What We Mean When We Say Protracted People’s War, What We Don’t Mean, and How We Prepare for It
Any Communist worth their salt knows that the contradiction between the ruling clique in the United States and the masses of the rest of the world, including the oppressed nations that it has imprisoned, will only be resolved with revolutionary violence. A few rednecks smashing windows in a black neighborhood is not revolutionary violence, nor is issuing bombastic threats that only serve to attract the attention of the state to whatever semi-focoist/semi-fascist “political formation” is stupid enough to issue them. The strategy of Protracted People’s War is one that bears close attention because it has been admitted by US government itself that it is undefeatable, if applied correctly. What do we mean by “correctly”? Under the command of a disciplined, united, correctly guided Marxist-Leninist-Maoist party making use of the three magic weapons. The various small collectives oriented towards the Red Guards Austin clique that are essentially “hype groups” for this unprincipled and increasingly reactionary formation that substitutes attention from reactionary media such as Alex Jones and Gateway Pundit for actual mass ties, with no mass base or mass leadership, bandying around the terms “militarization” and using it to mean simply working out, training with weapons, and engaging in petty acts of vandalism against both fascists/reactionaries (with no mass participation whatsoever) and other left formations with whom they have nothing but personal contradictions with, staging parades while masked up and illuminated by road flares, are not a disciplined, correctly guided party, nor can they ever hope to become one. Their “strategy” bears more resemblance to Guevarist focoismo than to any Maoist understanding of protracted people’s war, and this uniquely American perversion of revolutionary Maoism will inevitably be rectified and defeated theoretically and through practice. If anything, they will go the same way as their practical predecessors in the 1970s, the route of either isolation into tiny sects akin to the RCP or destruction by the state after stupidly provoking a conflict they objectively can’t handle, a lá Symbionese Liberation Army. Let them. Since they’ve taken the liberty of alienating themselves from everybody but their fellow ultra-lefts by talking about throwing dynamite at people and other things, nobody will miss them. Let’s talk about what real Maoists must do. To develop thoroughly the revolutionary path of Protracted People’s War in accordance with the concrete conditions of the United States, serious theoretical work must be done, serious study, analysis and summation must be completed, and the primary task of all genuine Maoists in the United States is to build the Maoist party on a firm foundation, meaning a solid mass base and a developed network of cadres developed theoretically and practically. To talk of militarization, people’s war, guerrilla operations, and other things of this nature without having first developed the capability to mobilize a substantial portion of the masses in a given area and provide leadership to a mass movement is juvenile and childish.
When Maoists say protracted people’s war, we aren’t referring to peasants surrounding the city from the countryside. There are no peasants in the United States, we ain’t running off to the mountains. People who advocate that as being PPW are either willfully misrepresenting or confused. We are discussing a process, a protracted process, that requires careful and thorough preparation over a period of years. A People’s Army does not just come into being overnight anymore than a Party worth its salt does overnight. Every process when we are discussing revolution is a long, drawn out, protracted one, rife with potholes, pitfalls, and setbacks, twists and turns. This is why insurrectionists, those who believe that we can simply resurrect the Bolshevik insurrection of 1917 (itself a process that was protracted, lasting almost 30 years), fall short, as do those who are so foolish as to seek the replication of the rises to power of Thomas Sankara, Maurice Bishop, and Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. The mark of a revolutionary and a theoretician is to study historical phenomena in their specific contexts, analyze them all throughout their development processes, and realize why these projects failed. It is obvious that military coups by left leaning military officers that subsequently implement a series of reforms before being forced to reverse them, capitulation to imperialism, or being forced out at gunpoint by jealous rival officers are not the way to go. I admire Sankara, Bishop and the Cuban revolutionaries in the same way that the Black Panthers did, but it is obvious that their methods are unsuitable and are not universal, nor stable. The Grenadian Revolution was ended when Winston Coard’s ultra-left, dogmatist faction executed Bishop, split the revolutionary forces, and opened the island to invasion by the US military in 1983. We don’t need that being replicated. We don’t seek transitions that can be derailed or destroyed at the flick of a wrist. We seek Communism, and to see Communism we must make our revolution on a basis rooted deeply in the people, aka Protracted People’s War.
