Revolution #224, February 6, 2011

The “Grand”—And Deadly—Illusion

“The army is with us!”

When a struggle gets to the point where state power itself comes into play, this cry almost always goes up among the people. Usually this happens when things are on a precipice, when things feel far out on a limb: the old power no longer has enough legitimacy to rule, but those forces who want really fundamental change lack the understanding, organization, and/or support to take power themselves. Meanwhile, the army senses, or is told, that the old governing force has outlived its usefulness to the actual powers-that-be. At that point, some “hero” from the army emerges who claims to listen to the people. And the people then flock under his wing.

It is not hard to see why this sentiment would spontaneously emerge. It is very hard for the people, even a revolutionary people, to overcome the violent repressive force of an army—even a poorly organized one, let alone a modern, fully equipped one. It would be easier if the army, or a section of the army, would “come over” to the people’s side. Even more to the point, people do not spontaneously understand the real nature of things, they do not spontaneously penetrate beneath the appearance of things to get to their essence. Thus, if the army has not previously been used against the people, or if someone emerges from the army promising to make reforms, and people do not have a scientific understanding, then they will fall into this trap.

But what IS the reality? What IS the essence of the matter? Armies are not neutral instruments. Armies are not machines that can be wielded equally well by everyone. Armies arose when society became divided into exploiter and exploited, in order to enforce that division and to enforce the will of the exploiters. Armies are created by certain classes, and they enforce the interests of those classes. In fact, in any and every system, the army is the chief institution through which the ruling class enforces its will. In modern society, armies do not and cannot represent the nation as a whole—they represent those classes who control the nation. In the Middle East, those classes are the imperialist powers of the West, along with the reactionary classes (the bureaucrat-capitalists, those who are based in feudal or semi-feudal exploitation of the peasants, etc.).

Very often, the army—even armies supposedly “forged in democratic or nationalist traditions”—will be directly unleashed against the people. This is what happened in Chile in 1973, where the Chilean army working under the baton of the American government and CIA staged a coup and murdered tens of thousands. It is what happened in Indonesia in 1965, where the army—again working under the baton of the CIA—staged a coup and in this case killed between half a million and a million people. And it has happened elsewhere as well. This lesson must be fully absorbed—it has literally been paid for in blood.

How then on some occasions does it happen that the army does not immediately crush the people?

At times the U.S. itself will counsel the army in a particular country to “pull back”—but this is usually a signal that the imperialists want to maneuver within the situation and do not want to risk at that time a full-out challenge to what is the pillar of ruling class rule.

Sometimes, army officers in the oppressed nations will stage a coup that displeases, or seems to displease, the rulers of the U.S. But even in these cases, the army does not act “above classes” or “for the people” or “for the nation”—no, for all the populist rhetoric and even, sometimes, the railing against imperialism, at bottom the army in these cases represents the interests of bourgeois class forces which feel held down by the current arrangement with the imperialists in their country, and who hunger for a bigger share in the exploitation of the people. Those among the people who swing behind the army in the hopes that it will represent the masses will soon find it instead representing one or another section of those who aim to exploit and oppress the masses. And sooner or later the “army heroes” of yesterday will come to terms with the same imperialist masters whose oppression drove people into rebellion in the first place. Conclusion? There can be no real liberation without the decisive defeat, and dismantling, of the stranglehold of political and ultimately military power that is exercised by the ruling class and its replacement with a new, revolutionary state power.

It is imperative that people cast away illusions, especially about something as central to the fate of their struggle as this. It is imperative that those who are getting into the struggle now do a “crash course” in the science of communism, which alone lays bare the real dynamics and motive forces of society—why things are the way they are, and how they can change. And there is no better place to start than the talk by Bob Avakian now being serialized in this paper and up on our website—Birds Cannot Give Birth To Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon.

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