Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army
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|1.||The Most Serene Republic of Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent||Scandinavian Liberal Paradise||“Worthless is the freedom bought”|
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Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army Regional Message Board
Messages from regional members are co-ordinated here.
Don't you know that there is a poll? The only voters are Nikiforova and me
Voted for. Happy with how things will be going. Cheers. Tough balancing democracy and the inherent flakiness of playing persistent browser games :P
|Austral marine protection|
The Maritime branch of Austral Militias
hey guy's i want to volunteer novacoras in the army
|Plain country of gurira|
Sorry for the late reply, uhhh, havent checked this forum in a while. Being totally honest idk whos currently holding position, so...yeah. Might be better to ask in the FAC message board.
|The Seditious Circle of Sub Rosa Syndicate|
“Strict discipline combined with social equality”: Orwell on leadership in the Spanish militias. [An Excerpt]
In his essay, “Looking Back on the Spanish War,” George Orwell relates a brief but illuminating anecdote about life in a revolutionary army: “I was a ‘cabo’, or corporal, in command of twelve men,” he begins.
"One day a man suddenly refused to go to a certain post, which he said quite truly was exposed to enemy fire. . . . I seized hold of him and began to drag him towards his post. . . . Instantly I was surrounded by a ring of shouting men: ‘Fascist! Fascist! Let that man go! This isn’t a bourgeois army. Fascist!’ etc etc."
Elsewhere he concludes the story:
"After this, for some weeks or months. . . this kind of argument recurred over and over again, i.e. indiscipline, arguments as to what was justifiable and what was ‘revolutionary,’ but in general a consensus of opinion that one must have strict discipline combined with social equality."
The situation was typical of the militia system in Spain, at least from what Orwell saw of it, and it was a peculiarity of the type of war in which he was fighting.
Both the revolutionary aims of the war and the haste with which the Loyalist forces assembled themselves were evident in the militia system. At the beginning, the militias were made up entirely of volunteers, with little knowledge of firearms and no experience in combat. The division to which Orwell was assigned, for example, he described as “an untrained mob composed mostly of boys in their teens.” And their commanders were hardly more seasoned: “Men, who in private life were factory workmen, or lawyers, or orange growers, found themselves within a few weeks officers, commanding large bodies of men.” Nearly everyone on the Republican side was forced “to learn the art of war virtually by practice.”
“How on earth could the war be won by an army of this type?” he wondered.
The very organization of the militia seemed to encourage insubordination: “There were officers and N.C.O.s, but there was no military rank in the ordinary sense; no titles, no badges, no heel-clicking and saluting.” And in general “a man could choose which section he should belong to . . . [,] could also change to another bandera if he wanted to[,]” and could discharge himself from the armed forces at any time when he was due leave.
But, “considering the circumstances,” Orwell admits, “they were better troops than one had any right to expect.” Furthermore:
"it is a tribute to the strength of ‘revolutionary’ discipline that the militias stayed in the field at all. To until about June 1937 there was nothing to keep them there, except class loyalty. . . . A conscript army in the same circumstances—with its battle-police removed—would have melted away."
Whatever their shortcomings, this rabble—with their ill-fitting uniforms, ancient rifles, and their refusal to salute—held the line against the fascist advance while a regular army assembled and trained at the rear. Were it not for the militia volunteers, Franco would have marched across Spain practically unopposed, and the Republic would have fallen almost without a fight.
After about a year, the volunteer militias were either suppressed or else absorbed into the Communist controlled Popular Army, “modeled as far as possible on an ordinary bourgeois army, with a privileged officer-caste, immense differences of pay, etc etc.” This consolidation was explained at the time as a matter of military necessity, but it ultimately proved to be a kind of counter-revolution. As Orwell saw it,
"the undoubted purpose of the change was to strike a blow at equalitarianism. In every department the same policy has been followed, with the result that only a year after the outbreak of war and revolution you get what is in effect an ordinary bourgeois State, with, in addition, a reign of terror to preserve the status quo."
