Morale: Political Officers Make A Comeback


December 24, 2014: China has ordered political officers to fly missions on AWACS and other large aircraft with large (over half a dozen people) crews. These aircraft carry out crucial missions in modern warfare and China is using more and more of them. The Chinese Communist Party wants the crews on these aircraft monitored in action to assure their performance and loyalty.

The Chinese long ago borrowed the concept of the political officer from the Soviet Union. The political officer represents the Communist Party and has the authority to overrule any order a military officer gives. In reality, the political officer usually acts as a combined morale and special events officer. The political officers are primarily responsible for preventing anything happening in their unit that would embarrass the party. In theory, political officers are supposed to prevent their commanders from getting involved in fiscal corruption, but often it's the other way around, with the political officers getting involved in illegal money-making schemes first. The Communist Party is trying to purge the ranks of its political officers of dishonest and unreliable elements. It is slow going.

Technically Russia got rid of political officers after 1991 when the communists lost control of the government. But that slowly changed as one-party rule returned a decade later. By 2013 Russia ordered the return of ideological training for troops and increased use of informants and opinion surveys to monitor morale and loyalty in the military. In effect, the Russian government has returned to using the communist era "Zampolit" (political officer). In Soviet times every unit commander had a deputy (Zampolit) who represented the communist party and could veto any of the commanders’ decisions. The Zampolit was responsible for troop loyalty and political correctness. Sort of a communist chaplain. Earlier (2010) the Russian Army reintroduced chaplains, something that the communists did away with in the 1920s. The new chaplains are, however, expected to report on the loyalty of the troops, to church and state. Now additional officers are being added to handle ideological training and monitoring morale. Not exactly the return of the Zampolit to non-communist Russia but a return of most of the Zampolits’ duties.




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