Self-Liberation 101, Lesson 4: Learning from the Chairman
Learning from the Chairman
In the previous lesson we introduced the most important work of guerilla warfare ever written, “On Protracted War” by Mao Tse Tung. Let us examine the doctrine that is developed in this seminal work.
The first and most important thing we learn from Chairman Mao is the importance of unity in thought, speech and action. Those who struggle for national liberation must first and foremost fix in their thought the prize for which they struggle, the ultimate goal of freedom from alien rule. This prize must unite all their thoughts. It must become the very fiber of their being. All thought must be fixed on the goal of liberation at all times and seasons. When the strugglers lie down and when they rise, when they walk and when they sit, when they work and when they rest, when they daven the Amidah and when they say the Birchat haMazon, at all times and seasons only one goal should fill their thoughts – FREEDOM FROM THE OCCUPIER. Once all thought is united in seeking the goal, once all thought is fixed on the ultimate prize of freedom, all speech and action will flow from the same root and thus toward the same goal. Thus every word the struggler speaks he must speak with the goal of expelling the occupier. Every action the struggler takes must be aimed toward expelling the occupier. At all times and all seasons, before a struggler opens his mouth he asks himself “How does this further the goal?” At all times and seasons, before an action is taken, from the simplest to the complex, the struggler asks himself: “How does this action contribute to the goal?” From the supreme leader to the lowest private soldier, no action is taken and no word is spoken without a clear understanding of its PURPOSE.
Let us take, for example, the act of building an outpost. The leader who orders an outpost constructed must ask himself: “How does building this outpost help to expel the occupier?” Obviously, one does not build the outpost just to build the outpost. The occupier will come with bulldozers to destroy the outpost. Then the outpost will have to be rebuilt. Then the occupier will return. And thus ad infinitum. In the meantime, the limited funds and resources of the national liberation movement are expended on the outpost. Subordinates involved in building and defending the outpost cannot be used for other actions elsewhere. Materials and funds expended to construct and defend the outpost cannot be committed elsewhere. How does this infinite, self-defeating struggle for the outpost further the goal?
On the other hand, if the outpost is so constructed that its demolition costs the occupier much blood and treasure while costing the national liberation movement little blood and treasure, then the morale of the occupier is undermined. If the process can be repeated with similar results, so much the better. Therefore, the leader may order the outpost to be constructed as a deadly trap for the occupier. He will then explain to his subordinates that the goal of the outpost is to help expel the occupier by lowering his morale and to this end the outpost must kill and maim many of the occupier soldiers and destroy many of the occupier vehicles while preserving the lives of the warriors who defend it and limiting the logistical cost to the national liberation movement.
Once they understand the purpose of the outpost, the warriors who answer to the leader will go out and build it in a manner that furthers the leader’s goal. The warriors of the national liberation movement who build and defend the outpost must ask themselves: “How does my action in building this outpost contribute in its being a deadly trap for the occupier?” Therefore they will build wisely. They will place clever traps and deadly devices throughout the outpost and on the approaches to it. From their knowledge of the enemy and his manner of operation, they will seek to achieve maximum effect on the enemy, destroying his vehicles and killing many of his soldiers.
In defending the outpost, the strugglers will ask themselves: “How does my defense of this outpost contribute to inflicting maximum casualties on the occupiers who are attacking it?” Therefore, they will fight the enemy with cleverness, luring his important vehicles into traps and killing his leaders. They will also know that they must not sacrifice themselves needlessly, because to achieve the goal set by their commander they must retreat in safety while the occupier lies bleeding on the ground. Thus they will not defend the outpost until death or capture. Rather, without false heroics, they will retreat on prepared paths after their goal has been achieved.
While the foolish occupier might think them cowards, the warriors will know that they were clever in achieving the goal set by their commander. They will have contempt for the foolish occupier who bats at thin air and falls for their clever ruses. Their morale will therefore increase and their confidence in themselves will grow. It is plausible that the warriors will never be seen or heard by the occupier at all. It is plausible that the occupier will lose many men and vehicles to the clever traps around the outpost only to finally arrive there and find the outpost abandoned. Thus having lost many men and vehicles to fight an enemy he can neither see, nor hear, nor harm, only to arrive at an empty place of no value, the occupier soldier will feel powerless and angry. His morale will therefore be lowered and he will lose trust in his leaders.