Whether the process of Army building is inherently counter-revolutionary, I am not sure, but there is a good case to be made. At the very least, it seems to be the logical consequence of putting the priority on the military aspects of the conflict rather than on the political dimension. The theory was that the war had to be won before the revolution could proceed, but in the event, militarization only insured that the revolution was over before the war was. Where untrained and ill-equipped workers had fought the fascists to a stalemate while simultaneously reorganizing society, the new Army, with its formal discipline and Soviet guns, abandoned the revolution and decisively lost the war.
Orwell was later convinced that the only way to win would have been to let the revolution proceed. He saw that the workers had fought, often against great odds, because they had seen the gains they had made and felt instinctively that they were worth defending. “For the Spanish militias, while they lasted, were a sort of microcosm of a classless society.” As he explained in Homage to Catalonia: “The essential point of the [militia] system was social equality between officers and men. Everyone from general to private drew the same pay, ate the same food, wore the same clothes, and mingled on terms of complete equality.”
By embodying the ideas of the revolution, making its aims something more than trite slogans or distant goals, the militia system put the whole relationship of rank, and the process of discipline, on an entirely new basis:
"In a workers’ army discipline is theoretically voluntary. It is based on class-loyalty, whereas the discipline of a bourgeois conscript army is based ultimately on fear. . . . When a man refused to obey an order you did not immediately get him punished; you first appealed to him in the name of comradeship."
This arrangement may sound idealistic, but Orwell argued, “In practice the democratic ‘revolutionary’ type of discipline is more reliable than might be expected.” And moreover, "The discipline of even the worst drafts of militia visibly improved as time went on.” His own experience in command gave him the opportunity to witness this change:
"In January the job of keeping a dozen raw recruits up to the mark almost turned my hair grey. In May for a short while I was acting-lieutenant in command of about thirty men, English and Spanish. We had all been under fire for months, and I never had the slightest difficulty in getting an order obeyed or in getting men to volunteer for a dangerous job."
This “gradual improvement in discipline,” he thought, “was brought about almost entirely by ‘diffusion of revolutionary consciousness’.” But this consciousness was not a matter of learning to think in Marxist slogans, or unquestioning adherence to the prevailing dogma. Instead it was developed through “endless arguments and explanations as to why such and such a thing was necessary.” Revolutionary discipline, in other words, was founded on principles exactly opposite those of normal military discipline.
Because the fighters understood what was at stake, and because they could see the ideals they fought for being realized, both in the larger society and in the militia itself, they were willing to accept discipline and follow orders. They would endure hardship and expose themselves to danger in part because the goal was a worthy one, but as importantly, because they could see that the risks and the sacrifices were shared, if not precisely equally, then at least among equals. Orwell would later reflect:
"Almost certainly the main reason why the Spanish Republic could keep up the fight for two and a half years against impossible odds was that there were no gross contrasts of wealth. The people suffered horribly, but they all suffered alike. When the private solider had not a cigarette, the general had not one either."
One should always be careful when drawing lessons from extraordinary circumstances. And it is important that we not romanticize the facts of revolutionary warfare:
"The essential horror of army life . . . is barely affected by the nature of the war you happen to be fighting in. . . . Bullets hurt, corpses stink, men under fire are often so frightened that they wet their trousers. . . . A louse is a louse and a bomb is a bomb, even though the cause you are fighting for happens to be just."
However, Orwell’s view of the Spanish militias seems to present several considerations that will be important to any organization trying to achieve both internal democracy and revolutionary discipline.
First, it is striking that what initially may appear to be the organizational weaknesses of the militia system—the challenging of authority, the refusal of automatic obedience, “the fact that you often had to argue for five minutes before you could get an order obeyed”—turned out, in fact, to be its real virtues. For these were deep expressions of the values for which the soldiers were fighting. They were the features that distinguished their army from the enemy’s. And so they were precisely the means by which loyalty was cemented and discipline ensured.
Second, the move toward military discipline and centralized authority was not a temporary expedient necessitated by the war. It signaled, instead, the political defeat of the revolution and may have accelerated the military defeat as well. By separating the aims of the war from the goals of the revolution, the Communist government greatly damaged public morale, undercut the basis for international working class solidarity, divided the left wing forces against one another, and eliminated any possibility of a revolt occurring behind Franco’s lines. “They made a militarised conscript army possible, but they also made it necessary.” This fact suggests, at the least, that we should be wary of sacrificing the democratic aspects of our organizations in the name of security, or to achieve some immediate tactical gain. Military victory cannot be bought at the expense of political defeat.
