Saturday, February 18, 2006

Russia's Army of Slaves

I blogged here a year ago about the new trend in privatization, that of the use of mercenaries, so called contractors, in the War in Iraq.

It's a new phase of war and the advent of the Market State that
Phillip Bobbit writes about which is why his quote runs in my side bar;

A state that privatizes most of its functions will inevitably defend itself by employing its own people as mercenaries.

This is occuring in Russian today as well. It is one of the side effects of the introduction of capitalism, sans democracy, into an authoritarian state.

Russian officer hired out troops for slave labour

Kontonistov was deputy commander of a division of the Strategic Rocket Forces in Siberia's Novosibirsk region, a unit that services Russia's nuclear missiles. He hired out his troops to local businesses, according to Interfax news agency, a practice believed to be commonplace in an army in which poorly paid officers say they have to find ways to supplement meagre incomes.

In the West we call this a Private-Public-Partnership, P3's.

The rest of the article goes on to discuss the fact that the Russian 'conscript' army is a horror show of abuse. Something Russian Mothers have been saying for almost twenty years now.

The cases have drawn attention once again to the wretched conditions suffered by military conscripts. All Russian men are supposed to serve two years in the military between the ages of 18 and 28. Reports of brutal initiation ceremonies and bullying are common.

Conscription in Russia has existed since the days of the Tzar, with only a few breaks.It did not begin with Stalin as some on the right like to assert using him as their boogyman. It began under the Tzar.

The Bolsheviks did not allow a conscript army, rather they formed the volunteer Red Army. Conscription did not come even with the invasion by the Western Expeditionary Forces, which included Canada, at the end of WWI.

The Soviet Military Experience : A History of the Soviet Army, 1917 - 1991

Roger Reese's book covers the entire period of the Soviet Army's existence, from it's revolutionary birth in 1917, until it's counter revolutionary demise in 1991. Reese analyses how the Soviet Army was intended to be unlike no other army ever previously conceived, made up of volunteers and loyal party supporters with the aim of being a tool of political expression for the party as much as a military force. He also shows how idealistic considerations for the running of the Army had to give way to practical issues for the effective running of the Army, and how this moved the Army closer to that of the Tsarist Army which many revolutionaries passionately sought to avoid. He also examines the performance of the Army during the Second World War, and the impact this had on dynamics and the moral state of the organisation, as well as refuting the argument that the Great Purges of 1937 - 1938 had an impact on the fighting ability of the Soviet Army. He then goes on to outline the stagnation of the Army which resulted in it reflecting many of the values of the Tsarist regime it replaced. Reese's focus for the book is a look at the Red Army merely in quantitative terms, but in terms of it's interaction with society and the health of the organisation internally. A interesting and well written read.

Conscription was introduced after Hitler invaded the USSR. It continued after the war as Russia faced off against the US in the Cold War, and it was used to reinforce Russias control over its authoritarian state regimes in Eastern Europe. It allowed for employment of the vast army of otherwise unemployed in Russia. Still even after WWI the Russian Army was modeled on the authoritarian armies of the past, both Russian and German.

It was not Afgahistan that was Russias Vietnam it has been Chechnya. Which coincided with the collapse of the Soviet Union. It left the old Soviet military regime in a powerful position, thanks to the Cold War which placed both the US and USSR under the control of their respective 'Military Industrial Complexes'.

Since the war in Chechnya Russian Mothers have organized, like their Argentinian counterparts the Mothers of the Disappeared, to denounce the treatment of their sons in Russias conscript army.

While few are now sent to serve in the violent North Caucasus, near Chechnya, it is estimated that hundreds die each year through accidents or through the ritualistic bullying inflicted by superior officers. Forty-six soldiers died of non-combat injuries in one week alone last year.

The story goes on to talk about the most recent case of torture by officers of a rank and file conscript.
Giving more credence to the case of civilians who suffered atrocities at the hands of Russian troops during the Chenchin war.

The case came amid growing public disgust over the fate of Andrei Sychev, a 19-year-old conscript at a tank academy in the eastern town of Chelyabinsk. He was reportedly beaten and tortured by his superior officers during a drunken rage on New Year's Eve, during which he was tied to a chair and repeatedly hit. He did not receive medical treatment for several days, by which time gangrene had set in, forcing doctors to amputate his legs, genitals and fingers. He was taken off a ventilator only on Monday.

If the bastards can do this to their own, what will they do to the enemy. Well this is what happens in Authoritarian regimes with hierarchical regimentation and a 19th century military hierarchy.

A volunteer army, a free standing militia is always the sign of a free peoples, because it can only exist because people volunteer to support their state. A volunteer Red Army, opps sorry its now Red, White and Blue, the old Tzarist colours, a volunteer Army in Russia is a much need reform.

Unfortunately given that the army is where the surplus unemployed are shipped too, Russia is unlikely to embrace even this modest reform. Instread it will contnue to brutalize conscripts, they are after all expendable, and use them for slave labour. All the atrocities of the bad old days of the Tzar have once again been revealed in 'Modern Russia'.

Unfortunately as we have seen as long as the military funtions based on its 19th century model, even in the United States, then a volunteer army does not assure you of ending abuse, there have been many cases of hazing in the US forces as well, though not nearly as bad as this. Nor does a volunteer army mean that it won't be an army of the otherwise unemployed, as the U.S. has also shown. Finally once in conflict its desertion rates will be high, but no more so than Russias which is high as well. Nor does a volunteer army mean there won't be mercenaries, private contractors, as we have seen in Iraq.

The only real volunteer armies that have existed are those during Revolutions, the Paris Commune in France, the October and February revolutions in Russia, and during the Spanish Civil War. The later was an all volunteer army including International Brigades, volunteers from around the world including Canada, and they were truly a volunteer army, electing their officers, debating strategy, and treating each other as comrades not conscripts.

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