In the last century there was worldwide admiration for guerrilla actions against seemingly mighty oppressors. But this admiration is never translated into different tactics in the people’s struggle against the leading class, the 1%. Mass actions that hardly have been successful since World War II are still used. You could suppose it is done intentionally to keep The People unarmed.
Jean-Paul Marat propagated already guerrilla actions during the French Revolution by autonomous Patriotic Clubs. “Revolution will be a kind of guerrilla in which we can attack the enemy in all places where the army cannot be used. This means that we can deprive the enemy of all his advantages”.
But massive people’s uprisings remained the main weapon of The People. 1848 was followed by the French Commune of 1872 and the Russian and other revolutions after World War I. Though the damage to The People was immense the strategy hardly changed. Leading activists continued to push outlived tactics. That did not change when guerrilla became more popular.
The Chinese Revolution started also with mass uprisings but they were soon replaced by guerrilla tactics under the inspiration of Mao Tse-tung. That seemingly weak forces could defeat apparently inconvincible forces had a long tradition inChina. Guerrilla tactics were already described by Sun Tzu in “The Art of War” written around 500 BC. His ideas were round 1830 used by the Western military strategist Carl von Clausewitz in “On War”.
The enthusiasm for the successes of the Vietnamese in the guerrilla war against the Americans did however hardly influence tactics of people’s resistance in Western countries. The main tactics remained concentrated on massive people’s actions and uprisings. Also the activities of the immensely popular Che Guevara (1928-1967) did not have much influence on tactics in the struggle of the People against the leading class. Robert Taber wrote in his book “The War of the Flea” (1969) about the experiences of Vietnamese and other guerrilla wars after World War II and included the ideas of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. The practice of a people’s guerrilla remained restricted to small groups that did not succeed to achieve the participation of a substantial part of the population in the struggle. The necessary condition that activists must be like a fish in the water (Mao Tse-tung) was not worked out properly.
The developing strategy and tactics of the army and the police in defending the existing society made the old tactics of massive people’s uprisings nearly obsolete. Only in some places in the world with vast jungles and/or weak governments (Congo, India, Bolivia, Peru, Somalia) there are still guerrilla activities in the country side though it is doubtful they ever can chase away the sitting powers. In some countries as The Philippines or in the Arab Spring mass-tactics succeeded in chasing away the top of the local 1% but other parts of the 1% retained power. The situation for The People did not improve greatly and the power and wealth distribution remained unchanged.
In Western countries not only mass uprisings but also the old (Chinese, Vietnamese or Cuban) guerrilla tactics have become useless. There are hardly safe areas where the guerrilla can recuperate and organise the ongoing struggle.
The basic ideas for a guerrilla written down by Sun Tzu, Von Clausewitz and Taber can still be used. A constant undermining of the enemy with harassing techniques will in the end lead to the collapse of the old regime. As Robert Taber says: “The guerrilla fights the war of the flea, and his military enemy suffers the dog’s disadvantages: too much to defend; too small, ubiquitous, and agile an enemy to come to grips with.”
Guerrilla tactics – I prefer the term “War of the Flea” – are the best means of The People to exert power also because damage to the 99% is minimised and pressure on the 1% maximised. Though the writings of Sun Tzu and Von Clausewitz were in the first place intended for use by armies, the ideas can also be used by The People. To achieve real and lasting successes The People should wage a guerrilla war, harassing the enemy by many small actions and exhausting their resistance.
It is time that the admiration for the successes of guerrilla warfare in the last century is translated into action methods that can be used in the present century. Partial successes that never can be achieved by mass actions will increase the enthusiasm of The People and will in the long term care for it that a new society is born in which decisions are not based on money but on the idea that all people have the same status.
Joost van Steenis