Links: Critique of the Politico-Military Strategy, Part II

Les Schaffer schaffer at
Fri Jan 19 07:09:43 MST 2001

[ bounced > 30 kB from "Alan Bradley" <alanb at>, Part II ]

Pol-Mil versus mass struggle strategy

It is clear that the pol-mil strategy is as confused as the PPW
strategy.  The problem is that both regard their specific forms of
struggle as a question strategy. At the very least, both seek to place
the military struggle on the same level as the mass struggle.

For Marxists, the appropriate use of the military struggle depends on
the level of the mass struggle, its breadth and militancy. That's why
the Sosyalistang Partido ng Paggawa (SPP) defines its strategy as
developing the mass struggle. This mass struggle strategy encompasses
different forms of direct mobilisation of the masses, of direct action
by the masses.

Strategy referring to the determination of the main enemy, the motive
force of the revolution and the allied forces of the proletariat at a
given juncture is of course a discussion of strategy on a programmatic
plane. It involves an analysis of the character, tasks and the
alignment of class forces at a given period of the proletarian

But a strategy referring to the goal of seizure of power by the
proletariat, one that involves the form and method by which the
proletariat can win power - a strategy built up on the basis of the
abovementioned programmatic questions (for these differ from country
to country according to the specific nature of its socioeconomic
formation and the balance of class forces) - is a strategy that uses
the dynamics of the development of the class struggle.

The first time that strategy was used by the international communist
movement was in the 1921 document of the Third Congress of the Third
International ("Counterpose the Strategy of the Proletariat to the
Strategy of Capital").  At that juncture, the strategy of capital was
presented as a strategy of war, of preparing for civil war:

The Third Congress of the Communist International warns all Communist
Parties that the proletarian struggle for power is threatened by the
fact that the ruling and propertied classes have a well thought-out
strategy, while the working class is beginning to develop a

The document warned:

If the vanguard [party] is not in a position to avoid a fight and if
this fight has the potential of hastening the mobilization of the
entire working class, it should accept the capitalist challenge. But
[it] should not forget that as long as it is alone and isolated, it
must not involve itself in any crucial battles; if the isolated
vanguard has no option but to fight, it must try to avoid any armed
confrontation with the enemy, for only the masses can ensure victory
for the proletariat over the armed White Guards.(20)

The proposed strategy of the proletariat was:

Action must be prepared and organized in such a way that the broadest
masses recognize the struggle as one for their own most pressing needs
and therefore rally to the movement ... Initiate a mass agitational
campaign that reaches and rouses all sections of the working people
... engage in energetic organizational work that strengthens the
Party's influence on the broad masses and makes possible a sober
evaluation of the field of struggle .... and ... adopt the tactic of
retreating when the enemy has superior forces and attacking when the
enemy forces are scattered and the masses united ... (21)

Towards this strategy of capturing state power, two major interrelated
tasks are crucial: (1) winning over the class-conscious section of the
working class (the proletarian vanguard) to the communist movement;
and (2) winning over the broad masses of the working class to the
revolution (consisting of various forms and methods necessary in order
to educate, organise and mobilise the masses). In both cases, direct
mass mobilization of the working class and direct experience in the
struggle are the key.

In this sense, the strategic task can be formulated as: to build a
mass-based revolutionary socialist party which can unite, mobilise and
lead the working class and its allies in the struggle for political
power.  Party building becomes a central factor in the strategy, as
the strategy itself is carried out by the party.

It is also in this sense that tactics (as forms of struggle) reflect
the mass struggle strategy; i.e., the perspective should be the direct
mobilisation of the working masses. These take the form of direct
action of the masses through strikes, demonstrations, rallies,
barricades etc., and the development of the self-organisation of the
masses in new forms of organisation independently of the capitalist

These forms of struggle and the character of the self-organisation of
the masses develop through the dynamics of the class struggle. The
forms of struggle range from local strikes to general strikes, rallies
to street barricades, demonstrations to takeovers of factories. During
non-revolutionary periods the self-organisation of the masses takes
the form of unions, community organisations, peasant associations and
the like. During revolutionary upsurge, newer forms of organization
that challenge state power or prototypes of state power (if not
constituting "dual power" itself), like soviets or workers councils
are developed.

