The Relation of Guerrilla Hostilities to Regular Operations – 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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HE GENERAL FEATURES of orthodox hostilities, tha t is, the war of position and the war of move­

men t, differ funda men tall y from guerrilla warfare. There are other readily appa ren t differences such as those in organiza tion, armament, equipment, supply, tactics, com­ mand; in conception of the terms “front” and “rear”; in the matter of military responsibilities.

Vhen considered from the point of view of total num­ bers, guerrilla units are man y; as individual combat units, they ma y vary in size from the smallest, of several score or several hundred men, to the ba ttalion or the regiment, of several thousa nd. This is not the case in regularly organ­ ized uni ts. A primary feature of guerrilla opera tions is their dependence upon the people themselves to organize bat­ talions and other units. As a result of this, organization depends largely upon local circumsta nces. In the case of guerrilla groups, the standard of equipment is of a low order, and they must depend for their sustenance primarily upon what the locality affords.


M ao Tse”tung on Guerrilla Warfare

The strategy of guerrilla warfare is manifestly unlike tha t employed in orthodox operations, as the basic tactic of the former is constan t activity and movement. There is in guerrilla wa rfare no such thing as a decisive battle; there is nothing comparable to the fixed, passive defense that characterizes orthodox war. In guerrilla warfare, the trans­ formation of a moving situation into a positional defensive situation never arises. The general features of reconnais­ sance, pa rtial deployment, general deployment, and devel­ opmen t of the attack that are usual in mobile warfare are not common in guerrilla war.

There are differences also in the ma tter of leadership and command. In guerrilla warfare, small units acting in­ dependently play the principal role, and there must Le no excessive interference with their activities. In orthodox warfare, par ticularly in a moving situa tion, a certain degree of initia tive is accorded subordinates, bu t in principle, command is centralized. This is done because all units and all supporting arms in all districts must coordina te to the highest degree. In the case of guerrilla warfare, this is not only undesirable bu t impossible. Only adjacen t guerrilla units can coordina te their activities to any degree. Strate­ gically, their activities can be roughly correlated with those of the regular forces, and tactically, they must coopera te with adjacen t units of the regular army. But there are no strictures on the extent of guerrilla activity nor is it prima­ rily characterized by the quality of cooperation of many units.

When we discuss the terms “front” and “rear,” it must be remembered, tha t while guerrillas do have bases, their


Yu Chi Chan (Guerrilla Warfare )

primary field of activity is in the enemy’s rear areas. They themselves have no rear. Because an orthodox army has rea r installations (except in some special cases as during the I 0,000-miJe* march of the Red Army or as in the case of certain units operating in Shansi Ptovince), it cannot operate as guerrillas can.

As to the ma tter of military responsibilities, those of the guerrillas are to extermina te small forces of the enemy; to harass and weaken large forces; to attack enemy lines of communica tion; to establish bases capable of supporting independent opera tions in the enemy’s rear; to force the enemy to disperse his strength; and to coordina te all these activi ties with those of the regular armies on distant ba ttle fron ts.

f rom the foregoing summary of differences that exist between guerrilla warfare and orthodox warfare, it can be seen tha t it is improper to compare the two. Further dis­ tinction must be made in order to clarif y this matter. While the Eighth Route Army is a regular army, its Nor th China campaign is essen tially guerrilla in nature, for it operates in the enemy’s rear. On occasion, however, Eighth Route Army commanders have concentrated powerful forces to strike an enemy in motion, and the characteristics of ortho­ dox mobile warfare were evident in the battle at P’ing Hsing Kuan and in other engagements.

On the other hand, after the fall of Feng Ling Tu, the operations of Central Shansi, and Suiyuan, troops were more guerrilla than orthodox in na ture. In this connection,

• It has been estimated that the Reds actually marched about 6,000 miles. Seo Introduction, Chapter II.-S.B.G.


M ao Tse-tung on Guerrilla Warfare

the precise character of Generalissimo Chiang’s instruc­ tions to the effect that independent brigades would carry out guerrilla operations should be recalled. In spite of such temporary activi ties, these orthodox units retained their identity and af ter the fall of Feng Ling Tu, they not only were able to fight along orthodox lines but of ten found it necessary to do so. This is an example of the fact that orthodox armies may, due to changes in the situation, temporarily function as guerrillas.

Likewise, guerrilla units formed from the people may gradually develop into regular units and, when operating as such, employ the tactics of orthodox mobile war. While these units function as guerrillas, they may be compared to innumerable gnats, which, by biting a gian t bot h in front and in rear, ultima tely exhaust him. They make them­ selves as unendurable as a group of cruel and hateful devils, and as they grow and attain gigan tic proportions, they will find tha t their victim is not only exhausted but practically perishing. It is for this very reason tha t our guerrilla activities are a source of constant mental worry to Imperial Japan.

