The military and the revolutionary state Chapter uri icon


  • © Cambridge University Press 2012. The rise to power of radical political groups in the early twentieth century in China, Russia, Italy, Germany, and Spain posed particular challenges to the military establishments in these countries. In analyzing these challenges, this chapter will focus on questions that Geoffrey Best has raised: “whose armed force really is it? Whose work is it doing? And to what social group or class’s idea is it answering?” The chapter will also pose several additional questions. How did revolutionary states view their armies? How did the regimes define the purpose of their armies? How did these armies view themselves in their service to the revolutionary states? And in what ways, if any, were the armies revolutionary? In all five countries, revolutionary states sought to take over existing armies or to create new ones, but in either case they sought to force them to do the work of the new government and to answer to the social group or class that had created the revolutionary party and the government. All the revolutionary regimes except Franco’s feared military institutions to a degree. In addition, the regimes in Germany, Nationalist Spain, and Italy sought to erase the autonomy of traditional military institutions, while regimes in the USSR, Communist China, and Republican Spain sought to prevent it. Simultaneously, all these armies sought at one time or another to create or protect their own institutional autonomy. Conversely, subverting the military’s autonomy, revolutionary regimes sought to harness the armed forces to their domestic social and foreign policies.

author list (cited authors)

  • Reese, R. R.

citation count

  • 0

Book Title

  • The Cambridge History of War

publication date

  • September 2012