Unity of thought, speech and action also results in a unified national front against the occupier. The national front mobilizes the entire nation, regardless of disagreements and ideology, into a single whole to battle the occupier. Of course, the strongest must lead and the best guerilla leader seeks to take control of the national front. But this is always secondary to the goal of expelling the occupier. If increasing the power of one faction over another serves the goal of expelling the occupier, it is laudable. If the same action produces infighting within the national front and strengthens the occupier, it is deplorable. For example, let us consider the many factions among the Jews of Yesha. Whom does it serve if Revava fights with the Moshichists and if Kfar Tapuach fights with Ma’aleh Adumim? Of course it serves the Israeli occupier. Therefore there must be a national front united to expel the occupier and all minor grievances should be put on hold. After there is a free Medinat Yehudah, differences can be hashed out in elections. The free people of Medinat Yehudah will decide who is right and who is wrong.
A unified national front means a unified command and a single, unified national liberation strategy. While details vary from faction to faction, all are united in the goal of expelling the occupier and all follow the same overall strategy in the struggle. Thus one part of the national liberation front may negotiate with the enemy as a ploy while another launches rockets at the enemy while both pursue a single strategy of causing the enemy to retreat and while funds given by the enemy to the negotiating faction as part of a “peace process” flow freely to the rocket-launching faction to enable the guerillas’ war process.
Unity of thought, speech and action also enables those who struggle for national liberation to mobilize the people around a single goal. The people are given not only an understanding of what they fight AGAINST but also what they fight FOR. The people are taught national consciousness and self-definition. The people are taught about the crimes and oppression of the occupier. The people are given a sense of national pride and dignity, which enables them to resist the occupier with every means at their disposal.
With continuous and unified propaganda, the national liberation movement gives the people a single set of symbols to march under. The national liberation movement demonstrates courage and self-sacrifice. By personal example of selfless courage and even willing death for the goal of freedom from alien rule, the warriors of national liberation encourage the people to struggle against the occupier. By constant adulation of fallen heroes, the national liberation movement teaches the people to revere those who fall in the struggle as martyrs to be emulated and to struggle ever harder so that the blood of the martyrs is not spilled in vain. The people come to believe in the movement and in the goal of national liberation. The people will then support the movement by providing funds, food, shelter, clothing, weapons and recruits. Thus unity of thought, speech and action brings popular support to the national liberation movement by enabling a unified nation under unified command, with a single strategic plan, struggling for a single goal under a single set of symbols.
Unity of thought, speech and action also ensures a tight security against traitors and enemy infiltrators. Those who seek to join the national liberation movement are given arduous tests in order to verify that they possess the correct consciousness and understanding. The potential recruit progresses through many stages of sympathizer, supporter, associate, associate member, probationary member, full member and, finally, elite member. At every stage he must demonstrate unity of thought, speech and action in pursuit of the goal of national liberation. At every stage others must vouch for his loyalty and political consciousness. At no stage does he know everyone and everything within the movement, but only those things and people he needs to know in order to further the goal of expelling the occupier at his designated level. Thus it becomes very difficult for traitors to arise within the movement. Those who know much have spent much time in united pursuit of the goal to liberate the nation. Those who join with the purpose of infiltration are often swayed by the movement and come to support its goal. Those who think like the enemy and work for the enemy are quickly exposed due to their lack of will to practice unity of thought, speech and action.
This brings us to the second important point of Chairman Mao’s work. The war of national liberation is a struggle of will. The occupier is very strong at the outset, but he has weak will. The guerilla is very weak at the outset but he has strong will. From this it follows that the guerilla must not match physical power against physical power, but rather he must match will against will. Thus he must know his enemy and understand how to lower the enemy’s will. If the enemy fears casualties, the guerilla must inflict casualties. If the enemy depends on high-prestige vehicles, the guerilla must destroy these vehicles. If the enemy becomes putty when you take his soldiers hostage, the guerilla takes the enemy soldiers hostage. If the enemy is attached to valuable property, the guerilla destroys the occupier’s property.
