WAR, CITIZENSHIP, AND THE ESTABLISHMENT OF MASS NATIONAL SOLIDARITIES

To such criticisms Tilly and Mann could have a partial answer: that between the end of the Napoleonic wars and 1914 there were no general wars on the European continent, and there was a marked reduction in European interstate wars. Their thesis about nationalization through state circumscription or the caging of emerging social classes relates not to wars as such but to fiscal and military pressures, arising from geopolitical rivalry. This produced a reactive politics of representation and of citizenship and in turn a national identification with the territorial state. Nationalism originates as a drive for democracy (Mann 1995: 53). Undeniably, the rise of nationalism is linked to the increasing penetration of the state as well as to improvements in communications. In this section I will examine if there is a clear relationship between militarism, the struggle for citizenship rights, and mass nationalism. In addition, I will explore alternative interpretations that identify the direct role of modern wars in diffusion of national citizenship.

T. H. Marshall (1950) differentiates citizenship rights into civil, political (expansion of the franchise), and social (a welfare state). In the eighteenth century there had been progress in civil rights in many European countries. During the nineteenth century a hesitant progress was made in political representation, which Mann argues has two aspects: participation (possession of the suffrage) and contestation (the ability to use representative institutions to form an alternative government). The latter is more important, as states like Germany might grant universal male suffrage but deny the sovereignty of the representative institutions (Mann 1993: Ch. 3). He describes how during the nineteenth century Britain and the USA led the way, although the former had a more limited franchise, whereas France caught up by 1880. There was some movement to a rudimentary social citizenship by the end of the century.

Arguments can be made for a direct link between new forms of warfare, citizenship, and mass national identities. This does not mean that advances in citizenship are necessarily related to war (indeed they are often not), but that particular wars generated powerful innovations that became formative. In particular, we can examine two periods, of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars and the First World War, that have been characterized (in different ways) as total wars, which create revolutionary models of state-society relationships.

The French Revolution made an ideological connection between patriotic military service (via universal conscription) and civil and political rights which transformed war-making. The new bureaucratic state, operating on principles of meritocracy and direct rule through its eighty-three uniform departments, mobilized the population at large and thereby mustered vast armies of free men (increasing from 200,000 before the revolution to 730,000 in 1794), reducing war costs, and improving fighting capacity (Hui 2005: 128). Whereas generals of the ancien regime had to exercise coercive supervision of their troops lest they desert, Napoleon could deploy them much more flexibly because of their ideological commitment, sometimes in dispersed, sometimes in concentrated formations, manoeuvring independently on multiple routes with different tactics, yet confident they would support each other. This allowed him lightning mobility through which he could achieve decisive victories. Numerical superiority also enabled the deployment of shock tactics, with the advantage that these required minimal training (Black 1994: Ch. 7; Knox 2001: 65-70). The success of French armies meant that other states had to adapt. The Prussian king, under pressure from his generals, who proposed an alliance of government and people, appealed to patriotic sentiment, sweetening universal military service with an abolition of serfdom. He also opened the officer class to those of education and merit (Knox 2001: 70-1). During the nineteenth century many intellectuals, Clausewitz, Michelet, and Mazzini, drew connections between national conscription armies and civic participation. This association had popular resonance, summarized in the slogan of Swedes agitating for political rights: ‘One soldier, one rifle, one vote’ (Enloe 1980: 50-1).

In the nineteenth century general conscription was institutionalized as part of citizenship training and nation-building, so that in peacetime armies were as much about making young men into productive and responsible members of the community as about national defence. Membership of large armies contributed to the erosion of localism and of status divisions as soldiers were exposed to ideas of national destiny, defence against external enemies, and common rights and duties (Centeno 2002: 217-18). Barry Posen states that the two key institutions of the nation state became the mass conscription army and the educational system. As technological advances made war ever more lethal, a mass education system was necessary to inculcate patriotism, and provide officers and recruits with basic (and advanced) skills to use new weaponries (Posen 1995: 167). Posen cites Eugen Weber’s Peasants into Frenchmen, which maintains it was only after 1870 that national supplanted regional identities in France, following the establishment of general conscription, a mass primary patriotic education system, and a system of communications connecting the provinces to Paris. In many countries the army became the school of the nation, breaking down localism. Later, it could be viewed as the hospital of the nation, as the governments, aware of their need to conserve the health of an increasingly urbanized population, exposed to poor living conditions, began to develop early forms of welfare state (Centeno 2002: 244).

