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1. domination by the military in the formulation of policies, ideals, etc., esp on a political level
2. a policy of maintaining a strong military organization in aggressive preparedness for war


  1. the pursuit of war as an intrinsic value and the glorification of military ideals (e.g. in training the young, as in ancient Sparta).
  2. the preponderance of military values and military practices within a society
  3. a proclivity in some societies for a section of the higher echelons to look for military solutions to political conflicts, and the readiness of the lower ranks to accept such solutions (GIDDENS, 1986).
In modern times, militaristic practices and militaristic ideologies have played a crucial part in the creation of national identities (see NATIONALISM, NATION STATE) and in the incorporation of the working class. Contrary to the expectations of certain of the classical sociologists (notably SPENCER), warfare and militarism have not declined in importance in the modern world (see also TOTAL WAR), although according to some theorists constraints on the exercise of warfare have emerged from the existence of nuclear weapons (see DETERRENCE, NUCLEAR DETERRENCE, MUTUAL ASSURED DESTRUCTION). See also WARFARE, MILITANT AND INDUSTRIAL SOCIETIES, ARMS RACE, CLAUSEWITZ, NEOCLAUSEWITZIAN, MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX, GARRISON STATE, MILITARY INTERVENTION IN POLITICS.



in the broad sense, the building up of the military power of an exploitative state for the purpose of carrying out a policy of predatory war and suppression of the resistance of the toiling masses within the country. A permanent phenomenon in society divided into antagonistic classes, militarism took shape as a system of economics, politics, and ideology under capitalism. (The term “militarism” was first applied in the mid-19th century to characterize the regime of Napoleon III in France.) “Modern militarism…,” V. I. Lenin pointed out, “is the Vital expression’ of capitalism—as a military force used by the capitalist states in their external conflicts… and as a weapon in the hands of the ruling classes for suppressing every kind of movement, economic and political, of the proletariat” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 17, p. 187).

After the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71 and particularly in the early 20th century, with the onset of the imperialist stage of capitalism’s development, militarism assumed unprecedented dimensions—in large measure as a result of the aggravation of the contradictions between the major capitalist countries. In the context of the upsurge of the revolutionary and national liberation movement, which gained force under the influence of the Revolution of 1905–07 in Russia, the ruling elite of the capitalist countries accelerated the development of militarism for the struggle against the “internal enemy.” The armies of France, Great Britain, Italy, Russia, Germany, and Austria-Hungary, which together numbered 2,111,000 in 1869 and 2,653,000 in 1889, reached 3,184,000 men in 1912. During World War I (1914—18) about 74 million men were mobilized. The war accelerated the development of state-monopoly capitalism; this was accompanied by the unparalleled growth of militarism.

Table 1a. Military expenditures of largest NATO countries
 Direct expenditures (millions of dollars)Expenditures per capita (dollars)Expenditures as percentage of gross national product
1 Does not belong to the NATO military organization
Great Britain...............5,9506,9008,6731071254.94.6
Federal Republic of Germany...............6,1887,56811,0831041243.32.9

Frightened by the mighty revolutionizing influence of the Great October Socialist Revolution, the imperialists directed their armed forces against the Soviet state but suffered a crushing rebuff. The suppression of the postwar working class movement in the imperialist countries and the national liberation struggle of the peoples of the colonial and dependent countries was also accompanied by the development of militarism and the growth in the influence of the military clique. Thus, outward militarism (that is, militarism directed against external enemies of the bourgeois state) was ever more closely intertwined with inward militarism (that is, militarism directed against the internal enemy—the revolutionary and democratic movement). After the war, the further intensification of interimperialist contradictions led to a new stage in the arms race.

On the eve of World War II (1939–45), militarism became particularly strong in the countries of the fascist bloc—Germany, Italy, and Japan, which were seeking a new partition of the world. In 1937, Germany’s military expenditures amounted to 12.6 billion marks (683 million marks in 1927), Japan’s were 1.3 billion yen (495 million yen in 1927), and Italy’s were 11.84 billion lira (4.96 billion lira in 1927). For their part, Great Britain, France, and the USA also built up their armed forces and increased their military expenditures. World War II contributed to the further growth of military expenditures, in considerable measure as a result of the development of military weapons and equipment. By the calculations of Western researchers, expenditures in 1939–45 amounted to $200,000 for each death ($21,000 in 1914–18).