And finally, there is the insight that “orders had to be obeyed, but . . . when you gave an order you gave it as comrade to comrade and not as superior to inferior.” There is a quality to the relationship between comrades, as opposed to that between superior and subordinate, that changes what it means to issue, or receive, instructions. In such circumstances it matters very much whether we act from a sense of trust or out of fear; whether the order can be challenged and rationally defended; whether the context is one of mutual respect and shared sacrifice, or contrariwise, whether we treat each other as instruments rather than as an individuals.
A great deal depends on knowing the difference between a comrade and an apparatchik. The militia system managed to combine a respect for authority with a resistance to authoritarianism. The militia (as Orwell quickly learned) did not tolerate the bullying of troops by their commanders. It attached neither material incentives nor social privileges to promotion through the ranks. Though it depended on a combination of personal loyalty and political commitment to ensure discipline, it did nothing to discourage questioning orders or voicing dissenting opinions. In all these respects, the militia differed from a regular army—whether that army was controlled by fascists, Communists, or simply a bourgeois officer class—and further, the militia system worked as well as it did precisely because of those differences.
One problem that persists, even within radically democratic organizations, is the tendency to select leaders from among those groups already privileged in the larger society. The method of selection is almost a matter of indifference if, in the event, the same people tend to gain power. Orwell observed:
"In the POUM militia there was a slight but perceptible tendency for people of bourgeois origins to be chosen as officers. Given the existing class-structure of society I regard this as inevitable. Middle-class and upper-class people have usually more self-confidence in unfamiliar circumstances, and in countries where conscription is not in force they usually have more military tradition than the working class."
Leadership, of course, comes in many varieties and each type suggests something of the virtues required of those who exercise it. Characteristics laudable in a teacher, an advisor, or a facilitator will not always be the same as those required in an editor or a militia captain. Those who would serve in a position of command need to have, not only a grasp of strategy and the ability to make themselves understood, but also a sort of personal bearing that communicates, silently and effectively, that their instructions are to be followed. This personal quality is sometimes understood as charisma, but that is not quite right: effective leaders may be personally disliked and yet retain their sense of authority and respect. What the position requires, as Orwell suggests, is a kind of confidence—a decisiveness, a willingness to commit and take responsibility, and perhaps above all, an assumption that what one says matters and the expectation that it will be taken seriously. In the society we live in—stratified by race, class, gender, nationality, and so on—some people are trained to give orders almost from birth, and others are drilled in taking them. The means of instilling these lessons can be as subtle as the rules of etiquette or as blunt as a policeman’s club.
As Orwell observed, in his native England:
"A person of bourgeois origin goes through life with some expectation of getting what he wants, within reasonable limits. Hence the fact that in times of stress ‘educated’ people tend to come to the front; they are no more gifted than the others and their ‘education’ is generally quite useless in itself, but they are accustomed to a certain amount of deference and consequently have the cheek necessary to a commander. That they will come to the front seems to be taken for granted, always and everywhere."
Now, these habits of entitlement and deference, ingrained as they are into each of us, do not just go away because we become ideologically committed to equality. And what is worse, the difference is not merely one of outlook or perception; it is likely also to correspond to real differences in experience, and in the particular social skills needed to make one’s voice heard and to achieve compliance. These personal characteristics and interpersonal skills are even more important where coercive measures are unavailable or impractical—in other words, in an egalitarian organization rather than a rigid hierarchy, in a revolutionary militia rather than a traditional army.
There is no perfect answer for this problem. The ultimate solution naturally lies with changing society, so that inequalities based on race, gender, and so on disappear and cultural expectations about what leaders are like grow broader. In the short term, it may be that the best we can do will be to help encourage the qualities of leadership in all the members of our organizations, and take practical steps to help develop them. I believe that democratic practices, almost by definition, do much to help that process. But it is important that we all become more accustomed—simultaneously—to collective decision making, and to the exercise of responsible leadership when the duty falls to us, and to taking orders and following instructions as one aspect of our commitment to democracy. Strict discipline and social equality are not, in this sense, in opposition; the exercise of each relies on the other.
