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Engels on the military limits of Revolutionary Enthusiasm

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Post 22 Nov 2013, 23:50
Chairman Mao Zedong compiled a list of Classical Works Recommended To
High-Ranking Cadres. Most of the works would be the basics you would expect. But I was surprised that Mao selected a relatively unknown work as his #1 choice for Engels. ... wv8_56.htm

Conditions and Prospects of a War of the Holy Alliance Against France in 1852

I myself have been greatly inspired by the myth of the French Revolutionary levee en masse, overcoming legions of professional royal mercenaries, and spreading the Revolution beyond the natural frontiers to the elan of the Marseillaise. Certainly there is a materialistic basis to the bourgeois democratic revolution in warfare and the breaking with feudal norms. Nonetheless glorification of the spiritual element in war, can take on disastrous idealistic forms such as the 'elan' of the French Republican army in 1914.

Engels' work is a rather sobering account that debunks some of the myths of 1792. Its meant as a warning to revolutionaries, to not assume that 'revolutionary enthusiasm' wins battles. The Russians relearned many of these lessons during their Civil War.

Kerensky, in keeping Russia in World War I, appealed to the spirit of 1792, wrongly believing that the Russian Republic would inspired revolutionary enthusiasm that the Czarist army had lacked.

It can also serve as a contemporary warning to certain ultra-adventurist advocates of Focal Theory and People's War. Quite possible these were the elements in the PLA, that Mao hoped would be enlightened by this classic.

Based on the experience of the French Army in the Franco-Prussian War, there is little doubt that The 1852 War of the Holly Alliance would have progressed in the manner Engels outlined. ... liance.htm
Post 27 Jul 2014, 22:09
French revolutionary spirit did break the professional (but mercenary) army of Austria and Russia. But we must not forget that both sides were fighting from the same level of material development, one that allowed movement warfare. You cannot win a war without Elan, but this Elan is constrained by the material options presented to the army in the form of weapons and supply.

In WW1 material development in the form of the machine gun (and it's supply tail) precluded the sort of warfare sought by french doctrine of elan. This only means that spirit alone cannot win a war, even more true when we talk about a war where the whole industrial might of belligerant countries were engaged. But the same is true if you look at Red Army performance during WW2, where the superior equipment of URSS did not produce (not imediately) good results against Wermatch, and only when the Red Army developed a fighting spirit (The calls to defend mother Russia) and acumulated sufficient experience, was it able to overcome the german army.
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