Thursday, January 17, 2019

Protracted People's War or Unified Peoples War ? by Harsh Thakor

Democracy and Class Struggle says this post by Harsh Thakor raises the important question of the classic Protracted People's War of Mao Zedong and questions whether Chairman Gonzalo revised and updated that theory in the spirit of Maoism or gave it a revisionist twist which would in all probability be the view of Comrade Sison.

We would appreciate views of comrades on this question.


Below I am re-producing some excerpts of a document of Red Guards Los Angeles on Summation of 4 years preparatory work for building Protracted Peoples War

I have posted the parts on Chairman Gonzalo's thesis and innovations on PPW  concept.

Chairman Gonzalo merged insurrection and PPW together by calling for armed actions in cities differing from the application of the theory by Mao in China.

Crucial this phenomena is analyzed in depth otherwise it could lead to disastrous consequences and lead to Urban putchism by Maoists in India or Philippines.

Comrade Joma Sison was emphatically critical of armed actions in cities.

Still we have to understand the complexities of Asia and Latin America with more and more Neo-colonial infiltration and urban population doubling, like in Brazil.

Globalization has changed the conventional semi-feudalism of the days of China in the 1940's even in India.

Thus need to develop a PPW concept in accordance to the socio-economic or socio-poitical conditions of today under neo-liberalism


There is one area in which Red Guards Los Angles  is beginning to struggle over. Chairman Gonzalo's application of Maoism to Peru came in the form of the Party’s Guiding Thought, Gonzalo Thought. 

Located inside the Peruvian Guiding Thought contained the theorization of the application of PPW in the capitalist center of Lima and urban cities with a principal component in the countryside - similar yet different from Mao's application of People's War in China. 

Mao argued for organizing in the countryside and encircling the cities. Gonzalo, of course, argued for that but with the advancement of an infiltrated and integrated component within the cities to carry out armed Party actions. Support bases would be built in the Party-controlled countryside. 

But in the city Party Fronts would be the principal form of organizing, working in unison with countryside bases for the coordinated bombardment against the cities in the final blows to the weakened bourgeois state. 

It is theorized by the Communist Party of India (Maoist), as well as others, that this insurrection occurs in the final stage of PPW, its strategic offensive. 

However, history has shown rolling attacks inside urban centers throughout revolutions, including People's Wars, have been effective - such as in the case of Vietnam.

Not a lot has been made public on the theorization of PPW in the capitalist-imperialist centers or on Unified People's War. 

Although the PCP's own writings puts this squarely, particularly, in Gonzalo Thought and not generally in the universal tenants of Maoism proper, we can see a universality of this application of PPW to fully developed capitalist countries with rural or countryside-like conditions like the vastness of U.S., Canada, Mexico, Central America, Brazil, and hundreds if not thousands others. 

We are hard-pressed to think of a fully- developed vast capitalist country on earth where Unified People's War is not applicable.

The PCP's General Political Line, specifically the Military Line, lays out Unified People's War as it was applied in Peru, borrowing - or synthesizing - from the International Communist Movement throughout history:Furthermore, Chairman Gonzalo specifies that in the cities armed actions should be carried forward as a complement, since international experience, as well as our own, demonstrates that this is feasible. 

He draws lessons, for example, from what happened to the guerrillas in the Philippines which recast themselves in the countryside and left the cities quiet, especially the capital, resulting in the isolation of the guerrillas. 

In Brazil, the revolutionaries also carried out armed actions in the countryside and city, only they neglected to specify which was principal. In Vietnam, important armed actions were carried out in the cities. 

Thus, taking into account the peculiarities of the cities in Latin America, where the percentage of the proletariat and of the poor masses in the cities is high , the masses are ready to develop actions complementing those in the countryside. 

In the cities, however, the New Power or Support Bases are not being built, rather the Front is solidified through the Revolutionary Defense Movement of the People (MRDP) with Resistance Centers that carry out the People’s War and prepare the future insurrection, which will occur when the forces of the countryside assault the cities in combination with the insurrection from within.Where does the countryside exist as the most populated area of the peasants and masses?

In the world, approximately 51 percent of the population lives in the cities - even in China more people now live in the cities - approximately

The CPI (Maoist), or at very least its precursors who would go on to merge into the Party, are influenced by the PCP

- especially in the urban setting:The situation of the urban poor in the slums and poor localities is worsening continuously. The slum population of India today stands at 4.1 cores, spread in 607 towns. The largest mega city, Mumbai, has 49% of its population in the slums.

 Our Party has so far paid limited attention to the organizing of this section. 

Other revolutionary parties, particularly the Peru Communist Party (PCP) have been particularly successful in this respect. In fact the shanty towns of Lima have been the strongholds of the revolutionaries for a long period. 

