Military Democracy

Military Democracy


a term introduced by L. H. Morgan to designate the organization of power in ancient Greek society at the stage of the disintegration of the primitive commune system. By adopting the term “military democracy,” K. Marx and F. Engels gave it a universal historical meaning. Later, in the works of many Soviet historians, this term came to designate not only the form of the organization of power but also the corresponding concluding phase of the disintegration of the primitive society and its transformation into a class society.

Archaeologically, military democracy corresponds to the early metal age (bronze and early iron ages), the introduction of metals leading to the development of plow farming, animal husbandry, artisan industry, and exchange and also to the appearance of surplus product and private property. In these conditions a major factor in the early stage of the formation of classes and state power was the development of predatory wars with the view to seizing alien wealth and slaves and enriching and strengthening the military leaders and their retainers. The military leaders, especially the leaders of the alliances of tribes, gradually seized power in the still-existing bodies of primitive democracy, the clan and tribal councils. The importance of popular assemblies declined, and the clan and tribal councils became explicit bodies of military democracy. With the final division of the society into classes, these councils became bodies of class dictatorship. Classic examples of military democracy are the societies of the Greeks of Homeric times, of the ancient Celts and Germanic tribes, and of the Normans.


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Engels, F. “Proiskhozhdenie sem’i, chastnoi sobstvennosti i gosudarstva.” K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 21. Moscow, 1961.
Morgan, L. H. Drevnee obshchestvo Hi issledovanie linii chelovecheskogo progressa ot dikosti cherez varvarstvo k tsivilizatsii, 2nd ed. Leningrad, 1935. (Translated from English.)
Tolstov, S. P. “Voennaia demokratiia i problema ‘geneticheskoi revoliutsii.’ ” Problemy istorii dokapitalisticheskikh obshchestv, 1935, nos. 7-8.
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