However, if conscription and popular mobilization in the 1789-1815 period had democratizing and nationalizing consequences, they were also exclusionary and generated alternative authoritarian political models that curbed their radical potential. Feminists have pointed out that the French Revolution was profoundly divisive. By linking citizenship to military service, it justified the confinement of women to the private sphere just when the public sphere was being defined (Sluga 1998). In her comparative study of popular mobilization in France and Prussia, Hagemann (2010: 351), with qualifications, agrees this was a formative moment in the masculinization of citizenship in modern Western societies. Women, as members of the nation, were restricted to the role of biological producers, educators of future heroes, and symbols of national purity (Anthias and Yuval-Davis 1989: Introduction).

The Revolutionary Wars were as much civil as international wars, and in many countries they produced deep seated cleavages. In France republican massacres of priests and peasantry in the Vendee, the confiscations of Catholic property, executions of the supporters of the ancien regime, and repression of movements for provincial liberties and cultures in peripheral regions contributed to the development of a venomous traditionalist anti-republican subculture. Furthermore, the social-revolutionary effects of republicanism inspired enduring antagonistic political models. In France Napoleon overthrew the republic, offering an imperial conception of France that under his Civil Code preserved meritocracy and guaranteed freedom of religion, albeit under the auspices of a military dictatorship. In Britain and Prussia, we find monarchies espousing conservative nationalist principles.

Fearful of the apparent connections between popular mobilization and revolution, the monarchies of the restored ancien regime after 1815 returned to professional armies and sought to avoid a general war in Europe by creating a stable balance of power through the Congress of Vienna. The legacy of the mass citizen army was later revived, but during the nineteenth century states selected from a variety of military models, sometimes a uniform draft, at other times an elite professional force drawn from reliable sections of the population. The key point to note is that rather than understanding the development of legal, political, and social rights as arising out of particular martial practices, in each country there were competing orientations to war generated by different conceptions of the national community and its relationship to the state. These conceptions were themselves shaped by the experiences and political models arising in the revolutionary period. Jorn Leonhard’s study (2006) offers a useful overview on which the following paragraphs are based.

In France, republicans had been inspired by the classical polis, where citizenship was linked to the willingness to bear arms for the state. However, the initial assumptions of republicans were that war was the product of a predatory aristocratic society and that a free republic would be an exemplar of peace (Bell 2007: Ch. 3). The attack on the revolution evoked the call to arms, but the granting of citizenship came first, which generated the obligation of Frenchmen to defend la patrie. Ideological politics created the citizen army not vice versa. Monarchical restoration was accompanied by a severe restriction of the franchise and the return to a small professional army. In his coup against the Second Republic, Louis Napoleon adopted universal suffrage to defeat his radical and royalist opponents and sought to restore French glories in arms. It was only after the overthrow of Napoleon III at the hands of the Prussian conscript armies in 1870 that the successor Third Republic restored the citizen army as part of its democratizing drive. Republicans advanced mass education and military conscription not just as means of recovering the annexed provinces of Alsace and Lorraine, but also as instruments to regenerate a democratic patrie, and transform the army, whose officer core was viewed as reactionary. Here again we see political conceptions shaping military models rather than vice versa.

