The art of all-sided orientation has been learnt by our Party, step by step, from the first underground circles through all the subsequent development, with its interminable theoretical discussions, practical attempts and failures, advances and retreats, tactical disputes and turns. Revolutionary impatience became disciplined by scientific analysis of the historical process. The will to action became combined with self-control. Our Party learned to apply the Marxist method by acting and thinking. And this method serves our Party in good stead today While it can be said of the more far-sighted empiricists of British imperialism that they have a keyring with a considerable choice of keys, good for many typical historical situations, we hold in our hands a universal key which enables us to orientate ourselves correctly in all situations.
And while the entire supply of keys inherited by Lloyd George, Churchill and the others is obviously no good for opening a way out of the revolutionary epoch, our Marxist key is predestined above all to serve this purpose. We are not afraid to speak aloud about this, our greatest advantage over our adversaries, for it is beyond their power to acquire our Marxist key for themselves, or to counterfeit it.
We foresaw the inevitability of the imperialist war, and the prologue to the epoch of proletarian revolution. From scientific prediction of the further course of development we gained unconquerable confidence that history was working for us. This optimistic confidence has been and remains the foundation of all our activity. Marxism does not supply ready recipes. Least of all could it provide them in the sphere of military construction. But here, too, it gave us a method. For, if it is true that war is a continuation of politics, only by other means, then it follows that an army is the continuation and culmination of the entire social and state organisation, but with the bayonet to the fore.
But such an appraisal would be pedantically banal. The organisational form of the army was to be subordinated to the revolutionary strategy of manoeuvre: corps, divisions, even brigades, were declared to be formations that were too ponderous. In essence this was the ideology of guerrilla-ism just slicked up a bit. A holy war was proclaimed against the old regulations, because they were the expression of an outlived military doctrine, and against the new ones because they resembled the old ones too closely.
True, even at that time the supporters of the new doctrine not only failed to provide a draft for new regulations, they did not even present a single article submitting our regulations to any kind of serious principled or practical criticism. Our utilisation of officers of the old army, especially in positions of command, was proclaimed to be incompatible with the introduction of a revolutionary military doctrine; and so on and so forth.
As a matter of fact, the noisy innovators were themselves wholly captives of the old military doctrine. They merely tried to put a minus sign wherever previously there was a plus. All their independent thinking came down to just that.
We tried, especially in the beginning, to make maximum possible use of the habits, usages, knowledge and means retained from the past, and we were quite unconcerned about the extent to which the new army would differ from the old, in the formally organisational and technical sense, or, on the contrary, would resemble it.
We combined the old commanding personnel with the new, and only in this way did we achieve the needed result: the army proved capable of fighting in the service of the working class. In its aims, in the predominant class composition of its body of commanders and commissars, in its spirit and in its entire political morale, the Red Army differs radically from all the other armies in the world and stands in hostile opposition to them. As it continues to develop, the Red Army has become and is becoming more and more similar to them in formally organisational and technical respects.
Mere exertions to say something new in this field will not suffice. The Red Army is the military expression of the proletarian dictatorship. The trouble is, though, that the awakening of interest in military theory engendered at the outset a revival of certain doctrinaire prejudices of the first period — prejudices which, to be sure, have been given some new formulations, but which have in no way been improved thereby.
What is the Red Army? What are the historical tasks before it? Will it wage defensive or offensive revolutionary wars?
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It emerges that we created the Red Army, and, moreover, a victorious Red Army, but we failed to give it a military doctrine. So this army goes on living in a state of perplexity. To the direct question: what should this Red Army doctrine be? But this answer is purely formal. What we need to know is, what kind of doctrine do we lack? That is, what is the content of these new principles which have to enter into the programme for building the army?
And it is just here that the most confused muddling begins. One individual makes the sensational discovery that the Red Army is a class army, the army of the proletarian dictatorship. Another adds to this that, inasmuch as the Red Army is a revolutionary and international army, it must be an offensive army. A third proposes, with a view to this offensiveness, that we pay special attention to cavalry and aircraft.
It must be said, however, that, in these discoveries, some grains of sensible thought — not new, but correct — are smothered beneath the husks of verbiage. Let us not seek for general logical definitions, because these will hardly, by themselves, get us out of the difficulty. According to the old view, the foundations of military science are eternal and common to all ages and peoples. But in their concrete refraction these eternal truths assume a national character.
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Hence we get a German military doctrine, a French one, a Russian one, and so on. If, however, we check the inventory of eternal truths of military science, we obtain not much more than a few logical axioms and Euclidean postulates. All these truths, in this all-embracing formulation, go far beyond the limits of the art of war.
Yet it is unquestionable that this donkey munching oats has never read Clausewitz, or even Leer. War, the subject of our discussion, is a social and historical phenomenon which arises, develops, changes its forms and must eventually disappear. For this reason alone war cannot have any eternal laws.
But the subject of war is man, who possesses certain fixed anatomical and mental traits from which are derived certain usages and habits. Man operates in a specific and comparatively stable geographical setting. Thus, in all wars, in all ages and among all peoples, there have obtained certain common features, relatively stable but by no means absolute. Based on these features, an art of war has developed historically. Its methods and usages undergo change, together with the social conditions which govern it technology, class structure, forms of state power.
Into its composition there obviously enters or used to enter recognition of the need for maritime hegemony, together with a negative attitude toward a standing land army and toward conscription for military service — or, more precisely, recognition of the need for Britain to have a navy stronger than the combined navies of the next two strongest powers, and, what was made possible by that situation, the maintenance of a small army of volunteers.
Connected with this was the support of such an order in Europe as would not allow any one land power to obtain decisive preponderance on the Continent.
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Now, however, this situation has been completely disrupted. No-one has confidence in the stability of the new relation of forces. The power of the United States rules out the possibility of automatically maintaining any longer the dominant position of the British navy. It is at present too early to predict at the outcome of the Washington Conference will be.
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It has not yet been replaced by a new one. If we turn to the countries on the continent of Europe, even in the past epoch, we find that military doctrine assumes there a far less definitive and stable character. What constituted, even during the interval of time between the Franco-Prussian war of and the imperialist war of , the content of the military doctrine of France?
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Recognition that Germany was the hereditary and irreconcilable enemy, the idea of revanche , education of the army and the young generation in the spirit of this idea, cultivation of an alliance with Russia, worship of the military might of Tsardom, and, finally, maintenance, though not very confidently, of the Bonapartist military tradition of the bold offensive.
But the purely military elements of the French doctrine were very meagre. The war submitted the doctrine of the offensive to a rigorous test. After the first weeks, the French army dug itself into the ground, and although the true-French generals and true-French newspapers did not stop reiterating in the first period of the war, that trench warfare was a base German invention not at all in harmony with the heroic spirit of the French fighting man, the entire war developed, nevertheless, as a positional struggle of attrition. At the present time the doctrine of the pure offensive, although it has been included in the new regulations, is being, as we shall see, sharply opposed in France itself.
However, the rapid growth of capitalist wealth and of the population lifted the ruling circles, and above all the noble officer caste of Germany to ever greater heights. German militarism fell victim to its own unbridled offensive spirit. What follows from this? Furthermore, the so-called military doctrine — the formula for the military orientation of the ruling class of a given country in international circumstances — proved to be the more definitive, the more definite, stable and planned was the domestic and international position of that country, in the course of its development.