The main form of struggle differs at each juncture and cannot be
"universalised" to fit all situations (i.e., the idea that armed
struggle or guerrilla war is always the main form of revolutionary
struggle). It can only be characterised as one that carries out the
strategy of mass struggle, or one that directly involves the mass of
the working class towards a revolutionary goal.

As such - at today's juncture - the mass struggle or the direct action
of the masses through strikes, rallies, demonstrations, and other
militant mass protest actions can only be the primary form of
struggle.  These are not just the "ordinary run" of protest actions,
as others would like to see them. (The problem with many left groups
in the Philippines is that they view political demonstrations and
rallies as merely "calendar activities" for the progressive
forces. Political demonstrations in this sense are divorced from the
actual development of the class struggle. Propaganda activities that
should aim at winning over to our political line the advanced sections
of the masses [or during periods of heightened class struggle,
agitating the masses to take direct action] are not considered
crucial. Most of the propaganda activities become mere occasions for
the left to adopt some recent organisational posturing.)

The varied forms of mass struggles, such as strikes, rallies etc.,
cannot be demoted to a secondary role (i.e., to that of armed
struggle) because they are based on the following principles of
proletarian class struggle:

1. The greatest weapon that the working class has in its struggle to
overthrow capitalism is the power of the collective action of its vast
numbers and its economic role in society.

2. It is primarily through their direct participation in the struggle
that the masses learn and develop class consciousness.

On the other hand, there are forms of struggle that are by nature not
in the terrain of the development of revolutionary politics of the
masses or forms that are undertaken by a small elite group which
sometimes hinder the development of mass participation. One is the
parliamentary struggle or running for elections in the representative
institutions of capitalist democracy, i.e., parliament or other
popularly elected bodies at regional or local level.  But this is also
a form of struggle that may be permissible at a given period.
Military struggle or guerilla warfare can also be a permissible
option. Both, however, are in general subordinate to the main form of
struggle, which is in line with mass struggle.

The mass struggle strategy and its tactics also go beyond the party's
organising of rallies, demonstrations and other militant mass
actions. It involves the organising of the spontaneous class struggle
of the masses to a higher level. This means intervening in the already
existing spontaneous struggle of the masses and developing that
struggle through further education, organisation and mobilisation to
such a level that it can shift the relationship of class forces in
favour of the masses.

It is only when the struggle of the masses enters the openly
revolutionary phase i.e., the phase of insurrection - or during a
period of civil war - that the military forms of struggle become
inevitable and necessary. (In the case of oppressed nations that are
put under effective military occupation by the oppressing state, the
right to self-defence and armed resistance are also inevitable and

Howver, upholding the principle that the direct action of the masses
is the most effective form of action (a principle that emanates from
the fact that the revolution is the act of liberation by the entire
working class itself, not only by its party), the SPP subscribes to
the view that the military struggle itself should involve the
masses. This means arriving the masses in their factories, communities
or places where they are, such as in the eventuality of a civil
war. The party should then use every opportunity to train and prepare
the masses for such an eventuality.

1.  Truong Chinh, Selected Writings, Foreign Languages Publishing House,
Hanoi, 1977, p. 602.
2.  ibid., p. 606.
3.  ibid., p. 607.
4.  ibid., p. 602.
5.  ibid., p. 603.
6.  ibid., p. 604. Italics ours. (But all italics were lost when article
was scanned.)
7.  ibid., p. 606. Italics ours.
8.  ibid., p. 607. Italics ours.
9.  VI. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 6, p. 195.
10. ibid., p. 193.
11. Leon Troisky, Against Individual Terrorism, p. 7.
12. Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1938-39, p. 6.
13. Lenin, CW, Vol. 6, pp. 279-80.
14. Lenin, CW, Vol. 5, p. 19.
15. Lenin, CW, Vol. 11, P. 215.
16. Lenin, CW, Vol. 6, p. 262.
17. Che Guevara, Guerrilla Warfare, Penguin Books, London, 1969, p. 14.
18. ibid, P. 14.
19. Theses, Resolutions and Manifestoes of the First Four Congresses of the
Third International, Pluto Press, London, pp. 303-4.
20. ibid, p. 304.
21. ibid., pp. 304-5.

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