In the German territories during the early nineteenth century a Prussian monarchical conception of the army as the school of the nation competed with a liberal constitutional movement that valorized the volunteers of 1813. The Prussian state was suspicious of conscription being tied to political rights or popular nationalism. Liberal nationalists, influenced by the French Revolution, believed that revolutionary war was the means of achieving a united German nation state. The Prussian military, its officers disproportionately drawn from the aristocracy and upper stratum, by contrast preferred an army of short-term conscripts and a military strategy of short, decisive ‘cabinet’ wars, fearful that any extended conflict requiring mass mobilization would create overwhelming democratic pressures (Horne 2003). Bismarck co-opted the nationalist sentiments by uniting the northern German states under the Hohenzollern monarchy in a series of short, decisive wars, defeating first Austria, then France in 1864 and 1870. He also introduced universal manhood suffrage in 1871, but limited the powers of the Reichstag, marginalizing German liberalism and enabling the imposition of a Prussian authoritarian militarist conception on the new German state. The national army was used to propagate patriotic and religious messages to counteract Social Democratic influences amongst recruits from the rural and urban masses (Posen 1995: 164).

In the USA and Britain, by contrast, there were ingrained fears of standing armies as threats to constitutional liberties. In the USA, after a triumphant war of independence fought by a volunteer Continental Army (supported by revolutionary militias), citizenship was granted early on to most free adult males of property (though this excluded a large proportion of the population). A decentralized federal conception of the nation emerged that guaranteed states’ rights, was suspicious of monarchy and also of European involvements. The Constitution granted the rights of its citizens to bear arms (infringing the state monopoly of violence). This, however, did not prevent a turn to mass conscription armies on both sides during the American Civil War, in which distinctions between civilian and military became blurred, resulting in a democratic war of unprecedented destructiveness (Chambers II 2003: 176-81).

In Britain, historically suspicious of continental despotism, the navy was the key defence of an island imperial power. The outbreak of war with revolutionary France enabled the British monarchy and the landed aristocracy to rally patriotic support for established institutions, impose press censorship, and repress radical movements. During the Victorian period campaigners often combined campaigns for parliamentary reform with a popular anti-militarism, embodied in the ‘Little Englandism’ of Cobden and Bright, who looked to trade and commerce as the means to universal peace. Advances in the suffrage in 1867 and 1885 were products of broader factors, including the strength of political radicalism and the fear of revolution. Except for the Crimean War, Britain avoided Continental commitments, and its military engagements after 1815 were predominantly the ‘small wars’ of an expanding empire. Britain went into the First World War initially with a small professional army, supported by mass volunteering, until conscription was introduced in 1916.

The military legacy of revolutionary France and the ideology of nationalism in the nineteenth century, then, cannot easily be related to advances in citizenship. Jorn Leonhard notes the use of mass conscription armies was only one mode of national war-making in the nineteenth century (2006: 238). Among the others was the guerrilla war (in Spain in 1808) following the defeat or collapse of the state, in which the population fought not in traditional military battles but in small individual actions. A third mode was of militia armies which combined volunteering with state control and military professionalism to fight larger battles and embodied a nation in arms. Examples were the American War of Independence and the early French revolutionary campaigns from 1792. There was also the professional army (as in Britain). A variety of competing national conceptions shaped modes of war making, some of which were designed to block liberal movements and incorporate dissident classes from above.

What of Mann’s alternative political explanation? Here mass national citizenship arises from a combination of top-down pressures of militarist competition, the emergence of classes from industrial capitalism, and countervailing movements from below that sought to capture the state. The explosion of public expenditures from the late eighteenth century led states not only to improve their extractive capacities but also promote the economic and social development of their territories. In turn, increasing fiscal and military demands mobilized the emerging bourgeoisie and working classes, whose class competition was diverted into a struggle to control the state. Mann cannot be accused of a deterministic military fiscal-extraction process. Mann argues that to the degree that states attempted to combine despotic with infrastructural power their institutions were capable of being captured by social classes. Thus, he rejects the notion of a unitary state impressing itself on a society in favour of a more interactive approach. Fiscal pressures eased during the nineteenth century as a result of private economic expansion (Mann 1993: 388-9). Military expenditures as a proportion of state revenues declined in favour of education and communications, and later social welfare (ibid.: 378-81). Both Mann and Tilly emphasize that (with variations) the political mobilization from below resulted in the increasing civilianization of the state. As this occurred, the state switched from coercion to policing and surveillance of its populations.

