Engels said, “The emancipation of the proletariat, in its turn, will have its specific expression in military affairs and create its specific, new military method. ” 1936 (1) Engels’ profound prediction has been fulfilled in the revolutionary wars waged by the Chinese people under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. In the course of protracted armed struggle, we have created a whole range of strategy and tactics of people’s war by which we have been able to utilize our strong points to attack the enemy at his weak points.
During the War of Resistance Against Japan, on the basis of his comprehensive analysis of the enemy and ourselves, Comrade Mao Tse-tung laid down the following strategic principle for the Communist-led Eighth Route and New Fourth Armies: “Guerrilla warfare is basic, but lose no chance for mobile warfare under favourable conditions. ” (2) He raised guerrilla warfare to the level of strategy, because, if they are to defeat a formidable enemy, revolutionary armed forces should not fight with a reckless disregard for the consequences when there is a great disparity between their own strength and their enemy’s. If they do, they will suffer serious losses and bring heavy setbacks to the revolution. Guerrilla warfare is the only way to mobilize and apply the whole strength of the people against the enemy, the only way to expand our forces in the course of the war, deplete and weaken the enemy, gradually change the balance of forces between the enemy and ourselves, switch from guerrilla to mobile warfare, and finally defeat the enemy.
In the initial period of the Second Revolutionary Civil War, Comrade Mao Tse-tung enumerated the basic tactics of guerrilla warfare as follows:
The enemy advances, we retreat; the enemy camps, we harass; the enemy tires, we attack; the enemy retreats, we pursue. (3)
Guerrilla war tactics were further developed during the War of Resistance Against Japan. In the base areas behind the enemy lines, everybody joined the fighting — the troops and the civilian population, men and women, old and young; every single village fought. Various ingenious methods of fighting were devised, including “sparrow warfare”, (4) land-mine warfare, tunnel warfare, sabotage warfare, and guerrilla warfare on lakes and rivers.
In the later period of the War of Resistance Against Japan and during the Third Revolutionary Civil War, we switched our strategy from that of guerrilla warfare was the primary form of fighting to that of mobile warfare in the light of the changes in the balance of forces between the enemy and ourselves. By the middle, and especially the later, period of the Third Revolutionary Civil War, our operations had developed into large-scale mobile warfare, including the storming of big cities.
War of annihilation is the fundamental guiding principle of our military operations. This guiding principle should be put into effect regardless of whether mobile or guerrilla warfare is the primary form of fighting. It is true that in guerrilla warfare much should be done to disrupt and harass the enemy, but it is still necessary actively to advocate and fight battles of annihilation whenever conditions are favourable. In mobile warfare superior forces must be concentrated in every battle so that the enemy forces can be wiped out one by one. Comrade Mao Tse-tung has pointed out:
A battle in which the enemy is routed is not basically decisive in a contest with a foe of great strength. A battle of annihilation, on the other hand, produces a great and immediate impact on any enemy. Injuring all of a man’s ten fingers is not as effective as chopping off one, and routing ten enemy divisions is not as effective as annihilating one of them. (5)
Battles of annihilation are the most effective way of hitting the enemy; each time one of his brigades or regiments is wiped out, he will have one brigade or regiment less, and the enemy forces will be demoralized and will disintegrate. By fighting battles of annihilation, our army is able to take prisoners of war or capture weapons from the enemy in every battle, and the morale of our army rises, our army units get bigger, our weapons become better, and our combat effectiveness continually increases.
In his celebrated ten cardinal military principles Comrade Mao Tse-tung pointed out:
In every battle, concentrate an absolutely superior force (two, three, four and sometimes even five or six times the enemy’s strength), encircle the enemy forces completely, strive to wipe them out thoroughly and do not let any escape from the net. In special circumstances, use the method of dealing crushing blows to the enemy, that is, concentrate all our strength to make a frontal attack and also to attack one or both of his flanks, with the aim of wiping out one part and routing another so that our army can swiftly move its troops to smash other enemy forces. Strive to avoid battles of attrition in which we lose more than we gain or only break even. In this way, although we are inferior as a whole (in terms of numbers), we are absolutely superior in every part and every specific campaign, and this ensures victory in the campaign. As time goes on, we shall become superior as a whole and eventually wipe out all the enemy. (6)
At the same time, he said that we should first attack dispersed or isolated enemy forces and only attack concentrated and strong enemy forces later; that we should strive to wipe out the enemy through mobile warfare; that we should fight no battle unprepared and fight no battle we are not sure of winning; and that in any battle we fight we should develop our army’s strong points and its excellent style of fighting. These are the major principles of fighting a war of annihilation.
