Strategy for Revolution in 21st Century
Socialist Culture of War Its Relation to a Culture of Peace for the 21st Century


Marx and Engels:
Communist Manifesto

Civil War in France


Theory of History

Marx and Engels:
On Human Nature


Violence and the Origin of the State

Socialism: Utopian and Scientific

Marx, Engels, Lenin:
On Dialectics

What is to be done?


The State and Revolution

Lenin: War Communism

The Cultural Revolution

Left-Wing Communism

The American Revolutions

The French Revolutions

On Workers Control

On Religion

On the Arms Race

Militarization of Labor

Russian Revolution

The Women's Question

Role of Communist Party

On Violence

On the Army

On Women

Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution

Mao and Fidel:
Fall of the American Empire

Man and Socialism in Cuba

Hall and Winston:
Fighting Racism

National Liberation and Culture

Cabral: National Liberation and Culture

Nkrumah: Neo-Colonialism

From its birth in the 19th Century, the revolutionary strategy for socialism has been linked to the culture of war. Already, in the Communist Manifesto of 1848, Marx and Engels described revolutionary struggle as a form of warfare: "In depicting the most general phases of the development of the proletariat, we traced the more or less veiled civil war, raging within existing society, up to the point where that war breaks out into open revolution, and where the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie lays the foundation for the sway of the proletariat." They went so far as to consider violence as the "midwife of history."

Putting this into practice in the first successful socialist revolution, Lenin's strategy incorporated key aspects of the culture of war in the revolutionary movement, in particular enemy images, secrecy and authoritarian control.

As soon as it succeeded, the Russian Revolution was attacked from all sides by the imperialist powers and, under Lenin's direction the revolution was forced to institute "war communism." Under war communism, the principles of bourgeois democracy were suspended without an adequate transition to workers' democracy. This practice was criticized by Rosa Luxembourg, while Trotsky and later Stalin saw it as inevitable.

Lenin struggled to overcome war communism through a process of cultural revolution, but it did not come to pass. Instead, under the leadership of Stalin in the Soviet Union, and Mao Tse-Tung in China, socialist countries continued to be structured along the lines of the culture of war, authoritarian, secretive and male-dominated, with economic priority devoted to military production, use of the army for internal control in the physical sense, and enemy images for internal control in the psychological sense.

Eventually the Soviet Union collapsed because of its reliance on the culture of war. The priority given to military production devastated the civilian economy to the point that people could not obtain the goods and services they needed. Also, the economy was crippled by the command-administrative methods that are typical of military organization. As a Soviet economist explained at the time, "The glitter of [the war-time economic] miracle blinded us for decades, and the command-administrative methods of the extensively developing economy took firm root in the country."

In the end the Soviet economy could not overcome its growing imbalance of payments on an international level. As described on another page economic figures of the USSR and the US during the 1980's show clearly that the economy of the capitalist culture of war outperformed the economy of the socialist culture of war. Profiting from imperialism, U.S. capitalists made enormous "overseas profits, rising to $139 billion by 1989. And this does not include the profits made from the depression of commodity import prices which are engineered by imperialism. These were estimated at $65 billion in 1985 alone ... The Soviet Union, in contrast, structured their trade relations to benefit the other socialist countries ... This was most marked in Soviet trade with Cuba and Vietnam, but it could be seen as well in trade with Eastern Europe which received Soviet oil at below-market prices. A study by the RAND Corporation, linked to the CIA, and published in Science Magazine (The Costs of the Soviet Empire, Science 29 Nov 1985), estimated that the Soviet Union was losing $30 billion to $50 billion a year by the beginning of the 80s."

In the long term, imperialism will also collapse under the weight of its militarism, but it has shown that in the short-term it can out-last a socialist culture of war by profiting from exploitative economic relations.

In addition to economic factors, cultural factors played a major role in the Soviet collapse. The people were alienated by the authoritarianism, secrecy and propaganda of the culture of war. This is emphasized in Joe Slovo's analysis of the Soviet collapse. He argues that socialism, in order to survive, must develop a real democracy, including for "all citizens the basic rights and freedoms of organisation, speech, thought, press, movement, residence, conscience and religion; full trade union rights for all workers including the right to strike, and one person one vote in free and democratic elections."

The economic and the cultural factors that caused the Soviet collapse were two sides of one coin, the Soviet culture of war.

The Soviet collapse carries an important lesson for revolutionary strategy in the 21st Century. Creating new socialist cultures of war will not succeed over the long term. It is necessary to create a revolutionary socialist culture of peace.

To take part in a discussion about this page, go to the Discussion Board Forum on Culture of War:

discussion board


Revolutionary socialist culture of peace

Culture of War

Internal Culture of War

Culture of Peace

Education for nonviolence and democracy

Sustainable development for all

Human rights vs exploitation

Women's equality vs patriarchy

Democratic participation vs authoritarianism

Tolerance and solidarity vs enemy images

Transparency vs secrecy

Disarmament vs armament

Revolutionary leadership

Revolutionary organization

Proletarian Internationalism

National Liberation

Guerrilla Warfare


Agent Provocateurs

Communication systems

Psychology for revolutionaries

Capitalist culture of war

Socialist culture of war

Winning Conflict by Nonviolence

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More Sources

South African
Peace Process

Soviet Union
Disarmament Proposals

Soviet Collapse

Has Socialism Failed?

Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Ecology in Cuba

On Religion

Human Rights in South Africa

on Nonviolence

on Nonviolence

on Communism

Cuba's revolutionary medicine

People-power revolution in the Philippines