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Military wings of political organizations

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While most democratic governments have a strong tradition of civilian control of the military, factions in unstable states often have either avowed or covert military wings. As with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, even a totalitarian state may have a politicized military force. Overt political Sinn Fein, in Ireland and Northern Ireland, long had the Irish Republican Army as its military side.

Some countries have complex official relationships that involved politicized military forces. Traditionally, the Soviet Union was governed by a balance among three elements: the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the Red Army and the Organs of State Security. Each maintained a divisional-sized force in Moscow:

  • Party via Interior Ministry: Taman Guards
  • Army: 106th Guards Airborne Division
  • Security: Dzerzhinksy Guards Division

In the 1920s and 1930s, there were a great many German military factions, some independent freikorps, but none more important to the rise of the Nazis than the Sturmabteilung (SA) "Stormtroopers" or "Brownshirts". As with many such movements, it eventually lost most power through factionalism. The Schutzstaffel (SS) or "Blackshirts", originally a SA-spawned unit for the immediate protection of Adolf Hitler, eventually purged the SA in 1934, in the Night of the Long Knives.