Mao: Problems of War and Strategy

Mao at Yenan.

[Final part of our series on revolutionary military strategy in imperialist countries.  While it mainly deals with revolutionary war in China, it contains many important insights into revolutionary strategy in general and how it’s application changes for different countries in particular.]

November 6, 1938


The seizure of power by armed force, the settlement of the issue by war, is the central task and the highest form of revolution. This Marxist-Leninist principle of revolution holds good universally, for China and for all other countries.

But while the principle remains the same, its application by the party of the proletariat finds expression in varying ways according to the varying conditions. Internally, capitalist countries practice bourgeois democracy (not feudalism) when they are not fascist or not at war; in their external relations, they are not oppressed by, but themselves oppress, other nations. Because of these characteristics, it is the task of the party of the proletariat in the capitalist countries to educate the workers and build up strength through a long period of legal struggle, and thus prepare for the final overthrow of capitalism. In these countries, the question is one of a long legal struggle, of utilizing parliament as a platform, of economic and political strikes, of organizing trade unions and educating the workers. There the form of organization is legal and the form of struggle bloodless (non-military). On the issue of war, the Communist Parties in the capitalist countries oppose the imperialist wars waged by their own countries; if such wars occur, the policy of these Parties is to bring about the defeat of the reactionary governments of their own countries. The one war they want to fight is the civil war for which they are preparing.[1] But this insurrection and war should not be launched until the bourgeoisie becomes really helpless, until the majority of the proletariat are determined to rise in arms and fight, and until the rural masses are giving willing help to the proletariat. And when the time comes to launch such an insurrection and war, the first step will be to seize the cities, and then advance into the countryside’ and not the other way about. All this has been done by Communist Parties in capitalist countries, and it has been proved correct by the October Revolution in Russia.

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The necessity to revise the experiences of the past and to work out the present experiences by the light of the theory of the long lasting popular revolutionary war

Article from La Voce del (nuovo) Partito comunista italiano, n. 18
mercoledì 19 luglio 2006.

R.I. Editorial Note:
Another article in our series on revolutionary military strategy in imperialist countries. This article from the (new) Communist Party of Italy reviews past experiences of armed struggle in the imperialist countries in light of their theory of Protracted Revolutionary People’s War for imperialist countries. The translation, like many from this organization, are not perfect, but the ideas are comprehensible. -R.I. -13 March 2011

Continue reading “The necessity to revise the experiences of the past and to work out the present experiences by the light of the theory of the long lasting popular revolutionary war”

PPW, Italian style…

[An excerpt from the Manifesto Program of the (new) Italian Communist Party.  It lays out their strategy, which they call Revolutionary Protracted People’s War.  Despite the very similar terminology, it is quite different from the PPW strategy as laid out by RCP Canada.  See also the (n)ICP article “The necessity of distinguishing between the universal and particular laws of the protracted popular revolutionary war“.]

3.3. Our strategy: the revolutionary protracted people’s war

Our strategy, the way for making Italy a new socialist country, is the revolutionary protracted people’s war. This is the conclusion of the balance of the experience of the communist movement, of the struggle of the working class against the imperialist bourgeoisie, in particular during the first wave of the proletarian revolution. By its nature the struggle of the working class against the imperialist bourgeoisie for establishing socialism is a revolutionary protracted people’s war. The communist party has to recognize this reality, understand it through the end and utilize this consciousness for directing the revolution. At the conclusion of the balance of the experience of the struggles the communist movement carried out against imperialist bourgeoisie in the last 130 years we have to repeat, paraphrasing what Mao said in 1940 regarding the proletarian revolution in China: “For more than hundred years we used to do the revolution without having a clear and right conception of it. We acted blindly: this is the reason of our defeat”. (127)

Continue reading “PPW, Italian style…”

RCP (Canada): More on the question of waging revolutionary war in the imperialist countries

[Part of our ongoing series on revolutionary military strategy in imperialist countries.  Originally posted here.]

First published in Arsenal magazine, No. 5, May 2005. Arsenal is the voice of the RCP(OC).

“Policy is the starting-point of all the practical actions of a revolutionary party and manifests itself in the process and the end-result of that party’s actions. A revolutionary party is carrying out a policy whenever it takes any action. If it is not carrying out a correct policy, it is carrying out a wrong policy; if it is not carrying out a given policy consciously, it is doing so blindly. What we call experience is the process and the end-result of carrying out a policy. Only through the practice of the people, that is, through experience, can we verify whether a policy is correct or wrong and determine to what extent it is correct or wrong. But people’s practice, especially the practice of a revolutionary party and the revolutionary masses, cannot but be related to one policy or another. Therefore, before any action is taken, we must explain the policy, which we have formulated in the light of the given circumstances, to Party members and to the masses. Otherwise, Party members and the masses will depart from the guidance of our policy, act blindly and carry out a wrong policy.” – Mao Zedong, On the Policy Concerning Industry and Commerce, 1948

We are publishing these working notes that have been produced at the RCP(OC) Politburo’s request, in order to pursue the study of the protracted people’s war as a strategy for the imperialist countries. [1]

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Remembering the Real Dragon- An Interview with George Jackson May 16 and June 29, 1971

George Jackson, murdered by prison guards Aug. 21, 1971

[Part of our series on military strategy in imperialist countries.  Originally posted here.]

Interview by Karen Wald and published in Cages of Steel: The Politics Of Imprisonment In The United States  (Edited by Ward Churchill and J.J. Vander Wall).

