Following the end of World War One and the imposition of a republic on the German empire, the state of eastern Europe, and the Baltic region in particular, was chaotic. The withdrawing German forces were pretty messy, and in the Baltic in particular there was a significant German population that formed the elite of the region. This group was expelled by the allies post World War Two, and now no longer exists (the same occurred to Germans in the Czech region.) Demonstrating that If you are going to ethnically cleanse, make sure you win.
This Baltic area is of significance due to the manner in which it formed an area of poor state control in much the same manner as Iraq in the modern period, or even the European states at present. It was an area in which the influence of the only real significant state (Germany) was curtailed due to British and American pressure. As a result, there appears to have been a great demand from the German elite in the area for security forces with which to combat Communist forces which were threatening the region.
The history of what subsequently happened is very difficult to track down, as there appears to have been quite a significant neglect of this period, with most attention being paid to the Nazis. What information is available seems to be incomplete. The situation is made even more complicated by the geopolitical maneuverings in this area, with British involvement being significant in assisting in the creation of the Baltic states. The role of the Baltic states population in the success of Bolshevism in Russia is also something that is not covered in sufficient detail. The Cheka for instance, in 1918 was apparently up to 50% Latvian with Jewish involvement being less overall, but increasing as you went up the Cheka hierarchy. The Latvian infantry divisions also appear to have been invaluable in the civil war. The popularity of Bolshevism in Latvia, and Latvia being the most industrialised area of Russia prior to the Russian Empires collapse mirrors the manner in which this was the case in other countries (Marxism flowering in rich areas.)
The perspective of the German angle is what interests me for this essay, as the inability of the German state to form official forces and maintain control of an area to which it had established clear influence over lead to the embracing of paramilitary forces that were unofficial suppliers of a basic security and offensive need. The Freikorps, as I have previously mentioned, were not that different in a general way than the example provided by post-Bathist paramilitary organisations in Iraq, which were formed to supply a security and geopolitical need for greater actors.
The interesting structural formation of the Freikorps lay in both their voluntary natures, and in the manner in which they invariably crystallised around central figures. The most famous example from the Baltic region being the Iron Brigade headed by the German Officer Major Josef Bischoff, which in conjunction with the curious Baltische Landeswehr (and headed by two Germans and then an English Major when it became a Latvian division post the treaty of Versaille) combated Bolshevik forces in the region using weapons left by the retreating German army.
The Freikorps in the Baltic would prove to eventually be unsuccessful, and were removed by both Allied intervention and Weimer complicity, and the men returned to Germany, where the format was repeated. The time the actions of the Freikorps were more significant. The Spartacist uprising in 1919 led by the likes of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht being justifiably put down, and the leaders getting their just deserts at the hands of Waldemar Pabst’s Freikorp Mördenzentrale with the connivance of the German establishment in form of Friedrich Ebert and Gustaz Noske. The interesting aspect of this is that Ebert and Noske represented the social democrats, yet engaged right wing paramilitary to deal with communists, a distinct breaking of the “no enemies to the left” rule of politics. This can be easily explained by the further left here being not controlled, and an actual immediate threat. Power is a complex thing at times.
This event was followed by the Kapp Putsch by the Swastika donning Freikorps, which has largely been forgotten despite the fact that it immediately succeeded, only to fail after a number of days due to an inability to implement the actual role of governance. A case of a coup without a parallel infrastructure in place to capitalise, something the Nazis seem to have remedied at a later date, but not without repeating the error with the aborted Beer Hall Putsch which Major-General Jakob Ritter von Danner was instrumental in ending, apparently declaring his dislike of the “little corporal” and those “Freikorps bands of rowdies.”
The Freikorps members would eventually be absorbed into the SA and SS, with any additional hold outs (as well as the SA proper) being purged in 1934 with the ‘Night of the long nights.” The need for para-military units no longer necessary in Germany given that the state was functioning and able to exert control of security.
The period in which state control by official forces was laughable, and that in which the Nazi regime managed to get things in order, is of interest, as it provides clear examples of how organisation for security purposes can, and does, fall on interpersonal relationships and trust. The men formed around trusted officers, whom they had served, such as Georg Ludwig Rudolf Maercker, Ehrnardt and Loewenfeld, with the Freikorps taking the names of the leaders. This seems to have been inherited from the manner in which shock troop units in WW1 likewise were named after their leaders.
With the obvious failure of the states of Europe and even the USA to utilize formal structures to contain security problems, further reliance will fall on non-state paramilitary forces to achieve goals. One could argue that this is already the case with Muslims in the form of the likes of ISIS, with the aggressive and violent Muslim population in the west forming a ready pool of people outside of the structure of society, and who are willing to engage in violence.
What makes the current situation in the west so odd, is that the reactionary elements (if they can even be called that,) are primarily anti-governance. Childish libertarianism has become the cul-de-sac into which any opponents of liberal democracy have been herded. Add into this the fact that the governance structures have basically degenerated into uncontrolled and unthinking entities which have positioned themselves into total aggression against the population of Europe, and you have a system in which the only para-military forces that are being sponsored by any part of the state apparatus are Muslim rapists and other assorted criminals. There is A) no part of the current order which is motivated to install order and B) there is no battle ready and willingly aggressive pool of men to draw from to act as paramilitary.