The guerilla must break the enemy economically by draining him of treasure. The guerilla must set the enemy against himself by pandering to factions within the enemy. If a faction of the enemy says “let’s negotiate”, the guerilla agrees to negotiate, then contrives to sabotage the negotiations and blames it on another party among the enemy. At no time does the guerilla actually compromise his goal of national liberation. However, at every convenient stage he PRETENDS to be open to compromise so as to sow dissention among the ranks of the enemy. Those among the enemy who want “peace now” will therefore seek to negotiate with the guerilla. Members of the “peace now” faction among the enemy will then undermine their own side in pursuit of “peace”. With the best of intentions, the “peace now” faction will actively aid the guerilla. They will sway the weak-willed and the weak-minded among the enemy, producing huge concessions to the guerilla and, ultimately, enemy surrender after enemy surrender.
At all times, the guerilla seeks to use the media as a propaganda tool. He seeks to exploit the enemy’s media and international media so as to maximize the perception of the justice of the guerilla’s cause and the perception of the guerilla’s success. With this goal in mind, the guerilla manipulates the media. It does not matter if the stories he tells the media are real or not. It does not matter whether the pictures he gives the media are fake or not. At every turn and in every way, the guerilla paints the occupier in the worst possible colors before the media. The media that supports the guerilla gets the “story”. The media that opposes the guerilla gets a bullet to the head. Soon all media supports the guerilla and shows even his most blatant propaganda and lies as the pure truth. Since the media always needs to have a good guy and a bad guy in every story, the guerilla automatically becomes a good guy in every story and the occupier automatically becomes the bad guy. Therefore the guerilla can fire a rocket barrage at an enemy city and the enemy will retaliate, possibly killing guerillas. But rather than report the full truth, the media headline will say, for example “America kills 40 Iraqis” or “Israel kills 18 Palestinians”.
At the same time, the guerilla must do everything in his power to preserve his will and to improve it. The victories of the national liberation movement must be played up before the rank and file, while defeats are explained as inevitable but temporary setbacks. The guerilla knows that tactical victories mean nothing. It is will that counts. Therefore the guerilla engages in constant struggle. The guerilla retreats before superior force and attacks an inferior force only when he is sure of victory. The guerilla always has a plan to retreat. The guerilla always sets an ambush for the enemy. Armed with the knowledge that things often get worse before they get better and that setbacks are unavoidable, the guerilla preserves and fortifies his will while wearing down the will of the enemy
By matching will against will, the guerilla creates a transformational war in which the guerilla constantly grows stronger while the enemy grows weaker. While foreign support, such as training camps, arms and funds, is important in the struggle, it is the transformational nature of the struggle that is truly vital. As long as the battle continues in a manner that matches will against will, as long as the will of the guerilla grows stronger while the will of the occupier grows weaker, the national liberation movement can continue to operate and even win without any foreign support at all. When the will of the enemy is sufficiently lowered, the national liberation movement can achieve the situation whereby it is supported by the occupier himself. The occupier himself, in pursuit of a “peace process” supplies the national liberation movement with funds, territory and arms. He is so addled and his will is so weak that he blames every action of the guerillas on himself and redoubles his efforts to make “sacrifices for peace”. When a sensible faction within the enemy rises to undertake effective action against the guerilla, the “peace” faction within the enemy camp immediately sabotages this action, then shouts down the sensible faction among the enemy as “ineffective”. Thus the “peace process” continues to go from surrender to surrender and the addled enemy refuses to use his great physical power to destroy the physically weak guerillas because his weak will tells him that his physical power is of no use against the towering will of the national liberation movement. Ultimately, the occupier’s will collapses entirely and he leaves altogether.
We now come to the mechanics of the struggle. The struggle of the people for self-liberation is a protracted struggle, conducted in three stages.
