Strategy for Revolution in 21st Century
Guerrilla Warfare Its Relation to a Culture of Peace for the 21st Century


Marx and Engels:
Communist Manifesto

Civil War in France


Theory of History

Marx and Engels:
On Human Nature


Violence and the Origin of the State

Socialism: Utopian and Scientific

Marx, Engels, Lenin:
On Dialectics

What is to be done?


The State and Revolution

Lenin: War Communism

The Cultural Revolution

Left-Wing Communism

The American Revolutions

The French Revolutions

On Workers Control

On Religion

On the Arms Race

Militarization of Labor

Russian Revolution

The Women's Question

Role of Communist Party

On Violence

On the Army

On Women

Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution

Mao and Fidel:
Fall of the American Empire

Man and Socialism in Cuba

Hall and Winston:
Fighting Racism

National Liberation and Culture

Cabral: National Liberation and Culture

Nkrumah: Neo-Colonialism

Marx and Engels were experts on military history and noted many cases of the use of guerrilla warfare: by the American South in the Civil War, by Spaniards and Tyrolians and Prussians against Napoleon, by Poland and the Caucasus against Imperial Russia, Pegu (Burma) against the British Empire, etc. But when Lenin wrote his classic paper, Guerrilla Warfare, in 1906, he did not quote Marx and Engels because they had not written in depth on the topic.

In Guerrilla Warfare Lenin begins from the premise that guerrilla warfare must be linked to struggle of the masses of the working class, or else it is against the interests of revolution: "the acts of individuals isolated from the masses, which demoralise the workers, repel wide strata of the population, disorganise the movement and injure the revolution."

Analyzing the 1905 revolution in Russia, Lenin finds that there was a certain point where guerrilla warfare was not only useful, but inevitable: "Guerrilla warfare is an inevitable form of struggle at a time when the mass movement has actually reached the point of an uprising and when fairly large intervals occur between the 'big engagements' in the civil war."

For Marx, Engels and Lenin, the question of guerrilla war is simply tactical - is it an effective form of warfare or not? As Lenin puts it, "A Marxist bases himself on the class struggle, and not social peace. In certain periods of acute economic and political crises the class struggle ripens into a direct civil war, i.e., into an armed struggle between two sections of the people. In such periods a Marxist is obliged to take the stand of civil war. Any moral condemnation of civil war would be absolutely impermissible from the standpoint of Marxism."

Mao Tse-Tung, writing Guerrilla Warfare in 1937, takes a similar approach to that of Lenin: "In a war of revolutionary character, guerrilla operations are a necessary part. This is particularly true in war waged for the emancipation of a people who inhabit a vast nation. China is such a nation, a nation whose techniques are undeveloped and whose communications are poor. She finds herself confronted with a strong and victorious Japanese imperialism. Under these circumstances, the development of the type of guerrilla warfare characterized by the quality of mass is both necessary and natural." Mao goes on to provide a detailed manual of the organization of guerrilla warfare.

Like Lenin, Mao considers the involvement of the masses of the working people to be essential: "Because guerrilla warfare basically derives from the masses and is supported by them, it can neither exist nor flourish if it separates itself from their sympathies and co-operation." If the actions of guerrilla warfare are "contrary to the true interests of the people," it is "easy to destroy because they lack a broad foundation in the people."

In agreement with Lenin, whom he quotes, Mao considers that guerrilla warfare is counter-productive when it is "unorganized and undisciplined."

Writing about The Political Problems Of Guerrilla Warfare, Mao hoped that the victories of socialist countries against fascism would lead to a new era of peace: "It is to be hoped that the world is in the last era of strife. The vast majority of human beings have already prepared or are preparing to fight a war that will bring justice to the oppressed peopled of the world. No matter how long this war may last, there is no doubt that it will be followed by an unprecedented epoch of peace The war that we are fighting today for the freedom of all human beings, and the independent, happy, and liberal China that we are fighting to establish will be a part of that new world order."

The most famous guerrilla warrior of the second half of the Twentieth Century, Ché Guevara, describes the successful Cuban revolution in his essay on Man and Socialism in Cuba: "Then came the stage of guerrilla warfare. It was carried out in two different environments: the people, an as yet unawakened mass that had to be mobilized, and its vanguard, the guerilla, the thrusting engine of mobilization, the generator of revolutionary awareness and militant enthusiasm. This vanguard was the catalyst which created the subjective condition necessary for victory."

In Cuba, the strategy described by Ché in was in contradiction to the strategy of Lenin and Mao, because the guerrila war was begun before it had the support of a mass struggle. However, Ché's later experiences in Africa and in Bolivia showed that Lenin and Mao were correct. In Africa and in Bolivia, the strategy did not work and the guerrilla movements failed under conditions where no mass support was developed.

Up until now, guerrilla warfare has been an integral part of the classic picture of revolution based on violence, beginning with the American Revolution and the French Revolution and stated clearly in the Communist Manifesto.

However, the view of revolution as warfare must be changed if we are to achieve a culture of peace in the 21st Century (the "epoch of peace" mentioned above by Mao Tse-Tung). In particular, we need to go beyond 1) the use of enemy images; and 2) the use of violence.

New methods of revolutionary change need to be developed in the 21st Century that are more powerful than violence and that do not have the same negative consequences. See, for example, the development of active nonviolence.

To take part in a discussion about this page, go to the Discussion Board Forum on Guerrilla Warfare and Terrorism:

discussion board


Revolutionary socialist culture of peace

Culture of War

Internal Culture of War

Culture of Peace

Education for nonviolence and democracy

Sustainable development for all

Human rights vs exploitation

Women's equality vs patriarchy

Democratic participation vs authoritarianism

Tolerance and solidarity vs enemy images

Transparency vs secrecy

Disarmament vs armament

Revolutionary leadership

Revolutionary organization

Proletarian Internationalism

National Liberation

Guerrilla Warfare


Agent Provocateurs

Communication systems

Psychology for revolutionaries

Capitalist culture of war

Socialist culture of war

Winning Conflict by Nonviolence

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Soviet Union
Disarmament Proposals

Soviet Collapse

Has Socialism Failed?

Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Ecology in Cuba

On Religion

Human Rights in South Africa

on Nonviolence

on Nonviolence

on Communism

Cuba's revolutionary medicine

People-power revolution in the Philippines