Throughout the year, we have been talking about what is necessary to have a revolution. Many of us have struggled to explain the Indian Revolution when all the other ones we see seem to be based in large part upon force. So we ask ourselves to what extent having an army is necessary for a successful revolution. In Iran and Libya, we see how the army changed the tide of the revolution and allowed the revolutionaries to emerge victorious.
I’m writing my history paper about the German Revolution of 1918. In the revolution, the pro-republic social democratic factions come to rely heavily on mercenary groups known as Freicorps derived from the German army that fought in World War I. These Freicorps, after spending time fighting the Bolsheviks in Russia and then communist groups at home, came to be dangerously conservative. The unrestrained armies, under the command of the old officers, quelled uprisings violently and without remorse. The Social Democrats reliance on these Freicorps would come to haunt them; these groups evolved in the National Socialist party. This situation makes me realize the true extent that an army’s power goes. While it is possible in unique circumstances to win a revolution without the support of an army, as Gandhi did in India, I think for most revolutions it is certainly necessary to control the army to emerge victorious. And that reflects a power that can have dangerous and unpredicted consequences, such as the emergences of the Nazi party in Germany. By looking at revolutions, we gain an insight into the true power and danger that armies who for years have been the result of a country’s all-in efforts to fight and win can pose. By creating an army, countries may be taking an unpredicted risk. If they lose the loyalty of that army, they could be creating their own enemy.