As described in the Agenda of our project, the military, being a separate group of armed people, who are accustomed to violence and following orders without question, is a socially dangerous institution. However, it is also obvious that in the observable future getting rid of the armed forces completely just isn't possible, at least while powerful states subordinate to the former ruling class still exist. Nevertheless, this issue cannot be simply circumvented or postponed «till better times», leaving the military as it is today, whether it is a conscripted force or a volunteer one. The armed forces are one of the main institutions of the state, and their model and structure impacts the whole fabric of society, whether we want it or not.

Moreover, maintaining a large standing army as is will be a very heavy burden on the new society. The modern Russian state spends about 3 trillion roubles on «national defence»1, which is almost 20% of all state budget expenses. Never mind the fact that such expenditure may prove untenable in conditions of total crisis and while having to radically transform the whole economy - this kind of expense on armed forces, that by themselves produce nothing except some vague «national security», and the ability for the current ruling class to enforce its will on other countries, is incompatible with the goals and principles of our project. It is unacceptable for almost a million able-bodied people, who could be producing socially beneficial goods, developing new technologies or teaching something useful to other people, to be completely excluded from the normal production process.

Therefore, the military has to be transformed in a manner similar to that of the transformation of the economy and society in general.

The issues described above, that make existing models of military service unsuitable, produce two major requirements for the new model of military service: the number of professional soldiers has to be kept to a minimum and defense expenditure has to be cut drastically. The liberal idea of a «small professional army» that basically serves as a shield for strategic nuclear deterrence forces solves the second issue somewhat, but such an army would be extremely socially isolated and cut off from the rest of society, which is perfectly acceptable for liberals, but completely unacceptable for our project. The old idea of an armed people without a standing army, and the idea of mass guerilla warfare that succeeded it, cannot provide an adequate defense due to modern technological advances in warfare2.

A possible solution may be found in the form of a territorial militia system, where a volunteer or conscript professional army is replaced by semi-regular formations of citizens with military training, who periodically have to complete a term of service. Of course, units that must be kept in constant readiness and special technological skills (such as the Aerospace or the Strategic Missile Forces) will still consist of professional soldiers, who must be protected from professional psychological deformation3 by constant staff rotation and other measures outlined in our Agenda. However, there will be no need in maintaining massed mechanized armies, due to the existence of nuclear deterrence forces. Therefore, most ground forces and a significant portion of the specialized (air and naval) branches may be composed on the principles of a territorial militia.

To find out whether such model is possible in practice, what problems may arise during its implementation, and how to avoid them, we have to look into historical experience, namely the problems of a territorial militia in early USSR, and the experience of foreign countries that practice universal military service: Switzerland and Israel.

Historical examples

In theory, territorial militia was the basis of the armed forces of the USSR almost from the start and up to the middle of the 1930s4. The decision to implement it was dictated by the ideas of armed proletariat described in the works of Marx, Engels and Lenin. The worker state was supposed to be defended by the workers themselves, and a standing professional army was seen purely as a tool of oppression and aggression. During the Civil War the militia system was limited to Vsevobuch (Universal Military Training) attached to the Workers‘ and Peasants’ Red Army, service in which was at first voluntary, but later in the war became obligatory. The territorial militia principle became paramount after the war ended and most of the army was disbanded, since maintaining a large standing army was completely financially impossible for the early Soviet state. Therefore, the main motivation to implement this model of military service was:

  • To lower cost while maintaining roughly the came numbers. The country was devastated by war and could not afford a large regular army, but the threat of war was always present.
  • To implement ideological principles of arming the working class.
  • At the very least, to produce a large, preemptively trained reserve to quickly expand the army during wartime.

Red Army, Tomsk Infantry School

All of this looked really good on paper and from an ideological standpoint, but by the end of the 1920s it became clear that in their existing state the territorial militia has failed to accomplish any of these goals.

It failed to save labor, because the difference in working hours spend by territorial and standing divisions turned out to be rather small, since the soldiers of territorial divisions often had to spend entire weeks to get to their place of service due to poor transportation, and then spend weeks again to return. It also failed to lower expenses, because the cost of maintaining a territorial division turned out to be similar to that of a standing division, and sometimes even exceeded it5.

The quality of resulting units was even worse. An analytical report by the OGPU sums it up in a single unflattering description: «the combat capabilities of territorial militia units, whether during peacetime or wartime, is suspect and is undoubtedly many times lower that that of professional standing units». The reasons for such a disastrous turn of events were many: troopers from territorial units went AWOL more often, and for longer periods of time, were often late for training, learned poorly and forgot their military training in the time between their terms of service. The quality of their command and NCO staff was also very low. They were bad even at preparing potential reserves in case of war, because instead of 2 years of continuous service a territorial militiaman had to serve periodic terms for 4 years, which meant that territorial divisions trained less men than standing ones, and the quality of this training was lower.