These analyses show that military and civilian institutions were intertwined. Industrialization united populations through faster communications (e.g. railways, postal services), resulted in further military revolutions, and intensified this interdependence. Responses to popular pressures for representation and citizenship rights differed according to the nature of the political system. In Britain and France the approach was reformist, leading to the gradual incorporation of the middle and working classes. In relatively backward authoritarian societies the rulers, perceiving the need for rapid industrialization to secure military security, modernized from above, engendering a military-industrial complex (Mann 1993: 491-9). In the Russian Empire this was combined with outright repression of demands for civil and political rights, leading eventually to revolution. In Germany there was a hybrid strategy—attempting to neuter liberals and socialists by retaining power in the hands of the Prussian notables while granting universal male suffrage in 1867, and also seeking to buy off the working classes with welfare measures (Mann 1993: Chs. 14, 18).

Although this analysis is powerful, it has limitations. A statist account fails to explain why populations should love their cage—here we seem to have a version of the Stockholm syndrome—or why the drive for democracy must take nationalist forms (Smith 1998: 83). Rather than being reactions to the modern state, such nationalisms may be active agents in state formation. Indeed, state attempts to create patriotic citizens failed when a strong collective national sentiment was lacking. Conscription in late nineteenth-century Spain and Italy was unable to generate a patriotic unity in the absence of clear enemies and exacerbated class divisions in Latin America (Centeno 2002: Ch. 5). Frank Trentmann (2006: 289) maintains that, so far from being a product of statist-military pressures, mass nationalisms were drivers of state transformation and military interventions. He argues that Mann fails to recognize the power of popular social movements inflected by nationalist ideologies—in the case of Britain by an older Protestant nationalism. By the 1740s this welded the language of liberty and patriotism into a mass politics promoting King, Church, and Empire. Popular politics was a constitutive part of, rather than a reaction to, a state politics.

This suggests war (and war preparation) could be as much an effect as a cause of competing ideas of nationalism and was one factor among many in the development of civil, social, and political relationships between states and their populations. The conclusions too are ambiguous: are we viewing a process of democratization or a top-down incorporation of the masses into the nation state? The proportion of the population given formal rights in the state may rise without it affecting the terms of their membership of the state. At times war seems crucial in deciding the terms of the integration of the ‘masses’ into the state. Just as defeat in 1870 led to the overthrow of an imperial by a more democratic republican conception of France, so Bismarck’s victories against Austria and France enabled him to impose an authoritarian Prussian order on the unified Germany, subordinating the Social Democratic working classes.

It could be argued, however, that a linkage between mass military mobilization and political change seemed increasingly plausible in the later nineteenth century. The triumph of Prussian conscription over the French professional army influenced a return to conscription armies. It was evident to contemporaries that industrialization was transforming the nature of war. In the American Civil War railways enabled a rapid mobilization of large numbers of troops, and the introduction of rifles and breech-loading that could be employed with minimal training put a premium on states having a large military reserve.

Leonhard (2006: 253-4) contends that the geopolitical rivalries of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries intensified the civic character of states while generating external ethnic hostility towards enemies. The scramble for empire between the great powers heightened military competition, and attendant fiscal and military pressures encouraged demands for democratization and revolution. These were now advanced by mass socialist parties feeding off large-scale urban worker unrest at inflation and high unemployment. The prospect of a general European war was regarded by sections of both the left and the right as a potential catalyst of revolutionary change. The German general Moltke in 1890 expressed fears that wars in the future would no longer fought for limited political and territorial objectives. Rather they would be indefinite existential wars of peoples that would overthrow the imperial system in Germany (Leonhard 2006: 244-5). On the left, Marxist parties viewed war as a trigger for European-wide revolution. The First World War seems at first to confirm these predictions.

 
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