People Not Weapons Are Decisive in Warfare...

"They Fight Their Way, and We Fight Our Way"

By Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP, USA

Revolutionary Worker #1091, February 18, 2001, posted at

It is very important to recall the point Mao made in criticizing pacifist and defeatist tendencies with regard to revolutionary war: To talk all the time about the negative aspects of war--the destruction and so on--and not about the positive liberating aspects of revolutionary war, is not right and not in the interests of the people. At the same time, Mao and all the leaders of the proletariat have taken the question of waging revolutionary warfare to overthrow the reactionary system extremely seriously.

Mao (as Lenin before him) stressed--and in this they drew from the 19th-century Germany military strategist Clausewitz--that war is the continuation of other means. When it comes down to it, in a country like the U.S., revolutionary war would be the continuation of revolutionary politics, just as the counter-revolutionary warfare of the imperialists would be a continuation of their reactionary politics. Mao summed up a whole lot about war in general--and about revolutionary war in particular--when he said: "They fight their way, and we fight our way." Their way relies, and can only rely, on technology and on maintaining the masses of people, and even the soldiers of their own army, in ignorance about what is actually being fought for. Our way relies, and can only rely, on giving the most powerful expression to the desire of the masses for a radical change and their increasingly conscious determination to put everything on the line in waging a revolutionary war to bring about such a change.

It remains a profound truth that people not weapons are decisive in warfare. But this has to find expression in military strategy and doctrine and, more than that, in the actual waging--and winning--of revolutionary war when the time comes. The point is: it is not enough to be "braver" than the imperialist forces.

Now, the courage and daring, the capacity for self-sacrifice of people fighting consciously for their emancipation, and the emancipation of all humanity, the illumination and inspiration provided by MLM--all this will be a tremendously important factor for the revolutionary army of the proletariat (rap). But, when the time comes, this must be given the fullest, most effective expression in military doctrine, actual military operational principles, actual military fighting forces and formations, and concrete ways of fighting that could actually DEFEAT the enemy on the battlefield.

In a country like the U.S., even before there is a revolutionary situation--all during the period of preparation prior to that--it is absolutely crucial for the vanguard party to continue developing its basic military line and doctrine...or the party would be unprepared to lead the masses in waging the armed insurrection (ai) and then the civil war (cw) when that becomes "the order of the day."

Now, I do have to say that I wish there could be a rule like this: EVERY MILITARY FORCE HAS TO FIGHT WITH WEAPONS THAT CORRESPOND TO THE ERA THAT THEIR IDEOLOGY REPRESENTS. For example, the Christian Fascists--who, we should understand, play a big role, on all levels, not just in the U.S. ruling class in general, but specifically in the military--they, and the military forces they lead, should have to fight with weapons that correspond to what existed three or four thousand years ago: no guns, no tanks, no helicopters, no planes. They can fight with swords and other shit like that, shields maybe made out of some metal, but no guns, no tanks, no helicopters, no airplanes, no missiles and nuclear weapons--because their ideology represents shit, social relations, ideas and "values", from several thousand years ago. The same thing for the Islamic Fundamentalists: they should have to fight with weapons that correspond to about 1500 years ago--the time of Muhammad. Again, they can use swords and shields but no guns, no tanks, no planes, none of the rest of that shit--no missiles, no artillery--they don't get any of that shit. And the same thing goes for the Zionists who use the Bible to justify taking Israel from the Palestinian people: these Zionists should have to fight with the weapons that were used by the characters in the Old Testament.

Everybody, including us, would have to fight with the weapons that correspond to the era that their ideology represents. Those are the rules we'd like to have. Even though we still wouldn't rely on technology--but would continue to rely on the proletariat and masses of people--we'd like to be able to have a lot of very advanced technology, corresponding to the fact that our ideology is the most advanced ideology in history and in the world today--that it represents a great leap into a liberating future for humanity. But there is not, and is not going to be, any such rule--so we can't expect or count on that!

Yet, even though this is, unfortunately, a fantasy and a joke, it is at the same time a reflection of the extreme degree to which the basic contradictions of the capitalist-imperialist system find expression at this point: the contradiction between highly developed and socialized forces of production, on the one hand, and private-capitalist accumulation, monopolized by a tiny handful of exploiters, on the other hand--between those highly advanced forces of production and the capitalist-imperialist relations of ownership and exploitation, and the corresponding superstructure of politics, culture and ideology, which drags along outmoded concepts and customs, such as thousands of years old religious superstition and obscurantism, and works to impose this on the people. Still, the revolutionary forces would have to meet and defeat them with their technology and their terrible means of destruction...but also with their profound, strategic weaknesses.

