Guerrilla Warfare in History – Mao Tse-tung on guerrilla warfare

Just2know : There is no knowledge that is not power
Just2know : There is no knowledge that is not power

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UERRILLA WARFARE is neither a product of China nor peculiar to the presen t day. From

lhe earliest historical days, it has been a feature of wars fought by every class of men against invaders and oppres­ sors. Under suitable conditions, it has grea t possibili ties. The man y guerrilla wars in history have their points of difference, their peculiar characteristics, their varying proc­ esses and conclusions, and we must respect and profi t by the experience of those whose blood was shed in them. What a pi ty it is tha t the priceless experience gained dur­ ing the several hundred wars waged by the peasants of China cannot be marshaled today to guide us. Our only experience in guerrilla hostilities has been that gained from the several conflicts that have been carried on against us by foreign imperialisms. But tha t experience should help the fighting Chinese recognize the necessity for guer­ rilla warfare and should confirm them in confidence of

.ultimate victory.

In September, 1812, the Frenchman Napoleon, in the course of swallowing all of Europe, invaded Russia at the head of a great army totaling several hundred thousa nd infantry, cavalry, and artillery. At that time, Russia was

Yu Chi Chan (Guerrilla Warfare )

weak and her ill-prepared army was not concentrated. The most importan t phase of her strategy was the use made of Cossack cavalry and detachmen ts of peasants to carry on guerrilla opera tions. Af ter giving up Moscow, the Rus­ sians formed nine guerrilla divisions of about five hundred men each. These, and vast groups of organized peasan ts, carried on partisan warfare and continually harassed the French Army. When the French Army was withdrawing, cold and starving, Russian guerrillas blocked the way and, in combination with regular troops, carried out counter­ attacks on the French rear, pu rsuing and defeating them. The army of the heroic Napoleon was almost entirely an­ nihilated, and the guerrillas captured many officers, men, cannon, and rifles. Though the victory was the result of various factors, and depended largely on the activities of the regular army, the function of the partisan groups was extremely important. “The corrupt and poorly organized country that was Russia defea ted and destroyed an army led by the most famous soldier of Europe and won the war in spite of the fact tha t her ability to organize guerrilla regimes was not fully developed. At times, guerrilla groups were hindered in their operations and the supply of equip­ ment and arms was insufficient. If we use the Russian saying, it was a case of a battle between ‘the fist and the ax’ ” (Ivanov).

From 1918 to 1920, the Russian Soviets, because of the opposition and interven tion of foreign imperialisms and the internal disturbances of Whi te Russian groups, were forced to organize themselves in occupied territories and fight a real war. In Siberia and Alashan, in the rear of the army


M ao Tse-tung on Guerrilla Warfare

of the traitor Denikin and in the rear of the Poles, there were many Red Russian guerrillas. These not onl;1 dis­ rupted and destroyed the communications in the enemy’s rear but also frequently prevented his advance. On one occasion, the guerrillas completely destroyed a retrea ting White Army tha t had previously been defea ted by regular Red forces. Kolchak, Denikin, the Japanese, and the Poles, owing to the necessity of staving off the a ttacks of guer­ rillas, were forced to withdraw regular troops from the front. “Thus not only was the enemy’s manpower im­ poverished but he found himself unable to cope with the ever-moving guerrilla” ( The N ature of Guerrilla Action ). The development of guerrillas at that time had only reached the stage where there were detached groups of several thousands in strength, old, middle aged, and young. The old men organized themselves into propaganda groups known as “silver-haired units”; there was a suitable guerrilla activity for the middle aged; the you ng men formed combat units, and there were even groups for the children. Among the leaders were determined Communists who carried on general political work among the people. These, although they opposed the doctrine of extreme guerrilla wa rfare, were quick to oppose those who con­ demned it. Experience tells us tha t “Orthodox am1ies are the fundamental and principal power; guerrilla units are secondary to them and assist in the accomplish men t of the mission assigned the regular forces” ( Lessons of the Civil War in Russia ). * Many of the guerrilla regimes in Russia gradually developed until in ba t tle they were able to dis-

• Sec p. 48 n.-S.B.G.


Yu Chi Chan (Guerrilla Warf are)

charge functions of organized regulars. The army of the famous General Galen was entirely derived from guerrillas. During seven months in 1935 and 1936, the Abyssinians lost their war against Italy. The cause of defeat-aside from the most important political reasons ‘ that there were dis­ sentien t political groups, no strong government party, and unstable policy-was the failure to adopt a positive policy of mobile warfare. There was never a combina tion of the war of movement with large-scale guerrilla operations. Ultima tely, the Abyssinians adopted a purely passive de­ fense, with the result that they were unable to defeat the Italians. In addition to this, the fact tha t Abyssinia is a rela tively small and sparsely popula ted country was con­ tributory. Even in spite of the fact that the Abyssinian Army and its equipmen t were not modem, she was able to withstand a mechanized Italian force of 400,000 for seven mon ths. During tha t period, there were several occa­ sions when a war of movement was combined with large­ scale guerrilla operations to strike the Italians heavy blows. Moreover, several cities were retaken and casualties total­ ing 140,000 were inflicted. Had this policy been stead­ fastly continued, it would have been difficult to have named the ultima te winner. At the present time, guerrilla activities continue in Abyssinia, and if the internal political ques­

tions can be solved, an extension of such activities is.


