Revolutions

Lenin:
On Workers Control

Lenin:
On Religion

Lenin:
On the Arms Race

Trotsky:
Militarization of Labor

Luxemburg:
Russian Revolution

Zetkin:
The Women's Question

Mao:
Role of Communist Party

Mao:
On Violence

Mao:
On the Army

Mao:
On Women

Mao:
Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution

Mao and Fidel:
Fall of the American Empire

Guevara:
Man and Socialism in Cuba

Hall and Winston:
Fighting Racism

Fanon:
National Liberation and Culture

Cabral: National Liberation and Culture

Nkrumah: Neo-Colonialism


From its birth in the 19th Century, the revolutionary strategy for socialism has been linked to the culture of war. Already, in the Communist Manifesto of 1848, Marx and Engels described revolutionary struggle as a form of warfare: "In depicting the most general phases of the development of the proletariat, we traced the more or less veiled civil war, raging within existing society, up to the point where that war breaks out into open revolution, and where the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie lays the foundation for the sway of the proletariat." They went so far as to consider violence as the "midwife of history."

Putting this into practice in the first successful socialist revolution, Lenin's strategy incorporated key aspects of the culture of war in the revolutionary movement, in particular enemy images, secrecy and authoritarian control.

As soon as it succeeded, the Russian Revolution was attacked from all sides by the imperialist powers and, under Lenin's direction the revolution was forced to institute "war communism." Under war communism, the principles of bourgeois democracy were suspended without an adequate transition to workers' democracy. This practice was criticized by Rosa Luxembourg, while Trotsky and later Stalin saw it as inevitable.

Lenin struggled to overcome war communism through a process of cultural revolution, but it did not come to pass. Instead, under the leadership of Stalin in the Soviet Union, and Mao Tse-Tung in China, socialist countries continued to be structured along the lines of the culture of war, authoritarian, secretive and male-dominated, with economic priority devoted to military production, use of the army for internal control in the physical sense, and enemy images for internal control in the psychological sense.

Eventually the Soviet Union collapsed because of its reliance on the culture of war. The priority given to military production devastated the civilian economy to the point that people could not obtain the goods and services they needed. Also, the economy was crippled by the command-administrative methods that are typical of military organization. As a Soviet economist explained at the time, "The glitter of [the war-time economic] miracle blinded us for decades, and the command-administrative methods of the extensively developing economy took firm root in the country."

In the end the Soviet economy could not overcome its growing imbalance of payments on an international level. As described on another page economic figures of the USSR and the US during the 1980's show clearly that the economy of the capitalist culture of war outperformed the economy of the socialist culture of war. Profiting from imperialism, U.S. capitalists made enormous "overseas profits, rising to $139 billion by 1989. And this does not include the profits made from the depression of commodity import prices which are engineered by imperialism. These were estimated at $65 billion in 1985 alone ... The Soviet Union, in contrast, structured their trade relations to benefit the other socialist countries ... This was most marked in Soviet trade with Cuba and Vietnam, but it could be seen as well in trade with Eastern Europe which received Soviet oil at below-market prices. The CIA was well aware of this drain on the Soviet economy, and argued that it would eventually drive them bankrupt. Their contracting firm, the RAND Corporation, estimated that the Soviet Union was losing $30 billion to $50 billion a year by the beginning of the 80s."

In the long term, imperialism will also collapse under the weight of its militarism, but it has shown that in the short-term it can out-last a socialist culture of war by profiting from exploitative economic relations.

In addition to economic factors, cultural factors played a major role in the Soviet collapse. The people were alienated by the authoritarianism, secrecy and propaganda of the culture of war. This is emphasized in Joe Slovo's analysis of the Soviet collapse. He argues that socialism, in order to survive, must develop a real democracy, including for "all citizens the basic rights and freedoms of organisation, speech, thought, press, movement, residence, conscience and religion; full trade union rights for all workers including the right to strike, and one person one vote in free and democratic elections."

The economic and the cultural factors that caused the Soviet collapse were two sides of one coin, the Soviet culture of war.

The Soviet collapse carries an important lesson for revolutionary strategy in the 21st Century. Creating new socialist cultures of war will not succeed over the long term. It is necessary to create a revolutionary socialist culture of peace.

To take part in a discussion about this page, go to the Discussion Board Forum on Culture of War:
discussion board

Issues

Revolutionary socialist culture of peace

Culture of War

Internal Culture of War

Culture of Peace

Education for nonviolence and democracy

Sustainable development for all

Human rights vs exploitation

Women's equality vs patriarchy

Democratic participation vs authori- tarianism

Tolerance and solidarity vs enemy images

Transparency vs secrecy

Disarmament vs armament

Revolutionary leadership

Revolutionary organization

Proletarian Interna- tionalism

National Liberation

Guerrilla Warfare

Terrorism

Agent Provocateurs

Communica- tion systems

Psychology for revolution- aries

Capitalist culture of war

Socialist culture of war

Winning Conflict by Nonviolence


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More Sources

South African
Peace Process

Soviet Union
Disarmament Proposals

Soviet Collapse

Slovo:
Has Socialism Failed?

Freire:
Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Fidel:
Ecology in Cuba

Fidel:
On Religion

Mandela:
Human Rights in South Africa

King
on Nonviolence

Gandhi
on Nonviolence

Gandhi
on Communism