Revolutionary Discipline Re: Liu...

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Mon Mar 24 09:36:22 MST 2003

At 3:35 PM +0200 3/24/03, Michael Keaney wrote:
>a general point about revolutionary discipline

It's not possible to make a general point about revolutionary
discipline out of the story of one soldier who fragged officers in
the US military.  After all, the US military is not a revolutionary
military of citizen-soldiers but a standing army of volunteers,
collectively at service of the US empire, with a small exception of
individual refusers at present.

Here's an example from history that can tell us something about the
necessity and necessary difficulty of reconciling democracy (the rule
of the many -- the desire of revolutionaries) and expertise (often
concentrated in the hands of the few):

*****   ...But, at present [at the beginning of the French
revolutionary wars], the [French] army was hardly equipped to turn
them [innovative military strategies and tactics, new
field-artilleries, etc.] to good account: it had numbers and
enthusiasm, but it lacked co-ordination, discipline, supplies and
leaders.  The old aristocratic officers had been weeded out in their
hundreds by the troops themselves, civil war and mutiny had disrupted
whole regiments, and of a former officer corps of 9,000 only 3,000
retained their commands.  To fill the gaps in the regular army and in
response to new ideals, battalions of volunteers (some 100,000 in
all) had been recruited from the National Guards enrolled since July
1789.  These citizen-solders were full of patriotic devotion, were
comparatively well paid and elected their officers; but they had more
enthusiasm than discipline and training, the generals treated them
with contempt, and their privileged conditions of service enraged the
"regulars" and caused endless friction.  Such an army was no match
for the 70,000 trained and seasoned troops that Brunswick assembled
at the frontier; and Brissot's gamble, as we have seen, ended in
disaster.  An invading force, sent across the frontier towards
Tournai and Liege, fled in panic after its first encounter with the
enemy and fell back, with the bulk of the French army, towards Lille.
France was only saved from further catastrophe by the cautious and
traditional generalship of Brunswick, who failed to follow up his

It was, in fact, the weakness and divided counsels of her enemies
rather than her own internal strength that gave France an initial
breathing-space and the opportunity to snatch victory from defeat. By
the time of her first successes at Valmy and Jemappes in September
1792, the "Austrian Committee" had been removed, the monarchy had
been overthrown, Brissot and his band of garrulous generals (among
them Lafayette) had been cashiered or had deserted to the enemy, the
artillery had been improved, and greater numbers of volunteers had
been recruited, trained and equipped.  But the major problems still
remained: to merge the new citizen-soldiers with the old regulars in
a single national army; to extract the maximum military advantage
from the mass of citizens whom the Revolution made available for
service; to find and train an efficient and trustworthy corps of
officers; and to equip the army with a steady flow of the latest
weapons by harnessing industry to the needs of war....

(George Rude, _Revolutionary Europe, 1783-1815_, NY: Haper & Row,
1964, pp. 205-6)   *****

That's the sort of real "transformation problem" -- how to
democratize expertise and make democratic use of it, without losing
the war to reactionaries who seek to destroy the revolution -- with
which all revolutionaries must grapple.

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