In order to annihilate the enemy, we must adopt the policy of luring him in deep and abandon some cities and districts of our own accord in a planned way, so as to let him in. It is only after letting the enemy in that the people can take part in the war in various ways and that the power of a people’s war can be fully exerted. It is only after letting the enemy in that we can be compelled to divide up his forces, take on heavy burdens and commit mistakes. In other words, we must let the enemy become elated, stretch out all his ten fingers and become hopelessly bogged down. Thus, we can concentrate superior forces to destroy the enemy forces one by one, to eat them up mouthful by mouthful. Only by wiping out the enemy’s effective strength can cities or localities be finally held or seized. We are firmly against dividing up our forces to defend all positions and putting up resistance at every place for fear that our territory might be lost and our pots and pans smashed, since this can neither wipe out the enemy forces nor hold cities or localities.
Comrade Mao Tse-tung has provided a masterly summary of the strategy and tactics of people’s war: You fight in your way and we fight in ours; we fight when we can win and move away when we can’t.
In other words, you rely on modern weapons and we rely on highly conscious revolutionary people; you give full play to your superiority and we give full play to ours; you have your way of fighting and we have ours. When you want to fight us, we don’t let you and you can’t even find us. But when we want to fight you, we make sure that you can’t get away and we hit you squarely on the chin and wipe you out. When we are able to wipe you out, we do so with a vengeance; when we can’t, we see to it that you don’t wipe us out. It is opportunism if one won’t fight when one can win. It is adventurism if one insists on fighting when one can’t win. Fighting is the pivot of al our strategy and tactics. It is because of the necessity of fighting that we admit the necessity of moving away. The sole purpose of moving away is to fight and bring about the final and complete destruction of the enemy. This strategy and these tactics can be applied only when one relies on the broad masses of the people, and such application brings the superiority of people’s war into full play. However superior he may be in technical equipment and whatever tricks he may resort to, the enemy will find himself in the passive position of having to receive blows, and the initiative will always be in our hands.
We grew from a small and weak to a large and strong force and finally defeated formidable enemies at home and abroad because we carried out the strategy and tactics of people’s war. During the eight years of War of Resistance Against Japan, the people’s army led by the Chinese Communist Party fought more than 125,000 engagements with the enemy and put out of action more than 1,700,000 Japanese and puppet troops. In the three years of the War of Liberation, we put eight million of the Kuomintang’s reactionary troops out of action and won the great victory of the people
1. Frederick Engels, “Possibilities and Perspectives of the War of the Holy Alliance Against France in 1852”, Collected Works of Marx and Engels, Russ. ed., Moscow, 1956, Vol. VII, p. 509.
2. Mao Tse-tung, “On Protracted War”, Selected Works, Eng. ed., FLP, Peking, 1965, Vol. II, p. 116.}
3. Mao Tse-tung, “A Single Spark Can Start a Prairie Fire”, Selected Works, Eng. ed., FLP, Peking, 1965, Vol. I, p. 124.
4. Sparrow warfare is a popular method of fighting created by the Communist-led anti-Japanese guerrilla units and militia behind the enemy lines. It was called sparrow warfare because, first, it was used diffusely, like the flight of sparrows in the sky; and because, second, it was used flexibly by guerrillas or militiamen, operating in threes or fives, appearing and disappearing unexpectedly and wounding, killing, depleting and wearing out the enemy forces.
5. Mao Tse-tung, “Problems of Strategy in China’s Revolutionary War”, Selected Works, Eng. ed., FLP, Peking, 1965, Vol. I, p. 248.
6. Mao Tse-tung, “The Present Situation and Our Tasks”, Selected Works, Eng. ed., FLP, Peking, 1961j, Vol. IV, p. 161.
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