The important thing to note about such exercises in leadership is just how limited they are. Authority in these cases is contextual, it is contingent, and it is restricted to a fairly narrow sphere of competence. We must always be alert to keep it inside these bounds. We must guard against the danger of authority reaching beyond its justifications, or leadership ossifying into a permanent hierarchy. Of course structural checks, such as rotating roles and making leaders subject to immediate recall, go some distance to preserving the democratic character of the relationship. But the culture of our organizations is at least as important. Those who are in positions of responsibility, and those they direct, should always keep in mind exactly why they are in that position, what its purpose is and what its limits are.
Leaders cannot be allowed to insulate themselves from criticism, or to suppress disagreements; their position must always depend on the approval of their comrades, especially those they lead. They must not be above debate; instead, their position ought to invite debate. Likewise, no one should be allowed to use his position to accrue personal privileges or advance a private agenda. In a healthily functioning group, the surest way to lose leadership would be to abuse it.
It may be helpful in closing to recall Bakunin’s remark:
"Hostile as I am to the authoritarian conception of discipline, I nevertheless recognize that a certain kind of discipline, not authoritarian but voluntary and intelligently understood, is, and will ever be, necessary whenever a greater number of individuals undertake any kind of collective work or action. Under these circumstances, discipline is simply the voluntary and considered coordination of all individual efforts for a common purpose. At the moment of revolution, in the midst of the struggle, there is a natural division of functions according to the aptitude of each, assessed and judged by the collective whole: Some direct and others carry out orders. But no function remains fixed and it will not remain permanently and irrevocably attached to any one person. Hierarchical order and promotion do not exist, so that the executive of yesterday can become the subordinate of tomorrow. No one rises above the others, and if he does rise, it is only to fall back again a moment later, like the waves of the sea forever returning to the salutary level of equality."
There are times in all of our lives, even as we fight for our freedom, when we have to do things that we would rather not do, when we must act with imperfect information and even against our own inclinations, when we must serve as one part of a larger unit, and do so reliably if only because others rely on us. There are times when we must give things up, even things that are very dear, and we may not always know whether what we gain has been worth the price. And sometimes, what may be harder still, we may have to ask similar sacrifices of others.
|The Seditious Circle of Sub Rosa Syndicate|
A Day Mournful and Overcast. [Excerpts from...]
This text was written by a member of the Iron Column, a revolutionary militia active in the Spanish Civil War. It was written in response to the impending militarisation of the militias by the Republican government. This meant their reorganisation along the lines of a regular army, with all the hierarchies of rank and decision-making that this entailed. Militarisation was one of the key elements in the Stalinist consolidation of power over the working class and against the revolution.
"I am an escaped convict from San Miguel de los Reyes, that sinister prison, which the monarchy set up in order to bury alive those who, because they weren't cowards, would never submit to the infamous laws dictated by the powerful against the oppressed. I was taken there, like so many others, to wipe out an offence, namely for revolting against the humiliations to which an entire village had been subjected. In short for killing a political boss. I was young and still am young, because I entered the prison when I was twenty-three and was released, thanks to the anarchist comrades who opened the gates, when I was thirty-four. For eleven years I was subjected to the torment of not being a man, of being merely a thing, a number! Many prisoners who had suffered as I had from bad treatment received since birth, were released with me. Some of them, once on the street, went their own way. Others like myself, joined our liberators, who treated us like friends and loved us like brothers. With them we gradually formed the Iron Column, with them, at a mounting tempo, we stormed barracks and disarmed ferocious Civil Guards; and with them we rudely drove the fascists to the peaks of the Sierra, where they are now held."
"Instead of our being attended to, instead of our being aided and supported, we have been treated like outlaws, and accused of being "uncontrollable", because we did not subordinate the rhythm of our lives, which we desired and still desire to be free, to the stupid whims of those who, occupying a seat in some ministry or on some committee, sottishly and arrogantly regarded themselves as the masters of men, Also because, after expropriating the fascists, we changed the mode of life in the villages through which we passed - annihilating the brutal political bosses who had robbed and tormented the peasants and placing their wealth in the hands of the only ones who knew how to create it: the workers."
"One day - a day that was mournful and overcast - the news that we must be militarised descended on the crests of the Sierra like an icy wind that penetrates the flesh. It pierced my body a dagger, and I suffered, in advance, the anguish of the present moment."