We too should work at creating such strongholds in India's major cities.In short, the CPI (Maoist)'s application of PPW to India is Unified People's War. 

What Presidente Gonzalo theorized has been carried out and applied or more correctly, like any universality, it has been discovered by those paying keen attention to their material reality, such as revolutionary Marxists.

The era of organizing a People's Army exclusively in the countryside with bases of support encircling and then taking over the cities is gone. 

We repeat for the anticipation of misreadings and criticisms built on misreadings: we argue that building exclusively in the countryside is obsolete, but instead building bases in the countryside in combination with forging bases, albeit of a different form, in urban centers. 

We are in the era of proletarian revolution, of decaying capitalism,imperialism, and of national liberation struggles. 

Unified People's War answers the Maoist question as to how PPW would look like in a capitalist country. It is not an insurrectionist war and it is not an exclusively rural and countryside war.


Unified peoples war is an eclectical concept distorting the original thesis of Chairman Mao on Protracted Peoples War and merges PPW with insurrection.

This was Chairman Gonzalo's formulation related to concept of militarization of the party. 

Erroneously the PCP and Chairman Gonzalo upheld   concept of Protracted Peoples War as a  Universal concept and that the Russian Revolution was a part of Peoples War.

The CCP had propounded concept of Protracted Peoples War only for liberating the 3rd world countries where condition existed similar to China evaluating the terrain.

In cities of America or Europe there are no mountains or forest areas for a Red Army to launch a peoples war and state machinery is too fortified for the cities to be encircled.

The capitalist model of production and bourgeois parliament do not facilitate it.

In such areas there are no avenues for the peoples army to retreat and camouflage themselves.

Erroneosuly PCP and Gonzalo equated the armed struggles in Serbia or Ireland as protracted peoples war.

Even if insurrection may not be deployed in developed countries in the classical sense as by the Bolshevik's in Russia a century ago the military strategy will be far closer to the Russian than the Chinese path. 

I cannot reconcile the Gonzalite view that the Russian revolution practiced path of  of peoples war and feel October Road had a distinct path. 

For DCS contrary view

This view is still endorsed by many trends within the International Maoist Camp and intellectuals like RCP-Canada, RGA Austin, Joshua  Moufawad Paul and Nicholas Glais of Democracy and Class Struggle.

Certain aspects of Maoist military theory can be incorporated in armed struggles even in developed countries with its laws being universal but that does not imply the  universality of PPW. 

I still mantain that basically PPW is applicable to semi-colonial countries and if errors occurred in practice in Nepal and Peru it was due to treading on insurrection path and deviating from PPW.

We have to credit Mao for giving the proletariat it's 1st military line which Marx and Lenin did not.

' Mao’s Thought 'has been put to the test by history and practice but lets give time to see if Gonzaloism is universally applicable,

Where or which countries have reached socialist revolution with Gonzalo’s strategy?  There is Philippine, Nepal, India where there are PPW but it have leaded to negotiate reforms until now.... nowhere prolĂ©tariat have reached power with Gonzalo’s strategy.(Mario Labbe)

Chairman Gonzalo claimed that it was Chairman Mao who gave the proletariat it's first international line.

With regard to certain respect it was right.

Quoting Joma Sison”.

Even before Mao became a communist, Lenin had already set the politico-military line to turn the imperialist war into a revolutionary civil war. 

The great politico-military victories of the proletarian its revolutionary in close connection with inter-imperialist wars. Lenin and the Bolsheviks gave clear and correct direction to the process of seizing power in Russia. 

They directed the penetration of the Tsarist army by Bolshevik cadres, the insurrections to seize power in Petrograd, major cities and trunk lines and the revolutionary war in the countryside in the extended civil war and in the war against foreign intervention. 

At the same time, we credit Mao for the victorious strategic line of PPW in a semicolonial and semifeudal country for taking advantage of its chronic crisis and the availing of the peasant majority and the country for growing the people's army from small and weak to big and powerful, capable of defending a people's government of workers and peasants.(Joma Sison)

The view that PPW strategy cannot be applied in Imperialist countries is upheld by Communist Part of Philippines, C.P.I.(Maoist) and the Mass Proletariat group U.S.A.

Protracted People’s War (PPW) has been promoted as a universal strategy for revolution in recent years despite the fact that this directly contradicts Mao’s conclusions in his writing on revolutionary strategy. 

Mao emphasized PPW was possible in China because of the semi-feudal nature of Chinese society, and because of antagonistic divisions within the white regime which encircled the red base areas. 

Basic analysis shows that the strategy cannot be practically applied in the U.S. or other imperialist countries. 

Despite this, advocates for the universality of PPW claim that support for their thesis is a central principle of Maoism. 

In this document we refute these claims, and outline a revolutionary strategy.