In terms of social integration, Soviet territorial divisions also proved to be a failure. In theory, such a system was supposed to spread proletarian class consciousness to all other strata of society, most of all - to the peasantry that comprised the majority of the population back then. In practice it turned out that, with the exception of territorial divisions formed in large industrial centres, the proportion of workers in these units was negligibly small, and their overall mood and worldview reflects that of the peasantry, even affecting the semi-regular command and NCO staff. Political and cultural education, that was supposed to impart Soviet values onto the soldiers and remove their religiosity, and which took at least a year in a standing division to produce any results, basically didn't exist in territorial divisions. As a result, territorial divisions outside large industrial centres were, from a social and political standpoint, not only useless, but also harmful, because they could, to quote the aforementioned OGPU report, «serve as ready raw material for rebellion».

Due to all this, the territorial militia in the USSR was replaced, starting in 1934, with a standing conscript army. The bulk of territorial divisions was disbanded in 1935, but some units continued to exist up to the very end of the 1930s.

The reasons for the failure of the militia system in the early Soviet Union were:

  • Lack of funding for constant quality training,
  • Lack of discipline and motivation on the part of militiamen themselves, which was expressed in their chronic tardiness, going AWOL, and overall slacking.
  • Low level of education among the general populace, meaning more time was needed to train soldiers to operate complicated machinery.
  • The class conflict between workers and peasants, which defined the early USSR as a whole, and made the militia system politically unreliable.

It has to be noted that most of these problems - the lack of funding, low level of education and training, and so on, - remained in the later professional army and the government only began addressing these issues right before the start of the Second World War.

Modern Practices


Switzerland and its armed forces are somewhat of a joke in Russia, since this small mountainous country hasn‘t participated in any wars for hundreds of years. However, the average Swiss is probably better trained in military matters than the average Russian who laughs at him. The majority of the male population of Switzerland has served in the army in one capacity or another: from 91 to 80% of each generation, depending on the recruits’ health, is conscripted. Usually no more than 20% of conscripts are declared unfit for military service.

Military service is compulsory for all male citizens from age 20 to 50

The Swiss Army comprises about 135 thousand servicemen, only about 5% of whom are professional soldiers, despite the fact that the army is equipped with modern military gear and armaments, mostly of German, British and native Swiss manufacture. The other 95% are conscripts and reservists who have to complete several short terms of service during their lifetime. Most officers also aren't career military men.

A Swiss Army schedule of service

Having reached the age of conscription, a male Swiss citizen has to complete 120 days of basic training and service, after which he enters primary reserves, where he has to serve short tours of duty no less than 8 times over 12 years. At the age of 32 he is transferred to the secondary reserve, and at the age of 43 - to the tertiary reserve, also called landsturm, where he remains until he is 50 yeas old, which is when he retires from military service.

Those deemed unfit for military service have to pay an additional 3% income tax until they turn 30. Conscripts whose physical capabilities are somewhat limited, but not enough to be considered completely unfit, form a civil defense service and assist the police and firefighters in emergencies and other situations.

Military service for women is voluntary, and they comprise about 1% of the militia, but around 25% of the professional military.

In 2016, an expert commission that the Swiss government charged with reviewing the country's conscription system recommended that women be included in the military draft in order to meet its annual demand of 18,000 new soldiers a year.

Officers and NCOs serve for a longer period of time. The usual term of service for a private is 360 days over the period of 30 years, but for NCOs and officers it is usually 500 to 900, and sometimes even up to 2000 days. Swiss citizens don't lose their jobs or salaries while serving in the military. Companies subsidize military training by continuing to pay their employees, who list their ranks and responsibilities on their résumés.


Unlike with Switzerland, very few people would dare question the capabilities of the Israel Defense Forces, which is also often called Tsakhal, by its Hebrew acronym. The army of Israel is technically professional and therefore does not fit the model that we've chosen, but some of its aspects in terms of organization and history are very interesting from our point of view. First of all, it is the universal nature of conscription among those parts of the population that are subjected to it at all. Israeli Arabs and Orthodox Jews are excluded due to political and religious considerations respectively. Second, it is the «second profession» system that prevented Israel from becoming a military dictatorship despite the enormous importance of the army and its commanders for the very survival of this state and its society.

Military service in Israel is mandatory both for men and women

Israel is also the only country in the world that requires the deaf and hard-of-hearing people to serve in the military. Sign language interpreters are provided during training, and many of them serve in the non-combat capacities such as mappers, office work, and the like. The deaf and hard-of-hearing people who have served in the IDF have better opportunities in employment, housing, education, and other areas than those who do not serve.

Israeli female soldiers

In addition, they gain a greater respect and recognition for their service and contribution to the country as well as stronger self-esteem and motivation.

In cases when a citizen cannot be normally drafted by the law, due to old age, having served as a soldier in a different country, severe health problems, handicaps, autism, and so on, the person could enroll as a volunteer in places where his or her knowledge can be used, or, in cases where there is a base that accepts volunteer service, from one day per week up to full 24/7 service based upon that person's abilities and wishes.