While it is improper to confuse orthodox with guerrilla operations, it is equally improper to consider tha t there is a chasm between the two. While differences do exist, similar­ ities appear under certain conditions, and this fact must be apprecia ted if we wish to establish clearly the rela tionship between the two. If we consider both types of warfare as a single subject, or if we confuse guerrilla warfare with the mobile operations of orthodox war, we fall into this error: We exaggerate the function of guerrillas and minimize


Yu Chi Chan (Guerrilla Warfare )

that of the regular armies. If we agree with Chang Tso Hua, who says, “Guerrilla warfare is the primary war strategy of a people seeking to emancipate itself ,” or with Kao Kang, who believes that “Guerrilla strategy is the only strategy possible for an oppressed people,” we are exaggera ting the impor tance of guerrilla hostilities. What these zealous friends I have just quoted do not realize is this: If we do not fit guerrilla opera tions into their proper niche, we cannot promote them realistically. Then, not only would those who oppose us take advantage of our varying opinions to turn them to their own uses to under­ mine us, bu t guerrillas would be led to assume respon­ sibilities they could not successfull y discharge and that should properly be carried out by orthodox forces. In the mean time, the importan t guerrilla function of coordinating activities with the regular forces would be neglected.

Furthermore, if the theory tha t guerrilla warfare is our only strategy were actually applied, the regular forces would be weakened, we would be divided in purpose, and guerrilla hostilities would decline. If we say, “Let us trans­ form the regular forces into guerrillas,” and do not place our first reliance on a victory to be gained by the regular armies over the enemy, we may certainly expect to see as a result the failure of the anti-Japanese war of resistance. The concept that guerrilla warfare is an end in itself and that guerrilla activities can be divorced from those of the regular forces is incorrect. If we assume that guerrilla war­ fare does not progress from beginning to end beyond its elemen tary forms, we have failed to recognize the fact that guerrilla hostilities can, under specific conditions, develop


M ao Tsetung on Guerrilla Warfare

and assume orthodox characteristics. An opinion that admits the existence of guerrilla war, but isolates it, is one that does not properly estimate the potentialities of such war.

Equally dangerous is the concept that condemns guer­ rilla war on the ground that war has no other aspects than the purely orthodox. This opinion is often expressed by those who have seen the corrupt phenomena of some guerrilla regimes, observed their lack of discipline, and have seen them used as a screen behind which certain persons have indulged in bribery and other corrupt prac­ tices. These people will not admit the fundamental neces­ sity for guerrilla bands tha t spring from the armed people. They say, “Only the regular forces are capable of conduct­ ing guerrilla operations.” This theory is a mistaken one and would lead to the abolition of the people’s guerrilla war.

A proper conception of the relationship that exists be­

tween guerrilla effort and that of the regular forces is essential. We believe it can be stated this way: “Guerrilla operations during the anti-Japanese war may for a certain time and temporarily become its paramoun t feature, par­ ticularly insofar as the enemy’s rear is concerned. How­ ever, if we view the war as a whole, there can be no doubt tha t our regular forces are of primary importance, because it is they who are alone capable of producing the decision. Guerrilla warfare assists them in producing this favorable decision. Orthodox forces may under certain conditions operate as guerrillas, and the latter may, under certain conditions, develop to the status of the former. However, both guerrilla forces and regular forces have their own respective development and their proper combinations.”

Yu Chi Chan (Guerrilla .Varfare )

To clarif y the rela tionship between the mobile aspect of orthodox war and guerrilla wa r, we may say that general agreement exists tha t the principal element of our strategy must be mobility. With the war of movemen t, we may at times combine the wa r of position. Both of these are as­ sisted by general guerrilla hostilities. It is true that on the ba t tlefield mobile wa r of ten becomes posi tional; it is true tha t this situation may be reversed; i t is equally true that each form may combine with the other. The possibility of such combina tion will become more evident af ter the prevailing standards of equipment have been raised. For example, in a general strategical coun terat tack to recapture key cities and lines of communica tion, it would be normal to use Loth mobile and posi tional methods. However, the poin t m ust again be made tha t our fundamental strategical form must be the war of movement. If we deny this, we can not arrive at the victorious solution of the war. In sum, while we must promote guerrilla warfare as a necessary strategical auxilia ry to orthodox operations, we must neither

assign it the primary position in our war strategy nor sub­ stitu te i t for mobile and positional warfare as conducted by orthodox forces.



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