On working with the Armed Forces (was Re: re.: Condor and Carlos)

Nestor Miguel Gorojovsky gorojovsky at SPAMinea.com.ar
Fri Jun 16 06:30:19 MDT 2000

En relación a re.: Condor and Carlos,
el 16 Jun 00, a las 0:23, Chris Brady dijo:

> That said, what I have
> read from our comrades in the Mercosur states is more than beginning
> to make sense.

Well, thank you Chris. I believe that your post goes the same way,
particularly when you understand our concerns within the general
framework of the red-black debate over class nature of the armed
forces.  This is the central issue at stake, that is to politicize,
and not to clean up of politics, the relationships between
revolutionaries and the pain-inflicting part of the cudgel that is
the State.

I mostly agree with your approach as to the relations between lower
ranks (is NCOs good English for that?) and the higher ranks. This is
a serious divide, and movements such as the "tenentismo" and the
rebellion of the sergeants in Brazil have shown its potential. In
Argentina, you can have examples of this divide in a different way.
When, during the 1860s and 70s the commercial bourgeoisie of Buenos
Aires in alliance with Great Britain succeeded in destroying the Old
Country -the country of the gauchos, that "povo novo" (this is an
interesting classification by Darcy Ribeiro) created by the fussion
of Spanish and Indian in what is Argentina today- the destiny of
those Argentinians to the root seemed to be a slow death. Mitre and
his "liberals" (in our Southern Cone sense) established that rift
between Nation and People that has so much caught your eye (by the
way, a keen eye indeed, that is a most important observation!).  They
set the framework for most of our history to this day, and an
essential part of that framework was that the Creole masses would
have no place under the Sun of that liberal Argentina.

A good deal of those doomed Argentinians simply found a hideaway in
the military service. Whether against the Indian, whether in the
Civil Wars, whether in the Paraguayan hell, they at least escaped the
monstruous fate that the Liberals had prepared for them ("No ahorre
sangre de gaucho" was the advice by Sarmiento to Mitre).  Of course,
they did not enter the ranks of officers. These were reserved to the
children of the petty bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie of that country.
Keep in mind, by the way, that under conditions of arrested
development of a self-centered capitalism, these classes usually find
no other way to make a living than the business of dying.

So that the Old Country, somehow, was injected into the very troops
that were used to destroy it. This injection gave a basis to the
counter coup of 1880, when the Tucumano General Roca began to
generate the conditions of modern Argentina, particularly by creating
a State that up to then could hardly be said to exist. In this
Argentina, it would be the European immigrants who would form the
higher classes (of course, old families would retain their
privileges), and the mass of humble, dark skinned Creoles would be
the lower toilers.

Things ran partly in agreement with that subconscious plan, partly
against it. The Europeans who came were "second class": not Anglo,
German or Scandinavian as expected, but Mediterranean -Spanish,
Italian, "Turks" (that is Arabs or Armenians coming from "Turkey")-
and Jews from Russia, with some Balkanic sprinkling of Greek and
Slav.  The Creoles did recede into the lowest layers of the new
society, however, as it was expected. But through two great political
movements, the Radicals of Hipólito Yrigoyen and Peronism, the divide
between these groups began to blur. It still exists, but the
virulence is not as great as in Anglo America. And the Argentinian
working class that came to life during the 1930s was a product of
both immigrants and Creoles, a new historical subject.

What does all this have to do with the Army?  Well, someone (don't
remember if Marx, Engels, Trotsky, Lenin or Mao, but certainly a big
wig) said once that the structure of the Army reflects the structure
of the society. This is true, at least for Argentina, in more senses
than one. The Argentinian army is also divided by this subtle rift
between "negro" and the children of migration. The higher ranks are
basically recruited among petty bourgeois classes, while the lower
ones are recruited among the "negros", such as it happened after the
1860-70 debacle. One of the supports of Peron within the Armed Forces
in the early 40s was a group of high officers (Sosa Molina is a name
I remember now) whose parents had been NCOs and had managed to give
their children a carreer at the high officer school. Peron himself is
said to have been the child of Dr. Perón and an Indian woman in the
Province of Buenos Aires.

So that the divide between lower and higher ranks is a basic trait of
our current Armies.  But this divide, which is IMHO the main line of
action for Marxists in a First World state is not the only one in a
Third World state, and under certain circumstances I would add that
it is not even the main one.

In a First World state, the high ranks of either the Administrative
branches or the Armed Forces make part of the ruling bourgeoisie.
They have, so to say, "a Nation of their own" to rule, and they do
integrate with their fellow rulers in the civilian world. The
astonishingly seamless union that can be perceived between high
executives and hign-ranking officers in the United States (partly a
by-product of World War II?) is one of the most blatant expressions
of this. They are all interested in keeping their "own" Nation
dominant. It is in this sense that, as the Manifesto runs, "workers
have no Nation": we have been "stolen" our Nations by these

But in a Third World country, the Nation is still something that
waits to be built. The ruling classes here do not share the strategic
interest of the high military in national defense. National defense
has a strict logic which, if followed, even reluctantly, brings you
to the need for industrialization, and to the basic need to have well
fed, well educated and happy people to man the war machine. None of
these can be accomplished under the conditions of a national defeat
(and one may well define every Third World country as a country in
chronic national defeat of varying degrees). There appears, thus, a
potential of conflict between the high officers and the local ruling
classes, which we must by no means neglect.

It is late now, but I hope I can go on with these sketchy lines

A hug, and, Chris, salud!,

Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
gorojovsky at inea.com.ar

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