PPW has three stages. Strategic defense, strategic stalemate (equilibrium) and strategic offensive. Defense is when the pigs outnumber us and we are relegated to small guerrilla actions, propaganda/agitation, and strengthening base areas. Stalemate is when people’s forces and reactionary forces are at par and there are larger actions with larger forces. Offensive is when the Party, through the People’s Army, is able to wield power over the whole country, there are several large, contiguous base areas, the enemy has been put on the defensive, and the fall of the reactionary order is imminent. Prior to the initiation of people’s war, there must be establishment of base areas. Base areas are both physical and psychological within the minds of cadre and masses. They aren’t simply a matter of staking out territory, they are demarcated by thoroughgoing party agitation, propaganda, and thorough integration into the lives of the masses. Base areas are prepared by thorough mass work, this is not simply a matter of going around asking random people questions or tailing every other movement, but going deep, to the lowest, most struggling masses, uniting with the advanced among them, interpreting their ideas on how to solve a problem in the community through Maoist theory adapted to the concrete realities of your area. There is no “cut and paste” formula, this is why the test of a cadre or Party is its ability to develop their own line of march according to their own concrete conditions using their own concrete conditions. This is why the idiots acknowledging Red Guards Austin as “the most advanced” Maoists in the United States despite nobody knowing who they are are full of donkey shit. A movement that can not unite the masses around the ideas of the advanced or apply the mass line to develop new cadres from the heat of struggle but also claim to be “advanced” can not be trusted to wage any protracted campaign, nevermind a war. They’d be smashed before they even fire the opening round. The primary thing to understand about PPW is that it requires at least tactical unity and support of all progressive forces, even non-Maoists, and the realization that the masses, not ourselves, are the bastion of iron we rely upon.
Analyzing the concrete conditions of American cities such as my own, you will find a ring of poorer inner ring suburbs such as Ferguson, Berkeley, Cool Valley, and others, along with inner city zones occupied by majority oppressed nations working class or semi-proletarian elements. The latter are oftentimes in the throes of gentrification and beset by drug trafficking, sex trafficking, and other capitalist-imperialist ills. These are natural base areas. In a given area, Maoists seeking to develop a base must realize the difference between enemies and friends, and advanced, intermediate, and backwards. Furthermore, if you arrive to work in a new area and immediately start denouncing everyone, you’re probably going to get labeled a cop. If you start threatening people, you’re going to get your ass beat, no platformed, and maybe even worse. Behave yourself, especially if you start working in the hood. I myself have been threatened by ultras that have decided to take up residence in my city and it’s a bad look, particularly when you’re dealing with someone that grew up in the hood and knows that white people are, at root, cowards that are afraid of their own shadow. The worse you’ll do is come try to smash my windows and if you do that I or one of my family members will blow your head off and get away with it. Threats only work on white people. Enemies are those who have aroused the ire and anger of the masses, or who objectively impede the development of the revolutionary movement. This does not mean “everybody that we dislike is an enemy”. Nor does it mean “everybody that the masses like” is a friend. Louis Farrakhan is not an objective long-term friend of any Communist movement, because the Nation of Islam is an anti-Communist organization. However, the Nation of Islam is something which the masses of Black people hold in high prestige and regard, far more than Communism, and thus when working against police brutality, for example, there is the basis for a tactical united front. Another example: PSL is not a Maoist party, however it is a party that can be united with tactically on issues such as opposing US imperialism. All elements in a given area must be united with on a principled basis, issues of line irrelevant to the goal of the united front must be tabled, political principles must be adhered to but there is also the need to avoid splitting things such as United Fronts and Coalitions against police brutality or gentrification over whether or not we agree China is a socialist country. If you can not do these things, you are not a Maoist, because instead of uniting and struggling for leadership, you are self-isolating and alienating yourself from formations that can help develop and broaden the united front. It is also important to participate in mass movements because they are where our cadre come from. Cadre are not those that simply read about Maoism but put it into practice, and there is no place better to find those who are serious about practice than in various movements themselves.
In the development of a base, it is essential to develop mass contacts and hold mass meetings/fact finding meetings to get raw material (ideas) to develop a line and programs that can demonstrate the spent nature of revisionist, reformist, and NGO style programs. If the cops are harassing people, develop a copwatch program, preferably armed according to the laws and conditions of your area. If there is a food desert, develop community garden space using the resources and skills available, oftentimes, from older people who came originally from rural areas into cities looking for work. My grandmother taught me how to grow tomatoes, okra, squash, and other things in the backyard. One guy that used to live across from me kept chickens. Pull all these resources together and get to work. Keep politics in command, but do not get so overly dogmatic and political that you forget your duty to the masses. If you haven’t moved a finger to feed people, lower the rent, or drive pigs out of the community, and nobody knows your face, you are going to be shunned when you start talking about escalating and sharpening contradictions through violence. Revolutions require violence, and violence must be built up, prepared for, and the masses must be mobilized in support of this violence. Why did the Panthers have support? Not only because they concretely and correctly expressed the aspirations and feelings of the masses of black people, but because they were defenders of the community. Who walks the elderly woman to the store? Who feeds the kids? Who tutors the kids? Who confronts the landlord? Who listens? Who do you know by first name? This is who you should aspire to be in the minds of the masses. In building a base area and preparing for PPW, we do not wage putsches, coups or insurrections. We firmly, calmly, and patiently build, excise ultra-left bad elements like one would a cancerous tumor, develop cadre from the most advanced masses, arm and train ourselves along with the masses, explain why we do everything, practice the mass line, teach the children, learn from the children, and consistently build a revolutionary culture and community that can be relied upon like a fish relies upon water. This is Maoism.