Red Army


Red Army
   The term Red Army refers to both the Soviet and Chinese armies. Under the guidance of Leon Trotsky, the Red Army of Workers and Peasants was founded during the course of the Russian Civil War, and, having superseded the Red Guard, became the established army of the new Soviet Union following the completion of the 1917 Russian Revolution. The actions of the Red Army were determined by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which installed in every unit a political commissar to overrule military officers should their commands run counter to official MarxismLeninism. The Red Army existed as an enforcer of Soviet Moscow’s will.
   Following the German invasion in 1941, the Red Army initially suffered devastating territorial and human losses, its ill preparedness for attack obvious. Despite the loss of over seven million lives, however, it was able to turn its fortunes around with a series of masterful tactical displays, and declare victory in what the Soviet regime termed “The Great Patriotic War.” In 1946 the Red Army was renamed the Soviet Army to mark the fact that it was no longer the enforcer of the revolution but the legal army of an established independent country. The army played a critical role in establishing the Soviet satellite buffer states of the Eastern Bloc. In the Cold War period, with a staff of up to five million, the Soviet Army was the largest operating force in the world, and used its might to crush the 1956 Hungarian Uprising and 1968 Prague Spring. Though the Cold War never heated up, the army saw action from 1979 in Afghanistan, where it helped install a communist government before entering into combat with militant Islamic, tribal, and nationalist forces who opposed the new regime. The war proved to be economically unviable, and new Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev called for a downsizing of operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere, in order to lessen the financial burden military spending had become. As part of this, Gorbachev reneged on the Warsaw Pact, demanding nation states resolve their own difficulties. The tide had already turned, though, and with democracy gradually taking hold in Eastern Bloc countries, the collapse of the Soviet Union left the Soviet Army with no country to protect. It was subsequently disbanded, its components distributed between the new sovereign states that developed out of the old Soviet Union.
   The Chinese Red Army originated in 1927 and was created by Zhu De at Mao Zedong’s Jiangxi soviet. It was a key element in the Chinese communists success in defeating the nationalists and coming to power, and grew from around 22,000 in 1936 (after the Long March) to some 900,000 in 1945 and to a peak of four million in the 1970s. It was renamed the People’s Liberation Army in 1946 and as such fought in Tibet, Korea and Vietnam among others, as well as being involved in the Cultural Revolution and the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.

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