Karen Wald: George, could you comment on your conception of revolution?

George Jackson: The principle contradiction between the oppressor and oppressed can be reduced to the fact that the only way the oppressor can maintain his position is by fostering, nurturing, building contempt for the oppressed. That thing gets out of hand after a while. It leads to excesses that we see and the excesses are growing within the totalitarian state here. The excesses breed resistance; resistance is growing. The thing grows in a spiral. It can only end one way. The excesses lead to resistance, resistance leads to brutality, the brutality leads to more resistance, and finally the question will be resolved with either the uneconomic destruction of the oppressed, or the end of oppression. These are the workings of revolution. It grows in spirals, confrontations, and I mean on all levels. The institutions of society have buttressed the establishment, so I mean all levels have to be assaulted.

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Stalin: Armed Insurrection and Our Tactics

Stalin's secret police mug shot from 1908.

[Part of our series on military strategy in imperialist countries.]

July 15, 1905

The revolutionary movement “has already brought about the necessity for an armed uprising”—this idea, expressed by the Third Congress of our Party, finds increasing confirmation day after day. The flames of revolution are flaring up with ever-increasing intensity, now here and now there calling forth local uprisings. The three days’ barricade and street fighting in Lodz, the strike of many tens of thousands of workers in Ivanovo-Voznesensk with the inevitable bloody collisions with the troops, the uprising in Odessa, the “mutiny” in the Black Sea Fleet and in the Libau naval depot, and the “week” in Tiflis—are all harbingers of the approaching storm. It is approaching, approaching irresistibly, it will break over Russia any day and, in a mighty, cleansing flood, sweep away all that is antiquated and rotten; it will wipe out the disgrace called the autocracy, under which the Russian people have suffered for ages. The last convulsive efforts of tsarism—the intensification of repression of every kind, the proclamation of martial law over half the country and the multiplication of gallows, all accompanied by alluring speeches addressed to the liberals and by false promises of reform—these things will not save-it from the fate history has in store for it. The days of the autocracy are numbered; the storm is inevitable. A new social order is already being born, welcomed by the entire people, who are expecting renovation and regeneration from it.

What new questions is this approaching storm raising before our Party? How must we adjust our organisation and tactics to the new requirements of life so that we may take a more active and organised part in the uprising, which is the only necessary beginning of the revolution? To guide the uprising, should we—the advanced detachment of the class which is not only the vanguard, but also the main driving force of the revolution—set up special bodies, or is the existing Party machinery enough?

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Lenin: Marxism and Insurrection

Red Guards in Moscow

V. I. Lenin: Marxism and Insurrection, A Letter to the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P.(B.)

Written: September 13-14, 1917 
First Published: 1921 in Proetarskyaya Revolutsia No. 2

One of the most vicious and probably most widespread distortions of Marxism resorted to by the dominant “socialist” parties is the opportunist lie that preparation for insurrection, and generally the treatment of insurrection as an art, is “Blanquism“.

Bernstein, the leader of opportunism, has already earned himself unfortunate fame by accusing Marxism of Blanquism, and when our present-day opportunists cry Blanquism they do not improve on or “enrich” the meagre “ideas” of Bernstein one little bit.

Marxists are accused of Blanquism for treating insurrection as an art! Can there be a more flagrant perversion of the truth, when not a single Marxist will deny that it was Marx who expressed himself on this score in the most definite, precise and categorical manner, referring to insurrection specifically as an art, saying that it must be treated as an art, that you must win the first success and then proceed from success to success, never ceasing the offensive against the enemy, taking advantage of his confusion, etc., etc.?

To be successful, insurrection must rely not upon conspiracy and not upon a party, but upon the advanced class. That is the first point. Insurrection must rely upon a revolutionary upsurge of the people. That is the second point. Insurrection must rely upon that turning-point in the history of the growing revolution when the activity of the advanced ranks of the people is at its height, and when the vacillations in the ranks of the enemy and in the ranks of the weak, half-hearted and irresolute friends of the revolution are strongest. That is the third point. And these three conditions for raising the question of insurrection distinguish Marxism from Blanquism.

Once these conditions exist, however, to refuse to treat insurrection as an art is a betrayal of Marxism and a betrayal of the revolution. Continue reading “Lenin: Marxism and Insurrection”

Violence and Street Fighting: Who Says It Alienates the People? (Kasama Project)

[Part of our series on military strategy in imperialist countries.  Originally posted here.]

by Mike Ely

An anarchist wrote in a neighboring thread:

“i find it a little odd the way Marxists in the US always associate militant action with anarchists almost exclusively.”

That is a misunderstanding. I think you are talking to the wrong Marxists. The experience of the Maoist movement in the U.S. (to take just one example) is closely tied with many forms of militancy — starting with the Black Panther policies of armed self defense, and then also with the militant combativity of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). And denoucing militancy is (in my view) associated with very particular currents within the Left — whose strategic errors are closely tied up with those tactical views..

Learning and Practising Street-Fighting in 1968

Zengakuren 1967

While in high school, those of us attracted to SDS took classes at a local “Free University” in radical theory and the street fighting snake dances of the Japanese Zengakuren.

In Washington Square park squads of us practiced — using 5 foot cardboard tubing from the garment district — in how to unhorse “cossacks” sent against us. Over and over we would organize anti-imperialist feeder marches to the growing antiwar parades — and march in ranks through the main streets of Manhattan without permits, defying and confronting the cops. Continue reading “Violence and Street Fighting: Who Says It Alienates the People? (Kasama Project)”