"Reality and dreaming are two different things. It is good and beautiful to dream, for dreams are nearly always an intimation of what must be, but it is sublime to render life beautiful, to take life and fashion from it a true work of beauty."
"One day I happened to read, where or by whom I can no longer say, that one could not have an exact idea of the earth's roundness without having travelled around it, measured it, run ones hands over it, in short discovered it. Such a claim seemed ridiculous to me; however that short sentence so imprinted itself in my mind that now and again, during my forced soliloquies in the solitude of my cell, I came back to it. To the point that one day, as if I too had discovered something marvellous until then hidden to other men, I felt the joy of having discovered for myself that the earth was round. And on that day, like the unknown author, I travelled around, measured, and ran my hands over the earth, my imagination lit up with the "vision" of the earth turning in endless space, part of the universal harmony of the worlds. The same thing is true of pain. Pain must be weighed, measured, touched, tasted, understood, and discovered for the mind to have a clear idea of what it is."
"I have lived in barracks, and there I learned to hate. I have been in prison, and it was there, strangely enough, in the midst of tears and torment, I learned to love, to love intensely. In the barracks, I was on the verge of losing my personality, so severe was the treatment and the stupid discipline they tried to impose on me. In prison, after a great struggle, I recovered that personality, for every punishment made me more rebellious. There I learned to hate every kind of hierarchy from top to bottom; and in the midst of the most agonising suffering, to love my unfortunate brothers, though keeping my barracks-suckled hatred for hierarchy pure and untarnished. Prisons and barracks mean the same thing: tyranny and free rein for the evil instincts of a few, and suffering for everyone else. Barracks no more teach what is not injurious to bodily and mental health than prisons correct their inmates."
"As a result of this experience - honestly gotten, because I have bathed my life in pain - when in the distance, I heard murmurs of the militarisation order, I felt my body become limp, for I could see clearly that the guerrilla fearlessness I had derived from the Revolution would perish, that the being shorn of all personal attributes by prison and barrack life would continue in its stead, and that I would fall once again into the abyss of obedience, into the animal-like stupor to which both barrack and prison discipline lead. And, on the parapet, gripping my rifle in fury while I looked out over enemy and "friend", forward positions and rearguard, I cursed as I used to curse when they were dragging me to the Hole for rebelliousness, and deep inside I shed a tear like the tears that used to escape me, unobserved when I was in the throes of feeling my own powerlessness. And it was driven home to me that the self-righteous hypocrites who would like to turn the world into a barrack and a prison are the same ones - the same ones - the same ones who yesterday in the hole used to splinter our bones - the bones of men."
"Professional officers form, now and for all time, here and in Russia, a caste. They are the ones giving orders, while the rest of us are left with nothing but an obligation to obey. They hate with all their might anything connected with civilian life, which they consider inferior."
"The [militarised] proletarian army is not calling for the kind of discipline that would mean respecting war orders; it is calling for submission, blind obedience, and the obliteration of men as personalities. I experienced the exact same thing in the barracks. I experienced it again, later, in the prison."
"We used to live happily in the trenches. It is true that we saw comrades fall at our side who had been in the war with us from the beginning; furthermore, we were aware that at any moment a bullet might leave us stretched out in the middle of a field - the reward expected by a revolutionary - but we used to live happily. [...] Why? Because none of us was superior to the other, all of us were friends, all comrades, all guerrillas of the Revolution. The delegate of a group or century was not imposed on us, he was elected by us. He did not regard himself as a lieutenant or as a captain, but as a comrade. Nor were the delegates of the Committees or the Column colonels or generals; they were comrades. We used to eat, fight, laugh and swear together. For a while we received no pay, and they received nothing either. Later our pay was ten pesetas, and they too received, and still receive, ten pesetas. The one thing that we do accept from them is their proven ability, which is why they were chosen; they are also of proven bravery, which is why they are our delegates."
"[S]urrounded by comrades who believe that the struggle is for and about something, war seems gratifying and even death is accepted with pleasure. But when you find yourself surrounded by officers and everything is hierarchy and orders; when in your hands you hold the wretched soldier's pay, scarcely enough to support your family in the rearguard, while the lieutenant, captain, commander and colonel are all receiving three, four, ten times as much - without contributing one whit more enthusiasm, knowledge or courage - life has a bitter taste to it, for you realise that this is no Revolution, but a few individuals taking advantage of an unfortunate situation at the expense of the people."