In our view, confusion on foundational questions of revolutionary strategy, and lack of familiarity with Mao’s writings on the actual strategy of PPW, has led to the growth of dogmatic and ultra-“left” tendencies within the U.S. Maoist movement. 

Some are unaware of the nature of the struggle in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) against Wang Ming, Li Lisan, and other dogmatists. 

As a result, they conflate Mao’s critique of an insurrectionary strategy in China with a critique of insurrection as a strategy for revolution in general. 

Some advocate for the formation of base areas and for guerrilla warfare in imperialist countries, while others negate PPW as a concrete revolutionary strategy, reducing it to an abstract generality or a label for focoist armed struggle. 

Many have also uncritically accepted everything Gonzalo—the imprisoned chairman of the Communist Party of Peru (PCP)—ever said. 

Others are negatively influenced by the petty-bourgeois adventurism of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Canada’s (PCR-RCP) early documents.(Mass Proletariat document on strategy of PPW)

Mao was absolutely clear that protracted people's war, especially building a people's army from small and weak to big and strong over time, is possible only in semi colonial and semi feufal countries because of their chronic crisis and their wide physical and social terrain (countryside and peasantry) for guerrilla warfare to develop into a regular mobile warfare.(Joma Sison)

In fact today with the intervention of globalisation production relations are very complex with imperialism and capitalism operating and influencing feudalism in 3rd world countries on a much greater scale. .

Arguably protracted peoples war cannot copy the Chinese path classically even if there are strong similarities.

The neo-colonial influence of capital is far greater today on the 3rd world than it was in the days of China in the 1940's.

Development of computer technology and automation in the 3rd world is also a very significant factor. Even if still semi-feudal and semi-colonial they have different characteristics from China of the 1940’s.

PPW will have to developed in a form suitable to the concrete situation in the aftermath of globalisation. 

Significant that successful  peoples wars in  Vietnam or Angola did not practice Maoist path in toto , nor did the successful  revolutions n Nicaragua and Cuba or the JVP uprisng in Sri Lanka

Insurrection also cannot be applied in it's classical form and only emulate the Russian Road.

Today there have been vast changes in the infrastructure and political superstructure of the imperialist countries.

There us far more developed security system.much more developed parliamentary democracy, proletariat further dispersed because of globalization and greater disparity between white workers and those of 3rd world countries in Imperialist countries like Afro-Americans,Latinos and Asian population.

In Canada certain comrades  criticize the PCR-RCP for arguing that the conditions of the imperialist state has changed and now requires a protracted war, and they criticize it, though the entire history of communism in Canada has materially disproved it at this point. in 1918-19 we had an October Road style attempt at revolution that was lacking in its subjective elements to actually win - it definitely could have though. 

The Communist Party that grew out of that saw, and was through its contradiction the reason for, the greatest expansion of state repression. The October road will not work here at this point.(Nick Marlatte)

We have to remember that however defective insurrection theory has been in semi-colonial societies attempts to launch protracted peoples war have been crushed in recent years. 

Nepal in 1996 came closest to emulating Peruvian example under Prachanda and was on the verge of victory before the compromise of Prachanda for sharing power with the Nepalese monarch state. 

In the case of the PPW in Nepal had in fact not "completed its military aim of placing the Maoists in power", rather, the party entered into the peace process for the very reason that it could not win militarily at that juncture. 

Indeed, there had been an effective military stalemate with the party controlling the countryside, but unable to capture any major cities (effectively negating a significant aspect of the encirclement tactic which is to starve the urban centres). 

Thus, at the time of the strategic offensive the CPN(Maoist) found that it could not capture the cities by the PLA nor did not it have the urban forces to carry out the last stage of the PPW which is in fact insurrection. (Assesment of Nepal by Dhruv Jain)

We have to assess why no successful Maoist peoples war has been launched in the world after 1949 in spite of peoples wars been carried out in countries worldwide from the 1960's .

Nor did Maoism sufficiently influence the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa or struggle for liberation of Palestine or anti-colonial struggles in Africa.

In fact countries like Cuba and Nicaragua succeeded who did not apply the Maoist model.In India the Maoist movement is based in the tribal forests regions  has failed to penetrate the plain areas or make inroads in the urban areas amongst the working class.

In Philippines and India in spite of rectification of deviations of leftist deviations the revolution is not on verge of victory.In India arguably in many areas subjective factors are still lacking to practice PPW.

With it's great diversity and a much stronger parliamentary system  in India unlike China before 1950  many guerilla zones would have to be simultaneously built .

In fact in all third world countries a a much stronger parliamentary democratic infrastructure has been built with the intelligence systems infiltrating some forest areas .

Nor are the landlords in modern third world countries like the Chinese warlords with land relations much more influenced by imperialism or capitalism.