After the war, which produced radical changes in the arrangement of forces in the international arena, aggressive military blocs (NATO, CENTO, SEATO, and others) aimed at the countries of the socialist system and the liberation struggle of the peoples of the colonial and independent countries were established under the aegis of the USA and Great Britain. The members of these aggressive blocs repeatedly used armed force as a means of “exporting counterrevolution” in the attempt to maintain or expand their imperialist position in the countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Their aggressive actions resulted in the creation of hotbeds of military danger in the world and in armed clashes. After the war against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (1950–53) and a series of other aggressive acts, new and highly dangerous hotbeds of war were created by the armed aggression of the USA in Indochina (from 1964) and the aggression of Israel against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan (June 1967), which was supported by imperialism and world Zionism.

The further development of militarism upon the conclusion of World War II had a significant influence on the international situation. “Atomic diplomacy” became a factor in postwar international relations—the policy of atomic blackmail based on the USA’s desire to exploit the introduction of atomic weapons in 1945 for the purpose of frightening the forces of democracy and socialism. (The creation of atomic weapons in the USSR in 1949 and of hydrogen weapons in 1953 and the subsequent creation of intercontinental missiles showed the complete bankruptcy of the policy.) Most intimately bound up with the growth of militarism was the dissemination of such concepts of foreign policy and military-political doctrines as “cold war,” “negotiating from a position of strength,” “brinkmanship,” “war of nerves,” “psychological warfare,” “massive retaliation,” “flexible response,” and “realistic restraint.” All these concepts and doctrines serve as practical implementations of the policy of anticommunism—the ideological foundation of present-day militarism. In creating hotbeds of military danger, militarist forces make use of the craftiest methods of justifying militarism and of camouflaging their criminal goals.

The members of the imperialist blocs set into motion an unrestrained arms race. Thus, the military expenditures of the USA, for example, rose from $1.5 billion in 1940 to $83.4 billion in 1972. Relying on a powerful economic base and exploiting the achievements of the scientific and technological revolution, the USA in the 1960’s and early 1970’s modernized its armed forces and accumulated and perfected nuclear missiles. In early 1973 the USA had (by official data) 1,054 intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of carrying powerful nuclear warheads, 656 ballistic missiles capable of being launched from submarines, and 520 missile-carrying aircraft (out of the more than 6,000 assault-echelon combat aircraft). It also had under its control 429 major and 3,400 minor military bases. The USA deployed more than 7,000 of its offensive nuclear warheads in Western Europe. The armed forces of other members of the aggressive military-political blocs were also built up. Over 20 years (1949–69), the countries belonging to NATO spent $1.5 trillion for military purposes. In 1973 the direct military expenditures of all the NATO countries amounted to approximately $117 billion; the total strength of their armed forces reached 5.4 million men. (The five largest NATO countries accounted for the overwhelming preponderance of the total military expenditures and armed forces personnel of the NATO countries; see Tables la and 1b.)

Table 1b. Strength of armed forces of largest NATO countries
1 Does not belong to the NATO military organization
Great Britain...............390,000372,300361,500
Federal Republic of Germany...............466,000467,000475,000

The development of militarism had an important influence on all aspects of the life of bourgeois society. The growth of the war industry contributed to the further development of state-monopoly capitalism and to the still greater subordination of the key branches of the economy of the largest capitalist states to the goals of militarization. A military-industrial complex took shape in a number of capitalist countries—an alliance between the monopolists and representatives of the armed forces that strove to exert a determining influence on the political course of the countries. Monopoly capital linked to arms production has amassed enormous profits from military contracts. The gross profits of certain large military-industrial corporations reached 50–100 percent, and sometimes even higher, during the 1950’s to 1970’s. At the same time, militarization means that workers have been receiving a decreased share of the national income and that less has been spent for housing construction, public education, and medical services; it also has resulted in a weakening of the currency of the capitalist countries. The development of militarism is accompanied by an offensive against the political rights of the toiling people by the forces of reaction and frequently the direct use of the police and army against the democratic forces (the suppression of student demonstrations and harsh repression of the national and democratic movement in Northern Ireland, for example). Militaristic propaganda seeks to elicit the growth of chauvinistic feelings and hostility and mistrust among peoples, as it disseminates false information about the policies of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries; this kind of propaganda attempts, in particular, to present measures aimed at increasing the defensive capacity of the socialist countries—measures compelled by the imperialists’ unleashing of the arms race—as evidence of the “aggressiveness” of their intentions.

In the context of rapid technological progress, the stockpiling of nuclear weapons is an extreme threat to humanity brought forth by present-day militarism. By the early 1970’s supplies of nuclear weapons had become so great (according to the calculations of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) that, converted into conventional means of destruction, there were already 15 tons of TNT for every inhabitant of the earth.

The aggravation of the economic, social, and political contradictions inherent in capitalism has promoted the growth of militarism. However, the interests of the military-industrial complex and the militaristic elite are in fundamental contradiction to the interests of the toiling people. The popular masses in the capitalist countries are becoming more and more clearly aware of the need to restrain the militarists, to expand the struggle to limit armaments and armed forces, and to expand the struggle for disarmament.

