No socialist revolution has ever taken place without a Red Army. The fight for communism cannot succeed without a Red Army, led by a communist party. During the unfolding of communist revolution, millions of workers and others will be won to the necessity of banding together in a cohesive form so that by force of arms they can finally defeat the capitalist class. Obviously, groupings of workers who are not united either politically or organizationally cannot succeed in defeating an enemy who is coordinated politically and organizationally.
As the revolutionary process goes forward, all workers loyal to the communist revolution will arm themselves. Tens of millions of armed workers will become the backbone of the Red Army. They will be the source of manpower for the Party's army, an army that grows out of the working class. After the triumph of the communist revolution, should the Red Army be disbanded? Should political power -- communist power -- won by the workers be maintained exclusively by bodies of armed workers? This question raises many other questions. Why would you disband the very instrument that was crucial to the seizure of political power? If the communist revolution triumphed in one country, wouldn't the bosses of other countries try to smash this revolution? Shouldn't workers of one area who have triumphed politically go to the aid of workers in other areas who are still fighting for communism? Or should we mechanically apply Lenin's thesis of not exporting revolution from one revolutionary area to another? If all workers are armed, and are formed into workers' militias after the revolution, is this sufficient for the maintenance of political power in one area? Are militias adequate for energetically supporting the revolutionary process in other areas?
Militias of armed workers are very good. Surely they are vital to securing and consolidating workers' power after the victory of the dictatorship of the proletariat. But, sticking solely to this form limits communists to defensive warfare. Workers need the ability to move swiftly and decisively with armed might, to be able to go on the offensive against attack from the bosses. Similarly, workers need to be prepared to go anywhere on the face of the earth to aid the forces of revolution. To be on the offensive requires preparation, planning, coordination, supplies, forces, weapons, etc. These are the characteristics of an army; in this case a Red Army.
But it is often said that an army is a reactionary thing, or that an army is bound to be used by the party to suppress workers. Well, then, it is not an army that we are worried about, but the party, any party. While it is valid to be worried about the political purity of the party, the answer to that question can't be not to have the party at all! This type of anarchism plays right into the hands of the bosses. As long as they can maintain workers' cynicism about workers' ability to control their destinies, the bosses are safe. Consequently, the bosses would be in clover if workers could not field significant military forces. Workers, who are denied the ability to go on the offensive, or to move swiftly from front to front to buttress besieged militias, would be duck soup for their class enemies. Workers who voluntarily consign themselves to defensive tactics are workers who can't win, or who are afraid of victory. During the period of the Paris Commune, workers sat behind fixed barricades as the French bosses, backed by German troops, and marched on Paris. The workers had no organized army to march out and attack the enemy before they reached Paris; the defensive barricades were breached and the workers were slaughtered. Seventy years later, French troops, led by French capitalists, sat behind the famous Maginot line, which was supposed to be impregnable, and, to withstand any Nazi attack. The Nazis went around it instead, and in days it was captured.
During World War II, the Soviet Union developed the necessary strategy and skills to crush the invading Germans. They used a combination of "scorched earth" tactics, guerrilla warfare behind Nazi lines, and strategic retreats that protected reserves and sapped the enemy’s strength. These tactics enabled the Red Army to go on the offensive. Finally the Germans were defeated by offensive warfare combining all of these tactics. The Nazis were not defeated by millions of workers sitting behind barricades without clear leadership or strategies. When previous revolutions went bad, it was not because the army was in some mystical way reactionary. It was because the policies of the communist party were inadequate to hold power. Politics, not organization, was the primary cause. This political question, the question of line, is crucial -- without the correct line and leadership from the party, an armed working class could be as reactionary as any army! If the workers of Poland were all armed to the teeth under the leadership of Solidarity, would that have meant communism? No! It would have only meant the replacement of the pro-Moscow fascist government by a pro-Washington fascist government. Suppose the KKK succeeded in arming millions of workers in this country organized around their line - would that result in communist revolution?
A Red Army that is incorporated into the party structure, and led by the party (not all that different from what we are trying to do in our military work, which we describe as steps toward a Red Army) must be drawn from the armed working class – which is loyal to the revolution. Its ranks must constantly be replenished from the working class. Many lessons from other Red Armies could be drawn on. For example, the Chinese People's Liberation Army often harvested and did other work when needed. It had strict codes for keeping positive relations with the workers and peasants. During the Korean War, PLA volunteers went into North Korea to aid the working class there and to prevent a U .S. invasion of Manchuria. It is hard to imagine that that could have been done without a Red Army. Further, the Red Army, combined with millions of armed workers organized in militias, succeeded in keeping the U.S., and later the Soviets, at bay. While no experiences are perfect, many things can be learned from all of them.
Of course, our Red Army would operate with no rank, privileges or wages. It would function like other sections of the party and mass organizations under the Party's leadership. Both the Soviet Red Army and the PLA used the tactic of winning over the enemy soldiers politically. This was done by agitation, often before battle, fraternization, penetration and winning over prisoners. We should emphasize this tactic.
After we take power, attempts to reverse the dictatorship of the proletariat from within and without will continue and increase. A Red Army will be crucial for the working class to hold power. Armed might, coupled with the politicization of millions of workers under the leadership of the party, will be necessary if the working class is to prevail.