In stage 1, called the Organization and Preparation stage, the national liberation movement engages in propaganda to build self-awareness among the people. The national liberation movement trains its cadres and fighters. The national liberation movement builds cells, infiltrates organizations, creates front groups to advocate on its behalf and to raise money. The movement stockpiles weapons and materiel for the coming struggle.
In this stage there is guerilla activity and maneuver warfare, but these are low key and appear sporadic. In reality, the movement is going from strength to strength, taking over the countryside and mobilizing the people. A movement operating in stage 1 is called a level 1 movement or level 1 organization. In this stage, the political arm of the movement, often disguised as a political party, becomes active openly or covertly, depending on the political system of the occupier. The movement may even establish a presence within ideologically similar or sympathetic parties within the domestic political system of the occupier. If the occupier has a substantial population religiously, culturally, socially or ideologically similar to the movement, the movement seeks to create fronts and affiliates within this population, turning this population against the enemy and using it as a source of funds, shelter, weapons and recruits.
Since the primary goals in stage 1 are to organize the people and to build the movement, many non-violent or low-violence actions are conducted in this stage. The movement organizes popular resistance committees among the people, orchestrates demonstrations and riots, sponsors general strikes and causes property damage. All of these actions appear to be “spontaneous” and “disorganized” to the occupier. The occupier responds with force, only playing into the hands of the movement. The occupier’s heavy-footed response serves as fodder for the movement’s propaganda, while his outrageous actions incite the people to greater support of the movement. The harder the occupier cracks down, the more the people sympathize with the movement. But if the occupier retreats, he shows himself to be a cowardly paper tiger, the movement appears to win and the people are emboldened to support national liberation.
The movement seeks to create no-go zones for occupier security forces within which it can freely build and train forces and operate as a quasi-government. In stage 1, the war of symbols is of primary importance. The symbols of the national liberation movement are propagated throughout the nation. The slogans of the national liberation movement are spread by every possible means. The goals and actions of the national liberation movement are portrayed as just and reasonable to the people, while the goals and actions of the occupier are portrayed as evil and sinister at every turn. The supporters of the occupier among the people are swayed by the movement. Those who are not persuaded by logic are persuaded with shame. Those who are without shame are persuaded with force. Those who are not persuaded with force are killed.
At the end of stage 1, the movement controls the countryside and enjoys broad support among the people. There are large numbers of trained cadres and guerillas ready for action. Numerous front organizations exist to promote and support the movement’s objective. Funds are raised from among the people and, possibly, from abroad. Large stockpiles of war materiel are available. The movement controls substantial no-go zones within which it is the de facto government. The media supports the movement. There are fronts and factions within the enemy camp who sympathize with the movement and, possibly, support it. At this point, the movement is ready to undergo a stage 2 transition.
A movement that transitions to stage 2 is called a level 2 movement or level 2 organization. Stage 2 is called the Terrorism and Guerilla Warfare stage. In this stage, the movement engages in terrorist acts, kidnappings and guerilla attacks to break the morale of the enemy. Pressure is skillfully applied on the enemy via the media and by means of mounting casualties and financial losses. The constant drumbeat of terror demoralizes the enemy’s armed forces and civilian populations. Sympathetic organizations and guerilla fronts among the enemy spread propaganda within the enemy camp, activating the gullible and weak-willed among the enemy to form a “peace now” faction and to seek a “peace process” with the movement. As the terror escalates and the will of the enemy wanes, the “peace process” takes center stage. The addled enemy runs from corner to corner like a rat in a cage. Fighting breaks out within the enemy camp as “peace now” factions confront the sensible factions and attempt to drive them off the political stage. The enemy’s occupation of the nation becomes a political football among the enemy. The end result is enemy retreat after enemy retreat, eventually setting the stage for total collapse.