Nevertheless important similarities exist in terms of geographical terrain like, mountains, forests and plateaus.

In countries of Latin America like Argentina, Chile , Brazil the urban population far exceeds the rural population but still the mode of production is still predominantly semi-feudal.

However their geographic characteristics significantly differ from China and thus a particular from or revolutionary warfare has to be developed combining the upheavals of the workers in the cities with the peasantry and red Indians in the plains. and forests. e.

A new form of peoples war has to be developed for the neo colonial,principally urban based Latin  American countries with large sections of peasantry' virtually forced to migrate to cities because of being landless.

The ruling classes in India were given enough time to replenish their forces, disrupt the revolutionary movement and corrupt a section of vocal population by the so-called parliamentary or "Panchayati Raj" system (as a part of creating a network of middlemen and imposed dependence of the people on them). 

The unusual national/ethnic,religious and social diversity of India and the resultant divisions in the Indian society, especially the social divisions owing to the pernicious caste-system, had been a perennial feature responsible for complicating the process of revolutionary transformation of Indian society. 

The ruling classes were given enough time to manipulate and aggravate such divisions to the detriment of the revolutionary unity and class struggles of the Indian people.

Lastly, one should not underestimate the fact that the ruling classes are armed to the teeth while the revolutionary forces have to proceed from elementary levels on both the planes - political-organisational as well as military.

These are some of the disadvantages resulting from a delayed revolution in India. (D.V.Rao Basic documents in 1972)

Today the strongest architect of the mass line in PPW  is the Communist Party of Philippines that has been leading an armed struggle for over 4 decades and initiated a major rectification campaign 30 years ago,. 

It opposes concept of personality cult and placed great stress on building the united front of mass organizations and urban work.

It does not refrain from deploying extra-parliamentary tactics on building a broader democratic front with non communist forces.

Although conducting negotiations with the ruling Duterte regime it was done for purely tactical reasons.As often misunderstood by revolutionaries Sison did not morally call off the peoples war but only temporarily called for a truce.


I feel we have to morally defend 'Gonzalo thought' even if they are strongly sectarian.

Even if he made gross errors we have to recognize the positive achievements of the PCP and  Chairman Gonzalo of being 70% correct.

All the Communist parties of the world could learn from the great strides and serious mistakes of the PCP.

I agree with Comrade Steve Otto who feels in the main we should defend the 'Gonazaloites.'

I hope all cadres read the selected works of the Communist Party of Peru published by Red Spark and refer to the posts in blog Democracy and Class Struggle on contribution of Gonzalo and PCP.

I do not accept that strategy of protracted peoples War is universal but I maintain that nor is insurrection of the Russian road necessarily the path of Imperialist countries.

The Military line of Mao cannot be just duplicated and developed into another form in accordance to the variance in conditions even in 3rd world countries and arguably there could be a peoples war applying Mao's thought of a completely different type from the Chinese revolution in the imperialist countries.



Democracy and Class Struggle upholds the Universality of Protracted Peoples War unlike Comrade Thakor and Comrade Sison but we do not see it being implemented worldwide in the classic way but it has to take account of national and local particularities - in fact the universal theory becomes more powerful the more particularities are taken account of in the implementation of Protracted People's War.

On Comrade Harsh's view of the Nepalese debacle we disagree strongly with the Dhruv Jain view that Kathmandu could not have been captured with an urban insurrection supported by a PLA assault and all the information we have to date of existence of revolutionary armed forces in Kathmandu support that conclusion - it was the revisionist leadership that pulled back from the assault on Kathmandu for politically opportuntistic reasons 

For a Strategy for Protracted People's War in an advanced Industrial Country - Italy we call on you to read


1 comment:

Kumar Sarkar said...

I would like to wellcome this discussion - this can be strenghened if there are contributions from those who are on the ground. I understand the party in Nepal led by Comrade Biplav is an advocate of the 'unified prople's war'.

I do not think the issue is dependent on the ratio of people living in the towns to those living in the countryside. The issue is what the principal contradiction is and where this is sharpest, at a particular time in a given country.

We need to get out of this old habit of Russian vs Chinese road irrespective of space, time and regional history.

India poses quite a unique situation. It is almost a continent in size, with contrasting regional variations in terms of economic, social and historical developments. Also, India was de-industrialised by the East India Company, colonialism allied itself with a parasitic feudalism with the consequential development of a predominantly comprador semi-feudal stratum, the 'bhadraloks' - not comparable with their bourgeois 'counterparts' in Europe. Thus, an all-India strategy for the Indian revolution that does not take into account the regional variations is inconceivable. But it is only those on the ground who can determine the strategy and tactics. And all indications are there that that is happening. Kumar Sarkar, London