At the same time, the steadily progressing change in the balance of forces in the world arena to the benefit of socialism, the defeats inflicted on the imperialists in their attempts to achieve their goals through local wars (the largest of which was the war in Vietnam), and the economic difficulties caused by the race for nuclear and conventional weapons have prompted sober bourgeois politicians to review the policy of military-political confrontation with the socialist world, a policy that has proved to be bankrupt. To a great degree, this process has been aided by the consistent, peaceful foreign policy of the USSR and the other countries of the socialist commonwealth; their course in foreign policy has been based on the consideration of the effect of objective factors that create the possibility of establishing relationships of peaceful coexistence and peaceful competition between the capitalist and socialist countries. Marking a general improvement in the international situation in the 1970’s and creating real opportunities to strengthen world peace were the agreements between the USSR and the USA on the prevention of nuclear war (1973), the agreements between the USSR and the USA on the limitation of strategic arms and on the basic principles of further negotiations in this sphere (1972 and 1973), the withdrawal of American troops from Indochina (1973), the treaties between the USSR and the USA on the limitation of underground nuclear weapons tests (1974) and on underground nuclear explosions for peaceful purposes (1976), the expansion of contacts between the leaders of the capitalist and socialist coun-tries (extraordinarily important were the trips of General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU L. I. Brezhnev to the Federal Republic of Germany, the USA, and France in 1973), the conclusion of agreements between the Federal Republic of Germany and a number of socialist countries, the Four-Power Agreement on West Berlin of 1971, and other events in international life. The prospect of improving the international situation and strengthening world peace elicits fierce resistance in the capitalist countries from representatives of the military-industrial complex, as well as from the politicians and the military who do not take political realities into account and strive to recreate a “cold war.”

Under these conditions, while maintaining the necessary vigilance and preparedness to repulse efforts by contemporary militarists to go on the counteroffensive, the CPSU and the Soviet government and the communist and workers’ parties of the other countries of the socialist commonwealth direct their efforts toward further developing and strengthening those positive changes in the international situation that are noted in the implementation of their foreign policies and toward strengthening peace and cooperation among peoples.


Marx, K. “Uchreditel’nyi manifest Mezhdunarodnogo Tovarishchestva Rabochikh.” In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch. 2nd ed., vol. 16, p. 11.
Marx, K. “Pervoe vozzvanie General’nogo Soveta Mezhdunarodnogo Tovarishchestva Rabochikh o franko-prusskoi voine.” Ibid., vol. 17.
Marx, K. “Vtoroe vozzvanie General’nogo Soveta Mezhdunarodnogo Tovarishchestva Rabochikh o franko-prusskoi voine.” Ibid.
Engels, F. “Imperskii voennyi zakon.” Ibid., vol. 18.
Engels, F. Anti-Dühring. Ibid., vol. 20, pp. 175–78.
Engels, F. “Mozhet li Evropa razoruzhit’sia?” Ibid., vol. 22.
Lenin, V. I. “Mezhdunarodnyi sotsialisticheskii kongress v Shtutgarte.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 16.
Lenin, V. I. “Voinstvuiushchii militarizm i antimilitaristskaia taktika sotsial-demokratii.” Ibid., vol. 17.
Lenin, V. I. “O lozunge ‘razoruzheniia’.” Ibid., vol. 30.
Programmnye dokumenty bor’by za mir, demokratiiu i sotsializm. Moscow, 1964.
Programma KPSS: Priniata XXII s’ezdom KPSS. Moscow, 1973.
Mezhdunarodnoe soveshchanie kommunisticheskikh i rabochikh partii. Moscow, 1969.
Liebknecht, K. Militarizm i antimilitarizm…. Moscow, 1960.
Skopin, V. I. Militarizm: Istoricheskie ocherki, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1957.
Vishnev, S. M. Sovremennyi militarizm i monopolii. Moscow, 1952.
Vlas’evich, lu. E. Vo chto obkhodiatsia narodam imperialisticheskie voiny. Moscow, 1971.
Bernal, J. Mir bez voiny. Moscow, 1960. (Translated from English.)
Perlo, V. Militarizm ipromyshlennost’. Moscow, 1963. (Translated from English.)
Hitch, C. J., and R. McKean. Voennaia ekonomika v iadernyi vek. Moscow, 1964. (Translated from English.)

D. ASANOV [16–756–2; updated]


See also Soldiering.
leader of the Seven against Thebes. [Gk. Myth.: Iliad]
killed many enemies; led many troops to victory. [Ger. Lit. Nibelungenlied]