The example of the IDF shows several important things: firstly, women can serve alongside men whether in units segregated by gender or in mixed-gender ones. Secondly, if military service is an almost inalienable attribute of citizenship, the state can and must provide the largest possible number of people with the opportunity to serve. Israeli armed forces have extensive combat experience and, at least technically, have never lost a war, proving that you can satisfy the aforementioned principles and still remain combat-capable.

The Outline of a Model

So, from the standpoint of our project, the most realistic model of building a new army for a new society at the moment seems to be something like the following:

The core of the army is made up of professional high-tech forces< which include the strategic nuclear deterrence forces, some of the Aerospace forces, intelligence and special operations units, and also the staff of the military training facilities. This skeleton provides military planning and nuclear deterrence, special operations and training for the territorial militia units.

Most of the army is composed of territorial militia formations, which comprise almost all ground forces and a significant portion of the air and naval forces. This allows to avoid the high cost of keeping huge mechanized armadas in readiness during peacetime, and also provides a large trained reserve pool in case of a local conflict or a full-scale war.

Military service should be mandatory for all citizens who are liable to vote regardless of age or gender The project's Agenda says so directly here and here.

The military specialty, duration of service and other details are determined by the personal capabilities of a citizen. Those completely unfit for service due to physical limitations or advanced age fill out administrative and auxiliary posts that do not require significant physical efforts. If they can work as civilians, they can work in the army, and if they cannot work as civilians, they don't get to vote, which means that they are not obliged to serve in the military either. Various objectors to military service due to religious, personal or other considerations are also deprived of the right to vote.

To lower the need for professional military staff for troops with complicated equipment, such as the Aerospace forces or the Navy, civilian specialists are cross-trained as closely-related military ones. For example, civilian pilots can be trained as military pilots and civilian sailors can serve tours of duty in the Navy. The inevitable psychological deformation that occurs in professional soldiers can be mitigated by giving them a second, civilian profession, and limiting the duration of their employment in the armed forces.

We should also mention the reasons that make us think that we can avoid the problems that plagued the territorial militia in the early USSR, along with the reasoning why such a system was rather unlikely to succeed in Russia in the past, but is quite possible in the present and in the future.

Russia's geopolitical location coupled with its poorly developed transport infrastructure has historically compelled it to maintain a large standing army, preemptively deployed along is overstretched and not very defensible borders6. Modern technology and the existence of nuclear weapons that allow to deter a technologically superior enemy from invading, allow to abandon this costly doctrine, that used to be unavoidable in the past.

The overall level of education which has risen dramatically over the past 100 years also allows to maintain a highly-trained reserve: nowadays, when most people can read and write and have to work with machinery in their everyday life, and many are even capable of driving civilian vehicles, it is much easier than back in the beginning of the XX century, when a semi-literate or simply illiterate peasant had to be made into a tank driver in short order. With a well-developed transport network, a trained reserve and a small professional core with some units that are rotated in and out of service, it is quite possible to both give an adequate response to local conflicts, and contain a serious threat long enough for the whole country to mobilize.

This system must be supported by a network of civil defense facilities, to protect the population in case of war or natural disasters. It should also be noted that citizens trained in the territorial militias will be able to perform basic law enforcement duties, instead of the bloated modern Patrol and Guard Service of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs. This will help save additional resources and reduce the demand for another socially dangerous profession - law enforcement. Moreover, this measure will strengthen the rule of the working majority and allow it to learn social responsibility and self-government faster.

Obviously, this is only a rough outline of a possible model, and it will, of course, be corrected and expanded upon in the future. We are especially interested in criticism and comments from people who are better versed in military matters than us, provided that this criticism is not limited to banalities like «this is wrong because all major powers in the world do it differently», «you will fail because nobody has done it before» and «the Americans/Chinese/Germans/Insert-Nation-Here have a lot of tanks/jets/whatever, so we need at least as many as they do».

1 Data taken from the 2016 national budget of the Russian Federation, where 3145 billion roubles is dedicated to «national defence» - more than on education, healthcare and culture combined.

2 Guerillas by themselves, without an actual front line opened by a regular army, cannot defeat a well-equipped and technologically superior enemy. The examples of Cuba, Vietnam and other Third World countries are not suitable in this regard, because in these cases the guerillas were either confronted by a badly trained and disorganized forces of corrupt regimes, or supported by countries and armies that were almost as advanced as their enemies.

3 The definition of professional deformation can be found in the glossary

4 The act forming these territorial militia units was issued on August 8th 1923.

5 A good source of information on this matter can be found in the Analytical report on the territorial miliita and its place as the basis of the armed forces of the USSR by the Chief of the OGPU.

6 A typical take on this issue can be found in this Stratfor article - The Geopolitics of Russia: Permanent Struggle.

Published at: 2016.11.26
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