In 1841 and 1842, when brave people from San Yuan Li fought the English; again from 1850 to 1864, during the Taiping War, and for a third time in 1899, in the Boxer U prising, guerrilla tactics were employed to a remarkable


M ao Tse-tung on Guerrilla Warfare

<legree. Particularly was this so during the Taiping War, when guerrilla operations were most extensive and the Ch’ing troops were often completely exhausted and forced to Ree for their lives.

In these wars, there were no guiding principles of guer­ rilla action. Perhaps these guerrilla hostilities were not carried out in conjunction with regular operations, or per­ haps there was a lack of coordination. But the fact that victory was not gained was not because of any lack in guerrilla activity but rather beca use of the interference of politics in military affairs. Experience shows tha t if preced­ ence is not given to the question of conquering the enemy in both political and military affairs, and if regular hos­ tilities are not conducted with tenacity, guerrilla operations alone cannot produce final victory.

From 1927 to 1936, the Chinese Red Army fought al­ most continually and employed guerrilla tactics constantly. At the very beginning, a positive palicy was adopted. Many bases were established, and from guerrilla bands, the Reds were able to develop into regular armies. As these armies fough t, new guerrilla regimes were developed over a wide area. These regimes coordinated their efforts with those of the regular forces. This policy accounted for the many victories gained by guerrilla troops relatively few in number, who were armed with weapons inferior to those of their opponents. The leaders of tha t period properly combined guerrilla operations with a war of movement both strategically and tactically. They depended primarily upon alertness. They stressed the correct basis for both political affairs and military operations. They developed

Yu Chi Chan (Guerrilla Warfare )

their guerrilla bands into trained uni ts. They then deter­ mined upon a ten-year period of resistance during which time they overcame innumerable difficulties and have only lately reached their goal of direct participation in the anti­ Japanese war. There is no doubt that’ the internal unifica­ tion of China is now a permanent and definite fact and tha t the experience gained during our internal struggles has proved to be both necessary and advantageous to us in the struggle against Japanese imperialism. There are many valuable lessons we can learn from the experience of those years. Principal among them is the fact that guer­ rilla success largely depends u pon powerful political leaders who work unceasingly to bring about internal unification. Such leaders must work with the people; they must have a correct conception of the policy to be adopted as rega rds both the people and the enemy.

Af ter September 18, 1931, strong anti-Japanese guerrilla campaigns were opened in each of the three northeast provinces. Guerrilla activity persists there in spite of the cruelties and deceits practiced by the Japanese a t the ex­ pense of the people, and in spite of the fact that her armies have occupied the land and oppressed the people for the last seven years. The struggle can be divided into two periods. During the first, which extended from September 18, 193l, to January, 1933, anti-Japanese guerrilla activity exploded constantly in all three provinces. Ma Chan Shan and Ssu Ping Wei established an anti-Japanese regime .in Heilungkiang. In Chi Lin, the National Salvation Army and the Self-Defense Army were led by Wang Te Lin and Li Tu respectively. In Feng Tien, Chu Lu and others

M ao Tse-tung on Guerrilla Warfare

commanded guerrilla u nits. The influence of these forces was great. They harassed the Japanese u nceasingly, but beca use there was an indefinite political goal, improper leadership, failure to coordina te mili tary command and opera tions and to work with the people, and, finally, failure to delega te proper political functions to the army, the whole organization was feeble, and i ts strength was not unified. As a direct result of these conditions, the cam­ pa igns failed and the troops were finally defeated by our enemy.

During the second period, which has extended from January, 1933, to the present time, the situation has greatly improved. This has come about because great n umbers of people who have been oppressed by the enemy have de­ cided to resist him, because of the partici pa tion of the Chinese Communists in the anti-Japanese war, and beca use of the fine work of the volunteer units. The guerrillas have finally educated the people to the mea ning of guerrilla warfare, and in the nor theast, it has again become an im­ por tan t and powerful influence. Already seven or eight guerrilla regiments and a number of independen t pla toons have been formed, and their activities make it necessary for the Japanese to send troops af ter them mon th af ter mon th. These units hamper the Japanese and undermine their control in the northeast, while, at the same time, they inspire a Na tionalist revolu tion in Korea. Such activities are not merely of transient and local importance but directly contribu te to our ultima te victory.

However, there are still some weak poin ts. For instance: National defense policy has not been sufficien tly developed;

Yu Chi Chan (Guerrilla Warfare )

participa tion of the people is not general; internal political organiza tion is still in its primary stages, and the force used to attack the Japa nese and the puppet governmen ts is not yet sufficien t. But if presen t policy is continued tenaciously, all these wea knesses will’ be overcome. Experi­ ence proves that guerrilla war will develop to even greater proportions and tha t, in spite of the cruelty of the Japanese and the many methods they have devised to chea t the people, they cannot extinguish guerrilla activi ties in the three northeastern provinces.

The guerrilla experiences of China and of other coun­ tries tha t have been outlined prove tha t in a war of revolu­

tionary na tu re such hostilities are possible, na tu ral and necessary. They prove that if the presen t anti-Japanese war for the emancipa tion of the masses of the Chinese people is to gain u ltima te victory, such hostilities must

expand tremendously.

Historical experience is written in iron and blood. Ve must point out tha t the guerrilla campaigns being waged in China today are a page in history tha t has no precedent.

Their influence will not be confined solely to China in her present anti-Japanese war but will be world-wide.


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