It must be emphasized that at no time is the enemy actually physically weaker than the guerillas at this stage. The enemy’s weapons are stronger. His soldiers are generally better trained. The occupier “wins” every major confrontation with the guerillas. But his will slowly grows so weak that he is no longer able to use his physical strength. He retreats before children with rocks and hides in armored vehicles rather than respond to sniper fire because responding constitutes “provocation”. He refuses to enter no-go areas to interrupt constant barrages of rockets and mortar shells because this would endanger the lives of his troops. If goaded into a major operation, he satisfies himself with half-measures, running hither and yon in “limited”, “pinpoint” operations that accomplish absolutely nothing. Then, having lost men and expended materiel to no purpose whatsoever, unwilling to stay in the no-go areas, the occupier withdraws in futility and the rockets start falling again.
While the will of the enemy collapses, the will of the national liberation movement grows. The movement begins to form open governments within its no-go areas. The no-go areas themselves expand as the occupier retreats behind walls and into bunkers in the face of relentless guerilla attacks. The no-go areas expand further as enemy surrenders grant territory to the movement as part of the “peace process”. Eventually, a contiguous proto-state encompassing most of the population formerly oppressed by the occupier is under the control of the guerillas. At this stage, the guerillas have two choices. They can either use the “peace process” to obtain a state and thus achieve limited victory, or they can seek a stage 3 transition and total victory.
We must note, in passing, that virtually no movement that transitioned to stage 2 has ever been defeated without genocide. Some have been beaten back to stage 1 and regained stage 2 several times and some have gone on to limited or total victory. But a successful stage 2 transition is, for all intents and purposes, the seal of immortality.
Should the guerillas seek a stage 3 transition, they transform their guerilla army into a regular armed force. A movement that achieves stage 3 is called a level 3 organization. Stage 3 is called the Conventional Warfare stage. In this stage, the guerillas largely cease to be guerillas, although they may regain guerilla formations within their organizational structure as a sort of uber special forces. Stage 3 transition is an extremely difficult and painful process. It generally requires external support. However, successful stage 3 transitions, unless mistimed, generally lead to total victory. By the time the stage 3 transition occurs, the enemy is so weakened by infighting and lack of will that his forces simply collapse in disorder or fight as isolated points of resistance while their commanders are too busy with political infighting to pay any attention to the military battle they are nominally responsible for. A mistimed stage 3 transition is generally a disaster for the guerillas. The movement’s units are slaughtered in droves by superior enemy forces who finally have a conventional enemy to fight and therefore shake off their stupor. The result is a massive increase in will among the enemy and a collapse of morale among the guerillas. The movement may fall back to stage 2 but, more likely, it will fall all the way back to stage 1 due to the horrible casualties among cadre and rank-and-file guerillas. However, it must be noted that occasionally even in such failure there can be success. A manipulated enemy media may paint the guerillas’ defeat as a victory and the occupier’s victory as a defeat, sparking massive protest in the occupier’s home and ultimately causing him to retreat due to domestic political considerations.
While the 3 stages of guerilla warfare proceed, the movement never loses sight of the integral political struggle, which has 3 components:
- Action among the people, which builds the will of the people and the guerillas through propaganda and political action
- Action among the enemy military, which seeks to encourage dissension within the ranks of the enemy soldiers and undermine their will
- Action among the enemy population, which seeks to undermine the enemy population’s support for occupation and turns the enemy camp against itself via guerilla fronts and “peace” factions.
We have therefore seen that there are two major themes in Chairman Mao’s work which form the foundation of guerilla doctrine. These principles are
- Unity of thought, speech and action
- The struggle of will in a transformational war
From these principles, all doctrine is built. We have learned about the stages of guerilla struggle and about the terminology of guerilla organization. In our next lesson, we will examine specific cases of Mao doctrine in action and discuss its limitations.
Homework: Examine the Palestinians from the viewpoint of Mao doctrine. Identify the organizational levels and the stage transitions in the struggle. Evaluate the actions of the Israeli State. Did the Israeli State ever act in a manner that did not play into the hands of the Palestinians? What is the current stage of the struggle? At what level do the Palestinians operate? What is the likely outcome if the process continues?
Stay tuned for Self-Liberation 101, Lesson 5