Front Page Titles (by Subject) 3: Military Socialism - Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis
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3: Military Socialism - Ludwig von Mises, Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis 
Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, trans. J. Kahane, Foreword by F.A. Hayek (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1981).
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Military Socialism is the Socialism of a state in which all institutions are designed for the prosecution of war. It is a State Socialism in which the scale of values for determining social status and the income of citizens is based exclusively or preferably on the position held in the fighting forces. The higher the military rank the greater the social value and the claim on the national dividend.
The military state, that is the state of the fighting man in which everything is subordinated to war purposes, cannot admit private ownership in the means of production. Standing preparedness for war is impossible if aims other than war influence the life of individuals. All warrior castes whose members have been supported by the assignment of manorial rights or of grants of land, or even by industries based on a supply of unfree labour, have in time lost their warlike nature. The feudal lord became absorbed in economic activity and acquired other interests than waging war and reaping military honours. All over the world the feudal system demilitarized the warrior. The knights were succeeded by the Junkers. Ownership turns the fighting man into the economic man. Only the exclusion of private property can maintain the military character of the State. Only the warrior, who has no other occupation apart from war than preparation for war, is always ready for war. Men occupied in affairs may wage wars of defence but not long wars of conquest.
The military state is a state of bandits. It prefers to live on booty and tribute. Compared with this source of income the product of economic activity plays only a subordinate role; often it is completely lacking. And if booty and tribute accrue from abroad it is clear that they cannot go direct to individuals but only to the common treasury, which can distribute them only according to military rank. The army which alone assures the continuance of this source of income would not tolerate any other method of distribution. And this suggests that the same principle of distribution should be applied to the products of home production, which similarly accrue to citizens as the tribute and yield of serfdom.
In this way the communism of the Hellenic pirates of Lipara and all other robber states can be explained.28 It is the “communism of robbers and freebooters,”29 arising from the application of military ideas to all social relationships. Caesar relates of the Suebi, whom he calls gens longe bellicosissima Germanorum omnium (a people long the most warlike of the German tribes), that they sent warriors over the borders every year for plunder. Those who remained behind carried on economic activity for those in the field; in the following year. the roles were exchanged. There was no land in the exclusive ownership of individuals.30 Only by each sharing in the product of the military and economic activity carried on with a common purpose and subject to a common danger, can the warrior state make every citizen a soldier and every soldier a citizen. Once it allows some to remain soldiers and others to remain citizens working with their own property the two callings will soon stand out in contrast. Either the warriors must subjugate the citizens and in that case it would be doubtful if they could set out on plundering expeditions leaving an oppressed population at home—or the citizens will succeed in gaining the upper hand. In the latter event the warriors will be reduced to mercenaries and forbidden to set out in search of plunder because, as a standing danger, they cannot be allowed to grow too powerful. In either case the state must lose its purely military character. Therefore any weakening of “communistic” institutions involves a weakening of the military nature of the state, and the warrior society is slowly transformed into an industrial one.31
The forces driving a military state to Socialism could be clearly observed in the Great War. The longer the war lasted and the more the states of Europe were transformed into armed camps, the more politically untenable seemed the distinction between the fighting man, who had to endure the hardships and danger of the war, and the man who remained at home to profit from the war boom. The burden was distributed too unequally. If the distinction had been allowed to persist and the war had continued longer the countries would infallibly have been split into two factions and the armies would have finally turned their weapons against their own kinsmen. The Socialism of conscript armies demands for its complement the Socialism of conscript labour at home.
The fact that they cannot preserve their military character without a communistic organization does not strengthen the warrior states in the war. Communism is for them an evil which they must accept; it produces a weakness by which they eventually perish. Germany in the first years of the war trod the path to Socialism because the military etatistic spirit, which was responsible for the policy leading to the war, drove it towards State Socialism. Towards the end of the war socialization was more and more energetically carried out because, for the reasons just stated, it was necessary to make conditions at home similar to those at the front. State Socialism did not alleviate the situation in Germany, however, but worsened it; it did not stimulate production but restricted it; it did not improve the provisioning of the army and those at home but made it worse.32 And needless to say it was the fault of the etatistic spirit that in the tremendous convulsions of the war and the subsequent revolution not one strong individual arose from the German people.
The lesser productivity of communistic methods of economic activity is a disadvantage to the communistic warrior state when it comes into clash with the richer and therefore better armed and provisioned members of nations which acknowledge the principle of private property. The destruction of initiative in the individual, unavoidable under Socialism, deprives it in the decisive hour of battle of leaders who can show the way to victory, and subordinates who can carry out their instructions. The great military communist state of the Incas33 was easily overthrown by a handful of Spaniards.
If the enemy against which the warrior state has to fight is to be found at home then we can speak of a communism of overlords. “Casino communism” was the name given by Max Weber to the social arrangements of the Dorians in Sparta because of their habits of eating together.34 If the ruling caste, instead of adopting communistic institutions assigns land together with its inhabitants to the ownership of individuals sooner or later it will be ethnically absorbed by the conquered. It becomes transformed into a land-owning nobility, which eventually draws even the conquered into military service. In this way the state loses the character based upon the waging of war. This development took place in the kingdoms of the Langobards, the West Goths and the Franks and in all the regions where the Normans appeared as conquerors.
[28. ]On Lipara see Poehlmann, Geschichte der sozialen Frage und des Sozialismus in der antiken welt, Vol.I, pp. 44 ff.
[29. ]Max Weber, “Der Streit um den Charakter der altgermanischen Sozialverfassung in der deutschen Literatur des letzten Jahrzehnts,” (Jahrbücher für Nationalökonomie und Statistik, Vol. XXVIII, 1904, p. 445).
[30. ]Caesar, De bello Gallico, iv, 1.
[31. ]Herbert Spencer, Die Prinzipien der Soziologie, trans. Vetter, Vol. II (Stuttgart, 1899), pp. 720 ff. Publisher’s Note: In English, The Principles of Sociology (New York: Appleton, 1897), Vol. II, Part V, pp. 610 ff.
[32. ]See my Nation, Staat und Wirtschaft, pp. 115 ff.; 143 ff.
[33. ]Wiener, Essai sur les Institutions Politiques, Religieuses, Économiques et Sociales de l’Empire des Incas (Paris, 1874), pp. 64, 90 ff. attributes Pizarro’s easy conquest of Peru to the fact that communism had unnerved the people.
[34. ]Max Weber, “Der Streit um der Charakter der altgermanischen Sozialverfassung in der deutschen Literatur des letzten Jahrzehnts,” (Jahrbücher für Nationalökonomie und Statistik, Vol. XXVIII, 1904), p. 445.