The Enemy's Strategic Weaknesses

What are these profound strategic weaknesses? The fundamental contradiction of their system and all the suffering and destruction it gives rise to, over and over... Their fundamental nature as vicious exploiters who bring untold misery to masses of people all over the world... Their requirements of "empire"--precisely the ways in which they must repeatedly become engaged, and can in fact get "overextended" and "bogged down" in entanglements and even warfare in now one part and then another part of the world.

And here we can recall the experience of Vietnam and the kind of profound crisis it created for their system, not only throughout the world, but in the U.S. itself, and very importantly, right within their military. It is a fact that during the Vietnam War, at the height of resistance to that war, inside and outside the military, not only were their fighting units breaking down in the field and refusing to fight and in some cases even carrying out what they called "fragging"--throwing bombs and directing weapons against their own officers--but, at the height of all this, one-fourth of their entire military force, not only in Vietnam but throughout the world, was either AWOL or deserting in some other form. This gives a living sense of what can happen when a real crisis hits them and they get overextended and bogged down--especially where they are not winning a war and are taking serious casualties, as they did in Vietnam. And it's the nature of their system to find themselves in these kind of situations, in one way and to one degree or another.

Also among their strategic weaknesses and vulnerabilities is the contradiction between the proclaimed "freedom and democracy" of their system and its actual oppressive and exploitative character and role in the U.S. and worldwide. You can see how this comes out: people who believe in all these democratic illusions but who want change--they go out and protest and demonstrate, and they run into the nature of the state and the real nature of the system, the actual power relations in society. They begin to question things they never questioned before, and they go back and talk to their friends and their family and they argue with them: "But you don't understand, you weren't there, you didn't see what I saw, you weren't hit by what I was hit with, you didn't experience the police brutalizing people who were protesting, and the media lying and covering this up, and all the rest." So this is not just an abstract contradiction--this contradiction between the proclaimed freedom and democracy of their system and its actual oppressive and exploitative character and role in the U.S. and worldwide--this is a very important strategic vulnerability of theirs.

And the fact that those who are more inclined to be satisfied by and support their system also tend to be those who are more "soft"--who are less willing to make great sacrifices--this, too, is a key contradiction and a strategic vulnerability of their system. This is important for us to understand in terms of what kind of support--or lack of support--they would have when they're fighting a war against a revolutionary force, a war they couldn't win quickly.

It's important to think about the impact this would have even within their own military forces. But, at the same time, we must have a dialectical and not a one-sided or simplistic understanding of this. They do have forces that are diehard forces. Right now their whole strategy militarily is based on fighting wars where they basically suffer no casualties--where they have an overwhelming advantage and can just pound an enemy without having to risk much of anything in terms of casualties for their forces. That's what they set out to do and basically did in Iraq and more recently in Yugoslavia.

They have summed up the lessons of Vietnam, from their point of view. They know the kind of social upheaval and turmoil and massive resistance this can give rise to when people start dying in large numbers. That's real, and that's very important. But, on the other hand, when it gets down to it--when their whole system and their whole power is on the line--they do have diehard forces who would put a lot on the line, who would fight with vicious determination to maintain their system. The revolutionary forces couldn't expect that all of them, all of the time, would just be "soft" and just fall away once the revolutionary army hit them.

But on a deeper level--applying dialectics to this and going to a deeper level once again--there is this fundamental truth: when, through the waging of revolutionary war, they are actually defeated and suffer real setbacks on the battlefield, real casualties and real hardships, the fact that their most hardcore supporters are people who do "have it soft"--people who are not inclined to, and not easily won to, make tremendous sacrifices--would once again reassert itself in the loss of support for the imperialists' war efforts. It would assert itself in their supporters becoming demoralized, and even in their troops being increasingly disheartened and disintegrated, with some of them being won over to the revolutionary side. But we have to keep in mind that this would happen only on the basis of the revolutionary forces actually meeting and defeating them on the battlefield and not just by making abstract appeals to them--that will never work.


And, above all, we must not lose sight of but must base everything we do, including our whole orientation toward waging revolutionary war and our strategy and doctrine for doing so--we must base this on OUR GREAT STRATEGIC STRENGTHS as well.

What are our great strategic strengths? Everything we represent, and specifically that we represent the only resolution of the fundamental contradictions of this system--the only resolution that is in the interests of the great majority of humanity, worldwide--and the whole world outlook and methodology of MLM that gives us the most thoroughly correct and comprehensive way of understanding, and changing, the world. This, and the ways in which we can translate this into powerful resistance and ultimately revolutionary war against this system, is what we have to rely on most fundamentally in fighting "our way." It is the only thing we can fundamentally rely on.

And only by relying on the masses and their increasingly conscious and determined struggle could the revolutionaries wage a war that could win on the battlefield and do so in a way that is consistent with and serves the goal of carrying out the radical transformation of society by relying on the masses of people.

Our great strategic strengths and their great strategic weaknesses must be translated into actual concrete means and methods of warfare when it is time to wage revolutionary war.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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