"The [militarised] popular army, which has nothing popular about it except that the people form it, and this has always been the same in any case, does not belong to the people but to the Government and it is the Government that commands, it is the Government that gives orders. The people are allowed only to obey, as they are required to do always."
|The Seditious Circle of Sub Rosa Syndicate|
An Anarchist FAQ: Anarchists in the Russian Revolution.
In the Ukraine, anarchist ideas were most successfully applied. In areas under the protection of the Makhnovist movement, working class people organised their own lives directly, based on their own ideas and needs -- true social self-determination. Under the leadership of Nestor Makhno, a self-educated peasant, the movement not only fought against both Red and White dictatorships but also resisted the Ukrainian nationalists. In opposition to the call for "national self-determination," i.e. a new Ukrainian state, Makhno called instead for working class self-determination in the Ukraine and across the world. Makhno inspired his fellow peasants and workers to fight for real freedom:
"Conquer or die -- such is the dilemma that faces the Ukrainian peasants and workers at this historic moment . . . But we will not conquer in order to repeat the errors of the past years, the error of putting our fate into the hands of new masters; we will conquer in order to take our destinies into our own hands, to conduct our lives according to our own will and our own conception of the truth."
To ensure this end, the Makhnovists refused to set up governments in the towns and cities they liberated, instead urging the creation of free soviets so that the working people could govern themselves.
The Makhnovists argued that the "freedom of the workers and peasants is their own, and not subject to any restriction. It is up to the workers and peasants themselves to act, to organise themselves, to agree among themselves in all aspects of their lives, as they see fit and desire . . . The Makhnovists can do no more than give aid and counsel . . . In no circumstances can they, nor do they wish to, govern." [Arshinov] In Alexandrovsk, the Bolsheviks proposed to the Makhnovists spheres of action - their Revkom (Revolutionary Committee) would handle political affairs and the Makhnovists military ones. Makhno advised them "to go and take up some honest trade instead of seeking to impose their will on the workers."
They also organised free agricultural communes which "admittedly . . . were not numerous, and included only a minority of the population . . . But what was most precious was that these communes were formed by the poor peasants themselves. The Makhnovists never exerted any pressure on the peasants, confining themselves to propagating the idea of free communes. [Arshinov]" Makhno played an important role in abolishing the holdings of the landed gentry. The local soviet and their district and regional congresses equalised the use of the land between all sections of the peasant community.
The Makhnovists took the time and energy to involve the whole population in discussing the development of the revolution, the activities of the army and social policy. They organised numerous conferences of workers', soldiers' and peasants' delegates to discuss political and social issues as well as free soviets, unions and communes.
In addition, the Makhnovists "fully applied the revolutionary principles of freedom of speech, of thought, of the press, and of political association. In all cities and towns occupied by the Makhnovists, they began by lifting all the prohibitions and repealing all the restrictions imposed on the press and on political organisations by one or another power." [Arshinov] Indeed, the "only restriction that the Makhnovists considered necessary to impose on the Bolsheviks, the left Socialist-Revolutionaries and other statists was a prohibition on the formation of those 'revolutionary committees' which sought to impose a dictatorship over the people." [Arshinov]
The Makhnovists rejected the Bolshevik corruption of the soviets and instead proposed "the free and completely independent soviet system of working people without authorities and their arbitrary laws." [Arshinov] Their proclamations stated that the "working people themselves must freely choose their own soviets, which carry out the will and desires of the working people themselves, that is to say. ADMINISTRATIVE, not ruling soviets." Economically, capitalism would be abolished along with the state - the land and workshops "must belong to the working people themselves, to those who work in them, that is to say, they must be socialised."
The army itself, in stark contrast to the Red Army, was fundamentally democratic (although, of course, the horrific nature of the civil war did result in a few deviations from the ideal -- however, compared to the regime imposed on the Red Army by Trotsky, the Makhnovists were much more democratic movement).
|The Seditious Circle of Sub Rosa Syndicate|
The Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army is now disbanded.